4 Hugues Ross - Blog: Back to the Maze - 2 - Setting Our Sights
Hugues Ross


Back to the Maze - 2 - Setting Our Sights

I had my fun in the last post, now it's time to get a little more serious. If I want this project to be successful, I need to plan a little in advance.

What Do I Want?

Before jumping deciding into this project, I think it's worth stepping back and deciding if I really want to do this. In this case, it's not actually a hard decision to back up. I was never really content with how the game wound up the first time around, that much is made clear by the release and postmortem. I've toyed with the idea of remaking the game for several years, but it never really felt like the right time. With Halberd shuttered, my slate is now pretty clean.

My drive here is pretty simple. I think AMAZE was a fun concept, but the execution was really lacking. With my vastly improved programming and art skills, I think I'm in a good position to do it justice. That informs my goal:

"Take the original concept of AMAZE, and turn it into a fun and polished result"

About the Project

Overall, AMAZE is actually on the smaller end. At almost 4kloc it's slightly bigger than Cloudy Climb, but dwarfed by Halberd and DFGame. Besides the antique rendering, it has a few odd quirks:
  • A custom scripting language, which looks like this:
    Component Physics yvel 0
    Component Physics xvel 2
    Wait 48
    Component Physics xvel 0
    Component Physics yvel 2
    Wait 48
    Component Physics yvel 0
    Component Physics xvel -2
    Wait 48
    Component Physics xvel 0
    Component Physics yvel -2
    Wait 48
    • And yes, those times are measured in frames
  • A data-driven pseudo-ECS, but with (originally) no concept 'prefabs'. Besides some later parts of the project, every object in every level was made by hand.
    • And where prefabs were made, the files looked like this:
      0 4 0 0
      ?P Kill . !c Info solid false = Destroy .
  • A sprite format that looks rather similar to DFGame's, but with separate images per-frame instead of spritesheets. This was the original prototype that eventually led to DFGame's (improved) sprite assets.
  • My first ever attempt at graphical development tools, in the form of a simple asset exporter. This was needed, because the asset format is compressed binary for some reason.

Baby Steps

Starting over completely from scratch doesn't seem like a great idea. Instead, my current plan is to handle this remake in stages:
  1. Mockups
  2. Recreate the engine, and get the original game's data working in it
  3. Upgrade the engine, adding features and replacing the godawful custom scripting language with something sane
  4. Build simple development tools, validate them by remastering the original game's content with new assets
  5. Build a better game with the result, and include the redone original levels as a fun little bit of side content
This is a fair bit of work, but I'm optimistic because it's broken up into concrete sub-projects with well-defined endpoints. If I ever get tired of the project, I can just wrap up the stage that I'm on and set it aside for a while.

Looking Deeper

Just making a list is all well and good, but I think it would be good practice to try and predict the future. My predictions are often wrong and I don't believe in ship dates, but it might be interesting to compare predictions with reality as I progress.


As I mentioned in part 1, this all sprung from a desire for mockups. Since that was my original goal, it stands to reason that I should do that first. This is a simple art project, so there's no real risk here. I expect a couple weeks of work for a couple simple mockups, and judging by the original screenshots there's a solid guarantee of improvement regardless of what I do here.

Time estimate: 1-3 weeks

Recreate the Engine

This is an interesting one. Given that I'm changing language and underlying APIs, it's safe to say that I'm going to have to commit to a full rewrite. On the other hand, I don't have to worry about tools, exporters, or asset creation. In the old codebase, that's a modest 2.5kloc and I have a spec to build against.

On a third hand, there's one possible stumbling block: Asset loading. AMAZE had fully custom binary asset files (because of course it did), and I'll have to translate those into some DFGame equivalent when loading. This, combined with a custom scripting language and nonsense code, could create some problems. Just to be safe, I think it's worth padding this figure.

Time estimate: 3 1/2months

Beyond the initial engine rewrite, I'm not confident in any predictions. Stage 3 could last forever if I kept adding features, and beyond that requires more design and scope considerations. Still, what I've looked at here feels like enough to wrap up most of the year.

I haven't yet decided how I want to handle this project from a blogging standpoint. I know for certain that I'll be capping off each stage with a post, but I haven't yet worked out how much I want to do in-between. We'll see when we get there.

Next Time: Actual Real Progress

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