News Archive Q4 '98
December 23, 1998 - Tracking down bugs...

I have this recurring problem that I just can't seem to isolate. Sometimes after I load the game, a lot of the sprites will be messed up or not appear at all. What makes this annoying is that as I add "printf" statements to track it down, the thing starts working like a charm. Then if I take out the "printfs" it keeps working. So the problem isn't repeatable. Very frustrating. Thankfully I can get it working or else I would never make any progress.

I've added the system pics to the game and they look pretty good. Much better than the placeholders at least. I also fixed a few miscellaneous things in the shop screen. I can feel another demo coming on. Probably sometime in January after the holidays are over. It's just a matter of finding time to clean everything up. This demo will have all new levels (and more of them to boot).

December 18, 1998 - Consolidation

While most of you visiting this site won't know the difference, I've decided to consolidate my efforts and only support one site (this one). I will no longer update my Yaroze page as it was getting dismal traffic anyway (2 hits a week). Also, the SCEE folks access SCEA pages through their mirror, and since the SCEA hit counter doesn't work for them I wasn't seeing their hits. I figure this is the easiest way to fix all that. To tell the truth, I was getting sick of cut-and-pasting :).

Also, I'm starting to add titles to each update. No real reason. Just trying to make things more professional.

I would like to make a complete overhaul of the site, but have no real time to do it. Ideally I would eliminate the frames and remove the links that I'm sure no one even clicks on any more (Ramblings, Project Updates, etc).

December 15, 1998

Here are a few of the system pics I drew. The first two are laser systems, the next is an energy system (if you look you can see people on top of the thing - giving a sense of scale), and the last one is obviously a missile. Given that you're probably viewing this at 800x600 or higher, they will look better in the actual game.

I went for the comic book look (meaning flat colored). It was difficult getting some of them down to 16 colors. If I were to make this a real game (on a CD) they would be 8-bit or even 16-bit.

December 14, 1998

I didn't do any programming this weekend, but I did work on the pics I scanned in earlier. I added color to the black-and-white scans and shrunk them down to 4-bit 64x64 bitmaps. We're not talking high quality art here, but hey it works. I'll post a few examples when I get a chance.

I also attended the weekly chat in the Auditorium. First time in a while. I'm usually doing something Saturday night. On the days I'm free I've always forgotten about it. There were only five of us total (though not all at the same time). Cheers to August, Josh, Bill, and Mario!

Check out They're having a promotion where you can get 3 DVDs (or VHS) movies for $1! I can't imagine how they make money on this. Guess it's just to get people to come in.

December 9, 1998

I'm back baby! I just found out how to connect to the Yaroze newsgroups from work (shh, don't tell anyone). I didn't think it was possible due to the firewall, but I just clicked on the link on the SCEA site and it worked like a charm! I've been catching up with the past 6 months or so of posts. The SCEE freetalk.english group has >2000 posts so that'll take me a while.

More importantly, this has renewed my vigor to finish Decaying Orbit. Reading how there *are* still people coding the blasted thing makes me feel better. :)

So last night I sat down and played around with the latest build of DO (first time in almost a month). I fixed a few minor things that were on the backburner, just as a sort of a warm up. Today I scanned in some pics I drew while on vacation. These are for ship systems so hopefully I can release a more complete demo soonish.

Also, I finished Metal Gear Solid last night. With that done I'll have more time to code. Of course there's still the matter of Zelda (and Spyro and Silicon Valley and Colony Wars *sigh*).

December 4, 1998

Whoa! Almost a month since the last update. At least I have an excuse for 2 of those weeks since I was on vacation. Plus, ever since I've gotten back I just haven't felt like doing much of anything let alone programming. Probably a side effect of the vacation. However, it has started me thinking about moving on with another project. I won't abandon Decaying Orbit entirely, but I want to at least get my feet wet with some polygons :)

November 9, 1998

Just a quick note to say I'm going to Australia for two weeks and won't be updating or checking email in the meantime.

Didn't get much done this weekend. I played lots of Metal Gear, Spyro, and Silicon Valley. So many games, so little time...

November 2, 1998

I've been playing quite a bit of Gravitation this past week. There's some good competition going on and it's all I can do to keep in the running. I did get some work done on the game, though. I'm just starting to add in-game systems/money. So when you destroy a turret or whatnot a little icon will appear that will float around the level until you pick it up. It could be worth money or even be a system for your ship. I'm debating whether or not to make these icons affected by gravity. Computing gravity is really "expensive" CPU-wise so I don't know if it could handle several of them at once. I also added the timer to countdown each level.

