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Alien Harvest

By morningtoast Published on Oct 12th, 2017 Last updated on Nov 11th, 2017 177

Dylan Burke is finishing the job his father failed to complete on LV-426. He must be stopped.

Explore planets and collect 12 alien eggs before Burke can get to them.

Sound and headphones are recommended for the best experience

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Player manual. Complete with hints and tips!
http://slides.com/morningtoast/alien-harvest-manual#/

Browser gamepad support is availble through Itch.io:
http://morningtoast.itch.io/alien-harvest

Keyboard controls

  • Arrows, Move character
  • Z, Map / Continue
  • X, Use weapon

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What people are saying...

"I nearly jumped outta my seat when it chased me..." - @liquidream

"Yeah, headphones are a must" - @enargy

"Hats off to you for bringing that element into your games. Brilliant." - @beetleinthebox

"The game is cool!" - @pineconegraphic

"That's some cute manual action!" - @rtrntospielburg

"You’ve found a really nice style in this one." - @johanpeitz

"Are you still making that damn game?" - @barneysangels

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This game has been a long time coming. I started it back in June and worked on it for about a month. Then I hit a wall and got distracted by other stuff...it sat on the shelf. I came back to it after a couple months and finally finished it up. Very happy I did.

The idea got seeded when I read an article in Retro Gamer about the Sega SG-1000 and the game "Girl's Garden". In it you're a girl that has to collect flowers while avoiding bears to keep her boyfriend happy. Somehow that got me thinking about applying that model to an Aliens motif...and I had just so happened to find a spritesheet rip of Rebelstar from the ZX Spectrum that had alien characters in it. I took those and started designing around that.

Prior to this, most of my Pico-8 games have been arcade shooters, so making a maze/map game was new to me (especially one with a story). It was nice to try something different and I learned a lot. I'm not sure I'll try to make another one...while rewarding, this experience was exhausting. I'll just have to spread out my efforts when it comes to this genre.

What I think made the most difference with this game was that I came back to it after some time away. It felt good coming back to something that was a) half done and b) still familiar enough code to dive back into without a lot of re-learning. Plus I could look at it with fresh eyes to determine if it was worth finishing. It held up well and I was motivated to get it done.

But man...the last 10% of development is killer. For one, I hadn't quite figured out the last act and then when I did, Pico-8 compression limits came around and tried to crush my dreams. To combat that, I simply started over...kinda. I opened a blank cart and copied over code chunks one-by-one, inspecting and refactoring each one as I went. I had to trim some design fat but in the end that had little impact on the gameplay and that's what matters. All that effort paid off and I got in under the limits with a solid game.

Since this game has an actual ending, I kept playing and I kept failing to win. Usually that's a sign of the balance being off but this time it was just a good solid challenge. By design or by luck, the game trade-offs worked out wonderfully. The game isn't easy but not too difficult. It never feels overly unfair and has some wonderful emotional impact as well. Even with insider knowledge, it took me quite a while to win but only after plenty of "just one more time" moments.

Thanks to everyone that helped along the way, whether on Twitter on here in the forum...all of it made a difference.

Please see the manual for more credits, acknowledgements and original source material

Super thanks to @pineconegraphic for the character animations
Awesome thanks to @gnarcade_vgm for the original music

Some lessons learned:

  • Use shorter variable names
  • Using the pair() loop is better than the all() loop
  • Large arrays are bad
  • Story text is troublesome, as are long strings in general
  • Code comments seem to count toward compression limits, remove them
  • I need to figure out how to get more use out of tile maps
  • I need to learn more about memory functions
  • Pathfinding is difficult and taxing
  • Aliens chasing you is terrifying, even when they're 16x16 sprites

Please report any crashes you experience.

If you have any questions about how this game was made or what was used, please don't hesitate to ask.