Entertainment Hero - The Game!
So, I'm making a video game. It's the one thing I've always wanted to do. Entertainment Hero is now the name of my video series and my video game series. Hero was always meant to embody the spirit of the games I played growing up and now he'll do it in a literal sense.
In terms of gameplay, Mega Man is the largest inspiration here, that much is obvious. It's the series I know the best, and there's a nice harmony to the idea that the first game that I make resembles the first game that I played. It's a simple style as well which makes it a great first game to design.
The game will have ten stages to complete, in any order, before it's over. It won't be the longest or greatest game in the world and I'm aware of that, so expect a price point of under five dollars when the game launches. Another element driving the price point is competition. Entertainment Hero, even if it turns out exactly as I want it, will pale in comparison to Freedom Planet, Shovel Knight, Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures, 20XX, and plenty of other games out there that went after the same basic idea that I'm going after.
On the bright side, I have player feedback from those games that will help me improve mine. Freedom Planet players frequently mentioned over-complicated combat mechanics. I'm sticking with Jump'N'Shoot gameplay. AVGN suffered from some unbalanced difficulty, which I'm actively looking to avoid by having play-testers of all ages. 20XX has been criticized for having little structure thanks to it's randomly generated levels and power-ups.
These criticisms are subjective of course, and I am by no means trying to belittle the games I've mentioned. I own them all and I very much enjoy them, particularly AVGN and 20XX. All I mean to say is that I've been paying attention to what people want in this style of game, which brings me to my next point - what people don't want.
Many games have appeared inspired by Mega Man's near perfect design. One stands above the rest though, as it's the only one with Mega Man's supposed creator at the helm. Mighty Number Nine is, if I'm honest, the primary reason for Entertainment Hero's entrance into the video game realm. Ignoring the community manager, ignoring the broken gameplay promises, ignoring the fact that four million dollars went into a game that amounted to a Dreamcast launch title, Mighty Number 9 disappointed as a game and as a gamer and a fan, I want to provide Mega Man fans with something better.
Enemies didn't seem designed with any consideration for the level they were placed in. Movement was slippery, jumping felt awkward, the dash somehow lasted too long and wasn't long enough depending on the situation, and firing Beck's blaster felt weak and unsatisfying. The game had mechanics that seemed to disappear when the game needed to be "harder", like the player's ability to grab ledges. Levels had gimmicks that weren't properly explained, unlike the Mega Man series.
Worst of all is that the game didn't teach you your own moveset, leading to situations like the now infamous spinning turbine. You had to dash under it while holding Down, which let you dash while being lower to the ground. The intro stage stopped you every ten steps to explain what you can do and decided this move wasn't worth mentioning. The saddest part is that you only needed it on this one occasion, so it almost wasn't worth bringing up.
I'm sure I didn't have to go into this much detail on what was wrong with Mighty Number 9. Everyone seems pretty aware already. Still though, these are the things I think about while playing games and I'm applying everything I've learned over the last twenty years of gaming to Entertainment Hero. This isn't a high bar to reach for, and many may disagree, but I can say Entertainment Hero is already designed better than Mighty No. 9 and I can say it with a good amount of confidence.
What I should mention up front is that I am not a programmer. More of a 'No-grammer", when it comes right down to it. Entertainment Hero is being made in Unity and relies entirely on assets from the Asset Store. I've found a very robust set of tools that are allowing me to create the game and I'm unendingly grateful to have them. I'm still figuring it all out and there's a lot that I don't know how to do. I'm getting there slowly but it's happening and I really feel that the game can be ready by March of next year if I keep working at this pace.
It's just me putting this entire thing together, though my brother Jeremy, who voices Master Villain on the show, is composing the music. I'm drawing the graphics by hand, designing the levels, creating the enemies, and everything else. After the basic visuals are complete Jeremy gets to work writing the music for the stage. After the graphics are done I place the basic layout of the stage and make sure it plays right. I'm not programming, but placing everything where it needs to be and making sure Hero moves correctly on and against everything is still tedious, time consuming work.
In terms of current progress, I have three stages nearing completion and two more in active development. Each stage has unique enemies, obstacles and environments with as little re-use as possible from stage to stage. The final stages will, of course, draw elements from the other 8 stages to serve as a final exam of sorts, something all video games should do.
Entertainment Hero is not going for the "retro" or "8-Bit" visual style, per se. It borrows from those looks, but Hero himself is hand drawn, stage graphics have a grid overlay to keep them from looking low resolution and boring, and enemies are high resolution sprites with no limit on color pallet.
The grid has a story explanation and I really like the way it looks. The only issue I foresee is that it might look "chunky" and crushed on lower resolution devices. A bilinear filter will solve this problem at the expense of the pixelated look, so the player will have that option as well.
Ultimately, I'm not a skilled enough sprite artist to make the retro style look good or interesting so I've chosen to avoid it. I'm a decent cartoonist, as the character slides for the Entertainment Hero show hopefully proves, so most things will be drawn by hand or feature high resolution sprites. How high resolution will most things be? Here's a scale comparison between Mega Man, Mega Man X, and Entertainment Hero.
(Cleaner graphic soon)
Hero has very nice, highly detailed sprites with a cartoon look resembling his art on the show. Don't worry though, Hero won't appear massive on the screen. He's appropriately sized for gameplay with speed based on the SNES Mega Man titles.
PLATFORMS and RELEASE
Since Entertainment Hero is being made in Unity it could potentially be released on just about every system under the sun. The only system I can 100% confirm right now is PC via Steam, but I'm hoping for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Wii U, New Nintendo 3DS, and Nintendo NX. Yes, Nintendo NX. I'm confident the system will support Unity and it'll be very nice to have an action-platformer available on the new Nintendo console on day 1. Again, I can't promise anything other than Steam at this point.
NX ambition is the main reason for the March 2017 release date, as that's the (I think) confirmed release date for the Nintendo NX. I'm trying my absolute hardest to have it done by then so that I can get to work on porting it to NX as soon as possible. Steam will launch first, then a serious effort for an NX release, then a focus on PS4 and Xbox One, then New 3DS. That's right, all of these platforms, ten levels, detailed visuals, and no Kickstarter.
I hope you're looking forward to the game! Please check back here for more updates as the game progresses!