Diary of a Game
Alien Breed 2 Part 2
Last time was only the beginning... This month Team 17's Martyn Brown tells of being mobbed by fans in a Swedish night-club, accepting the award for Software House Of The Year at the Golden Joystick Awards, the agony and the ecstasy of re-releasing Project-X on budget... Oh, and there are also some more news on the progress of Alien Breed 2, the sequel to one of the biggest games of 1991.
THE MONTH IN BRIEF
This month has seen a more dynamic number of developments taking place in comparison to the last one, mainly because most of the equipment is working and Rico's been able to work all the ideas into usable graphics. More and more ideas have been thought up and should end up in the final game as they're rather good.
Our development meeting in Sweden went rather well, all three hours of it - but you can blame the freak brilliant weather and beautiful lakes for that. Anyway, what has everyone been doing...?
RICO HOLMES (Graphics)
Since getting his Opalvision into gear and being able to work all day on his shiny new and now working A4000, Rico has been hard at work implementing ideas and upgrading the look and feel of the game. The result, in my humble opinion, is excellent - we are very happy with it. He's been concentrating on the Military installation building because it's more fun to draw (big guns and heavy security).
He's also done a sample map with the old map editor to try out some of the ideas like the large lazer turrets which you'll have to take out from another area. He also spent a long time animating and drawing the games four characters: Johnson, Stone, Ruffer2 and Zollux, two of which you can select from (each with different capabilities). The result is that the main game characters are MUCH enhanced over the original ones, which should please Gaz Whitta at least - even if he doesn't work on The One anymore. [Sorry about the re-used portraits from last month, AB2 fans. We'll lend Martyn a camera for when he next goes to Sweden! - Ed.]
ANDREAS TADIC (Programming)
Besides continuing his map editor (which has been put to one side for the moment) Andreas has been rejigging Project-X ready for budget release. We've changed quite a few points of the game and it's been Andreas's great pleasure in recoding those bits and putting the game onto our new disk system, the upshot of which is that the 'new' version of Project-X will fit on three disks instead of four like before, which is good news for us and good news for you (less disk swapping).
Andreas also scrapped the idea of a 'sprite playfield' for the A1200 version of AB2 because Rico was moaning that he wanted more than 16 colours for enemies/weapons and besides that there is going to be more than enough enemies on screen anyway - at least two times the amount in the first version and more enemies like gun turrets and other security systems.
All this means that the enemies and stuff on the A1200 version will be 128 colours and be really rather nice. People who are jumping up and down saying "Use 256 colours!" please be quiet - it looks rather good and using less colours means more action and more graphics! He hasn't scrapped this 'sprite playfield' thing though and will be developing his ideas throughout the game's progress, it's just that the routine will probably see the light of day in another Team 17 product.
We've rethought our options and have decided to develop graphics and routines for both the 16- and 32-bit versions concurrently, meaning that the A500 version remains as close as possible to the A1200 version - and if you take a peek at the graphics you'll spot that the A500 version is looking pretty spiffing, even at this early stage!
MARTYN BROWN (Chief bottle washer)
It's been a case of continual suggestions, ideas and whatever from my point of view. The characters in the game will reflect their personalities. Johnson and Stone (Federation Corps) are back by demand - we had lots of letters asking for them to be in the sequel, which we never expected, but we will bow to public demand! The other two, Ruffer2 (a fast alien/lizard-creature working for the Federation) and Zollux (a bio-form robot with special capabilities such as IR vision and heat/motion detection), are newcomers and to be honest it's all a throwback to the days of Gauntlet-style character selection.
The military zone is going well, lots of ideas and stuff going... These zones will have to be cleared one by one as you make your way down to where large motion is being scanned. To get to the military zone you have to bypass the civilian building and the science blocks which are played in a different way. It looks like we will expand the science/military blocks much more than we first anticipated, making for a much larger game. Also people should note that in this game, enemies will be firing back... a subtle difference I think you'll appreciate!
I'm looking forward to the design of the science blocks and the jars of alien-experiments which can be shot open and therefore let loose. We plan to feature the alien lifeforms (some very bizarre) in a subtle way as the game progresses. You'll find evidence in some areas, the odd one or two in certain areas and then the experiments and proof, etc, before confronting them head on later in the game.
I also had the task of attending the Golden Joystick Awards where we managed to win ourselves an award (Software House Of The Year, no less) and get rather inebriated whilst doing so, I also got to call Jonathan Ross "Johnnyboy!" which went down about as well as the Titanic. At the end of the month I'm flying off to the CES in Chicago for a week - which won't please my girlfriend (ey-up Katrina!) much, but I suppose if it has to be done then I better go...
