Spellbound Demo Released for Windows and OSX


Download the demo

It won’t come as a surprise to many people who have downloaded my games in the past (particularly those who have downloaded Underlord!), that I have a bit of a thing for Magic Knight.

David Jones’ metal clad hero was, and will continue to be, a very important character for me. The games were addictive, hard as nails and, above all, fun!

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Heavy on the Downloads – relatively

A nice pleasant surprise greeted me when I decided it was time to blog about my latest project this morning. I opened up my download stat counter, just curious and all, and found that, in the year since I released the Heavy on the Magick Engine Demo, it has been downloaded over 750 times. That’s almost twice a day over the space of 13 months.

I’m a little bit chuffed about that!

The source has been downloaded close to 400 times, and I can only apologise to all of those people who have tried to decipher it! It’s not an outstanding piece of C++ / Allegro!

I’m still proud of the work I did on HotM and one day, just one day, I might take it a little further, but not now, now I have other things to play with……

Heavy on the Magick Demo Released

After almost 2 years of on and off coding, several re-writes, massive graphical direction changes and VERY little testing, I am pleased as punch to be able to announce the release of my Heavy on the Magick engine demo.

Get the game here…..

Download the source code too…..

About the game

Heavy on the Magick (HotM, if you please) was one of THE must own games for the ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC. It was released by Gargoyle Games in 1986 and was one of the first real ‘Text Adventure’ crossover games that the mass market took to their hearts.

The concept was simple, take a fully useable text parser, make it simple by defining the verbs people could use, and above all, animate the game with gorgeous looking sprites.

For those who did not play the original and don’t want to faff about with an emulator to see it working, you can, by the Magick of Youtube, have a little lookie here:

Heavy on the Magick – Spectrum-wise

So that’s the game, what about the remake?

As detailed here, I’d been working on a remake of HotM for a little while and had given up the ghost on it for the immediate future. Turns out the future can sometimes come around sooner than you think. I picked up the code again in early November 2011 and everything just seemed to fall into place.

One of the main issues I had that I wasn’t particularly happy with was the free-text entry system, if you tried Picking-up or Dropping an item it would open a seperate text input box for you to type in your object name, I just couldn’t get it to run in the command chain like all of the other commands. It turns out that this was a very simple thing to do, I just needed to re-jig my text input routine slightly, where as I’d been trying to re-write it completely. This also opened up the possibilities for talking (in the original you can talk to NPCs / Objects by using the speech mark key – ” and then typing your target, speech. For example “APEX, HELP or “DOOR, PASSWORD). The re-jig allowed me to implement this into the engine too.

The only other things I really needed to do to get this working was to create a game ending, add in some sound effects and remove all of the debugging flags. I also added an introduction / instruction screen and tidied up some of the graphics. In whole, I spent another 10 hours or so from the 2nd of November to the 10th November getting it ship shape and ready to go.

The game was released in the early hours of 11th November 2011 (International Skyrim Day, no less) and I went to bed a very tired bunny!

There isn’t a lot more to show screenshot-wise, the layout hasn’t changed and the graphics have stayed the same, but I’ve added a few for completeness……..

So, what did I get out of the whole process then?

Well, I guess I mainly got satisfaction. I guess that anyone who has been working on a project will be relieved that they finally managed to get it out of the door, but this was more than that. HotM was one of the most complex bits of coding I’ve ever undertaken, even moreso than Underlord, and, in the end, it worked. I can’t hold my hands up and say it’s the most efficient way of working, but it works.

I also got a lot of encouragement from the number of downloads. In it’s first weekend alone, I had over 70 downloads of the game and 8 downloads of the source. OK, it’s not exactly Angry Birds territory just yet, but 70 downloads is more that Action Biker and Gatecrasher (my two last games) have achieved in their lifetime combined (Both over 2 years since release).

I learned a lesson or two about coding, about woring with ASCII characters and about C++ and Allegro in general.

What did I not achieve?

Bloody graphics. The option is still there, if anyone fancies it, to work with the graphics on the game and make it look pretty. The graphics I have used have been inexpertly ripped and inexpertly touched up by me. They are rubbish, I know this.

Fonts. The font I have used is, I think, a beautifuly moody and ‘in character’ font, but it is, on the occasional letter at least, a right royal pain to read! I would prefer a custom font based on this one, but I’m not even sure now what font I used, it was that long ago!

Music. I picked, after a lot of searching, a wonderful piece of music called ‘Smoking Gun’ I couldn’t get it to work. Well, I could get it to work, but it just cuts out after about 10 seconds. this I intend to fix in a future release, if there IS a future release.

What is next?

For HotM, nothing, at lease, nothing in the immediate future. I, like many of my retro coding peers, am turning my talents (well, ability)(well, hand) to coding for the Android. There is a possibility that I might look into actually remaking HotM completely, but it will not be for a while.

I have released the source code though, if anyone wants to look or even take the project further.

Thanks for your interest.

Get the game here…..

Download the source code too…..

Updatathon Part 1.

