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Submitted by Andrew Lauritzen, posted on November 09, 2004

Image Description, by Andrew Lauritzen

As an introduction, the description of Galactic Gladiator from the site reads: "Galactic Gladiator is a fast-paced, top-down, scrolling, space shooter inspired by several timeless classics. Beyond improved graphics, music, sound, etc., modern technology allows the inclusion of new game-play mechanics that add strategy, tactical skill, and generally more depth to the genre."

Galactic Gladiator is a game project that we (myself and Chris Iacobucci) have been working on for about 4 years, albeit very on and off. Finally we've completed version 1.0.0, and intend on submitting it to the Student Showcase of the Independent Game Festival.

While the "space shooter" genre isn't exactly leading edge technology, we feel that we've implemented quite a few new ideas that give our game more depth than your average shooter.

On to the technical features (taken from the web site):
  • Fast, pixel-perfect collision detection between all weapons and objects
  • DirectDraw graphics system capable of MMX software alpha blending (with alpha channel) in both 16bit (555 or 565) and 32bit (888) colour
  • Dynamic musical styles and transitions based on current game situation via DirectMusic Producer and AudioVBScript
  • Automated and secure (very cheat-proof) submission of high scores to the online high scores system using HTTP, XML and server-side DLLs for decryption and validation
  • Full support for DirectInput devices, arbitrary key/button mappings, analog axes and force feedback
  • Lots of testing and a relentless attention to detail has produced very optimized code that runs well even on low end machines
  • Individual behavior (AI) for every ship class
  • Solid, stable and intuitive GUI: both ingame and in the launcher
  • Smooth animation and impressive graphics rendered from 3d Studio Max models
  • Generic particle systems (both pixel-based and bitmapped) produce many effects, from shields absorbing hits, to missile trails, to massive expanding shock waves
  • (DirectDraw? Yes we'd do it in a 3D API nowadays without a second thought, but just to give a timeline: when this project was started, I had a Voodoo3... 16bit color max! That said we've expanded our graphics engine significantly to allow full alpha channel even on low-end, non-3d-accelerated machines.)

    Probably the thing that we're most proud of though is the fact that the game is solid, polished, and (for the most part) done! As fellow developers, I'm sure you all know how tempting it is to drop something and move on to some "newer" or "more interesting" project. That said, even if we don't get selected for the IGF Student Showcase, we're quite happy to have this done as a portfolio piece.

    Thanks for your time, and please feel free to submit feedback either here or on the site's forums.

    More images, music, info, online high scores, forums and free download here:

    Image of the Day Gallery


    Message Center / Reader Comments: ( To Participate in the Discussion, Join the Community )
    Archive Notice: This thread is old and no longer active. It is here for reference purposes. This thread was created on an older version of the flipcode forums, before the site closed in 2005. Please keep that in mind as you view this thread, as many of the topics and opinions may be outdated.

    November 09, 2004, 02:51 AM

    Well done! Very smooth design, a player/fellow-coder can see that you've put a lot of love and dedication in it :) And indeed, it is very polished.


    November 09, 2004, 03:07 AM

    "# Automated and secure (very cheat-proof) submission of high scores to the online high scores system using HTTP, XML and server-side DLLs for decryption and validation"

    I think it's a bit naive to assume that just because you encrypt the score, you're cheat proof.. A hacker or even any lamer armed with a cheat program could just jack up the score value in the game's memory before your submission security even kicks in.

    The only way to have cheat-proof high scores is to record a replay of the game (say by recording the key inputs every frame), and attach it to the submission. That way you can play it back on a known good PC and verify that you get exactly the same score. Of course you need to transfer the random seed to and make sure that your engine is deterministic.


    November 09, 2004, 03:16 AM

    As for the game, you really need a death animation (explosion) and the classic period of flashing invincibility. As it is now, you only notice that you died when you see that your weapons got downgraded.

    I really don't like the player ship having inertia in games like this. Tight control is essential in vertical shooters, this just feels floaty and bad. Enemy patterns and weapons seem rather uninspired from what I've seen so far.

    Of course you can tell that you've put a lot of work into it, but go play Ikaruga (Dreamcast, GC) and DoDonPachi (Arcade or MAME) for some inspiration, then go back and make a sequel. It could turn out great :)


    November 09, 2004, 06:04 AM

    Kudos to anyone who finishes a project like this, and for a two man team your production quality is very high. Great job and well done. :D


    November 09, 2004, 06:59 AM

    I hate to burst your bubble but all the features have been done before and are in pretty much any good shooter these days. I played your demo, your game is very clean and you did a good job polishing it, it had to be hard sticking with the same project for that long, that is nuts! I didn't understand the powerup system from just playing the game, which is a bad thing. The game moves at a nice pace and plays very well, great job overall.

    Andrew Brown

    November 09, 2004, 10:14 AM

    ~slaps ZEN for being a tosser~

    Nice work lads, nice work.


