Diary of a Game
Alien Breed 2 Part 3
Please enter and take your seats for the third instalment in our totally exclusive Alien Breed 2 development diary, as related by the boys at Team 17. This month Martyn goes Stateside, Allister gives a no-holds-barred account of his zoo trip and Andreas and Rico go to the funfair. It's all very exciting...
The Month in Brief
Another wildly exciting month for everyone around here, although very little of it has Alien Breed 2 connections. All the same, work on Breed 2 is now gathering pace. The aliens have made a somewhat brief appearance, as have the civilian building areas. Of course there have also been the usual hardware failures and drinking sprees, of which will be detailed in the diary itself. I would think that the next diary instalment will reveal more and more about the game.
The vector graphics I spoke of last month have taken a back seat for the moment, just as I imagined they would. It's always the same during development - we get an idea that excites us all very much but it soon wears thin after a couple of weeks. It's all a bit like watching a freshly poured glass of Resolve fizzle and froth all excitedly for a few moments before settling down again! But we are still aiming to use vectors in the game in one form or another, or at least in the revised computer system.
(Graphics & Fig Rolls)
This busy little lad has been pouring over ray-traced creatures this month. And a good job too because his Opalvision card has packed in, meaning a somewhat stunted growth to the new A1200 graphics. The upshot of all this is that he's been working on the 32-colour stuff more (as well as further game design ideas) and he's currently looking for a 24-bit colour card that really is compatible with his A4000.
He's been putting ray-traced stuff to good use though, as you'll see next month. Ray-tracing will be used for special objects and background animations; the effect should be really nice when finished. He's also been messing around with the computer system and designing new weapons. The weapons in Breed 2 will be MUCH better than the original ones and will have much different properties, such as small grenades, heat-seeking missiles that fly down corridors at aliens, etc, etc.
Rico has been messing around with aliens as well. We hope to get many different types into the sequel. There'll be aliens that fire back, morphing aliens (aliens that can take on the form of everyday items like lockers and then change back into aliens before your eyes), aliens that come through walls, aliens that come through the floor, intelligent aliens, creepy-crawlies, rogue droids, you name it... This month only one alien is pictured - it looks a wee bit 'cute' for my liking but they'll get nasty soon.
(Map Editor, Project-X budget re-release and young girls)
Not a fun month for Andreas. He spent a couple of highly stressful weeks a-tweaking and a-changing Project-X for its budget release.
Changing old code is every coder's nightmare (or it seems that way) and young Andreas is no different. But finally it was done, the game made more palatable and easier to swallow for the less hard players around and generally tidied up. I think it's good to revise games when we can when we re-release them and the feedback from everyone is very good on that score. Anyway, Project-X is over and out of the way now and currently sitting proudly at the top of the Budget charts - thanks knocking our own Alien Breed 92 off the top after 31 weeks at Number 1! Since then it's been a case of wiping the dust off the new map-editor and making sure its finished this month for the inevitable hard work ahead of mapping the game. Andreas has taken to working through the night - it's always the same when reasonable weather arrives. During the balmy summer afternoons you'll find him cruising the main street of Olofstrom (for it has but one) in his T-top convertible IROC Camaro viewing the babes and at night you'll find him locked away in a comfortable office listening to the Carpenters whilst beavering away on the game.
(Sheep, woolly mammals and other creatures)
Despite the sheep jokes Allister still speaks to us, regards us as friends even. Which is just as well because he's a good bloke... As I mentioned last time Allister had been down to the zoo with his DAT player clutched in his little keyboard tickling fingers, so it's over to Allister to find out exactly what he got up to...
Got up this morning and thought, "Where the hell am I going to find some decent Alien screaming sounds for Breed 2?" At the zoo, that's where. The scream sounds in the original Alien Breed were sampled from newly-born kittens meowing which were then distorted and mutated until they were more or less convincing. (Allister told me that he had to squeeze them to make them meow more loudly but asked me not to mention that bit. Readers can rest assured that the cats are fine and called Colin and Molly.) So remember the next time you're blasting alien scum in AB that the noise is all from defenceless little black kittens - shame on you! (More like shame on you, Allister...)
