Diary of a Game
Uridium 2 Part 6
It's the game that everyone's talking about — and in the case of programmer Andrew Braybrook, it's normally things like "That Uridium 2 is a real pain in the backside, I can tell you." Each month in The One, you can read how Renegade's latest arcade opus, due out next Spring, is coming along, with daily updates and top gossip straight from the horse's mouth as we serialise AB's development diary, now in its sixth month. Take it away, o bespectacled one...
Part Six — October/November 1992
Wednesday 21st October, 1992
We're pretty much decided on going ahead with the dual-playfield version, I think. With that decision out of the way we can steam ahead with producing graphics and more gameplay items. Having made this momentous decision, I've cut all ties in the game with the original 32-colour background graphics and converted one set of them to seven, with Mack [the graphic artist] converting and redrawing where necessary. Had some fun organising the ground bombs so that if they miss the top playfield they fall some more and will detect the back playfield, if any, and blow up or drift off.
Jason has added a new tune for the inside-ship bit and managed to save 60K or so by resampling some of his instruments. That gives us buckets more space to put better speech in, and a better lead instrument for the title tune. He still doesn't seem keen on the stereo Rickenbacker bass sample, though. Can't think why!
Thursday 22nd October, 1992
Tried to get the dreadnought to melt away today so as the reactors are destroyed, the ship breaks up. The robot then has to steer clear of the spreading hole or die. Spent all afternoon chasing a nasty bug caused by the process of updating the background. Still haven't nailed it. Every time I put in a test to see if something is getting corrupted, the bug just happens anyway so I'm not On the right track yet.
Friday 23rd October, 1992
Tried a number of methods of melting the ship, all of which use horrendous quantities of CPU time and so cause glitches all over the place. The last method I've tried gives me most time, but only the top layer of the ship melts at the moment. I've just written the routines to hit the other layer but I've had enough for today.
Monday 26th October, 1992
Experimented with ways to melt the background layer of the dreadnought before giving up. All the co-ordinate systems were getting tangled up and it was taking up much too much time. As all the blocks melt, each one spreads onto four bordering ones which quickly generates a lot of melting explosions. Doing this on two levels would have looked pretty, I'm sure, but would also give the processor a seizure. Settled for one layer melting and the other brightening up and then darkening.
Tuesday 27th October, 1992
Mark has nearly finished work on the background character sets that were in 32 colours. He has added loads more detail to them to make up for the lack of colour. It does look good now, and with most of the sprites now redone we can get on with producing some new graphics. Jason wanted to add a new facility to the sound routine to allow us to temporarily stop a tune, play another, and then restart the old one from where it left off. That allows us to play a very short pause tune before the sound stops, and then restart the tune when you un-pause. Also it can be used to play a 'big boss theme' when fighting the big meany.
Wednesday 28th October, 1992
One minute it's hot, the next it's cold. Must be some Fire & Ice somewhere.
Thursday 29th October, 1992
Lifted all the old ship attack patterns and waves from the C64 version and dropped them into the Amiga code. They took a gratuitous amount of chopping about on the editor as I now define these things in a slightly more civilised manner. I can now gauge the game's difficulty a bit better by seeing how long people last when playing it. Actually, it's a bit grim at the moment.
Friday 30th October, 1992
Rationalised the attack waves to remove unnecessary ones that don't need to be there with the new system. Also fixed the chasing patterns as the new chaser ships are a bit smarter but need to be coaxed along a bit more. Everything from the original can be done, but with bells and whistles and plenty more options to boot.
I want to build a small map display into the control panel to give the player a bit more look-ahead. If I use the hardware sprite software that I used in Fire & Ice then I should be able to take over the sprite DMA channels at the bottom of the game screen and get them to display a scrolling three-colour contour map.
Monday 2nd November, 1992
The small map needs the following tasks to he done:
- Translate the large blocks in the map into single coloured pixels by examining the heights.
- Place all of these pixels into hardware sprite images.
- Cut a hole in the display panel for the map.
- Get the copper list setup routine to work out which part of the map to show and display the appropriate hardware sprites.
- Draw a new panel display with a cut-out in the middle to show the map through.
I blanked out the panel temporarily so I could see where the sprites were. There's no point in getting the calculator out and trying to figure out where the sprites are going, just get in there and throw some figures at it. As long as you have a fair chance of seeing where things are, you can move them a bit at a time until you get it right.
Tuesday 3rd November, 1992
Managed to throw away a few hours work when I restored a file from a backup because I'd made a total botch-up of it. I hadn't done a backup quite as recently as I had hoped so I lost some of the more recent updates to the world data.
Brought in a pitch-shifter pedal for Jason to create some more speech with. Now that I've freed up some more memory we can spend some more on the sound, and Jason doesn't have to worry about his voice being heard because that pedal is quite amazing. You, too, can be Darth Vader.
Wednesday 4th November, 1992
Not a great day for the history books. Just about everything that could go wrong did. It knows I'm in a hurry. The mapper can't produce four-colour output so I had to reformat its character set. The map was in the wrong position so I had to move that over. Then the FAX machine ran out of paper just as I wanted to send one long distance.
