Features - Story - Protagonist - Creatures - Environments
Progress - Schedule
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Orn This is the Orn demo.  It can be played on an emulator (such as VisualBoy Advance) or on the GBA (if you have a GBA flash ROM and linker).  The emulator will have better color, but the GBA outputs better sound (no graininess).

If you play with the sound on I suggest wearing headphones.

For those who like the music, this is the main theme to Orn (what it plays while you're exploring Brinstar).

This is actually a high-quality version that I wrote in order to sketch out what I wanted before creating the XM version for the GBA.

The rest of Orn's soundtrack is more like a direct re-write of the original Metroid music.



Orn is my "Capstone Project" for the Masters in Multidisciplinary Studies degree offered at RIT. It is side-scrolling action game demo for the Game Boy Advance, unofficially based on the first area (Brinstar) of the original NES Metroid released by Nintendo in 1986.  It is a purely academic project, and I am the only person working on it.  I am receiving no monetary benefits from it and it is not meant to be a replacement of the original game.  If you want to play an official Metroid remake on the GBA, check out Metroid: Zero Mission by Nintendo.

Orn as you see it here is as complete as I intended it to be. There are a few bugs but no showstoppers. I am pleased to say that ss of May 2004 I was graded an 'A' for Orn and granted my Master's degree.



Because Orn is based on the original Metroid game, it implements many of the features, though there are some differences.  The following attempts to list preserved features, changed features, added features, and excluded features.

Preserved Features

  • Ability to traverse labrynthine world of Brinstar, the first area encountered in Metroid
  • Ability to run, jump, and perform jump flips, and fire the main weapon
  • Ability to acquire a morph ball which allows the character to transform into a ball and roll about
  • Ability to acquire a suit power up that increase the defensive power of the suit
  • Ability to acquire energy and amunition tanks that increase the maximum allowable energy and ammunition
  • Ability to defeat enemies and acquire capsules containing energy and ammunition
  • All of the enemies from Brinstar and their behaviors
  • Lava which damages the player when stepped in
  • Destroyable blocks which rebuild themselves
  • Doors which open when shot with the main weapon or with missiles (or the equivalent, see "changed features")
  • Travelling from one section or "room" from another via doors

Changed Features

  • Morph bombs were replaced with Morph Discharge, which destroys any destructable blocks near the character, and hits enemies on the ground
  • Ice-Beam was replaced with Screw Attack
  • Missiles were replaced with a "Graviton Pulse" which basically does the same thing.

Added Features

  • Ability to aim in 8 different directions (as in Super Metroid)
  • Ability to crouch (as in Super Metroid)
  • Ability to "lock" previous aiming by holding down the "L" button (similar to Super Contra)
  • The Wall Jump ability from Super Metroid is available from start (allows player to jump off walls during a spin jump)
  • Ability to acquire the Morph Jump from Super Metroid (allows the player to jump in Morph Ball form)
  • Auto-morphing when the player moves the character into a small (1 or 2 block tall) crevice.
  • Screw Attack (originally found in Norfair; this was added to Orn's Brinstar to replace the Ice Beam)

Excluded Features

  • Morph Bombs (explained above)
  • Wave Beam (not found in Brinstar)
  • Ice Beam (replaced with Screw Attack)
  • Elevators are not needed because the player is restricted to Brinstar
  • Password save ( Use emulator save states.  Besides, the playable area is so small this is probably not necessary anyway)



It is galactic year 20WX, several years before the events in the original Metroid. Hydra, a veteran smuggler, is engaged in what she expects to be a "routine" delivery mission to the planet Zebeth.  But a nearby patrol of Federation fighers suddenly decloaks and opens fire on her vessel, damaging its engines. Unable to escape pursuit, she instead decides to attempt a crash landing.

Once the surface, Hydra has no means to hide her downed vessel, and realizes she must think fast. A quick scan of the area reveals a nearby teleportation device. Where could it lead? With no other options, she discards her ship with all of its cargo and enters the teleporter. The game begins with Hydra reappearing inside the labrynthine tunnels of Zebeth.



