ABA Games' HenyaG

  • Many people are probably familiar with Kenta Cho, or ABA Games - a Japanese freeware developer who is most famous for making interesting shmups with graphics built from abstract shapes in the early 2000s. Games like Torus Trooper, rRootage, and Tumiki Fighters, which became Blast Works on the Wii.

    What I've never seen anyone discuss is his game-making tool for the Palm Pilot, HenyaG.

    I want to say I discovered it around 2004. I loved my Palm III; I used to systematically browse through Palm freeware sites and download literally everything that looked interesting. I would have been starting to be active in the Insert Credit / Gamer's Quarter forum community, which would have clued me into Kenta Cho's work. I suspect that the venn diagram of "Japanese indie shmup enthusiasts" and "Palm enthusiasts who constantly seek out novel weird free stuff" had a small overlap, but there I was, inside it. And Kenta Cho had a fairly significant selection of Palm freeware on his website.

    HenyaG is a tool for making single-image LCD-type games. You draw on a single canvas, and then define rules for when sections of it turn on and off. There are a small amount of events (button presses, timers, random probability, and testing if objects are visible or not), and a small number of possible actions (turn object visible or invisible, score a point, lose a life), but that's enough for an interesting possibility space. There's a decent tutorial, which made much less sense when run through Google Translate in 2004 than it does today.

    From what I remember, it had one fatal downfall: when you drew an object, you could draw it anywhere on the canvas; but when you turned that object off, it would erase everything in its entire bounding box. So if you had objects with any amount of overlap, the screen would quickly become a garbled mess. The tutorial seems to suggest that this was a problem only "to save memory while editing" and wouldn't be a problem "during the actual game"; perhaps I never figured out how to run my game properly.

    Anyway, I've always thought it was a really interesting idea for a constrained game making tool, and that it was a shame that nobody ever really noticed it. Looking at it now, I think it's also built to run on the desktop using this weird cross-platform Java-like VM that ran on the Palm called Waba. If anyone gets that going, definitely let me know.

  • That looks really neat! Too bad there isn't much out there about it.

  • Haha, I just tried Googling it and the only other English-language thing I dug up is me talking about it with @kirkjerk 12 years ago on the Gamer's Quarter forums. I guess I was the only one who gave it a try?

    (In that thread I also mention Ball2 and Igzo the Dolphin, which my recent post about on the gamemaking.social forums was what reminded me about HenyaG. Weird how memory is linked that way.)

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