EIP Teaser

May 25th, 2024

I've been continuing to work on new projects for the Playdate after releasing my previous project last July. I haven't had a lot of free time with which to work on a project like this, so it's been slow going. But it's come far enough that I thought it might be nice to post a little teaser for you all to see! Check it out:

A photograph of a new version of EIH running on the Playdate console

I've continued to enjoy learning Lua and getting used to using other tools to make games for the Playdate. For this project, I had to learn how to use an external level editor. In my case, I chose to use LDtk to lay out the tiles for levels that would end up getting imported into the game. This was a fun process, but there is still a lot to do - namely, making a lot more levels, as well as setting up the system to randomize them rather than pulling them in at a set pattern. I also haven't implemented the transitions from one level/screen to the next yet, which I expect will also take a decent amount of work. I'm ready to tackle these challenges - if only I had more time!

One thing that causes this to be more of a re-imagining than a straight conversion of EIH is the size of the screen. 16x16 pixel sprites are too small to read well on the Playdate, which is what EIH originally used. As such I've had to redraw sprites to be 24x24 in size. And since the screen literally only displays two colors as well, I will have to figure out how to replace the third color - defaulted to red - that EIH graphics use. This size change also extends to the resolution of the screen which is only 400x240 pixels. The original EIH used a more traditional square aspect ratio of 256x256 pixels, which means rooms were exactly 16 tiles tall and wide. These new rooms I will need to create for the Playdate version will instead be 16 tiles tall and only 10 tiles wide. This means that rooms cannot be rotated 90 or 270 degrees as part of the randomization process like they could in the original EIH, and that the rooms will be overall a bit smaller. Rather than considering this to be a problem, I am excited to see what other kinds of room designs these limitations can bring out of the me - something that the Playdate is very good at fostering in a game developer. But it does mean more work, and that PIH - which is definitely a working title, in case that wasn't clear - will be more of a sequel or spin-off than a straight port.

This difference in graphical capabilities also applies to the lighting system in the original game, which dimmed the white and red colors the further away something was from a light source until those colors were just as black as the rest of the screen graphics. This was the thing that I was most interested in tackling first when thinking about a potential EIH remake for the Playdate, and unlike some of the other things I talked about above, this is actually something I completely implemented. And I am really happy with the results! The new lighting system is custom written to support the needs of this game while also functioning within the aforementioned confines of the Playdate's two-color screen. It allows for dynamically sized and shrinking sources of light that can "combine" with other light sources on screen fluidly. Additionally, rather than gradually "darkening" the white colored pixels - something that would be impossible for the Playdate - I used an increasing amount of dithering on the darkness layer to hide more of the graphics the further you get to the edge of the area that is being lit up.

In case that alone wasn't Playdate-y enough, I also added an ability to stop and use the Playdate crank to crank the lantern and "recharge" the player's light radius back to full size. Only time will tell if that feature remains fun enough to keep in the full version of the game or not, but when developing for the Playdate it's hard not to want to use the crank for everything! I am proud of the look that the lighting system was able to acheive. Here's an example of it in action:

An animated gif of the black and white PIH prototype that shows off the dynamic lighting system of the game

There's still a lot of work to be done before this game is even in a playable state, let alone one that replicates all of the features that the original EIH already had to offer. But it's not looking like I will have a lot of time in the near future to work on a project like this, and I wanted to show off what I had already accomplished in the meantime. If you'd be excited to play a game like this, feel free to reach out and let me know!

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