Pesky Humans

Pesky Humans is now available for sale on Steam! Click below to buy a copy of the game!

If we set the way back machine to the early nineties, you’ll find a copy of the very first DOS-based game that I ever programmed solo, called Pesky Humans. It was built using the instructions from an also very old book called The Black Arts of 3D Game Programming.

This was from an era where there nowhere near the number of resources available to create game ideas, when screen resolutions were a whopping 640 x 480 pixels in size, and programs were hopefully measured in kilobytes rather than gigabytes like they are now.

It’s tiny because that’s what screen sizes looked like back then….

It was a shareware game, and I think it’s probably still floating around out there somewhere in archived versions of Geocities (yeah, another name from the past).

There has always been a bit of a nostalgia for me on this game. Yes, there were a couple other projects and titles that I puttered around with at this point in my life. I was the lead game programmer for Vicarious Visions around the same time, devoting no small amount of time towards a project called Synnergist. When that was completed and I went off to find my own place in the universe, Pesky Humans was the first project that I saw through to completion on my own, using only book learning and my trusty C++ complier.

Then pop forward to 2014. I start taking another look at possible systems for game development and Unity3D in particular. I decided that my first game that I would develop would be Pesky Humans. I created a Kickstarter project to raise the funds to enter into the Valve Green-Light program, and submit this game as my entry for approval.

When it didn’t get the traction I had hoped for, I started working on Autumn Park Mini Golf. I withdrew Pesky Humans from the program and about a month later, APMG was approved. I imagine if I had not taken it down, Pesky Humans might also have been approved too, since at the time Valve was doing a lot of approvals. But that’s okay. Somehow in the back of my mind, Pesky Humans was missing something that I couldn’t put my finger on. I promised myself I would come back to the project with a clean perspective and archived the project for later retreival.

Life and things happened.

Now in 2020, I started re-examining the Pesky Humans game. There was a pretty solid gameplay element there, a general concept with a level of predictability for the bosses and ships that I felt worked. But there was something that made the game feel like a grind. It was just too… routine. Monotonous. It needed a solid infusion of juice, some interactivity that made it less of a click-click-click and more of a back and forth.

I made a handful of changes, but the biggest component that came into play was the pilots of the enemy ships. Recalling older games like Wing Commander, Mechwarrior Commander, and similar old-school games, I realized that all of the individual members of the player’s ‘squad’ bantered and talked as they performed their actions. Even the various Starcraft and Warcraft games have regular quips and bits of dialogue even if you’re just telling peons to mine.

Well, these ships are piloted by humans. Why isn’t there chatter?

That seemed to be the missing piece. Now the pilots announce their arrival, scream when they die, and all of their functions, actions, and even their observation of the player’s actions are tied into a relatively constant dialogue.

I mean, if a ship hits you with a missile and then says “Oh, that looks like it stung!” there’s going to be a bit more emotional investment from the player. “I’m coming to get you!” when the scout starts scanning for enemy warheads and then complain when they don’t find what they’re looking for, that gives some of the missing narrative.

Pesky Humans is available for purchase, and I’ve also set up a free demo version of the game’s Easy setting. I don’t believe that I’m charging a lot for the full version, though.

I initially set this up as an early access title, but after some consideration I believe this is a finished product and, if any updates are necessary, it will be due to bug patches.

Come on by and take a peek!