Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Those glorious days of boring games

I don’t suppose my first game had a loading screen.

I think it had a single screen of gameplay. You might wonder why I don't go on YouTube to check it out. Because it was rubbish is the answer.

'I"m In Shock' got snapped up by the first software house I sent it to, Artic Computing. That tells you something about the games industry at the time. They sent me royalties too.

I'm certainly not ashamed of the game, it did have a nice piece of gameplay. I guess it had a good few hours of entertainment.

Still, "I'm In Shock' was a great title, and I still love the sleeve notes I wrote,

'The moon was the colour of wide frozen shrieks of laughter, the frost line ran down the window,
I’m in shock...'


Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Fascinating Videogames Fact number 201

I found that writing computer games wasn’t really all that difficult. You just had to be persistent. And deranged. Because if you weren’t deranged at the start of a game, you’d sure be by the end of it.

You thought of an idea for a game, then worked out a flowchart. That’s what I did anyhow.

For my first game I seem to remember typing hexadecimal numbers into the Sinclair Spectrum. I’d written the program and translated the assembly language instructions into hex. One thing I remember is leaving blank commands in case extra code was needed. I don’t think I could add lines, only type over them. Things soon changed, but that’s how I remember writing my first game.

You needed graphics too. Get a sheet of graph paper and fill in 8x8 grids in black and white. Take those grids and make a binary number for each line, putting a 1 for black and a 0 for white. Or vice versa. Then type those into the program. No sweat.

The Sinclair Spectrum had the added feature of a color map, where each 8x8 group of pixels could have one ink and one paper color. Woohoo.

Fascinating Videogames Fact number 201:

Spectrum resolution: 256x192 pixels
iPad3 resolution: 2058x1536
That’s exactly 8 times in both directions.
So you could fit 64 spectrum games onto one iPad screen all at one time.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Space Invaders Stole My Attention Span!

It was a time long ago. Before mobile phones and satellite television. Before daytime TV and phising attacks. Before celebrity makeover golf-opera competition phone ins. Before social networking viral antidotes.

Before pretty much everything you care about today, in fact.

A winter’s afternoon in south Wales, a Space Invaders clone played on a Texas Instruments games console in a friend’s house. “Like a go, Col?” my friend asked.
I picked up the joystick, moved it. A graphic moved on screen. Something inside my head shifted forever. I moved the joystick again, the graphic moved the other way. There was a rough explosion sound and I lost a life. That didn’t matter. Something very small had moved. My world had changed, in an instant.

I realised that cartoons on a screen could be controlled by a player. But more than that, I saw that a game, a story, a comic, a song, could be changed by the person experiencing it.

I knew what I had to do.

Next scheduled post: Tuesday 13th

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Retina Display Ate my Brain - Trade Secrets of Game Graphics Part 1

Since the news is out that the new iPad is going to have the best display ever on any thing which ever existed, it might be a good time to talk a little about graphics. I'll do a 'then and now' post at a later date, but here's how I've been preparing my graphics for my next app.

I've been using the most advanced drawing tools known to mankind - pencil and paper! No really, I've leapfrogged the whole image resolution problem so that I always have access to a near-infinite resolution original, only limited by scanner technology. Future-proofed for a hidden reality.

The artwork is scanned at 600 dots per inch and colored in Photoshop. That gives me a pretty generous size for most purposes, even for print work.

Once the coloring is finished, I prepare 3 extra copies of the screens for the final app, as well as the non-compressed original.

The three extra copies are saved as jpegs, each half the size of the previous, the biggest being 2048x1536. That leaves me with one graphic for pretty much every type of display, including the new iPad Retina.

I tend to save the jpegs at a high quality setting, and use png's if I need transparency. I need the three resolutions for every image; sprites, backgrounds, buttons, whatever. My fonts are always scaleable.

Next Scheduled post is still Friday.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Don't watch that...

Watch this!

I'm pretty much concentrating on Potassium Frog Ltd full time at the moment, in case you're wondering why there are no new posts here.

However, there's a whole bunch of interesting stuff on creativity, the games industry (past and present), and more at my 'My History of Computer Games in the 20th Century' blog...

Mouse your pointer to The Potassium Frog Blog for the latest. Once or twice a week. Cartoons too.

My History of Computer Games in the 20th Century

I always had a problem when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up;  I never could find an answer.

I would have said astronaut, but I knew that the food was awful

I eventually started saying ‘architect’ which led to a university course and a good grounding in many design skills, but my heart was never really in it.

What I didn’t know then, and I didn’t realise until recently, was that the very thing I wanted to do to make a living didn’t even exist at the time.

It might not even exist now.

Next scheduled post: Fri 9 March.