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Time to Design -- engine is ready, boulders are ready...


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#1 Andrew Davie OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jan 14, 2005 10:23 AM

Have a look at http://www.atari2600...bd15JAN2005.mpg (4.5MB). This is running on an actual Atari 2600, believe it or not -- captured with a cheap video capture card.

The MPG shows my current flexible game-engine in action as it would appear on a high-end TV. On lower-TVs, flicker will be much more evident (it's to do with phosphor persistance, refresh rates, etc). In any case, some flicker is the cost of being able to display graphics like this. The capture card software appears to have removed the interlacing, so the image looks solider here than in real life.

Now I've pretty much developed the engine, I'm at a crossroads and I'd like to your opinion. Obviously this engine was developed with Boulder Dash-like capabilities in mind. But it is not Boulder Dash -- that particular game is copyrighted to First Star Software, so I can't develop it (without their permission). This game currently has no BoulderDash logic in it, and the graphics shown have been in many other games (DigDug, for example). Even with permission from the copyright holders, I'm sure the terms of development would be prohibitive.

So I'm looking for suggestions/ideas as to what games would be ideally suited to this engine. It can't be "Boulder Dash with nuggets instead of diamonds"! Has to be a different game altogether, using the capabilities that this video is showing my engine using. The player character can be a sprite, by the way -- haven't finished developing that capability yet.

Each of the characters shown onscreen can animate and/or move -- but there is a limit to the amount of action going on -- you can see some slowdown when it has to scroll and redraw large portions of the screen. So things have to be kept reasonable. There can be many different shapes, but they all must be drawn in 4 pixels wide x 18 pixels deep. NOT easy -- try it!

Time for a game design competition, anyone? Best design gets credit and a free copy :)

Basically at this stage my choices are ...

a) Officially working with First Star and accepting any terms and conditions they throw at me. I can't really say what these might be -- let's just say they'll be very restrictive and I'll be very poor.

b) Creating a totally new game, using your brilliant design and my brilliant engine :P

c) Finding an existing game that I could safely copy -- ie: the copyright holder would not object to a 'tribute' and would not demand my first born for the right to make it.

I'm also interested to hear what people think is a reasonable way to make a game LIKE another but not tread on any copyright issues. For example, how like BoulderDash can one be, without crossing the line? And I'm serious about being legally and morally correct on this one.

Cheers
A

PS: I still think it's freaking amazing that a '2600 can be made to do this sort of thing, even with a bit of flicker!

#2 carlsson OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jan 14, 2005 11:08 AM

Maybe I'm clueless, but would they really bother to sue you if you leave out the butterflies, the amoeba, the slime, the magic walls and theme it differently? Is it the gravity of stones and diamonds that makes Boulder Dash Boulder Dash? Is it the patent (?) itself they would protect, or the fact that it would be for sale and someone makes money?

Maybe you can turn the gameplay upside down, so instead of stones you have poisonous balloons striving upwards, and then some nice birds to catch (or the other way around, if you prefer). Whether it is dirt or something else you have to remove to get to the birds, you decide. Work from there, find power-ups - a slingshot so you can break the balloons on their way to the sky, and release birds trapped inside.

#3 Allan OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jan 14, 2005 11:44 AM

There's no reason why we all can't come up with an idea for Andrew. This has tons of possibilities.

I'll be racking my brain all day for ideas.

Allan

#4 Allan OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jan 14, 2005 11:47 AM

How big can the screen be?

Allan

#5 Allan OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jan 14, 2005 11:57 AM

How about your a spy for another company sneaking in your competitor's factory. You have to sneak in, get the plans for their new gizmo, and sneak out again. You have to avoid all the machinery that they throw at you. Crushers, welders, etc.

Allan

#6 Thomas Jentzsch OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jan 14, 2005 1:54 PM

Maybe I'm clueless, but would they really bother to sue you if you leave out the butterflies, the amoeba, the slime, the magic walls and theme it differently? Is it the gravity of stones and diamonds that makes Boulder Dash Boulder Dash?

Yes, that's what I would do.

And then I (or someone else) would offer a patch, which allows changing all items back to the BD originals. :)

#7 Robert M OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jan 14, 2005 2:45 PM

Andrew,

that looks very nice. This is probably heresy, but I never liked Boulderdash. I think there are a number of other games in the genre that are much more fun to play.

That said, I think your best option is a completely original game in the the same genre.

some technical questions:

1. How much time is left per scanline in the current engine to draw sprites and missles?
2. Is that an interlaced image?
3. Is the vertical and horizontal scrolling limited to the tile size of the map?
4. What is the color pallete and resolution of the tile set? They appear to be 4 PF pixels wide, but how tall are they and how many colors are possible with your current engine?

