Xerra's Blog

Drunken coder ramblings

Website tidy up —

Finally did some tidying up on the old site since it was resurrected from the hosting providers screw up.

Link straight to my games is safe now. I noticed that the old link was pointing to a non-secure version previously.

Got rid of some redundant widgets and tidied/moved others up.

My most recent game is now shown in the image link.

Updated the blogs widget. Some of these have been inactive a while but I like to check in on them sometimes, just in case they do get a new post.

It’s all ongoing with this stuff as I work out how to do more than just the basic editing on WordPress.

How my games have done in Syntax Bomb competitions – Part Two —

Edit: I had to change the date of this post so it appeared at the top.

Another post that’s a bit overdue now. I started drafting this back in March, 2021 and it got left half finished in the life-swirl of moving house, changing jobs, moving house again, and general slackness on my part. So today I finally got around to picking it up again.

I left off part one having gone up to my third game, Bah, Humbug!, which in retrospect actually stood the test of time a lot better than I thought it would. I even did a kind of mini re-release of it for Xmas 2020 (2 years later) by faking a discount to free of charge on itch.io because I just wanted to get more people to see it. Shit loads did, which surprised me, as it seems people would rather download and play a game that’s been temporarily discounted to free of charge, if they think it used to be a chargeable product. From having around 80 views in total, it went up to almost four figures just for the week it showed discounted to free. Possibly Itch showcased it because it was Xmas themed.

So, from the financial success of Bah, Humbug!, I moved onto the next competition when it was announced, which was number 8. This time round the theme was to make a game that looked like it was being played on an 8 bit computer. Same palette and no effects that looked like they wouldn’t be possible on the real machine. Naturally I chose the C64, as I needed to be able to use sprites for everything, and you could get away with quite a few moving objects on the C64 with interrupts trickery.

This competition was probably the most memorable of them all so far, as it still has the record for the most entries, and the quality of most of the entries was absolutely amazing. At the time I thought my game, Damnation Alley, was ok, but it hasn’t stood the test of time anywhere near as well as some of the other games. In the end it came in 6th place. Not actually that bad considering the number of entries.

A Damnation Alley post-mortem is something I’ve yet to do, as I was a bit slack on the blog entries at that time, but I’ll do it at some point because my comment about the test of time in the last paragraph was written last year and I think now that it’s a bit harsh. Suffice to say that I loved playing Spy Hunter as a kid and that was the game i was going to try and emulate. I succeeded in some areas, and failed pretty badly in others, but the game does have a lot of redeeming qualities on reflection, such as the Invadeaload addition, for example. More on all that in a separate post.

I was keen to try and do a much better game with the next effort for the Syntax Bomb competition 9, where the theme was Mix it up. This would be my second game in 2019. You had to choose two categories, one from each list of ideas generated randomly. I chose the easy option and went for the two subjects that would most appeal to me, which were Retro and Shooter. Endless, tactical, RPG and some of the other options didn’t really appeal for creating a short game, and there were only 8 weeks to get it done.

What I came up with after a fair bit of thinking was Centipede. I very nearly ran with some kind of remake of radar rat race, which was an early cartridge game for the Vic 20, but in the end decided to leave that for another day. I loved Centipede in the arcade, and Millipede, which came out a bit later. There were several versions of this game for both C64 and Vic 20 that I played but obviously none ever came close to the belting Jeff Minter classics, Gridrunner and Matrix. Matrix was also known as Attack of the Mutant Camels at some point, just to add to the confusion.

Anyway, as usual, because I had played and loved games like these as a kid, I wanted to try and do something similar myself. This is another game i completed that only warranted a quick released post on the blog when I finished, so I’ll do a retrospective at some point later on. Suffice to say that I really enjoyed making and still playing this one but my major failing was probably in the artwork inconsistency and a couple of flawed elements in the gameplay itself. It didn’t make the top three but, again, it probably didn’t deserve to, with some of the better games that did. This game is high on the list of the ideas that I would like to develop into some kind of sequel one day.