October 28, 1998
Jim's Game Zone

Enter James Shaughnessy's Gravitation competition! The game is a blast and he's sweetened the deal by offering some prizes. But he needs more people to enter to make the compo worthwhile. So jump on over there and check it out!

October 27, 1998 (again)

VM Labs just issued a press release (broken link) revealing the name of our technology. Formerly known as Project X, the new moniker is NUON™. Want more info? Go to

NUON™ and the NUON logo are trademarks of VM Labs, Inc.
October 27, 1998

Time flies yadda yadda. I'm trying to make an update every couple days, but I look at the date and lo-and-behold it's been almost a week.

Oh well, judging from the dismal hit rate I get it doesn't matter much anyway. In the heyday of 1997 I was getting a consistent 2 hits a day to my Yaroze page. Now I'm lucky if I get one every other day. In fact my public mirror (which isn't even updated as often as this one) gets 5-10 times as many hits. *sigh*

Not much got done this weekend due to this little thing known as Metal Gear Solid. Dagnabit this game is shweet. I've been on a game-playing binge the last couple weeks, trying to keep up with my purchases. You see I usually buy one game every other month or so. The last N64 game I got was Banjo-Kazooie which was released back at the end of June. The last PSX game I bought was Point Blank. In contrast, over just the last few weeks I've bought Spyro, Unholy War, and Metal Gear Solid. I'm thinking about getting Tenchu and Trap Gunner. I rented and finished Heart of Darkness (awesome game, but too short to be worth buying). I will also soon get Body Harvest, Space Station Silicon Valley, and of course Zelda. This is pissing me off!! I would appreciate it if the damn game companies would release stuff during the summer when I have nothing else to play other than Tomb Raider (the first one - yeah I'm slow). *deep breath*

Back on topic. This was supposed to be an update on Decaying Orbit. The level bonuses are pretty much in place. When selecting the next level you can see which bonuses you already got so you can determine which level to go back to. I'll probably make it such that it won't be possible (or maybe just extremely hard) to get all the bonuses the first time through. You'll have to get farther in the game to accumulate better equipment before going back and trying again. The second thing I did is add a message box during the game. It will display text messages when significant events happen ("Shield down", "Hull temperature critical", etc). I'll also add a timer at the top of the screen to countdown during each level. It may not be realistic, but adding a time limit will prevent people from just doing the destroy-one-target-then-retreat-until-shields-are-full-strength thing.

October 21, 1998

You know, I can actually see the light at the end of the tunnel. Decaying Orbit will be the first game to come out from DSI since I joined the Net Yaroze program last year. Originally called Planet Graviton (anyone remember that?), it was going to be a simple little demonstration of my sprite-handling skills. The game was going to be similar to the shareware game Scorched Earth. You would fire off your rocket, trying to hit the target planet. You would have to take into account the various gravitational forces in each level. Once your craft was launched you would have no control over it.

Yeah, I know. What was I thinking? :) In my quest to make Planet Graviton into a real game the whole thing just mushroomed out of control. My notebook became scribbled with suggestions to myself. The amount of work grew and grew such that I debated scrapping it all a couple of times. Afterall, the reason I got the Yaroze was to learn 3-D game programming and this wasn't serving that function at all.

But, I wanted to actually finish a game. Since we were kids, Dave and I started creating many games, but we only ever finished one (a simple 2-player game called Mega-Gun on the C64 using Gary Kitchen's Game Maker). I wanted to get a real game under my belt. Plus I wanted it to be a whole package. Meaning it should have an intro, title screen, options, in-game menus, a half-assed story, cheats, and all the other things you expect from a commercial game. Also, being such a fan of customizable games such as Racing Destruction Set and Lode Runner, I simply had to include a level editor.

The amount of work seemed overwhelming at times. I look at all of the other Yaroze members generating some wonderfully creative and fun titles. Some have finished 3 or more games and here we are still working on our first. I got a bit discouraged, but stubborn as I am I didn't want to leave yet another game half-finished.

So here I am. The core engine has been complete for a while, although I still add new object types every so often. The in-game menus work okay. There's a preliminary intro screen. A level editor allows me to create and test new levels quickly. All in all things are shaping up nicely. In fact, getting back to my opening statement, I can now see that this game will be done at some point. The list of remaining features is now dwindling faster than it grows. I can't say when exactly it will all fall into place, but I've recently renewed my vigor to put that much more effort into it.

