This is Jim Slide XL!
It took 4 months to develop Jim Slide until the deadline of the Abbuc Software Contest 2015 and then another 6 months for the collectors edition in a nice box.
Then I wanted to make a cart. For the Atari 8 Bit Systems a cart is cool. Since the game needs more than 8k, why not use 127 times more than 8k? 1MB it is!
But this needed some extras. Turned out, the development took another year. It was fun doing a lot of different tasks. Trying to get some people on board and developing a big version of Jim Slide. Sometimes not so much, but this is normal.
On the way: I tested different modes: Time Attack Mode, Adventure Mode, Arcade Mode (Same as in Jim Slide) and Story Mode. I planned to have totally new levels, but there was only very little support. I developed for PAL and NTSC, but had to face the truth: Nobody with NTSC was interested in Jim Slide. So I dropped waisting much time on that. I works though, but it is not tested much. Jim Slide has a problem: It is judged by the graphics screen shot or 5 minutes testing. This means, that a super simple old game like Pong with new graphics always gets better votes. This means for developers: Don’t waist time on content, just do cool graphics and redo old simple games. What about this: A cart like The!Cart with 512MB can hold 512 games with 1MB size. This means, games can be big. They can have cool graphics, can have sound or anything without loading times. Of course more content means more time to develop and more support needed. I planned to do a big version of a racing game, but I have dropped my plans 4 months ago. I have spent a lot of time and some money on that, but I had the same problem like with Jim Slide: No graphics artist. The development would have taken so much time, just to see a new pong getting better votes after 2 years work.
Doing a game that takes 1000 hours of work means, that you can not watch 700 films or soccer games. Of course, this is the same for the little games that easily take 100 hours time for development. Just think about that for a moment, when you watch your next movie.
Back to Jime Slide: There were some great people! They invested their time and the result is awesome! I was totally flashed by some levels. And I have played lots of hours testing a lot of them.
A problem came up, when people were playing Jim Slide (Abbuc Edition): They couldn’t get past level two. The arcade mode is fine, but for some people it needed to be less difficult to get into Jim Slide. This lead to the new difficulty selection in Jim Slide XL in the new Story Mode. The levels were easier and had a different focus. The level Move Your Finger was a lot of work for the joystick, but very easy. In fact, it was near to torturing :-). But 10 levels in difficulty Easy can be done very quickly, if you got into Jim Slide. Time for Fair levels. Getting more experienced, you will face a few levels that look similar and easy, but they are not - until you got even better. Hard was always what it says. Crazy! What should I say? It is what everybody expects. There is a different screen awaiting after that.
Easy -> Fair -> Advanced -> Hard -> Crazy!
Why took the development of the cart so much time?
- Telling a story was not as easy as I thought.
- Developing Jims and Jessicas sentences was a lot of work. And then I had to find good voices for them and change all again to catch the feeling that it has now. I am quiet happy with the achieved result.
- The graphics of Jim and Jessica is based on only 5 pictures drawn with pencil on paper. A real artist made them for me. I wanted to have them posed like heroes, but both with own style. Brother and sister, boy and girl. Gamers, but less and more wise, ... This lead to this sketch:
In fact another two artists tried the same before and the result was not nearly as good as Darsys work. (I payed for it.) The result was THE base for all the graphics in the game. Colouring and pixeling took a lot of time, as I am only a designer and not an artist.
- As the program got bigger and bigger the 64k where filled up multiple times and needed revision, remapping to rom and more.
- The player program for the music had a fix location in memory. That was no fun for the memory layout. Later I used an Excel map to better plan every byte. (BTW: The music is great and Poison did a great job providing 7 different titles for the story and game.)
- I decided to write my own linking application (in c#) for graphics, sound and game. In the end, all the different banks were much easier under control
- The graphics were converted by mario130xe. He is a master in converting graphics and spends hours and hours doing preparations and rendering.
