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Entry 2015: Whale Hunt

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Well, this is Whale Hunt. You play as Wyatt Killgallin, 3rd generation whale hunter. The objective is to help develop the new world by supplying the growing towns with oil for their steam engine machinery. You sail (or paddle) around killing whales and sea monsters while avoiding storm systems and receiving item upgrades for your whaling services. I consider the game more or less complete and no longer a work in progress (there's a few things that I might change), so unfortunately I don't think I can post the rom due to the rules, but here are some screenshots of the game:


Title Screen






























This whale is about to die





Beat Level Screen





Game Over Screen





Some key features of the game include:


- randomized enemy placement and movement

- random storm generation

- randomly changing wind direction for sailing

- rotating compass for navigating off map

- an attempt at not allowing player and enemy sprites to overlap

- sundial and changing sky color to keep time

- the ability to build the towns and receive upgrades in any order you want



Thanks to everyone who put this contest together. It was a lot of fun!


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Sweet! I felt bad holding out on everyone, but here it is! I hope you enjoy. One thing I might consider adding is enemies attacking the player, but it all depends on how much time I can find to do it. My sprites are very limited when an enemy is on screen so it'll be difficult...




I guess instructions would help too



Edited by emerson
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First off, thanks for posting the game ROM. It's always fun to try out a new game, especially one that's already so well developed.


My first reaction is wow, finally a new game that takes advantage of the keypad. And not just a few keys, but all 12 of them. I always find it somewhat disappointing that most new Intellivision games ignore the keypad except for selecting options. The controller is what makes Intellivision unique, and it allows for unique games that have some depth. Whale Hunt uses the key rows nicely to control game play. Bravo!


I admit that it took me too long to figure out that I had to turn my boat to get the wind at my back in order to use the sail. But that's realistic, and I like it. But what's "wind flute?" If it's a sailing term, I can't find it. It does take a looong time to paddle across the screen, and the favorable winds don't seem to last long. A good instruction manual would clear up some these questions, so that's easily remedied.


On a game mechanics note, maybe it would make more sense to have to push the paddle key for each paddle stroke instead of just mashing the button down to move.


Enemies would be good. If the sea monsters tried to attack, that would add interest. Right now they seem as indifferent to me as the whales are. The game can be a bit slow, and an adversary (other than the storms) would ramp things up. I played into level 3, but I found myself hoping for more of a challenge. Maybe it comes later.


Speaking of storms, I like when my ship gets caught in one and whips around. When sailing into one, it might be cool to have the screen go black and show lightning before the Game Over screen appears.


I read that a programmer at Mattel kicked around the idea of a sailing game but it never got any traction. It looks like you've hit on something that works! I like it. :thumbsup:

Edited by mthompson
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My first reaction is wow, finally a new game that takes advantage of the keypad. And not just a few keys, but all 12 of them.


I figured I could make a compass rose card insert for the disc (double sided tape need apply) since I didnt use it in the controls. Don't want to completely neglect it!



But what's "wind flute?"


The wind flute is one of the upgradable items. You get it by completely building the far right town and after seven towns total. It allows you to control the wind direction, having it blow in whatever direction you are facing. You can use it as many times as you want once acquired.



On a game mechanics note, maybe it would make more sense to have to push the paddle key for each paddle stroke instead of just mashing the button down to move.


I considered this but decided not to for two reasons. One, I felt like the player's thumb would get too tired to play. I once played space invaders on atari until my thumb was stiff and couldn't move. It hurt, but I got over 270,000 points so it was worth it. The second reason is that I have the first model Intellivision which has bubble keys instead of flat plastic, and I thought that the bubbles might crack with all the rapid excessive presses.



Enemies would be good. If the sea monsters tried to attack, that would add interest. Right now they seem as indifferent to me as the whales are. The game can be a bit slow, and an adversary (other than the storms) would ramp things up. I played into level 3, but I found myself hoping for more of a challenge. Maybe it comes later.


I agree. I'd like to incorporate some type of enemy like pirates or whales and sea monsters attacking you. Currently when you throw a harpoon at an enemy, all 8 sprites are used (5 for enemy, 2 for harpoon, 1 for water/blood) so I'll need to figure out how to time an enemy attack with this in mind. I think I focused more on strategy than action (i.e. the order the player builds the towns). The only real challenge (besides patience) is that more storms will generate quicker the further you play into the game, and it's not much of a challenge.



Speaking of storms, I like when my ship gets caught in one and whips around. When sailing into one, it might be cool to have the screen go black and show lightning before the Game Over screen appears.