For Breed 2 I wanted a more powerful and blood-curdling scream, and as real animal sounds seem to produce the best results, I took a trip to Paignton Zoo with my Casio DAT recorder (shameless plug). The first port of call was the elephants enclosure where the said animals were being fed and steadfastly refused to utter a single sound! (Maybe you should have tried squeezing them Allister!) This was a pity as I was sure that the sounds from the Alien films were elephants...
Next stop was the monkey house but I think I arrived a little early as they were all sleeping. The zookeeper wouldn't lend me a snooker cue to prod them with, so they stayed asleep. Not a great start and, as Paignton Zoo isn't exactly the wildlife centre of the universe, I thought I'd give up when a bloody great big peacock strode up and squawked at the top of its voice right into the DAT mike! This was a brilliant sound which I'll be taking back to the studio in the hope of mutating into something tasty later on.
Back at studio the peacock sound was sampled into an AKAI S950 sampler and a low-pass filter used to take off high-frequency noise. The sound was shortened using the S950's time-stretch feature and a touch of reverb added. This sound was then played on four notes simultaneously and sampled into the Amiga via Audio Engineer. All that's left is to mix an explosion/frying sound with it to lend it more punch and kick and there you have it - one peacock-style Alien Breed 2 sound effect! I just hope the peacock doesn't want any royalty payments, or the zookeeper acting as his agent...
(Erm... what did I do this month?)
A strange old month for me, hardly any of it to do with Breed 2! I spent one glorious week in Chicago at the Consumer Electronics Show (which was brilliant - both Chicago and the show) and I've been dividing the rest of my time between about ten other projects: Body Blows PC, Body Blows A1200. Project-X budget release. Fl Challenge (now to be renamed F17 Challenge), Body Blows 2, Owak, Cardiaxx, Alien Breed PC, Overdrive, Assassin remix and Apache. Phew.
It's meant a very busy schedule and I've not had the time to sit and talk through stuff with the other guys as much as I'd have liked to, but it looks like I'll be going over to Sweden in late July/early August with Allister for a large-scale 'brain storming' session. We've also tied up the final details on our console operation with Team 17 games being converted and developed for that side of things too, so you can expect SNES/Megadrive stuff from us next year. And before anyone starts, of course we are still doing Amiga stuff!
I also had a letter from someone complaining about the lack of A1200 intensive stuff in the diary (and indeed the game). All I'll ask is for people to wait and see the final product before passing such a judgement. I don't want to sound dismissive but people have to realise that apart from a much improved graphics chip and a faster, 32-bit processor, the A1200 has no extra super-fantastic stuff over the Amiga. it's a bit faster but then again you're moving more data around.
I have a feeling that people are expecting something extraordinary from the machine. If they are then I feel they may be overstating the machine's virtues.
Sure, the A1200 is a fine machine and games are going to look, play and feel much better on it - it's a good leap over the old A500 - but it's not got the sort of hardware in it that some people seem to think it has. We know - we've got the specs! But I can assure you that we will make the A1200 do as much as possible, although until development goes 100% A1200 (which is some time off) then you won't see the best of the machine.
At the end of this month I'll be zipping off to Poros in Greece for a fortnight, the first REAL holiday I've ever had... and I can't wait! Watch out for the tanned piccy next month!
Team 17 HQ
Another quiet month at HQ with regard to Breed 2. Still the phonecalls come in asking about its release date and the same old "Back end of the year" replies fly out. Alien Breed Special Edition was knocked off top spot in the budget charts by our very own Project-X after 31 glorious, consecutive, record-breaking weeks. We've had two pieces of artwork sent in for possible use on the covers but both have stolen rather too heavily from a certain film series and therefore there is no way we can use them. Hopefully we'll have sketches to show you next month.
