Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Moonspire Available Soon! (Commodore 64)


"Attacking under the cover of night, the Draxx strike force hit the human settlements of Arcturus 7 hard. Thousands of lives were lost in the initial attack, and hundreds more in the chaotic aftermath. The remaining colonists rallied and began to strategize a retaliation, but it was too late. The Draxx had called back their forces to the far side of the planet's only moon - taking with them the control orbs from the now rapidly cooling thermal-boosters. They weren't going to waste resources on a ground assault, instead they were simply going to put the planet back into deep freeze.

There were only two options available. We could abandon the planet and retreat back to the safety of one of the United Federal star-systems, but that would risk leading the Draxx directly back to the core worlds of mankind. Or, we could fight back... YOU volunteered for the second option."


Whilst catching up with releases on CSDB at the end of 2014 I came across a game preview for Moonspire by Victory, a demo group who were last active back in 1997. New releases from old C64 crews always pique my interest, so I grabbed a copy for my Ultimate 1541-II and booted up the C64. Much to my surprise, the preview was of a flip-screen labyrinthine shmup with a really unique visual style; loads of metallic looking textures, bold outlined robotic sprites and some fantastic animation work. Sure, it didn't push any boundaries, but as an obvious tribute to Cybernoid it was really nicely done - and most importantly - a load of fun to play.


After blasting my way through the preview's single short level I returned to CSDB to congratulate Dušan Milivojević on his excellent little old-school game. Seeing the potential that Moonspire had, I also suggested that we work together to expand it further and give it a full release. The rest, as they say, is history :)

It's taken us around a year and a half of on-and-off work to complete the project, but that time has finally arrived - the game will be available to buy on cartridge and download in the next few days. With all new sound effects and an awesome acid soundtrack by Agemixer, improved mechanics and six sprawling levels to fight through (264 screens in total), the game has come on a long way since the original. Moonspire now supports both NTSC and PAL, with gameplay and music playback speed compensated for and only rare occasions on 'hard mode' where the increased enemy presence and lack of CPU time on NTSC results in minor flicker.


One of the main differences from the preview version is the implementation of a revised firing system; using Georg Rottensteiner's Get 'Em DX as a reference, Dušan has added support for multiple firing methods. Holding down the fire button anchors your position from which you can fire in different directions without moving, whereas you can also 'strafe' by moving and *then* holding down fire (you will continue to fire in the same direction that you were originally moving in until you release the button again). It's quite complicated to describe here in text, but very intuitive to use!

Another established demoscener who offered to work with us on the game was Amstrad CPC hero Harris "rexbeng" Kladis. Harris completed an incredible loading screen quite early on in the project, which then directly inspired the science-fiction backstory for the game (and later the Chris Foss/Roger Dean stylised box illustration). His alien-looking multicolour bitmap work looks unlike anything else produced on the Commodore 64, and the tweet where I first announced it is one of my most retweeted and 'liked' photos. We're all super hyped to have him onboard! :)

Following the "if it ain't broken, don't fix it" thought process, aside from minor improvements and optimisations the core game engine has remained the same. As in the preview, your goal is still to collect all of the 'control orbs' on each level before making your way to the exit - so nothing has changed there. There are obvious improvements to the weapon select system (pressing space-bar now brings up a joystick controlled menu, or you can hit 1-3 on the keyboard for instant swapping) and Moonspire also has optional full-keyboard control, making it one of the few titles in our portfolio where the minimum requirements are a C64, the game cartridge and a TV!


Going back to the artwork, I have to say that one of the most exciting things to hit my inbox lately was Harris' cover illustration (the first image in this post). As mentioned above, the creation of this has followed a slightly odd development path (game preview - loading screen - back story - cover illustration), but I'm incredibly proud to have such an awesome piece of artwork to front one of our games. For me it epitomises the 1970's, with just the right amount of psychedelia, and that logo design is just perfect. Following on from Tiger Claw and Powerglove, this is definitely one we'll be offering for sale as an A2/A3 poster set and download combo.

So what's left to do before we can set Moonspire loose in the wild? Technically 'nothing', the game itself is complete and ready to ship - we're just waiting for the product shots to come back from the photographer. So expect a 'released' announcement soon!

(Moonspire will be priced at £30 plus shipping on cartridge, and $2.99 plus EU VAT for the download).