Lawks! But my, hasn’t it been a while. Over a year since the last post on this here blog, and I’ve done so much yet done so little worth while. I guess I ought stick on an update on some of the stuff I’ve posted about before, that would most likely be a good start.

Heavy on the Magic

Heavy on the Magic (or ASCII on the Magic, whatever) has changed dramatically since I last wrote about it. You may recall that, in my last post (A Kind Of Magick?) I explained that, due to my lack of pixelling skills, I had moved from a remake of HotM to a DEmake. The idea was to ditch the requirement for an artist and to concentrate on the engine of the game itself and, partly because of my love of ZZT, and partly as a nod to the superb demake of Portal by Cymon, but mostly as a means to an end, construct the whole of Heavy on the Magic in ASCII.

As odd as it sounds, it was by far the best thing I ever did on the game, for several reasons.

  • It got me coding the game again.
  • It made me think about some of the problems I had faced in the coding of the game in a different way which, ultimatly, resolved quite a few of the issues I had been having
  • It got me another mention in RetroGamer magazine (Huzzar!)

I worked quite extensively on AotM for three months or so, and had a working engine which looked very much like this…….

So, it's one screen away from the start. I'm not saying I was ever any good at the game!

But then something interesting happened. I decided to test a theory and just drop some graphics in instead of the ASCII stuff……

Which I thought looked rather nice, and stuck with it!

Anyway, there is a sad end to this tale, HotM is currently on hold. Not gone forever, but on hold for a little while at least.

To be honest, there isn’t too much to do to get this finished.

That’s a lie, there is a massive amount to do to get this finished, but I don’t ever intend to finish it, my intention is to release a mini-game, just 40 rooms, but with different puzzles to the original, just so I can get what I have done on it out there.

I don’t think that there is too much to do to get this playable though, and perhaps I’ll get around to it. I’m not promising though……

A Kind of Magick?

It’s odd, isn’t it. Fate, I mean. In the last year I’ve completed 2 games and started a third and yet, have I updated my blog? Have I hell! Yet today I decided to do it. Today of all days.

It would appear that tomorrow marks the first anniversary of my last blog post. How odd, then, that I have news!

I’ve been working on Heavy on the Magick on and off for a while, but I’ve made very little progress. That’s not fair actually, I’ve made SOME progress, work on my XML map and game data, graphics ripping, moving sprites around, the normal stuff, but nothing that you could say was work towards HotM in particular.

The problem, you see, and I’m sure I may have mentioned this, is graphics. I’ve played around with ripped sprites, tidied them up the best I can, arranged them in a useable sprite sheet, blitted them to the screen and…… they still look shocking!

So then, what to do?

I’m not happy with my sprites but I want to get the engine working, I mean, if I have a proven working engine then I MIGHT be able to persuade someone to draw some pretty pictures for me. How can I do the game some justice without exposing the world to my gash blitting?

Ladies and gentlemen, I offer, for your perusal and comment……

Yep, you read it right…. ASCII on the Magick. I can cope with a bit of ASCII… And you know what? I’m getting somewhere. Using the power of the font, I’ve now got in:

Text input movement – working

A compass – working

Wall decor – Partly working

An ASCII map – working

And that’s just for starters…..

I’ll keep this up to date when I remember, but I thought I’d share my progress while I actually had some. So, as the title says, it’s a KIND of magick…..

Back tracking and back on track

Well, after some consideration and much support from the Retroremakes chaps, I have reconsidered shelving Action Biker and have been working on it for the past few days.

One of the things that I have decided to do is, however, challenge myself with a second project. One that will start from scratch and be given a time limit.

Action Biker will be continued after the completion of this mini project.

Actionless Biker, including ‘Where Do We Go From Here?’

It’s as I feared. The popularity of Action biker has overwhelmed me, the constant cries of ‘More, more, more’ are just too much for this poor soul to take.

Yes, with the latest demo of Action Biker on offer for three and a half days* over at RetroRemakesand not a single download having taken place, I think we can re-assign Colin to the bin. This isn’t a defeatest attitude, it’s not me taking my ball away, it’s simply that there are so many better things I could be doing with my life than remaking a game that no one wants and that, it would appear, nobody apart from me ever enjoyed originally.

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Action Biker – The story so far….

I guess I’d better get up to date before doing much else on the dev blog.

AB was a Spectrum game I used to play all the time. It was a maze cum puzzle game that got me hooked from the moment I started playing it, despite it’s many and varied pitfalls and bug ridden problems. Yes, I’ll get it out the way right now, the C64 version (a completely different game, who’d odds it eh?) has a far greater following, yes, the game was near on impossible to complete, yes, of course there were better Speccy games out there, Christ, there were better AMSTRAD games out there, but I loved it. It’s still a firm favorite on the little DS if I feel a bit of retro emualted goodness is required.

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Action Biker – Intro

And so it begins…..

The very first screeny. What a clever chap I am eh?

The very first screeny. What a clever chap I am eh?

