Rebooteroids - A Brief History

and Moving Forward

Status: back in development


As with a number of Reboot projects, Rebooteroids didn't begin life as the game it ended up as.

After we got over the whole Project One episode, let the dust settle and allowed time for the lessons to be learned, it was decided that future games would need a different approach. Different ways of thinking, different methods of implementation and therefore a lot of different routines. Bullets that didn't... well, didn't suck, those would be a good start!

When you're writing a new bullet routine, it's good to have something from which to fire them. Also, having something to fire at is pretty handy. Ah, but then you're going to need to track those targets, so something to handle that would be helpful and also some collision detection... and that was the birth of Rebooteroids.

Some of us saw more potential in Rebooteroids than just a straightforward rock-smashing thrust and rotate affair and pushed for it to become a full scale project. Not everyone agreed... CJ wasn't convinced to begin with. It's a simple game, where could you take it?

Ideas came in no short supply, there was actually a fair bit of potential for such a title. Around this time the Jagware flash cart "Jagtopus" was announced - great, we could put the game out on a cart! That was highly motivational stuff and we decided to target the game to the flash cart, thinking of a few nice extras this would allow for. These extras would over-complicate a simple menu screen, so CJ set to work on one of the tidiest front ends the Jaguar has seen - his BMX menu. A 2000+ point depth shaded 3D star field, intuitive and responsive menu navigation, lots of features to adjust game settings, loads of play modes and options. All we lacked now was a final push on the game elements, a few animations here and there and then a lot of level design and testing. Oh, and those cartridges.

Due to circumstances beyond the control of our fellow Jagware members ZeroSquare and SCPCD, the Jagtopus was not going to happen any time soon. It wasn't just the disappointing build quality results from the company chosen to produce the prototypes and it certainly wasn't any kind of bizarre reverse economies of scale issue making larger quantities cost more than small ones (obviously, fixed costs are fixed and larger quantities cost less per unit, as with practically everything else in life), but there was a stumbling block they were unable to overcome and it meant our game, as it had been designed, was not going to make its way to Jaguar gamers and collectors.

Not all was lost... during work on Rebooteroids, CJ decided to show off just how flexible his tracking object and collision detection routines really were. For a while it seemed like rebooteroids was being transformed into a completely different game every few days or so... One day it was Space Invaders, the next it was Frogger... "If only Atari had this 17 years ago..." and slowly the ideas began to formulate around a small suite of routines that, while not massively targeted and oozing in raw and optimum effective use of Jaguar's resources, would allow us... or allow someone else... to quickly put together the skeleton framework of a new game design or idea and to do so making use of the Jaguar's RISC architecture. RaptoR was born - Reboot's Automagic Proprietary Object Tracking Routines.

RaptoR's birth left Rebooteroids on the shelf. We lacked any enthusiasm or motivation to work on a game we could not release, but RaptoR was interesting and had all kinds of potential - exciting additions and extras came thick and fast. But CJ wasn't completely happy with the way we dropped 'roids, he wanted to see it through. He'd created that amazing menu system (usually some of the most boring, tedious aspects of game design and implementation) but here it had been fun, maybe more fun that making the game itself! But there simply wasn't any motivation elsewhere in the group to go back to a project that could not be made available as planned and if a project isn't pushing everyone's buttons, it only has one place to go - up on the shelf.

So Rebooteroids was essentially the prototype for RaptoR and as such it did more than any game release could have done for us. But the game was still sitting there, it still whispered to CJ in the quieter, stiller nights, it still wanted to be set free to give everyone a third reason to dig out the rotary controller. The thing was, since starting the project, we'd all decided that too much Jaguar was "A Very Bad Thing [TM]". We simply didn't have the resources to work on such a project again as our day to day lives did not permit it, not without it taking far too long to be enjoyable. An evil plan was hatched...

We posed an open question to the rest of group: How about we remove the ROMdisk... we remove the menu system and all that goes with it... the challenges, the BJL loading, the CD bypass... all that stuff can go, all the alternate worlds can go, just stick with the retro vector-looking set (that everyone liked best) and work with that. Now the game can be made as a single-load CD. The game can be a BJL upload. Everyone can play it now, it doesn't need a cart to live inside. And the game can be completed instead of sitting there on that shelf...

Once we'd finished working on a few very simple RaptoR tutorial games, Rebooteroids got itself a reboot... or was it a demake? Whatever it was, it came down from the shelf and the dust blown clean away.

But the code seemed alien. It kind of looked like RaptoR in a way but it didn't have a tenth of the functionality and only a minute fraction of ease of use... this was very much our old way of making games for the Jaguar. Strange times!

The strip-down began... layers of now unnecessary baggage were removed, the ROMdisk was gone, the dangling hooks for features no longer needed were torn out, the core game was beginning to show itself as a single-load binary. It was now ready to be worked on again with a new enthusiasm and a completely new set of goals. It wouldn't be the game we promised, but what it would be was completable for us and available to own for those who want it - we could live up to that part of the bargain.

At the time of writing (July 2012) Rebooteroids has had new life breathed into it. While the Jagtopus is now a possibility, we do not regret our decision to rework our plans for this game. We can now complete the game, we have readdressed how we'll make it play and so far results are positive. New power-ups have been added, others removed (including all power-downs). Some of RaptoR's features have been back-ported to this engine. The bullet count has gone up and with it an increased satisfaction of relentless blasting. The bonus round has been tossed and our plans for a new one seem far more appealing, fun and less 'random'. The BMX menu will be put to good use in a title that can benefit from it.

All in all, we're glad to be back breathing life into this game and we're also still keen to see it put on cartridge... of course, that extra cartridge capacity could be put to use in a number of ways...