ALLISTER BRIMBLE (Sound)
Strangely enough, Allister has been to the zoo! Not though, as we had all suspected, to see some equatorial sheep or other warm-bodied woolly creature but to digitise some grunts and animal noises (he ought to take his big DAT recorder around to Gaz Whitta's pad).He's also begun working on a title score and other sound FX. The sound/speech in the Al200 version is going to be really good!
BACK AT TEAM 17 HQ (Packaging, marketing, etc)
Another quiet month back at base, although the box artwork was discussed and it looks like we'll be going for a similar design to the original, although I thought we would be better off going for an Alien over-shadowing the planet looking really nasty, as if it's just about to take a great big chunk out of it - if you can visualise that. However, I appreciate everyone isn't as warped as myself and that idea has been thrown out.
Yet again the phone has hardly stopped ringing with people asking when Alien Breed 2's going to be out and if it will be coming out on the A500. YES YES YES! For some reason, people got it into their heads that this was an Al200-ONLY version and that's simply not the case.
We also received the ELSPA (European Leisure Software Publishers Assoc.) directives on leisure software contents and we have to bear these in mind when developing the game. This means that we can't show mindless violence, mention vomit, poo or anything remotely disgusting that would aid us in creating an atmospheric and creepy plot. But don't worry, I'm sure we'll be able to do something to give the game a nauseating aspect somewhere along the lines. Anyway, on with this month's diary.
Thursday May 6th
Myself (Martyn) and Mick (Robinson, the MD) head off to Sweden for four days, this is to be spent discussing the project with Andreas and Rico, who are both based in Olofstrom, southern Sweden (about 100 miles north-east of Malmo). Clutching various duty-frees (notably Southern Comfort and Jack Daniels) and the goodies for the lads (eight Pink Floyd CDs and two rather spiffy PF T-shirts for Andreas and Marmite/Fig-Rolls for Rico) we arrived safely via Copenhagen and the hovercraft.
Friday May 7th
The weather takes a turn for the worse - I.e. it's absolutely stunning, clear blue skies and about 30°C. This is not good as it means that nobody really feels like doing any work whatsoever. The result is that we all spend the day lounging around sipping beers, chatting about ideas and other points of interest. We take a walk around the awe-inspiring local lakes and then settle down for barbecued steak n' sausages - it's a hard life! At night we hit 'Toddez', a local pizza place that doubles as a pub and enjoy the local speciality, massive glasses of beer at £7 quid a chuck... We stagger home and collapse into bed in the early hours.
Saturday May 8th
Unfortunately the weather hasn't got any better and the shorts are on again. Despite the bad development weather Rico managed to show me the reworked main characters and ideas for the Military zones which went down well.
In the afternoon myself, Andreas and Mick headed up to Vaxjo to see the guys at Digital Illusions. We've been speaking to them for quite a while about the possibility of them working with us, but that's another story and not the one we're talking about now! We spent a few hours with the guys and had a good look at what they were up to - they're a great bunch and we thank them for the visit. Next time they'll be coming down to Olofstrom for a beer session.
The weather took a turn for the better and, as we headed off into the rain and thunderstorm, we thought that we would start to get some serious work done... but as luck wouldn't have it, when we returned back to Olofstrom it was bright and sunny and the barbecue was out quicker than an arctic fire.
Yet more relaxing, eating and drinking before taking in a night-club on a boat in nearby Karlshamn and partying through dawn. Sometimes we think of our jobs and large, smug grins render glowingly across our faces. It was also noteworthy that for the first time we met some actual Team 17 game fans at the night club... it's never happened before and we chatted with the Alien Breed fans about the sequel for a while before hitting the dance floor.
I also managed to have a strange conversation with a drunken Manchester United-supporting Swede who had seen the 'Leeds Glory Years' video and asked me to go through and name the 72 FA Cup winning squad, and with each name he gave a loud cheer... Strange chap.
Sunday May 9th
After getting up at about four in the afternoon, mainly due to the fact that nobody went to bed before 8.30am, Rico came round with his revised character graphics for the heroes. These were fine although I asked him to put a back-pack on one of the guys, just to distinguish him further. We also found out that the planned green lizardy thing couldn't be green after all because there wasn't enough room in the palette - so the green lizardy character will have to settle for being a rather jaundiced yellow.
Monday May 10th
Me and Mick reluctantly pack our bags and head home to blighty, leaving behind the lovely weather and the rather tasty Swedish sausages slowly cooking over the barbecue. Back in England, the weather is over-cast, cold and there's speed restrictions on the M62 due to fog. Welcome home.
