Thursday, March 25, 2010

Jiggles Jumble

Not too long ago, I saw an old article about Daikatana, a game infamously regarded as one of the most disastrous game projects ever done. The long sorted story of it's creation and the backlash it received almost make it like a big budget and over-hyped movie that took forever to make and wasn't very good when it was done. So Star Wars Episode 1?

I don't know. Anyway, regardless of what film it was like, sometimes I fear my hack may end up in the same situation. I have worked on my hack off and on (mostly off) since 2007 and have actually done little more then dick around with ASM, most of the overworld, and some graphics. And like 5 levels. Only 3 of which are even near done. Of course it's not like I am the only one to take forever on hacks, but I am probably one of the few that is still working on one hack all this time. And the problem I have is basically the same problem Daikatana had. Too much ambition, not enough focus.

In Daikatana's case lack of focus could mostly be attributed to too many conflicting teams of people. For me it's more just attempting to go in all directions at once without really having much of a plan besides vague outlines. But the result is the same: Scattered fragments of ideas being developed more or less independently without much unity or utility in the grand scale. Also, just like Daikatana was John Romero's baby, my hack is mine. Regardless what happens I want to see it to the end.

But just in case, I wanted to explain my hack a bit. What it's about and what I want to do.

1. Background

The seed that would become The Adventures of Jiggles the Catgirl started out as “Super Duper Mario World” and was to be a fairly silly Super Mario World level hack without any story to speak of and probably little ASM or new graphics...

I guess I should explain what ASM is first for anyone who doesn't know. It's short for Assembly and is the most basic computer programing language there is... at least in the sense that it's the closest to what computers actually do. It's just one step removed from the raw string of bytes computers feed into their CPU. In fact, basically all a computer file is, is a long string of numbers, and all “ROMhacking” is is replacing parts of the long strings of numbers that make up a game ROM. Some of it is data, like graphics, sound, text, etc. And some is the program it runs. Thats where ASM comes in. Naturally, this makes ASM perfect for replacing parts of computer programs and altering them without having any kind of source code used to make them. I guess I could explain what ROMs are and how old SNES games can be copied from them and such but really, that's info for people to discover on their own. It's also sorta illegal to download them, but um... I own a cart... yeah thats the ticket!

Anyway, I decided after a while instead of doing a generic silly SMW hack (after all tons of them already existed and are being pumped out like crazy by people all over the world), I decided to do something different and totally change the whole theme and setting, as well as overload it with as much ASM as I could. I already had a character and story in mind for this new project: Jiggles.

2. The Advent of the Catgirl

Jiggles was a character that began in a series of loose role-playing sessions with someone I met online. A girl who goes simply by Maru. Now Maru rather likes anime (and so do I for the most part) and had ambitions of making her own online comic with a cast of wacky characters she had invented and developed over the course of many years. I ended up inventing the “character” of Killo Zapit chiefly so I could have a wacky foil to some of her more serious characters. Anyone who has seen me on IRC or elsewhere on the web probably has seen me act as Killo Zapit. Killo is a pervert, an idiot, and an annoyingly persistent pest, but he is a bit more then that too. Killo was invented for one reason: Although I am (in my own mind at least) a fairly deep and introspective thinker a lot of the time, I also tend to act like an idiot online (and sometimes off) just for kicks. Therefore I split the two sides of myself into Killo Zapit, the loudmouth smartass, and an often unseen other character who acts as a more logical and introspective thinker which I sometimes refer to as Tipaz Ollik although I have used that name as Killo Zapit as well. Killo became more and more over the top as time went on and evolved more into resembling a immortal and immoral hedonistic magical interdimensional being as time passed, and even used his power to make Killovania, a castle that floats between dimensions.

Jiggles herself was originally more of a side character. She was at first just a random catgirl Maru made to distract Killo. Unfortunately it worked a bit too well, if you know what I mean, and I decided to make her a permanent follower of Killo. She was originally innocent but very willing to let Killo do whatever he wanted with her, which was usually naughty. And I admit, she was used mostly as wish fulfillment at that stage. Although her name was at one point simply Kitty, the more cumbersome and provocative JigglePawBreast, a name I had basically used as a joke in IRC once, became her more official name. This was the name I used when I started a account on Gaia Online (which I never much did that much with besides games and some PMs). On Gaia, more of her character was freshed out and her appearance was finalized, as before it was only a very rough idea of a red-head pony-tailed girl with cat ears and a tail. Also on Gaia, some role-playing with other people via PMs developed her more, and was the source of her shortened name.

It was around this time I started roleplaying her with members of a ROMhacking site, and her character became less of a wish fulfilling ideal sex partner, and more of character with a very strong moral conviction and desire for friendship and real love. This was also about the time I decided to make her the focus of my hack. Anyway though a long LONG string of mostly unrelated roleplaying sessions with various people she started to really become, in my mind, a very interesting character. I had decided at some point that I would really put my heart into some of her ideals if only just to see how far her idealistic outlook could go, while I made Killo more and more of an antagonist, with a more direct “everyone is really out for themselves anyway” outlook. I attempted to make both sides have a point, even if Killo still was sort of an idiot, he was always a wise idiot.

