Jolly Roger

Last Update: July 2013

What's all this about: Join the ruthless space outlaw "Jolly" and her alien companion "Roger" in their earth drilling, mineral snatching, head crushing adventures inspired by games like digdug, digger and boulder dash. 

- I'm collaborating with a friend in my spare time so progress is slow but there is enough content to make a couple of levels.

July 2013 - Got the first boss implemented, also we have a map editor to produce new maps. Added some new text about arcade mode
May 2013 - Added a list of implemented aliens so far. 


Jolly Roger will be a slightly more complicated digger game with different factions following different objectives rather than tons of monsters who try to swarm and kill the player. There will be a race of aliens who are slaved by the mining corporations to dig out minerals. These slave miners would not chase the player but dig tunnels looking for minerals instead. There will be marines who have the objective of gunning down the hero so they will not care about minerals but hunt the player instead. Will the player play it safe and handle the marines or will he rush to snatch minerals before the miners find them? Some planets will also have native lifeforms. Such as an alien offspring who will be hostile to anyone who is foolish enough to break its egg or another alien who will pass through soil without digging and will be immune to the physical damage of falling rocks.

Other notable differences will be boss fights using digger game mechanics and collectable items and power-ups to help the player during the raids. A shop will be available before travelling to planets where the players can exchange collected minerals and rare items with power-ups and various other goodies.

Initially I was planning to have realistic proportions for the characters but the tiles were too small so decided to go the bloated head way (as always, so typical of me). It makes distinguishing characters much easier.

Jolly Roger will have a nice comic book fee to the game by using written sound effects. These things are also useful when you turn the sound down :)


The default way to play Jolly Roger would be the arcade mode where the players will get to select and play levels in any order they wish and completing levels will unlock even more levels. I don't think a story mode should be vital for a game of such mechanics but some people may enjoy their digging and looting to follow a story.

I hate games that include story modes for the sake of having a story mode, where you play a normal arcade game with annoying text bubbles before and after the action sequences so its better to include it only if there is enough spare time to achieve a good presentation and quality material to squeeze a proper story. We do plan to add a story mode but arcade will be our first priority.

Story mode will have a couple of connected levels per planet and conclude each planet with a boss fight. There will also be a shopping screen between every planet (something like every 5 levels.) where the players can convert collected valuables into items.

Jolly or Roger

Before landing on levels the player will get to choose which character they want as their avatar. Apart from their visual difference there should be some ability differences between them. I haven't thought of what these will be but Jolly can focus on strength and speed to avoid and de capacitate her opponents while Roger can use his psi abilities to stun opponents and stop projectiles and falling rocks. Collecting minerals will give them the morale boost needed to activate their special abilities. Maybe more abilities can be unlocked after successfully completing missions with a high level.  

After the level select screen (and briefing if the player chooses story mode) An ideal level would begin with an in-game intro. Its not actually an intro but more like a part of the game that keeps repeating itself for levels where the player uses a drill pod to enter. Despite the intro only last for a couple of seconds after playing a lot of times seeing it again and again may feel monotonous so there should be an option in the settings screen or a button to skip this part and allow the player to diver directly into the action. 

Screen fades in and the hero's drill-pod crash lands into the planet creating a tunnel similar to dig dugs starting position. (digdug used to enter from the side of the screen and dig a short tunnel before the game allowed the players to move) The slave miners don't move yet (maybe they were slacking off till they heard the crash noise)

After the smoke fades away the drill-pod fades out and the hero fades in, but at the same time 3 marines land on the top of the map with their dropships. The lazy miners will have exclamation marks on their heads as they prepare to dig

Some text can pop up to notify the player that the actual game has started and the marines can have speech bubbles coming out of their mouths, saying silly or interesting things (its just an excuse to delay them for a tiny while and give the player some time for a head start, the player can either start running or wait and read their funny speech bubbles) As the player is free to move. The miners start moving in random directions so the intro is over and the level starts.  

The marines will always drop a smoke screen before jumping down to chase the player. It just gives a more realistic feel before diving down. But this can be removed.

Marines cannot dig but move along tunnels made by the player or other aliens. If the marines meet native aliens they will start shooting the aliens first, giving the player some time to breath. If all marines are dead HQ will check via radio and call more re-enforcements via drop ships. marines can never be eliminated from the game as they will keep re-enforcing. However they can be delayed by using items like emp grenades to jam their transmission with the HQ.

There will be different types of marines found later on in the game like a power suit marine who doesn't have weapons but uses melee attacks once it locates and digs towards the player using motion trackers (which the player can avoid by standing still) or an engineer who can deploy various turrets on the map.

There will be various types of aliens usually differing from planet to planet, some will wonder around digging tunnels, another will pass through soil without digging and will be immune to the physical damage of falling rocks, some will mind control marines and others will spawn more aliens when killed etc.

Aliens and Enemies

 Here are a couple of nasties we've implemented so far.

Slave Miner
Aliens slaved by the mining corporations to handle their underground operations. Miners tend to  mind their own business, digging tunnels, searching for minerals to collect.

Marines are renegades and mercenaries hired by mining corporations to ensure the mining operations go smoothly. They are armed with rifles and smoke grenades. Marines cannot dig tunnels by themselves and depend on other units such as miners to navigate underground.

These are mechanically talented bunch of marines who carry deployable rocket turrets with them. Engineers are armed with rifles and similar to marines they cannot dig tunnels by themselves.

Special weapons against Piracy, these marines are armed with power suits that allow them to break through walls and rocks.

Big Dog
Robotic watchdogs armed with plasma weapons

Self detonating, small, levitating droid.

