Diary of a Game
Creature Feature Part 2
John has got Mad Cow Disease, ZZAP! want the music demo yesterday, Thalamus need a game outro tomorrow but - hey! - the Rowland Bros are cool. They've got their surfing gear on, it's hot and the pool beckons. Put a few computers on the poolside table with some cans of cider and let's pretend we're working.
Wednesday April 11th
JOHN: Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday to Stevie, happy birthday to you (it's Steve's birthday today, in case you hadn't guessed).
Today we hitched a lift in Dave's Astra GTE 16v to ZZAP! HQ which meant us getting up at 4:30am (yawn), as it takes one and a half hours to get to Thalamus then about two and a half hours to get to Newsfield. (One asks oneself is it worth it?)
We gave the lads the first instalment of the diary and a demo of the game (for any screenshots that will be needed).
STEVE: As already mentioned we went to Newsfield today in Dave's black beast. Thanks to Rob and Phil for the entertainment all afternoon and thanks to Carol for the coffee.
While we were there we happened to notice a nifty little joystick called an 'Ultimate dial-a-speed superstick'. Now, the guys can't remember where they got it (they're not stupid OK), so if you know where to get hold of one, please could you let us know. (Try Euromax, we'll be reviewing it next issue - Ed)
Friday April 13th
Today is Friday the 13th and don't we know it!!
Two of our computers picked up a virus, causing them to overheat and start a small fire. This then turned into a big fire, setting our entire house alight. A motorist passing by diverted his attention from driving for a split second, to look at the inferno. This, unfortunately, was just long enough for him to see the pedestrian crossing the road. Swerving to avoid him, he went through the living room window of the house opposite. Sadly this ruptured their gas main and caused spontaneous combustion of the entire estate. As it happens the Nuclear power station nearby was a little too near... STOP! That's it! This is getting too ridiculous. If you believe any of the above you're more stupid than Rob 'that's a nice earring' Ellis looks. (Sorry Rob but we had to pick on someone).
Tuesday April 17th
JOHN: The last four days have been a bank holiday weekend and therefore we've been down Southend a few times playing loads of games. One that I'm hooked on again is Space Harrier (I used to love this game).
Started to design the first 'torture screen'. We did a couple of sketches to work out what was going to go where etc. After a few hours coding I now have the screen set up for some graphics. Steve insists on only leaving two characters blank at the bottom of the screen for the sprite status to go over, giving him more room for the torture screen above. So, not having enough room for the status, I have to move it down eight pixels and take out the border (not that anyone's going to notice).
STEVE: After the long, relaxing weekend it's back to work on a new section of the game: the torture screens. The sketches for them look great. If they turn out like we hope, they will be lots of fun to play and, watch. There aren't enough sprites on the CBM64 to cope with parts of the torture screen, so we resort to animating characters as well. There are two creatures made from characters which will animate on this torture screen. There are (a) the creature that pulls the platform up the screen when you jump on it, and (b) the creature on the bike that powers the generator to the Acme saw mill. There will be 32 sprites on screen for this section with space for 122 animations in memory.
Wednesday April 18th
JOHN: I was drinking some lemonade while working this morning, and accidentally spilt some on the PC keyboard. So I wiped if off and thought nothing of it - until this afternoooon when half a dozen of the kkeys decide to stickkk down when I press them. It couldn't hhappen oon some trivial keys, it has to happen on all the important ones likkke Assemble, Escape, Monitor and a few letters. Out witth the WD40 me thinks.
Spoke to Rob Hogg this afternoon about a 'music select system' for the cover cassette. Anyone who has the disk version of Retrograde will have seen one we've done already. Anyway, we decided it would be a pretty good idea to put one on next month's cassette (last month's by the time you read this!). I've therefore spent the last couple of hours ripping out our first select system ready to upgrade.
STEVE: Another music select system, hmmm, this means stopping production on Creatures for a few days to write/compose/copy about four bits of music. Some of the tunes on the select system are old, some tunes have been written for our old games but we ran out of memory to put them in so I write another bit in less memory and we have the first one left. This happens quite often and I've now got about fifteen double-sided disks full of music. However, I still write new stuff such as 'Apex Beats' which is quite funky.
Friday April 20th
JOHN: Now we've finished the select system it's time to transfer it onto cassette. Rob H wants it as little as possible (oo-er!) and we manage to squeeze it onto 1 minute 25 seconds of tape. The only problem is that it doesn't always load. God knows why, so please can he tell us?
STEVE: As a last resort to make the select system load more often (load at all) we guess that the cassette heads might be dirty, considering we haven't used it for about 18 months. So it's a trip down town to get some head-cleaner (for the cassette player, obviously - even though John's head is pretty dirty).
