I wasn't planning to post a Team Pixelboy News Bulletin this week, but given a recent change in my plans, I think now is a good time to do it. So let's get started...
SPACE SHUTTLE NOT READY FOR LAUNCH
I'm going to have to come clean about the current status of Space Shuttle - A Journey Into Space. The MSX port was completed by Mystery Man quite a long time ago, and I've been putting off beta-testing it for just about as long. I always had more pressing matters to attend to, or when I had some time reserved for it, I wasn't in the mood to play-test the game and wound up procrastinating instead.
This past week-end I finally sat down and began working on the sub-manuals seriously (the main manual with general setup info is already finished). I got the first sub-manual done (for the launch phase) and that went okay, but now I'm realizing that preparing the other three sub-manuals is going to be a problem.
The thing about Space Shuttle is, you can't cheat your way through the game with things like infinite lives, or infinite energy, or infinite whatever. Skill level 2 already offers infinite fuel and overlooks a lot of piloting errors, and it's still quite a tough game to master. After a few hours of trying, I'm starting to get the hang of getting the Space Shuttle from the launch pad up to the correct orbital altitude (more or less) but once I'm in orbit, I find orbital maneuvers puzzling, and the game doesn't exactly follow what is described in the manual of the MSX version. Or more to the point, I'm getting the distinct impression that the MSX manual is leaving out a few details, but I'm not 100% sure about that just yet. The manual of the Atari 2600 version doesn't help me a lot. Sometimes, I'm even left wondering if there could be some bugs in the ColecoVision port that are messing up the gameplay, but the way the game plays out, it's very hard to tell. I think it's more likely that I'm just having more trouble mastering this game than I was expecting.
And I haven't even started beta-testing the game on real hardware yet! I've been playing the game under emulation and using savestates to help me write the manuals, and the plan is to finish all the manuals first, and beta-test on real hardware later, with the finished manuals as proper reference material. But now, with less than two months before the official Christmas release date, I'm forced to admit that this game is going to require a LOT more play-testing than I had anticipated, just to finish all the sub-manuals. And then I have to beta-test Space Shuttle on real hardware with skill level 2 and (gulp!) skill level 3... Maybe all my procrastinating towards Space Shuttle was based on an instinctive premonition that I was in for trouble ahead.
So after considering my options, I've decided to put Space Shuttle on hold (again) and devote my time to other Team Pixelboy projects. Those who are waiting for Space Shuttle will no doubt be disappointed, and I kinda feel bad for Mystery Man who really put a lot of effort into porting the MSX game, but it's actually good news when you look at the bigger picture: I'll probably be able to release Gauntlet earlier than Christmas Day, since the game is ready to be put on carts and Gauntlet's manual is ready to print. I just need to order the electronics, get the manuals printed, glue the boxes and assemble the carts. Beyond that, my agenda for this fall will be partially cleared to make some progress on the next batch of Team Pixelboy releases, namely Uridium, QBIQS, Booming Boy, Multiverse, The Cure and Arcomage. In the end, putting Space Shuttle on hold will increase the odds of those six new games being ready to ship next April. So this seems like the best path to follow, at least for me. I don't want to put all my future games on hold over just one game that happens to require a lot of attention.
HOW ABOUT A FUN TRIP TO SKULL ISLAND?
Recently, while browsing randomly on the net, I came across an old Milton Bradley board game called Dark Tower. It comes with a nice-looking electronic centerpiece device that manages the events of the game as well as the general inventories of the players. I've never played this board game but it looks pretty cool. I tried to imagine how a ColecoVision version of Dark Tower could be done, where a ColecoVision cartridge would reproduce the features and behavior of the original electronic device. It doesn't look super complicated to do, and I already have some connections that could help me produce the cardboard and plastic parts of the board game. Here's an overview video, just in case you've never heard of this board game before:
But the more I think about it, the more it seems likely that the current owners of the Dark Tower game (which today is likely Hasbro Games, according to the superficial research I did) could have a problem with a ColecoVision reproduction of Dark Tower, so I'm thinking that a clone of that game would actually be preferable. So my idea would be a game called "The Curse of Skull Island", where the board would be an ocean instead of land, the player pieces would be boats instead of warriors, etc. and the back story of the game would obviously be very different, but the core gameplay mechanics would remain mostly intact, with maybe a few minor design improvements made possible with a cartridge-based application running the game.
What do you think? Would you buy this board game? For now it's just an idea I'm contemplating, I have no idea how much the finished board game would cost. If there's enough interest, I could invest more time into it and see if it's doable at an affordable price.
This concludes this Team Pixelboy News Bulletin. We now return you to your regular