Stercore (Spectrum)

There’s another C64CD release drifting it’s way around the interwebs this evening. Stercore is a no-nonsense, scrolling shoot ’em up for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum with 48K or more RAM which was developed by yours truly a little while ago with the intention being to enter it into the venerable CSS Crap Game Competition because, well, it’s pretty darned crap! The code languished for a quite while after being mostly completed and was finally pushed out of the door and into the wild after a quick wash and brush up.

Everything should be moving at a constant 50 frames a second during play – my DivIDE is currently in need of either a major service or more likely replacing so I didn’t get a chance to try it on real hardware before release, but it doesn’t appear to be dropping frames under emulation – and the backgrounds whip past at a dizzying eight pixels a frame since it’s all built from attribute cells rather than graphics data. Because it would probably be impossible to play at this speed if there were background collisions there isn’t anything to smack into, but parts of the landscape scroll over both the player and their assailants so a close eye needs to be kept to make sure enemies aren’t not lurking behind something.

There’s even some beeper-powered “music” on the title page which was composed by a Python script called Autotracker and then forced kicking and screaming into Beepola. For the sake of maintaining the 1980s budget game aesthetic, the Wham! The Music Box style sound driver was selected when compiling the music rather than going for any of the more complicated routines available and there are also some appropriately beep-laden sound effects during play as well.

This is my first complete assembly language game for the Spectrum and yes, that’s very apparent even without delving through the source code at GitHub – it’s recommended that anybody brave enough to do that wears hazmat gear or at the very least a good quality wetsuit and breathing apparatus – and, although I can accurately make the claim that Stercore has been written in 100% machine code, it really isn’t “pure machine code” as some people used to claim on their cassette inlays. Oh no, this is the dirty, impure stuff that our parents would warn us about as children…

4 thoughts on “Stercore (Spectrum)

  1. Not played yet, only watched the video. That background fair whips by! Looks like a nice job; I’ll have to download a Speccy emu to have a play.

    Have poked and prodded at Beepola for a while now in my spare time and I’m still plucking up the courage to write something in it. That or cover something I already know quite well, maybe the Uridium 2 title or Matkamies. Dunno…

  2. It scrolls at an attribute cell per frame so is, to use a technical term for a moment, “really bloody quick”. That’s why there’s no background collisions, it’d take superhuman skill to avoid dying in the first ten seconds!

  3. Audiovisually this is way too good for the CGC! It is very difficult to play though.

  4. That’s where I was going with it really, “crap” in this sense refers to the gameplay in the same way that some budget games (and a few full-pricers for that matter) looked good but had barely anything going on “under the hood”.

    That said… I was torn between that and the irony of losing the CGC by having a game that was too playable for it’s own good. =-)

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