Once Upon a Time

What better way of starting a new year than looking back?

During the holiday season I was mostly amongst family and friends, or just plain chilling out, hence not much got done on the game. Now I got my gamedev mojo back, but check out what I found in a treasure chest (no, really) when digging through some stuff I moved into our new house from my childhood home.

This is how it started. And no office is complete without that memorabilia on the wall, right?

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My old 5.25″ floppy disks (don’t know what that is? Ask your dad, he might have a 5″ floppy, tee hee), most likely still in working condition if such a drive still existed. My first computer programs and games on them, in Basic-8000 format for the Zilog 8001 processor, 512×256 monochrome graphics, and occasional monotone beeps for sound. Sweet. Ordered from left-to-right, top-down, there’s:

  • My first disk ever, “Programs”, from 24th of October, 1987, so I’ve been 10 and a half when I got the computer. It contains various not-so-advanced programs, like the infamous 10 CLS 20 INPUT “What’s your name?”, A$ 30 PRINT “HELLO GOOFBAG!”, and so on.
  • I didn’t even remember it, but one of my first”real” game attempts seems to have been “Fighting Master”, from 1988. I now recall it being an arcade-style fighting game where two dudes hit and kick each other. It never worked if you were two on the keyboard, which kinda defeated the purpose.
  • Then my most precious gem, the “Games” disk no. 1. I recall it being the first new disk I have ever purchased, and I started to fill it will all the games I came up with, complete with a “menu” program to launch them. Some games I even finished to a state where I and my brothers could play them, like “Jackpot”, a one-armed-bandit into which I put secret keystroke codes to win more. My own favourite was a game about our local bus driver who drove around in a city of boxes and picked up invisible items and passengers, some lenient, some aggressive. I think there’s something like 60-80 games on the disk, not sure thou.
  • Piilosana” is a finnish word for a kind of a crossword puzzle. This baby, from 1992, is actually one of my fully working software, originally made for my mother who made sometimes crossword puzzles to magazines. It could load, save, edit, and print puzzles, all in a nice WYSIWYG UI. Yay.
  • Ah, my “MasterWorks“. What a unique name and a great piece of office software. No, really, it had MasterDraw which was quite advanced, given I had only the monochrome display. It had the standard drawing primitives, but also text with bitmap fonts, “spray can” painting, gradients (looked like crap), saving, loading. It was in this code I kinda invented GIF. There was MasterFonts for the bitmap font making, MasterMusic (for monotone beeps, WTF!?), MasterCard (LOL) for printing cards and labels, and MasterNumPaint, which I’m not sure, but I think is my complete failure of mimicking Excel. Seems to be from 1992 – I was 14 at the time.
  • “Rescue 9116dX”, oh, this I had forgot also! My attempt for my most advanced game ever, a side-“scrolling” space shooter. I think I tried to clone that Nintendo 8-bit game, can’t remember the name right now. First time I started to use sprites. It never got anywhere as the memory (56kB free for Basic) was not enough to contain the sprites plus running code, and the drawing speed of the 4 MHz processor was anyway too slow for any real graphic processing (in Basic – perhaps assembler could have done more?). Simple small lines and circles á la Pong were OK, but a circle greater than 50 pixels in radius was so slow that you could see it being drawn, arc-by-arc, if you animated it. From 1993, cool that I labelled all disks properly. Loving the cover art. 🙂

Alright. Let’s get back to the future, I have a game to make!