Good idea! I already have lightning if you exit the map while in a storm so this would be an easy change.



I'll try to give it a spin on an emulator since I don't yet have a flashcart.


I have to resort to emulators as well (I was kind of hoping to win a flashcart, haha). Is anyone playing this on real hardware? If so how does it play?

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Well on the contest rules it only mentioned posting WIP (work in progress) roms so I assumed that meant dont post completed roms. I'd be glad to put it up if it doesn't break any rules. Can anyone official clarify?


That's to encourage people to post the game during development to get feedback. Of course you can post the final ROM. And if you couldn't, you just post the ROM anyway, then change one pixel, and submit a different one. :P


Anyway, I'll take a look at the ROM this week-end. The game looks intriguing. It also looks like it's going to be complicated, but that's not a bad thing. :)



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  • 2 weeks later...

Here is the updated rom for Whale Hunt. The major changes include:


- added enemy attacks

- added a life and health system

- made paddles and sails faster

- made days shorter

- lessened amount of enemies needed to complete levels


I'm sure there are some more changes I'm forgetting at the moment. Please download the new manualas well, it's a little more detailed and hopefully answers some questions.







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I finally took some time to play this game. Below is some feedback that I hope helps you make it better.

  • I think the game is very interesting from a visual and story perspective. It looks unique and very creative, and the story (such as it is) is engaging. These are some very good qualities on a game.
  • The opening screen and music are fantastic, very well done! :thumbsup:
  • The controls seem arcane and confusing. I couldn't figure out how to navigate, so I mostly fumbled my way to a whale.
  • When I finally found a whale, then I noticed that if I press one key, it went off the screen. If the whale were composed of sprites, it could be animated more smoothly, giving it finer grain of motion on the screen rather than on and off.
  • Game-play is also confusing. I understand the object and the mechanics in the abstract, but in practice they do not seem at all clear. I fought a whale and killed it, which was thrilling, but then I don't know what happened or why I did that. Perhaps there should be some transition or indication that a particular objective was achieved. Instead of just adding to the score, perhaps there should be an interstitial screen that tells you: how much whale oil you have acquired, how much you need, etc. Otherwise, I felt like I should just go around hunting whales until I get board.
  • I like the idea of building the new world, acquiring resources, and killing whales as a means to an end, not the actual end goal itself. However, perhaps there is a way to convey this aspect more naturally during the game. Maybe an introduction sequence with some information, or a simple text scroll on screen with bits of the story and clear guidance to the player. I read the instruction text file and it is full of information that excites me about the game, but when I play, I'm a bit disoriented on what to do.
  • While playing right now, I just feel into what I think is a whirlpool. I saw some lightning and then a death screen. I'm impressed! It looks very cool. I do recommend extending the lightning effect a bit longer for greater effect. As it is, it just flickers a little, and before I have a chance to react and appreciate it, it's clear and the death screen shows up. Also, add an additional rumbling or booming sound effect to the electric sizzle it currently has. It's a cool sequence that needs more impact.
  • (I can't really tell if those are whirlpools or wind storms, but I choose to think they are whirlpools.)
  • I suggest using a custom icon for the whirlpools, instead of the square "@" symbol. Maybe one that animates like a small swirl? If it is a matter of art skills, perhaps others here can help. Although I doubt you need it, since the rest of the visuals are so detailed. :)
  • I also suggest more detailed animations on the map screen. It would indeed look a lot more polished if the whale moved more smoothly and it spouted water occasionally rather than having a static water drawn on top.
  • I don't understand the sailing vs. rowing mechanic. Well, I do, in principle. In practice, I find myself sailing, then if I hit a row button, then sailing won't work any more. I am stuck rowing for the end of time. Eventually sailing starts working again, but I don't know how or why it stopped to begin with.

Overall, the game has a fantastic potential to be great. It just seems like it's missing some polish that ties the different elements together. Story goes a long way in adding that dimension, but the story itself is not too evident during game-play, other than the whale-hunting part. That part alone feels more like an action game, but I understand that it is much more than this. It should be much more than this, as I'm sure you intended. :)


The biggest complain I have is with the controls and game mechanics, which feel a little awkward. I really hope you continue working on it.



Edited by DZ-Jay
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Thanks for the excellent critique DZ-Jay. I'll try to explain my take on your observations but I'm still working on my first cup of coffee so bear with me.

