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Big_Mo

Superman Hack?

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I think it was very early on and they were doing the best they could with the resources they had. Much easier to look back and ask these questions than to look forward and prevent them.

 

The map is "sort of" logical in that it is linear from left to right. It's once you start going vertically that you get into a jumble. I wonder if it could be more grid-like to better resemble an actual city?

 

Programming-wise, they could have made the layout almost anything, but yeah, I think you're right in the sense that multi-screen games were in their infancy and world building was still pretty much an experiment. And this world has to wrap, unlike Adventure.

 

The vertical bit was always what threw me, because when I noticed that Superman went through screens much faster up and down because of the aspect ratio, I would always fly vertically. Even today, I have to force myself to take the extra time and fly horizontally.

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Well, obviously hindsight is 20/20 but I played this game back when it was relatively new and people then were vexed by the map. I think it just wasn't play-tested enough to find the fun v. frustration fulcrum you want in a good game design. The game ALMOST works, but there are a few decisions, like the map layout and lack of distinct geography, which make it frustrating.

 

I'll probably knock out an idea for a revised map layout and see what I can do. :)

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Looking at the game again, I always hated that the bad guys could exit screens at the bottom but when walking/grounded Supes could not. That always felt like a cheat. And since the game just popped them down to ground level on the next screen, they could effectively outrun Superman. WTF?! :)

 

The Kryptonite also was much too random. If it whacked you on the hard difficulty it could take you a long time to find Lois. It'd be interesting to have had the Kryptonite follow Lex around, making it harder to nab him, rather than just randomly getting in your way.

 

Speaking of Lois, I wish she had more game function than just being a cure for kryptonite. Like, even something as simple as having her be a sort of weathervane as to where the crooks are as she's pursuing the "story". Like, if you saw her on one screen, you'd know Lex or one of his goons was on an adjoining screen.

 

As above, the helicopter doesn't really do very much to make the gameplay more interesting. The map is so convoluted that what randomization it does doesn't make any real difference in gameplay.

 

One other simple graphic thing I'd do to make the game feel more "super" would be to make the bridge up out of players set to quad size, to make the thing feel BIG, so only Superman can fix it.

 

Again, mostly gameplay balancing stuff, not redesigning the game and mechanics.

Edited by Big_Mo
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So I did some playing around with the game and, yeah, it cheats. I plopped goons into the bridge screen and they just blithely walk across the empty space where the bridge was. When I'm Clark I can't do that. But, even powerless, Superman can walk across the same space.

 

If you drop Lois in the bridgeless gap she often gets momentarily stuck.

 

I'm sure I'm not the first to notice this, but Lois always faces the opposite way Superman does, rather than just facing Superman no matter where he is.

 

I think you could be able to easily grab whatever the helicopter is carrying. Right now you mostly end up grabbing the copter.

 

I realize the play mechanic would be affected, but it always seemed silly that pieces of the bridge and even the helicopter can be inside the subways or Daily Planet. They ought to bounce off the doorway.

 

Lois is sometimes at the Daily Planet as you arrive in it as Clark. She ought to always be there once you arrive, trying to file her story before yours.

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Can someone explain how the AI that governs the movement of Luthor and his gang works? I assume that they avoid Superman if he's on the same screen, but otherwise how do they decide where to go, and whether to enter the subway?

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Same as Adventure...each NPC has a priority list of things they dislike and things that they like.  If nothing is encountered, they continue in their current direction.

 

Tables grouped here for comparison:

