Decaying Orbit
Decaying Orbit

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 shareware game Scorched Earth back in college. Think of it as a more modern version of Artillery or that silly QBasic game with the Gorillas hurling bananas at each other.

Scorched Earth

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 Spaced Penguin, 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 was born.

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 :)

Decaying Orbit - Early programmer art

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.

Decaying Orbit - Still under construction

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.

Decaying Orbit - OPSM demo shot

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 some day.

Visit the official Decaying Orbit site.

This web page and all other pages on this site are © 1999-2007 Scott Cartier