- I changed the games message font completely and pixeled a lot here and there
- For the story, I wanted to have good readable characters. That lead to a proportional font rendering in real time on high res and a full colored picture on one screen. For good readability every char has two pixels width for each stroke. This approach gives about 60 chars every line instead of 40 with better readability. Developing fast rendering of the text with automatic newline on space characters took some time too. And there had to be a font converter written. It’s output is the binary structure had to feeds the renderer and the multiple 8k design.
- Dumb bugs fixing! Of course I had lots of them and they took a lot of time.
- Developing good stereo digitized output. Jim Slide XL has stereo music and therefore had to have samples played not only on one side. And I wanted high quality for Pokey / dual Pokey. Getting music and samples in a game flow with fitting intensity was quiet some work. Samples where not loud enough, music didn’t play further in a good way after speech, weird sounds appear sometimes, ...
- Doing 3 different versions of the door screen. The first ones where not bad, but they missed the style of the other graphics, that had been developed in between. Later I had to drop that approach. The final door had a very intense focus and works without raster program. So digitized speech was made possible in good quality with graphics on.
- Timing! Getting VBI and main program right took another chunk of time. There is no easy answer for all the stuff that happens when everything comes together.
- Booting from cart sounded easy and was easy. Until something did not work as expected :-). Like not resetting, booting breaks out of nowhere, crashing after booting correctly, ...
- Saving in Adventure Mode. And erasing the save state. This was a story of it’s own. With help from the TheCart! Developing Team member Hias and Altirra developer Phaeron it was a lot easier. Thanks to them for the help!
- Putting in easter eggs. They had to be there. So a little bit was spent doing that.
- Building a 3D case for the cart and designing a 3D Logo for it.
- Trying to get the 3D case and logo printed. That failed for several different reasons. Another story, that ended in the actual case with two high quality stickers.
I learned a lot and developed some tools. I did this for me and for the fun of others, otherwise the poject would have been canceled early. Doing development without help is slowing down a lot. Add some trolls and no more developing takes place. But fortunatly it didn’t happen.
A lot of different games where done and will be done with nearly no budget at all. I like the small and the big ones. It does not matter, if someone is doing basic, assembler or anything else. Or paint graphics, do sounds or configure disks or anything. If the community wants to support all the developers / artists / ..., then they have to motivate them a bit. Motivation is the key engine driving people forward. So I want to say again here: Hey Atarians! Keep up the good work and help others in doing so.
While writing these lines a thought came up about my good friend, who stops me every time I want to make the world a better place. He said: “When I grow old, I become a people hater. I will report all the people that are doing things wrong!”.
So don’t get old and try to keep your Atari youth while enjoying your machine.
But back to the game and the Jim Slide claim: “Sliding is fun”. Have fun playing Jim Slide!
PS: The cart and box etc. is for the collector. Both are very limited and therefore a bit expensive. You can play Jim Slide or Jim Slide XL for free. Only if you want to collect a nice copy you have to spent money. The actual box has a numbered hologram with a nice logo on it. For collecting reasons, the box size is the same for Dimos Quest, Dimos Dungeon and Jim Slide. The collectors cart has a Jim Slide blue case and two unique stickers.
The new “Very Expensive Collectors Edition” with sources, sketches and T-Shirt is ment only for the rich collector. [Yes, I made that up ;-)]
PPS: See the credits for all the people that have been into Jim Slide and Jim Slide XL development.
JimSlideXL.car.txt 1MB 457 downloads (rename without the .txt) The car works with Atari800 and Altirra emulator - Even save and erase!
JimSlideXL.atr.txt 962.39KB 232 downloads (rename without the .txt) The atr is for flashing an AtariMax cart (tested only on a new one!)
Edited: Just one more thing: You have to use Atari OS V2 for some reason. (See Firmware in Altirra menu)
Edited by 1NG, Sat Dec 24, 2016 7:02 PM.