Electron Dance
21Jul/155

Learning Curve Extended Play

childhood-destruction-assured

Last year, Polish site AtariOnline.pl wrote about my Learning Curve trilogy on the rise and fall of an 80s game programming childhood. I didn't post about it at the time because it was supposed to be the first of a series; I provided them with copies of all my games as part of an archiving project. It's been a good year now with no sign of followup posts so I might as well post about it! You can visit the Polish original or a Google Translate version, which features the great line: "Persons who ruled Shakespeare speech, I strongly encourage to peek into the aforementioned articles on Electron Dance."

Anyway, I thought I'd throw in a few extra videos to sweeten the deal: a video of "the clone" of The Citadel, a shortened Eulogy and a fragment of a work-in-progress that was never completed.    

Some of you were intrigued to know what Byxon Games' remake of The Citadel looked like. Take a look. (Recall I have a video of my original game.)

Eulogy for an Atari Childhood was something that was made to celebrate my Atari childhood and mourn its passing. But the original video was a little long and dwelt too much on Alternate Reality in the opening. Here I've cut it down to the mournful ending. Elements of this found their way into the #warningsigns video.

The original Eulogy video was the conclusion to the Where We Came From series, which is worth your time if you have any interest in game history. It has the origin story of Lucasfilm Games, the story of the original rocks-and-gems game Boulder Dash and the second most popular post of 2011: Stanley Kubrick is Gone on the short but vital career of Bill Williams (Bennett Foddy discussed Williams in an IndieCade East keynote about how "experimental indie" has been around for a long time, one of the themes of Learning Curve).

Here's one program I did not provide AtariOnline.pl with. I planned an adventure game on the space station "Star Sweep" and it was going to be a 3D maze game with objects and special locations to find. A bare bones 3D maze game engine on 8-bit machines is fast because only the edges of walls are drawn (also some games limited themselves to "corridors" rather than open spaces). I wanted to "fill in" the walls and include colourful detail. I wasn't thinking of using rendering like the Alternate Reality series but something a little more simplistic.

I made my own little 3D maze engine. Now I had no books on 3D graphics and no knowledge how to make a 3D scene so I made this engine out of thin air. I built a machine language routine to plot and fill; depth calculation was pure guesswork (modelled on a log curve?). It was pretty slow but actually worked. Here you can see exactly how slow.

The hard work of rendering scenes was complete but for one reason or another, progress stopped. I think it was because it seemed too slow and I couldn't see an obvious way to make it faster.

Or maybe I just got bored.

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Comments (5) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Your “Stanley Kubrick is Gone” piece is wonderful. There are a few seminal creatives in the games industry, and despite the traditional industry history view that seems to include just the Apple II alumni- the little Atari has the best of the best. And at the very top of that list is Bill Williams – I have played Necromancer since it’s release, and continue to do so, it is a work of utter brilliance.

    sTeVE

  2. Thanks sTeVE, if only for just writing the first comment on this page :) I’m sure a lot of people would disagree on the Atari having “the best of the best” but I will say Atari software had a lot of genuine greats. It’s difficult to say if some of them were “Atari exclusives” because particularly in the first years a lot of the software was converted for multiple platforms by the same people. Thinking more of Automated Simulations which later became Epyx and also Ozark Softscape.

  3. I perhaps should qualify that a bit – it’s always personal preference for sure but I look at the little Atari’s catalogue and see a huge wealth of originality, both from Atari themselves (including APX) and some real key practitioners like Bill Williams, Chris Crawford, David Fox, Freeman, Westfall and Reiche and the Ozark Team did their best work on the A8. I had the great fortune to work with Ozark’s Jim Rushing whilst at EA – still making games…

  4. How awesome you got to work with Jim! (I hope this didn’t just mean “thanks for the tea, sTeVE, keep it up”.)

  5. :-) No Jim’s team developed a tool that my character animation team used on the LOTR games…


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