Workprint – March 2019

One of my “defining traits” is a quite frankly ridiculous lack of organisational skills, in fact it comes as something of a surprise to people who’ve known me for any length of time that I get blog posts up on what are, by my standards, a fairly regular basis. As a result of that there are a lot of projects hanging around my hard disks which have been put aside for one reason or another, sometimes either on the cusp of being completed or actually done and dusted (although in one case it’s a port and in need of an overhaul since the original version has subsequently been improved).

So with spring approaching I plan to apply the defibrillator a few and right now I have two in mind, both of which C64CD projects; I’m keeping one close to my chest until it starts to properly exist past a few sprite routines that need recoding anyway, but the other is a reworking of Stercore 64 which re-imagines it as a bespoke C64 game rather than a Spectrum port. That’s more difficult than it might sound because the game scrolls at a character per frame and the landscape has two layers with one passing over the sprites, so my “plan” is to rely on the way that one of the character multicolours always remains behind the sprites regardless of the priority register.

That’ll give me a black background with one other colour for the background layer and, if I can scroll the colour RAM, five or six foreground colours; the sprites can then pass between the two without needing any complicated sprite clipping code since the hardware will do the work for me. That said, actually drawing something half decent with those restrictions is difficult and, whilst games like Implosion and Shadow Skimmer carry it off well, I’m no John Cassells or Mat Sneap…

Watching Quel Homme (C64)

Time to tick another demo off my “to do” list… Quel Homme by Agile was released in the same competition as Super Swap Sweden’s Contribution and, if memory serves, was amongst the first things I received when first starting out as a mail trader in Cosine… although we’re talking over three decades ago so I’m not entirely willing to trust my memory on this one!

The demo opens with a classic and quite compact Agile crack intro that sports a large logo and double height scrolling message but sadly has no music, but the first actual part has a decent tune from Johannes Bjerregaard and three scrollers, all using a different large character set and under user control with two looking for the joysticks and the third checking for Z and X being pressed. There’s another large and user-influenced message in the second part at the top of the screen, with a bitmapped logo below but the point of note is the rather good tune by Sanke 3003 (who is still active in Pretzel Logic as SMC) which plays sampled drums along with the SID whilst everything else is happening.

There’s a short, silent interlude with a bizarre picture of a bathtub that has assorted limbs and a cat poking out at various angles bouncing up and down via FLD and then the show finishes with another scrolling message, this time zooming a double font character set up to eight times its regular size – one pixel becomes a character – and splitting one of multicolours. This scroller can once again be controlled by a joystick, with left and right changing the speed whilst up and down move the scroll area vertically with another FLD which displays colour splits so the bars appear to exist behind the message.

One of the texts in Quel Homme calls it “lousy” and it didn’t make the top three at the Rebels and Agile party it was released during – only those positions are known thanks to a file called Agile’s Results from Super Swap Sweden, so we don’t know how Quel Homme fared after that – but it’s pretty solid as 1988 releases go; there’s a focus on moving large letters around, splitting colours and showing a significant amount of scrolltext because that was normal at the time and the chosen music is solid too, particularly Sanke’s piece.

The wheels on the bus

So it’s that time of year again (or one of them at least) when I clamber aboard a National Express coach and trundle my way southwards in search of family and friends. As with the journey this time last year (but oddly, not the one between those two) there’s a partial wifi service onboard… partial in the sense that it’s working enough for me to check in on at least some of my social media and post to this ‘ere blog, but other services aren’t working including pretty much all of Google.

The problem appears to be certificates getting mangled by the Cisco Umbrella-based filtering again, with the result being that pretty much anything that isn’t Google’s search or, for some reason, translate seems to be mangled by the time it gets to me. That’s something of a pain because, along with occasionally checking emails, I would’ve liked to use YouTube videos in order to kill some of the journey time and aAs it stands I’m instead making my own entertainment by posting from a coach whilst listening to the soundtrack of Thunder Force 3 and then probably firing up Steam and playing a little Gridrunner Revolution or Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved.

Speaking of YouTube, since I’m away from my desk (and more specifically, the battered HP desktop with a half decent video card and Vegas Pro installed and all of the raw video files) for the best part of a there won’t be a post or associated video going up this coming Saturday. Sorry to my myriad fans who will doubtless be heartbroken…!