Monday April 23rd
(St George's day, don't you know)
JOHN: Having already posted the music demo to ZZAP!, we realised that there was a 'deliberate' mistake with the text on-screen. As it's an upgrade from the one we did last year it has last year's date on it, which I forgot to modify (how stupid can you get?... well there's Steve for a start)'
STEVE: After buying a copy of Ghouls 'n Ghosts and playing it for an hour, we decided that there aren't enough restart points. If you get just under half way through the level and die, you go all the way back to the start (which is pretty damn frustrating). Creatures will probably have nine or ten per level.
Tuesday April 24th
JOHN: This morning we received a demo from Rob 'mine's a pint' Stevens (the programmer responsible for Snare, but we don't hold that against him - just kidding) which creates glitch-free raster splits with sprites passing over them. We need this for the colour splits in Creatures (tm), (P) 1990, © 1990, (r) 1990 etc etc.
STEVE: After working peacefully all day, Rob H phones at 5:45 to say could they have any more of our music (as they like it so much). The only problem is that they need it by the 26th, meaning Datapost job tomorrow afternoon.
Wednesday April 25th
JOHN: I should be doing the game today but I've got to modify the music select system, again. I suppose this gives me the chance to correct the mistake of not changing 1989 to 1990. Having lost half the day to the music stuff, we worked until about midnight on the game (now there's dedication for you).
STEVE: In the space of about five hours I've written (copied — John) three bits of music (including a 'dub mix' of Apex beats). The 'game over' music is one of the shortest bits ever (memory wise) being 239 bytes long. It was in the post at about 2 o'clock and will get to ZZAP! in the morning.
Monday April 30th
JOHN: This morning we received our copy of 4th Dimension from Hewson (thanks Paul). After loading Cyberdyne Warrior we noticed that one of the voices for the title music wasn't working! Looks like the loader screwed it up as this only happens the first time the title screen appears.
On the torture screen side I spent most of the day making one of the aliens go to sleep, then the rest of the day waking him up.
STEVE: Today is hot! This gives us an excuse to work in shorts and shades. Started the music for torture screen this morning which is nice and cute. I also continued to do the graphics for the 'waterfall' level, which is hopefully where Clyde will use a boat or arm bands to progress. Did the big alien with real bad breath who tries to set you alight.
Wednesday May 2nd
JOHN: I now have the big alien moving back 'n' forth and spitting fire (looks quite good actually). The sleepy alien can also pull the platform needed to get Clyde from the bottom of the screen to the top.
The weather has been well hot the last few days, which means it's that time of the year when we must clean and heat the pool.
STEVE: Finished designing the graphics for the waterfall level and now have the task of transferring them into a scrolly map. Came up with a cute rat-type (Irem?) creature today, which will eat through the rope.
Friday May 4th
JOHN: That's it! We've had enough. All week we've been chained to the computers (but enough of this kinky talk) while there's been bright sunshine, the sound of lawn mowers and clean heated swimming pool outside. By mid-afternoon we had cracked and just had to go for a dip. (Can you blame us?)
STEVE: After persuading John to take half the afternoon off we went out to the poolside and caught some rays (yeah, man). Thinking about arranging a pool/bar-b-que party tomorrow (Saturday), admission being a 'six-pack and sausages'.
Tuesday May 8th
JOHN: I've taught the rats to walk about randomly and the weight now flattens the alien on the bike. So what if I used self-modifying code? I happen to like using it, okay (considering it takes up less memory and processing time).
We got hold of another Amiga, monitor, disks, books, joysticks etc. They belonged to Rob 'listen 'ear' Ellis, and we got the lot for £1.25 and a can of Tennents Super.
STEVE: Received a phone call from Dave 'silky' Birch today, asking me to do the 'game complete graphics for The Search For Sharla, another Thalamoose game. So it's another break from Creatures to get on with this straight away.
Friday May 11th
JOHN: The presentation bits have been added to the torture screen now. There's the 'Get Ready' and 'Level complete' in there (which we're quite pleased with), boosting memory to 3K more than a level in Retrograde.
So many games these days (including some arcade games) don't give very satisfactory 'complete sequences'. If I complete a level I want to feel a sense of achievement, even more if I complete the game. You know what I mean, staying up 'till three in the morning playing a game, doing it, and getting a boring message saying 'game complete' followed by a list of credits on who wrote the damn thing. We like to put a bit more effort in than that (check out Retrograde's 'game complete' sequence - plug, plug).
STEVE: The last few days have been fairly uneventful, as I've been doing the graphics for The Search For Sharla. The only exciting thing that's happened was when I did the Level Complete music for Creatures. At least I can look forward to nightclubbing at the weekend, together with a hefty dose of alcohol and junk food. We haven't had a Burger King for about two weeks, is this a record? (And would it get on to Top of the Pops?) John's starting to show withdrawal symptoms - running around in circles, waving his arms in the air and foaming at the mouth (I wonder if anyone will notice the difference in his behaviour... I doubt it). (Maybe he's got Mad Cow Disease! - Ed)
If you have any idea what should go in this box, please let me know! :)