Abombinaball

abombinaball-large-case
Client
Platform
Genre, ,
Released20th November 2008

Code by Richard Davey

Graphics by Richard Davey, Alexandru Stanculescu and Arthur Wang

PLAY

About

The object of the game is to clear each grid by defusing all of the bombs in the right order. As you move the grid falls away below you, so you have to plan your route carefully. Hit the wrong bomb, or take too long, and they all explode. You have a limited number of jumps per level. These have to be used carefully as some levels require every single jump in order to complete.

See how far you can get!

It is also translated into the following languages: UK EnglishNetherlandsGermanFrenchSpanishItalianPolishSwedishPortugueseRussianTurkishLatin AmericanBrazilianIndonesian and Malaysian.

The Atari ST Original

Back in the 16-bit days there was an Atari ST magazine called ST Format. Each month it came with a coverdisk full of software. Developers would send in their software exclusively for the disk, because they were paid for it! Issue 47 in June 1993 had this superb arcade puzzle game called Abombinaball. The objective was simple – defuse the bombs in the right order, while rolling around the grid carefully, as it dropped away from below you.

It was addictive as hell, but extremely unforgiving! The jump mechanism was quite tricky (it was easy to mess-up the jump and fall to your death). The 3 lives you had vanished in an instant on the later levels, making the “level passwords” essential to get through the game.

I really wanted to re-make this game in Flash, so I tracked down and contacted the original author Martin Brownlow. Since his Atari ST days he’s gone on to work on some true classic PC games including the sublime MDK and Sacrifice! He even published a game development book. I told him what my plans were and he gave his permission to convert the game and use the same name.

It’s off to work we go …

I built a level editor first, and then the core game engine. The game is really so simple this only took a few days, but what I did spend a long time on was polishing and refining. I converted 25 of the original 50 levels (this took a LONG time as you had to solve every single puzzle in order to be able to re-make the level in Flash!) and posted the game to FlashGameLicense.com so I could use their “First Impressions” service.

The feedback from this was invaluable. The first round of testing showed that players who could figure out how to “jump” in the game really liked it, but said the graphics were weak. This was fair as the graphics were just the original 16-colour Atari ST ones, doubled in size, so they looked heavily pixelated.

I figured if I wanted to take this all the way then I had to bite the bullet and pay to get some decent graphics. I pulled in the help of the ever excellent Arthur Wang to draw the great title page, and Alexandru Stanculescu to draw the excellent tile sprites, bombs and backgrounds. This really elevated the feel of the game and I’m sure contributed towards me getting sponsor interest. The up-front cost of getting the graphics drawn was easily covered by the sponsors bid.

The controls are bugged!

With the new look in place I went through another round of testing. “First Impression” feedback now told me they really wanted an in-game tutorial, which I added. They also wanted the option to pause the game, and to quit – so I added icons for mute/pause/quit to the bottom right. But the biggest problem of all was a large percentage of people just couldn’t work out how to jump – or if they did, they didn’t realise that you only had a limited number of jumps, and would then comment to say the game was “bugged” because the “jumps stopped working” :)

So I threw in a massive “Jumps Left” reminder each time you jumped! I changed the control method for turning jump mode on/off, and then did another round of testing. It had paid off :) Everyone now understood how to play the game. This meant that the enjoyment factor was now simply down to the game being interesting for them personally, rather than there being anything wrong with the gameplay mechanic itself.

This is exactly how a game should be – I don’t expect everyone to enjoy it, but I don’t want them to hate it because they can’t figure it out. I was so used to playing the game that I couldn’t see how anyone might find the controls hard – I mean all they had to do was READ the instructions. Then I thought about it for a bit – how often do I ever read instructions? — Exactly. I was being unfair in my assumptions, and that will always kill the popularity of your game.

The final thing people commented on were the sound effects. Sound is not my strong point. The original version had a piece of music on the title screen by Jeff Fulton of 8-bit Rocket. But too many people said they thought it made the game sound too “retro” (this isn’t a good thing apparently), so sadly I decided to remove it. I fully intend to release “Abombinaball Classic” which will have the original Atari ST graphics restored, and Jeff’s great retro music back in again :) Sorry Jeff!

Final Thoughts

This game was a real eye-opener for me. The concept is so very simple, yet to really make it shine I had to spend an awful lot of time on other areas that never even occured to me at the start. I honestly thought I’d be done within a week, but it turned into a month-long project (free/spare time only).

The First Impressions service was awesome. Virtually every piece of feedback I had I acted upon. They highlighted some key areas of my game that I was too blinded to notice.

My thanks to Martin Brownlow for letting me embark on this adventure in the first place. I hope you feel that I’ve done your classic justice :)


4 Responses

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  • rhebus
    June 29th 2009 at 3:38 pm

    There are some significant differences from the originial game:

    * 3-tiles in the original fall the *second* time you land on them. It doesn’t make any sense, but most of the puzzles (like Mr Memory) depend on it. It’s much easier when they fall the third time, despite this being more logical.
    * direction-force or jump-force tiles never fell away in the original
    * the original had a ludicrous 50,000 point “secret bonus” if you dropped all droppable tiles in the level. There was only one level I reached where this was even possible– X marks the spot, where if you clear the outer purple ring, you get the bonus.

    Nevertheless, this is a great and faithful remake! Thanks a lot! Also three cheers for getting rid of the stupid 3-lives system 😀

  • September 4th 2011 at 11:14 pm

    I would like to point out that the language is “spanish” not “latin american”

  • September 5th 2011 at 10:44 am

    Spil (the primary sponsor) gave me the list of languages. I just used what I was provided with and they called it Latin American, and as someone who doesn’t speak it I wasn’t going to argue with them.

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