OH DEAR! Here we go again, it’s 12.00pm and CRASH want this article tomorrow. Yet another mad panic! On the whole it’s been a month of mad panics. I wonder if any of you out there have ever sat down and thought about how long it takes to put a game out and what’s actually involved?
First one needs the artwork for the game, or in our case two games. This usually starts life as a few lines scrawled on either Dave’s or my note pads. From these humble beginnings our Ad Agency has the arduous task of producing the full colour air-brushed masterpieces that appear on the finished product. In the case of Forbidden Planet we used a photo which made life easier, though it wasn’t one of Keith’s in the end. Something to do with the vibration passing juggernauts cause if you’re standing on a Motorway bridge, hoping those headlights coming slowly up the hard shoulder don’t belong to a member of the local constabulary! However 2112AD’s cover had to be air-brushed, and this takes about a week to do. Anyhow, we did end up with some excellent artwork in the end (see our ad somewhere in this CRASH).
Once the problems with artwork have been sorted out there comes the business of posters and adverts. Posters obviously take some time to be printed, and adverts have to be designed, produced and delivered to the Mags about two weeks before they are due to be published. Well I say two weeks — there are Magazines which demand ads six weeks in advance. CRASH I’m glad to say is not one of them.
Next in the line of tasks that lead up to the release of a game is the great packaging fiasco. This time round, “packaging” involved looking at all the available boxes and library cases, deciding on one we all liked, and then discovering that the manufacturers have sold all the cases they can produce up until January. Rumours are running round the industry that U.S. Carat have bought all the 250,000 available double-audio cases.
As luck would have it Keith Miller of PDD, our tape duplicators (More of him and them next ish, maybe — ED), found another similar case that we could use with our design of packaging. A word of thanks to PDD at this point, largely for continuing to meet our unreasonable demands (Hello, can we have a thousand Dark Stars and five hundred On The Runs by tomorrow please? etc).
Having organised the advertising, posters and packaging I can turn to Graham and Simon and say “O.K. Guys we’re releasing the programs on the 19th of November.” This is rather akin to typing launch codes into ICBMs, at least in terms of the explosion such statements usually cause amongst our programming department. Still, after the listings and floppies have settled back to the floor, and Simon’s blood pressure has returned to normal, our programmers start their own mad rush to provide PDD with masters, and enough time to duplicate the tapes. During this final bit of the Great New Game Panic we see the battle of Dave, Brian (Ad agency bod) and myself versus Graham and Simon, in which we try to get the programmers to write their inlays, and they complain that they can’t as they don’t know what their games are going to do. This is all quite pointless as I usually write the inlays anyway. The CRASH Minion complains! He should try coping with this lot!
At lunchtime today a black streak flashed past the office window heralding Graham’s imminent appearance. Brandishing microdrive cartridges by the dozen, he gleefully bounced into the office like a young cruise missile, took over Simon’s desk, lugged his revolting microdrive into the office Spectrum and demoed a nearly completed 2112AD to us. So here we go lads & lassies it’s PREVIEW TIME. (Yeeeaaah !!!).
The action in 2112AD takes place in the Central Government Computer Complex, after the said computer has thrown something of a wobbler and decided it can run the country far better on its own. Your mission is to enter the C.G.C.C. and gain control of the computer. This is achieved by finding the ten security codes and feeding them, in the right order, into the main terminal.
Your task is not made any easier by the presence of a maintenance droid which regards you as garbage since you happen to be organic. Nor is life made any simpler by the fact that most of the interconnecting doors are locked. To open or close one of these doors you will need the relevant access card. These, too, must be searched for. To help you in your task, you have a robotic dog ‘Poddy’ to assist you. Poddy can do certain things you cannot. To start with he lugs your food about for you, and the all important first aid kit (You’ll have to wait for the game to see what you need that for!).
Poddy’s main function is to carry things around for you. Your character can only carry three objects at any one time, whilst Poddy can carry far more. However, a well loaded Poddy does not move as fast as an unloaded one. Being an electric creation, not unlike a canine C5, Poddy will need his batteries charging from time to time. This is done by plugging him into one of the power outlets dotted about the building; Graham tells me they will look like 13 amp sockets!
You are provided with status displays for both your character and Poddy. These are got at by use of the icon game control system. There are various icons displayed at the bottom of the screen, such as pick up, drop, drive Poddy about and so on, some of which execute a specific function while others take you to other displays and icons. There is also a HELP icon. When selected this shows all the icons and their functions.
It is through the icon system that you control Poddy, though to exchange objects you are carrying with objects Poddy is dragging about, your character must be standing next to him. Throughout the game you MUST pay attention to Poddy’s whereabouts and state of being: remember, he cannot move about as fast as you can, and you can’t complete 2112AD without his help.
As to the great Forbidden Planet, beware of three other programs we’ve stuck on the tape because we thought they were amusing: Spectacle 2; a recently modified version of Halls, and something written by Simon’s girlfriend Leslie, and rumoured to be very embarrassing. (in fact Simon has just finished converting Halls for the Amstrad whilst I have been writing this.)
Forbidden Planet itself is proceeding well. All the windowing is now going, and a myriad of new objects has been created, including a particularly nasty fighter that flies about in front of you then launches a pair of air to air missiles at you. Flying low is a good way to avoid such things, but this puts you in the line of fire from the surface to air missiles. The maps are also now working, though Forbidden Planet’s map is much larger than Dark Star’s surface maps. It also works as a window onto a much larger map. It is worth spending time flying around and feeling out the defences before ploughing into them in search of the central command bunker.
The object of F.P. is to destroy the last Stronghold of the now largely eradicated Galactic Tyranny. This involves flying through surface defences far more complex than those seen in Dark Star to the central site. Should you achieve this and destroy the Central Command Bunker, it then becomes your responsibility to get you and your ship back through the now disorganised defences and off the planet. There will be a lot more to it than that, but at the moment ideas are still being accepted and rejected on a day to day basis. The game is changing overnight, almost every night and improving every time, but you’ll have to wait and see how it all turns out.
So off to Ludlow in three hours! I wonder how Graham is going to react to finding his car has been fitted with a cardboard window. Graham borrowed the hire car we have at the moment (this is because someone broke into Simon’s Astra and nicked the front seats), and left us his Astra. When Simon and I went out at about 1.00am in search of coffee, we discovered that some member of the ungodly had broken into Graham’s car. I really don’t think he’s going to be very pleased about this! Oh well, at least I can run faster than him.
See you in the Christmas Special if Graham doesn’t get me first!