freestone Build a Pixel Ski Park

Towards the end of 2008 we found ourselves, not unusually, sitting in a pub – bemoaning the fact that very few of us would get the chance to go skiing in the upcoming months. Something clearly had to be done about this sad state of affairs. And done quickly. In fact, to coin a phrase, if we couldn’t get to the mountains, then the mountains would have to come to us – virtually of course!

The answer, we figured, was to create a computer game. The name was a given – or was that just something to do with where we were at the time? ‘Totally Piste.’ It was perfect. It was inspirational. It was instant. And for the following six weeks it was brought painstakingly to life before it was actually any fun at all.

And here’s how (if you’re anyway tecchie minded).

The game is built for the Adobe Flash Player platform, and behind it sits a PHP (server code) framework that allows the Flash game to work with a database holding scores, characters, user profiles and even courses. In fact one of the cool things – forgive the pun – about the game is its modular structure, meaning we can create new characters and courses rapidly. Indeed, we’ll be launching a series of new courses over the next few months, so don’t think just because you’ve mastered the first one that you can leave it at that!

The design and build of the game was a great exercise for our development team. In aiming to achieve a retro, arcade game feel we drew many of the graphic elements at pixel-by-pixel size, which when you compare it to much of the work we do, is pretty small. We also had to build a game engine from scratch that could provide a ‘gravity’ effect, handling ice, jumps, falls, collisions, etc. And finally we needed to build a secure user registration system capable of storing players’ statistics and scores. In fact for something that looks quite simple and plays so intuitively, there’s quite a lot of complicated stuff going on under the hood.

Upon launching ‘Totally Piste’ via email to our clients, we were delighted with their reaction. In fact it’s even rumoured that some have even cancelled their planned skiing holidays in preference to sneaking into the office for a week or two to play it.

Why not have a go yourself? Beware though, it’s very addictive. – Click here to give it a try!