;NPC priority table: dislike is listed first, likes are listed second

LF1E7: ;satellite #1
       .byte Sat2Ram,Sat1Ram             ; $F1E7-8
       .byte LoisRam,Sat1Ram             ; $F1E9-A
       .byte Sat1Ram,CurrentRoom         ; $F1EB-C
       .byte Sat1Ram,$C1                 ; $F1ED-E
       .byte $00                         ; $F1EF end of table
LF1F0: ;satellite #2
       .byte Sat3Ram,Sat2Ram             ; $F1F0-1
       .byte LoisRam,Sat2Ram             ; $F1F2-3
       .byte Sat2Ram,CurrentRoom         ; $F1F4-5
       .byte Sat2Ram,$C1                 ; $F1F6-7
       .byte $00                         ; $F1F8 end of table
LF1F9: ;satellite #3
       .byte Sat1Ram,Sat3Ram             ; $F1F9-A
       .byte Sat3Ram,CurrentRoom         ; $F1FB-C
       .byte Sat3Ram,$C1                 ; $F1FD-E
       .byte $00                         ; $F1FF end of table
LF3ED: ;lex
       .byte CopterRam,LexRam            ; $F3ED-E
       .byte LexRam,Sat1Ram              ; $F3EF-F0
       .byte CurrentRoom,LexRam          ; $F3F1-2
       .byte $00                         ; $F3F3 end of table
LF3F4: ;lois
       .byte Sat3Ram,LoisRam             ; $F3F4-5
       .byte LoisRam,CurrentRoom         ; $F3F6-7
       .byte LoisRam,$C1                 ; $F3F8-9
       .byte $00                         ; $F3FA end of table
LFF2C: ;purple thug
       .byte LexRam,PurpleThugRam        ; $FF2C-D
       .byte PurpleThugRam,$C1           ; $FF2E-F
       .byte PurpleThugRam,Sat2Ram       ; $FF30-1
       .byte CurrentRoom,PurpleThugRam   ; $FF32-3
       .byte $00                         ; $FF34 end of table
LFFDA: ;yellow thug
       .byte CurrentRoom,YellowThugRam   ; $FFDA-B
       .byte YellowThugRam,$C1           ; $FFDC-D
       .byte OrangeThugRam,YellowThugRam ; $FFDE-F
       .byte BlueThugRam,YellowThugRam   ; $FFE0-1
       .byte $00                         ; $FFE2 end of table
LFFE3: ;orange thug
       .byte CurrentRoom,OrangeThugRam   ; $FFDA-B
       .byte OrangeThugRam,$C1           ; $FFE5-6
       .byte BlueThugRam,OrangeThugRam   ; $FFE7-8
       .byte $00                         ; $FFE9 end of table
LFFEA: ;blue thug
       .byte CurrentRoom,BlueThugRam     ; $FFEA-B
       .byte BlueThugRam,$C1             ; $FFEC-D
       .byte GreenThugRam,BlueThugRam    ; $FFEE-F
       .byte $00                         ; $FFF0 end of table
LFFF1: ;green thug
       .byte CurrentRoom,GreenThugRam    ; $FFF1-2
       .byte YellowThugRam,GreenThugRam  ; $FFF3-4
       .byte GreenThugRam,$C1            ; $FFF5-6
       .byte GreenThugRam,Sat3Ram        ; $FFF7-8
       .byte $00                         ; $FFF9 end of table

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Interesting that Lex does not enter a subway ($C1) intentionally, and that the purple thug fears Lex more than Supes.

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On 10/11/2019 at 8:38 PM, Nukey Shay said:

Interesting that Lex does not enter a subway ($C1) intentionally, and that the purple thug fears Lex more than Supes.

Thanks for the info Nukey:) I guess a helicopter pack would be fairly inconvenient and/or hazardous inside of a subway... I'm trying to think of if I've seen him in there, and I know I've carried him through the subway en route to jail, and had him get released in there.  But that is an interesting fact. 

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On 5/23/2017 at 6:08 PM, Big_Mo said:

Well, obviously hindsight is 20/20 but I played this game back when it was relatively new and people then were vexed by the map. I think it just wasn't play-tested enough to find the fun v. frustration fulcrum you want in a good game design. The game ALMOST works, but there are a few decisions, like the map layout and lack of distinct geography, which make it frustrating.

 

I'll probably knock out an idea for a revised map layout and see what I can do. :)

I agree that the map is INCREDIBLY vexing, which gave me an idea (just popped into my head).

 

What if the game played slightly different, where when you hit the top of the screen (the sky) as Superman, you went instead to an overview map. There, you see a series of East/West streets on a grid. You move a marker up and down the various streets to pick where you go next, you then proceed east/west along the street as Superman. Going down to the bottom of the screen still moves you to the next street south.

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Needlessly complicated.  The subways exist so that you don't HAVE to memorize the city...only some screens that the subways lead to.  The red subway is a good one and it's only 2 screens to remember...exit left to the jail, exit right and you are only 3 screens left of the river.

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On 10/12/2019 at 11:57 PM, keithbk said:

I agree that the map is INCREDIBLY vexing, which gave me an idea (just popped into my head).

 

What if the game played slightly different, where when you hit the top of the screen (the sky) as Superman, you went instead to an overview map. There, you see a series of East/West streets on a grid. You move a marker up and down the various streets to pick where you go next, you then proceed east/west along the street as Superman. Going down to the bottom of the screen still moves you to the next street south.

The map is actually genius, but it is admittedly difficult to understand and confusing to new players.  A deep understanding of the game's design is necessary in order to appreciate why the map is the way it is.

 

Making Metropolis confusing and easy to get lost in makes the overworld seem larger than it really is.  It's just 21 unique screens, but to most players it feels bigger.  It's not easy to get lost in a world that is that small and isn't a maze, but they did it.  Yet, it's also possible to traverse the entire overworld just by flying horizontally. That's very slick.

