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I’ll just leave this here…

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If you read about games on a regular basis, chances are that you have lately been reading about misogyny and / or homophobia in games. Here at HOT ‘n SPICY Games, we (or is it okay if I write “I” instead of “we”? Simply because this is a one-man gig for the time being) believe that with making games – a medium that reaches so many people – there are some responsibilities coming along with it. One of these responsibilities would be to address the things you think aren’t right. For instance, one can set a good example.

So, who am I and what am I doing? I am an indie and I am just starting out. Currently, I am working on a nice, little retro-styled arcade action game called “SUPER TANK WARS!!”. My goal is to make it through the Steam Greenlight process and eventually release it on Steam – maybe as an ‘Early Access’ game. We will see about that. However, what I am getting at is that one day; I might reach some people with my own game. And of course, I want to set a good example myself. Arcade games usually are among the most stereotypical games, but as with everything else I do, I want to do things differently here:

The game’s roster will be 18 characters strong. The twist: 9 are male and 9 are female. If you look at arcade games such as “Street Fighter” or “Mortal Kombat”, the majority of the characters are male. Just to avoid having a sausage party, the devs thought “Hey, let’s add a few chicks to feat our eyes on!”.  I don’t think that’s fair to the female gamers out there, why should they be excluded? I don’t want to have just a few female characters in the game as an alibi – I wanted to rightfully include them. This is also a statement in regard of the game’s military setting. Yes. And I am not done yet. Say, how many game characters do you know that are actual lesbians? Okay, there are some. But how many of them are actually playable?? Well, two of the female characters in “SUPER TANK WARS!!” will be lesbians and one of the male characters will be gay. And why do I want to include characters with a homosexual backstory? Well, WHY NOT? Why would you have to think about this matter anyway? It is not like their sexuality will play any role in the story of the game or be made a subject. It’s just that they are homosexual – period. So what? I am curious to see if people will actually have a problem with that. The decision was made after I read about reactions and browsed through comments about “Gone Home” (reactions to the actual story, not the gameplay). It is really sad to see how many gamers still have a very narrow mind and how (almost) no one is trying to do something about it. So maybe I can, at least, make a few people think.

It actually feels pretty weird to “announce” that some of your game’s characters will be homosexual – however, it feels weird to me, because it obviously is something special and not something common (as it should be). Therefore, I think I am doing the right thing to change this.

If you have any comments to make, want to send criticism, hate-mail, etc., just use
hello(at)hot-n-spicy-games.com

Cheers,
Alex

Media:
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Beanie & Natasha reenacting the legendary Street Fighter Alpha 2 cover art. As I said, their sexuality won’t be made a subject in the game. However, I decided to paint and depict them like this for the artistic aspect of this illustration. I wanted to demonstrate that there is nothing to be afraid of, if you decide to have LGBT characters in your game.

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Rather early concepts for the characters “Beanie” and “Natasha”. Most likely some of the first ever playable lesbian videogame heroines.

Let me try something new. A “Dev Diary” entry.

As always, I was working on “SUPER TANK WARS!!” this weekend. I reached one of those points in development, where you have to make a decision. I had been to such points before and they are always kinda freaking me out. This time, I had the “joy” of deciding on STW!!’s native resolution. For the 3rd time. (*sigh*).

Originally, I was going with 640 x 360 pixels. Since I will go for a retro look with pixel art, which I love (and I don’t care if others use pixel art as well), resolution is crucial. My initial thought regarding 360p was that it would allow pixel perfect scaling to 720p, 1080p, 1440p, and 4k by multiplying the pixels via “nearest neighbour” upscaling. Just multiply the pixels with a clean integer value and you have nice, crisp pixels. Basically a great idea.

But then, I began to doubt. 360 height may be a bit huge. Since I wanted a retro look and feel, I started to compare video output of consoles such as the SNES and they all had something between 224 and 240 pixels in height. This bugged me. A lot! So I started calculating. Another resolution I came up with was 480 x 270 pixels. This would scale to 1080p and 4k, but not to 720p or 1440p as a clean integer. I primarily want to target TV resolutions, since I HOPE to make STW!! a console game eventually. So leaving out HD ready 720p TVs? Not an option, I thought. So I started implementing two resolution variants – if the display is 720p or 1440p, it would use 640 x 360 and 480 x 270 on 1080p and 4k. This, in turn, was achieved by showing / hiding a safe zone of the screen. This, in turn, meant that people with 720p would see more than people with 1080p. Pretty much pissed me off and likely would do the same for a lot of players. Also, 270 pixels height was still too much, somehow. At least I felt like this. I then did more research and added arcade hardware to the list of suff to check. I came across the Capcom Play System II (a.k.a. CPS2). Street Fighter Alpha 2, being one of its titles, is a major inspiration for me, especially (pixel) art-wise. So this system has a native resolution of 384 x 224. And then I calculated and came up with cutting the height to 216 pixels. So 384 x 216 would scale perfectly to 1080p and 4k and look like Street Fighter Alpha 2! “COOL!” did I think (little did I know). So I spent a weekend on converting the resolution to 384 x 216. It looked okay in 720p / 1440p as I kinda gave up on the “support every resolution pixel perfectly” idea. But this was when game design collided with art style. The sprites were too big for the rest of the screen. STW!! isn’t Street Fighter Alpha. Not at all. I knew that from the start, but now I realised that its resolution also HAD to differ. However, it did take me weeks of playtesting to come to this conclusion. Not much damage done, since I worked on different stuff in the meantime, no assets that I had to redo, except for a very few exceptions such as the title screen. So, lesson learned. You can’t always have it all – retro resolution as well as your desired gameplay that is – if fundamental things collide. What did I do this weekend? I spent it changing the resolution back – to 360p…

Even though I might sound regretful, I actually am not. This was an important thing for me to learn and while I had my doubts on the native resolution before, I am now 100% certain, that I will keep it like this. STW!! still looks retro, its pixel art still looks awesome and I overcame a big doubt inside my head. Win!

Conclusion: If you do pixel art dependent games, test the hell out of it and decide on a resolution as soon as you can – but DO playtest it!!

 

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Title screen in 384 x 216 px

 

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Title Screen in 640 x 360 px

I almost couldn’t believe it, but HOT ‘n SPICY Games was featured in the current issue (March 2014) of the Official Xbox Magazine in the US. In the words of the late Randy Savage: “OH YEAH!!”

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So, let’s show another character concept. This time, it even is the first Boss reveal. This one still needs a name. Major Pimp maybe? I’d like something more subtle, though. So yeah, he is going to be one of the bad guys…Maj.Pimp - Concept

© Alexander Ziska - Monheim am Rhein, Germany