_NEWS!! - 22/9/17_
i am working on a 64-bit update for the iOS version so it'll run on iOS 11, and since i'm in the mood right now, gonna start unifying it with the PC version, updating all the code to my new engine and doing some fun stuff with it.. i think this game is due for a revival.. stay tuned!
FMN is a little arcade game I made for iOS back in March 2011. The first version took about 4 weeks to create. Then a couple months later I spent another 2 weeks on an update, adding a few different game modes and some other new stuff. (Also ported it to Win and OSX at some stage)..
I had nothing else going on in my life at the time, so I guess it was made in a state of permanent crunch - wake up, code all night, sleep, repeat. This wasn't the bad kind of crunch, but just pure singularity of intent. I was in the zone. I find it dificult to get much done if i CAN'T spend 12 hour blocks of time thinking of nothing else.
This game is descended from some of my early attempts at DOS game coding with Turbo Pascal (which I'd pirated off my friend's dad's work laptop). Always mazes full of little critters wandering about.. that was as far as I ever got back then.
In FMN, you move around randomly generated, usually symmetrical mazes, picking all the flowers. When you (or perhaps a monster) have picked the last one, a door to the next level will appear. There's also a key in every maze, which you'll need to open the door...
FMN's big main super important inspiration was the Commodore 64 game Crossroads 2, by Steve Harter.
There's a great writeup on the Crossroads games here. They were distributed as "type-ins" in a magazine, Compute!'s Gazette, a big pile of which a friend and I found in his dad's shed. Living in remote north Australia, I was quite behind the times with computers.. solely used a C64 well into the 90s. Those magazines were already ancient by the time we found 'em. If you don't know, type-ins were where the game's source code was printed, in ink, on paper, in the back of the magazine.. you had to type it in and hope it worked. Some of these were coded in BASIC so the source was human readable, but Crossroads 2 was just massses of hexadecimal numbers. It looked like this (image taken from that dessgeega page. thx!)..
We spent a day typing it all in, going through it to find mistakes etc, and eventually had a working game,
which turned out to RULE. Check out the Dessgeega link, it explains it better than I could. But basically,
there are several mazes full of hundreds of little creatures. Some kinds of them like or dislike other kinds,
so there are factions who fight or help each other.. rather than the typical "player against the world" type of game,
it's more like an ecosystem where the player is just another denizen and everyone's just living their lives.
Another important thing about Crossroads is that, like Pac-Man, it has corridors which wrap around the screen edges - so you can shoot bullets which will just keep flying repeatedly across the screen FOREVER (or until they hit something). I loved that feeling of chaos.
FMN obviously looks and controls quite like Pac-Man, and though I never really cared about Pac, I did borrow Pac-Man CE's "wall scraping" mechanic, though altered it for my own ends. In Pac-Man, if you move the joystick to turn in a new direction *before* reaching the turn, you move around the corner very slightly faster, which is apparently vital for escaping ghosts sometimes. (Check out this awesome Pac-Man Dossier on Gamasutra).
In Forget-Me-Not, scraping/grinding against the walls makes you go faster and faster, and eventually become semi-invulnerable and able to just bash through monsters ("squishing" them). And then if you keep grinding and get too fast, you'll overheat and explode. Depending on the layout of the randomly generated mazes, it becomes possible to stay balanced on a knife edge of grindiness where you're moving super fast and just smashing through everything, but never quite letting yourself go BOOM.
Other big influences were Nethack, which I love but am terrible at, and ZZT. I loved ZZT but never got my head around its scripting language, or whatever that was.. never made anything fancy in it. But FMN's whole look comes straight from these DOS ANSI based games.
One last inspiration came from Jayenkai's Blockman Gets, another Pac-Man style game where you eat chains of dots, but trying not to cross a dot-less space. I pinched the flower-chain combo scoring system from this. Thanks Jay :)
There are a couple other score combo systems in there - squishing monsters in quick succession gives an increasing combo score, as does collecting the badly drawn fruit/jelly/icecreams/burgers/sushi/other videogame vittles they drop.
There's also a 2-player mode. I don't think it works *particularly* well, though it's alright.. It mainly just has this because Crossroads did. It's both competitive and cooperative. Cool secret: If one player loses all their lives before the other, the survivor can sacrifice one of their remaining lives to resurrect the dead one by hanging out at their tombstone for a bit.