 

By designing the map to work they way it does, randomly moving entities (such as the gangsters) are more likely to be found in certain screens than others.  This clusters Lex and the gang near the jail, which makes the game easier to complete quickly, since there's less distance to travel on average to carry a found crook to the jail screen.

 

Once you know a few critical paths (Phone booth to Daily Planet; Bridge to bridge piece starting screens; the neighborhood around the jail), it becomes possible to complete the game very quickly, in under 2:00, and often close to 1:15-1:30.

 

As Nukey points out, the subway system is a way to re-orient a lost player, but it is also a key shortcut to two critical screens (daily planet, jail).  As well it is a key way that the map weights randomness in the movement of the computer-controlled characters.

 

It'd be interesting to play hacks of Superman with different map layouts and see how some of them make the game easier for beginners, while at the same time limiting speedrun potential by trading non-intuitive, potentially confusing shortcuts for easier to understand, predictable topography.

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On 10/14/2019 at 3:00 PM, guppy said:


Yet, it's also possible to traverse the entire overworld just by flying horizontally.

A necessity when using the left difficulty handicap where you must track down Lois on foot after being struck by a satellite.

 

BTW flying vertically covers -almost- the entire overworld, as well (only the phone booth and river screens are absent).

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On 10/14/2019 at 4:00 PM, guppy said:

Making Metropolis confusing and easy to get lost in makes the overworld seem larger than it really is.  It's just 21 unique screens, but to most players it feels bigger.  It's not easy to get lost in a world that is that small and isn't a maze, but they did it.  Yet, it's also possible to traverse the entire overworld just by flying horizontally. That's very slick
....

It'd be interesting to play hacks of Superman with different map layouts and see how some of them make the game easier for beginners, while at the same time limiting speedrun potential by trading non-intuitive, potentially confusing shortcuts for easier to understand, predictable topography.

Bingo. I found exactly this when I was messing around with it, and I tried different map layouts as follows:

#1) a N-S-E-W world map (non-wrapping). This works great in the middle of the map; just like Adventure or any other game...but then when you get to the edges it's a real problem. If you're all the way west, and fly off the left edge, what happens? Loop back to the other side of the same room endlessly? Go ×north or south to an adjacent edge room (which isn't super intuitive)?

#2) undersea (it was an Aquaman hack). I wanted to provide some sense of depth, so there were levels. You could fly swim horizontally through a single level and stay at the same depth. If you swam up or down you'd ascend or dive (different levels). But same problem as above. If you are at the bottom of the ocean, and swim down, what then? Staying on the same screen is boring...but anything else is confusing.

I found exactly what you said...if you simplify the map it suddenly becomes a lot less interesting with only about a 4x5 grid to work with. I tried a few tricks like holding a room or two off the grid that you can only get to by flying, say, in one  direction on one particular screen. That helps spice it up a bit, but the world still doesn't feel as expansive as in the original game.

Superman's layout frustrated the heck out of me when I was a kid, so I really wanted to "fix" it. But I've begrudgingly come to realize that it was actually done very well.

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On 10/15/2019 at 6:44 PM, Nukey Shay said:

BTW flying vertically covers -almost- the entire overworld, as well (only the phone booth and river screens are absent).

 

And that "almost" is what ruined this game for me in the 80s. :D

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I guess what they were going for was incentive to use your x-ray vision...but that really only comes into play on difficulty A, where hitting a satellite can end up costing you a LOT of time.  Satellites are basically useless on difficulty B.

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I succeeded in making one of my romhacks of Superman. I'm pleased with how it turned out, and with how easy it was to set up the tools and figure out how to make the changes.
 
 

Superman_linear_H[1].zip

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On 10/29/2019 at 9:20 PM, guppy said:
I succeeded in making one of my romhacks of Superman. I'm pleased with how it turned out, and with how easy it was to set up the tools and figure out how to make the changes.

I made one small mistake in the ROM posted above; the exits to the Daily Planet subway room were inadvertantly changed by mistake.  Reposting a corrected version.

Superman_linear_H.zip

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And here's a new romhack I just made, with the overworld map re-arranged into a grid. I think this one is better than the linear map I created yesterday, and might have appeal to players who don't like the odd topography of the original overworld, but I believe this version has lesser potential for speed running, due to the starting position of the bridge pieces, and the fact that the helicopter will be more likely to find pieces you've placed at the bridge, and remove them, due to the bridge screen being less isolated, with in-routes from all four sides.

 

https://csanyk.com/2019/10/superman-atari-2600-alternate-map-romhacks-part-2/

Superman_grid_map.zip

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