It’s been over a month since we released Glaciators just in time to quality for January’s One Game a Month. It was a crazy rush to get it out the door after the idea came up at PEGJam 4, one of my favourite annual jams to attend.
The concept was born during the twenty-two hour road trip from Toronto to Winnipeg. Michael Todd (of Michael Todd Games) and I were discussing ideas for the jam. He described to me a game with no friction, where you had four arrows. What he was trying to describe was an Asteroids clone. I completely misunderstood and thought the game sounded incredible as an icy-arena deathmatch. After clarifying that I had an entirely different game in mind, Glaciators was kicked in motion.
Starting with the code name Icerena there were numerous discussions on whether or not a game featuring people primarily in parkas with harpoons would be considered racially charged. Ultimately it was decided that Ice Climbers was seen as just as a cute game, and there was no reason to worry about it too much. Particularly when you’re developing in the dead of winter during a snowstorm in -30°C weather in Winnipeg, everybody is wearing parkas anyway because absolutely nothing else will keep you warm. (Note: some local Winnipeggers can tolerate temperatures as low as -50°C with nothing but body hair. Do not attempt this at home.)
Enough of that. Let’s talk a bit of tech. Glaciators was created entirely in ActionScript 3 using the Flex SDK to compile to AIR. From the very beginning, the controls integrated my MacJoystickANE which permits the native input of gamepads and more importantly analog joysticks. The controls are a bit like traditional hockey games in that you push in the direction you wish to go, but skating momentum will force you to take a wide turn on the ice if you have some speed already.
Harpoon (technically javelin) throwing is very simple, it will always launch in the direction you are facing and you can press and hold the throw button to “charge” up a shot to throw it further. Being hit by a javelin is instant death. You start with only four of them, so if you waste all of them, you’ll need to collect more from corpses and the ground which can be a deadly errand in itself.
The gameplay ended up being very tight and crowds quickly started to gather around which you can see in this great Super Gamer Podcast for PEGJam 2013. Several times it was necessary to kindly ask people to stop playing so I could add a new feature. This was easily one of the best games I had ever made and I was extremely excited about the clean, competitive, addictive gameplay. Alec Holowka of Infinite Ammo, PEGJam organizer and Indie Game Musician Extraordinaire whipped together a jaunty soundtrack that fit the mood perfectly. Things could not have gone better.
Unfortunately, the sales of the game since its “commercial” launch have been icy at best (ha, ha.) Two weeks is not a lot of polish time, but I had hoped that the one dollar price point would be enough to convince folks to give it a shot. To date there have been literally 20 sales total – after PayPal’s cut, that’s $14 or so. Less if you consider that I will need to convert from USD to CAD.
Still, this has been an amazing learning experience – and I’m certainly not finished with the game yet. I’ve been hard at work on a Level Editor and a revamped physics engine for Glaciators which I plan to release in the near future. The game is too good to give up on. Glaciators v1.1 will be launched with a few extra arenas, some powerups and the new physics. I’d also love to redo the art, as I’m clearly not an amazing artist and the colors look intensely bad on Windows. Hopefully it can gain a little more traction then.
Until next time, keep your javelin off the ice.