Friday, 14 October 2011

C64 16KB Cartridge Game Development Competition - Status Update #5

I haven't posted one of these competition updates for a while, but that's not because there's been no activity! On the contrary, our good friend Tim Harris has been testing previews and test builds on real cartridge hardware on a near daily basis. So with just over a month and a half left, let's have a look at the development status of the entries.
Competition Entry #01: The Mollusk
Developer: Achim
Status: In progress

Achim has been sending in regular preview builds of The Mollusk and the game is really starting to take shape. It's essentially an underwater free-scrolling horizontal shooter, but with more of a focus of eating than shooting (although you can in fact squirt ink at predators such as sharks and piranhas). Although currently lacking in proper level design, the most recent build is a lot of fun and seems feature complete, with the titular squid swimming back and forth through the game arena and having to gobble a quota of fish to progress to the next stage. With regard to development, Achim had this to say in a recent email.

"The game engine itself is finished. Once the music is implemented I'll know how much memory is left for backdrops and level data. Not too much I'm afraid but we'll see. The concept is now fairly simple. The player has to eat a certain amount of fish to progress to the next level. The squid can defend itself against sharks, piranhas and eels - he can even kill them if he has eaten the right kind of jellyfish (which act as power ups). Things left to do include different backdrops, level design, bug fixing and polishing graphics - and I have to think about what to do with the front end."

Competition Entry #02: Get 'Em
Developer: Endurion
Status: In progress

The similarity between Endurion's Get 'Em and Nyarlulab's Forget Me Not was obvious from the start, so it was a relief to receive full permission from Brandon to base this C64 game on his intellectual property. However, Get 'Em is in fact more or a tribute or homage than a direct demake; it may feature procedurally generated mazes that can be altered in structure by blasting baddies, but it has a distinctly more sedate and retro pacman-ish feel in contrast to the original's zany and chaotic shoot 'em up formula.

Get 'Em's gameplay is centred around eating up all the crosses (or flowers?) on the map whist simultaneously facing off with the Minter-esque baddies that warp in to the arena. Shooting a 'Bombor' explodes a 3x3 grid open on the map (changing the layout), whereas destroying other enemies awards you with a quota of fruit, candy or hamburgers (and collecting a full set of 9 gives you a power-up/down). Caterpillars leave a trail behind them, and the deadly spiders zip about the maze hungry for your blood (or perhaps that should be pixels?)

After clearing all the crosses, a key appears on the map and must be taken to the exit - preferably before an enemy gobbles it up - and then it's on to the next randomly generated maze, but this time with everything sped up a little to make things a bit more challenging. And so it continues until you run out of lives.

Get 'Em is a fantastic little game that delivers a fresh, yet distinctly retro challenge. Now if only there was a two player mode... ;)

Competition Entry #03: Reactor Rescue
Developer: Jamie Howard
Status: Withdrawn

Well, here's a bit of sad news - unfortunately the game that Jamie Howard and I started this summer will not make it into the competition (this year). We had what we thought was a solid game concept, but when we started to get it all working it became a bit of a mess - neither of us could decide whether or not it was an arcade or puzzle game, and we got a bit stuck with how to incorporate enemies into the fundamentally puzzle-based design. However, all is not lost. We've recently had musician RaveGuru and pixel artist/designer iLkke join the team, and as a result Reactor Rescue has gone back to the drawing board for a redesign (albeit potentially sounding and looking a lot better).

One to watch for 2012.

Competition Entry #04: Continuity 64
Developer: JCB
Status: In progress

JCB recently dropped me a line to announce the game he's currently working on. "I'm doing a port (with permission from the authors) of Continuity. I'll send through a couple of screenshots in a few days when I've got what I've done so far bolted together. Hopefully I should be able to squeeze all the levels in or I might design a few new ones for the later levels so that anyone who has played the online version gets something new to do."

So, it's not a full screen version of Space Invaders after all! After having a quick go of the flash version (which just so happens to be a very clever little game), I enquired about his progress. "The room swap screen is being messed around with at the moment. The hires stuff scaled down by up to 1/4 starts to look a little jaggy so I'm redoing the curves and stuff by hand to make it look nicer. One thing I'm totally undecided about yet is the transition between the 2 modes of play; obviously the original version scales in/out and I'd love to do that too but I don't think there's going to be either enough space or CPU to do it so I'll have to come up with something else."

"This is all a bit of a last minute thing really, only started on it a week or so ago. The other stuff I was planning on doing was a bit too complex to do in the time I've found available so I thought I better do something rather than not enter at all.

A sentiment with which we at RGCD all wholeheartedly agree. Good luck Pete :)

Competition Entry #05: Untitled
Developer: Kerm1t
Status: Unknown

Unfortunately I've received no news on Kerm1t's entry to date. But who knows, maybe he's just waiting to drop a surprise entry in hours before the deadline! ;)

Competition Entry #06: Spacer-X
Developer: Malcontent
Status: In progress

I've emailed Jeff a few times over the past couple of weeks enquiring about his progress with the game, but unfortunately I've not heard anything back. I hope progress is going well, as the youtube video of his hi-octane and unashamedly retro looking cave shooter suggests that it is going to be a filthy amount of fun.

Competition Entry #07: Untitled
Status: In progress

Not a lot of news and still no screenshots (or even a game title) from the guys. ALeX did however send me an email when I enquired about the game, "I'm stuck with collisions... now I'm trying a new way - hopefully more successful. We still think that the game will be done before deadline."

