blast arena history
by carpets

the origins of blast arena are unusual. around the year 2000 i was reading edge, and read about a game called noiz2, which is a japanese-style vertical-scrolling shooter game. the paragraph mentioned 'dodging bullets has never been so much fun' or something like that. i wasn't entirely clear on how the game worked, as the magazine writer assumed i already knew about it in some way. so i thought that noiz2 was all about avoiding bullets, and had nothing to do with shooting stuff. i thought that must be a cool game, and i was inspired to make my own game based around those princaples (i didn't actually get around to playing noiz2 until 2004, when i discovered that i had created a game that was actually unique compared to noiz2). i decided to build the game upon this weird thing i was playing with, that included a swirly shape moved around by the mouse. i changed the role of the shape top be a static object, and the mouse position became the spawning point of these objects. i can't quite remember how i got from this to the objects becoming timers that spawned a ring of bullets, but i am sure i was thinking of bomberman at the time. or it could have been the exploding plants in the second dungeon in "gargoyle's quest" on the gameboy. probably the latter.
anyway, i like avoiding the bullets, but there just wasn't enough incentive to move, so i lifted a feature from a game called 'undergrowth' that i had written. this game was like snake, but the head could fire bullets at the mouse position target. the snake was moved with the keys. this game had objects to seek out, and objects to avoid (which needed to be shot). if the player failed to collect the 'nice' object in time, it would be game over. i could never get the hang of playing that game, but the time limit caused panic, which made it addictive. yeah, the first blast arena had a timer that counted down as you had to pick up the next randomly-placed object. i soon realised the timer made it too hard, and gave the player all the timer they needed. but in it's place, i made the explosion rate accelerate as the game went on. this prompted 2 sets of scores - a survival time, and a 'flange' collection score. the graphics were fuzzy and blurry, which slowed the game down considerably, unfortunately.
but that was the first true iteration of the game. i'm not sure how long it was before i showed it to anyone else, or how long before i updated the game. i think, in between this version and the next, i started making a game called 'magnaball', which was basically a rip-off of 'chrome' on the a500. except, it wasn't really a rip-off because my memory of chrome was incorrect, as i later found out. there was also another game called 'polysquares' which was definately a rip-off of some game called 'atari cube' or something, which was on the a2600. the only difference being a character drawn by jeff minter, and actual maps. this particual game sported a title music that was far better than the actual game, and later included at least 50 different "are you sure you want to quit?" questions, some of which having no meaning whatsoever. anyway, back to 'the original game of abstract shrapnel evasion". the next version would see a higher contrast in visuals, slightly more solid coding, a proper title screen, a highscore table, extra gameplay additions, settings that would alter the visuals of the game, and (for a short period) music robbed straight from pacman. and there were even a few hidden features too (which never worked properly).
this was quite a metamorphosis, but it was still basically the same engine underneath all the glitz. the gameplay addition i mentioned was the inclusion of 'baddies' that would float on every so often and shoot at the player. this was obviously inspired by asteroids. there was also the 'sentinel' which would come on after a certain time and completely ruin the balance of the game, spitting out a ridiculous about of bullets, thus ending the game for all but me. because i coded in some cheats too. this was about 2002 now, and there was a blitz basic compettion going on, to get a game published with idigicon (who i now know to be a bunch of crooks (hi fryer!)). well, i deemed the game good enough to win this, so i sent it in. i had no response whatsoever, but that didn't stop me restarting the game from scratch, with 2d polygonal visuals, and a much simplified overall style. when this version was released on blitzcoder, it caught the attention of more people than i would with any other version of blast arena, because the graphics looked like they belonged to a shockwave game more than anything else. the engine was not without it's flaws, though, and this was mainly due to my lack of knowledge at that point (sometime 2003). thsi version did not have any sound. after this, i left blast arena alone for a long while, until the backend of 2004. during the delay, i was at college. this didn't mean i didn't do any coding, though, and i decided to get a raycasting engine sorted. unfortunately, i've never bothered to take the engine far enough to make a good enough game out of it, and i haven't completed a new game since the abandoning of magnaball (which actually became quite promising). i experimented with strange gameplay and things for a year or so, until it came to november 2004. i somehow got back to playing blast arena, and realised how much better the game would be if it was stripped down to it's bare essentials. so that's what i did, i created a very minimal game, that was so tight, the code fitted into 1k. around the same time, i discovered crazygame'88, which proved my long-running assumption that my idea must've been done before, in some way, and again it was edge magazine that led me to the game, in a feature that a few people thought blast arena should've been mentioned in. the one thing blast arena lacked sorely was a following, which would've made it the perfect internet-distributed game. there's still hope though.....