Rad Raygun, the Mega Man-inspired XBox Live Indie Game, has been gaining fans since it's recent release. The throwback game title is part of a lifelong gaming journey for programmer and Corinth, Texas resident Chris Bryant.
"I was born in 1981, so the Nintendo Entertainment System was my first console," Bryant recalled. "But I can distinctly remember watching my older brother play Asteroids and Missile Command on the Atari 2600. To this day, just seeing the Asteroids cartridge brings back some good memories."
While continuing to game as he grew older, Bryant notes that even as the technology advanced, his heart remained with the classics, noting Super Mario Bros., a game he states he still plays today.
"I know it's cliche, but I still play it in absolute awe," he said of the 1985 Nintendo classic. "How did they get it so right? The graphics, sound and play mechanics were not only groundbreaking but flawlessly executed."
Bryant's love for games quickly turned into a dream of designing them, a goal he states started before he was even old enough to drive.
"I spent most of my childhood trying to learn anything that could get me in the video game industry, such as programming and 3D animation," he said. "I can remember being 13 or 14 and wanting absolutely nothing for Christmas. All I wanted was knowledge. I wanted to know how to make games. I would make little text games in QBasic. I would also download other people’s source code and dissect it, trying to figure out how it worked. In 10th grade Computer Science class, I built my first two actual games, a clone of Pong and a clone of Frogger. In fact, I got in trouble for sharing my source code for Frogger because my classmates were playing that instead of paying attention in class! But, it all worked out...the teacher said he’d let it go if I shared the source code with him as well."
Two years ago, the idea for Rad Raygun came into Bryant's head. He reached out to a peer with the concept.
"I still have the e-mail to Chris Hernandez, a co-worker of mine and Rad Raygun's creative director," Bryant said. "His reply of 'I'm absolutely 1000 percent into it' was huge. I knew I had an amazing talent on my team that I could rely on for not just artwork, but a creative storyline as well."
For the first year, everything for the game was developed for the PC version, according to Bryant. The programmer recalls issues with long load times when finally tested on the XBox 360, requiring a significant amount of time re-writing the code in a way that wouldn't interfere with the level design already completed for the indie title. With just days to go before launch, more problems with load times came to light.
"The Xbox 360 is indeed a powerhouse, but only when used correctly," Bryant noted. "The engine had serious memory management issues that weren't visible on the PC. I spent days tweaking and optimizing the engine in hopes of alleviating the issue. This was the ultimate low for me. My team dedicated their nights and weekends to this project for over two years and, only two days from launch, I wasn't sure if it would ever see the light of day."
With a looming deadline, Bryant managed to find an issue he'd overlooked numerous times.
"While examining the game's memory usage for the 100th time, I noticed that the maps were allocating way more memory than they should," he noted. "It turns out that there was a bug in the level editor and the maps were exported with a ton of extraneous data at the end of the files. I wrote a tool to clean up the extraneous data from the map files, reloaded the game on the 360, and all of my framerate issues were gone."
Following Rad Raygun's launch, Bryant says while he now feels a little extra pressure to make his next game, he is enjoying hearing back from fans of the game.
"I'm still trying to let it all sink in," he said. "It sounds cheesy but this is really a dream come true. It really means a lot to me when I hear that people 'get it' and are able to connect with the game on a nostalgic level, sit back and enjoy the ride."
Rad Raygun is available for 80 Microsoft points at this link.
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