Thursday, 30 December 2010

New titles released for the ZX Spectrum

Over the last few days there have been several new games released on the ZX Spectrum!


A nice slow paced ( and tricky ) arcade game! Very polished ( I love the dissolving text effect ) which has the 'one more go' factor!

The game's programmer - Rafal Miazga - has kindly also made the source for the game available!

A very polished looking 'Zelda' styled collect 'em up! I've not come across many games with this style on the Spectrum - maybe one day someone will take the plunge and make a Link to the Past styled adventure for the 128k Spectrum!

A nice little retro platformer. Brngs back some fond memories of earlier Spectrum games. It reminds me a lot of Manic Miner and also, for some reason, Eric and the floaters! Digital Prawn has also made the source code available for anyone wanting to see how Spectrum games are put together.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Vote for Gloop Troops and Crimbo!

There is a poll for best game of 2010 on the World of Spectrum forum! If you enjoyed Crimbo or Gloop Troops them please vote for them!

Friday, 24 December 2010

The making of Crimbo - Part 2: What went wrong

Whilst Crimbo - A Gloop Troops Tale has been a roaring success for us, and is something we are all immensely proud of, it still has a few tiny things we would of liked to have fixed.

Developing a game in such a small timeframe is tough, naturally there was always going to be unresolved issues with the game. It's thanks to the dedication of the whole team that we were able to push ahead and deliver a game we are all proud of.

Below are some of the issues with the final game we would have liked resolved. These will hopefully be resolved in our next title:

ULA "snow" on first release

Whilst we had tested the game on numerous emulators, we still fell foul of the ULA "snow" issue. This issue is caused by having an interrupt routine in the memory address range 0x4000 to 0x7FFF ( so the second 16k memory block on a ZX Spectrum ). We had integrated the Arkos tracker into our project to allow for AY chip music when running on a 128k model spectrum. To service the music we installed an interrupt routine at address 0x6161 which would be called once per frame on a V-Sync. Whilst this worked brilliantly on the emulators we tried, it turned out that this causes the ULA "snow" effect to occur onscreen. Once the issue had been identified on the WoS forum we were able to supply a quick fix.

As we now knew the final size of all our assets we were able to move all of our data to the start of memory, plus a little padding, so that we could install the interrupt handler at 0x8181. In future we will be able to avoid this issue, but there is no substitute for testing on real hardware :-)

Sound Effects

We initially wanted to have our sound effects also be played through the AY-3-8192 chip. Unfortunately we ran out of time to fully utilise the chip and instead used the Spectrum beeper for our sound effects. We used a modified routine from Gloop Troops to generate a few beeps ( player death and collecting a present ). The upside to this is that there are sound effects played when playing the game on a 48k Spectrum!

Just before the game shipped AJH was able to re-create the title theme using the Spectrum beeper. There was a brief chat about whether to release a 48k version without the AY music, but with beeper renditions of the music instead. This would have been a cool feature to have supported, but may not have added much to the game for the extra work involved. Perhaps in the future we may want to look into separate 48k and 128k versions of the game if there is demand.

Keyboard control / configuration options

Something we wanted was configurable keyboard controls. This was left until the last minute and then dropped as we were short on time. Our reasoning was most people would play the game on an emulator, so would be able to configure their keyboard however they liked to represent the joystick. Another issue is the jump on pressing the joystick up versus pressing fire. Our previous game Gloop Troops, like a lot of games of that era, used up on the joystick to jump. However a lot of forum feedback requested fire to jump ( perhaps this is better when playing on a portable emulator? ). Next time we will provide this option if the game allows.

Sprite flicker

One of the issues with our sprite system is in how the sprite being drawn will splatter over the background image. This is not a problem usually within the game as we have a single colour background. However when two sprites overlap there is noticeable flicker. This is something we'd like to reduce further in future games where possible. This might be done by using a different sprite draw call if a collision between two sprites occurs. Alternatively we may see if preventing sprite overlap is possible. We could, for example, have the sprites bounce off each other instead!

Overall we are very pleased with Crimbo and are eagerly starting work on our next game! :-)

Monday, 20 December 2010

The making of Crimbo - Part 1: What went right

Now that Crimbo has been out for a little while, it's a good time to look back over Crimbo's development.

The idea for doing a Christmas themed popped up in October. We had taken a small break from developing Gloop Troops 2, when Andy came up with the idea of doing a Spectrum game for Christmas! We loved the idea of a Christmas game but we had to act fast! With only two months to put the game together, we had to take a very critical look at what was needed.

We decided not to deviate too far from the Gloop Troops formula and would keep the game a single screen platformer. We we also wanted to use this opportunity to take the feedback from Gloop Troops and apply it to Crimbo where possible. We had previously toyed with the idea of releasing a Gloop Troops 1.5, but this had it's own problems ( to be discussed in a future post! ).

