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!

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

Jet Set Willy C64 WTF?


Yesterday while looking for the PSU for my Parker MidiFly MIDI box (unsuccessful, so if you have any pointers, I’m all ears), I found my original, sealed copy of Jet Set Willy C64. Are you tired of me telling you I wrote that in 1984? Well I showed this gem to my colleagues at work today.

This evening I was trying to remember whether I’d switched to a more reliable assembler after starting the project in the buggy Macrofire assembler. I’m sure I did, I just can’t remember whether it was the Commodore Macro Assembler or not. So what do you do when you can’t remember bits of your own life? Well you google it of course, and in doing so, I found that somebody had actually remade the C64 version. Frankly, that’s just beyond my understanding, but good on Captain Death, that’s all I can say.

I haven’t checked it out, I’m still on a high from working out a decent mechanic for Chimera’s energy/material phasing system and getting a fair bit of code done. Feel free to download it and let me know what you think. (Oh and this guy has done a good job of giving a breakdown of how the data is stored in the game)

What is Chimera?

I’m really understanding what this game is about now.

  • Energy
  • Environment
  • Reframing the past
  • Redemption

In order for the game to be about the above list, these all have to be factored into gameplay. And that’s my challenge.

The energy bit is really easy and most games do a simple variation of this. The obvious example is an FPS game, where you have a certain amount of health, as do the bad guys, and shooting them, or being shot, affects your energy.

I’m taking that a bit further and turning it into more of a real-time-resource-management issue. Energy is a resource, the Environment is a “trust”. In order to fulfill your stewardship of the latter, you need to be clever about the former.

Energy is expended in varying amounts depending on your activity and on the prevailing environment.

Reframing the past is about being able to over-write your previous actions, committed at every stage, and thereby “un-commit” them. And redemption means going back in the game and fixing mistakes that would have been harder to fix at the time.



Chimera Glow Dots



Have a look at Rob Fearon’s piece, “We Love Glow” when you get the chance. A man after my own heart, playing with the kind of looks afforded by modern software and hardware. That’s what I call “retro reframed” and it’s how I roll. What we’re working on appears retro, but actually wouldn’t be possible on older hardware (at least not at a reasonable frame rate).

Alpha-blending? Forget it. The best we got was transparency and masking, on, or off.

Additive blending? Don’t be silly. Overlays, sure. That’s your lot.

I’ve spent all day working on this. I’ve learned that I’m not as fast as I used to be. I’ve learned that music doesn’t help me relax as much as it used to. And I’ve learned that somewhere along the way, life hit me so many times, so hard, that I plain and simple forgot how to just let go and flow. I’m not saying I’ve got it back, but I recognise it. And yes, I’d like some more of that please.

I’ve coded quite a lot, learned some more C++ techniques, got half a graphic editor going, got some glowing graphics going and reverted to Spectrum graphics as opposed to the 3-colour (+black) C64 sprite. The proportions are wrong, the blocks are pink, the glow is Ready-Brek, but I’m happy for today.

What do you think of that big pixel look on the left by the way? That with some glow maybe? (Don’t worry about the white pixels, they’re just masking)

So what does the title of the piece refer to? Well, the illusion that more is being done than it actually is. I don’t need to do anythign fancy in real-time, other than let the hardware take care of alpha-blending. Everything can and should be faked.

The effect was achieved by adding an external glow filter and a gradient overlay from top left to bottom right at about 50%. The graphics have been scaled up from the Spectrum original enormously.

Now for some animation.


Big Pixels – You Like?

That code I showed you the other day – that was like showing a doctor a boil on your backside that you’d unsuccessfully treated with a home remedy of a pin sterilised in a match flame. Don’t worry, the code dramatically improved, that is, I fixed the bugs and cleaned it up and stopped pretending I understood anything about the bloody vector class and I finally managed to extract some sprites and display them on my demo in chunky pixel form. Here they are.

Bulky Chimera Pixels

What I’m doing here is loading a Spectrum image of my original game, kindly preserved by Internet people, then scanning through it for graphics. the black cut-outs are masks used as cookie cutters – the black pixels got cut out of the background, then the image got blended in. Did you see how I used the word “blended” there? Stop sniggering at the back.

I’ve done the whole faux-retro-pixel thing. I like it.

So I grabbed one of these images and started playing about with it in a graphics package. Here’s my first experiment. It’s a bit weird I know, but I like it.