When I worked on the GameBoy Advance title Animaniacs: Lights, Camera, Action! we also put together an official walkthrough for the game. The game was however severely delayed, and the walkthrough was forgotten and never publicly released. I found it on my hard drive the other day and though it deserves to be released as intended.
I thought I could also share some more or less interesting trivia about the walkthrough and the development of the game.
- The walkthrough contains many concept art drawing by Dennis Gustafsson that have never been seen outside the development team.
- When playing the game you only see a small portion of the map. It’s hard to get the full picture. But the walkthrough shows all maps in the full size! These maps were generated by the level editor we used.
- Speaking about the level editor, it was custom built for this game by one of the developers, Ola Zandelin. It was later re-used for another isometric game called Looney Tunes: Back in Action. (This game was actually released two years before Animaniacs, which was delayed due to publishing problems).
- In the walkthrough, all objects and enemies you see are placed on their starting positions. You can also see some objects that are hidden in the real game, but in the editor show up as pink squares. What you don’t see are all the nodes and paths connecting the nodes that we used to control the movements of sprites and other objects, as seen in this screenshot:
- If you look closely at the screenshot you can see that some sprites actually show in front of high backgrounds structures such as trees and walls. Why is that? Well, the game is isometric, a form of pseudo 3D. In order to pull this off on a GBA we took advantage of the hardware layers it offered. These layer could be sorted on top of each other. So walls etc were actually drawn on different layers allowing you to walk behind them. Clever, but not without its problems. For examples, such walls could not overlap, and the background artists needed to pay attention to what layer they worked on or else the sprites would be displayed in front of the wall instead of behind.
- Between levels in the game you see cutscenes progressing the story, and before each level you also see a “movie poster” for the next level. These all look like images, but actually are not. Instead they is simply a tiny “levels” created with the editor and using the same sprites and graphics as the rest of the game. Besides a convenient way to crate these cutscenes, it also saved us a lot of memory.
- My part in the development team was to place all sprites and create their behaviors. Normally you would use a programming language to do this, but the level editor had a built in scripting tool where I could build behaviors using various pre-programmed actions and states that the script jumped between. It was a very fast and creative way to “program” the enemy behaviors.
- The game was released on both GameBoy Advance and GameBoy DS. The DS version does not utilize the extra screen for anything useful though. This is because the this version was an afterthought. The game was developed purely for the GBA, before the DS even existed. It was finished, but due to publishing problems it was never released. Two years later, the game was picked up by another publisher, who hired some other developer to port it to the DS as well.
- We had a requirement to squeeze the game into a 4MB cartridge. It took a lot of really hard work to achieve this, both with compression algorithms and manual optimizations of content. In the end however, it was released in an 8MB cartride for some reason. Sigh…
Animaniacs: Lights, Camera, Action! did not receive much praise when released. While not the best game ever made, I still think it deserves to be noticed. The plot and dialog is wacky. Graphics and scenery is full of tiny details if you look closely. The maps are big and coherent, and contain lots of hidden areas with bonus items. In all it’s not a bad game. Just not excellent either.
Finally, let me share an unused sprite from the development archives. The idea was to have a “fun-meter”, indicated by a face. It cracks me up every time I see it!