Diary of a Game
Creature Feature Part 4
Do you over get that feeling that there is something missing from the magazine? This issue just hasn't got that little something that makes it quite complete. Hold on, we know what it is.... the RETROGRADE tips! So, to make up for lost space, we're going to make this instalment six pages long and call the magazine 'CREATURES C64' (we wish).
SATURDAY JULY 14TH
What a day! We woke up this afternoon and thought we were in the Caribbean - it's that hot. Then we realised we had to stay indoors and type up this flipping diary. Oh well, we'd better get on with it...
WEDNESDAY JUNE 13TH
JOHN: Well guess what we did today, that's right - we went to ZZAP! HQ (all our diaries start with this). Pieter 'Venom Wing' was there (actually he's been there for about five weeks) still adding the finishing touches to his game (and having A LOT of mastering problems -shouldn't have made your copy protection so good, eh Pieter?).
STEVE: The guys at ZZAP! have been viewing the latest version of Creatures. This happens to be the last level of the game which starts off in a graveyard setting and leads on to the castle and torture chamber at the end of the game (which was shown in the last issue).
FRIDAY JUNE 15TH
JOHN: Today I started coding the Shop, represented by a witch's hut. The (pretty) witch is going to be speaking to Clyde during his visit in the shop, so I've had to write a couple of small routines which will print speech bubbles to the screen and what she ways inside them.
Accidentally found a very pretty effect using overlaid sprites yesterday. It all came about from the arrowhead used in the 'Get Ready' attract sequence, and looks like vertical 'colour splits'. Anyway, without giving too much away, I reckon I could make good use of it as a 'screen appearance' system, maybe for the High Scores screen.
STEVE: The shop graphics are really finished this time. I know I've said it before but the final adjustments have been made and it's all done.
The time has come to design the second 'hilarious' torture screen. This will see one of Clyde's friends tied onto the top of an 'ACME jack' which is being worked by one of the bad guys. Above the jack is a swinging blade which will surely slice the poor Fuzzy-Wuzzy in two. You're required to save the fuzzy by stopping the jack: I'm not going to give too much away but it involves a rock, a seesaw and a cannon ball
TUESDAY JUNE 19TH
JOHN: Took a little time off from doing the shop this morning as I had to add some restart points to the second level. I found a little bug in the game yesterday which sometimes caused an alien not to appear. As this was a fairly major bug I had to stop work on the shop (again) and fix it.
Also found out about a series of 'monster movies' on Channel 4. They run at about 11.00pm each Friday and I'll give you three guesses at the title of the series... That's right - The Creature Feature.
STEVE: I've spent a few days working on the alien maps. All the screenshots of the game so far have had demo aliens on them which haven't actually been mapped onto any platforms or anything. This means that there has never been a demo of the game with aliens walking, flying or swimming around. So there's never been any proper gameplay before now.
In between doing the aliens I've done the shop music, which has had much praise from Andy Smith. It has the bass 'n' drums we come to expect from me with a real nice wibble at start.
FRIDAY JUNE 22ND
JOHN: After working loads of hours on the shop the last couple of days, I've hit a problem - adding a purchased weapon to Clyde's weapon list. I've studied a print-out for the last hour and modified my code several thousand times but is still doesn't work. By the end of the afternoon I'm getting very annoyed and end up throwing 'coosh-balls' round the room. If you don't know what coosh-ball is then check out the last instalment of the diary. The piccy of us on the bottom left of the first page has me with some coosh-ball earrings!
STEVE: After getting the basic design of the second torture screen, with all the sprite and colour splits worked out, the next task is to reproduce the drawings onto the C64. I started designing the characters and have produced a really colourful effect that has the left half of the screen on light blue and the right half on black. Most of the devices on this screen are animated through characters and windows, such as the Acme jack and the swinging blade. These use up a lot of character animations and therefore have to be stored out of the current on-screen charset (character set) and stored over when needed.
TUESDAY JUNE 26TH
JOHN: Spent yesterday morning fixing ANOTHER bug Steve found in my 'alien movement' routine: any aliens moving with a speed of a pixel every other 50th (of a second) in an X direction somehow screwed up the other aliens. Don't ask me how. I'm only a programmer (just).
I spent this morning adding an information option to the list of icons in the shop. If you select this the witch will give you handy playing tip for the following torture screen. But, as we only allowed four line of text in her speech bubble, it's not great deal of info. So I came up with the idea of being able to buy additional info if you want it. I also chucked in a little routine which pulsed the icon tablet every time you purchase something.
STEVE: The torture screen chars are now finished, even though sometime in the future I'll probably adjust and add bits to them. So next on the long list of 'things to do' are the sprites for this Selection, starting with the creature that works the Acme jack.
I've also been adding more aliens to the scrolling Selection I'm just completing the last part of water on the first level, with all the cute little fishes and smiling puffer fish.
THURSDAY JUNE 28TH
JOHN: Wednesday's post contained a demo disk from Andy Roberts. It also had some of his bitmap screens on, with our favourite apparently taking the least time to copy - sorry- create! (Now where have I seen that Lamborghini before?)