Enough of the essay. I figure now's a good time to list out the things left to add:

  • Official DSI intro (to be used on all our Yaroze games)
  • Decaying Orbit intro
  • Title screen
  • Ending screen for when you finish the game
  • Method for entering cheats
  • Money system for purchasing new items
  • Different graphic types for each of the five galaxies
  • Enemies that actually fly around with some reasonable set of AI
  • Bosses
  • Level bonuses which result in monetary rewards
  • 2-player battle and tournament modes
  • Memory card for saving/loading: 1-player progress, 2-player ship configurations, player-created levels
  • More/better graphics and sound
  • And of course, more object types as I come up with them
October 20, 1998

Level selection is in place. In the shop if you move the cursor over to the minimap and hit a button, the map will zoom out and be replaced by the galaxy map. You can then move to any level you've opened. Selecting a new level zooms back into a minimap of that level.

I've also begun to add the level bonuses. Right now I'm planning on five bonuses: finishing the level in a certain time limit, destroying all targets, touching all beacons (more on that later), and not colliding with any planets. The fifth bonus is if you get all of the other four at once. Not an easy feat :)

What are beacons? Basically each level will have a bunch of inactive beacons strewn about. Flying by a beacon will activate it. To get the bonus you will have to find and activate all the beacons in the level. Naturally they will be set up in a way to provide a good challenge. I haven't actually added support for them yet, but it should be a trivial matter to do so.

October 15, 1998

Next on the agenda is level advancement. While in the shop you will be able to choose your next level. That way you can go back and retry previous levels if you didn't get everything the first time.

On the side I'm also adding more game objects. There is now a fragmentation mine in addition to the normal explosive one. It sprays shards in a circle when you trip it. Another object I've just begun is a wormhole. Appropriately it will teleport you to another part of the level (or maybe even a different level), although it doesn't do squat quite yet :).

October 13, 1998

Just a quick update to the Staff section.

October 11, 1998

Here are some screen shots from the level editor.

doleved0 doleved1 doleved2
doleved3 doleved4 doleved5

October 8, 1998

Only one last thing to finish up with the level editor before I switch to something else. I'm happy it only took a month to create from start to finish. Of course as the core game evloves and I add more things I'll have to update the level editor to include them. But as of now it's got everything I can think of. Here's a list of what it does:

  • Add game objects:
    • planets
    • nebulas
    • turrets
    • mines
  • Change attributes of the objects (not all attributes are applicable to all object types)
    • subtype
    • CLUT
    • scale
  • Add/delete up to 8 moons for each planet and change each moon's attributes
  • Make any planet a target planet and adjust that target's difficulty
  • Change the level size from 640x480 all the way up to (almost) 4096x4096 - that's over 54 screens worth of playfield
  • Change light source direction and intensity per level
  • Select multiple objects to be manipulated at once - objects may be added to the selection either individually or by dragging a rectangle around multiple objects
  • Move/copy/delete objects either individually or as a selection
  • Minimap available at any time by pressing SELECT - movement while in the minimap is much faster than normal
  • Status box showing all valid button actions (not finished yet)
  • Print level objects to SIOCONS output in a format suitable for #include'ing into the main program - not that that's useful to anyone else

I still need to add the ability to save/load levels to/from memory cards. That'll probably happen much later as I haven't fiddled with the memory card functions yet.

Once again this weekend looks to be free of distractions (famous last words). I'll just leave it at that so I don't jinx it :)

October 5, 1998

The fates conspired against me this weekend. I ran a few errands Saturday which ate up more time than I would have liked. Then I played Magic: The Gathering with a friend most of Sunday. Not that I minded playing, but I had my heart set on coding (pathetic, I know).

The level editor is nearly complete. I'm pretty happy with how it's coming out. I'll hopefully have some screenshots by this weekend.

I'm also working on the level advancement. You will no longer be able to just head directly for the ending planet, but rather have to blow up some stuff first :) I'm debating adding mission briefings, but the thought of coming up with 100+ missions is quite daunting.

October 2, 1998

I have a new font which I will use on the title screen (and other places eventually). It has much more personality than that boring Courier I was using before. Now I just need to think of a new way for the opening sequence to be displayed.

I hope to get a bunch done this weekend. The last few weekends I've had some activity that's eaten up most of my time. This weekend I hope to get a large chunk of time to just code.


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