The next competition was for the “Reboot” concept where we reimagined a game that had been created for a previous competition. I created Validius for this one, and wrote about that in the previous post. That game turned out much better than expected as I managed to win the competition for a second time.

My first game in 2020 was Tommy Gunn and this was for the “Go Nuts!” competition where the theme was exactly that. You could make whatever game you fancied doing. Again, I need a separate post for this one, as it deserves a bit more than a couple of paragraphs on this post.

The main difference between this game and all my earlier efforts was running it as a project with multiple contributors, rather than just me doing the coding and almost everything else, then throwing in some assets at the end like music. I had a fellow Syntax Bomb member, Tony Blinco, do all the fantastic artwork for me, and recruited a mate, Carl Kingsman, to create the title screen music and jingles. I also had a guy contact me who really wanted to do sound effects for games and asked if he could contribute, which i was very happy to agree. After getting the usual technical assistance from Aaron, and testing duties by our partners and some friends, I found i had enough people who deserved a credit to fill out all the spots in the high score table.

Tommy Gunn did well in the competition by making third place. I was really pushed for time to get it over the line, however, and I really had to cut out a lot of ideas for the game to get it over the line. Blinko also had many suggestions that i wanted to put in that didn’t make the cut. I think I should have put more hours into my side in all honesty. The game ended up being far too easy as a result and that did affect how well the game came across, I believe.

That was the only competition game I actually released in 2020, it turned out, but I did also finally finished my version of Boulderdash, after starting it in 2017 as one of my first projects using GameMaker. That meant I had technically released two games in 2020, which wasn’t as productive as the two previous years, but a definite improvement on 2021, where i finished none of the three i started. More on that in another post.

As I’m writing this in June, 2022, I have put out another competition game this year, and did manage to get a placing again, but there were only four entries, unfortunately, so it’s not the achievement I’d like it to be. Faces of Qube I will talk about in a later post, but again I didn’t get the time to do quite what I wanted to do so hopefully for the next half of this year I’ll get a chance to put 2020’s failure behind me and maybe either get at least one more done, or possibly pick up and finish something else that I never got round to completing in previous years.

Syntax Bomb competition 10 – Reboot —

I’m going back a couple of years here, right back to pretty much where we were in the height of the Covid lockdown, as I recall. At the time I started work on Validius, it was around 4 weeks into the Reboot competition and I’d been toying with an idea about creating a simulated cluedo-style game using the old Bah,Humbug! framework with a theme of murder in an office. It was quite an ambitious game idea, and i’m still not done with it yet, but i’ll talk more about that another day.

So, Covid was in full-force at the time, and i had been working from home for a couple of months, so realistically had more time available to do something good for that competition, as travel to work and a lot of other distractions were not a problem. However, tinkering with that concept had taken me half the time we had until deadline day, so I knew i still needed to do something that was achievable pretty quickly.

The reboot theme of the competition meant you had to pick a game from previous competitions and then reboot it. Any game that had previously been entered was fair game, and you could even use one of your own. I had been tinkering with the un-named game (I had a name in mind but will probably reuse it if i ever resurrect it, so i’ll keep it under my hat for now) based on one of my own games but decided to drop that idea completely and just went for rebooting on the theme of the first ever competition, which was Asteroids.

This possibly seems a bit of a cop out but it actually ended up being a fair bit of work because i upped up the presentation side of the game a fair bit this time, and made the game a lot more than just asteroids itself. As anyone interested enough to read this post will know, the game did end up winning the competition in the end, which shocked even me, as there were some really good entries submitted by deadline day.