Cheers!

#8 pmpddytim OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jan 14, 2005 2:49 PM

Could you make a simple version of a game like Exodus on Nes or Crystal Mines on Lynx out of this? Seems to be the same basic idea.

:)

#9 Thomas Jentzsch OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jan 14, 2005 3:43 PM

I just had the chance for download and looking at the file. Very impressive work! :thumbsup:

One question:
Can you animate the objects (e.g. diamonds)?

#10 Andrew Davie OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jan 14, 2005 5:58 PM

How big can the screen be?  

Allan


Pretty big. Currently 64 x 32. Could vary in either dimension easily. Could go a bit bigger.
Cheers
A

#11 Andrew Davie OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jan 14, 2005 6:05 PM

1.  How much time is left per scanline in the current engine to draw sprites and missles?
2.  Is that an interlaced image?
3.  Is the vertical and horizontal scrolling limited to the tile size of the map?
4.  What is the color pallete and resolution of the tile set?  They appear to be 4 PF pixels wide, but how tall are they and how many colors are possible with your current engine?


1. 10 cycles. I will just fit in a single sprite write.
2. Yes. It doesn't *have* to be interlaced, but it is.
3. Yes, but the system could be modified for unlimited size -- at the cost of speed for feeding in a new row/column to the screen. Definitely possible to change.
4. Red, Green, Blue, and combinations of any two of these. Now allow for further colours achieved by dithering. Essentially draw any image and it comes out 'almost' looking the same, regardless of colours. The size is 4 pixels x 18 pixels.

Cheers
A

#12 Andrew Davie OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jan 14, 2005 6:06 PM

I just had the chance for download and looking at the file. Very impressive work! :thumbsup:

One question:
Can you animate the objects (e.g. diamonds)?


Thanks -- but it *does* flicker. I'm not sure if this is going to be the killer problem that makes everyone hate it, or if people are going to forgive the flicker because of the other features.

Any object may be moved or animated -- but of course the more you animate, the slower things will happen. I could quite easily animate the diamonds, for example.

Cheers
A

#13 Thomas Jentzsch OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jan 14, 2005 6:21 PM

Thanks -- but it *does* flicker.

The video doesn't.

Any object may be moved or animated -- but of course the more you animate, the slower things will happen.

Why? Not enough CPU outside the display kernel?

#14 Andrew Davie OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jan 14, 2005 6:32 PM

Thanks -- but it *does* flicker.

The video doesn't.

Any object may be moved or animated -- but of course the more you animate, the slower things will happen.

Why? Not enough CPU outside the display kernel?


The video doesn't flicker because of the conversion process producing the MPG, and also the capture card itself -- which removes interlacing. This flickers on an actual TV. Just acceptable on PAL, I'm waiting for Al's opinion on how it looks on NTSC.

I can now draw about 3 objects/frame. If you are scrolling the entire screen, you can need to redraw up to 100 objects -- but I'm doing some tricks to make sure only what parts of the screen that HAVE to be redrawn are actually redrawn. But if your screen is full of, say, 50 diamonds and they're animating, then you have to take roughly 17 frames JUST to draw the diamonds when they change. So, of course, you slow and stagger the animation... but my point was, it takes more time the more that animates and requires redrawing.

Cheers
A

#15 Andrew Davie OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jan 14, 2005 6:35 PM

Time for a game design competition, anyone?


One capability not demonstrated is split-screen scrolling. Either vertically -- two windows side by side, each 5x10 in size, or horizontally -- two windows one on top, one below, each 10x5. SO two-player, or one player vs. computer games, are possible where each player has their own independant play area.

Cheers
A

#16 pmpddytim OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Jan 15, 2005 1:19 AM

So are you looking for more of a technical game design (programming etc..) or just a premis we would like to see that uses your engine? I have an idea for a premise and things I think would be cool in the game but I have no technical ability or know how. (I can't talk scan-lines, kernal etc...)

:)

#17 NovaXpress OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Jan 15, 2005 8:55 AM

Okay, here's a "bong hit in the morning" kind of idea:

Instead of eliminating the background objets (such as dirt) what if the player's movements revealed the objects? Kind of a Pathfinder idea. Maybe then we have a maze which needs to be revealed and overcome. Or the object is to find the treasure, or lost Mayan cities or whatever. If the 8 squares surrounding the player can be revealed as he moves then something new and interesting might be created. In a pathfinder style game, slower movement from animated objects wouldn't be such a concern.

