Archive for April, 2007

My Computer History

Sunday, April 29th, 2007

I’ve posted my computer ownership history a few times on a couple of forums but thought that it would be good to document it properly on my blog.

So for my 8th birthday I got a rubber keyed Spectrum 48K from Dixons (when the Spectrum+ was brand new) and also had to buy a separate tape recorder. This was in 1983. I immediately started programming using the BASIC manual that came with the computer because getting £1.99 for a Mastertronic game when you were a little kid wasn’t easy. Anyway, it was a great machine that lasted me a few years. Meanwhile I also programmed on my friend’s Acorn Electron and my school’s BBC Micro.

One day, when playing Star Quake, the screen went black and my Spectrum was broke 🙁 I had played on a friend’s C64 many times over the last few years and thought that it totally rocked as a gaming computer, and so I replaced my Spectrum with a C64 bought off a friend who had just got an Amiga 500.

My dad let me have a day off school just to play on my new C64 which was cool 🙂 This computer was awesome to play games on and make music on, but a little tricky to program. But eventually I got the big ring-bound BASIC manual and learnt all about “Poking” here, there and everywhere. Meanwhile I spent a lot of time at a neighbour’s house programming his Spectrum+2 (tape drive) and at another friend’s programing his Spectrum+3 (disk drive). We “hacked” a lot of games and converted them from tape to disk on the +3 … it was cool.

At some point I got an Action Replay cartridge and someone lent me a disk drive so I converted a lot of my tape games into turbo loading disk games which was just amazing – loading times reduced literally from 5 minutes to 5 seconds. Also around this point I got into programming assembly on the C64 and a bit on the Spectrum.

Anyway, by then I’d seen the Amiga 500 in action a few times and was gobsmacked and my C64 looked lame by comparison so eventually I sold it along with all my games (sob – wish I’d kept it) and got a brand new Amiga 500. Think I was around 12 or 13, so this was like in 1987/88.

My Amiga was an amazing piece of Kit. I tried Amiga Basic but it was crap and slow and I was put off programming for a while, plus there were so many amazing games for the Amiga, and all my friends (except for one Atari ST owner) had Amigas too. Oh, I coded on the Atari ST in BASIC and STOS an little bit too, but its crappy graphics modes and sound put me off. I hated Amiga Basic so much that I got hold of a BBC emulator and programmed in that – I even learnt BBC assembly in it!

Eventually I got hold of Devpac 2, an assembler, and a couple of technical manuals about the Amiga Kernel and Copper and so on. This was brilliant; I started making demos (I’d started making “rave” music with Sound Tracker when I was around 14) and mini games and was loving the speed and control that assembly gave me. However, it was also long winded to code in assembly and it crashed a lot, but at least my Amiga rebooted quickly!

At some point, when I was 16 or 17 I got an Amiga 1200 with my “sixth form student grant”. This piece of kit was truely awesome. Twice as fast as the A500 and with 4 times the memory, plus with better graphics. When I was 18 or 19 I started working for a local computer shop and managed to get an 80Mb Hard Drive for the A1200. This was brilliant because it booted up in 1-2 seconds and I could load Devpac up instantly. I carried on coding demos, a bat and ball game, a platform based beat ’em up like Mortal Kombat etc. Then one day I read about Blitz Basic 2 in Amiga Format (I think) and promptly bought it. I had tried AMOS but not really liked it, and Blitz appealed to me because I could use inline assembly and I also knew that Blitz compiled into assembly anyway and thus was nice and fast.

I stopped using Devpac 2 and I made loads of things in Blitz; platformers, shooters, RPGs etc. It was so easy to use and much quicker to develop in than assembly. The one day I saw Doom

I saw Doom when a 486 DX2 66MHz was hot stuff – I think I must have been around 19, so like in 1994. I played it a lot at the computer shop where I worked and eventually I built myself an AMD DX4 100MHz with 4MB RAM, a Soundblaster, 500MB HD, 14″ monitor, VESA video card and no CD-ROM drive just to play Doom on. Eventually I upgraded to 8Mb RAM and a 4x Mitsumi CD-ROM Drive so that I could play Doom 2. By this point I totally lost interest in my poor Amiga 1200 and it’s been in a box ever since!

I used to get a lot of magasine CDs at the time to get extra Doom levels and to play game demos. I bought a *lot* of first person shooters over the years since then and upgraded my PC many many times. To be honest I lost interest in programming at home for a while, and just played games. This was partly due to having got a job when I was 21 programming in Delphi, and also due me not getting any decent languages on the PC. I did a bit of Quickbasic in DOS but it was pretty unfulfilling, then eventually I got a Borland C++ compiler and made a few things in that and also tried out some assembler too (it seemed pretty fast, but again, long winded and complicated). I also dilly dallied with some Director as well. I tried making some games in Delphi but Windows was a pretty crap system for making games in unless you used Direct X, which I never got round to.

Anyway I programmed Delphi and SQL for 9 years (plus at some point I taught myself HTML), and during the end of that time I was browsing the Internet at home and I found out about Blitz for PCs and I promptly bought Blitz Plus in November 2004.

I programmed in Blitz Plus as a hobby alongside my main job for a while and then eventually Blitz Plus took over and I made a few mini-games and two commercial games, Xmas Bonus and Easter Bonus, in it. This took me through to April 2006 when I switched over to BlitzMax, which is a much better language because a) it can use OOP stuff and b) it can use modern 3D card effects (DX7) such as transparency, scaling, rotation etc. I spent a couple of months building a BlitzMax Game Framework and then I was contracted to write the Wonderful Wizard of Oz which has had over 500,000 downloads (probably more than a million by now actually) and then I pushed out Holiday Bonus just in time for Christmas 2006.

Then I spent a couple of months farting around learning a lot about Internet marketing and affiliate sales, and reading lots of self-improvement stuff, and then I was contracted to make a game for Big Fish Games, which I’m working on now. The game is due to be finished mid-June and will probably be released in July – so keep an eye out for that one. It’s going to be a really good game, trust me! It’ll hit no. 1 on Big Fish Games and all the other major portals, and I’m not just saying that.

And there we have it, all 24 years of it, gasp! Naturally there’s lots more detail I could waffle on about but this history is already quite long. I hope that you enjoyed reading it – I enjoyed writing it!

I owe my career to the Spectrum 48K

Monday, April 23rd, 2007

Read an interesting article on the BBC about people who started programming on the Spectrum 48K, which I believe is 25 years old today, gasp!

Also here is a video. I played all the games in the video, in fact I was playing Star Quake when my spectrum broken one Saturday morning, the screen went black, and it never worked again, sob. Now it’s just a retro ornament in my office.

So anyway I started a thread about it on the Blitz forums.

Regarding the old Spectrum vs C64 debate, well I have another angle on it which has nothing to do with the totally valid “standard” points about graphics and sound.

The Spectrum 48K had a RENUMBER command and the C64 didn’t, which was criminal. C64 had a perfect tape recorder whereas you had to buy your own (gasp) for the Spectrum and then set the volume on 7.2517 or it wouldn’t load and woe betide anyone who slammed a door or walked too heavily during loading. The Spectrum+2 (made by Amstrad) remedied this with a built in tape deck BUT it had no tape counter – CRIMINAL!

Stealing in games

Monday, April 23rd, 2007

Have you ever noticed that in many RPGs you can just wander into someone’s house and steal their stuff right in front of them and they don’t care. I actually used to feel guilty about this but then I thought “Hey, I’m a hero and I’m gonna save their lives and their town, so if their life savings can buy me the one potion that keeps me alive when fighting the evil X then fair enough, they’ll be grateful in the end… ” 😉