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Butlerian Jihad

By joshmillard Published on Aug 13th, 2015 Last updated on Mar 13th, 2016 174

Take on the role of humanitarian rebel Jehanne Butler in an all-out war against the intelligent machines that seek to mold and ennslave their organic creators!  Armed only with a slow-charging Holtzman shield/displacement belt, use your wits to pit the robots against one another and defeat the machine-mind scourge!

Controls:
- arrows + z to move to an adjacent tile
- z to wait (and activate shield if in danger)
- x to displace to a random tile on the board

Instructions:
- Clear each board of robots by tricking them into colliding with one another or with the remains of already-destroyed machines.
- Watch your shield power!  It's invaluable but scarce, and an emergency shield after teleporting will drain power more quickly than using it when standing still.

About the game:

This is the third game in my Dune series (see also Shai Hulud and Thopter Escape); at its heart it's a clone of the classic game Robots, with a few tweaks to lend this more of a narrative progression and give it a beatable end-game goal instead of just Play Till You Die.

I was inspired to get to work on this by wstephenson's mechanically similar old-game-remake cart, Rhino, which is a nice piece of work that you should go play as well.

Because Robots is such a simple game at heart, I had meant for this one to be a really quick hack job (and the code structure unfortunately reveals that), but I ended up doing a lot of fiddling and polish on it over the last few days and am happy I did because it's a more complete game than I expected.

I had a lot of fun doing both the art and the music for this.  For the art, I went with a multi-scale setup to grow the scale of the game from world to world, starting with big 12*12 sprites to clearly convey both the robots and Jehanne on small boards before moving to successively smaller sprites with vanishing details but larger boards with more robots.

For the music, I ditched the Lynch film soundtrack this time and wrote a bunch of my own stuff; there's four distinct level music compositions, each in three parts, of which you hear one, two, and then all three parts on levels X-1, X-2, and X-3 for each world, as well as a little title theme synced to the title animation and a nice ending theme if you manage to beat the game.

Dune fan notes:

Butlerian Jihad manages somehow to be even less canonical than the last two games; the actual lore from Frank Herbert's novels and from the fantastic Dune Encyclopedia is a lot more interesting and complicated than "literally go fight with robots".  Jehanne is a really potent character, the unwilling, pacifist tactician leader of a revolt who in her untimely death both catalyzed and unleashed the violence of a galaxy-wide razing she herself had worked hard to keep within reason and control.  The story of the Butlerian Jihad is less about the threat of machines than it is about the threat humanity poses to itself when violent ideology becomes militarized and stripped of restraint.

But I gather that the drecky Brian Herbert prequel stuff threw all of that out in favor of this dumb FIGHT THE ROBOTS schtick, so maybe that's what happened with the licensing on this one, in the alternate universe where these games got made.