Game UI By Example

Hello, dear reader! I’ve written another article for the nice folk at Gamedevtuts+ about a subject dear to my heart, UI design. Unartistic people (like programmers) tend to think that designing good UI is some arcane practice, only accessible to those with lots of training in the visual arts and how to present information. I think this couldn’t be more wrong, and show the reader a more logical way of thinking about UI design by giving examples from marketed games. You can read the article at the Gamedevtuts+ site.



The making of CRUP

The original idea

My Game Idea Generator gave me the following three words:

  • Rutabaga
  • Pyrrhic Victory
  • Bullet Hell

From this I came up with the following idea.

A vertical SHMUP where bosses can only be harmed by crashing your ship into them. Bosses fire at you and send close-range drones at you to try and explode your ship before you can close in for a kamikaze attack.

Extra points: Bosses are randomly assembled from modular components, each component needing to be destroyed by the player. The difficulty level could be related to how many components are attached compared to how many lives the player has.

Pages from the logbook

What did this game look like during development?

I replaced the graphics to get a more distinctive look and make everything more visible on screen.

What did you use to make CRUP!  ?

CRUP! is the first game I’ve made in GameMaker Studio. It was made almost entirely with GM:S’s drag-and-drop coding.



CRUP! (Crash 'Em Up)

Crash your orbiting laser saw into enemy ships while dodging through a cloud of bullets.

You’re delivering a fighter ship to some wealthy Galaxian when you get jumped by pirates on the far side of a tunnel. Don’t think you can just bomb and shoot your way out of this one: You’re surrounded by enemies, the air is thick with bullets, and the only thing you’ve got in the way of weapons is this orbiting laser saw you bought in a flea market back on Tarsus V. You’re definitely going to die, but you may as well see what this orbiting laser saw can do to those pirates.

Download CRUP! (Windows only)
Extract the folder and run CRUP.exe.

You can also view the online leaderboard.

See the action for yourself

What’s CRUP!  got that’s so fly?

  • Uncompromising laser saw action.
  • Make awed sounds as you thread the needle through a cloud of angry bullets.
  • Online leaderboard so you can lord it over lesser players.
  • Retro line graphics like Battlezone — but not.

I want to read about CRUP!’s development!

The Making of CRUP has all of the material I collected during the development of the game, including pages from my logbook.


I used Daniel Cook’s free Tyrian tileset as my placeholder art during development. His explosion sprites remain in the shipped version.

Sound effects were generated using Bfxr, and music was generated by Autotracker-BU.



My January game, CRUP!, is now feature-complete!

The game I made was not much of a shoot-em-up so I couldn’t rightly call it a SHMUP. It’s all about the crashin’, though, so I’ve called it CRUP!

It’s now feature-complete and a testing version is available for download. This game is only for Windows, sadly, as GameMaker Studio requires that I actually own a Mac to export to the platform, and I don’t (yet) own the HTML5 exporter.

Download CRUP! test version (Windows only)
Extract the folder and run CRUP.exe.

I used Daniel Cook’s free Tyrian tileset as my art this time.

Feature-complete is not finished

I release feature-complete versions to signal a stop in the addition of major new features. There’s still a lot of polishing and tweaking to do, however:

  • I am unsure if having a power-up that lets the player fire rockets adds any value to the game at all.
  • The background provides poor contrast with the sprites.
  • I want to replace the graphics to give a more original and minimal look.
  • The background music in-game needs changing.
  • Because the spawning of enemy types (other than the standard grey plane) is random, there are some games where you don’t get a green ship or powerup ship at all.
  • Explosions need juicing. Screen shaking would be nice.
  • Bullets might be moving a little too fast. Their speed would depend on whether I want this game to be one about reflexes, or about threading the needle through a barrage of slow-moving fire, which would be interesting in itself.


I bought GameMaker studio yesterday

GameMaker Studio was on sale on Steam yesterday, so I snagged the Professional version for AU$34. I spent yesterday and today following the tutorials, and am finding its overall structure fairly similar to Unity. It’s obviously meant for 2D development, and it’s quite good at it from what I see. I think I will make this month’s game in GM Studio, seeing as I’ve suffered a series of setbacks in Unity this week — PlayMaker stores its state machines on game objects and not external scripts or anywhere else, and I’ve accidentally deleted a prefab a couple of times, losing its state machine and having to remake it all over again.

I think it will be interesting to make this game in GM Studio, then remake it again in Unity + PlayMaker and compare times, complexity and so on. I need to remember to turn on my punch clock.

I’ll now use free art.

I’ve come to terms with my utter badness in terms of art, and am now willing to use free art. For this one, I’ll use Daniel Cook’s sprites and tiles from Tyrian. If I’m feeling really motivated I can use these as placeholders only and make my own art when the game is finished, but I’m not going to pretend that I am motivated to do this.

Another idea about game mechanics.

I was thinking just now that it might also be cool if instead of a bullet-permeable Bubble of Death, your ship instead had a shield that could be freely rotated around yourself with the mouse, and which could be used to block bullets and ram enemies. I last remember something similar being done in R-Type Delta for the Playstation, except the Forces (the shield thingies) weren’t free-rotating.

I really like my current idea so I’m gonna stick with it and see how it flies.



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