What is the name of this Gameboy game

DIY gameboy gameOf the idea to the own Game

Since the corona pandemic, many of us have discovered and tried out new hobbies. We have another suggestion: develop your own game for the Gameboy. Deutschlandfunk-Nova network builder Moritz Metz tried it out.

Recently, the net maker Moritz Metz built his own Gameboy with a construction kit - now you need the self-made game. He gets help from Deutschlandfunk-Nova game expert Jana Reinhardt, who has already developed many games herself. Moritz Metz would like to work with the GB Studio software for this and has already created a small prototype.

Jana's advice: If you want to develop a game for such a limited technology as that of a gameboy, you should do very good research in order to know exactly what works and what doesn't.

Research includes, for example, looking at many games from other developers in order to be able to answer the following questions:

  • What are the trends on this platform and which games are there already enough?
  • What is common on the platform and what do gamers expect?
  • What should I not do under any circumstances or how can I skilfully break expectations?
  • Who is my target group?

During the research you should also be clear about which developer skills you bring with you, what the technology can do and how much time you want to spend on developing the game.

"I think that's important, the hard realization at the end of the day: What can I do with my developer skills, what can my technology do and how much time do I have?"
Jana Reinhardt, Deutschlandfunk Nova game expert

Moritz Metz is technically relatively limited with the GB Studio. Mainly the Gameboy classics like shooting games like Space Invaders or Platformer, i.e. platforming games like Super Mario, are possible. Moritz Metz opted for the latter.

According to Jana Reinhardt, in contrast to many other software manuals at GB Studio, the documentation is well written and even available in German. Moritz Metz finds it helpful that development can be done with the mouse and not with code.

While developers now have unlimited storage capacity at their disposal, the Gameboy was a great challenge for developers back then. However, this limitation can also mean that instead of being overwhelmed by too many opportunities, you work more creatively, says Jana Reinhardt.

The better the story, the more motivated the gamers

Once the technical and organizational details have been clarified, you should next consider whether you want to build a game with a more narrative approach, i.e. with a complex world and exciting characters, or rather with a lot of action and skill. For the platformer Moritz is planning, it is more suitable to focus on ensuring that functions such as jumping or shooting work well, advises Jana Reinhardt.

"First, think about what is important and what the player should experience in the game: story or action?"
Game expert Jana Reinhardt on the conception of a game

But that doesn't mean that a platformer can do without a story. The story even has several tasks: firstly, it gives all the objects in the levels more meaning, secondly, it also gives the game developers a creative line, and thirdly, a story can also increase gamers' motivation. The clearer the goal, the more fun it is.

"Why should I as a player be motivated to play your game to the end - the clearer the goal, the more I feel like it."
Jana Reinhardt, Deutschlandfunk Nova game expert

Jana Reinhardt advises that personal aspects can also be incorporated into the design of the game. So the game can tell something about the developer right away.

Once the story is up, it gets down to business. Jana Reinhadt always takes a two-pronged approach in this phase. On the one hand, she draws analogously in a sketchbook and creates first drafts for the world and the characters. She asks the following questions: What world am I in? Which opponents could I design? What collectibles or powerups are there?

"If I want to make a platformer like Moritz, then I communicate a lot about the background, the platforms and the character."
Jana Reinhardt, Deutschlandfunk Nova game expert

On the other hand, it already starts programming in this phase. With a platformer, for example, precise control is important, which on the one hand offers challenges and on the other hand does not get in the way when playing.

Challenges and fun

An interesting adjustment screw for a platformer, for example, is the level design, says Jana Reinhardt. Above all, the challenges are there so that the players can explore the world by finding all the very well-hidden collectibles. Nintendo level designers, for example, still use the trick to this day of hiding coins behind a wall that attentive players can then find.

When it comes to challenges, it is especially important to give the players easier passages afterwards so that they can relax. The more varied, the better. In order to pick up the more experienced and inexperienced players at the same time, there is also the option of building an easier and a heavier passage in parallel.

"I think the variety is very important. Feel free to pack a harder jumping course into the game, but then let the player calm down again in easier passages."
Jana Reinhardt, Deutschlandfunk Nova game expert

Switches at which a platform extends or entrances are opened also offer a varied gameplay. If the software allows it, a timer can also run so that the players become even more active.

For Moritz Metz it is now time to expand his prototype even further with Jana's tips. He will then present the result next Sunday (April 25th, 2021) at Netzbasteln.