Chimera Screen Shot 2012 10 28 at 23 43 09

Chimera Screen Shot 2012 10 29 at 00 00 35

As you can see from the above, that’s pretty much most of the game right there.

I have objects, static and animated. I have food and water, which in a nod to sanity are relabelled coolant and energy, though I will still be using bread and a mug to signify those. The graphics are the Spectrum ones, extracted from a bitmap recovered from the original by sokurah – I used Flying Meat’s Acorn to combine the masks and the original image into a single transparent PNG, quadrupled in both axes to give a 128×128 sprite.

Animation works better than the original in two ways. First, it continues for the player even when he hits a wall, so it’s independent of movement and second, movement is now free of the “one block at a time” limitation of the original.

The other thing I’ve put in is the Ultimate method of pushing towards an opening for collision. You can use blocks to guide you around the map now and it feels a lot more natural.

The display is also compressed, and I’ll probably keep it that way, using the edges to display information (but it will be more pretty than in the shot above)

The adventure handling used to be a huge “if/then” block of Z80 or 6502. Now it’s all text, making it easier to put that together.

I’ve got combinations working, so if you combine the spanner with the bolt, you get the missile.

I’m not going to do an exact remake, it’s already an approximation, so there will be a different text feedback system, probably a more “modern retro” style if that makes any sense at all. I will include the original sound for the scream and title, but I will also rework those. My voice after all, is still my voice. There will be more sound, a bit more chip music of sorts too. The biggest change will be in how the game ends, and there will be many terminals, which will feature lots more story, including artefacts from the original development of the game, including the full sprite editor listing – the Z80 I wrote in early 1985 to get the whole project going in the first place.

The one thing I’m struggling with at the moment is whether to allow dropping of objects. You could drop missiles before (well, you had to, it was part of the game) but I’m wondering if I should allow dropping of objects. The current version allows that, but there’s a bug that prevents those objects from being picked up again, no biggie.

Let me know what you think.

Getting Closer

Chimera screenshot 2012 10 21

I’ve got an EntityFactory class done so that now you can create any object, be it block, static entity (like the spanner, bread etc.) or animated entity (be it the player, electric fence and so on) using a string. It means I can do this:

    player = (Player *)EntityFactory::getInstance()->buildEntity(“Player”);

To create the Player object, or:

    fence = EntityFactory::getInstance()->buildEntity(“Toaster”);

…to create the animated toaster. 
(The cast is needed for ‘player’ because the return type from buildEntity is of course a pointer to an Entity object, from which Player is derived.)

Now while I realise this is absolutely overkill to re-create the original game (which is what I’m doing), this means I’m well set up for the reboot, for which this will become more important.

I’m pretty close to having the next playable.

Chimera Getting Close

Chimera mac screen shot 2012 10 15

I’m delighted to tell you that yesterday I made exceptional progress on Chimera, with a bare bones demo now running on Mac and PC.

There are two versions planned. The first is a pretty vanilla remake of the original, that’s what I’m working on at the moment. It will be released for free. I have got the man walking around the whole map at 60fps now, just as in the original, with pretty much the same data, though some tweaks are still required, because I seem to have an old version of the map data. If you recall, I just typed all of the map data in again from an old listing I had.

The graphics are from the Spectrum version, but if someone can get me the graphics from the Atari 8-bit version along with the palette data, the graphics from the C64 version (ditto) and from the Amstrad version, my plan is to adapt those and have them as swappable skins from the options. I was thinking about making them a gameplay feature of some kind (a different skin for every missile armed, in the order that I did the conversions) and I’ll still think about that, but for now, the plan is to have them as swappable skins. 

Once I release the game, I will also work on (or more likely ask someone else to work on!) 16-bit skins that never got made, including ST, Amiga, PC CGA, EGA, VGA, you get the picture…

I have this still to do:

Other game entities (the obstacles, the pick-ups, the terminals)

Adventure logic (including food/water/radiator/weight processing, torch/dark room, missile arming, death and restart)

Text feedback and display (original text kindly recovered by the brilliant @sokurah, who also recovered the complete Spectrum graphics for me. I won’t reveal the text he uncovered here in case you haven’t played the game, it gives away too much!)

