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Game Breakdown – PicoBreed for Pico8


Part 1 – Starting from the top

Game concept and basic ideas

A fun little top down shooter

The basic concept of this Pico8 game is a top down shooter. People may recognise the genre as it was made famous by alien breed on the amiga. This game had ideas pilfered from the movie aliens and was limited by the computer hardware, just like this pico8 de-make.

Based on Alien Breed The Classic Amiga game

Team 17’s 1991 classic Alien breed was one of my favourite games growing up. It felt like the arcade hit gauntlet with machine guns. A great combo and a very exciting game. What made things special was the amazing sound effects and digitised speech.

The game had a feeling of claustrophobia as well as a sense of always being on the edge of running low on ammo.

Limited by memory size – Map is small

For my de-make (and in fact every de-make on the pico8) I knew that I would be limited by the available memory size. I knew I could only make a very small version of the game in comparison to the massive amiga maps. I chose not to use any clever compression or procedural techniques and opt for a simple, editable game using on the built in tools.

No compression – game could have been larger

With no compression my limited map size might be a little small, and a little unexciting but since this was my first pico8 game then I was willing to let that all go in the name of a short development cycle.

Easily edited and expanded – no special tools required to edit levels

The maps are all created in the built in editor and no special tools were used. This was mainly because at the time i was just learning how to code in pico8 and I’d not gotten to the point where I could use compression yet.

Lofty goals that were cut short and why

I wanted the game to be much longer, originally the amiga classic had huge levels, many more weapons, enemies and other cool features. I had to cut them short. Here is a list of compromises i had to make for  the de-make:

  • The level
    I wanted a level that the player had to backtrack through, almost like a Zelda game. The idea I had was that I might make several important things to do at different locations so the player had to re-visit different areas and extend the game out. This turned out to be more like an adventure game and was cut from the final game due to time constraints.
  • Weapons
    Alien breed of course had a range of fun weapons. In the de-make I opted for a single upgradable weapon. I ended up with a single upgrade that doubles the damage and visually looks more menacing when fired. Extra particles and sound effects were used to let the player know that the weapon had been upgraded. The upgrade uses less ammo as well, and is pretty much essential to defeat the final boss. Ammo from the first weapon also fits this upgraded one, so any ammo pickups you find still fill up your ammo.
  • Enemies
    I wanted a boss in the game and it had to be difficult to defeat. In the de-make the end boss is a multi headed thing with fireball spitting eyeballs. No such enemy appears in the original game but since the end of level bosses in Alien Breed were huge and had lots of animation frames I felt I had to invent something that fit the constraints and yet still be a challenge.I settled on just two enemies, a face hugger type and a full sized xenomorph type.

More on these in the next breakdown, as well as code snippets and explanations. Look out for the next article.

If you want to play PicoBreed, go here:

About the author

Gabriel Crowe

During the day I'm a mild mannered web developer and online marketing wizard but at night I become an indie game warrior and all round badass.

I develop mobile and desktop games with Game Maker in my spare time and I am utterly addicted to Pico8.

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Just Another Indie Studio