This afternoon was another 'stop work on what ever I'm doing and fix a major bug' afternoon. The problem? the sprite 2 sprite detection subroutine, this is used by my UTHEM and BULTHEM routine (you against aliens respectively). The problem with it is the detection over the '255 line' (MSB). I still haven't fixed that blasted thing - I don't know what it is. (My poor little coosh-ball has taken one heck of a hammering today, especially after one of my source disks crashed!)
STEVE: I have now finished the first level of aliens and am about to start the second level, which begins in water. This then leads onto a long Selection of forest, then to the end of level and torture chamber. Your journey through the forest will not be easy fierce aliens (with cute bug-eyes).
As John has been working on the 'shop' Selection of the game, he requires some graphics for the weapon selection. So, as usual, I have to stop what I'm doing and oblige. The graphics he needs are a few extra icons you can buy; the extra ones are an information icon and an exit icon. While I'm trying to design a good-looking info icon, I have the idea of trying to do the Tourist Information 'i', that you get on the signs and on the maps.
MONDAY JULY 2ND
JOHN: At long last - I've fixed me detection subroutine!!! So what if it was only luck that I fixed it in the end, at least it's done
Had to take an hour off from Creatures to reply to some fan mail we received late last week. Mark Bishop (from Dudley, which doesn't have very good software stores) sent a letter to ZZAP! to pass onto us. He included a handful a Burger King cards with the winning panels scratched off, giving us free Whoppers, fries and cokes. Rob H just had to take one before passing them onto us, didn't he?! Mark also liked the same music we do (check out King Bee - Back By Dope Demand, it's great (I just luv the video)). Anyway, thanks Mark for an entertaining letter and of course, the BK cards.
STEVE: Hey man! Done some real wicked vibes today! - well I need a break from mapping on aliens. Whenever something gets a bit boring I usually comprise (copy?) some music, so our disk boxes are overflowing with tunes, ditties and drums.
Another brainwave, this time in the form of a new magic potion for another weapon. This weapon will have Clyde spitting flames, but they will stream out further than normal and go through any platforms in the way.
There are more sprites to be added to the waterfall level, but I may be starting to run out of ideas for aliens like cute little birdies, the big bug-eyed slugs and the 'Old-age Mutant Heroine Tortoises' (just kidding about the last one).
WEDNESDAY JULY 4th
JOHN: Spoke to Pieter Opdam yesterday about Creatures demo for him and his mates. They might be doing the 16-bit conversions of Creatures for Thalamus.
Fixed loadsabugs today including some which have been in the game for months: the colour scroll glitch (the colours for characters at the bottom right of the screen don't update fast enough) and alien explosion colours (the colours have a nasty habit of going out of time with animations, which doesn't look too cool!). I also modified my dreaded sprite collision code to detect vertically expanded sprites properly.
STEVE: Finally I've finished a level of aliens. This level is the third out of six (at the moment anyway - but it may change again)..
As soon as John gets his finger out and saves off the next alien map editor (level four) I can continue with more alien mapping but in the meantime I shall continue with the sprite aliens on the first and second levels.
Rob Ellis has recommended that we hear Jean Michel Jarre's new album - Waiting For Cousteau, so on it goes as we work away. This music is perfect for working to, really relaxing and mellow. Some of the tunes are quite cute in a way, and I may be inspired by them (copyright - what's that?) One of the best tracks is 22 mins long - imagine that for title music!
MONDAY JULY 9TH
JOHN: As Steve's mentioned before, Clyde starts the fourth level in water. When I uploaded the map Clyde appeared in the water, it looked okay - until I pushed up. Every pixel Clyde moved up, his jump sound effect played. I half expected something like this was going to happen as it's not the conventional way of getting under water (he usually has to fall into it). A bit of messing around with the code and I've not only fixed the bug but I've arranged the code's structure so I can incorporate different movement routines for each level.
STEVE: More work on level four, adding two screens to the water Selection at the start of the level. After the water Selection ends you have the long Selection of forest to deal with. John now has to upload the new map before I can continue with more aliens, so it's back to more level one and two sprites (again). I've got a nice goblin-type creature strutting his funky stuff and some neat turning animations for him.
FRIDAY JULY 13TH
JOHN: Adjusted the in-game colour splits today. Instead of indiscriminately splitting all colours, they now only split colours which are different. On the subject of colours, I decided to do something about the lack of effective sprite colours we can use. At the moment we can normally only use five or six, the sprite multicolours being dark grey and yellow. I managed to get an extra seven or eight 'good looking' ones today (by mixing two present colours, eg green and pink to form a greeny-pink colour... hmmm).
STEVE: As you probably know already, the first level of the game has a waterfall in it and today saw me trying to animate the diagonal corner. The problem here is I have to design the frames on by one and can't see them animating until John has uploaded them and put them in the level.
The first attempt looked a bit messy but once I had sorted out this problem I did a second version which is much better. The diagonal slope of water is preceded by the horizontal Selection that you swim in, which has some pretty neat animations for Clyde splashing around and nice parallax water. After the corner you have the vertical drop into the water below. We may put sound effects in for the waterfall which will get louder as you get nearer and fade away as you leave.
If you have any idea what should go in this box, please let me know! :)