The Bear Essentials: Developing a Commodore 64 game – Part 5
Jun11

The Bear Essentials: Developing a Commodore 64 game – Part 5

Creating Caverns I wrote about creating rooms back in part 3 of this series and how I began to store the room data in memory.  But of course, rooms in the game have to fit together to form a world in which the character will explore on their journey. With my game I thought it would be good to split this world into different areas where a number of rooms will be grouped together and have a common theme. I actually came up with this idea fairly early on, as I always find it easier to play through games when you exit one area and find yourself in a new area that looks completely different.  It keeps the game feeling fresh and encourages exploration. The first map I sketched for the game had 60 rooms.  I picked this number to aim for as I figured this would allow all rooms to be visited in around an hour, and also as this is the size of Miner Willy’s mansion in the first Jet Set Willy game, which is a joy to explore without feeling too overwhelming. I split the map into eight different areas:  Home, Forest, Cloudy, Rocky, Mining, Jungle, Tunnel and Secret.  However, I soon opted to cut this down to six areas (taking out Tunnel and Secret) when I realised how much work was going to be involved in creating a different look, and ideally, a piece of music for all areas.  With only 64kb to work with, memory was also a consideration here too! The map went through four revisions, until I settled on a final design. The Home area would be where the player starts and finishes the game.  This leads into the first ‘proper’ area of the game, which is Forest and serves as an introduction as to how the game is played and what the objectives are. From Forest, the player can opt to exit the area in two places which lead to ‘continue’ rooms, where the player is awarded an extra credit and a new point to start from when continuing after death.  These continue rooms also serve as a break from the game and a hub to which the other areas of the game are accessible. I decided to keep one special area of the game locked until all others have been cleared in the Mining area. This area works differently to the rest of the game, and forms the final part of the players journey back to the Home area.  It takes inspiration from Manic Miner and the very first idea I had for the game, which was to only allow...

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Spectrum Addict film cover art by Oliver Frey revealed
Jun09

Spectrum Addict film cover art by Oliver Frey revealed

The upcoming film by Andy Remic – Memoirs of a Spectrum Addict now has an amazing looking cover, produced by none other than the renowned artist Oliver Frey, famous amongst gamers of course for his Crash and Zzap! 64 magazine artwork. We think it looks amazing and really captures the look and feel of those iconic 80s Crash magazine covers. There are still a couple of days left to get your own name in the film credits so head on over to remicmedia.com/speccyaddict/ and order a...

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Spectrum Vega+ hands on – video and mini review
Apr09

Spectrum Vega+ hands on – video and mini review

Playing Halls of the Things Playing Halls of the Things The Spectrum Vega+ on top of an original Spectrum for size comparison Ant Harper surprised at how small the Vega actually is Will thought the size about right Will plays with a Vega+ This report was written by Will Woodvine, photography and video by Ant Harper. Disclosure: I backed the Vega+ Indiegogo campaign but requested and received a refund over the Christmas period. I asked for a refund due to what I perceive to be the appalling lack of information provided to backers. The opinion below is my own and is not influenced by inducement or coercion by any parties. It is written as a fan of the ZX Spectrum. I attended the Dizzy event with no knowledge that the Spectrum Vega+ would be present, so was unprepared. Like any true retro-gaming fan I spent Saturday 8th April, the sunniest and warmest day of the year so far, in a darkened room with no windows looking at computer games. The event was the Dizzy 30th anniversary in Nottingham. This took the form of a presentation by the Oliver Twins which covered their early years, mentioned the ZX81 (huzzah!) and gave me a greater insight in to the Dizzy world. At the start of the presentation a gentleman (who I think was Lee Fogarty) came down to the front and handed one of the Twins a white box. Inside was a Vega+. This was shown to the crowd, causing a slight stirring, and then placed on the podium. At the end presentation the Vega+ was left unattended so I took the opportunity to grab it and have a close look. At no time was there any interference from anyone or any attempt made to stop me from using it or Ant Harper, Simon Williams or Simon Osborne from using, photographing or videoing the device. I believe the device to be the pre-production device that has been seen previously. The hardware The device feels good in the hands, fitting well – I have medium sized hands. I gave the unit a torsional twist and the unit did not flex, which reinforced the positive feel of the device. The screen is bright and clear, easily read by someone who normally needs glasses to read and wasn’t wearing them. The buttons were an issue being unresponsive – you have to press them precisely for them to react. This maybe the “switch re-design” referred to by RCL. Simon Osborne has reported that he used a corrected production unit and the buttons were much more responsive. The spectrum flash is a sticker (peeling now) and...

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The Little Book of Sinclair ZX Spectrum Games by Chris Wilkins – review
Sep23

