Friday, 31 October 2014

X-Force is out!

31st October 2014

Over the past few months or so. I have been working hard on my first ever horizontal scrolling futuristic blaster in co-op with Saul Cross. We are very pleased with the overall result. X-Force is finally finished and has been released on the Commodore Format Archive Power Pack tape 63 project. If you want to know where to get it from. Here's the link:

Commodore Format Archive - Power Pack 63

or for the Trance version on Disk or Tape image, please visit this page below:

The New Dimension - Games-X

What is this game all about?. Well basically it is a horizontal scrolling shoot 'em up, in which you have are on planet Darx. You were mining for minerals in which could be used in the future to build a shield to protect Earth from future alien invasion. Unfortunately, after a hard day's work you decide to fall asleep in your X-Force ship. Suddenly a mother ship approaches over the X-Force fighter and beams it up. Assorted aliens carry you out of the X-Force ship and seal you into a large glass cell. After you wake up, you find yourself trapped. Rather than panic, you unzip your jacket, and reach for the inside pocket. You pick up your laser and blast yourself free. Alarms start going off. You find your X-Force fighter ship and flee off to the exit. As you escape the alien HQ, the aliens follow you ... big time.

Talking about the tape loader:

The first version of the game uses the CF Special tape loader, which I created exclusively for the Commodore Format Archive Power Pack project. I also turned this loader system into Thunderload 7, on the latest TND contributors releases. In which uses the TND logo, and a bit extra programming.Darkland used Halloween themed sprites over the scroll text, whereas the game Rabid Robots used animated stars.

The second tape loader for the second version was in fact a rushed done job today. Since there was no loading picture available for the game. I decided on doing a very simple loading presentation. I took a look at Mastertronic's Dynamix tape loader. It used a simple loading screen with a black border with light blue thin loading stripes. So I decided to base the idea on a similar style. The X-Force logo, with credits. I used Martin Piper's usual turbo tape loader source, worked on a quick tune, for loading and then put it all together. Boot loader with black and red thin stripes, and main loader with black and dark blue thin stripes. The loader plays some trance music in the background, quite similar to the Trance Sector loader theme tune.

The front end:

Saul had originally sent me the front end graphics and suggested that I should use raster bars over the text. I always hated coding raster bars, due to the fact that I have to spend a lot of time timing them. Sometimes I can hardly see the flickering of each raster on screen since I used an LED TV for a monitor. The raster bars scroll up through the text giving a nice effect. Luckily the effect turned out pretty smart, but thankfully the raster bars got fixed by NTSC fixer, Dirk Schmitt.

The music:

There are actually two different music versions of the same game. The first version features the music by Feekzoid which was originally written for horizontal scrolling shoot 'em up, Breakthrough by Jon Wells. After playing the game preview, I was really desperate to hear the news about the game becoming a full release. Sadly it never happened. So I asked Jon nicely if I could use the music for this game. Permission was granted. The second version featured music composed by me. It featured thumping trance sound tracks in the game.

Playing the game:

Using a joystick in port 2, you must guide your X-Force ship across 16 different underground zones of the hostile planet Darx. In order to escape, you must cross through each treacherous zone. Each zone is heavily powered by laser gates, which will switch on or off. You won't be alone, as the aliens will be ready to ram into your ship, should you or an alien crash into each other. Or you crash into any power gates or other background, you will lose a ship. If you have more than one ship at your disposal, at losing a ship. You will be able to quickly construct a new ship. Otherwise if the last ship explodes, you will die.


During the journey through each zone, there are pods with some form of mineral in which will help you improve or reduce the abilities of the ship. The coloured pods are as follows:

Pink - Single bullet power up/power down
Green - Double bullet power up/power down
Blue - Power up shield for a short period of time
Yellow - Warp distance activated for a short period of time
Grey - Avoid those at all cost, it will cost you a life. It's a deadly mine.

At the end of each stage will be an end of level boss. You can either kill it (requires 30 hits) or let it move past. Should the boss spot you, it will fire lasers to get you out of its way. Each levels boss has a different sequence of firing lasers. If you destroy it, an extra life will be rewarded. Should you let it pass, level will complete, but you won't receive any extra lives.

The worlds:

Saul Cross suggested that for each level each world should have a BEFORE and AFTER theme to it. The first and second worlds contain the mine theme, but then enters the ruins. Level 3 and 4 takes you through the ruins, to a technological world. I do remember asking Saul for some worlds based on crystals and vegetation. Level 7 has a nice crystal world, and levels 10 and 11 has a world of vegetation. The final level is a final mine before the player can escape. The colour schemes for each level were set according Saul's example maps which I received near to the time of the submission deadline for the Power Pack 63 project.


X-Force was inspired by Hewson's Subterranea, where as the enemy boss stage was inspired a bit by Powerama by The Power House and Hewson. Although Powerama was a vertical scrolling shoot 'em up. Some alien ideas were inspired by Gradius/Nemesis by Konami.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Oh YES, it's Honey Bee!

Saturday 11th October 2014 (Work still in Progress)

Poor old Wayne. He designs a new game, creates loads of graphics for it and then awaits a Commodore 64 programmer to write loads of code and then build a finished production. Suddenly the poor coder, erm, okay, me, ends up cancelling projects for some odd reason or something goes horribly wrong. The main casualties were Wizards and Warlocks, Up in the Air, and of course Crash Course.

