Workprint – June 2019

With Stercore XD released last weekend I’m sort of between projects… well okay, a hopefully final re-mastering of Hammer Down needs attention so I will have to give it a little thought at some point, but for various reasons I’ve been struggling more than a little with motivation on that one. Part of the problem is that every update to the code is a balancing act now and, even when that goes well, the changes also see me refreshing the greetings list which scrolls past on the titles page which is at best an uncomfortable process due to the data format I settled on to in a vain attempt to keep the size down.

So since I’m procrastinating there’s a chance that I’ll actually listen to the part of me which is constantly shouting “let’s make a new shoot ’em up” like a seven year old existing almost exclusively on a diet of E numbers. Right now that high-pitched, overly excited voice in my head reckons that a single screen blaster would be fun to do and I’ve got some unfinished business on that front anyway from when I started a “cover version” of a small game called Death Dealer that was intended for release on cartridge back when RGCD were limited to 16K. Perhaps it’s time to resurrect that project whilst perhaps wedging in some backgrounds or adding more complex waves to improve the longevity?

That would go some way towards bridging the gap in C64CD’s “narrative” too. My original plan was for the games to evolve over time almost like a newly-minted coder picking up skills between releases; I started out with a single screen gallery shooter – a reworking of the first assembly language game I coded as a beginner myself – and planned to build up the complexity with each game, but Stercore XD broke that sequence by leaping ahead a large distance.

With all of that said though, I’m reasonably sure that previous paragraph wasn’t just me trying to find excuses to work on another shoot ’em up.

Workprint – May 2019

Last time I talked about the new, C64-specific version of C64CD blaster Stercore and this month continues that “trend”. It’s now officially called Stercore XD and I’ve actually got the majority of it written and working somehow!

Memory is getting very tight but all of the graphics are done now including some sprite animations – one of the aliens and the explosion have been “inherited” from Super Hyperzap – and everything just about fits into the lower half of the C64’s RAM after decrunching until the code grabs around 10K more whilst unrolling the background scroller. Spacial awareness is important here because I’m planning to put the final release version of Stercore XD out as a cartridge image for the RGCD competition. To that end the build process automagically makes a working CRT image for testing.

I still have a “to do” list including tweaks to the collision detection, a rewrite of the enemy movement code to optimise it, adding explosions and bolting in the simple attack wave driver from Super Hyperzap with a couple of small tweaks but, since there’s currently only about 280 bytes of ROM left in the 16K block the game has to occupy as a cartridge, some concessions might be necessary. To give a sense of scale, this paragraph is 457 bytes…

Workprint – April 2019

The work on pushing new graphics into the updated C64 version of Stercore is progressing slowly but surely; so far I’ve replaced pretty much all the original attribute-flavoured tiles with graphical versions – as in the screenshot from Char Pad below – but they’re still in need of tweaking to remove or rework some elements. It does look like there’s a reasonable amount of space left in the character set for some extra detail though and, although there’s a few ideas brewing for new graphics to add, I’ll need to sit down and check through the maps first to make sure everything is present and correct before assigning characters.

Apart from that there’s not much else going on at Chez Roundabout because I haven’t really had much time – a dodgy shoulder has been making typing very difficult for most of the last month, which is frustrating when you’ve got ideas but can’t do much with them – which goes at least some distance towards explaining the lack of blog posts – but there’s a few odds and ends on my “to do” list for when things hopefully settle down in a week or so. And at the same time there’s all of the regular urges to write yet another horizontally scrolling shoot ’em up that need be fought…!