I dont want many weapons because the more power you give to the player the less skill it requires to tap a button and blast enemies. There should be a reasonable explanation to why the player wont be able to salvage weapons. Maybe marine weapons cannot be used because they are ID mapped to the marines. Maybe alien weapons cannot be picked up because the player doesnt have any knowledge about how to operate alien technology. Haven't really thought of a good explanation but Im sure the story mode will be able to clear these sorts of small details.

I would prefer items to be helpful rather than lethal. So instead of weapons I would like items such as emp grenades to disable machinery and marine radio communications to stop them from re-enforcing, smoke grenades that allow the player to move freely next to enemies, medkits and armour to give health bonus against ranged weapons, detectors to reveal the location of hidden items, traps that could be placed to stun enemies etc.

There should be hidden artefacts made by the natives or the ancients of the planets or maybe high tech gear dropped by the mining corporations. These rare items will be hidden inside the soil and can only be visible when the soil is removed (or with the help of other items like a scanner or metal detector etc.) The players wont know what to do or how much these items are worth but they will be able to recover the items and sell them at the market for a special price.

Unless its a boss fight or stated otherwise the objective of each level is to collect all the minerals found in the level and head for the exit.

Level design
Levels are pre-designed so there will be no random tile placement. However each level has a chance to have a single or couple of special collectable items that will be randomly placed and hidden under some soil tiles.

Level Progression in story mode
Each planet will consist of 5 or so levels.

  • Level 1 is the entry to the level. The hero will land via a dig-pod and will attempt to exit via a door while the marines will reinforce themselves via drop pods.
  • Part 2,3,4 the entry and exits will be via doors, marines will be reinforcing through the doors.
  • Part 5 boss fight. once the boss is dead the players will have to run to the top (grass) and send a flare to signal the mother ship. There will be a chance that a marine ship will notice the flare and start dropping bombs instead. Player has to act fast and avoid the bombs until the rescue pod arrives, jump in the pod and bail out. This should be something to keep the players on their toes as a nasty surprise in the ending. 
Level Progression in arcade mode
The default way to play Jolly + Roger would be the arcade mode where the players will get to select and play levels in any order they wish. Completing levels will unlock even more levels and each new level will be harder compared to the previous. The main objective of arcade mode will be similar to a time attack, where the player has to collect all the minerals (or any other loot) on the map and reach the dropship waiting at the surface of the planet.

Apart from the time attack mode there can be another arcade mode somewhat similar to Digdug's gameplay where the player has to kill all the enemies to complete the levels. However I don't want the player to use (if any) weapons because the more power you give to the player the less skill it requires to tap a button and blast enemies. This mode should be similar to a puzzle game where the player should think of alternate ways (like dropping a limited number of stones on the enemies, operating traps or using alien plants and other native life forms) to kill the enemies.

Completing levels (arcade and story modes)
The level should end once all the minerals are gone (doesn't matter who collects them, the player or the slaves) but should get a rating depending on the outcome.

Once a level is completed the player will be allowed several stars (actually skulls instead of stars may suit the space pirate thing better) depending on various factors. The total number of collected skulls will allow the player to unlock various trophies, new arcade levels or other stuff.

Time - total time spent on the level. The lower the better.
Minerals - number of minerals collected.
Deaths - number of times the player died.
Kills - number of enemies killed. Not sure if more the better or the less.
Secrets - number of secrets found.

Black Market
I wasn't actually planning to put a shop but it was the idea of the friend i was collaborating with. After thinking it through I agreed to have some place to spend all the collected stuff. The idea of spending what you earn to buy items can give the players a feeling of achievement of collecting minerals instead of grinding to finish the levels.

The Black Market is a joint run by the "Black" and "Brown" brothers - Players can spend their hard earned minerals and exchange the found artefacts to purchase equipment and weapons before moving towards the next planet. The market can be introduced with a UI where the player buys stuff.

Another way to make a market would be to create a level with a shop keeper and items left on the floor. the player can run through the items and pick up anything they want, confirming the transaction.

After each transaction (and while waiting for the transaction) the pirate bross can make funny comments regarding equipment or random stuff;

"There used to be 3 of us, bro black, bro brown, and bro cream... poor bro cream turned into whip cream when a rock fell on him. Naa not whip cream, more like RIP cream, damn!"

"Yo! ya sure this batch is clean? This minerals got some red stuff on it as if its fallen on someone?"

"Got a better drill for ya here if you're interested yar har har"

goes on forever but guess you get the idea...

Boss battles
What good is a story mode if there are no boss fights? Its kind of hard to use mechanics from digger and boulder dash games to make proper (well, not to say proper but any other than dropping stones on peoples heads) boss fights. We managed to implement the first boss of the story mode. (which we dont seem to focus on but still seem to work at the same time :) Its an indestructible tank that is supported by a bomber plan.

Other bosses will probably be giant machines operated by marines or powerful aliens of some sort.
The boss is a tank, impossible to damage. The tank keeps going left and right and has a gun that fires bullets at the player. (lots of slow bullets but easy to dodge by careful movement) Every 10 seconds a reticle locks on the player, and a plane comes to drop bombs on the reticle location.

What the player has to do is dodge the bullets and wait near the tank till it locks, run away before the bomb drops and the bomb will hit the tank, eventually killing it. After repeating this for a couple of times the tank will be destroyed. easy said than done.


Brown Planet 
With its green grass and brown soil thought something similar to earth will be best suited for the first few levels so players can feel familiar with soil to dig and rocks to avoid. There is no native fauna on this planet, the aliens encountered will be slave miners of human corporations.

Havent thought of any other planets yet but the planets will have different looks to suit their native life forms so it wont be just another blue background for blue planet red background for red planet stuff.

Here is a quick peek at the map editor that will glue the planets together.