Next on the list was Honey Bee. When Prime Suspect was working on Wayne's game. Things started to look quite promising. I saw a few videos of Honey Bee WIP, and I also play tested a few previews of the game myself. Just as I imagined this game was NEARLY up to the stage of completion. Disaster strikes. Due to a fatal computer crash on Prime's system, Honey Bee ended up as the next casualty of cancelled C64 game projects. Sadly there was no backup. All that could be salvaged were a few unfinished test previews, which Genesis Project had the pleasure of releasing into the C64 scene.

Honey Bee was almost a game that wasn't, until I received an email from Kenz about this game project. He asked me whether or not I'd be interested in working on this game with Wayne. Since there was the 16KB game cartridge competition announced spring/summer time. I checked out the preview of Honey Bee and thought. "Poor Wayne, his dream projects never seem to come true" and I took interest over the game, although the game will need a MAJOR make over. I tried designing the game with graphics of my own, but they looked too ugly. (See snapshot below). I did however agree to use Wayne's sprites for this game project.

 I started the programming process of the project by typing in the main game code from my head and following some example routines on codebase. I programmed things such as loops, interrupts, level settings, etc using Endurion's C64Studio with use of the ACME cross-assembler syntax. Which I am pretty much familiar with. Plus ACME is one of my all time favourite cross-assemblers for the Commodore 64, since it was introduced to me.

The post-build settings were edited so that I could run the fully assembled/compiled project through Exomizer for the best data compression rate where possible. The programming phase took me about  a few days before my summer holiday started in late July 2014- mid August 2014. The result turned out quite well. The mockup levels were created using Jon Well's Multi-Screen Construction Kit. Each screen was captured and compacted using Exomizer. The Exomizer decruncher source was also implemented into the source code.

 Before the Summer. I was discussing on facebook with STE86 about this game project, (also met him at Revival 2014 in Wolverhampton, where we talked and laughed about The Last V8). He sent me some mockup screen shots of how the game really should look like. The screen mockups then become actual character sets in Char Pad form. I was struggling to build levels at first using various PC tools. They were just unsuitable. I tried another program (Element Editor). The tool did quite well for building background objects, until "An unexpected exception has occurred in your program. You may choose to continue other wise click close to shut down the program". I clicked on continue, saved the work. Rebooted the program. Tried to load the work which I did so far, and sadly lost the graphics data, due to a corrupt file (even the backup). That same message popped by again. Was there any alternative?

As a last resort I decided to go old school and construct each object manually with the aid of Jon Well's excellent Multi Screen Construction Kit utility. What would have took me too much time building levels with CharPad and single 1x1 characters, had actually increased the speed of building objects and place them on screen as tiles. This took a matter of a few days instead of weeks.16 Levels were ready to be captured and crunched.

After new graphics were finished and designed (although they don't look exactly like the original graphics mockups which Steve sent me. They look quite effective. I worked on the main game code, updating the collision settings. So that characters which represented the deadly background will kill the bee, should it collide. Also the enemies will kill the player, using the $D01E routine. This was of course used to save memory.

Level setup is called through a series of tables, in which will also set up the position, speed, behaviour and animation frame of each enemy that is set in the game. Behavior patterns vary from moving up/down, moving left/right to just floating upwards off screen or dropping downwards from the screen. This takes effect on lava rocks and floating bubbles.

There are eight different enemies in the 16KB version of this game. They vary from worms, to bugs and birds.

Then there was the additional programming concept. I needed to get the panel working. Here's how the game should be played:

The idea of this game is to guide Honey Bee through 16 different stages, picking up pollen from flowers and then drop them (at any height) into the honey well. If he picks up pollen from a flower. 10 points will be given. However he won't be able to pick any more pollen until the honey, which he is carrying gets dropped into the honey well. If he drops the honey into the well, 50 points will be scored. Should he drop the honey elsewhere, then he'll have to start the whole level again. Should all flowers hove no pollen left, and Honey Bee drops the honey into the well.  A bonus set of points will be added to your score accoring to the amount of time that remains. If the bonus counter reaches 0000, you'll simply get no bonus points.

Honey Bee has a clumsy nature, and has to watch where he is going. Should he bump into a wall, rock, falling water, nettles, or moving nature creatures, he'll get hurt and fly away. Should he fly away, a life will be lost. This game is not just about picking up plants and avoiding enemies, but it requires precise timing and planning. A sort of a puzzle game one way or another.

Progress so far reports that Honey Bee is nearly complete. There's currently 12 functional levels so far, and just 4 more to do (putting enemies in place, setting up animation, behavior and getting them to move in the last 4 levels.) Hopefully the other 4 levels will be complete by the end of next week - which will result to just the final phase testing and bug-fixing, before entering this humble bee into the RGCD 16KB Cartridge Compo 2014. WARNING. THIS GAME WILL CONSIST OF BUGS - LOADS OF THEM - NATURALLY :)

Due to the size of the data and the code. The title screen is VERY basic and consists of 2 sprites for the logo. Some credits, with nothing else happening, except for animated bees next to 'Press Fire to Start'. Crediting myself for code, Ste86 and Wayne Womersley for main graphics and sprites, and Joachim (Yogibear) for the excellent music.

Despite that my spare time is going to be cut even more from tomorrow through to Christmas time. I am still happy to announce that Honey Bee WILL get finished in time for the competition deadline. Hope you reach the bee line for 1st December 2014. The bee will be unleashed from its honeywell. Then in 2015, the game will be expanded more with additional bonus levels, a picture by JSL and of course a better presentation, game intro and game ending (Of which I was unable to fit into the 16KB version of this project).