#18 pmpddytim OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Jan 15, 2005 11:16 AM

Okay, here's a "bong hit in the morning" kind of idea:

Instead of eliminating the background objets (such as dirt) what if the player's movements revealed the objects? Kind of a Pathfinder idea. Maybe then we have a maze which needs to be revealed and overcome. Or the object is to find the treasure, or lost Mayan cities or whatever. If the 8 squares surrounding the player can be revealed as he moves then something new and interesting might be created. In a pathfinder style game, slower movement from animated objects wouldn't be such a concern.


Kind of the same idea. What if the eliminating background objects remains but you can only see the area immediatly surrounding the player (Like he's carrying a lantern) when he moves the light goes with him leaving the previously visted area dark. Every once in awhile the player can find a certain item that will light the entire screen for, lets say 5 seconds, thus helping to solve the puzzle. Enemies throught the level would be hidden the lantern lighting scheme thus making it a little harder. Collecting all of the special items whatever they may be would send the player to the next area.

As for theme I think an egyptian theme would be cool. Archaeologist stuck in a collapsed tomb must collect the artifacts to escape. Boulders could be turned to sandstone blocks, diamonds in to urns, gold, etc Enemies could be your standard snakes, rats, mummies, ghosts, etc.


Probably a dumb idea but I think it would be kinda cool.

:)

#19 salstadt OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Jan 15, 2005 5:53 PM

Hey, that engine's pretty. Hmm, let's see...

Adam's Pitch:

I'd do a puzzle game wherein you can move any of the four directions, but once you move, you can't stop until you hit a rock. You're a samurai trying to kill off little ninjas (instead of diamonds), so you have to calculate your moves like a game of pool, so that at the end of every movement, you hit a rock, but try to take out ninjas along the way. If you hit the screen's edge by mistake (and miss the rocks), you are 'grounded' momentarily and the ninjas can each run in one direction until they hit a rock, the screen's edge or you. If they hit you, you get hurt. Each level is over when all ninjas are dead. The player dies when he is struck by four ninjas in one level. Each level can be beaten without missing any rocks, but because of limited visibility of the platfield, this is difficult.

An alternate version would be with Dig Dug controls where the player runs around killing Ninjas, but every 5 seconds, he must freeze while the ninjas have either 2 seconds or 1 sprint to try and attack him. So the idea in that version would be to kill off ninjas, but then hide behind a rock just before your turn is up.

- Adam

#20 salstadt OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Jan 15, 2005 5:53 PM

Oh also, I can do ya some graphics for the game if you need em.

- Adam

#21 Nukey Shay OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jan 16, 2005 11:17 AM

Maybe I'm clueless, but would they really bother to sue you if you leave out the butterflies, the amoeba, the slime, the magic walls and theme it differently? Is it the gravity of stones and diamonds that makes Boulder Dash Boulder Dash?

Yes, that's what I would do.

And then I (or someone else) would offer a patch, which allows changing all items back to the BD originals. :)


A better game doesn't necessarily have to be a marketable game.

< hasn't been sued

#22 Thomas Jentzsch OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jan 16, 2005 11:25 AM

< hasn't been sued

:?

#23 Nukey Shay OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jan 16, 2005 11:59 AM

...just from hacking a game rom to be more faithful to a copyrighted title, I meant. But the same applies to homebrews as well. I don't see you getting sued over the game Thrust (which has the same concept as Gravitar), or Jammed! (which has the same concept as Boxxle). If you aren't worried about those, why should Andrew be worried about Boulderdash? If a game is written from scratch and contains no copyrighted characters or trademarks, what are the chances of the author getting sued over it? 0.0% as far as I know.

#24 NovaXpress OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jan 16, 2005 12:16 PM

In every case of video game copyright infringement, it's been about the graphics and characters, not the gameplay right?

Nukey, what can you get sued over? You're not selling that code, so there's no money to sweat.

So far, has any homebrewer actually ever gotten sued or has every one simply backed off at the threat of it?

#25 Nukey Shay OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jan 16, 2005 12:45 PM

In every case of video game copyright infringement, it's been about the graphics and characters, not the gameplay right?

K.C. Munchkin was sued because of "look and feel". And some because the program routines were stolen, successfully (in the case of Nintendo Vs. Tengen) or unsuccessfully (in the case of Sega Vs. Accolade). The only homebrew C&D I've heard about was Futurama.



Nukey, what can you get sued over? You're not selling that code, so there's no money to sweat.

That was exactly what I was saying 2 posts above.




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