Archive for the ‘Jason’s News’ Category

Workprint – April 2015

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

Since the last one seemed to go down reasonably well, here’s another update from the Cosine Laboratories – Because You’re Worth It. The subject this time is going to be Hammer Down since that’s occupied most of my programming time since the last update. One of the pending jobs for a while was finalising the maps but, since they were originally produced in Cartograph and the newer revisions broke compatibility with the work files, that meant converting everything to a new format.

In the end I spent a weekend writing some quick and disgustingly dirty tools in BlitzMax (I have some prior in this area, the level editors for Co-Axis and Warflame were completely devoid of “user friendly” features like load and save and most of my self-built cross dev tools work with fixed filenames and Windows notifications rather than opening a GUI window!) to shovel data into and then out of Tiled‘s TMX file format. Here’s how the map looks when nestled into its new home:

This editor isn’t designed for 8-bit style tile editing like Char Pad or Tile,medo are, but it’s not too difficult to “persuade” it using a cropped screenshot of the characters produced by a small program running in VICE.

We’ve been thinking about mastering as well and now have working images with test data for both disk and tape, using the Covert BitOps and Sean’s Powerload loading systems respectively; Powerload was originally written in the 1990s and, to our knowledge at least, the first tape fastloader to open the upper and lower borders whilst working; it was supplied with an auto mastering tool with Reaxion when we sent it along to Commodore Format but they decided to freeze the game on the intro and use their own loader instead, neatly undoing a lot of work on our part… and then a few months later, a game turned up on their covermount with some remarkably familiar loading stripes and the borders open!

I’m still hesitant about calling Hammer Down as “done” just yet because the loading screen is a placeholder right now, we haven’t finished the bonus music demo for the disk version and there’s a few game elements that might need a tweak, but these will all be dealt with during April. Promise!

Workprint – March 2015

Thursday, March 5th, 2015

Since the blog has been a bit quiet of late and because I get asked once in a while what I’m currently working on, this is hopefully going to be the first of a series of monthly project updates. But, since even on a good day I have the attention span of a bag of amphetamine-dosed squirrels, there will probably be lots of random changing of priorities and things will get forgotten so this might turn out to be futile but fingers crossed and all that.

So first off is Hammer Down for the C64, the top down, multi-directional collect ‘em up inspired by Action Biker on the C64 and Atari 8-bit along with a couple of other budget titles. As it stands the game is pretty much complete now barring some cosmetic tweaks and we’re already thinking about the cassette and disk mastering. It also stands as one of the biggest games I’ve ever written, taking over 60K of memory and using nearly all of the available processing time during play, so it’ll be going out as PAL only and I’ll be interested to see if anyone gets an NTSC fix up and running.

Once Hammer Down is out of the way the 64K version of Vallation for the C64 should get picked up again. The current state of play is that it has six of the nine levels with two out of three graphical styles pretty much done (the screenshot above features the second graphical set which will be used for levels four to six) and it also bolts in extra enemy types and graphics as well.

Blok Copy on the Plus/4 is just waiting on music and Sean is already thinking about it; since he feels that getting the tune down to two TED channels is a non-starter we’re instead aiming for a SID card-equipped, 64K machine as a minimum – the game will run without a SID present but either be quiet or perhaps have TED-powered sound effects. There was some discussion on the Plus/4 World forums about running a competition similar to the yearly RGCD or ABBUC ones which would’ve provided a nice incentive to get this out the door but the thread dried up before it properly got started.

Speaking of ABBUC, I haven’t decided on a project for it this year; I did have something in mind but it requires a lot of trial-and-error testing and may well be unworkable in the long run. There is something of a “plan B” which won’t be anywhere near as involved technically, so if the time can be found that might step up instead. The remixed version of Co-Axis which was back-burnered late last year for a couple of reasons (the most obvious being a lack of free time) should hopefully be done and dusted for the next RGCD competition. After that, there’s some other projects being prodded at but nothing solidified enough to write about.

Margate is cold in February

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

On Saturday the 21st of February we held the Cosine (UK division) annual general meeting… in other words Sean, Frank and myself made our way to Margate for GEEK (or Games Expo East Kent to its parents) for a mixture of video games, “bracing” sea air and a chance to sit down face to face and chat about projects. My Beloved came along too in order to take the minutes try not to look bored as we talked shop!

We did actually find some time to wander around the venue, soak in some atmosphere, chat with friends and occasionally even play a game or two; I had a quick go on the pretty horizontal Neo Geo blaster Last Resort since the old favourite Ghost Pilots wasn’t present this year and found an Atari 7800 running the wonderfully weird Ninja Golf where a ninja plays a round of golf whilst fighting off opponents and the local wildlife.

But there was far less in the way of retro gaming than at previous iterations; we did see some Atari 8-bit consoles and couple of Sega Master Systems, but there was no sign of any Commodore, Sinclair, Amstrad, Acorn or Atari computers. We weren’t alone in feeling there could have been more from “the olde days” either, most of the people we talked to felt the same and the sticker board put out by the organisers for feedback looked like this:

The word “landslide” springs to mind. And yes, I know the event wasn’t started as a purely retro gaming do but the previous iterations all covered that ground well so people were expecting a continuation this time around. I’ve heard that GEEK is going to be moving into Margate’s Dreamland amusement park next year which should equate to more floor space, so hopefully the organisers will listen to their visitors when planning for 2016 and bring back the retro goodness. In the meantime, here’s some photos taken on that Saturday.

GEEK 2015

Pictures taken during Games Expo East Kent (GEEK) 2015 in Margate on the 21st of February.