Tuesday May 11th
Andreas starts work on remixing Project-X for budget release, so the map editor takes a well earned rest in the back seat for the time being. Andreas hates this PX work but it's got to be done... and he's the man to do it! Rico starts mapping out some of the ideas for the military level, including time-activated security doors, conveyor belts, security turrets and other stuff.
I spent the day at the Golden Joystick Awards and ended up breaking our award (a bit of welded copper stuff snapped off) and then continuing the party at the Elephant & Castle pub in Kensington, returning home looking pretty dishevelled via a disgusting Intercity 125 at 1.30 in the morning.
Wednesday May 12th
Everyone spent the day gloating about our award which now has pride of place next to all our others, i.e. it's the only one. But work must continue and Rico laboriously works his way through the mocked-up military zone and spends time reworking more graphics.
Thursday May 13th
The map is done and it's very useful for us to plan out the sort of traps and things we can do. I'm very happy with the way it's all looking and it makes the old version of 'Breed look very ancient in comparison. The A500 version's looking much better than we had all imagined, which is great news for everyone with an A500/600!
Monday May 17th
Rico has drawn what can only be described as a large 'blob'. This blob will form part of the military zone that has been over-run by alien life and features tracks where rotational turrets will run, forming an obvious barrier between you and it. The 128-colour version of the blob looks very nice, but once more - to everyone's surprise - the A500 looks very good too!
Wednesday May 19th
We think about exactly what's happening gamewise and decide that we want to put much more emphasis on the roles of the characters as they relate to the plot and missions. At the same time we want to add more action and much of the same sort of stuff that was found in, say, Gauntlet 2, in that each of the characters will act differently. We are aiming to give the robot/alien characters abilities such as infra-red and heal/motion sensing abilities which will affect the display.
Friday May 21st
Sometimes we wander if there is some kind of golden halo lurking above our offices. We've been spending a couple of weeks working out exactly what we want from a 3D vector-graphics routine - speed, shading, light-source, etc, then we had been pondering where to get one from (Andreas doesn't have time to do it) and then - hey-presto! - one comes through the post from some Italian guy... and they are just about the most impressive we have witnessed on the Amiga! [You haven't seen Frontier yet, mate! - Ed.)
We ran the 3D planet/terrain demo on a souped-up A1200 (twelve times the speed of an A500) and the result was amazing - super fast, super smooth vectors updating at 50 Hz (fifty times a second)! Called the guy up to find out that his English is just as bad as my Italian. We spend 20 minutes babbling at each other in our native tongues... it was all very frustrating and I had to end up getting an Italian friend of mine to ring up and speak to him. During the time I spent talking to him all the guy could say was "What?" in a style amusingly similar to the keeper of the bridge in the last bit of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Monday May 24th
Spent the whole weekend thinking what we could use the vectors for, but I'm not going to say as we want to keep something as a surprise! Rico heads back to England for a short break, spending time with his folks, and Andreas battles on with Project X. I'm doing some work on some of our up and coming budget stuff, so AB2 development stalls once more.
Wednesday May 26th
I called in to see the chaps at The One and pick up a copy of the latest issue at the same time. Laughed at my lager-soaked picture in the news section (do I REALLY look like that after lots of free beer?).
Friday May 28th
Time to get all the diary together for you readers and send it all down to EMAP Towers. Everyone is running around like madmen because we have lots to do and no time to do it in...
Monday 31st May (Bank Holiday)
Myself, Mick and Debbie (Sales) fly out to Chicago to the CES show. It's a hard life...
We might show you some of the vector stuff... More graphics... Even some aliens might make an appearance! And, of course, find out how things went in Chicago...
PIC: (Right) Johnson and Stone - back in action! This mocked-up shot should give you an idea of what the new sprites will look like in the final game.
PIC: (Right) One of Rica's development sketches far Ruffer2, the alien lizard thing which the player can choose to control...
PIC: (Above) ...And this is how it'll look in the game! Well 'ard!
PIC: (Below) Another mock up of J&S kicking ass!
PIC: (Above) Just a small section of the provisional map that Rico's put together for testing some of Alien Breed 2's graphics and routines. It's doubtful that you'll see a layout precisely like this in the final game.
PIC: (Below) The animation frames for Zollux, the bio-form robot character.
PIC: (Below right) All of the animation frames for the new-look explosions. These are drawn in just four colours but, as Martyn points out, they stand out brilliantly against the grey backgrounds!
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