Thursday 5th November, 1992
Paid a flying visit to Paris to see how the French put on a computer show. Congratulations to Sensible Software for Sensible Soccer getting the Tilt Best Computer Sports Game award.
Monday 9th November, 1992
Went to a another computer show at the week-end. I'm not allowed to mention which one as Renegade didn't have a stand there. Got Uridium 2 running on an Amiga 4000. No incompatibility problems yet.
Got a second set of fleet graphics from a freelance artist, Stephen Rushbrook, who is doing what should become the first fleet. The style is more along the lines of the original C64 but much better. We managed to put the graphics into the game after a struggle with the packer which crashed repeatedly, and the mapper that steadfastly refused to produce anything remotely related to the correct output.
Tuesday 10th November, 1992
Defined all the destructible lumps of the new deck and all the Uridimine launch ports. This highlighted two new problems. For one thing, too many destructibles in one locale tend to cause the machine to have a seizure when they all blow at once. That isn't actually too bad as it just appears as camera shake, which I simulated in software anyway. The other problem is that the Uridimines get generated and left behind a little too easily. We've got to give the bad guys a chance, haven't we?
Tidied up quite a few routines that had been pretending that they were working (these computers will try anything to sneak a bug through customs) and put in three new bonus blocks to give the player points or an extra ship pod for destroying a full wave of fighters.
Thursday 12th November, 1992
Put in some new bad guys. There's a slow flying meany which I did call a helicopter until some bright spark pointed out that they wouldn't work in space. Everyone's a smart alec. This helicopter-type thing gets lifted up from its hangar below-deck and lifts off to chase after the player.
Mark wanted the parallax layer to not parallax on his latest ship design. There's no pleasing some people. In not-parallaxing mode (cos I'd already considered this possibility, being a smart kinda programmer) I had set it up to run the three-colour layer over the seven-colour one to act as overhead gantries or some such. Needless to say, this wasn't good enough as he wanted the three-colour layer below. A quick wave of the magic keyboard and we now have TOTAL flexibility.
Monday 16th November, 1992
Graeme paid us a visit from Renegade. He's not tremendously keen on the seven-colour graphics and since Mark is hinting that he'll go on strike if he has only seven colours to play with then we have a big problem. Most of the screenshots I've taken fail to impress as they are limited in colour. It's only when you see the game moving that it looks great.
Tuesday 17th November, 1992
Since the dual-playfield version is losing support rapidly I'm going to return to the 32-colour version. I've neglected that for a few weeks now and I've been finding bugs in the dual-playfield one which will still be waiting to be discovered again. This is a great memory test. Also I've been improving the gameplay overall and will have to redo all the improvements that I've made. I had to go through the whole lot file by file. I loaded up both versions and paged through them simultaneously. If you switch the editor quickly from one version to the other and back then the differences show up like an elephant in a very small garden indeed. Then I just had to decide whether that difference was because of the two playfields, in which case I don't want it or because it's an improvement. About three hours later and I got it all linked together.
Wednesday 18th November, 1992
Mark is now battling with a new palette for his 32-colour versions of all the ship graphics. This is fun.
Thursday 19th November, 1992
Well, Mark's new palette is a real bundle of laughs. I can't do a thing with it. No black, nine browns (which I can't tell apart from the greens) and they're all over the place. He seems able to draw with it. I guess that's what they mean by job security. No one else can use the palette. This makes life a bit difficult for my 3D block font — I suppose I'll have to do a new one.
Friday 20th November, 1992
As diary delivery date approaches, I have to figure out what I can reasonably put into this month's demo disk to take to EMAP towers. All the sound and music is just about sorted, it's just the graphics that are currently in limbo.
Mr, Rushbrook has been working on an animated intro sequence. No-one could accuse him of being anything less than ambitious.
More of the same, of course.
(Right) The latest, all-singing, all-dancing, 32-colour dreadnought in action. The game new features a scrolling radar display showing your position over the giant ship.
(Above and right) The new dreadnoughts are becoming more surreal and Giger-esque by the minute — notice the skeletal motif here. The game also now boasts a funky in-game track and loading screen music inspired by the famous C64 work of Martin Galway.
CAPTION: Because the dreadnought maps are far more sprawling than the original C64's, it's tougher for Andrew to plot where the enemy attack waves should appear. It's this part of the game that is taking much of the tweaking time — if the enemy appear too close to the player's ship the game becomes too difficult, if they appear too far away then the game becomes too easy.
Andrew Braybrook Amiga Softography
Graphics: John Cumming
Music: Jason Page
O.O.P.S Kernel.: Dominic Robinson
Graphics: Michael A. Field,
John W. Lilley
Music: Jason Page
Graphics: John Cumming
Music: Jason Page
Sound: Steve Turner
O.O.P.S. Kernel: Dominic Robinson
Graphics: John W. Lilley,
Music: Jason Page
Graphics: Colin Seaman,
Music: Jason Page