Most of the month has been spent in a legal wrangle with Fuji and the FIA (who license and market the Formula One thingies) who have told us that they want lots and lots of money because they say our F1 game infringed their copyrights and that we couldn't use the letters F and 1 together in a title nor use the words Grand and Prix. Humph. Let's hope some aliens don't land and start moaning that we're using their words too...
Everything has stopped over the last few days as the "wolves" (as we call our playtesting squad) have been given numerous copies of Overdrive to test and are going loopy trying to beat each other's track records - which is a jolly good sign as that means they're enjoying the experience. Anyway, onwards...
Thursday June 3rd
Fly out to Chicago clutching a camcorder and a number of dollars aiming for the bright lights and the windy city. Leave Andreas/Rico to get on with some serious work while I stuff my face and generally have a good time. The first problem occurs when I get drunk and leave my jacket and passport in a downtown pub. Fortunately I got it back later on but paid for my indulgence with a torturous hangover the next day. Some idiots never seem to learn.
Spend two absolutely awe-struck days wondering around Chicago gazing at the amazing architecture and I'm not talking about the women in the Baja Beach Club either! Think about Rico and Andreas slaving away on the game back in Sweden for about 10 milliseconds and have another swig of genuine draft Miller at the Hard Rock Cafe... this is the life.
The Consumer Electronics Show is big with a capital "f". There's lots of lovely things to see and do and absolutely no sign of an Amiga anywhere except for the Video Toaster, which is something only the CU techies would talk about. Saw nothing of major interest apart from some smart tellies, incredible car stereo rigs and the unbelievable 'Daytona' Sega arcade game - somehow I don't think we'll see a Spectrum version! Bumped into Gary Whitta, but on the whole it was a good show.
Monday June 7th
After flying home from Chicago with a tear in my eye and a hole in my wallet, it was back to business. Project-X had to be finished and Andreas was reaching his breaking point, but he came through it and we managed to squeeze it onto three disks.
Wednesday June 9th
Rico's Opalvision started playing up resulting in its untimely return to the manufacturers. That meant that the 128-colour backdrops will have to put to one side until a new graphics card arrives (DPaint AGA is a bit slow really and you cannot get the same sort of effect as with a 24-bit package). But this does mean that work on the standard version has picked up to a great degree (as you can see from the screens).
Friday June 11th
STOP! There's a funfair in Olofstrom. There I am calling Andreas to see how things are going and I get the message "No work... funfair is in town". I just hope it doesn't come around too often.
Monday June 14th
Rico starts fiddling with ray-tracing, the results of which you should see next month - be warned that static IFFs will do them little justice. Most of the animated ray-traced bits will be used in the backdrops.
Tuesday June 15th
A day well spent... Get up at 6am and travel down to Merthyr Tydfil to deliver the Project-X masters. Spend two hours testing the copies and announce it all a major success - first time it's taken so short a time. Smile the whole four hours back to Wakefield... Call Andreas with the news and listen to the shouts of glee. We like it when it goes well, seeing as nothing usually does.
Thursday June 17th
Project-X is released and we achieve record ship- outs for a budget game, double that of AB '92. All fingers and other items are crossed in the hope that it'll be a success. It is. Chickens are cooked, ale is drunk and the workers return home merry.
Tuesday June 22nd
Rico has been hard at work on the Civilian level and emerges from his pit clutching the provisional designs for this particular world. In comparison to the military zone its far less techy and hard-looking, which is just as well because it's where the base workers were meant to be. All the doors here will open on contact and missions will revolve around activating areas for later use.
Monday June 28th
Rico emerges triumphantly with ideas for a new Intex system including the visuals for some of the weapons. The main display centres around a huge animating sphere in the background and the monitor has a sort of bright line moving down it - the effect is superb, but it looks a bit tame in static shots. We are hoping to use vectors in conjunction with the new computer system to view the map and show exits and other information in the form of blue-prints and 3D models.
Tuesday June 29th
Andreas and Rico start work on a new section of the game which features the two characters driving a huge tank through a military zone in order to smash down the wall so that they can gain entry to another part of the complex - you can see it in its rough form here.
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