Here’s the competition results page on the Syntax Bomb forums:

Winners of our 10th game comp – REBOOT – Mar 10th to May 10th 2020 (syntaxbomb.com)

When i look back at it now – and i reread all the message board threads on the competition and feedback for the game again before starting this post – I think i can see why it did better than some of my previous games. Asteroids had a very good control system which, once mastered, gave you a significant advantage in playing the game well, and actually practising getting good at that was part of the addictive nature of the game itself. On reflection, i did a pretty poor job in giving it decent keyboard controls, even though i did have two different ways to play it like that. What I did get right this time was implementing gamepad controls for the first time in any game i’d written.

Aaron had been tinkering for a while on some self contained framework code for game stuff that could be re-used across games. Stuff like starfield generators, file-i/o functions for save games and profiles and a few other bits. He’d also written a pretty solid gamepad control system which improved massively on the stuff built into gamemaker 2 and he wanted me to use it for my current game as a test run because he wasn’t working on a game of his own at the time.

I implemented the system into Validius pretty early on and also took the opportunity to use a new custom star field system that he had been working on as well. The results of that are used throughout the title screen and credits sequence to give an appearance of proper 3d starfield zooming and really helped give the game the visual look i wanted. Implementing the gamepad framework allowed me to set up Validius to use both Xbox and PS4 controllers, so I got one set up on my Mac for the first time and got the game working on twin-stick controls pretty easily.

Reading through the comments about the game , it’s pretty obvious that a lot of votes came my way just because of this so i’m going to always do this going forward. As i only ever played games on the computer with mouse or keyboard previously, and never used a gamepad outside of on the PlayStation, i’d just never thought it would be much of a game enhancer as other computer game players are just like me, right? Right? Yeah, lesson learned.

So, Validius took shape pretty rapidly, as i had a pretty good idea how i wanted it to play as soon as i started the project. Bonus weapons (Yes, i should have added more, but timeframes and all that), score bonus tokens, autofire, better enemy AI (which ended up coming out much better than i had dared hope) and crunchy sound effects that wouldn’t piss everyone off after a couple of minutes. I got in some nice, simple particle dust effects for asteroid/laser impacts and made it a little harder than most of the games i’ve ever written, too, because some people really do like that. Still kept the 3 levels option, though, because i’m not a complete bastard, yeah?

As a bonus i managed to find a couple of decent music tracks that were free to use and really suited the game, so, once again i’d managed to get a game out of the door without having to put my hand in my pocket for assets, especially artwork. My first three games all cost a few quid in graphics but i’ve made a few friends who help out with stuff since then to make things a lot cheaper. Remember, Bah, Humbug cost me around £150 in custom room artwork, although that was negated thanks to winning that competition and getting £250 for it.

On June 2nd, 2020 it was announced that Validius won the reboot competition and that victory felt even better than the first time I won a competition because this time there were a lot more than three entries.

Validius wins Syntax Bomb competition 10 —

You’d think I’d want to crow about this at the time but, for some reason, I seem to have forgotten to actually post this here. Anyway, for the 10th Syntax Bomb competition, Validius came top of the pack, which was a great achievement considering how good some of the other games were.

When designing and programming the game I was fortunate enough to not need too much graphical stuff compared to some games, so I just used freebie stuff and concentrated on pure gameplay mainly. It’s the first game I’ve put in gamepad controls – in fact the game is a pretty poor game trying to play on keyboard – and I pushed myself on the presentation side a bit more too.

The game was finished and submitted last May and has since been patched for some minor stuff since then so it’s well worth downloading now as I’m unlikely to update it any more.

You can find it and all the other games I waffle on about on my games page, linked on the right side of this post.

