SHOW YOUR WORK: of research, inspirations and tributes

Recently, since I’ve been making a low-resolution demake of Terry Cavanagh’s amazing gravity-flipping unplatformer, VVVVVV, I’ve been thinking about the tributes it makes to older games; how many of them I have personally noticed, how many of them others haven’t, and how I make my own tributes in my own games.

In the spirit of honesty and transparency; and an acknowledgement that we are all standing on the shoulders of giants; I decided to show my research and inspirations. To show my work, in a math school sense.

This is not the greatest turd in the world, this is a tribute.
This is not the greatest turd in the world, this is a tribute.

My first game jam entry Happy Turd, was by default a Flappy Bird tribute as that was the nature of Flappy Jam in itself. But in which I paid homage in my own way to the comic styles of both Comix Zone and Boogerman’s sewer stages.

If your friends told you t game jam...
If your friends told you to game jam…
...would you follow them too?
…would you follow them too?

Second game jam entry DOWN.LOAD was also heavily in tribute; a decision which made a lot of sense given my unfamiliarity with Construct 2 and producing games in a constrained timeframe. Fleshing out the Megadrive version of Shadow Dancer’s bonus rounds seemed like the thing to do. As well as the obvious homage, lip-service is paid to the loosely Atari 2600-esque visuals in the shapes the tentacle robots have; reflecting Atari’s logo.

At this point, I don't know how I have avoided being sued. Whoops.
At this point, I don’t know how I have avoided being sued. Whoops.

I didn’t realise until this very comparison, but Press Space is more Atari 2600 Asteroids than I originally thought. I very consciously went for such an aesthetic (indeed, the earliest version had much ‘earthier’ colours) but the visuals were designed without referring to its inspiration once. Maybe I should’ve done, to avoid such uncanny similarity.

Skull. See? I added a skull. In the corner there. Lost.
Skull. See? I added a skull. In the corner there. Lost.

Press Space’s in-progress follow-up N.E.O – Near Earth Objects wears its inspiration much closer to its chest at least — this overlay almost looks like it’s the same game. But, and for now you’ll have to take my word for it, offers so much more than simply being a mere remake of its source.

This was an intentional shout-out.
This was an intentional shout-out.
This was somewhat less intentional.
This was somewhat less intentional.

All The Balls’ minimalist art deco stylings hopefully distance it from the straight Arkanoid clone it was originally going to be. Knowing how derivative this would appear to some, I knowingly designed many screens to be similar to its forebears, tongue firmly enough in my own cheek to almost lick my ear from the inside.

Oh. Dear.
Oh. Dear.

When is Pacman not Pacman? When it’s MAN UP, which is also Not Pacman. At this point, shooting me several times in the head with a pistol of a copied design would be an apt form of euthanasia.

Aha! This one's a bit more obtuse in its mimicry!
Aha! This one’s a bit more obtuse in its mimicry!

My unfinished non-shooting game, titled One Shot (as a working name, subject to change) has only one stage as yet, very clearly influenced by R-Types sixth stage — but thankfully enough of its own thing, visually. Phew!

Listen to this one. Just put your ear to the screen and hear the pixels, okay?Z was a game which I was influenced not visually, but in other ways. Gameplay was intentionally as simple as an average Nintendo Game and Watch of the ’80s, sound was inspired by Resident Evil. But hey, they don’t look like the same thing right? I’m getting better!

OH FOR CRYING OUT LOUD
OH FOR CRYING OUT LOUD

*cough*

In my defence here, TW: Trigger Warning was pretty high-concept for me, and I relied on the established visual and ludological vocabulary of Space Invaders to act as a framework for the narrative as it unfolds.

And finally...
And finally…

I’ve mentioned how SLaVE is heavily-inspired by the likes of Tron, Tempest and Robotron 2084, but never really paying due respects to the early PlayStation game Assault Rigs. The earlier stages of that game were a thing of beauty to me, and I wanted more of it. And the thing with being a creator of games is, if I want a thing I should damn well make it.

In conclusion, I think I pay tribute a little too much, or too heavily. My passion for games is worn on my shirt most of the time (figuratively if not literally; I do own about a dozen game-related shirts though) and though that’s kinda nice, it’s clear that now I’ve learned the ropes, I should focus more on original content.

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