Fading away… and back

It’s new Blast Engine functionality time again; objects can now specify an alpha blending level and movement commands are able to set a destination value and speed, so things can materialise and dematerialise at will. A similar set/destination/speed system is going to be added for object scaling at some point, although this is less for the game and more for attract mode and completion animations – the engine should in theory at least be able to handle these events without much extra work so I might as well let it rather than writing bespoke code!

The layering system has had a bit of a rename and, after I had a bright idea whilst hammering away at a side project earlier in the week, object definitions are going to know which layer they want to default to so there’ll be very little need to set values from the script – there is going to be an option to change layers within a move command though, so a shuttle can launch from underneath a larger object and then pass over it as though it’s height has increased. As these changes go in, the overall number of layers for each level will be bumped up to eight to give forty in total.

I’ve also added Tate rendering yesterday so players will be able to select 3:4 ratio (as has appeared in the screenshots and videos so far) or a 4:3 display where everything is rotated 90 degrees clockwise; in the latter mode, players can rotate their monitor to counter the shift so the game looks a bit more like a coin-op. This feature has been a “must have” since day one, even the engine’s default 480 by 600 resolution was selected so that it works on an 800 by 600 display in 3:4 mode and can call up a rotated 640 by 480 full screen display as well.

Playing Fire Hawk (arcade)

For the last week or thereabouts I’ve been playing a lot of a coin-op called Fire Hawk – it was released by Korean manufacturers ESD in 2001 and a little “research” on the internet reveals that it’s actually built on a hack of Psikyo’s code with the most popular guess as to where the “donation” came from being the Strikers series; the influence of those games is pretty obvious too, with the overall look being like an unrefined, low resolution version of Strikers 1945 III.

Each level has a cliche… erm, theme ranging from desert with armed pyramids to rainforest and passing through that mining town with a huge marshalling yard, a rusty industrial area and the semi-rural landscape that’d be quite nice if it wasn’t for the mega tanks and concealed guns along the way. It also has what I can best describe as a “twee village” that sticks out like a sore thumb since it’d belong in an entirely different game if there hadn’t been an absolutely massive jet “parked” by one of the buildings – the bizarre scale of the jet to it’s surroundings hints that whoever drew the backgrounds wasn’t told which scale was being used for everything else.

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure why I got so hooked on the thing. It’s a relatively simple shooter and not exactly perfect either since there are some bugs in the mix and, whilst most of the issues are cosmetic things like bosses leaving large chunks of themselves behind after exploding, I reckon the variation in the amount of kicking a boss will take on the later levels is too erratic to be deliberate and the collisions seem to be a bit squiffy since I’ve seen medals floating under the body of my plane without a hit being registered.

But it could’ve been worse; there’s a hack of Fire Hawk (oh, the irony) by another Korean dev Yona Tech called Spectrum 2000 that manages to all but shatter things to the point where the difficulty was ramped up to “fecking quick” at the start, half a helicopter and two bits of tank track were still considered to be an active boss that was therefore still firing and, whilst credit feeding through it to see how badly damaged things actually were, it fell apart completely, leaving an invisible, non-firing and indestructible chunk of boss in play so the level wouldn’t end!

Actually, I suspect that I do know why Fire Hawk (and to a degree Spectrum 2000 although that was more a morbid fascination) managed to hook me, it’s the simplicity of the thing; after a little “complexity” whilst having to choose from five different planes with their own weapons and initial level order, it becomes a case of dodging like a madman, grabbing power-ups and medals as they go past and most important of all giving anything that gets in the way a serious kicking.

Retro Gamer 80

As usual, I got the issue itself a few days ago but haven’t had time to blog about it! Homebrew stuffs for this issue are Trooper: Point 5 for the Spectrum, Virus for the ZX81 (the score for which has already generated a little “controversy” on Facebook – I consider a shoot ’em up that allows you to get stuck without any ammo to be flawed, others apparently don’t agree!) and a couple of Pong variants for the MSX and Spectrum again, NeoPong and King of Pong respectively.

The indie games are Apple Jack, an XBLIG platformer with a truly mental combo scoring system, Old School Racer which is again XBLIG and bears more than a passing resemblance to Super Scramble Simulator and a remake of Space Invaders for the PC which was a bit meh to be honest… and the interview is with Jarrod Bentley and some utter arse got the pictures mixed up so his partner in crime Sean Gee appears in the corner – despite this foul up being my fault, I’m refusing utterly to take responsibility for it until next issue when both pictures will be printed and a reasonably grovelling apology offered via the intro.

And whilst I’m posting, there’s a good article here (link removed since the domain is now dead) about shoot ’em ups that fans of the genre should find interesting, mainly because it isn’t just an “I like shmups, LOL” piece and the two people doing most of the talking have produced some shooty goodness; if people comment and the post seems popular, Indie Superstar might consider covering the genre a little more and that’s a Good Thing!