99 Crazy ways to order a pizza —

  1. If using a touch-tone, press random numbers while ordering. Ask the person taking the order to stop doing that.
  2. Make up a charge-card name. Ask if they accept it.
  3. Use CB lingo where applicable.
  4. Order a Big Mac Extra Value Meal.
  5. Terminate the call with, “Remember, we never had this conversation.”
  6. Tell the order taker a rival pizza place is on the other line and you’re going with the lowest bidder.
  7. Give them your address, exclaim “Oh, just surprise me!” and hang up.
  8. Answer their questions with questions.
  9. In your breathiest voice, tell them to cut the crap about nutrition and ask if they have something outlandishly sinful.
  10. Use these bonus words in the conversation: ROBUST FREE-SPIRITED COST-EFFICIENT UKRAINIAN PUCE.
  11. Tell them to put the crust on top this time.
  12. Sing the order to the tune of your favorite song from Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” CD.
  13. Do not name the toppings you want. Rather, spell them out.
  14. Put an extra edge in your voice when you say “crazy bread.”
  15. Stutter on the letter “p.”
  16. Ask for a deal available somewhere else. (e.g. If phoning Domino’s, ask for a Cheeser! Cheeser!)
  17. Ask what the order taker is wearing.
  18. Crack your knuckles into the receiver.
  19. Say hello, act stunned for five seconds, then behave as if they called you.
  20. Rattle off your order with a determined air. If they ask if you would like drinks with that, panic and become disoriented.
  21. Tell the order taker you’re depressed. Get him/her to cheer you up.
  22. Make a list of exotic cuisines. Order them as toppings.
  23. Change your accent every three seconds.
  24. Order 52 pepperoni slices prepared in a fractal pattern as follows from an equation you are about to dictate. Ask if they need paper.
  25. Act like you know the order taker from somewhere. Say “Bed-Wetters’ Camp, right?”
  26. Start your order with “I’d like. . . “. A little later, slap yourself and say “No, I don’t.”
  27. If they repeat the order to make sure they have it right, say “OK. That’ll be $10.99; please pull up to the first window.”
  28. Rent a pizza.
  29. Order while using an electric knife sharpener.
  30. Ask if you get to keep the pizza box. When they say yes, heave a sigh of relief.
  31. Put the accent on the last syllable of “pepperoni.” Use the long “i” sound.
  32. Have your pizza “shaken, not stirred.”
  33. Say “Are you sure this is (Pizza Place)? When they say yes, say “Well, so is this! You’ve got some explaining to do!” When they finally offer proof that it is, in fact (Pizza Place), start to cry and ask, “Do you know what it’s like to be lied to?”
  34. Move the mouthpiece farther and farther from your lips as you speak. When the call ends, jerk the mouthpiece back into place and scream goodbye at the top of your lungs.
  35. Tell them to double-check to make sure your pizza is, in fact, dead.
  36. Imitate the order taker’s voice.
  37. Eliminate verbs from your speech.
  38. When they say “What would you like?” say, “Huh? Oh, you mean now.”
  39. Play a guitar in the background.
  40. Say it’s your anniversary and you’d appreciate if the deliverer hid behind some furniture waiting for your spouse to arrive so you can surprise him/her.
  41. Amuse the order taker with little-known facts about country music.
  42. Ask to see a menu.
  43. Quote Carl Sandberg.
  44. Say you’ll be able to pay for this when the movie people call back.
  45. Ask if they have any idea what is at stake with this pizza.
  46. Ask what topping goes best with well-aged Chardonnay.
  47. Belch directly into the mouthpiece; then tell your dog it should be ashamed.
  48. Order a slice, not a whole pizza.
  49. Shout “I’m through with men/women! Send me a dozen of your best, Gaston!”
