Forgotten DarkBASIC Projects
December 2, 2021 at 3:15 AM
For those not ready to get their hands dirty with a tried and true programming language like C or C++, several solutions designed with game development in mind emerged in the 2000's. These products were very popular with amateurs wanting to focus more on getting their game design down rather than worrying so much about programming all the essential functions responsible for putting it all together.
I remember using Game Maker at one point for creating a rather generic horizontal STG, that was sometime back in 2008... but I mainly just used the sample 1945 clone for reference, didn't think to try referring to one of those tutorials on YouTube. Plus, since I was a full time Mac user at that point and didn't have Boot Camp or VMware loaded on anything, I had to do all my work on a shared living room computer, meaning I didn't have as much time as I would've liked to for working on these sorts of things.
There was also The Games Factory/Multimedia Fusion and Flash/Shockwave, the latter pair being very popular for creating numerous free online games. Shockwave was especially notable for powering some big budget MMOs to sell certain products; I wasted a lot of time on MyCoke back when that was still around, basically Habbo but with Coca-Cola advertising all over. I'm not even sure why I played it, because I always despised soda. Just trying to catch up with the coolest kids, I suppose, even though by then I must've been way too far ahead of anyone in my classes. Did you really expect me to wait years before getting so big into cool internet shit?
Anyway, one other beginner's option that was available was DarkBASIC, which seems to place more emphasis on programming, but as the name implies, it uses a more approachable syntax and more ready-made functions out of the box to allow you to make a workable 3D game in less time. Of course you could probably pull it off similarly with a good library used with a more professional language like C, but when it comes down to being an absolute novice with programming, I would say any form of BASIC is an excellent starting point. That's how many programmers got their start in the 80's, when many microcomputers came with BASIC in a ROM or on a disk.
Programming for yourself can lead to some very interesting results, especially when you're just getting started; you may end up with something that's really broken but charming, and/or you may have a little something special that ends up garnering a small but passionate following. I'd like to talk about a couple of these obscure projects today...
Doom 6666 falls into the category of "wow, this is comically bad, but you can't not love it for trying to be something". It doesn't feel like Doom in the slightest, but it's a quick one-man project that's available to download for free, so you can't really fault it too much.
I found the menu interface hilarious for its insane spinning 3D text everywhere; I imagine that must've been what was going on in the programmer's mind when this was being developed. Something so awesome, something made of pure ecstasy.
The control scheme is really awkward, even for someone who tends to play Doom with the keyboard only. This is compounded by the enemy combat being super cheap; once one finds you, you're guaranteed to get aimbotted bigtime; the only way you can survive long enough is by maintaining a distance so you don't get hit as much by the bad guys, and have a steady hand to aim the rifle at each of them.
Doom 6666 resembles Half-Life far more than Doom (especially since it takes a ton of assets from the former); you're not out in hell slaying demons, you're at war with marines still in boot camp. There's only one cacodemon that goes through a teleporter up ahead which you never really get to encounter. Only three weapons are available in this game; judging by the HUD design, it seems there was supposed to be more, but that just never came to be.
Even so, Doom 6666 could've been more bland; it could've been nothing but a flat open room where all you do is shoot evil bad guys. It did try to implement a more complete environment that would've been expected from more professional games by 2003; there is an electrified water puzzle, a couple of elevators, a laser-guarded hydraulic door, a teleporter, an in-game ending cutscene, and a very slight bit of attention to detail with those computer terminals found in one room.
Some will complain a lot about how bad this game is, but it's really not so much about the game as it is the process of someone getting started with programming. No one ever matched John Carmack's level when they wrote their first complete program, but they were certainly inspired by him or someone else, and they tried to make something cool to share with their friends and the world. That's what really matters here.
Kirby Cosmic Chaos
But if you're really looking for something special, might I tell you about another fangame that was already LOADED to the brim with possibilities... for a few years, Kirby Cosmic Chaos was also programmed in DarkBASIC. Unlike the last game I mentioned, this looked like it could've been something truly grand. A team comprised of ten members, jointly known as Azurarok and Niftihalo Studios, had been assembled for this project when it was actively developed.