Audio (including Rob’s music, which I have been given permission to use! and SFX, particularly the scream)

But the technology is pretty much done, and I can see the finish line now. If you have any suggestions for subtly enhancing the original, I’m all ears. Remember, this isn’t the full reboot, which I’m still planning for next year, this is the remake. So this is just to whet your appetite and to establish the foundations.

Exciting times!

Chimera II

Before David and I started work on Pandora, we talked about an interim project. We should have done this.

I loved the way we worked back then. I’d have these grandiose ideas and David would help me to ground them. This makes me sound creative and David sound organised, but actually, David is perhaps more creative than I. It was just the way we interfaced. It’s almost impossible to describe, but it worked to a fashion.

David went on to create Conflict: Middle East Political Simulator, one of the most innovative games I’ve played. (I helped with the graphics libraries and music, and with porting, graphics and music on the St and Amiga versions). He then created the even more ambitious Floor 13, which I’ve urged him to remake for the modern era.

Chimera II would have been a suitable half-way point between the commercial success of Chimera and the creative ambition of Pandora. I had a bunch of ideas, which David then ran with and turned into something actually useful. I present his Chimera II document to you after 27 years. This won’t be what I make next, but it might have been a very good Chimera II in 1986.

1985 Chimera II Design Notes 11985 Chimera II Design Notes 21985 Chimera II Design Notes 31985 Chimera II Design Notes 4


Just when I think I’m winning

When I’ve broken every door

The ghosts of my life

Blow wilder than before

Just when I thought 

I could dnot be stopped

When my chance came to be king

The ghosts of my life, blow wilder than the wind

Ghosts, David Sylvian

I nearly bought an Oberheim 1000 once in High Barnet’s Digital Village. On a credit card. When I was very overdrawn and seemingly down and out of the games industry, but aiming for a life in music.

Now I’m listening to Ghosts by Japan, which features sounds harking back to the Oberheim days and lyrics that remind me of some of he more poignant parts of my interview with Paul Drury of Retro Gamer last night. Man, I still can’t believe Mick Karn has gone.

30 years. It’s a long time.

There’s still time.

The race is not run.

Retro Gamer

I just spent a couple of hours speaking to the lovely Paul Drury of Retro Gamer. The interview will feature at some point, I’ll let you know nearer the time. I’m looking forward to it I must say. It was quite a ride to cover my first 30 years in the business in just 2 hours, especially with the cough I’m currently sporting! The interview made me remember some things I’d completely forgotten. It was quite an experience.

I’ll post more of my archived stuff as and when I get more time, including the full Z80 printout of the room editor I wrote when I started building Chimera on the Spectrum.

Nightshade C64 – Part 3

This is a continuation of my earlier posts, Nightshade C64 – Part 1 and Nightshade C64 – Part 2.

Here is the rest of the document I referred to in Nightshade C64 – Part 2. I hope you enjoy this piece of history. It was one of the most exhilarating times of my life and also became one of my biggest professional regrets, but you’ll have to wait for part 4 for that, and that won’t be out for a while. Definitely worth reading if you’re into Ultimate though. (Or Chimera, for that matter)

All of this is why the subtitle for Chimera2010 is “This Time Get It Right”…


Nightshade C64 – Part 2

Continuing from Nightshade C64 – Part 1, here’s part 2, where I post half of the bound pamphlet that Ultimate sent me for the conversion of their Nightshade from the ZX Spectrum to the C64. I’ll post the second half in part 3 of this series. Please note that the aspect ratio of the cover page is wrong, it’s a little stretched because of the camera scanning software I used. Note also the shadow of the iPad across the bottom right of each page.



Nightshade C64 – Part 1

I’m going to post a few things on Nightshade tonight. I wrote the C64 version 27 years ago, so it’s about time. I’ll write up my thoughts more fully at some point, and probably for another destination, but for now, I’ll share with you some of the documents I’ve kept from that time, starting with the contract I had with Firebird, and then later, maybe tonight, maybe in a day or two, the nicely packaged document that Chris Stamper sent me.

The 8th of October is of 1985 – and that’s my handwriting on the MOU, though the initials were of Paul Jacobs of Telecomsoft. It was Firebird who had the licence for publishing Nightshade, but I guess they didn’t have too long to do it, because they gave me four weeks, after which I’d have to pay a penalty of £400 a week.

The contract is brutally short, but that was fine by me, and would be today too.


1985 10 08 Nightshade Contract 11985 10 08 Nightshade Contract 2