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Critical Thinking

I've just finished a new game called Critical Bypass. It's a remake of one of the many terrible games in the unlicensed NES cart Action 52. There's a project currently running on TIGSource called Action 52 Owns which is an attempt to get experienced developers to remake all of these awful games into really fun and playable remakes.

The project has not been without its arguments and drama but I've stayed out of all that and focused on making my game. Fundamentally I really like this project and hope it reaches a successful conclusion because it would be great to have a compilation of 52 great games from a huge range of talented developers each bringing their own style and ideas.

A poor workman...

So by the time I joined the project there wasn't many games to pick from. It was really a choice of which of the bland generic shooters could I make the most interesting game from.

I took Critical Bypass which in its original form was an eyesore of an experience. Circular ship flies along a dreadful looking moonscape following a road while shooting at colour blobs and blocks. I played it for a little while and there was almost nothing redeeming about it.

The next generation

I decided that I wanted to do something really different with the game. There's so many similar shoot 'em ups on Action 52 that I figured a lot of the other developers will be making straight shoot 'em ups with their own interesting mechanics. So I decided to turn the game into a 3D rail shooter akin to Rez or Panzer Dragoon. This also fits into my continuing exploration of what I can do with Unity.

However I really wanted to maintain a lot of the original spirit of the game so the player initially controls a UFO looking ship and the enemies were meant to resemble blobs and blocks. The first level also involved following a road along a gray moon-like surface.

I made the content with a combination of Sketchup for mechanical looking objects and Sculptris for the more biological enemies. I got a friend of mine to do some character portrait art for the cutscenes. Also during the polishing phase I threw out some of my ship models and replaced them with royalty free models I found online


The game was supposed to be take me about 2 weeks to make but instead took around 4 and was pretty much the main thing I worked on during that period. My recent successes with Unity had led me to underestimate how complicated a rail shooter was going to be. The more I worked on it the more problems I was encountering and the more problems with my design I was finding.

I had some big problems that were ultimately unresolvable without starting it again. Using a Unity terrain on the first level caused huge performance problems for some people, and my not paying attention to keeping the different levels at a consistent world scale meant special effects such as explosions didn't really work right on the middle two levels.

I also now appreciate why Rez and Panzer Dragoon take place in big open spaces rather than tight canyons. To make it properly fun you need to have the enemies on screen for a long time and not just sweeping in and out as I had done.

Ultimately I'm not massively happy with the game. It could probably use more polish and work, and some sections starting over again but I think getting the game to a state where I'd be happy with it could take another whole month of development time. So right now I'm cutting my losses and have been balancing and tweaking what I have to make it as playable as possible.

Welcome to the home of Locked Door Puzzle, the independent game development studio of Richard Perrin located in Bristol.

My primary focus is on creating expressive games that explore different forms of interactive storytelling.

For contact details check the about page.