Saturday, 30 July 2016

Clearing the Decks

It's been a funny few months, with a slew of new releases lined up for the Frog.

We'll be putting Deus Ex Machina and Slightly Magic on Steam, in their almost certainly final versions. Deus is down for 30th September release, and I'm toying with the idea of releasing Slightly Magic the same day, which happens to be my birthday.

I'd go so far as to say that both games are now the definitive versions, and that my two years or so programming them have mainly been well spent. They're both important games in my opinion, and it'll be a weight of my shoulders to see them given a proper release on PC, Mac and Linux.

There are another couple of surprises for Slightly Magic, but I'm still sworn to secrecy on that front. I thought I'd just write a few things about this final Legacy edition, while it's still fresh in my mind.

When I got Slightly back, me initial reaction was to sit down and take a good look at the game to see how the old fella looked. It had been 20 years or so since I'd played the game, and monitors have improved dramatically. I was shocked at how good the graphics looked, at least to me. Yes, they were retro, but because the game came in at the later end of the 8-bit machines' lifetime they still seem to hold up quite nicely. Chris Graham did a fantastic job, and to be honest I really wanted more people to see the game.

I thought the natural thing to do was to reprogram the game, clean up the original, remove a few machine-specific quirks and let others be the judge. Which is where we seem to be now.

Playing the final game yesterday afternoon, I realised just what I'd done - this game is better than the original. Yes, I dare to say, free from any nostalgia-tinted spectacles this is the version I'd want people to play - the PC, Mac & Linux Legacy Edition.

Why would that be, you might ask. The graphics, for one, don't flicker in play. Not just the Spectrum attribute-clash flicker, but flickers on screen redraws and speech and menu popups. Plus I do like the new in-game commentary option, because I'll never have the chance to do that again for the game.

Oh, and the save game, gamepad mapping and audio extras add a certain polish, which I think players of the original would have appreciated. Fast loading, crisp graphics and audio, and the experience of playing on a large tv with a wireless gamepad make for a very rewarding experience.

What next, after September, you might ask? Well I'll be running a Kickstarter starting August 15th, for a brand-new game featuring Slightly. More news on that very soon. It's a whole new format and a whole new style, but I'm hoping to carry Slightly's legacy forward.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Deus Ex Machina - The Final Cut

Quite a nice surprise this morning; an email letting me know that Deus Ex Machina, Mel Croucher's classic video game, had been accepted for inclusion on the Steam store. I programmed the C64 and MSX versions of the game in the 1980's and then agreed to do the same for the Anniversary Edition, which Potassium Frog released very recently.

It feels like we've finally got a proper release for the full desktop version - PC, Mac & Linux. Maybe the world's finally ready for Mel's dystopian nightmare, at least it'll be there for the curious few.

I let Mel know immediately, and we were soon wondering what extras we could add to this, almost certainly, final edition. It's making work for ourselves, of course, but we both want to send this one off with a splash.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Goodbye Slightly Magic?

A very strange feeling came over me last Friday afternoon; a mixture of melancholy and release.

I was uploading Slightly Magic to Steam for late summer release, when it struck me that this would be nearly the last time I'd be working on the game. I do have another format to program, about which I'm sworn to secrecy for the next month or so, but things are starting to feel pretty final.

Slightly Magic is 25 years old this year, and it seems very odd to be working on the game so long after its initial release. I remember at the time being a little uneasy about Slightly's future; I couldn't see that the game would be available for more than 5 years. After all, who was going to reprogram the thing after all the 8 and 16bit formats had died? I didn't expect it to be me, that's for sure.

So that's a Good Thing - that the game is still available, and soon to be given a shot in the arm by PC, Mac and Linux Steam release. I won't get my life back, because Slightly is already alive and well in a new game which is almost nearly ready to start demoing. In an odd way I feel I have a duty of care to look after him, if that makes any sense at all.

Good Things are numerous at the moment, as will soon become apparent, but I'm still feeling pretty down about the EU referendum result. Hard to fathom, for those of you who voted out I'm sure, but true nevertheless. I've also been writing some of the dialogue for Slightly's new game, which I noticed was a little lighter than I'd expected. I think I might be compensating for my general melancholy mood. 

Oh yes, and a funny thing about Slightly Magic. What I've realised, and didn't really expect, is that a lot of new players really appreciate the game. I thought at first they were just being polite, but people have seriously gone out of their way to ensure Slightly's debut on Steam and on Slightly Magic's next, final format. Thank you all, it really does make a difference.