Blaze is a project I wrote for BPA's software engineering competition; the prompt was to make a video game. It's a puzzle game based on the fact that distances aren't preserved using orthographic projection. From one perspective there may be an impassable chasm between two platforms, but from another perspective, they may be touching. The other idea Blaze is based on is the inverse of object permanence; in Blaze, if you can't see something, it's not there. That means navigating a level can require you to light up an area before you're able to stand on platforms.

The art and level design were unimportant aspects of the project to me, and I focused on the code instead. Blaze was written using MonoGame, a relatively barebones framework for making games in C#. I was already familiar with MonoGame, and my main purpose in choosing the design I did was to learn more about 3D rendering and 3D game development. I think I picked well, since the main hurdles I came across during development were writing shaders (programs that run on graphics cards) and writing the collision handling code.

Demo Video

More Information


I had briefly come across shaders in XNA while programming my last game, Chance of Precipitation. In that game, I wanted to have a visual representation of ability cooldown by "graying out" an area of the ability proportional to the cooldown. That looked like this:

I found that the best way to do this was to actually render the overlay as 4 triangles on the GPU; the only other choices were pixel-by-pixel, or having images for each stage of the cooldown. I didn't actually have to write a shader for this, but I did have to use one, and that was enough to spark my curiosity.

For Blaze, I decided I'd learn about lighting in shaders, hence the lighting gameplay elements. Unfortunately, it turns out that the hard part of lighting (occlusion) was explicitly required to be absent by my game's design, so my shaders are much simpler than they'd otherwise be. In order to allow objects to cast shadows, most (non-raytracing) shaders use what's called a "shadow map." Basically, you do a 360 degree render from the point of view of each light source, which tells you which pixels should be lit by that light source. Then, when rendering the player's point of view, you do some math magic (unprojecting and then reprojecting) to determine if a pixel should be lit.

In Blaze, since there's no occlusion/shadows, how lit a pixel is depends only on its distance from light sources. The code for that pretty much works like this (the real code looks different but it's the same idea):

float totalLight = 0;
for (light in lights) {
    totalLight += 1 - pow(saturate(distance(light.LightPos, WorldPosition) / light.Attenuation), light.Falloff);
totalLight = saturate(totalLight); *= totalLight;

Despite the fact that I didn't end up implementing shadow maps in Blaze, I did at least learn a lot about them while researching how to do lighting. Overall, Blaze was a great success on several fronts: