Turn-Based Video Tennis Game was created in Game Maker over the course of one weekend in December 2010. It started off as an entry for Ludum Dare 19, but was eventually downscaled to the point where I felt it no longer fit the theme of the contest. A few months later, I submitted the game to the 2012 IGF Pirate Kart.
Ludum Dare 19’s theme was ‘discovery’, and my original plan was to turn the classic game of Pong into a turn-based game of subterfuge and deception involving an invisible ball. Players would cross-reference imperfect sources of information to deduce the ball’s true location, and place their paddle accordingly. I had a whole ‘Cold War’ theme in mind – the ball would be a triple agent, being bounced back and forth between the CIA and KGB, with neither party certain of what’s going on. By the end of the first day I realised I would not be able to code all these different information sources, but I could at least get the basic turn-based gameplay working.
Since then, I have returned to do more development work on the game from time to time – it’s a simple, stable testbed in which I practice using new Game Maker features. I have created (but not publicly released) Android-compatible versions optimised for my phone and tablet, and I have recently been experimenting with scripts that will generate a bespoke playing field to suit the native resolution of the player’s device. I would eventually like to integrate an online multiplayer mode of sorts, allowing players on mobile devices to play with distant friends. Sadly this functionality has not yet been added to Game Maker.
To quickly summarise what I like about the game: I think Pong is one of the ‘purest’ expressions of competitive gaming ever made, and its brutal simplicity makes it perfect for this kind of hobby project. By making it turn-based, I’ve transformed an intense game of reactions into a tense game of anticipation. I think the game is best enjoyed as slowly as possible, while having a conversation with your opponent – take time to finish what you are saying before transferring control, allow a few minutes to pass between moves.
I don’t consider myself a programmer by any means, but I enjoy tinkering with code, and a little technical literacy goes a long way when working with engineers!