JOMG’s own game – Operation Block

Now THIS is something I’ve been waiting to share with you.

I’m making a game!
…a retro remake.

And since “1988’s most over the top game” is the subject of an incredibly detailed new feature in this month’s Retro Gamer magazine, now is the PERFECT time to tell you all about it.

Welcome, to Day 1 of “International Operation Block Week”.
Each day (Monday to Friday) I’ll have a little bit more for you.🙂

But first, a little history…

I started development of Operation Block in early 2006, as an entry in that year’s Retro Remakes competition. At the time, I was just learning the Game Maker program, and wanted a game remake:

  • Of a game I loved
  • From a genre that hadn’t been remade much before
  • That could have accessable controls added, for gamers with a disability*

*Retro Remakes competitions encourage this.

Very early in the piece, I decided that Taito’s 1988 classic Operation Wolf was the game I’d remake. But my lack of graphical prowess would be a big problem, unless I worked out a clever solution.

Plan A was to film/photograph friends in army gear, on location, in the style of Operation Wolf 3 (or the Terminator 2 gun game). I’d then edit Creative Commons licensed photographs to create the backdrops. Of course, doing the former would require movie-style equipment, lighting and makeup… so plan A was abandoned.

REJECTED IDEA: Real world photographed people/locations like this shot from Operation Wolf 3

REJECTED IDEA: "Real world" photographed people/locations like this shot from Operation Wolf 3

At the time, I’d been playing with the (then freeware beta) of the Lego-esque online game Blockland. It allowed you to explore & build in 3D using Lego-esque characters and building blocks. This would be a clever way to get around my inability to pixel!

Plan B: Build & photograph (screenshot) the characters, vehicles and “sets” within Blockland. I went as far as building a few of level 1’s buildings before realising that my ability to customise or animate the characters would be limited. Also – the “filming” would require another person to “flim” the characters Machinema-style. As I wanted to work solo, this was no good. (BTW: Take note of the upper right building below… you’ll see why in a minute.)

REJECTED IDEA: "Operation Block" test scenes in Blockland, compared to the original items.

REJECTED IDEA: "Operation Block" test scenes in Blockland, compared to the original items.

I liked the idea of using Lego characters, as I thought they looked charming. I googled for any other programs that might help me. It was then that I found the answer! Ldraw. It’s a collection of free software tools for modeling Lego creations in 3D.

Plan C: Use LDraw & the associated programs that interface with it. The LDraw parts library is amazing. It’s got virtually every piece of “real” Lego you’ve ever seen, and plenty more you haven’t. Due to the incredibly flexibility of this system – plan C was the winner.

The steps to create Lego objects for Operation Block are:

  1. Assemble the pieces in MLCad.
  2. Place lights around the model in L3P.
  3. Render the model in Povray.

You can see below a screenshot of MlCad in action, using the Ldraw parts to design a “green grenade thrower” enemy…

Designing characters in MLCad, using original Op Wolf backgrounds & characters for reference

Designing characters in MLCad, using original Op Wolf backgrounds & characters for reference

Now, remember that building with the red/brown roof I showed earlier? (It’s the “top right” picture in the “group of 6”.)

OK, here’s my version of it…

Red roof building from OpWolf level 1

Red roof building from OpWolf level 1

I think that looks pretty good. And there’s plenty more where that came from. (Soldiers, vehicles, etc)

Now – I had a programming environment, and a way to make the graphics. And over the next 120 days, I managed to:

  1. Analyse the original Operation Block to within an inch of its life
  2. Learn how to use MlCad, L3P & Povray for models
  3. Use GIMP layers for animation
  4. Program in Gamemaker
  5. Remove 99% of the bugs in my programming

But I only had level 1 completed. Levels 2 to 6 were just in the planning stages. And as the RR competition required games to be “at least 80% complete”, I simply couldn’t enter.

I did a bit more work on Operation Block over the next 12 months, but by mid 2007, the project was resting. There it sat, on my external drive.

Until now.

Operation Block is a freeware, fan tribute game being developed for Windows PCs. There’s no connection whatsoever to Taito, Lego or Traveller’s Tales. And it won’t be ready till Christmas 2010. At the earliest.

Hope you enjoyed Day 1 of “International Operation Block Week”.

…well, I can’t give away everything at once.😉

PS: If you’re excited by Operation Block, please consider giving it a “digg” or a “reddit“. Thanks!

11 Responses to JOMG’s own game – Operation Block

  1. Nreive says:

    Looking great. I’m a big fan of the original arcade game, so I’m really looking forward to this. I wonder if we can cover it in a future issue of Retroaction. I might even make time to cover it myself.

    • justonemoregame says:

      Thanks very much Nreive. We’re talking about at least 18 months of development, so you’ll have plenty of opportunity.🙂

  2. Ian says:

    I’m still really looking forward to this, despite the delay.

    Keep up the excellent work🙂

  3. Joe Larson says:

    I think you’ve got something here, but I think you need to show us a bit more before folks will get excited about it.

    Still, some of us can see a good thing a ways off.

    • justonemoregame says:

      Hi Joe, I’ve got lots of things to show, but I’m going to spread them out a bit.
      Also – a lot of the 2006 graphics will be redone, so I’m a bit reluctant to show people “out of date” screenies.

  4. […] Gabe McGrath saw ASCIIpOrtal coming before anyone else did. Now he’s making his own game and he’s got just as much to show us as ASCIIpOrtal did back then, but he’s just as excited about it as I was about ASCIIpOrtal back then. Quite frankly, I’m gonna trust his judgement on this one and tell everyone to keep an eye our for Operation Block. […]

  5. verhoevenv says:

    Time to start guessing…

    # Wednesday… “Ldraw: Making blocks o***a n*****g a* a**”
    # Thursday… “Game Maker – Game Breaker”
    # Friday… “Operation Block ***”

  6. […] JOMG’s own game – Operation Block « Just One More Game (tags: games gaming retro game_design edugames) […]

  7. […] JOMG’s own game – Operation Block Now THIS is something I’ve been waiting to share with you. I’m making a game! …a retro remake. And […] […]

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