gbadev
Game Boy Advance homebrew development forum
Member
Joined:
Posts: 12

EDIT: Our Kickstarter funded and Inky is now available for purchase digitally on Itch!

Hi everyone,

I thought it might be interesting to see what me and my partner Casey have been up to this past year. Our game isn't done yet, but it's getting very close. Our goal is to have it shippable by January 2023, but we will probably spend more time polishing it.

Inspiration

The inspiration for the game can be traced back to Baba Is You, which we both loved. After the game came out, I made some prototypes of block pushing games, just for fun. These prototypes never became games, and I put them down for a while.

April 2019

April 2019

April 2019

April 2019

Re-ignition

Fast forward a couple years, and in the fall of 2021, I wanted to get back into programming for the Game Boy Advance (more info here).

I wanted to start with a simple project that I thought I could finish quickly (lol). So I took inspiration from what I made years ago, but wanted to simplify it. For example, in my original prototypes, objects could move diagonally, and you could push multiple objects. I removed those ideas, and started making a prototype with much more simple rules.

You can see how I kept the logs, rocks, and holes.

You'll also notice that I don't worry about graphics at first :-). I aimed for simple readable JavaScript code that I could easily hack at, try new ideas, and edit levels using a text editor.

October 2021

October 2021

Quitting our Jobs

In January of this year, we had saved up enough money to take a year off of work, so decided to have a go at making a game company. We launched Pocket Pulp.

We originally thought we could finish the game by April, and we wanted to have products out before April, so we spent time making other puzzle games.

We made a card game, Monster Dedux, and successfully funded it on Kickstarter. We made a daily wooden puzzle game dotris, inspired a little bit by Wordle. And most recently we made a brainteaser wooden puzzle called The Pig Pen Puzzle.

These were a lot of fun to make, and they also bought us some time to keep working on the video game. They also bought us time to level up our skills.

Second Prototype

Since I wanted to make the game in assembly language, I started on a second prototype written in JavaScript that would be very close to the implementation on the GBA.

This prototype allowed me to plan ahead on the different functions I would need, and eventually break them down and translate them to assembly. This was really important for me because I wasn't used to writing assembly language at the time.

January 2021

January 2021

Work on the Game

Using the second prototype, we slowly started working on the actual game! Imagine that! Here is a version where we just got the walls drawn:

July 2022

July 2022

September 2022

September 2022

October 2022

October 2022

Work Continues

It is about to be December, and we are still hard at work! Here's roughly where we are today:

  • Puzzles: 100%
  • Game engine: 100%
  • Story: 100%
  • World Map: 95%
  • Title screen, pause screen, save, loading: 90%
  • Music: 75%
  • Cut scenes: 75%
  • Sound effects: 0%
  • Credits: 0%

We need to get over the finish line so that everything is done enough. Then we can move on to the polishing phase of making everything better. When we hit that phase, we will be able to stop working on it at any moment and launch if we think it's ready.

Challenges So Far

  1. I wanted to write the game in assembly language, so I made my own assembler. I did this both to help learn assembly, and because I enjoy making my own tools.
  2. I spent a lot of time researching sound on the GBA because I know it's notorious for having crappy sound. I created my own sound engine in order to output the highest quality sound I possibly could.
  3. Casey is a creative person, but never made pixel art before this project, so she has been leveling up her skill this entire time. One benefit of making physical puzzles is that gave Casey more time to practice her art. She's come a long way, if you compare her skill now compared to a game we made when she first started a year ago.
  4. One last big challenge is shipping on a physical cart and saving on those carts. I spent a lot of time researching how flash carts work, and wrote up a tutorial based on my findings. I still have some work to do to make sure the carts correctly save progress, but I've got it mostly working.

Thanks for reading, let me know if you have any questions!

If you're interested in our game, please follow our Kickstarter pre-launch page to be notified when we launch!


- Sean aka velipso // Inky and the Alien Aquarium

Administrator
avatar
Joined:
Posts: 47

I'm so excited for this! I saw some of the screenshots & videos that you've shared over the months, but I didn't know the initial idea went back so far, nor that it had gone through so many iterations!

It's also remarkable just how much of it is done from scratch. There's the classic trap of spending so much time on your engine / tooling that you never get around to finishing the game you intended to make... yet here you are defying it with style. In fact I don't think I've ever seen a game developed from the bottom-up to this degree, it's like the complete opposite to what I did (cobbling together existing tools and swapping out / redoing parts as I grew more comfortable with them).

Good luck with the last hurdles! And if you need playtesters you know where to find them :D

Moderator
Joined:
Posts: 5

Looks great!

Is it going to be a free game, or are you going to sell it?
If that's the case, are you try to sell a physical edition?

Member
Joined:
Posts: 12

Yes, we're going to do a kickstarter, with a limited physical release, most likely 200 carts (with box+manual). The digital version will also be for sale... right now we're just planning on selling the .gba ROM file (with soundtrack+manual PDF), but it would be great if I could package it with an emulator to make things easier for people. We'll see.


- Sean aka velipso // Inky and the Alien Aquarium

Member
Joined:
Posts: 12

We're gearing up for the Kickstarter, but first we wanted to see if anyone was willing to help us playtest the game.

If you're interested in playtesting (or want to read more about the game), check out our landing page here:

https://forms.pulp.biz/inky-and-the-alien-aquarium-a-new-homebrew-for-the-game-boy-advance

EDIT: Also, I've just realized that we haven't posted a screenshot recently -- Casey has been hard at work on the graphics, she is pretty much done, and I think it looks great:

Jan 2023 Screenshot


- Sean aka velipso // Inky and the Alien Aquarium

Member
Joined:
Posts: 12

We just released our free demo! Sign up here and get it emailed to you:

https://forms.pulp.biz/inky-and-the-alien-aquarium-a-new-homebrew-for-the-game-boy-advance-0

I'm really curious what people think :)


- Sean aka velipso // Inky and the Alien Aquarium

Member
Joined:
Posts: 12

We've been busy printing off the boxes and manuals, and released the trailer a couple days ago... the Kickstarter should launch in the next month or so... it always feels like it's right around the corner, then we realize we need to do something else.

On the plus side, if you choose to participate in the Kickstarter, we will be able to fulfill it very quickly, because all the leg work is done!

Here's the trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TwJDd48op3M


- Sean aka velipso // Inky and the Alien Aquarium

Member
Joined:
Posts: 12

Our Kickstarter launched today!

We're very excited!

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/pocketpulp/inky-and-the-alien-aquarium-new-gba-homebrew-puzzle-game


- Sean aka velipso // Inky and the Alien Aquarium

Administrator
avatar
Joined:
Posts: 47

Heck yeah! Pledged, wishing you the best of luck!

Member
Joined:
Posts: 3

velipso wrote:

Yes, we're going to do a kickstarter, with a limited physical release, most likely 200 carts (with box+manual). The digital version will also be for sale... right now we're just planning on selling the .gba ROM file (with soundtrack+manual PDF), but it would be great if I could package it with an emulator to make things easier for people. We'll see.

Hi there - just joined the forums today...

We happen to be adding GBx support to our retro gaming app/platform/game engine Argon. If you are up for it, perhaps you'd like to work with us to be the first GBA game that gets wrapped with our engine into a stand-alone app?

Here is an example of a NES game we wrapped and published on Google Play on behalf of the dev:

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.markspace.retro.PlummetChallengeGame

(we also currently support Amazon App Store and Microsoft Win11 app store)

You can DM me here, or find me on linkedin... Brian Hall