Visit the official Decaying Orbit site.
When I first heard about Sony's Net Yaroze I just knew I had
to have one. Here was a chance to create games for a modern
game system while it was still somewhat early in its lifecycle.
So it was with excitement in 1997 that I opened the package containing
the magic black PSOne and assorted manuals/software.
Never having done 3D before I thought the sensible place to
start was in the 2D world. I tinkered around for a while before
a game started brewing in my head. I was a big fan of the
back in college. Think of it as
a more modern version of Artillery or that silly QBasic game
hurling bananas at each other.
You have a stationary unit like a tank or gun (or gorilla).
During your turn you select an angle and power for your shot. You
fire your shot and watch as it arcs up and down, hopefully landing on
your enemy. You have to compensate for the wind too. Scorched Earth
has tons of other customizable options as well.
I thought I would make a game similar to those except it would
be set in space with full two-dimensional movement. You would
select your angle and power and fire your rocket from the starting
position, hopefully making it land (collide) with the target. (Much
later I found the Flash game
which is extremely similar in concept.)
The idea was to have your rocket influenced by the gravitational
pull of planets scattered about the screen. Nebulae were also
in the plan to spice things up a little more. The neat thing
about them is I could make them do whatever I wanted. Some slowed
you down (like molassas), some sped you up, while others push you
in a specific direction. So the game known as Planet Graviton
As I continued work on the game I began to wonder how fun it
would be to have no control over your rocket after the initial
launch. So I decided to allot a small amount of fuel allowing
the player to alter the rocket's course slightly during flight.
From there it was an easy step to increase the fuel and make
it replentish over time so that you could fly around the screen
at will. Of course with the flight aspect no longer much of a
challenge I had to add things to blow up :)
Thus came the turrets. My silly programmer-art was eventually
replaced by Dave's skillful renditions. From there it just
snowballed into this much-too-large game involving a plot to get
home, enemy bosses, different races, an upgradable ship, beacons
to activate, level bonuses, a ship energy allocation system, a
decent in-game menu system, cheats, and background music taken
from any CD you insert. Whew!
By this time I changed the game's name to Escape Velocity
which seemed particularly fitting. Unfortunately that name was
already taken and I received a pleasant cease-and-desist email
from Ambrosia Software ordering me to stop development. Of course
they had never actually played the game so they had know way of
knowing if I had copied them (I hadn't). I volunteered to change
the name and they seemed to let the issue slide. Even though I
like the name Escape Velocity I think Decaying Orbit
works equally well.
In August 1999 Decaying Orbit was featured on a cover disc
for the UK Official Playstation Magazine. This is the thing I am
most proud of in my game making "career". It is neat to have an
official cover disc with my game along with a little blurb in the
magazine itself. Many thanks to everyone that sent me copies for
my personal files (Bob Shand and George Bain in particular).
As with all games, some elements were never realized. I never
added enemy ships that actually fly around - all the enemies are
in the form of stationary turrets. Also, I only finished one of
the five planned galaxies. We got to see the Spaarj, but not
the C'Thar, Mulba, Bydrax, or dreaded Liaobec Empire. The main
reason for this was the limitations of the Yaroze. With only
1.5MB of RAM to play with I ran out of room to add more content.
Before I gave up development I had devised a way to reclaim some of
that space by compression and other methods, but it was an
uphill battle. Plus I was burned out and wanted a change. Two
years is a long time to spend on one project.
Still, I will always have a soft spot for Decaying Orbit and
hope to return to it in some fashion one day. I received many
positive emails from people that played the cover disc. Maybe
Visit the official Decaying Orbit site.
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© 1999-2007 Scott Cartier