Balloon Buster

Balloon Buster game. Click to play in a new window.

I decided to create this game purely as a self-promotional piece. I was getting more Flash game work around 2005, and I wanted to have an example of a simple online game that I created to show potential or existing clients, as a way to demonstrate my abilities. I decided to leverage an existing animated version of myself that I'd already been using on my website, so as to give myself a little head start on the game.

This pea-soupy green is my favorite color, and as it was already the color of my animated self's shirt, I decided to stick with it and let it dictate the color scheme of the game. That may sound lazy, but with an open-ended project like this, every limitation helps move things along.

I worked out the concept - a retro-style shooting game where you throw water balloons at me, Steve, disguised (in some cases, poorly) as different characters - real people, archetypes and fictional characters - in the windows of a building. You have to hit the Steves while the windows are open. And, you get a bonus if you hit the floating slice of key lime pie (a prize also determined by the color scheme).

I made up a couple more rules: I couldn't alter the cartoon of me lying underneath the disguises - I could only elements on top of it. And, I would only work in the existing color palette. I just started brainstorming, and worked out way more characters than I expected - I actually had to add more levels to the building to accommodate them. Since there are four characters on each level of the building, sometimes I'd think I was done... then I'd realize there was one more character I just had to include, and I'd add that character in... then I'd have to add three more to fill out the level. It should go without saying that the game took longer to complete than I anticipated because of this pattern - maybe a month total.

Here are all the characters, from top left to bottom right:
• magician
• party guest
• spaceman
• beatnik
• clown
• Indiana Jones
• Peter Criss (from Kiss)
• generic superhero
• Roman gladiator
• redneck trucker
• 1920's accountant
• soldier
• Robin Hood
• Fidel Castro
• Frankenstein's Monster
• pirate
• old-timey aviator
• devil
• Hannibal Lecter (from The Silence of the Lambs)
• Tin Man (from The Wizard of Oz)
• Rebel fighter pilot (from Star Wars)
• Kermit the Frog
• Amish guy
• The Pope
• chef
• Jason Voorhees (from Friday the 13th)
• Mickey Mouse
• Austin Powers
• Albert Einstein
• pilgrim
• Storm Shadow (from G.I. Joe)
• The Statue of Liberty
• Salvador Dali
• Batman (Christian Bale movie version)
• Chinese man
• The Cat in the Hat
• nun
• viking
• Napoleon Bonaparte
• Alex (from A Clockwork Orange)
• Sherlock Holmes
• George Washington
• old timey bowler-wearing guy
• late 60's John Lennon
• 50's greaser
• Marvin Martian
• Rorschach (from Watchmen)
• Andy Warhol
• Harry Potter
• Rastafarian
• court jester
• Willie Nelson

Closeup of the game. That's me as Indiana Jones, Peter Criss
from Kiss, a redneck trucker and a 1920's accountant.

I developed the basic game engine in Flash fairly quickly. At first the fact that the balloon you're throwing covers up the screen briefly (as it's a first-person view) felt wrong or confusing, but after a little test-playing I liked it - it only blocks your view for a brief moment, and it adds to the challenge - if you just keep shooting, you won't see where the characters are on the board.

Someone who played it asked me once where "you" (the player") are - it's not shown (since you're in "your" head) but in the instructions, it says you're in a hot air balloon. I guess I was really into balloons when I developed the game.

I created three levels - the harder the level, the quicker the descent, and the more the building moves side-to-side. The theme song, created in GarageBand, is meant to emulate early 80's game songs - simple, repetitive, and low-fidelity.

Oh, and there's a little bonus - if you hit every character you get a little surprise at the end of the game. I'm not telling what it is - you'll have to complete it (at any level) to see it.

After developing Flying Spaghetti Monster - The Game, I knew that if I posted the game file to one of the online gaming sites (that all "share" the game file generously), it would be all over the Internet in days. And it was - which is what I wanted (all part of my master plan). When I track hits to my websites, I get a few hundred a week from Balloon Buster - and mostly from all the other sites that host it (and not my own). Granted, I believe they're mostly from people looking for more free games, but occasionally someone does inquire about my game design services. There's no such thing as a bad link, I always say (not really, though I do believe it).

As with all of these games, some people said it was fun, some said it was boring, and some people cursed me out and called for my death... anonymously, of course. Ho-hum. If I created a game featuring 25 levels with different gameplay on each level, and hundreds of characters, weapons, backgrounds - people would say it's too complex to play online. I may sound jaded, but feedback for online games is some of the most pointless feedback you'll ever read. Here are some of the highlights from one of the many online sites that host the game:

"wow, that game was good.............NOT!!"
#6 anonymous (3 weeks ago)

"this a effin bullshit this game is"
#5 anonymous (8 months ago)

"this is really bad"
#4 anonymous (8 months ago)

#3 anonymous (8 months ago)

"ur a f*kin pleb"
#2 anonymous (2 years ago)

"this the the gayest sh*t i have ever seen"
#1 anonymous (3 years ago)

I just wish the #2 anonymous person would have been more clear - am I the pleb, or one of the other comment-givers? It really bothers me.............NOT!!

And a few positive pieces of feedback, not surprisingly from NewGrounds, probably the best (and maybe the oldest) online gaming portal, where people usually try to be constructive in their feedback:

"Nice job on the art, your use of green is really nice. The controls were great too, which made the game more addicting than it really is. Music went nice with the theme. You definitely have talent. Keep up the great work =]"

"Fun game you have here, the 'CONTROLS' were nice and smooth, and the shooting was good, the color tone could have had a mixture and more color but it was still cool, a fun and addictive game, so nice work, keep it up..."

"it was a neat little game. a bit easy and repetitive, but it was fun to play and it had a good concept to it and your efforts in this one were good too."

I know. It's more fun to read the negative stuff. I agree.

After all that fantastic feedback, click here to play Balloon Buster.

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