January and February 2021 has been extremely busy. ‘’Why’’ you say? Because on top of doing my regular 9-to-5, squeezing in extra hours for various client work, helping paint my mum's house, and working on 2 new games for the Flash Forward Jam! Thankfully this Jam was extended by an extra month up till the end of february, which allowed me just enough time to get everything done. Phew.
I've been extremely excited about Ruffle since it's implementation into Newgrounds and have been tinkering with some flash stuff casually in the hopes of making something new. Ruffle only works with old flash content made in actionscript 2.0 which is a very dated language, yet it’s super easy and a ton of fun to develop with. Who knows? Perhaps Ruffle could run on consoles one day allowing flash content to finally come to dedicated systems.
Since the end date of Flash was announced years ago, I’ve intended to develop a 'final' flash game to celebrate the end of an era. But the pressure of making a new game can be daunting, I may not have made anything at all had it not been for the Flash Forward Jam providing the opportunity and incentive to do so. Building a game for a Jam with my fellow Newgrounders, we're united. It feels meaningful. After all - this is the place where it all began for me back in 2004.
So what did I make?
A brand new Armed with Wings game! It's called AshBelt - because that's the location in which the game takes place. It was also the only interesting name I could think of. The AshBelt is a vast flat-land covered in shallow mist. A seemingly endless line of towers guides travellers from end to end. The Belt was once tendered by Gods, but no longer. Now only mist, and the beasts that lurk hidden underneath.
In AshBelt you play as a girl equipped with a bow and a dagger. Armed with Wings games traditionally use swords for combat, so this is a first for firing arrows as the primary weapon. The design of the game changed throughout development due to time restrictions and the tech limitations I encountered working in Ruffle. And well… games dev is always a moving target. The core elements that never changed from the beginning being HD res, 60 fps and being Armed with Wing entry.
The original concept and initial prototype: an Infinite, randomly generated world composed of premade chunks. The world had hills, platforms and walls. You play as a 'creature' that can possess and control enemy units - similar to Mario / Abs Odyssey. A prototype was built, but I realised that it would be too ambitious to build this kind of game given the time frame. I pivoted to a traditional design more inline with other AwW games, an action platformer.
The girl archer character was then introduced. Instead of possessing enemies, you'd just shoot them dead while jumping and weaving through interesting levels. The physics I built worked perfectly in Flash, but not so well in Ruffle. As it turns out Ruffle can't process code as quickly as Flash does (at least not multiple hitTestPoints). My prototype was very laggy as many of my discord beta testers can confirm. With the bottleneck being physics code, I ditched all that complexity and made the ground completely flat. Problem solved, no more lag. A totally flat terrain… But how boring right!?
Pondering on what kind of AwW game I could make with a totally flat level, I reflected on other dead-simple games I had thoroughly enjoyed… I thought of One Finger Death Punch: an incredible yet simple action game that occurs on a flat stage. Akane: one of my favourite indie Switch titles where you battle waves of enemies - punishing yet addictive and more-ish. It was decided, the game I would make would be similar to both of these… short rounds, flat terrain, enemies pop up around you and you shoot them before they touch you.
In light of Ruffles limitations on code, my commitment to HD and 60 fps, I learned that Ruffle is extremely fast at rendering art, much much faster than flash ever could. A game this simple needs a wow factor thus much of the resources was spent making the sickest animations I could possibly muster.
The art style
The result is AshBelt. A true (yet miniature) Armed with Wings game with some of the best animation I've produced. It’s punchy, cleanly simple and perhaps my favourite game I've made, certainly the best small game I've ever made. One of my discord members is an amazing music producer. Hats off to Sebb for making an amazing track. Breaking tradition again, AshBelt’s visuals are not the shadowy Limbo-esc style I use in AwW. Instead it's sketchy, like the drawings in my visual diaries. Seeing it brought to life brings much joy to my soul.
Here's some concepts and additional art that didn't make it in:
I wasn't able to jam every desired feature into the game. So expect more features at some point: a story, more enemies, bosses, evolving terrains or more stages and a fleshed out upgrade/ability system.
I also found JUST enough time to work as an artist on another entry for the Flash Forward Jam…
Made by my best friend and flash dev coder: scooober-steve. Estimating that it would win game of the year, we made sure to put it in the title.
In the past Steve and I made many flash games together, and he too wanted to celebrate Flash by making an entry to the Jam.
This game is a mixture of 2 games we made for Newgrounds previously. Zombie Mayhem - a lane shooter, and the original and award winning Throw Rocks at Shit released in 2010 which was promptly placed on the Front Page by #1 fan Tom Fulp.
Brave defender of the lake Roxanne must fight off the invaders before the lake is corrupted by darkness. As was David’s battle against Goliath, Roxanne harnesses the power of stone. She also has strong ki, just like Vegeta.
Steve worked on most of the game while I built AshBelt. We spent 3 or 4 weekends together where I made the art and helped implement it into the game.
Our collab resulted in my eyes the most perfect game ever made. An engaging experience filled with life lessons, high drama and wisdom. Without any doubt this is my peak of creativity.
Play Throw Rocks at Shit
Throw Rocks At Shit GOTY Editionby scoober-steveThe epic tale of Throw Rocks at Shit has returned with grace and glory.
I've played a few of the Jam entries, but am purposefully holding off until the weekend where I have time to play ALL of them extensively. I hope you all do the same in honour of Flash.
I expect this won't be my last Ruffle/AS2 game...
Keep up with me and Armed with Wings over on Discord.