The Ones That Got AwayThese are the games that never quite made it - a few ideas I threw together to get people interested, or to keep myself busy during the lean periods. I'm putting them here for the same reason I put a lot of things on the 'Web - because I keep losing them otherwise!
Some notes before looking at this page. Dates are approximate - the earliest datestamp on any file for a project gives me my starting date. Some of the images presented here at half original size due to low original resolution. I could compensate, but they'd look blocky on modern machines, and take up more room. Also, you may notice a lot of images have a horrid pink background - this was due to it being so naff a colour it was banned from appearing in any of my games (a trick I picked up from Jason Tribbeck), and so was ideal for being masked out of existence!
Everything here © me unless otherwise stated. If you want to use any of this stuff in your own game, first seek professional medical help, and if that doesn't cure you then contact me.
These images have been heavily cleaned - the colours have become muddy over the years, and there's a lot of transfer, especially when facing pages have been used. However, crossings out and scribbled text have been left in, as they're quite informative. Apparently there were to be five planets - one and two are something of a mystery, as they are not named, but probably included an organic world as per the first level of the Bitmap Brother's classic Xenon II, and maybe an ancient world, with Aztec and Egyptian influences. The ancient levels would later be completed in Cyber Ape, including clues written with hieroglyphs. The other three worlds are listed on page 3 of the scans, "Globulon", "Militaris" and "Technon". Page one, with its technologically advanced space ships, is tentatively entitled "Planet 5" at the top, but by page 5 the "Militaris" name is writ large. The design on the Militaris page seems to have influenced the unknown test images, and so by extension possibly Underkill; plus the 'plane looks very similar to the one in the Time Pilot sprites...
The game itself appears to be a vertically scrolling shoot-em-up, again similar to Xenon II, and including other similar elements like things in the walls that shot out blobs, vehicles that scrolled down to shoot at you, and power ups. However, there seems to be the added disadvantage of things that pop out and block your way, such as tanks or electric arcs, and strangely some of the images make it appear that the player's vehicle would be near the top, scrolling down, rather than the more usual bottom-up style.
Most of the mock-ups were done in a simple vector package, and the few bitmaps obviously took so much time to do with conventional software that plans for a new isometric paint package were included in the archive.
scan at the top of this page. My first foray into proper bitmap game graphics? Also there are the beginnings of the style that will manifest again in Underkill - the vehicle has that two-colour stripe over what might otherwise be a dull bit of bodywork.
I do remember one thing about these images now I come to look at them - if the car was about to blow up due to excessive damage, the little guy could leg it and find another vehicle.
The name is a play on "overkill" and some kind of underground complex beneath those mountains in the title screen. This went from a test of blending in a vector package (the mountains) to a semi-serious attempt to map out an Alien Breed-style shooter - little dude wanders around in glorious eight-direction-o-vision, shooting anything that moves. There looks like there was some work done on morphing this guy (cyborg? robot?) into a hovertank, which looks similar to the craft in Miniskirts. One of the test images has both the guy and the tank onscreen at the same time, but I think this is misleading. It was two (or more) players by the look of it though, as the main character comes in three colour variations.
The end of level screen features a semi-realistic vector image of some kind of dropship, possibly the first time I'd used ArtWorks to such good effect. The bitmap stuff has also improved, so it looks like I finally got hold of QPaint, a clone of the Amiga DPaint package for RISC OS games design. QPaint was never officially released due to contractual stuff, but if you knew the right people it was... available.
Hey look! The House of Mabel monkey mascot even makes an appearance!
Underkill, although that might just be down to the style I seemed to be developing at the time. Has a copyright logo of TBA '95 on the scoreboard, so looks like I was trying to get the same guys who published Cyber Ape interested. The hook for this game was that hovercraft don't move like regular vehicles, so you could have fun with the physics - extreme sliding around corners, explosions that push the vehicle off course and so on. Shooting, racing, chasing - and cute girlies. No cute girly pics included, but I think Dee might have been from around the same time.
The test designs for some of the craft didn't really work -
one looks like a spring onion on a slice of cheese on toast!
Underkill-style Alien Breed rip off, and the date stamps are around the same time as Miniskirts (1995), but I think this was a separate if similar project rather than a medieval level for Underkill or Miniskirts. Terrible, terrible water texture.
There's a loading screen, with a custom bit of music supplied by Leaf Garland. Press a key and the music fades; you get a title screen (Task 4, Boats), and then it's in to the game. A (random) number of blue and red boats are (randomly) placed around the screen - they shouldn't overlap, but it is in BASIC, so the machine might get in to a loop working this out. It is a rough demo, after all. A voice asks how many red boats - press a number, and hit return. You get a "yay!" and a smiley face if you're correct. The same happens for the blue boats. The voice is mine, speeded up to 200% on purpose so it sounds cute (i.e. it's not like my usual voice at all!). The waiting between words is a bit screwed on modern hardware; I've tried to compensate, but it might still be odd.
Download demo (100 KB)
Thames Water/James Pond educational game. The educational resources for that project had been written by someone who was also working on the novelisations of Cracker, an extremely popular TV show starring Robbie Coltrane as a hard drinking/smoking/gambling police psychologist. You know, the program where a skinheaded Robert Carlisle stabbed Christopher Eccleston. Anyway, the company that did the Thames project (GamesWare) had also ported Simon the Sorcerer to RISC OS. Putting these two contacts together, the owner of GamesWare decided to try to get the rights for a Cracker game, using the Simon the Sorcerer point-and-click adventure game engine.
I knocked up some example graphics, including a mock-up of Robbie Coltrane walking across a room (although I can't remember if this was a diagram or a proper animation, I know the room was quite detailed with bookshelves etc.). There was also a loading screen - a vector graphics version of the iconic Cracker ident, a black and white photograph of Robbie Coltrane's face, smoking cigarette in hand. I had to draw this because I couldn't afford a scanner at the time, and a print shop refused point blank to scan it for me as it was a copyrighted image. I was quite proud of the result - it really looked like Robbie Coltrane. OK, I cocked up part of the hand and due to a tight schedule had to move the title lettering to cover this, but still, the face was good! ;)
Unfortunately the finished data for this project was lost when my computer was stolen - I'd moved to Chichester to work full time at ArgoNet, and in my first week I left the window open after working late. That sucking up tactic really worked, didn't it? Two items were stolen - my computer, which was my own property, and a printer; this despite the fact that there was several hundred grand's worth of equipment in the next room that thankfully didn't get touched, as the insurance wouldn't pay up as the window wasn't forced. I had some backups of most things, but not current enough to recreate this project. I guess GamesWare might have had a copy, but seeing as I was working for someone else I guess I didn't have the guts to ask!
Stu Tyrrell helped me out by adding proper bank switching. Alas I can't find any trace of this artwork, and can only conclude it was lost in the Great Computer Theft of 1996.
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