Hydra is the main protagonist of the game.

Though in the original Metroid the manual art and game sprites left certain attributes open to debate, in the sequels it became clear that Samus is something of a knight in (literally) shining armor. But as a child I had imagined her as being more hardened, her armor worn and covered with battle scars - a bit like Boba Fett.

I did not want Hydra to follow in Samus' footsteps in this regard. Unlike Metroid's Samus, Hydra is more roguish than heroic, and she is nonhuman. Hunted by the federation, she is more concerned with staying alive than with saving the galaxy.


Before modeling I created a large number of pencil and/or ink studies. For the most part I tried to keep to my sketches. I had to make modifications for certain physically impossible features that look good in 2D but not 3D. Unfortunately I also had to do away with the shoulder-mounted cannon, which causes more design problems than I can solve in the given timeframe (though I'd like to add it back in at a later date).

Though the game sprite should only be about 32 pixels tall, I wanted to use the same model for high-res stills, so I initially modeled it (in Maya) with subdivision surfaces and NURBs. But then I found UV mapping with sub-ds to be wonky, so I converted all the sub-ds to polys. In retrospect it would have been good to make the entire model in NURBS so that the UV map would have matched the contours of the geometry. As it was I had to straighten the UVs by hand.

Textures were made in Photoshop, and were largely based on scans of some highly stained cookware found in my kitchen.

Hydra Concept

Hydra Model

This model uses 6560 polygons (13178 triangles) and 9 NURBS surfaces (for the intake pipes and gems).

Final Head Model vs. Head Concepts

Another blue sky feature would be to allow play with the suit off, ala the NES Metroid.


Leg Concepts and Final Model



Assorted Concept Art and Renders




I wanted Orn to feel like it was a part of the same universe as the original Metroid. To do this I modeled each creature carefully, based on art from the original Metroid instruction booklet (found on the excellent Metroid Database website) and the in-game sprites.

Whenever there was a conflict between the manual and the game, I generally let the in-game sprites prevail while attempting to keep the detail shown in the manual art. For example, the position, contour, and color of the creature Rio differed between concept and sprite, so I modeled these more in keeping with the sprite, but keeping the segmented plating visible in the concept art.


Concept Art
(courtesy ofMDB)

Original 2D Sprite

3D Model










Orn consists of the Brinstar environment found in the original NES Metroid. Though I would like to have created an entirely unique level design with multiple regions, there unfortunately wasn't much time for me to be doing this. Each environment is instead be based entirely on the Metroid version, with adjustments to compensate for the smaller screen size. The Orn tilesets use touched-up versions of the Metroid tilesets for the foreground, and have 1 - 3 layers of scrolling background features (some of which are unique, some of which are motified images from other Metroid games).

Below are some Mock-ups I'd made using my touched-up tilesets (the final versions look so close to the Mock-ups that I am lazily leaving these up). On the left you can see the original Metroid tiles. On the right are the Orn tiles. 


Original NES Metroid Screen
(256 x 224)

Orn Mock-Up Screen
(240 x 160)

Brinstar - Blue Horizontal Corridor

Brinstar - Blue Vertical Shaft

Brinstar - Gold Horizontal Corridor

Brinstar - Gold Vertical Shaft

Brinstar - Green Horizontal Corridor

Brinstar - Blue Horizontal Corridor 2

Memory Usage

VRAM Layout

Layer Purpose # of Tiles Block Memory Range
BG0 Foreground 1024 0 0x6000000 - 0x6007FFF
BG1 Repeating texture 256 1 (first half) 0x6008000 - 0x6009FFF
BG2 Repeating texture 256 2 (second half) 0x600A000 - 0x600BFFF
BG3 Repeating texture 256 3 (first half) 0x600C000 - 0x600DFFF
Maps Maps for BG0-BG3 = 256 3 (second half) 0x600E000 - 0x600FFFF

Currently the tileset of each background is assembled out of multiple images palettized to separate 16 color palettes.