So yeah I made my little brute force variably-symmetrical maze generator - with destructible walls - coded up a bunch of creatures to live in there, and blended a bunch of ideas of all these games into it. At this stage I was like "yeah this is ok I guess, but I don't think I'll release it..." but my friend Madgarden was like, no no no you idiot, you're selling this...
It was stll missing something though.. then I listened to this song and everything clicked into place. (OK the bit about the song is a lie). I added THE KEY. This was the final thing. It makes sense.. you need a key to open the next level's door.. and since you drag the key behind you because it must be a pretty heavy key, being as big as yourself, it shields your behind from all those endlessly screen-wrapping bullets you've inadvertantly sent firing around the maze.
Then I realised monsters could also pick up the key, or steal it from you, leading to Benny Hill style comedy chases through the maze trying to get it back as the lights go out and the giant happy ghost (inspired by Bubble Bobble (the best game in the world)'s "HURRY!" ghost), starts chasing you around.
After my first mad stolen key chase in the dark, reaching the door to the brightly lit safety of the next level just in time, I was like ok yeah this is good now.
Later, I added the "arcade" difficulty, which just makes the whole thing faster because it had become too slow for me. Also added Arena mode, which is I think the best mode for a quick blast - Rather than a sequence of levels, you just get one huge maze which you're stuck in forever, as successively difficult waves of monsters warp in. Arena gets really hard because as more walls are blown up there are less and less surfaces to grind on.. I think the longest I've ever lasted was 3 or 4 minutes. My only problem with Arena mode is, it still has the key, but no door. A bit inelegant. But that key is so useful as a shield and I couldn't think of another solution. I did make it deflect bullets in random directions instead of just absorbing 'em though...
A word on the sound effects - I'm really happy with how these turned out. They're just a lot of very short .wav files which are played or looped at different (or moving) pitches, depending on context. I reckon it evokes the feel of a proper oldschool chip synth quite well. Everything that happens in the game has a sound associated with it. The pitches of the sounds that play as you warp in at the start of a level depend on where on screen you're going to appear, and I like how sometimes it generates a couple low notes which sound sort of like a hunting horn.
I never went as far as Crossroads did with monster factions - the critters in FMN mostly just fight everyone and everything. Some of them chase others, or run away, some of them chase you, one of them always tries to get the key (this is the only one i even ended up using A* pathfinding for, haha!).. It's mostly very simple. I'd like to do a lot more with all this, next time. I might come back and make a little bestiary here later but making web pages is exhausting!
Why's it called Forget-Me-Not?
I had made the Pac-Man style dots you collect be flowers instead of dots because they're prettier, and was thinking about dungeons and that nice word "oubliette" (a dungeon you throw someone in to forget about them forever) which i learnt from Labyrinth (the best film). And the game actually has a secret, never explained story, about how you're trying to pick all these magic flowers to make a potion to save your beloved who has fallen into a neverending amnesiac slumber... so...that's why it's called that..
* FMN FAME AND GLORY *
The only "marketing" I did for this game was to send one promo code to TouchArcade. I was very lucky that it ended up being reviewed by Blake Patterson, who loved it - check out the review here. Thanks Blake! After that I had a steady stream of emails from different sites asking for promo codes. Most of them liked it! Yay. Here's its Metacritic entry (just an easy way to collect reviews y'know)... wowsers... There have been several journalists and other famous internet folk who talked it up too, like Craig Grannell and Brendan Keogh. Thank you for all the support!
It has since been installed in several arcade cabinets around the world (like Winnitron) and been at some events. I can't remember all of them right now,
but the most recent one (and only one I've been to myself) was the Contours Exhibition in Melbourne, for a local multiplayer games night. Thankyou so much Chad, Ben and Pritika!
It was the most amazing thing seeing (and joining in with) random strangers playing my little game and appearing to have fun! I was stoked as, hey.
Even had ppl send me photos of paper versions of FMN their kids made! How rad is that!
? SEQUEL ?
I started making a FMN sequel for the PS Vita, ages ago now. But my life circumstances are drastically altered these days and, though I have the basics of the engine going (with fancy trippy shader graphics and all!) I haven't found it within myself to work on it in almost 2 years now. I think it'll probably never happen. I'd still love it to though. There's lots of stuff I'd do differently with FMN if I was making it now, and I have so many more ideas.....aaaand having learnt all this cool shader tech since 2011, I reckon there will definitely be a sequel somewhere, sometime. Just not yet.... got too many other things on the go...
OK thanks for reading this megatext!!! I think i forgot to say a bunch of things I'd meant to. I'll come back and add some graphics or something some time.