  50. Doze off in the middle of the order, catch yourself, and say “Where was I? Who are you?”
  51. Psychoanalyze the order taker.
  52. Ask what their phone number is. Hang up, call them, and ask again.
  53. Order two toppings, then say, “No, they’ll start fighting.”
  54. Learn to properly pronounce the ingredients of a Twinkie. Ask that these be included in the pizza.
  55. Call to complain about service. Later, call to say you were drunk and didn’t mean it.
  56. Tell the order taker to tell the manager to tell his supervisor he’s fired.
  57. Report a petty theft to the order taker.
  58. Use expletives like “Great Caesar’s Ghost” and “Jesus Joseph and Mary in Tinsel Town.”
  59. Ask for the guy who took your order last time.
  60. If he/she suggests anything, adamantly declare, “I shall not be swayed by your sweet words.”
  61. Wonder aloud if you should trim those nose hairs.
  62. Try to talk while drinking something.
  63. Start the conversation with “My Call to (Pizza Place), Take 1, and. . action!”
  64. Ask if the pizza is organically grown.
  65. Ask about pizza maintenance and repair.
  66. Be vague in your order.
  67. When they repeat your order, say “Again, with a little more OOMPH this time.”
  68. If using a touch-tone press 9-1-1 every 5 seconds throughout the order.
  69. After ordering, say “I wonder what THIS button on the phone does.” Simulate a cutoff.
  70. Start the conversation by reciting today’s date and saying, “This may be my last entry.”
  71. State your order and say that’s as far as this relationship is going to get.
  72. Ask if they’re familiar with the term “spanking a pizza.” Make up a description to go with the term. Ask that this be done to your pizza.
  73. Say “Kssssssssssssssht” rather loudly into the phone. Ask if they felt that.
  74. Detect the order taker’s psychic aura. Use it to your advantage.
  75. When listing toppings you want on your pizza, include another pizza.
  76. Learn to play a blues riff on the harmonica. Stop talking at regular intervals to play it.
  77. Ask if they would like to sample your pizza. Suggest an even trade.
  78. Perfect a celebrity’s voice. Stress that you won’t take any crap from some two-bit can’t-hack-it pimple-faced gofer.
  79. Put them on hold.
  80. Teach the order taker a scret code. Use the code on all subsequent orders.
  81. Mumble, “There’s a bomb under your seat.” When asked to repeat that, say “I said ‘sauce smothered with meat’.”
  82. Make the first topping you order mushrooms. Make the last thing you say “No mushrooms, please.” Hang up before they have a chance to respond.
  83. When the order is repeated, change it slightly. When it is repeated again, change it again. On the third time, say “You just don’t get it, do you?”
  84. When you’ge given the price, say “Ooooooo, that sounds complicated. I hate math.”
  85. Haggle.
  86. Order a one-inch pizza.
  87. Order term life insurance.
  88. When they say “Will that be all?”, snicker and say “We’ll find out, won’t we?”
  89. Order with a Speak-n-Spell where applicable.
  90. Ask how many dolphins were killed to make that pizza.
  91. While on the phone, fake entering puberty. Fluctuate pitch often; act embarrassed.
  92. Engage in some serious swapping.
  93. Dance all around the word “pizza.” Avoid saying it at all costs. If he/she says it, say “Please don’t mention that word.”
  94. Have a movie with a good car chase scene playing loudly in the background. Yell “OW!” when a bullet is fired.
  95. If he/she suggests a side order, ask why he/she is punishing you.
  96. Ask if the pizza has had its shots.
  97. Order a steamed pizza.
  98. Get taker’s name. Later, call exactly on the hour to say, “This is your (time of day) wake-up call, So-and-so” ; Hang up.
  99. Offer to pay for the pizza with a public flogging. 

