Tales of a Jaguar Head | Flappy McFur Atari Jaguar Homebrew

Tales of a Jaguar Head | Flappy McFur Atari Jaguar Homebrew

Three years of learning. Three years of programming. Three years of drawing. And it all should have taken three weeks. Flappy McFur is finally in the hands of the masses, or at least the 80 or so individuals that were actually interested.

The beginning

Atari Jaguar programming has been something that my brother and I have been interested for years, and ever since returning from my church mission from Taiwan, I have made it a primary goal.

With the formation, branding, and online presence establishment, all that was left was for me to learn a bit of programming, and start making games. To help facilitate the programming learning curve, we took on a request from Paul Westphal to put together a demo specifically for his booth at the Portland Retro Gaming Convention.

Programming at this time wasn’t completely foreign to me, but C programming was. So this little demo was a great opportunity to start my C coding adventure, and it led well into Flappy McFur.

Development

Version 0.3 was the first fruit of my efforts, and the fruits were bearable. The gameplay was there, but it was far from enjoyable. McFur moved around more like a horizontally locked fly than a disembodied Jaguar head falling in style. But, the core gameplay was there, and this little demo was well received by those out there who look out for anything new for the Jag.

After the demo though, there was polish. I planned out menu systems, with a simple achievement system. Worked out four different play modes that changed the speed of the game and how the pipes behaved. With Bryce’s help, a simple text engine was implemented to facilitate menus, and he also implemented the save code system. All of this along with an end game made Flappy McFur a much more noticeable product and a more enjoyable experience overall, with a bit of depth to the gameplay.

Development also included some play testing. Usually I would setup our Jag-In-A-Box at family parties, Draw Nights with friends, or just let all the nieces and nephews have a go at it. It was interesting to see how some people caught into the gameplay really well, while others found it impossible. It made balancing the difficulty a bit of a challenge, this is one reason why the additional play modes were added. To try and accommodate a wide spectrum if players.

Even though the game overall is fairly simple, there was a massive learning curve for me to overcome. Overcoming that learning curve has had its payoff though, and I feel much more prepared to takle our next project.

Art

Sprites and Palettes

Though few, painting sprites for this game was a highlight if the whole experience. Working with reduced color palettes and putting together simple animations like rotations of objects and the achievements, to more complicated animations like Cutter’s run cycle, all were a joy and remind me how much I love animation in general.

We used the Gimp primarily for sprite work. I have been using the Gimp for nearly two decades now, and it is great support for paletted graphics with a more than adequate tool set. I did use Krita for Cutter’s run cycle animation because they had recently implemented a basic 2D animation tool set in Krita, but with the lack of palettes graphics support, I still needed ti pump those graphics through Gimp to prep them for Jag. Krita is supposed to have palettes graphics support in the near future, and I am looking forward to using Krita exclusively in my pipeline.

With all that in mind, when I actually started putting together Flappy McFur, I was a bit lazy in figuring out how to do 8-bit paletted graphics. So, for a long time, I was dealing with performance issues, especially when music was implemented. It wasn’t until late in development that most of the graphics were converted to 8-bit paletted sprites for 16-bit sprites. This was a good switch though as it allowed us to do fade transitions easily.

Box and Manual Art

I initially wanted to do more artwork for the game, but the 3 primary illustrations ended up working really well for our needs.

The first illustration was used to establish the character relationship and heavily influenced the game in both tone and narrative. The colored pencil and crayon look of the artwork was intentional as well. It gave it an elementary, non serious feeling throughout, inviting everyone to come and pick up the controller and play.

Video Content

I tried to keep any video advertisement minimal since the beginning. Primarily because if how time consume it is, but also because of the uncertainty of actually releasing the game.

When we decided to actually finish up the game and release, effort was spent to get a good video for advertising the game, and a good gameplay video. At the end of the day, I am not too sure how much these videos helped at the end if the day, but they were nice to have, and will be good to have for history’s sake.

The release and marketing

Newsletter

In and effort to reward our mailing list subscribers, we made sure that everyone that had signed up knew about the game first, we also provided a small discount for them as well. The discount was taken advantage of by a handful of our subscribers, and is something that we will definitely do in the future.

Press Release

It was fun to actually learn how to put a press release together for news websites. I distributed to a handful of people, with little response. Again, this was good to get familiar with, and it serves a good historical purpose. You can read the press release here.

AtariAge post

We had a great response from the AtariAge community. With part of the press release and other details about the project, including videos, we began selling the moment the announcement hit the forum. AtariAge Forum Thread – http://atariage.com/forums/topic/258180-flappy-mcfur-homebrew-now-available-to-order/

Before people actually had the game in their hands, many of the comments were about the pixel art, and general support for the release. Responses to gameplay have been… mixed, maybe. Its hard to tell if people don’t want to say anything bad about it, or they are just a bit frustrated about its’ difficulty. Either way, below are a few reactions for the AtariAge forum thread.

Hyper_Eye

My wife and I enjoyed spending the evening playing Flappy McFur a couple nights ago. It’s certainly addictive. I found myself getting the controller back less and less. My wife and I probably haven’t played Jaguar together in 10+ years. She buys me Jaguar games as gifts and watches me open them. Maybe she’ll watch me play a bit. It was nice to actually play together. Thanks for the effort you put in to it!

Swansea_Mariner

Wow this game is hard, I just can’t get past pipe no. 9! I really like the dogger mode.

Saturn

Thank you (all) for this wonderful addition to the Jaguar library. Hope to see more.

Reviews

By way of reviews, we did have one website review and one YouTube review. Both favored the game. Thank you for the reviews! Links below.

A small mention on the Retro New Roundup – https://youtu.be/FfeYMKsktFM?t=3m22s

A more full written review on a more official news website – http://thegg.net/retro/atari-jaguar-gets-a-brand-new-homebrew-game-called-flappy-mcfur/

A fairly thorough video review done by crusherbad64 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5lo5AHXrhCU

A nice little mention of Flappy McFur on a French Jaguar fan blog – http://jagfan.canalblog.com/archives/2016/11/03/34517203.html

Other Social Media Posts

Links

Flappy McFur BitJag Project Page – http://bitjag.com/project_5.html