Retrospective – Project Z

As part of this blog, I plan on adding postmortems on previous projects every so and then.  Here’s one I copied from my previous blog – Mitronite. A retrospective look at Project Z. For more background on what Mitronite was, see this previous post!

One of my earliest projects with Game Maker Studio was Project Z – built around Feb/March 2013.

I believe it was started with the free edition of GMS, which had full functionality, but simple limitation: you could have a maximum of 10 objects, sprites, rooms etc.  This was just fine to start building a point and click zombie shooter, that just had a few weapons, only one type of enemy and a single map!

After realising how easy and powerful GMS was, I went on to purchase the full edition.  A few google searches later, and Project Z had goodies such as lighting effects, flares, fire, shadows, trees etc.

Project Z Screenshot

You might recognise the sprites?  Yes, the hero and zombies are slightly edited versions of the trooper from Command & Conquer!  I typically start my projects using sprites from games.  Not a problem, since I don’t usually start projects with the intention of releasing games commercially.

It saves me time when prototyping, whilst still having a sleek look and feel.  I think I am pretty good at drawing, but it’s very time consuming; As a one man team, this can be a huge bottle neck.  I tend to prioritise working on the mechanics of the game and making sure it is fun before working on the graphics.  Reusing game sprites is a nice shortcut and I find it more motivating to work with them, than with coloured boxes on a black screen!

Where did I leave it?

As you might see from the screenshots I produced a fairly playable prototype – hundreds of zombies spawned, some light & shadow effects using surfaces, 6 weapons including a flame thrower and even a stealth system!

I had a lot of fun producing this prototype.  Surfaces and nice graphical effects were on top of my list and came out quite nicely – Game Maker makes it pretty easy and there are a bunch of tutorials and code to reuse on the internet.  Even stuff like dynamic shadows were simple to implement and looked reasonably good – although they were very poorly optimised, as I created a sprite shadow on the floor per zombie & light source! Fine on PC, but it would be a different story on mobile.

Why did I stop?

However fun this little prototype was, the scope to turn this into a real game would have been pretty difficult.  An endless brawler could have worked, but it was limited and not the kind of game I wanted to produce from it.

I started having ideas on where to take the game – only to realise how difficult it would be to implement.

  • mission based, player ventures on a map to find equipment, survivors etc
  • enabling base building, i.e. player can collect material and build up barricades, towers etc for defence
  • rescuing other survivors and taking them in your team
  • have random events like the organ trail which inspired that prototype

Essentially this meant creating a whole new game, in which this prototype would only have covered the arcade sequences.  Too much work than I wanted to sign up for!


With this project I definitely put a good foot in the Game Maker universe.  I discovered how easy it was to produce a quick prototype with advanced features and familiarised myself with the framework pretty quickly.  Therefore it was a very encouraging first step towards the next projects!

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