Vintage confuser game

A project log for Silly software wishlist

Motivation to do some software projects by writing them down.

lion mclionheadlion mclionhead 11/06/2021 at 08:390 Comments

The lion kingdom found only 1 screencap of adventure construction set running on the C64.  Without deciphering the emulator keyboard & possibly getting the thrustmaster working with the emulator, screencaps were the easiest way to see it.  It's nowhere close to what the marketing suggested for all those years.  It doesn't access anywhere near the limits of the hardware.  They might have limited the room size to 8 sprites wide.  The author said EA renamed it to something other than his preference, but the name definitely conveyed more than it was capable of.

The lion kingdom has no intention of writing a vintage confuser game, but ideas of how a dream game envisioned 40 years ago could have been written have continued to evolve.  Having lower standards is the key.

The lion kingdom realized a general purpose game engine was key, before really knowing the concept of a game engine existed.  The vision was a simple game engine by today's standards which allowed a humanoid player to navigate an open 3D world & fight enemies.  Without even getting to the artwork & programming challenges, which were way above lion level, the mane difficulty was the RAM & floppy disks of the time couldn't store a big enough world or the animations required for fully articulated humanoid players.  That was why games were all 2D side scrollers with very constrained players.

In hindsight, a very simple 2D tiled world with very few unique elements could have emulated the 3D world.  Zaxxon & Blue Max managed airborne & ground game play with only a 2D map with repeating elements.  The world could have been drawn as an isometric projection the way Zaxxon & Blue Max did it, but movement in all directions was essential to make it an open world.  That kind of movement required players to point in 8 directions.  An isometric projection of 8 player directions was quite hard, in those days.

The player animations could have been compressed by compositing 2D body parts on the fly.  Body parts could have been rotated in 90 deg increments, flipped, & translated in 2D.  A gun just needed to rotate down & sideways while a separate leg bitmap could have translated walking positions.  A head bitmap could have just translations.  

Overlaying multiple bitmaps on a single sprite or cluster of 4 sprites might have been fast enough to do in realtime, even if the result looked clunky.  The mane value was just being able to identify a favorite cartoon character.  

Artwork for the player pointing up & down was always the stumbling block.  It was the hardest angle to convey movement in.  The players could have been limited to moving only up right, down left, left, & right.  That definitely constrains how many cartoon scenes could be envisioned in a game.

Cartoons in those days relied heavily on diagonal characters.  Most scenes could be envisioned with flipping.

4 diagonal movements with only sideways facing player graphics are doable, but shooting in all directions could have been difficult with only a side facing player.  Other games just allowed shooting in 1 direction.  It also improved gameplay to not have to precisely aim the gun.

The lion kingdom didn't appreciate 8 Bit Guy's games more because the early ones always looked so bad & were so blocky.  His Planet X games were just simple text graphics with a static, 2D player character.

Petscii robots was originally not impressive, but seeing it make progress on the C64 & then the Amiga showed just how much of the ideal game engine he got.

It actually draws an animated humanoid facing 4 directions & navigating an isometric 2D world, something lions considered really hard 35 years ago & Adventure construction set never got close to.  The blocky motion would be an acceptable compromise for the lack of memory.  The player was just a single sprite overlaid 3 times to get 3 colors.  There might be enough detail in those individual 24x21 sprites to identify a cartoon character.  The pixel size for the player could be doubled without costing memory.

He actually based it on Ultima for DOS, which achieved the same style graphics on much better hardware.

8 bit guy never produced an open ended game engine based on pescii robots or an adventure construction set using his game engine, probably because most of the value was in the game play rather than the graphics.  Something which just allowed a humanoid to navigate a 2D world & shoot things was probably too boring.