How my games have done in Syntax Bomb competitions – Part One —

I can’t believe I’ve not actually published about this before but I’ve properly released seven games on Itch in just over two years and six of them were for Syntax Bomb competitions. Nowhere have I actually mentioned much about how they have done in these competitions so I really should rectify that now.

Firstly, in April of 2018, I entered the fourth competition on the site with my game Envahi. A remake of one of my favourite Vic 20 games, this competition was the imputes to actually write it because I’d been planning it for years. I hadn’t entered the previous three competitions as I was new to the forums back then and missed them. The game did pretty well for a first entry and came in at third place – mainly because the host doesn’t count his own games in the judging as that would have put me down into fourth and out of the prize fund. For getting on the podium I got a prize of £100. When I factored in the development time, including numerous blog entries on here, I worked out my rate was roughly £1 an hour working on it. More than I usually get for writing games 🙂

Around 2 months later the fifth competition began and I had 8 weeks to come up with my next game for it. I came up with an idea for a top trumps style game involving retro computers and even got some nice artwork done for it. Around 6 weeks in I realised it wasn’t coming together very well and I pulled out of entering. I’d put a lot of work into the game by that time and I would say I was around 70% done but the game just didn’t feel right when playing and I was also having some technical issues which didn’t help. I was still pretty inexperienced with the dev system, even though I’d worked on a few games, so I just put it down to experience. Luckily, since then, I’ve managed to make every deadline since. While developing RAM – as I called it – I also wrote a short story of 8 chapters which I planned to have unlock as the story mode of the game progressed. If I haven’t published it on the blog yet then I will do so later somewhere, as it’s not a bad little effort and I can’t really do much else with it since I canned the game.

I was a bit more focussed when the next competition came around and as the topic was a maze game, I decided to proceed with another remake of a game I’d planned to recreate for years. Rockman was one of my favourites on the Vic 20 as well, so I went all out to try and get this done in six weeks and it worked out pretty well. I’ve blogged a fair bit about the process for this at the time and I’m especially proud of uploading the final build and forum post at 8 minutes before the deadline. The closest I’ve ever been. The game itself was pretty well received and I’m still rather proud about how polished it is even now, for a six week game. Obviously there’s a few quirks and bugs that could do with fixing or improving but it’s stood the test of time pretty well and even had a few payments on the site from people who donated after they downloaded it. As for the competition, it went up against some amazing competition so only got joint fourth place. I can’t moan about this because that competition in particular was very popular with entries.

At this point we had got to mid-November and discussion was going on about having a Xmas themed game. I’d bandied the idea around possibly having an adventure game theme and this was picked up. I had seven weeks to work on this one and I got some help from a friend to come up with 20 locations set around a house and a Xmas-themed plot where you are a school boy out exploring the house looking for codes to open the safe and find your xmas presents. I expanded on this to come up with some optional extra side quests and then got my nose stuck into writing a basic framework for creating adventure games before getting the core game in place as a text adventure. After this I commissioned an artist to draw all 20 locations for me, with a heavy xmas theme, and also got some gui help from another syntax bomb user so the game could have a more modern feel with icons for moving around etc. Bah, Humbug! did win this competition but my glorious victory was somewhat subdued because there were only 3 entries submitted. Still, the prize was £250 which covered my expenses for the artwork and development costs around the same as Envahi of roughly £1 an hour 🙂

I will continue this in the next post.

Boulderdash finally finished —

I started working on a Boulderdash remake back in 2017 and it was pretty much one of my first games that I worked on solo when I switched to working with Gamemaker Studio 2.

Readers who’ve seen some of the first blog entries here will have seen that I was actually going guns blazing putting the game together until I got distracted by competitions and other ideas and kind of left it by the wayside when it was almost finished. At the time the game had a couple of elements like the amoeba and the magic walls still to go in but the biggest issue I was having was implementing the fireflies and the butterflies AI into the game.

I’d have to read back the earlier blog posts to see how much of this I went into back then but the main issue was that I’d been using tiles for all of the game elements, rather than objects, and I’d come up stuck with not being able to have code elements on the enemy tiles so they knew both where they had been and where they were going.

A simple idea would have been to flip them out into objects and removing the tiles for them so they could work with collision checks against tiles still, for interacting with other gameplay elements, but would have their own AI system coded into their step event and meant each one had individual control.

Aaron helped me out with the start of implementing this but we moved further in starting a branch of the code to work with a complete object system instead of tiles. For some daft reason I was even contemplating redoing the already completed tile maps as object layouts instead when I just needed to do a bit of processing as each map loaded to delete the tiles and put an object version down instead. Needless to say I was a lot wiser when I came back to the project and finished it.

