Thinking about Uridium (C64)

Kim Justice recently posted a video about the just released Hyper Sentinel and its predecessor Uridium – I’ve been playing the former and have a few thoughts, but need to spend a little more time organising them for a post – and I’ve been making something of a nuisance of myself in the comments by, amongst other things, explaining how the background scrolling and parallax starfield work for Uridium on the C64. Whilst writing those comments I ended up coding a simpler version of my own with controls like Hyper Sentinel into the bargain, so I might as well show off demonstrate it here.

Despite the Dreadnought only being 17 character lines high that scroller is actually refreshing 21 lines of the screen from a 256 byte wide map which has been cropped down from Uridium‘s final level where it was 512 wide. The stars work in a similar way to Andrew Braybrook‘s, with two possible characters being displayed (or not if the character cell they’d be occupying as a piece of Dreadnought in it) as high resolution rather than multicolour so the points being plotted to them can cleanly counter whatever the hardware scroll register is currently up to. Braybrook’s stars are randomly placed at the start of each level whilst mine are limited to one every second character line, but it still looks okay and I could at least make it randomise the X positions.

For some reason I even got around to making the Uridimine launchers pulse using what are essentially primitive software sprites which are only being written to the colour RAM, although Rassilon alone knows if that’s how Uridium actually does it. Just for reference, where the border colour is green there’s free processing time and red indicates that my slightly clunky scroll engine is weaving it’s magic; the border also changes to pink whilst playing the music – a cover of Jason Page’s Uridium 2 loading music by Andy Vaisey – but that happens well before the visible screen actually starts so can’t be seen.

I’ve got no plans to continue this right now because it was just a doodle really, but the scroll engine started off as part of something else and the upgrades I made today might end up being passed back to that project… and I’ve literally and rather randomly just realised that what I’ve actually written here is a partial clone of Sensible Software’s Uridibad, haven’t I?!

Homebrew Coding Weekend 2

So where have I been recently…? Well, along with pretty much finishing Edge Grinder on the C64 (of which more in the near future) I did spend last weekend in Manchester, at the Lass O’ Gowrie pub for In Da 80s and in particular the Homebrew Coding Weekend 2. The main event was pretty much a sequel to Console Combat from a couple of years back, so it was another chance to meet at the Lass and play video games for a weekend; some people didn’t quite make it to the end, a bleary-eyed SirClive told me a tale of Saturday night clubbing at a place that kicked out at 7am so a few souls were “recovering” on Sunday morning!

The Coding Weekend was a great opportunity to actually meet other people writing code for 8-bits (and indeed 16-bits since there was a SNES prototype on show), put a couple of faces to online names and chat at length about ideas, demonstrate prototypes or even nearly complete games, that sort of thing. Cramming all of the programmers attending into the snug was something of a push but Jonathan Cauldwell and David Hughes were there demonstrating their latest Spectrum games, I was waving a nearly finished Edge Grinder around (quite literally, I had to hold my old Acer laptop at shoulder height so people could see the screen), Tom Walker had several releases over a raft of formats for people to see including a sequel to Hard Hat Harry on the BBC, Kees Van Oss flew over from the Netherlands with several Acorn Atom conversions of Retro Software titles and Mark “GroovyBee” Ball brought his trusty 7800 to demo several games that he assured us weren’t Photoshopped. Some industrious hardware hackers had bolted a SID into an Acorn Atom and at one point “borrowed” a replacement 8580 from a C64C that had been sprayed green and attached to the pub wall!

A couple of industry veterans including Stephen Robertson, Jim Bagley and Paul Hughes were present and Andy Walker, who coded Super Pipeline 2 and Cad-Cam Warrior for the C64 as the head honcho of Taskset and developed coin-op The Pit which inspired Namco’s Dig Dug, was interrogated in the nicest of ways by Paul Drury; I got the chance for a quick chat later on and Andy seemed to be a really nice chap, genuinely and happily surprised that people were interested in what he and everyone else had produced during the 1980s.

I’d like to say a quick “thank you” to everyone behind the event for putting so much effort into what was a great weekend and, if you’ve read this and are lamenting the fact that you missed out, the fantastic news is that there’s more in the pipeline; although it’s been re-branded as the Homebrew Gaming Weekend, the next event will be at Lass over the first weekend of December and, because the focus is on homebrew all the way across the board, we’ll be getting more space – anyone with an interest should consider going regardless of if they’re coders, graphics artists, musicians, hardware hackers or gamers.