Jamestown Has Been Unleashed!

by Mike
Thu, June 16, 2011 -- 9:12 UTC

On this very date in 1607, after a month of extremely hard labor, 104 exhausted settlers finished constructing the first fort at Jamestown (the colony):

Looked something like this.  Unclear if giant statue of Powhatan is to scale.

Looked something like this. Unclear if giant statue of Powhatan is to scale.

Jamestown (the game) took almost two years to build with a core staff of just 3 people, so… this analogy could use some work. STILL! We felt that this would be an appropriate day to take a quick break from our post-release duties and shout the following message from the rooftops:

JAMESTOWN: LEGEND OF THE LOST COLONY HAS BEEN RELEASED INTO THE WILD!!!
:D :D :D

Steam put us on their front page for four glorious days.  Right next to Duke Nukem Forever.  It's... absurd.  And awesome!

Steam put us on their front page for four glorious days. Right next to Duke Nukem Forever. How crazy is that? HOW AWESOME?!?

Not only is the game out, but people have been playing it and writing what they think about it! On the internet! Here’s a sampling from the first batch of reviews (emphasis ours):

“As for the game proper, it’s just a class act. The range of enemies, the design of them, the placing of them, the way they burst in a shower of nuts and bolts that you’ll want to collect, the way the guns feel, the music, the pacing, it’s all fabulous.” – Rock, Paper, Shotgun

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“The environments, the enemies, the troops fighting in the background – every single graphical element of this game is absolutely stunning, to such degree that even those who don’t care for pixel art are sure to be pleased with how Jamestown looks. Every inch of the screen suggests lovingly handcrafted and passionate art, and soaring through it all was a joy.” – Bits ‘n Bytes Gaming

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“…one thing’s for sure: if you had told me that Jamestown was Final Form’s first title, I wouldn’t have believed it. … Accompanying the stellar design are a stellar soundtrack and sound effects. The music in Jamestown is indistinguishable from a big-budget epic soundtrack, and the game’s sounds are an excellent mixture of retro and modern shoot ‘em up titles.” – GamerLimit

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“In a world of me-too shooters plagued by uninspired presentation and flat gameplay, Jamestown is a standout, a breathtaking experience that not only hearkens back to the golden age of gaming but also smartly offers fresh game mechanics at every turn. Jamestown has rock-solid mechanics, beautiful art direction and depth of content, and it’s a pure joy to play.” – Press X or Die

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And for those of you who think reading is so 2010, here are some of our favorite video reviews/first-looks:

ByteJacker –  “I gotta tell you: this thing, with four Xbox controllers, and an HDMI out to your TV, has got to be, like, THE definition of kick-ass gaming. It’s just really, really amazing.

NorthernLion –  One of the best indie games I’ve played this year and, as you know, I’ve played pretty much all of them.”

Total Biscuit, The Cynical Brit –  “One of these is homing! ALL OF THESE ARE HOMING!

Our profuse thanks go out to all the writers, commentators, and pundits who spent some time with our game, and then made the effort to tell the world about it!

This is Jamestown running in a Taito cabinet.  Guess we can check that off the ol' Impossible Dream list!

This is Jamestown running in a player's arcade cabinet. Guess we can check THAT off the ol' Impossible Dream list!

Overall, the response to the game has been overwhelmingly positive. Players have been going out of their way to let us know that they’re having a blast playing Jamestown, which is like a firehose of warm-fuzzy-feelings right into our sleep-deprived hearts. So, to everyone who has been tweeting, posting, and emailing us with kind words: Thank you, thank you, a thousand times, thank you!

We’re also thrilled and gratified by the community that’s forming around the game. Watching our players help each other learn to play, post expert sessions on YouTube, stream Divine Gauntlet runs live from Japan, and energetically debate the finer points of Bomber usage in our Steam forums has been a true joy. ;)

Finally, it should go without saying that we are extremely flattered (and somewhat taken aback) to see our little game being compared to the works of CAVE, Takumi, Treasure, and ZUN. That said, their influence on Jamestown is hopefully unmistakable; they are our heroes, after all.

Much like that very first fort at the actual Jamestown colony, the first build of our game was hardly the last. Right now, we’re working hard to fix bugs, answer emails, and keep getting the word out about Jamestown. If you want to help us with that last bit, and you love the game, then please don’t be shy about telling the world! Our twitter hash-tag is #jtown16xx; go nuts!

More updates to follow. Until then: thanks again, and enjoy playing!