Anyway, to sum up, the game is finally complete and up on itch.io with the rest of my work. I could do a lot of waffling about the rewrite of probably around 90% of the code to get it over the line but that is for another day.

I only published the Mac version of the game online yesterday and got the Windows build up this evening but it’s already picking up quite a bit of traffic which is very interesting. People obviously still remember the classic games to this day and I’m modestly claiming that my remake isn’t bad either. Go see for yourself…


Time to start work on a new game —

I’ve been thinking about starting a new game outside of the competition ones that I’ve been doing for the last couple of years finally.

The deadlines that have been imposed from writing competition games has increased my productivity massively during this time and, for the Six competitions I worked on a game, I delivered for Five of them. I even got placed Third and First in two of them which was a massive boost aside from just getting the games themselves completed.

So, now that Creepy Crawlies is finished and there’s not been the need to do any follow up work on it, I’ve been thinking on what to do next. I’ve had a couple of months lay off really, and have done very little coding apart from tweaking to my project file that I’ve tended to improve and add to after each game. It’ll probably never be complete but every game always ends up giving something back to it in a new feature or two, and the development work is much quicker to get going by using it.

Over the last week I’ve come up with three things that I’m considering doing – again with Gamemaker 2 because why not?

Firstly I wanted to do another one of my Vic 20 remasters that I’ve harped on about before. As the missus bought me some more old tapes for display purposes this Xmas, I considered doing Crazy Cavey just so I can say I’ve finally done a platform game. I did a bit of prototyping for this yesterday and, while I’m still keen to throw myself into that, I remembered I’ve not actually finished the first Vic game I was working on almost a year back which I shelved so I could do Damnation Alley. So, if I’m going to get on with a Vic remaster then it should be finishing that off so I’m not going back to my old habit of half-finished games all over the place.

And the second game I came up with is something completely different and not based on any game I’ve played before on computer, although it does have a vague link to the board game Cluedo, if anything. I’ve done a lot of writing ideas and creating a map structure for doing this and have a pretty good idea how it would all come together as a complete game despite not writing a line of code yet. However, it’s an ambitious game compared to the stuff I’ve done up until now and I really feel the urge to do something a bit more conventional first so I’ve written it all up, will be creating a proper map, and borrowing some of the heavy script and database functions I wrote for Bah, Humbug to help me get started on that at a later date.

This nicely brings me onto my third idea which has been incubating since both my nephews have told me how much they’ve been playing Rockman and giving me ideas about what works and what doesn’t. It’s now been a Eighteen months since I put that game to bed and released it and, for all its flaws, it’s still one i come back and play myself every so often. Usually just in the puzzle (easy) mode as I’ve come to realise I pretty much fucked up having bad guys in and making medium and hard levels kind of pointless because it was then almost impossible. In fact, just last night I did a play-through which I considered recording, where I was going to play through every screen and complete the game just to show my nephews that it can be done. Those two are too much into Switch and easier games to probably actually care, but the idea of doing another Rockman and making it much, much better would be quite good fun. I wouldn’t need to actually rush it this time but I also wouldn’t have to remove half of my ideas from the design doc just so I could make it in the Six weeks deadline the original game had.

So here we are and I’ve made a tentative start this evening to get this underway. I had two approaches for this. First I’d load up the original project, rip out all the stuff in the original that I didn’t want to keep and then tidy up the project, import some framework code that I had created or updated since doing this game, and then get to work redoing all the bits that I wanted to change. However, while Rockman was written with the same framework I’m using now, it’s a much older version of it, and there’s been a huge amount of changes to some of the functions and scripts that other parts of the framework relied on which caused no end of compatibility issues. I muddled along fixing stuff, disabling bits, writing little bits of middleware or just modifying function calls and importing replacement files to try and bodge it all to a working state at least but it ended up just an effort in frustration. Even simple stuff like scripts for sound routines had changed since I’d written the original game so I took the second approach instead.

