Musings on the Liip Holiday Game 2021

  • David Buchmann

This year's holiday game is a reimplementation of a classic 80ies Atari game.

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When I was a kid, my father had an Atari ST. Disliking violent games, my parents found a game that fascinated me and my brothers for years: Bolo. With the mouse you control a paddle that you use to push the ball into bricks that are destroyed. The ancestor game is Breakout, but Bolo added so much more: The paddle moves freely in two dimensions, and the various bricks do lots of interesting things. If you want to see the original game in action, watch this recording on youtube.

It was games that originally sparked my interest in computers, and when i started studying computer science, I secretly hoped that this would be the beginning of a career in game development. During university, I realized that coding a game is just as hard work as coding something else. But luckily, I also realized that programming is in itself an interesting activity. I ended up doing web development, and don't regret it. I did the occasional creative coding, but never set out to develop a game.
Due to the Covid restrictions, I could not go on a holiday I had planned. I stumbled on a open source game engine called Godot and decided to finally give this game thing a shot and see what the Godot engine can do.

To not overcomplicate things, i decided to reimplement a game i know, rather than try to invent something new. I think that was a good decision, as it allowed me to focus on the technical challenges. In the first iteration, i took the graphics from screenshots of the original game. I was impressed with the Godot engine, making good progress and ending up with a working game very quickly. I was particularly impressed how well i could build the game as binary for all major platforms (Linux, Mac, Windows) as well as export it to HTML5. I struggled with a few things - i will write a more technical blog post about those topics later.

After my holidays, i left the game alone for a while. At some point, i talked about it with other Liipers and realized i should propose to use it for our holiday game. I did that, and marketing was happy to take it. Alice took up the project from marketing side, and designed new graphics that look fresh and do not violate any copyrights. Jérémie provided sound effects and even composed a melody that catches the retro vibe of the game very well. This is the game you can now play.

If you made it to read through all of this, let me give you a hint on how to better play the game: When you hit the paddle into the walls, it influences the ball to move in that direction. This allows you to decelerate (or accelerate) the ball without having to match velocities. This was a hidden feature of the original game that i also managed to recreate.

Have fun wasting a bit of time with this game, if you want to. (The original game had a whooping 50 levels that gradually became harder. I only implemented 10 levels.)
I wish you a merry christmas and happy new year!
David Buchmann

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