Yes, the time has, indeed, come once again to pick up mine fingers and code.

So why Action Biker? Because, as is so often the case, I want to. Yes, I’ll admit, it wasn’t the greatest game in the world. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it was a pretty dire game, possibly even terrible. Thing is, it’s only really in hindsight, and with the use of emulators, that I now realise this. Action Biker was, as it goes, one of the most played games on my little rubber keyed friend. It was up there with Elite, Spellbound and Wriggler. I used to love it.

Turns out it was badly put together tripe that was almost impossible to complete, even with pokes. And this, you see, is the reason for my return. I want Action Biker to be loved like I loved it, I want it to be remembered for the quirky fun elements that were there, not for the fact that it would more often than not put items needed to complete puzzles PAST the puzzle itself, nor the fact that in what was, at it’s very core, a game based on the principle of elapsed time, you would go and have tea at your mate’s house thus wasting hours of precious game time. Don’t even get me started about the location of the damn petrol stations!

So, anyway, I’ve started work on this in earnest this week. The origins of the remake, hovever, go waaaaaaaaay back.

Action Biker was the first game I started after the Underlord beta was released. It was just a little project while I sorted out some graphics for what should have been, but never turned out to be, an Underlord update. Underlord is still in beta, don’t expect that to change any time soon. But I started work on the Biker concept in later July ’08 with a re-write of Meditator, the map utility I’d written for Underlord. I reused code where I could but most of it was new. Once I’d got a working map editor I started ripping graphics and bulding me a map. That was when I stopped development. Around mid August I just lost interest. It happens occasionally, you know, I just couldn’t be bothered to finish the map.

Roll forward a few months, past the Wild Bunch WIP (I’ll get on with that one day), past the Cyberun WIP (ditto), past the two Xmas games I started but didn’t finish…. You get the picture, I’m sure. Mid March I stumble on the Action Biker map. How easy would that be to get scrolling? Shouldn’t take too long I’m sure……..

Mid March turned into early April and still no progress. I thought about coding a lot, I really did. I got excited about the prospect. Ultimatly I couldn’t be bothered.

Then I started working nights. Funny how it goes isn’t it, I go to work at 3 in the afternoon and come home at 10, straight to bed after tea and all of a sudden my mornings become my evenings. There’s nothing on the telly, there’s no-one around, what should I do?

Code, dear fellow, code.

So I have decided to write a code blog, for my reference more than anyone elses, but if anyone else gets anything out of it, even if it’s just a laugh at my appauling coding, then I’ll be a happy camper.

If you are really interested, I’ll also be keeping Retroremakes.com up to date with releases, screen shots and other, more useless, junk. If you do want to comment please feel free to do so either here or on my RR thread.

Wish me luck….

History Lesson 1 – SIM

So then, it’s about time I got some of my games back on’t interweb.

Using this as a ploy to kickstart my blogging habbit once more, I have decided to bung up a brief history of my games to date and also to keep a record of my current project. More of that later. First, however, a brief history of SIM.


SIM is the first game I can ever really remember wanting to play over and over again. I had a VIC 20 at the time but remember joining the computer club at school just so I had access to a BBC B so I could play.

SIM is basically a collect and avoid maze game spread over 50 or so screens. It involved solving puzzles, navigating invisible mazes and outwitting alien creatures, all so you could collect the 10 Simarals to drop into a well on one of the screens.

The game was written by Joshua Portway way back in 198* or so. It was released on the BBC and Electron platforms and, though it apparently sold by the shed load, I’ve not met anyone other than my computer club buddies who has ever played it.

Around early 2007 I started frequenting a shady side of the internet known only as Retro Remakes. Being facinated with 8 bit gaming as I was (am?) I began downloading remade versions of classic Speccy and C64 games but could never find any of the games I actually wanted. SIM, obviously, was right at the top of my list. I’d managed to grab an emulated version but it wasn’t cutting the mustard, oh no siree no. What then, you may ask, was a young man to do? There was only really one option left. I remade the game myself.

I started work on SIM in Feb 2007. I decided to use Blitz Basic, a new language to me, to code the game and rip and tidy the graphics and sounds from the original game. Around May 2007, after 3 months of almost constant coding, I had myself a game.

I’m not gonna go into the technichal side of the coding, partly because, as a language, Blitz is so easy it would be insulting to those trying to learn it, partly because I shoe-horned so much bad coding in to get it working that I struggle to follow the code, but mainly because, on reviewing the code, I really don’t understand what most of it does. I coded Eric in Blitz, it took me just shy of 2 months and then abandoned the language for the everso slightly more challenging C & Allegro combination.

SIM still remains my most complete game and, though the others are playable and completeable, SIM is the only one I am satisfied with the graphics on (they were never meant to be good, just useable) and is the only one to have ANY audio.

There are a few bugs in SIM, unfortunatly I doubt these will ever get fixed, I really can’t be bothered to re-install BB, this is a shame, but there you go!

The game can be gotten from the ‘Stairway To Hell’ clones section or you can simply get it here