Two demos are out in the open right now - the final DarkBASIC demo from 2009, and one from 2010 rewritten in C++. Since this is technically an article about DarkBASIC, I'll only focus on the former, but I must say that even though these were only demos, they were a huge deal back then because they already brought far more ideas to the table, and we were starved of news regarding Kirby Wii. (the actual name of that game varies depending on where you live... fuck regional naming)
Some of the ideas Kirby Cosmic Chaos puts to action aren't brand new; that 2.5D camera style already existed in Kirby 64, as did free roaming 3D movement in one official cancelled Kirby project, but only now is the latter idea returning with the upcoming title Kirby and the Forgotten Land. One thing yet to be seen on the official side of things is the inclusion of RPG elements which Cosmic Chaos implemented. Leveling up through combat puts an intriguing spin on an otherwise familiar gameplay style.
The visuals and animations in Kirby Cosmic Chaos look highly authentic, though the gameplay does take some time to get used to; since every enemy has quite a bit of HP, you'll need to evade a lot until you reach a high enough level where you can sort of run through everything easily.
Being a Kirby fan in the late 2000's was tough, really. At this point, there hadn't been a single mainline Kirby game on a console for close to a decade, and the series' reputation was dwindling as a result of Squeak Squad being notoriously easy even compared to other Kirby games. This reputation did recover somewhat when Kirby Super Star Ultra dropped, and introduced "The True Arena" which really managed to put up a fight. Still, there wasn't yet something out there strong enough to satiate the rest of us...
...so to see a band of dedicated fans scattered across the globe come together to make something so ambitious themselves was beyond inspiring. By 2009 when I was going full force into becoming a Kirby fanatic, so much so that I was racking up a large handful of plushes from an import store, this project made me internally shed a tear; random internet people got up and made something that left me awestruck, and I wanted to bring myself to try making all sorts of things related to Kirby.
I made drawings, I created a 3D model and animated it, and for a while, I even operated a forum nobody knew about. They weren't good, but I was damn proud of them. I discussed some ideas with my friends on what kind of Kirby fangame we could make. After I dabbled in Blender for a bit, we also floated the idea of creating a live action/CGI hybrid YouTube series called "Kirby: The Other World Story", which I guess amounts to exactly what you might expect: "whoa wait what the hell is kerbe doing in my house ???" If that actually got made, I probably would've seen it as super cringy today, but I'm sure some people would have loved it.
Unfortunately, the harshness of junior high school and toxic masculinity killed my dreams; I wasn't the same person anymore, and as soon as those nightmares were behind me, I kept getting constantly detracted by a compulsion to make more videos... so basically, an entire fucking decade went down the drain. But don't worry, I'm really starting to pick up from where I left off now; I've written a few programs in C and 8086 assembly, and I think I have a better idea of how to manipulate video memory with the small experiments I've done earlier.
As for Kirby Cosmic Chaos, the entire project seems to have been completely abandoned, with the last update video posted at the start of 2013. The creator of the project seems to have vanished after one last post in 2017 proclaiming "about time to close up shop" as a result of the Star Allies trailer. Before then, pretty much all of the team had disbanded according to this statement.
As much as real life stuff has to come first, it's really tragic to see a project that made so much progress fall flat, because that gameplay footage I watched left a massive impact on me, as did some of the other Kirby fan works that appear to have been lost to time. I know Minon said no to this in the aforementioned statement, but... it's been eleven years since the last demo dropped. I'm sure many people with the knowledge would love to continue the project if the assets were released, no matter how messy they supposedly are. That way, too, it should have a better chance of surviving Nintendo's violent attitude towards fan projects of late.
Someday, man... someday I'll have something with this kind of energy out there. (no, I'm not making a Kirby game if that's what you're asking) After I finish Project Sunfish, I've really gotta get moving. KCCh, forever in our hearts.
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