Personal Log »

This week in gamedev #10

This week has been very varied, with some unexpected things potentially happening!

ZX Spectrum 48K: Outpost

I have a working title for my ZX Spectrum game: Outpost.

I finally decided to not use the title I was planning for the cancelled sequel to Castaway, although I really like it. Unfortunately it would require a good amount of story to explain it, and Outpost is direct, makes the actual place a character, and according to Spectrum Computing the name is not taken –not that is too important, unless is a well known game–.

I drew the title for menu, and for now that’s it.


The menu (colour cycle not shown)

Another thing that I got out of the way is the map encoding. I’ve implemented metatiles in a way that is not too annoying, thanks to a good amount of Python.

The basic idea is that I keep a tileset image and a metatiles image. When processing them, I generate the tileset normally –the monochrome data, and a tile/attribute map, all tiles of 8x8 pixels–, and a table that translates 2x2 meta tiles (16x16 pixels) to indexes in the tile/attribute map. The converter will find the 4 tiles that are part of a metatile by matching image data.

Then in tiled I draw my screens using the metatiles, and the game will expand them to use regular tiles before drawing, collision detection, etc. The result is very clean, and the only bit that is slightly cumbersome is having to keep both tiles and metatiles images in sync when I’m just trying graphics, but is not too bad and eventually both tiles and tilesets will be stable and it would be just level design.

It is hard to tell exact numbers, but looking at my test screens, the map data went from around 100 bytes to around 50 bytes, without limiting in the level design –other than the number of metatiles, but being 4 bytes per metatile, I don’t thing it will be a problem–.

There’s also the space used by entities, and there aren’t much savings there, so I calculated how many screens I can include in the game, and I’m aiming at 80 or 90. It should fit!

I’ve started with the level design already, stopping to implement engine features as I need them, and the game is starting to look good!

Things going cold, and a possible comeback

Unfortunately the MSX RPG is on hold, or shall I say cancelled? As I mentioned previously, I got to the conclusion that what I think that would work with MSX 1 restrictions is either:

  • not looking good –in my humble opinion–, so it is putting me off.
  • not the game I want to make.
  • although it may work, it would require a lot of graphics that I can’t draw.

Being a type of game that is likely to be a long time commitment, I can’t keep putting time on it unless I’m reasonably certain that I can finish the game.

That doesn’t mean all the bits I have done already are wasted, because I’ve learnt a few things and it is likely that I know another 8-bit system that it would be a better match for this project –sorry, is not the MSX2; there are a few RPGs on that system and I’m not sure I would be able to contribute anything new–.

On the MSX camp, I had several contributions to ubox MSX libs –all from Pedro de Medeiros; thank you!–, and those have reminded me that I didn’t document the tools used to build the example game.

In reality I wasn’t sure if I wanted to document those, as they are not really required to build games, but Pedro is keen to use them, and is not always obvious how they work. It is still a work in progress, but I hope the tools will be fully documented soon.

Finally, it is possible that “@reidrac is CODING” videos may have a comeback –second season?–. My inspiration has been on and off lately, and after a while, I must confess some of the videos I recorded aren’t too bad. It is possible that making very focused videos may spice things a bit and help me to get things done.

Would you like to discuss the post? You can send me an email!