Sprite Palette Layout

Note that no two monsters with the same palette may coexist in the same section.

Pal # Purpose
0 Hero
1 Normal Beam
2 Graviton Pulse
3 Zoomer A, Zoomer C
4 Zoomer B
5 Ripper A, Ripper C
6 Ripper B
7 Rio A
8 Rio B
9 Zeb A
10 Zeb B, Mellow
11 Waver A
12 Waver B, Skree
13 Doors (blue and red)
14 Hud
15 Damage Pal



Realizing the project would take longer than the quarter I will be registered for it, I performed a lot of pre-production during the summer and fall quarter.

All in all it took about 6 months to complete Orn. I had a couple of weeks leeway at the end to add some tweaks and such.

- 8/2003 - Project idea initially conceived
- 8/2003 - Completed concept art, background tiles
- Sat 9/20/2003 - Completed Hydra model, rig, textures
- Fri 10/10/2003 - Completed creature model, rigs, and animations
- Thur 10/16/2003 - Website made live
- Mon 11/3/2003 - Hydra animations completed
- Sun 11/9/2003 - Conversion of Hydra frames to .cpp resources
- Fri 11/14/2003 - Palettize all tiles
- Mon 11/17/2003 - Create foreground map of opening area
- Mon 12/1/2003 - Winter quarter at RIT began
- Sun 12/7/2003 - Hydra state machine, hero and enemy damage, hero and enemy death, Zoomer, primary HUD completed
- Wed 12/10/2003 - Ability to pick up energy and missile capsules dropped by defeated enemies
- Sun 12/14/2003 - Destruction of blocks (which rebuild themsevles)
- Tue 12/16/2003 - Ability to attack in morph form ( morph discharge)
- Thur 12/18/2003 - Ability to fire graviton pulse ("missiles")
- Sun 12/21/2003 - Opening of doors (blue and red)
- Sun 12/21/2003 - Lava
- Tue 12/23/2003 - Energy tank, missile, morph ball, morph discharge, morph jump (replaces long beam), varia suit abilities + acquisition
- Mon 12/30/2003 - Ripper programming completed
- Thur 1/1/2004 - Rio completed
- Thur 1/1/2004 - Zeb completed
- Fri 1/2/2004 - Mellow  completed
- Fri 1/2/2004 - Waver completed
- Sat 1/3/2004 - Skree completed
- Sun 1/4/2004 - Screw Attack completed
- Suni 1/4/2004 - First "feature complete" level completed
- Tue 1/13/2004 - Level transition system completed
- Wed 1/21/2004 - Level maps completed
- Sun 1/25/2004 - Title screen, game over screen
- Wed 2/3/2004 - Background parallaxing maps implemented
- Sat 2/7/2004 - Psuedo-3d backgrounds implemented
- Sun 2/8/2004 - Sound effects completed
- Thur 2/26/2004 -Capstone paper, presentation
- Sun 2/29/2004 - Music



Jessica Bayliss, Assistant Professor, RIT Computer Department of Computer Science
Andy Phelps, Assistant Professor, RIT Computer Department of Information Technology
Dr. Richard Morales, Graduate Program Coordinator, RIT Center for Multidisciplinary Studies
Sebastian Kienzl, author of the Krawall sound library ( http://mind.riot.org/krawall/ )


METROID and all related characters, names, titles, likenesses and other works are TM and © Nintendo of America, Inc. and Nintendo Co., Ltd. of Japan.

This is an unofficial fan site and is not affiliated with Nintendo of America, Inc., or Nintendo Co., Ltd. The author takes NO credit and imply NO rights to any official Nintendo images, text or other works contained herein.

The content provided on this website is for educational and entertainment purposes only. The creator obtains no financial profit from the website or the Orn demo game whatsoever.

The author does not provide or distribute official Nintendo game ROMs.

All original content is © 2003 Thomas Happ. Original content, including but not limited to graphic design, images, HTML coding, artwork, audio files, video files and text, may be used with permission only.

Contact: SorcererXIII@yahoo.com