Tuesday, May 30, 2006

And now for something completely nostalgic

Remember when video games like Super Mario Bros. were made? I occasionally visit www.CartoonNetwork.com because they usually have decent games made in honor of their television shows. Some of their older games aren't very good but most "my first game ever" games aren't.

That said, I ran across a somewhat Zelda-like nostalgic game (albeit MUCH easier than Zelda) sometime last year and couldn't beat it. The game is called Puffy Treasure Island (in honor of the Puffy Ami Yumi cartoon show):

Puffy Treasure Island Game

Somewhere during the process, I started taking screenshots and started building a map in Photoshop. I eventually ran out of time to work on it and had to get back to doing real work. This weekend I started clearing out my hard drive and doing a bunch of "odds-and-ends" tasks that have accumulated over the past 6 months and ran across the partial map. Last night I set out with determination to finish the game and create a visual map:

Click the following link for a larger version of the above image:

If you were around during the time of Super Mario Bros., you probably remember the old gaming magazines that created entire visual walkthroughs of the game. That is, someone sat there chopping away at images and writing walkthrough documentation complete with a rolling display of images. If you ever wanted the definition of a "cool job", that is a cool job. A lot of people call such walkthroughs "cheating", but after experiencing the process myself, I consider it a lost artform.

Everyone these days seems to be in such a hurry to make 3-D games. A lot can be said for a really good 2-D game. In fact, some of the best games were and still are 2-D. I ran across an interesting game called "D.U.O." a couple weeks ago and a game called "Warning Forever" a few months before that. Both are now in my "permanent games" collection. To get there, a game has to be original (i.e. demonstrate major creativity), addicting, easy to play, and be relatively challenging but not impossible or be really fun. And, BTW, both of those games, while 2-D in nature, utilize DirectX heavily. It isn't hard to create a 2-D'ish engine using Direct3D. Microsoft is doing precisely that for Windows Vista.

I really enjoyed making the Puffy Treasure Island map and walkthrough. I actually found about a half-dozen annoyances in Photoshop. Despite the press saying the opposite, Photoshop is actually a very weak application. I'm a power user and I constantly run into limitations with the application (and, yes, I've tried the GIMP). However, while I'm always on the lookout for new tools, I am always leery about installing a new graphics editor. Almost every graphics editor out there steals file extension associations and then doesn't bother returning them if the application is uninstalled. This breaks Windows and I generally get annoyed when I have to re-associate my files to applications - mostly because the application selection dialog is very slow.

This brings up an interesting point. While Microsoft seems fairly focused on making Windows look prettier over the past few years, a number of important dialogs have suffered from performance issues as a direct result. Selecting an application when using the "Open with..." dialog is very slow on many PCs. Faster hardware has helped alleviate the situation, but the list should be precached with a "Refresh List" button and a warning dialog that says "This will take a while. Are you sure you want to refresh the list? Yes, No." The other dialog that is painfully slow is the Add/Remove Programs dialog. It can take upwards of 2 minutes on my computer. I know most of that time is spent grabbing icons from the programs and useless information from the registry to make it look "pretty". If you develop software and "pretty" hurts performance, then don't do pretty.

For those visiting my blog because you searched for "Puffy Treasure Island walkthrough" on Google, this is a blog geared for software developers/computer geeks. It is also my angst outlet. In this case, it also includes a really nifty nostalgic-style map and walkthrough of the game "Puffy Treasure Island". Some might call it cheating, I call it art. It was a fun map to make and art should be fun and enjoyable. I really like how the purple and pink came out. The cartoon show is too blocky for my artistic tastes (no offense), but I wanted to capture the "sweet-and-sour" of Puffy AmiYumi in the background by using the show's color scheme. I like how it turned out. Even if you disagree with walkthroughs, you can enjoy the background of the image. Oh, BTW, if you like my style of artwork and have plenty of cash to spare, I am always open to doing business (you will need to have a beastly PC to handle any Photoshop files I send your way, this one was 162MB).

And now I return to the real world of work.