Rōdïp: Rover of the Deep
Rōdïp came out of a sort of competition with James Faux to design the best Blaster Master tribute. Jim's game hewed very closely to the source material; I took the basic concept and a variation on the vehicle design, and I wandered.
The plan was for six main levels, five bosses, and four vehicle upgrades. I finished everything except the bosses, two thirds of the levels, and some elements of the presentation. Then I got distracted, and the game sat on the shelf for 15 years.
In early 2011 I dug it up again, and I realized that the game ain’t half bad. For a Game-Maker game it controls unusually well. The existing monsters and background tiles are distinctive and meticulously built. The existing levels were pretty good, if rough around the edges — and certainly unlike something I would design now.
So I tidied up the levels, making sure that platforms and monsters were placed sensibly, and then I began to design a new one. The slot was already there; I just had to fill it.
In the game’s structure, level 3 is the first new level after the player gains the hover upgrade, allowing much more free movement through the terrain. It made sense, then, to capitalize on that new element and create a free-flowing map, not so dependent on platforms as on environmental hazards and barriers.
There is a contrast, though. For all the player’s new freedom, in a way the new map should be more constrained than ever. One concern is to give the level a sense of structure. It means nothing if the player can go anywhere, if there is nowhere specific to go. So throw in some long vertical corridors, or awkwardly connected rooms, to underline the potential of the player’s new mobility.
The other concern is to give the player a challenge that offsets the new ability. You don’t want the game to get easier just because the player is more powerful. Sure, earlier sections become a cinch — but a new rule should change the game’s focus, and give the player something new to master just around the time the player starts to feel comfortable. So the new level should present new sorts of problems that can only be solved with the new concepts at play.
None of this was a big priority. I have articles to write, a life to attend to, skills to learn. I don’t need to spend too much time messing with old, abandoned projects. So maybe once a week I would spend an hour or so tinkering with the map, adding another screen or two. After a few months, I finished. It may not be the strongest level in the world; much of it was improvised, rather than planned out deliberately. Still, that improvisation was informed by certain principles and, I think, a pretty good sensibility. Which is to say, I rather like it.
I’m uncertain whether I ever will finish the game; it’s been a decade and a half, so there’s no rush. Further discouraging me is that, after all, this is a pastiche. If I could take the rover out of the game, and turn the project into something wholly original, then maybe I would feel less reluctant. And yet then, the game would lose much of its identity — so there’s no point.
The tower level that bridges levels 1 and 2 is closely inspired by Tower Toppler, a CGA DOS port of John M. Phillips' Nebulus. On first glimpse at the Game-Maker box, I took the screenshot of Pipemare in Block Designer as a frame from a game like Tower Toppler, designed with RSD's tools. The concept sent my mind racing. As it turned out, I had totally misinterpreted the picture. Nevertheless, the idea was planted. Years later, I finally found a way to implement the idea -- at least, close enough to satisfy me.
Other influences include the original Metroid, Tecmo's NES version of Rygar, Human Entertainment's Monster Party, Castlevania: Bloodlines, Contra: Hard Corps, Sonic the Hedgehog, Roadblasters, and Golgo 13: Top Secret Episode.
Make your way through the caverns and badlands, find upgrades for your vehicle, and destroy whatever threats lurch before you along your journey.
How To Pilot Your Deep Rover
On numerical keypad:
- 4/6: Drive left/right
- 7/8/9: Leap left/up/right
- 7/8/9: Hover left/up/right (with appropriate upgrade)
- 1/2/3: Dive left/down/right (with appropriate upgrade)
On standard keyboard:
- A/S: Fire left/right
- SPACE: Equip upgrades
Known rover upgrades:
- H: Hover Drive - Explore the heights
- S: Super Cannon - Discharge more energy
- D: Dive Rotor - Explore the depths
- K: Key Codes - Access secure portals
- Stable power cell: Gain 1 energy unit
- Overcharged power cell: Gain 2-10 units
- Lazarus pod: Gain 1 failsafe cycle
- ESC: Exit game
- F1: Help screen
- F2: Status screen
- F3: Toggle music
- F4: Toggle sound
- F5: Record progress
- F6: Recall progress
- F8: Toggle joystick
- F9: Adjust joystick
- Mole Men
- Sultivalvia ("Springers")
- Force Bricks
- Hemasuckles ("Devil's Fingers")
- Spiravalvia ("Drillers")
Bold: As-yet unfinished
- The Pit
- The Hall
- Level 1: The Hive
- The Tower
- Level 2: The Wasteland
- The Rift
- Level 3: The Foundry
- The Culvert
- Level 4: The Cavern
- The Aqueduct
- Level 5: The Cistern
- The Highway
- Level 6: The City
Graphics, sounds, animations, design: Aderack
Discussion, concept: OmegAkira
Original concept: Sunsoft
Rōdïp was retained as part of the archive from the game's inception. In mid-2011 work on the game resumed; the available version has since been in a constant state of change.
This game was not distributed in any form.
Interviews / Articles
- Rover of the Deep (Gloaming Crackle)
- The History of A-J Games, Part Seven
- The Game-Maker Story: Infoboxes (Gamasutra)