  • With the controls, I wanted them to work similar to how rowing a boat works, being you can't instantly go any direction you want. Instead, you have to turn your boat either clockwise (6 key) or counter-clockwise (4 key) until you are facing the direction you want to go (look at compass to determine where you're facing), then use the 5 key to row straight.
  • I like the idea of the enemies moving smoothly instead of jumping from one location to another. When the enemy goes off screen, you can turn and find it again, but adding the smooth transition will help the player know where it went and where to turn.
  • At the beginning of each level, it tells you how many whales you need to kill. It looks similar to the screen in Super Mario Bros at the beginning of each level. Also, in the new rom (whalehunt_1a) there is a counter at the top of the screen that decreases each time you kill a whale, and turns yellow when you can return to port. I don't think I understand the purpose interstitial screen because it seems like all the information is available on screen already. I'm certainly not opposed to the idea, even if it displays the same info in a more presentable manner. It could also serve as a pause function which is always nice. Maybe you could explain your thoughts more?
  • An intro cut scene would be great. It could provide background story as to why you're developing the new world, as well as show what everything is and how to use it. Prehaps a pre-game screen with options to watch intro, watch tutorial, and play game would be beneficial. This way new players can learn and player who know how to play can get right to the game.
  • Whirlpools make sense at sea, and wind storms would deffinately break your sails, so I can see the confusion. I don't think I specified either, so for now I guess it's whatever works for you. Changing the graphic may help determine the type of storm. Because I used all 8 sprites on the map I assumed I couldn't make a custom storm, but the walls in Christmas Carol got me thinking as long as I can fit a custom character into memory I should be able to draw it wherever and not have to treat it like a sprite. If I did choose to animate it, I think I could make the compass rose in the corner as part of the background image and use the storm icon as a sprite.
  • As for sailing, you can only sail when the wind is to your back. The wind direction changes at random and is indicated between the compass and the score. Also, the letter in the compass turns green when the wind is to your back, and the compass and wind direction will be the same. For example [ <E-N-W> W ] tells you that you are facing north (indicated in red) and that the wind direction is west. If you were to turn and face west, it would look like this [ <N-W-S> W ] and the W within the compass would turn green. Now is the time to use the sails.


There is deffinately a big learning curve to this game. It's not a simple "pick up and play" game like galaga or something, but each type of game has its benefits. Again, thanks for the detailed review as it always helps to have new eyes try and break the game. Hopefully I'll squeeze one more update in before the deadline!

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Let me repeat that I am really liking Whale Hunt. I tend to prefer the strategy games in the Intellivision catalog (maybe because I suck at arcade titles), so this one really appeals to me. I like the realistic touches, such as rowing continuously on one side makes my boat go in circles. Same learning curve and mechanic as a real boat.


A few thoughts.


I like the changes you've made, such as the whales moving around during the hunt so they aren't just sitting ducks when I'm chucking spears at them. The wave animation and sound when they're hit is cool, but it's weird that they jump entirely out of the water. The faster paddling is nice. The shorter day gives some urgency to the whale hunt.


A suggestion on wind direction: it might be more realistic to have the wind change less drastically during a given day. Maybe it would vary from the north and west one day and from the south and east on another. Right now it seems like it can change unrealistically from north to south in a flash.


I also agree with DZ that the lightning storm that happens when I sail into a storm should last a little longer. Maybe longer still if it causes me to lose my last life and end the game.


An idea for a simple pirate adversary... Just as storms pop up on the map, a pirate symbol could appear randomly. But instead of just lingering for awhile and then disappearing, the pirate ship would move towards my boat and make me avoid it. The pirates would disappear if I wasn't nearby, but they'd hang around if I stayed in range. If they get me, I'd lose a life or my whale oil from that day.


Great work on this. I'm looking forward to the next update :thumbsup: :thumbsup:

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I doubt I'd be able to apply the pirate concept before contest end (I have lots of other stuff going for the next few weeks), but I like the simplicity and effectiveness of it, and I think it would work well as you described. Maybe they'd take your whale oil first, but take a life if you don't have any oil. The wind and storm seem like a simple changes, and it would be more realistic if the wind changed within the same quarter or so of cardinal directions on any given day. As for the jumping, I think it would look more realistic if the head went up first, followed by torso then tail (picture a bunny hop on a bmx bike). For the sake of time I simply got the ground work done, but re-animating the four enemies will take a while.


Thanks for the critiques everyone, and keep them coming! I do intend on making these changes, but the more time intensive ones will have to wait.

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  • 2 weeks later...

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