We narrowed down the scope of the game quickly. We kept with the idea of collecting pickups to clear a level, as it is a popular theme in Spectrum games, and is easy to communicate to the player. But with Crimbo we would remove the ability to defeat enemies. This would easily make the game alot tougher! We also knew we wouldn't be able to create many polished levels within the time limit, so instead we opted to only a handful of very tough levels. We took inspiration mostly from Manic Miner for Crimbo:

Like Manic Miner the game should be short and sweet. Also like Manic Miner we wanted to give each room a name to help give it some character. Before settling on having the player control Santa, we had toyed with the idea of the player controlling an Elf gone rogue! The working title for the game was "Elfish little b@stard" until quite late in development.

Andy had previously created all the levels for Gloop Troops, so was in the best position to create most of the levels for the game. We were originally going to have all of us chip in a few levels but this didn't end up occurring ( more on this in a later post ). Andy put a lot of time and effort on both the level design and look of Crimbo! With the results being both excellent and extremely well received!

Tech wise we didn't want to over commit on new features. With only two months to develop ther game, there woiuld be a high risk of trying to cram in a feature which would end up broken. major additions to the game's code was the snow effect used on the frontend, the new intro sequence and integrating the Arkos music player into the code base.

AJH has been working with us on Gloop Troops 2's design but this was his first opportunity to compose some music for the Spectrum! He did an amazing job with the short amount of time available, and really hit the ground running!

Next time we'll cover what didn't go to plan with Crimbo!

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The Music of CRIMBO!

Hi everyone, AJH here.

It’s great to be releasing a brand new Little Shop of Pixel game, especially one spreading holiday cheer! We had such a great time making the game and I like to think it shows!

The guys have wanted music in a LSOP game for a while and CRIMBO was a great chance to test it out and when they asked me to put some music together for the game I jumped at the chance.

We knew we wanted something upbeat for the main game, something up-tempo, light and festive. With the many of mainstream Christmas favourites still under copyright we looked at seasonal traditional folk songs. The Sussex Carol just seemed to pop out and after a few different interpretations we settled on the version you hear in the release.

For the title screen I wanted something more atmospheric, something more ethereal even magical – and once the snow (not bug snow!) went in it just reinforced the vibe. At the same time it snowed here in the UK, so I sat watching snow in the game and outside the window - the game and reality in sync provided the perfect inspiration!

The music for the game was created using the fantastic Arkos Tracker. It’s been an extremely long time since I used a soundtracker program and it was my first time on the AY chip but Arkos is so intuitive, smart and clear that I had tunes running from the start. If you haven’t checked it out I highly recommend it. Great work guys, keep it up!

Finally, creating the music for CRIMBO gave me the perfect excuse to rediscover all my chip tune heroes, old and new. More on this in another post, but I highly recommend the excellent Modizer iPhone app. Chip and mod tunes on the move! We must be living in the future!


Crimbo's reception

We've spent the last few days excitedly reading all the feedback on Crimbo!

After many nights of quietly working away on Crimbo, it has been incredibly rewarding to read about other people enjoying the game.

Here are some of our favourite quotes over the last few days from the World of Spectrum forum!
"LOVE the way the game looks, the font, the graphics, just reminds me of a classic Bubble Bobble style game. Really liking this. Thanks very much."

"Just one more go...."

"This is fantastic! The loading screen is the best I have seen for a very long time - SO colourful. I love the game."

"Catchy, addicitng tune that Bubble Bobble wouldn't be ashamed of."

"I think it is fantastic that people are still producing such quality software for the Spectrum."

"Brilliant brilliant game, brings a smile to my face to have a Spectrum 128K game before Chrimbo, I feel like I just got a new Issue of Crash with this on the cover Graphics are beautiful, music on the title screen is so relaxing, almost hypnotic and yet strangey sad/remembering (in a good way like Gunrunner 48K tune)... "

"Got to level 3 on second go after reading to hold jump down, really love hard games, I´d have got the bus to Newcastle and payed 10 pounds for this back in the early 90´s... Thanks "

"Thanks for contributing something like this to the Speccy community - its a quality product!"

We will post up a postmortem on the game soon - and use the feedback to help make our next game even better!

Sunday, 12 December 2010

New game! Crimbo

We are pleased to announce our new game! Crimbo - A Gloop Troops Tale.

Help Santa save Christmas! Santa's helpers have gone and hidden the world's presents all over his home! Go Santa Go!

Saturday, 11 December 2010

New title imminent

Our secret game is close to being released! Our new game will be going live on Monday evening. We're testing the game over the weekend to make sure it's as bug free as we can make it before releasing it out into the wild.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Secret project

We've been taking a break from Gloop Troops 2 and instead been working on a secret little project this month. The game's now pretty much done and just having a few final tweaks before being released!