Style Study: Motion Blur in Street Fighter 3

by Mike
Wed, September 23, 2009 -- 19:04 UTC

One of the classic problems of 2D animation is the tug-of-war between frame economy (each drawing takes lots of work/time) and high-speed movements (the faster the move, the more likely it is to “strobe” if you skimp on frames).  There’s also the issue that, even with a lot of frames, some movements are so fast that they would usually become little more than a blur on film.

As you might imagine, developing a 2D fighting videogame really brings this problem front-and-center. Most of the gameplay in a typical fighting game centers around two large characters executing high-speed attacks, continuously, for minutes at a time. Because traditional sprite-art games typically eschew the use of any semi-transparent pixels, they often have to get pretty creative to emulate the effects of motion blur.

Today I went through my Street Fighter 3 sprite collection* to pick out some good example frames, and was surprised to discover a different fast-motion solution for almost every character.  As I went through them frame-by-frame, it became more and more clear that the lead animator of each character was essentially allowed to use whatever technique they preferred to achieve the effects they were after.  What follows is a grab-bag of these tricks in action.

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This first one is the character Makoto.  This is what I think of as a pretty typical post-Disney stretch, being used to sell one hell of a jump-kick.  Notice that the contour line around the foot is consistent with the contour treatment on the rest of the character.

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They’re also pretty fearless about stretching the physical length of the attacking limb, to further accentuate the speed and force of the hit. Again: classic Disney.  Makoto in particular is an absolute masterclass of physical animation, with her oversized gi and super-long headband flying every which-way.  The fact that these animators are doing it all within 120-odd pixels square just makes it more impressive.

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With Oro, they really loosen up and go nuts with the squash-and-stretch.  In addition, there are more subtle differences: notice that the contour treatment is lighter on the fast-moving limb than on the rest of the body.

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Here you can see the contour change even more clearly.

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And check out this transparency hack, eh?  You wacky Capcom animators!

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…and now for something completely different.  Akuma’s movements are very stiff and staccato in comparison to Makoto’s and Oro’s, though it’s not clear if that’s a deliberate stylistic choice to differentiate their martial arts or just a quality-control breakdown.  However, this motion-lines technique is how all his fast movements are treated.  Like all the techniques used in this game, it works very well, but what an odd contrast!

Finally, we have Chun-Li. As the original Fastest Character In Street Fighter, this character is all about speed! Strangely, her animators seem to be doing everything they can to avoid squash-and-stretch. When it is used, it’s used… weirdly. In general, the character almost feels like it was filmed using a higher shutter speed.  Check it out:

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The frame above is the closest I could find to the sort of treatment we saw on Oro, but the foot is clipped to a point. I wonder if that’s to emphasize the contrast between her exaggerated thighs and small feet?

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The stretch/motion-blur is pretty dramatic here, but… it’s sitting behind a proportionately normal and fully rendered limb? Plus, the motion trail is actually lit, or at least gets darker in an effort to achieve some sort of fading effect.

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Now they’re completely disconnecting the blur element from the limb, and introducing some of that semi-transparent-looking stuff we saw with Oro.

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Same deal, but even more obviously out-of-step with the stuff we saw before.

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Finally, here’s a frame from her famous lightning kick attack.  This was probably the official Fastest Fighting Game Move Of All Time when it debuted in Street Fighter 2 (possibly tied with E. Honda’s hundred-hand-slap), and yet its execution in part 3 is extremely underwhelming.  After seeing all the juicy speed effects on the previous characters, this ghost-limb trick really feels like a missed opportunity to me.  Again with the high-shutter-speed gag.

Fun as it was to pick apart the monolithic game art achievements of yore, this style study left me with more respect for the Capcom art team, not less. I’ve logged more hours than I’d like to admit on this game, and never once noticed these discrepancies. I’m sure some of that comes from the fact that only two characters can fight on-screen at a time, so the visual hodge-podge will only ever get so ridiculous. However, I suspect the bulk of said hodge-podge skates by because, at these framerates, your brain is only subconsciously able to process what it’s seeing (let alone register that Chun-Li has three legs). “Persistence of vision” is all about our brain wanting to believe in continuity between frames, and these animations have all been ruthlessly tested and refined towards accomplishing that mental sleight-of-hand. The fact that they went about it in different ways turns out not to matter very much, because they all ultimately achieved their goal: the illusion of speed.

Once again, I am amazed by the users’ tolerance for inconsistency in the final product.  Take heart, game artists!  Your players will forgive you for far more trespasses than you’ll forgive yourself!

*I got all the frames for this post from this excellent website and, by extension, from the seminal Capcom fighter Street Fighter 3.  Go check it out if you want to see these animations in motion, and pick up a hefty dose of inspiration while you’re there!