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This chapter is from the book

Designing the Game

The design of the Meteor Defense game flows directly from the overview of the game that you just went through. The game is well suited for the starry background that you created and used in previous hours. It's also fairly obvious that the meteors should be represented by animated sprites similar to those found in the Roids program example from the previous hour. Because you must be able to detect a collision between a meteor and a city, the cities also need to be modeled as sprites even though they don't move. Representing cities as sprites also gives you the freedom to hide them whenever they are destroyed by a meteor.


In case you were wondering, the terms meteor, meteorite, and meteoroid are all closely related. A meteoroid is a chunk of rock in space that ranges in size from a speck of dust to 100 meters across. A meteor is the bright flash of light generated by a meteoroid when it travels through Earth's atmosphere. And finally, a meteorite is a meteor that has survived the transition through Earth's atmosphere and comes to rest on the Earth's surface.

The missiles in the game are ideal candidates for sprites because they move and collide with meteors. This is generally a good rule of thumb when it comes to deciding which graphical objects should be represented as sprites and which ones can simply be placed in the background: If the object needs to move, animate, or collide with other objects, it should be a sprite. A good application of this test is the guns used to fire missiles in the Meteor Defense game. The guns don't move, they don't animate, and it isn't important to detect a collision between them and anything else. Therefore, you can simply include the guns in the background image for the game.

Wait a minute, I just mentioned using a background image, but I already said that the background is the starry background from earlier in the book. The Meteor Defense game actually uses a hybrid background in that it displays an image of the ground over the starry background. This allows you to get the benefits of the animated starry sky while also showing the ground where the cities are located—not to mention the guns that fire the missiles. To help you get a feel for how the Meteor Defense game is laid out, take a look at Figure 19.1.

Figure 19.1Figure 19.1 The Meteor Defense game consists of a starry background, a ground image with guns, several cities, incoming meteors, and missiles.

The figure reveals how the guns are part of the background image that appears along the bottom edge of the game screen. Keep in mind that a starry background still appears in the majority of the screen—the background image just shows the ground where the cities are located. The city sprites are laid on top of the edge of the ground so that they blend into the ground image. The missile and meteor sprites move around on top of the starry background, while the score is displayed centered near the top of the game screen. One last piece of the game not shown in the figure is the target sprite that you guide with the mouse, much like the target sprite you saw in the Battle Office game from earlier in the book.

Now that you understand the basics of the game and how it is laid out, it's time to examine what kinds of sprites need to be used. Following is a list of the sprites that go into the Meteor Defense game:

  • City sprites

  • Meteor sprites

  • Missile sprites

  • Explosion sprites

  • Target sprite

The city sprites appear along the bottom of the screen, as shown in Figure 19.1. The meteor sprites are created at random, and fall from the top of the screen toward the cities at the bottom. The missile sprites are fired from the gun locations on the screen upward toward the meteors. I haven't mentioned the explosion sprites yet, and that's because there isn't a whole lot to them. An explosion sprite appears whenever a meteor is blown up or a city is destroyed and involves displaying an animation of a fiery explosion. Finally, the target sprite appears as a crosshair that you guide with the mouse to aim missiles that you launch via the left mouse button.

Beyond the sprites, the Meteor Defense game also requires several bitmaps. Following are the seven bitmap images required of the game:

  • Background ground image

  • City image

  • Meteor image (animated)

  • Missile image

  • Explosion image (animated)

  • Crosshair target image

  • Game over image

These images should make sense based on the description of the game and the sprites that you've learned about.

With the graphical objects squared away, you need to turn your attention to the other information that must be maintained by the game. For example, the score needs to be maintained throughout the game, as well as the number of remaining cities; the game ends when all four of the cities are destroyed by meteors. This is a game in which it is important to increase the difficulty level as the game progresses. So, it's important to store the difficulty level of the game and gradually increase it as the player continues to keep his cities protected. The last critical piece of information to maintain is a Boolean variable to keep track of whether the game is over.

To recap, the design of the Meteor Defense game has led us to the following pieces of information that must be managed by the game:

  • The number of cities remaining

  • The score

  • The difficulty level

  • A Boolean game over variable

With this information in mind, you're now almost ready to take the big step of assembling the code for the Meteor Defense game. However, there is a modification you need to make to the game engine to support a critical feature of the game, and ultimately improve the game engine for future games.

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