    November 09, 2004, 11:04 AM

    Hey Ector,

    I'm sorry to hear you didn’t enjoy GG. I do however appreciate your honesty. Regarding the "death" animation, the reason you don't notice it, other than the downgrade in weaponry, is because that's all that's actually taking place. You actually only have one life, which you will lose when both your shields and hull reach zero. When you take a certain amount of damage however, you will lose weapon levels. If you read the play guide, it'll break down the HUD for you.

    Regarding the Player ship control, I find I'm able to not only control my ship but bust some seriously cool moves, narrowly avoiding certain destruction. Are you using an analog control? If not I highly recommend you try that. It helps immensely.

    Enemies and weapons are uninspired? Wow, that's pretty harsh. I don't really know what to say to that. I think there are a wide variety of enemies, covering every facet of movement, weaponry, and behavior. I guess you can't really be more specific if nothing in it really struck your fancy... :D

    As for the other games, I have played Ikaruga, and found the idea interesting. Though after you get the basic idea of it, the game play doesn't seem to stretch beyond absorbing same colour avoiding opposite. I thought it was an awesome game, but in GG we tried to give the game play a little more depth.

    I believe Andrew has played DoDonPachi, so he'd be able to give a better response regarding that. Rest assured though, we did look at quite a few space shooters for input.

    Thanks for the comments.


    November 09, 2004, 11:07 AM

    Thanks for all the comments guys, I appreciate the kudos, and crits.


    November 09, 2004, 12:03 PM

    uh whats a tosser

    Andrew Lauritzen

    November 09, 2004, 01:02 PM

    Rather than the typical shooter idea of "one hit = death", and respawning, we opted to instead give you shields for protection (that can be recharged in various ways) and actually you do have a short period of "invincibility" with respect to weapon level loss after taking a hit. You have a shield bar in the top right hand corner, there is a shield effect when they are hit, there is a sound, and there is a force feedback effect that plays when you get hit. Once you get the hang of the game, I think it's pretty clear when you take hits.

    Regarding the control, I agree that it is essential. I think you'll find that if you use a gamepad WITH an analog stick, the control is better than most shooters. The keyboard naturally maxxes out your speed in each direction so it does make it a bit tougher to control. Still, once you get the hang of it, you can certainly be very good.

    I have played Ikaruga and it was certainly fun :) I've also played DoDonPachi quite a bit. Those are both great games, but we were trying to do something more than the typical shooter here. Both of this, while challenging, are fairly linear, fairly bland and quite frankly rely on the player to simply learn (often to the level of muscle memory) all of the enemy patterns, and rely only on complex scoring systems to differentiate skill levels.

    While this is fine, we wanted ours to be based more on tactics - such as avoiding tough situations - and just generally being good at the game (hence more randomness of enemy placement). Whether this choice was good or bad remains to be seen, but we wanted to innovate a bit within the genre. All that we ask is that you give it a chance: it tends to grow on people :)

    Andrew Lauritzen

    November 09, 2004, 01:07 PM

    Oh we didn't mean to imply that we were pushing the bounds of what computers can do or anything - merely that our game had most (if not all) of the features that people would expect of a "modern" shooter, and maybe a few extra. Particularely the dynamic music I have not seen done to any large extent elsewhere.

    I agree that the powerup system is somewhat unintuitive, although paying attention to your HUD when you get powerups helps a lot. For a more detailed explanation, please refer to the "Play Guide" - it includes everything you'd ever want to know about the game, and is nicely categorized, searchable, etc.

    I see your point about not understanding it from "just from playing the game", but we didn't want it to be so trivial as to be boring. We do feel that the HUD gives a good idea of what is happening though. Actually the powerup system is very similar to the game "Blazing Lazers" (aka Gunhed), so if you know that one, this one is very easy to pick up :)

    Thanks for the comments!

    Andrew Lauritzen

    November 09, 2004, 01:14 PM

    Ah yes - but ALL security works on the principal that something only needs to be as secure as the data that it protects. In this case, there's not a huge amount of motivation to cheat on GG scores, so even a simple deterance is all that is needed. The real reason for ANY security is to simply lend some credability to the online high scores.

    We considered replays (not as an anti-cheat measure, just for fun) but dismissed it for this release due to some technical reasons. We may look into again in the future, but even with a compressed game data format it would make the high score data much larger and since we're paying for bandwidth out of our own pockets (GG is free after all), that's not exactly desirable.

    I also didn't mean to imply that the only security that GG uses is some form of "encryption": that is certainly not the case. It also includes some measures to prevent alteration of memory, the executable and game data files. Not unbreakable by any means, but quite frankly its easily enough so that anyone who cares enough about GG scores to hack it really deserves to get a fake score ;) That said there would also be a number of tell-tale signs of cheating that I can interpret on the database side that would take a reasonable knowledge of the game architecture to fake.

    Again, I'm sorry if I implied that it was 1) a simple crypt or 2) unbreakable. Neither of these is the case :) However, I think we've provided enough deterrance to keep the high scores believable, and if trouble arises, we will most certainly revisit this section of the program.