Hardly a promising statement this late in the competition. But he then ended his message on a surprisingly positive note, stating that if they finish in time he might start working a second game! My fingers are crossed... :)

Competition Entry #08: C64anabalt
Developer: Paulko64
Status: In Progress

If the popularity of my badly recorded video is anything to go by, this is the one that a lot of you are waiting for. Being a 1:1 port it may not win any awards for originality, but Paulko64 deserves a medal for having the balls to attempt squeezing a feature-complete Canabalt into a measly 16KB.

"C64anabalt is coming along quite well. After some heavy debugging sessions the collapsing buildings are correctly implemented - even at 800 pixels per second scrollspeed there's no slowdown when simultaneous buildings are collapsing! I still need to see whether shaking the screen gives an even better impression."

"The new (and correctly scaled) obstacles and falling bombs have been added, which was not really difficult. I've also got the rooftop graphics in, but they are not displayed in the current preview. Next up will be the window shattering. I have plans to make this similar to the flash version, i.e. with shards of glass flying all over the screen. I think I can manage this by flickering multiple sprites."

"After that only the birds and the front-layer multiplexed sprite parallax (yeah, wait and see) need to be implemented. Depending on the remaining space the jet will be in there in some form... I still have ~1kb left!"

Competition Entry #09: Woolly Jumper
Developer: Richard Bayliss
Status: In progress

Richard has been making regular development posts on his blog, and progress of his Sheepoid sequel is continuing at a solid pace. New levels and sprites have been added since the last time I played a preview build, and he is continuing to bug fix and fine tune the game. Woolly Jumper looks set to become one of Richard's best releases to date - check out the development log for more info.

Competition Entry #10: Blok Copy
Developer: Cosine
Status: Complete & Submitted!

Ok, so this one was pretty much finished and submitted at the start of the competition, and I'm sure you're already away that it is available to buy on cartridge. However, in the absence of an official Cosine disk release you might want to check out Onslaught's crack - dumped from an original cartridge no less ;)

Competition Entry #11: Untitled
Developer: Vulture Design
Status: Withdrawn

Sadly, earlier this week I received an email from Raf advising that Vulture Design would have to withdraw from the competition due to real-life issues. However, he has a complete design and still hopes to work on it in the future, so perhaps it will return for next year's competition?

Competition Entry #12: Fairy Well
Developer: Wide Pixel Games
Status: Complete & Submitted!

Another eagerly anticipated release, Wide Pixel Games' have now completed their ambitious Fairy Well game and (after a little bit of a struggle) have managed to shoehorn it into a cartridge with barely a byte to spare. With it's procedurally generated maps, three distinctly different play modes, boss fights and classic flip-screen gameplay, Fairy Well is a modern C64 masterpiece.

Competition Entry #13: Rong - Ron's Pong
Developer: Software Of Sweden
Status: In progress

Besides the preview version of the game available on CSDB, I hadn't heard much from Software Of Sweden, so I decided to send Ron an email to ask how it was going.

"It goes well with the game but my job takes a lot of my free time! I considered adding paddle support but after I read some posts in the forum about it not working well I decided to drop it. The C64's memory is full and I have begun to rewrite large parts of the code to get more space - I have three different songs that I want to keep in the game!"

Competition Entry #14: Heartlight 64
Developer: Enthusi
Status: In progress

RGCD's long-term friend and collaborator Enthusi also recently mailed me apartment about his Heartlight game.

"I am not sure if Heartlight64 will make it for the compo, but then there are lots of original and new entries already. Anyway, I hope I can finish it in time and if not in time then soonish."

Well, I hope this tribute to the classic 8-Bit Atari game (well, actually the PC DOS version) does make it in time - best of luck Martin! ;)

Competition Entry #15: Jars' Revenge
Developer: TRSI
Status: In progress

After deciding that perhaps a remake of Yars' Revenge might grab the attention of Atari's lawyers (due to their recent reviving of the classic franchise), TRSI decided to subtly rename their project Jars' Revenge. That's right, and of course this game isn't a perfect remake of a certain 2600 classic in glorious fullscreen at all. No sir. Nor is it just about finished, with only a few minor tweaks left. ;)

Competition Entry #16: Fortress Of Narzod
Developer: TRSI
Status: Complete & Submitted!

TRSI's second release is a direct cartridge conversion of their popular Vectrex port for the C64, available in it's original disk format here. To fit into a 16KB cartridge the intro logo had to be dropped, but aside from that it's a carbon copy of it's bigger disk based cousin. Classic shmup action with some clever faux-vector graphical effects and a seriously kick-ass soundtrack, Fortress Of Narzod will be the next cartridge game to be published by RGCD in the following weeks and is designed for PAL C64, C128 and GS machines.

Competition Entry #17: Panic Analogue
Developer: Goin' Sideways
Status: In progress

Last but far from least, I was playing Panic Analogue last night with Jamie Howard (and a few beers) and it's a right old laugh. Super cute and equally addictive, this paddle controlled frantic collect 'em up has been thoroughly tested on real cartridge hardware and is practically finished. We've secured a cartridge release with Goin' Sideways and are even currently looking into the possibility of manufacturing our own bespoke paddles to sell with the game. It's that good. ;)

I won't bore you with the details (the game was already extensively covered here), but expect to hear a lot more about the game and it's development when the final version is ready for release.

So that just about wraps it up. I've heard rumours that there are some other games in active development, but for now the line up is looking extremely competitive. When the competition entries first started to come in I thought that picking a winner would be easy, but it seems that our judging panel will really have their work cut out for them. I'll be back in the next few weeks to introduce the final panel and explain how the judging process will work, but for now I hope this has whetted your appetite for C64 gaming ready for the final post-deadline announcement in December!