Make a keyboard-bashing sprint game | Wireframe issue 23

Learn how to code a sprinting minigame straight out of Daley Thompson’s Decathlon with Raspberry Pi’s own Rik Cross.

Spurred on by the success of Konami’s Hyper Sports, Daley Thompson’s Decathlon featured a wealth of controller-wrecking minigames.

Daley Thompson’s Decathlon

Released in 1984, Daley Thompson’s Decathlon was a memorable entry in what’s sometimes called the ‘joystick killer’ genre: players competed in sporting events that largely consisted of frantically waggling the controller or battering the keyboard. I’ll show you how to create a sprinting game mechanic in Python and Pygame.

Python sprinting game

There are variables in the Sprinter() class to keep track of the runner’s speed and distance, as well as global constant ACCELERATION and DECELERATION values to determine the player’s changing rate of speed. These numbers are small, as they represent the number of metres per frame that the player accelerates and decelerates.

The player increases the sprinter’s speed by alternately pressing the left and right arrow keys. This input is handled by the sprinter’s isNextKeyPressed() method, which returns True if the correct key (and only the correct key) is being pressed. A lastKeyPressed variable is used to ensure that keys are pressed alternately. The player also decelerates if no key is being pressed, and this rate of deceleration should be sufficiently smaller than the acceleration to allow the player to pick up enough speed.

Press the left and right arrow keys alternately to increase the sprinter’s speed. Objects move across the screen from right to left to give the illusion of sprinter movement.

For the animation, I used a free sprite called ‘The Boy’ from, and made use of a single idle image and 15 run cycle images. The sprinter starts in the idle state, but switches to the run cycle whenever its speed is greater than 0. This is achieved by using index() to find the name of the current sprinter image in the runFrames list, and setting the current image to the next image in the list (and wrapping back to the first image once the end of the list is reached). We also need the sprinter to move through images in the run cycle at a speed proportional to the sprinter’s speed. This is achieved by keeping track of the number of frames the current image has been displayed for (in a variable called timeOnCurrentFrame).

To give the illusion of movement, I’ve added objects that move past the player: there’s a finish line and three markers to regularly show the distance travelled. These objects are calculated using the sprinter’s x position on the screen along with the distance travelled. However, this means that each object is at most only 100 pixels away from the player and therefore seems to move slowly. This can be fixed by using a SCALE factor, which is the relationship between metres travelled by the sprinter and pixels on the screen. This means that objects are initially drawn way off to the right of the screen but then travel to the left and move past the sprinter more quickly.

Finally, startTime and finishTime variables are used to calculate the race time. Both values are initially set to the current time at the start of the race, with finishTime being updated as long as the distance travelled is less than 100. Using the time module, the race time can simply be calculated by finishTime - startTime.

Here’s Rik’s code, which gets a sprinting game running in Python (no pun intended). To get it working on your system, you’ll first need to install Pygame Zero.

Get your copy of Wireframe issue 23

You can read more features like this one in Wireframe issue 23, available now at Tesco, WHSmith, all good independent UK newsagents, and the Raspberry Pi Store, Cambridge.

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Autonauts is coming to colonise your computers with cuteness. We find out more in Wireframe issue 23.

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