    Thanks for the reply.

    Andrew Lauritzen

    November 09, 2004, 01:15 PM

    Thanks a lot - we really appreciate the support :) This project has been a long time in development!

    Andrew Lauritzen

    November 09, 2004, 01:16 PM

    Thanks for the support :) We have indeed put a lot of time and every into it, so I'm glad that it appears polished to others as well.

    Andrew Lauritzen

    November 09, 2004, 01:22 PM

    I echo Chris' (Farmboy) sentiments: the comments and crits are very helpful - thanks a lot!


    November 09, 2004, 01:33 PM

    Tosser (or wanker) is the UK equivalent of being called a "jerk-off"... Don't shoot the messenger :)

    Dr. Necessiter

    November 09, 2004, 02:27 PM

    Very nice job indeed!

    For more inspiration on a possible sequel, and if you are itching to get into 3D, check out Air Strike 2.

    Andrew Lauritzen

    November 09, 2004, 02:35 PM

    Thanks for the compliment!

    I've actually played the demo of Air Strike 2 and was impressed :) If we do make a sequel (ever) it would certainly be 3d.

    That said I think both of us are ready to move on to some other genre of games for a while - good to get some variation.


    November 09, 2004, 03:14 PM

    Are you seriously telling me this is 8 man years of work?
    Uridium (C64 game) was written by one man in 3 months, if memory serves me well. That's without the plethora of resources available on the internet today.
    It's regarded as one of the best shoot'em ups of all time.
    You have some competence hills to climb yet, I fear.


    November 09, 2004, 03:17 PM

    hah, well it's just an opinion, and a fairly constructive one at that, so I think being called a tosser is out of line, NOW your the tosser Andrew Brown!


    November 09, 2004, 03:20 PM

    yes i understand, i guess i was reading too much into your statement of "modern technology allows the inclusion of new game-play mechanics that add strategy, tactical skill, and generally more depth to the genre". even though the game is not ground breaking it is very well done, again good job :)

    Andrew Lauritzen

    November 09, 2004, 03:26 PM

    No it is certainly not 8 man years of work!! The KEY part of that phrase was "albeit very on and off". Connect the fact that we're STUDENTS to that and you'll realize that we've had very little time to devote to this :)

    Had we been working on it full-time, it would have only taken a matter of months. Also I think you're underestimating how much work a full game takes: please read Kurt's excellent (Flipcode) article on "Building a Simple Game".

    One last note: C64 was a very basic architecture, and no matter how awesome this game was, building a simple game in BASIC (language) will never take as long as a modern game with modern features. I'm not saying that our game is better or any nonsense like that, but rather that the two are effectively incomparible with respect to development time.

    Sorry for the misinterpretation - all that we meant is that the work took place OVER THE SPAN OF 4 years... not that we worked solidly for 4 years on this ;)

    Andrew Lauritzen

    November 09, 2004, 03:52 PM

    Thanks :) The statement may well be misleading: it was intended to be taken in the context of the previous sentance which ends with "inspired by several timeless classics". Thus the statement was only supposed to imply that we've done some things differently than "classic" shooters that we feel add a lot to the game play.

    I hope people aren't getting the wrong idea here, as I must admit that I've been somewhat surprised at how offensive some of the responses have been here on flipcode relative to some other places.

    Warren Marshall

    November 09, 2004, 05:17 PM

    Well, in their defense, there's no way Uridium was written in BASIC. It had to be machine language or else it wouldn't be playable.

    But I agree that they are incomparable (different platforms, different feature sets, etc). Silly to even bring it up, honestly...

    Andrew Lauritzen

    November 09, 2004, 09:29 PM

    Fair enough, although I do know of several great C64 games that were written in BASIC - it being a native language.

    Anyways the main point was that we literally did no work on the game for months, even years at a time... only recently with the IGF as a goal has it become more of a priority, and even then it takes a back burner to our rather hectic school schedules :)


    November 09, 2004, 11:15 PM

    Please be aware that on the old flipcode, IOTD comments were disabled completely due to hostility by some (I can't remember who, it seems so long ago).

    So don't get discouraged in the slightest, just read the constructive criticism. It is a really nice game :)

    Andrew Lauritzen

    November 10, 2004, 12:12 AM

    Ah yes good point.

    We honestly do appreciate crits though... it's just that some of the posts have seemed more like personal attacks rather than "helpful suggestions".

    Thanks for the encouragement :)

    Andrew Brown

    November 10, 2004, 03:57 AM

    Touche sir, touche :)


    November 10, 2004, 04:03 AM

    I wouldn't worry too much about what Knackered says - every post he's made on this site has been a negative criticism.

    Viktor Lundström

    November 10, 2004, 04:42 AM

    I'm impressed!

    The graphics look very polished, and you deserve credit for sticking to a project
    for four years and then finishing it.

    Good luck with the IGF.

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