There’s still a lot of functionality my basic framework needs, even after using it for so many games, but I’ve always worked with it as it is at the time I start a new game purely because it’s always straight after finishing a game that a lot of work goes back into the framework itself. Damnation Alley helped get a lot of the retro functions in place which I developed for that game and then put into the framework afterwards. The high score and configuration file i/o stuff from Creepy crawlies has also been copied out and into it now. As Bah, Humbug was a completely different game to the other stuff I’ve done, there’s also a lot of string handling and lists code in it too. Even incomplete projects like RAM have given me code that can go into the framework in case I ever do another card game. So I’ve loaded up my framework and just pulled in some of the objects, graphics and scripts from Rockman that can still be used, and will just rewrite some of this stuff to save a lot of development time. As the sequel is going to have a few new things, such as an editor for starters (I really wish I’d had the time to do that for the first game), I’ll still be doing a shit load of development from scratch.

So a rough list of what I’ll be adding to the sequel to Rockman that I’m tentatively calling “Rockman 2 – Jewel Thieves”

Firstly an Editor. I’m thinking of a bank system so you can load in up to 26 levels (A-Z) from each of the five banks but can only overwrite 2,3,4 and 5 so the original maps are always present. As I’d keep the original map structure for the first bank I’d probably need to have a system like this in place so I can make some new levels where the additional features can be used without breaking them in some way. If I work it out right then the player can also have some kind of system to put screens together and set up their own map from the editor and they can have as few or many screens (up to the limit) as they want for each map as I could have them loadable as text files, or similar.

An update to practically every object in the game, specifically the rocks and player themselves. The way Boulderdash does it works. I’ve written a clone of Boulderdash before and it played really well because I tried to make it just like the original game. With Rockman I switched to pixel movement to simulate sprites instead of character graphics and, as well as being a nightmare to code, also didn’t turn out that well in certain cave layouts where rocks could bug out. The map “Valentine” shows this very well but it’s not the only problem area. Also a lot of players had problems with not being able to move up under a rock but it seemed the right way to go when I was writing the game. So block movement comes in so there’s a speed increase, which will make it a lot more fun, and I’ll balance it to make sure it’s not too tricky. This will also solve the problem of my enemies being too dangerous because I will keep them moving in pixels so it’s a lot easier to avoid them. Or let the dog deal with the buggers – more on that later.

I’ll go back to the artist for some of the graphic stuff that Rockman used and probably get a bit more done. Some of the sprites can stay as they are but I’m sure some new intro screens showing the dog and anything else on the go would be a good idea. Animation and stuff was very lacking in the original game. Hopefully it won’t be too expensive.

Some of the basics can go into the game this time around. High scores, saving configuration data, maybe even a save game system so you haven’t got to crack up to 26 screens in one go. Certainly a map improvement so you can see where you are in the layout. The first game just superimposed an image of the map layout with no clue as to what screen you were on. Rush job that was too. Think the map was the last bit to go in an hour before deadline.

I’m thinking a new char needed to go into the game to add to Roxy and Rocky. So a pet dog is what my nephew suggested. How to implement it is another matter, let alone thinking of a good name, but i’m thinking he could be in a cage on the map and you have to release him. Once free he can run around and deal with the aliens if he runs into them. I’ll need to be working with the same map size that the original game had if I want to retain the original levels so this may need some thought.

Two new objects that have come to mind that can go into the newer levels are the compressor, which turns rocks into diamonds if they fall into it, and the muncher, which just eats anything that hits it full stop. Maybe some more if I come up with them while I’m working on it.

So far I’m at the point where i have all the old elements into the new framework and have patched it up enough so it at least runs. So the next session is going to be developing the editor before anything else as the levels will need to be made using it. I can’t go back to using them from the original game as each map was a seperate game room, which is a hell of a waste of resources doing it that way. I want an editor that will save a map as a text file that can be read both in and out before I start creating anything more than just test designs.