At one point Jiggles decided she wasn't going to be taken as a sex object anymore and actually left when she felt people were not treating her fairly. This would have been a perfect set up for my hack, but things in the roleplaying sessions moved on. The thing that sort of made me really like Jiggles' character in those days is I managed to really get behind her speeches. I attempted to really take her idealistic and moral outlook seriously when playing her. She didn't just say something was wrong, she said why and how and exactly what she felt. If people accused her of being too naïve or hypocritical she took the accusation seriously and responded to it as bast she could. She didn't simply talk about the power of friendship, she explained why friends made people powerful. And a lot of people, even originally cynical people really seemed to respond to it.

Of course there is more to the story, and more back story that I want to get into, partly based on archetypes and psychology behind each character. And a good deal of the things in the roleplaying I did I probably will drop, but along the way I think I came up with a lot of things I want to explore and see done in a formal story. That said, I don't want to over-bloat the story either. My idea was to do a simple setup that becomes something much deeper during the end, however most of the dynamic of the roleplaying sessions I liked was special because of the characters and players involved and the other things happening behind the scenes. In the end, what I WANT to do, is a deconstruction and reconstruction of a fantasy at the same time. To make something that moves people the way some of the roleplaying moved me... but it's probably not possible to do it in the same way.

3. Gameplay and Gimmick

The basic idea I had was something like SMB2/DokiDokiPanic with more of a Super Mario Land 2 non-linear hub for a overworld map. But I ended up attempting to add a bunch of little ASM hacks which take a lot of time and effort without really planning how they will be used game-wise. One of the first things I did, even before starting on a hack, is make a health system like SMB2. It was a bit wonky but it worked, and people still use it all the time in hacks today. That was really the only thing I ever released officially. I have a few things that people might be interested in, like a basic inventory system that let's you store objects for later use, and a patch to expand saved games, but I always held off on releasing them. Sometimes other people would beat me with a version of their own of something I was working on, but that didn't bug me so much.

The thing is though, most of my patches were worked on a bit and never really matured, and while a number of them are neat, sometimes I wonder if they are really right for my hack. Like my inventory patch. It's cool and it works well, and I even have a shop and stuff for it, but it has very little use in the game right now. No levels really need it, the only items I made for it so far are versions of the normal SMW powerups, and if I am not careful it could make the game way too easy.

I also spend a lot of time working on things that work in SMW well enough but seem off to me, like bugs, or odd behaviors of objects, or such. One example is altering friction and how you slide on ice. Sure it's kinda cool to change but does it really make that much of an impact? I spent all day yesterday fiddling with how thrown objects work, and the day before messing around with swimming. I have completely changed how score and coins work and added a little shop where you could pick things up to buy them. Sure nice, but it's a little silly how many of my alterations are tiny things most people won't notice or won't care about.

4. Not Content with Content

I talked about this before in this blog, but I have to once again state I have no idea what I am doing with levels sometimes. Partly it's because I change the rules a lot, partly it's because I want to do a unusual style without having a firm grasp on what it is, but mostly it's because I am a lot more interested at this point in ASM and big gameplay changes.

In the realm of graphics I am better. The graphics for Jiggles herself is basically done, aside from the possible addition of extra forms and powers, The levels I did finish have some tile graphics that I am satisfied with, and I have a vast assortment of enemy, item, and other sprites ready to use. Music seems a sure thing. I don't have to look far for a huge collection of custom music and I ported quite a few songs myself. It's not as original as the graphics but it will do.

In the end, I still need more levels though more then anything. I have taken to asking people if I could use their old levels or if they could make some for me. In fact at least 2 levels I have aren't mine. But the problem is that using other people's levels means using other people's styles, some of which clash quite a lot with what I want to do. But we will see what happens.

5. Conclusion (Finally!)

As I see more and more hacks, the bar gets higher and higher. Like Daikatana I am afraid I may end op to little to late, and I still have about 80%-90% of the hack to go before I am done. Even if I had a few more levels, and debugged the hell out of my code, maybe a demo might be possible but there wouldn't be much special about it. I need to really get into gear and clean up or revamp everything if I even hope to do anything like what I want. Le sigh.


  1. *want's a few new pics*

    Also, broke your header by reading this post.

  2. Broke my header? The only problem I saw is my pictograph CSS isn't loaded if you read it via the dashboard, which honestly is acceptable to me.

  3. Cool story about Jiggles. Do you have any hand drawn artwork of her?

  4. Sorta, but I didn't draw it, and I much prefer My current sprite face because it has some different details I think are slightly better (such as her pony tail).

    I am always welcome to see more if thats what your getting at :P

  5. @Killo: It says "The blog nobody reads."

    And I did read it.

  6. Well your a nobody! *shot*

    I do have some readers now, but not very many people comment. You should comment on newer posts though. :P

  7. This is exactly how I feel about my homebrew game. It's been well over a year now and I still don't have collision detection or level support...
    That's why I've been working more on my SMB hack lately, (well, also to give me something to start arguments with so I can point out hypocrisy in SMWC's rules)