The Commodore 64 Era
My first computer was the C64, a wonderful machine designed by Commodore in the early ’80s. I remember that I had to continually beg my father for it for a whole year, as computers were not so widespread here in Italy and they were seen just like expensive, useless toys. In fact, many friends of mine would use theirs but to play games, but I wanted one to become myself a (well, videogame) programmer and not one who plays “things written by others”.
The C64 was not the best “value for money” in terms of raw power (the ZX Spectrum was better, here), but it had the most advanced audio and graphics capabilities (in those years), something that was of the utmost importance for me.
Since the very first day I had, at last, my own C64, I have been learning everything I could about programming. Documentation was scarce, bad written (well, bad translated in italian, I had to quickly learn at least a bit of english in order to understand the original books), and most things had do be learned the hard way, by trial and error. Those were the days! But my efforts paid off, and I was able, in the next years, to develop my own videgames. Some were bad, unfinished or uninspired clones of existing ones, some were good, actually so good that my friends enjoyed and played them.
Below you can find a little gallery, in no particular order, of some of my creations. Unfortunately a couple of good games are missing (such as “Firefox”, a shoot’em up tribute to the movie featuring Clint Eastwood, or “Racket”, an action/adventure platform) because I was not able to salvage the very old tapes they were saved on.
Pippero Agente 001
In the shoes of the Beobo, on a secret mission, your duty is to creep inside the HQ of the Blesche, steal their secret plans and quickly get away!
The game was vaguely inspired by a couple of coin-op of those years, but it had its own style and some unique features.
“Moon Landing” was not an original game – it was heavily inspired by Atari’s “Lunar Lander” – but it was plenty of fun because of the difficulties of controlling the LEM with limited fuel in absence of atmosphere.
Despite being quite simple in its gameplay, it’s still amazing to think that I designed the game when I was very young and I didn’t know a thing about physics or differential equations, yet the algorithm is physically correct and the LEM travels around the space in a very realistic way!
Beobi are playing tennis! In this game you can either play as the Beobo (Piopio) or Tucchero and either challenge the computer or, plugging in a second joystick, a friend.
The only “bug” of the game was the scoring system, that didn’t follow the usual tennis rules – but hey, maybe, in the world of the Beobi, those are the rules they play tennis with?…
A tribute to the action movie character John Rambo, you have to get out of a Vietnam jungle while avoiding (and/or killing) lots of viet-kong warriors.
In this platform game it’s possible to play alone or with a team mate and to drive the military vehicles found on your way (hey, sort of predating Metal Slug!)
Pippero in Miniera
Not a very original idea (it was really a clone of a famous coin’op), in this game Pippero (Beobo) has to snatch some bags of gold nuggets, avoiding the Koalo policeman.
The Pink Panther
A tribute to the Blake Edwards’ movies, in the shoes of the French police detective Jacques Clouseau you have to conduct an investigation in a hotel where some diamonds have been stolen.
The game was a very original one, combining the gameplay of a typical platform (where you must, as an example, avoid being killed by crazy chief inspector Dreyfus escaped from the mental hospital) with elements of investigations (you need to search the chambers and interrogate the many hotel guests, represented by panthers of different colors, in order to find enough evidence to unmask the Pink one). A random clues/plot generator ensured that every time you played the game things were (slightly) different, so that it could be replayed many times (there is no such a thing as “already knowing the solution”)!
The Pink Panther was not, from a technical point of view, an impressive product. But it was fun, it was cute, it was challenging and it featured a very good conversion (given the limitations of the C64 sound chip) of the original “Pink Panther” theme.
One of the few games featuring other characters than the Beobi, in this racer you control Esca Ranga, one of the Blesche, riding her red motorcycle at high speed on a highway full of opponent cars.
Another game featuring an Esca character, this one is a (sort of) Frogger clone. Nothing more to say about it.
A silly and very simple game where Pippero and Tucchero need to come gracefully down to the ground around floating balls/ballons. You control both Pippero and Tucchero at once (in a single player mode) and that adds to the difficulty (and fun) of the game.
I don’t remember exactly what this one is all about. A pool game of some sort, of course, but with which rules?
A racing game with Pippero, Tucchero and Ghiugo driving a dune-buggy (the Dyamba of the title) around an offroad track full of obstacles.
Another game featuring the Beobi, but this time, for once… they are to be defeated!
You control the hungry Clinda, who is trying to get some Beobi cooked and served for dinner; you need to catch the flying Beobi, put them on the conveyor belt of Clinda’s “cooking machinery” and prevent other Beobi sabotaging/stopping the contraption.
At 12.00 o’clock the game stops; if you had cooked enough Beobi, you are rewarded by a small animation showing the Clinda happily having her dinner – and the game will go on. Otherwise, you (the Clinda) will starve!
Game development is not always a matter of developing just games. Tools are an important part of the process, too.
This Sprite editing utility was the cornerstone of my game development tools. Even if it cannot be considered a game itself it was one of the first piece of software I wrote for the C64, as sprites were the most advanced technology of the machine and a good sprite editor was fundamental in a C64 game design.
Sprite editor lets the user paint a zoomed version of a sprite while showing, at the same time, a realtime preview of the result in its final dimensions. Supports both single and multicolor modes and saves the final result either as a sequence of “DATA” statement lines (to be used in Basic) or directly as a chunk of memory (for assembly programs).
As the last entry of this gallery I’d like to add this little demo I programmed to say “Merry Christmas” to my friends and relatives in 1984 (if I remember correctly). It’s not really a videogame, but it was developed using some tips and tricks that are part of videogame programming!