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Game Design Scrapheap #1: Future War: New Sahara

It has come to my attention recently that I have a ridiculously large number of abandoned game projects. Perhaps not as many as my brother, who had a habit of making "games" with only a title screen, opening cutscene, menu and half of one level, but its still pretty terrible.

Since I have decided to refocus my blog almost exclusively on games and game development, I thought it might be a good idea to discuss my past projects and where they went wrong as a warning to those who are just getting into game development, as well as to give them a proper post-mortem and burial. So, let me present the first issue of "Game Design Scrapheap"

Future War: New Sahara

This level in particular was inspired by River Raid

Future War: New Sahara was a 2D action game that featured flying sequences (1942, Raiden etc) as well as on-foot sequences (Ikari Warriors, Commando etc). Unlike many other shooters it actually had a story - it was about the plight of Shaun Icarus, a pilot in the United States Space Navy, who becomes increasingly trapped by an Invasion on a distant planet gone wrong and a sinister conspiracy seeking to annihilate a vast planetary empire.


An example of an on-foot sequence. Here marines try to defend a captured base from a paratrooper invasion.

Development of the game was done entirely in "The Games Factory" a simple, codeless tool for 2D applications. The idea for the game - a failed futuristic invasion of a desert planet - came to me in a dream, no doubt influenced by the (then) recently started Iraq War. Most graphics were taken from various sprite libraries. I got some MP3 files produced by a work mate to use as the soundtrack.

What went wrong

A tactical mini game included as a bonus with New Sahara. No relevance to the plot at all, just a little bit of fun.

Everything was going well with the project for a time. I was progressing well with developing new levels, new parts of the story and I was occasionally dumping a new release out on the Internet. Reception from a forum that focuses on Games Factory games was fairly positive because of the relatively high production values put into the game (for Games Factory games anyway).

However it all reached a fairly major snag when I was upto around the 9th or so level of the game - the game began crashing when playing those last levels. Games with lots of levels in the Games Factory are normally fine but each level in my game was entirely unique (which included an opening and closing cutscene for each level) increasing content far beyond a regular GF game. I guess the sheer amount of levels and data overloaded the engine and corrupted the executable.

The moral of the story

Game making tools like The Games Factory are fine for small casual games, like remakes of Donkey Kong or Pacman. Unfortunately they are ill-suited for large projects incorporating a lot of unique levels and content. For serious games you need to use a proper game development engine or programming language.


The heartbreak of the Future War debacle made me give up Games Factory game development forever. Instead I moved to 3D game development, working for a short time in Dark Basic before switching to Blitz Basic 3D. I started on a 3D version of Future War New Sahara, intending it to be something like Lylat Wars for the N64, but the development didn't get far at all before I gave up on that too.

The backstory for Derelict is effectively a new version of the New Sahara universe. Who knows, perhaps there will be a 3D incarnation of New Sahara as either a sequel or a prequel to Derelict some day.


Joshua Smyth (not verified)

Looked pretty cool. There was a game on the C64 I can't remember what it was called, but it was this military game with 4 or 5 levels, but each level was a different mini-game.

Personally I prefer real programming languages :)

Although I've been impressed with some of the games coming out of gamemaker recently

Anonymous (not verified)

Congratulations on starting a new game. Hope it works out awesome for ya.