The Arcade Badgers Story
Prelude to the Badgers
Before setting up the Badgers, Steven and Claire had done some jamming with Grim’s Christmas List, released for Ludum Dare 25 on 17th December 2012, and a prototype version of Germies! for January 2013’s One Game A Month event. After an illness that had knocked Steven out of work for a while, it was decided to try and polish up Germies! and release it as an HTML5 focused game. Through the help of Business Gateway Scotland, the New Enterprise Allowance and The Prince’s Trust, Arcade Badgers Limited was officially incorporated on 30th April 2013, and the race was on to get Germies! finished.
Our first game was released a few short months after officially forming. Germies! was our view on the Match-3 craze, which tasked the player with fighting an infection, by rounding up coloured shapes into squares or rectangles. The bigger the area covered, the higher the points, and each shape had it’s own base count too. With a slowly decreasing timer acting as the heartbeat of the infection, the player had to balance working out higher pointed shapes, to just clearing away the low pointed ones in time.
It was picked up by a few sponsors, but it was not going to be enough to keep the company afloat. We had also just missed the crest of the HTML5 wave, and without an Apple device to fully test on, we lost out on the mobile web as well. That and Android’s default browser was slow on the uptake of HTML5 standards, and wasn’t the best with it’s performance.
Trying to find sponsors for Germies! was becoming a full time job in itself, and the constant rejection wasn’t helping matters. Sometimes there would be some useful feedback ( didn’t quite meet their portal’s tastes ) othertimes it was a flatout rejection with nothing to explain why. By Autumn, however, things were not going well, and the buffer we had was running out. So, a new game was started, with an entirely new set of technology.
Risen Again! was to be our take on Lode Runner. Gravedigger Bob would have to run around each plot of the cemetary as restless skeletons and ghosts got up and wandered about. Each skeleton would have to be led to their correct grave and patted back down to sleep. The ghosts needed avoiding and were the source of the mischief. It was fun and daft, and made us smile as cartoony skeleton heads bobbed about the place.
JESSIE compiled to Windows, Linux and Android and provided an OpenGL wrapper around the HTML5 Canvas object. The game would still be coded in HTML5, but would run through JESSIE as close to native as possible - bypassing the browser and all the chaos it was giving us.
While great progress was made, it wasn’t going to be quick enough, so Steven started looking for additional work and started at YoYo Games in December 2013.
This put Risen Again!, GLESGAE and JESSIE on indefinite hold.
However, the itch to work on our own games never went away. Grim’s Christmas List was Claire’s project, and we wanted to tell the next part of Grim’s story. Therefore, Grim! was started around March 2014 using GameMaker:Studio
We decided this time to focus on the Desktop platforms, which at that point generally meant Steam. However, there were a few indie-focused portals; Desura being the biggest that was interested, and Gameolith also being happy to take Grim!
As Steven ploughed through the day job, Claire built nearly all of Grim!’s 100 levels, designed the artwork, and tweaked the gameplay mechanics.
Grim! was released on Itch.io, Desura and Gameolith on 24th May 2014 to little fanfare.
Again, we tried contacting news portals - supposedly indie-friendly ones - to cover the game, or additional portals to get the game on. We were met with even higher brick walls than with Germies! the previous year. While there was an “Indie Boom” going on, no-one was able to cover it. Masses of games were falling by the wayside as sites didn’t know how to handle them… so just ignored them. One particular site, who did seem to try and cover many of the indie games coming out, rejected us without even registering a download on their custom link. Thanks for that.
We knew there was some additional polish we could have done with Grim! and were preparing to do just that.. but this backlash of nothingness sapped away all of our energy. Then with family illnesses, and passings, the Badgers looked to be on their last legs.
Then, a rare occurance happened. Steven had some spare time when a certain jam’s theme caught his eye. The LowRezJam, hosted on itch.io, tasked people with creating a game with a resolution of just 64x64 pixels. Since Grim! hadn’t worked out at all, Steven had just focused on the day job. He had attempted the odd Ludum Dare, but either couldn’t block the time out to dedicate to it, or just had no inspiration when it came. This one seemed different, as an idea immediately popped into being and Sploosh! was thrown together over two weeks, with an hour or two here and there. This worked well, as instead of a specific weekend block of time, the work was able to be done bit by bit over a longer period.
Sploosh! was released 18th April 2016.
It was written in GameMaker:Studio again, with a Gameboy-like aesthetic and perhaps not the best control scheme in the world. It placed 100th overall, which was much higher than expected, and an astonishing 29th in aesthetics. This gave Steven a big boost and broke the two year creative brick wall.
In a whirlwind of creativity, Steven immediately set to work on the Ludum Dare MiniLD #67 which started 23rd May - just a month and a bit after the LowRezJam. This ran over a week, which again gave Steven time to do bits and pieces at nights, rather than trying to block out an entire weekend.
Snake-A-Roid was released on 29th May 2016.
It received some positive feedback, even though Steven had grown too good at it in play-testing and had actually slowed a lot of it down, for fear of making it too hard. This generated a spark though… and work began on upgrading it for a paid-for release.
In the meantime, Steven hastily threw together a version to put up on GameJolt.
The immediate plan was to start adding different arenas to Snake-A-Roid to switch up the playing field. The small changes in design drastically changed how the asteroids behaved, as well as the tactics used to get rid of them. Additional firepower was going to be needed in tight spaces, so a bunch of power-ups were devised and added. The game was switched to Windows, with Xbox 360 controller support added, and in a fit of wild abandon, thrown out to itch.
Snake-A-Roid was released anew on 2nd August 2016.
This was a mistake. There wasn’t much difference to the Jam version bar ten different arenas which just changed the space you played in. Although, there was also a chiptune soundtrack created for it as well, and various gameplay tweaks ( including speeding it back up, ) it still felt like an incremental patch.
It received some attention, all of which organic, as no trailer or anything was really sent out for it bar a couple of emails to potentially interested peoples for feedback.
And here we are in our story.
We are currently working on Snake-A-Roid 2.0 - a free update to Snake-A-Roid. It will feature 11 end of arena bosses, a “Boss Run” as well as an “Arcade Extra” mode; giving you more control over when you activate your power-ups with the projected release date of August 2017.
We’ll be showing off this new version at the 4TG Game Con 2017 in Aberdeen during 29th and 30th July.
And we hope to get this onto a few more platforms than just Windows, Linux and Mac.
To the future
After Snake-A-Roid, there are a couple of other things lurking about.
Steven attempted this year’s 7DRL - Seven Day Roguelike - but failed due to lack of time available to spend on it. It was going to be an update to his Ludum Dare entry “derelict_” and a lot of the foundation work has now been started, so this is a likely next project. There are also several small casual games lying around various repositories that should really be tarted up a bit and released on Android. So there may be a couple of months of doing exactly that.
Either way, here’s hoping to another year of the Badgers!