ActRaiser has been one of my favorite games for about as long as I can remember. Recently Square Enix surprised me with the release of a remake, Actraiser Renaissance, so now seemed like a good time to write about this old project.
Every year or so I play through the original ActRaiser all the way to the end and enjoy every minute of it. Naturally, this means I want to make a game inspired by it. But ActRaiser is a complicated game, split into two distinct genres: side-scrolling platformer and town simulator. The platforming part is fine, but I've always been more interested in the town simulator.
I find the actual game design of ActRaiser's town simulator nebulous, something I have a hard time describing in detail. I'm not really interested in directly copying game mechanics anyway, so I figured a good place to start would be to just throw down some assets and see what happens.
Thanks to fine resources like RPGClassics, extracting the sprites was easy and straightforward. Then I imported them into Unity and started hacking.
The tiny little people that run around in ActRaiser are truly delightful, so I wanted to see them moving up and down my screen as soon as possible. This created the need for a pathfinding algorithm, my favorite being A*.
This was around 2017, when I barely knew how to use Unity. So even though I had a public A* implementation of my own, I used a guide I found online to help me do it "the Unity way" which is where I struggled at the time.
The implementation had some issues, but worked well enough. Next: what's the gameplay? Whenever I play ActRaiser I enjoy the simplicity of it, but I also crave just a little bit more. Some kind of resource-gathering mechanics would probably scratch that itch, so I hacked on that idea.
Within a few hours, the little peons could be commanded to gather resources from nearby trees. I didn't have any "wood" sprite from the assets so peons grab dogs from the trees (to represent wood). Bark!
Peons could also be commanded to create houses and even windmills for some reason. None of these entities did anything yet, but it was fun to build a little bit and watch a tiny town (of sorts) grow over time.
Project Tiny was a fun little project, something to help me learn Unity while getting to spend some intimate time with one of my favorite video games. I didn't stick with it for long, but I'm pleased to say that it's led to another more successful project. Stay tuned!