← Sean Lawrence


I spent two years of my teenage life building a game. It was called Ironwill.

Ironwill was a 2D side scrolling shooter built using BlitzBasic. It was a major endeavor. Much of my time spent outside of homework and my intense soccer schedule was spent working on it.


Ironwill gameplay video

Ironwill's gameplay was in the same vein of other reflex driven arcade shoot-em-ups like R-Type and heavily influenced by another BlitzBasic game called Platypus.

Like many projects from young game developers it was ambitious in scope. Its features included:


Ironwill featured six levels of frantic fun "guaranteed to test your reflexes". It featured stereotypical environments such as a "forest" level, an "ice" level, a "desert" level, an "island" level and so on.

One of the most notable things about Ironwill is its graphics. They are colorful and vibrant. In motion it all looked great. I'm not sure how this style arose, but I think it had something to do with the tooling used (mouse and MS Paint and Photoshop Elements primarily).

Ironwill forest level screenshot
The "forest" level
Ironwill ice level screenshot
The "ice" level
Ironwill air level screenshot
The "air" level
Ironwill island level screenshot
The "island" level
Ironwill desert level screenshot
The "desert" level
Ironwill sunset level screenshot
The "sunset" level

Level editor

A level's environment consisted of a large multi-layered tileset that indicated things like what tile should be displayed and whether it was "collidable" or not. Static enemies, like the turrets, could be placed using the level editor. The level editor was a major advance for me at the time.

Ironwill level editor screenshot
Ironwill level editor

The flying enemies, however, were hard-coded and would be created depending on the game's counter which was an integer that was increased every frame. This meant that early parts of the level were more developed than later parts. I considered incorporating the enemy AI patterns into the level editor but it required a major refactor which I decided against.


I created many types of enemies for Ironwill. Most flew through the air.

Wasp enemy graphic
Bumblebee enemy graphic
Cherry enemy graphic
Zeppelin enemy graphic
Shadow graphic
Shadow - the player's ship

I had a lot of fun creating them - though it was quite time consuming to create enemies that were both cool looking and fun to fight.


The game featured a couple elaborate boss battles. Looking back, my commitment to quality boss battles is one of the things that pro-longed development of the game. They took a lot of time to test and develop.

Ironwill boss level screenshot
The first boss you encounter


At some point towards the end of the project's lifecycle I created a website and a "company" to market the game. The "company" was never official in the legal-sense. I recall spending a good deal of time trying to navigate the process around starting a business and red-tape due to my age.

Ironwill website screenshot
The site built to sell the game. "Azoik" was simply a .com domain I could buy that was also memorable. It didn't mean anything to me.

Lessons learned

I never released the game. It had major flaws in terms of balance and in the end the scope of the game was too much for a single developer who was also handling high school, soccer, and college applications among the many things that take priority at that time of life. But that does not mean it wasn't an immensely valueable experience for me.

I credit this game for launching my career in software. I enjoyed creating it immensely. The feeling of accomplishment after solving a problem and making something work on screen is addictive. It's something I still feel when I work on software today.

Because I felt limited by my knowledge of programming it was one of the reasons why I choose Computer Science as my major in college.


I literally worked on this in the basement of my parent's home. Beyond my family and a few friends it has largely never been played or seen. I think that's a little sad.

Out of respect to my younger self I want to release the game in some form in the near future. It has flaws that need addressing. It's not balanced. It will only work on desktops. Some weapon systems are far too powerful and others do not work at all. There are whole stages with no enemies besides turrets. I think that if I prune out swaths of stages, boss battles, and weapons that are incomplete there is a core part to Ironwill that could be considered a "full" game.

Regardless if I get around to fixing it up, the amount of creativity and will that went into this game is impressive to my older self. It's something I've always strived to maintain in projects since then and hope to bring forth in all my future projects.

Gameover screenshot
Gameover screen