The Little Book of Sinclair ZX Spectrum Games by Chris Wilkins – review

I will start out with a confession – that here at Retro Games Collector we are unashamed fans of the work of Retro Fusion Books. Their publications hit the sweet-spot of quality, content and price and it shows with The ZX Spectrum in Pixels trio, Commodore 64 in Pixels and The Story of US Gold books, all scoring an unprecedented top mark of 5/5 in our reviews. This latest book – The Little Book of Sinclair ZX Spectrum Games – combines a selection of the games covered in The ZX Spectrum in Pixels books, plus a few new ones – in a small, neat, hardback format which Chris based upon the popular Ashens book; Terrible Old Games You’ve Probably Never Heard Of. The book itself measures 162 x 162mm making it Fusion Retro’s smallest book yet. Inside the book As already stated, The Little Book of Sinclair ZX Spectrum Games is small and square in format with a nice matte black finish to the hardcover giving it a compact, classy feel. Within those covers there are 144 pages with a whopping 1oo games covered, interspersed with a foreword by Chris, images of the ZX Spectrum range of computers (from the 16K rubber key original to the +3) and Oliver Frey’s amazing magazine cover artwork. The games secreted within are now broken up intro genres; Sports Games, Arcade Adventure, Arcade, Adventure, Strategy/Puzzle, Fighting, Racing and Platform – with every game nicely indexed on the last few pages. Each game is given one page, with the synopsis underneath a screenshot of the game in question and a Crash magazine review score (if applicable) listed alongside. What is striking about Fusion Retro’s diminutive new offering is its overall feel of quality. The paper used is 150gsm which in non-printer speak means they are thicker than the norm, helping toward the quality feel that permeates throughout this title. The print quality is also noteworthy, with the screenshots bright, crisp and colourful, just like Spectrum graphics were… once we tuned our tellies in anyway. In Summary Another fantastic addition to the Fusion Retro Books stable. Absolutely perfect as a present for the Speccy-phile in your life (or for yourself!) especially with Christmas just around the corner. Even if you have the ‘in Pixels’ books already, this is still a must-buy with its handier ‘pocket’ size, great quality printing and extra reviews. No surprise then that this book also gets full marks from us. Pre-order your copy of The Little Book of Sinclair ZX Spectrum Games...

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ZX Spectrum Games Code Club by Gary Plowman – review
Sep06

ZX Spectrum Games Code Club by Gary Plowman – review

Gary Plowman (AKA Gazzapper Games) sent me the ZX Spectrum Games Code Club to review quite a while back now. Unfortunately for him I have been building my upcoming (yes, and it is close!) retro gaming store and that got in the way of my penning this review. What I did make time for however, in between sorting, scanning and listing software titles, was a thorough read of the book in question. I often reminisce about those early home computing days back in the 80s, when I would spend hours hunched over my ZX81 or Spectrum and a copy of Sinclair Programs, painstakingly typing out listing after listing and carefully saving the resulting program to tape. Often there would be a mistake in the listing itself, or you would type something incorrectly meaning you would have to spend another few hours or so fixing it. The term debugging was rarely used by schoolboys on their Spectrums in front of the living room TV back in the 80s, but debugging was exactly what it was and it taught us plenty. Many of us have gone on to have successful careers in computing and have found the lessons learned back then invaluable and often transferable to modern day programming languages. Fast forward to the present day and ZX Spectrum Games Code Club by Gary Plowman uses program listings in the same BASIC language we used back then as a tool for teaching yourself the rudimentary skills needed to code, using – and here is the best part – an actual ZX Spectrum or a Spectrum emulator. And this is why I am so enthused about this book. In essence it takes us back to the roots of games design. Back to a time when every byte counted and 16 or 48K was often all you had to play around with. A time of programming without waste. Inside the book As stated in the introduction, the book is primarily written to teach you how to program in Sinclair BASIC. This is achieved through a series of games listings which you need to input into your chosen ZX Spectrum (or Spectrum emulator). Firstly though, you are taken through some of the more basic commands, an explanation of Spectrum-specific features, emulator keyboard mapping, how to save your work – either to good old cassette or microdrive – and some tips to make typing in code a whole lot easier. There are 20 games listings in total, each followed by a comprehensive run-down of the programming techniques used and what they achieve. You are encouraged to experiment, modify and extend the listings yourself at every...

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The Bear Essentials: Developing a Commodore 64 game – Part 4
Jun26

The Bear Essentials: Developing a Commodore 64 game – Part 4

Part 4: Studying SID It’s been over a year now since I started work on my platform game, and there is still plenty of work to do on it. I would never have imagined it would take me this long to make a Commodore 64 game, but I constantly find myself revisiting things that I thought previously completed to improve them.  I’m without a doubt past the 50% progress marker now anyway, which is definitely a positive. And on another positive note, Bear has found a really nice home with new Commodore 64 game developers Pond Software. Pond’s first release earlier this year, ‘Spaceman Splorf: Planet of Doom’ is a very polished score chasing game with excellent sound and graphics and can be downloaded for free from: http://pondsoft.uk You can also read about Pond’s upcoming releases, which include entries for the 2016 Reset 4kb Game Coding Competition, which I would encourage any C64 coders to take part in! Details of the competition can be found here: http://cloud.cbm8bit.com/resetc64/crapgamecompo2016v1.1.pdf The Sound Interface Device I’m sure at some point everybody has been impressed by a piece of music played by the Commodore 64’s SID chip.  Over the years there have been many names associated with squeezing excellent pieces of music from the three sound channels of the SID – Rob Hubbard, Ben Daglish, Jereon Tel, Steve Rowlands…  Look them up on YouTube if you still need convincing. Before I started writing my C64 platform game, I had a small amount of knowledge of how the SID chip worked having read about it in various books and magazines.  When it came to making use of it in my own programs however, I only really managed to get the most basic of sounds working. For some games this is absolutely fine (my Snake clone had small noises to indicate picking up, crashing and starting the game, and also a very simple tune when the game first loads), but for other more complicated games it really is deemed unacceptable for a C64 game to not have some cool music and sound effects. This was the case with RockMaze, my first attempt at creating a C64 game.  I can’t remember if I ran out of time, or if I failed at attempts to get sound effects working, but either way the game ended up being completely mute.  When I was asked recently if I would like to contribute to the Reset magazine cover disk, I thought this would be an ideal time to read up on the SID chip once again and try to add some music and sound effects to RockMaze. After a quick internet...

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