Light Cycle

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Light Cycle is my three-day project and entry at the TOJam 2009 (Toronto Independent Game Development Jam), which took place May 1-3.  The theme was “scale”, which could be adhered to however we wanted, loosely or directly. It was easy enough to come up with a list of ideas that could become games involving scaling in size, weight, or climbing a hill or a ladder. The first and most obvious idea that came to me was about scaling in size. I thought this might be too predictable, or that too many people might try to run with that, so I decided to try fitting the theme more loosely. I worked with the idea of scaling a ladder and built the gameplay around it, but keeping it less obvious at first glance.

Brief Description

In Light Cycle, your objective is to direct the glowing energy “bit” (as in 1/8 of a byte ;) ) inward or outward through the group of concentric light cycles (which resemble circles) to get to the opposite end. Avoid dangerous yellow energy surges that circle the central core, by “scaling” ;) towards or away from the center. Blue circles move you clockwise, while the red circles move you counter-clockwise. Be careful not to collide with any outer walls in the process. Likewise, avoid colliding with the central core, as it powers the energy surges.

How to Play

On the left side of the screen, there are circular controls that consist of an inner and outer circle. Clicking on the inner circle moves you towards the center while the outer circle moves you away from it. With the right timing, make your way towards the exit tunnel, by positioning yourself at its gateway and leaving the outer-most cycle.

Gameplay

Once the event started, I had less than 3 days to finish the game. I decided to focus primarily on the gameplay, which made 2D art and sound assets secondary. The gamplay is best described as Frogger going in circles. The game level consists of a set of concentric circles along which you travel clockwise or counter-clockwise, depending on the circle you on. You can think of the circles as the car lanes in Frogger, except here the direction and speed in which you move are decided by the different circles. The objective is to reach the exit tunnel on the opposite end. Applying the different directions and speeds for each circle was a good foundation for later challenges in the game.

To give the player incentive to jump between circles, I populated the circles with the “power surge” entities that shared the circle tracks with the player. Players would need to dodge these entities by jumping from one circle to another, thereby experiencing the challenges of completing a level. I also freed the power surge entities from the velocity restrictions, so they could be faster or slower than player, thereby increasing the risk of head-on collisions. Some circles also have multiple power surges that travel in opposite directions.

Light Cycle

Visuals

Even though art was not my priority, I still wanted to make the game look pretty. I chose to go with one my favourite visual styles: neon glow on black, inspired by the cyberspace of the 1982 science fiction movie Tron. The name “Light Cycle” is actually my own attempt at play-on-words to accomplish two things: 1. loosely describe the game, and 2. shamelessly link the game’s visual style to Tron by paying tribute to the virtual bikes in the movie, called “Light cycles”. As with every TOJam game, Light Cycle features an image of the goat on a pole.

Technologies Used

Flash CS4, ActionScript 3.0
Name and Visual Style inspired by Tron
Gameplay not inspired by Tron Light Cycles

Quotes from TOJam organizers:

Robert Segal:

A simple and beautiful puzzle game.

Jim McGinley:

First off, this game has nothing to do with the famous “Light Cycle” game archetype. Second, it’s quite good once you wrap your head around the purposefully simple yet obtuse controls. Ordinarily I would beg Ante to simplify the control scheme, but I think figuring it out is part of the game’s charm. The look of the game, and the “glow” effect is superlative.