5th Birthday Party

July 2014 and my not-so-little-anymore boy was 5 years old!

Time for another iPad birthday invite, this time featuring cartoon favourites; Captain Barnacles, Buzz Lightyear, Lego Batman and Peppa Pig.

Party Invite

Party Invite

This one took substantially longer to do than the 2nd Birthday and I had to buy, and wait for, a new stylus in the middle of working on it!

More UDG (Crap) Games – Part Two

I’d originally intended to enter my four (eventually five) games into the CSSCGC 2013 and then, for a while at least, get back to VMware, Citrix and the modern world. Having been crowned supreme loser, however, it would appear my time with the ZX Spectrum (and certainly the CSSCGC) was not over.

As newly-nominated host I would need, at minimum, a website and an email address to submit entries to. Hosting and email were easy enough, however, when it came to a design I was instantly drawn to the Spectrum 128K’s menu system.

128K

With its distinctive cyan selector and rainbow header I’d originally intended to have it stacked vertically, as per the original, but decided that the traditional web-horizontal menu approach worked better.

The concept The reality

I modelled my review summary panel on Your Sinclair (even though I was a Sinclair User reader, back in the day) and also wanted to include those little pictures of the ‘reviewers’ and so decided to give the Fighterz from SUFTII a second outing. 💡

I also wanted to use the Spectrum font and palette throughout, however, felt that my browser’s rendering of Darko Stanicic’s True Type font was a bit crap. In the end I decided on a basic Courier for content and pre-rendered .png images of the ZX font for titling and other special uses (News and Review titles use a date format which mimics the Spectrum BASIC PRINT command and the download icons stick to a faithful UDG/Attribute block format.)

Another idea I had, for the landing page, was a loading screen based on the original Cascade Cassette 50 artwork. Having had so much fun doing loaders for last year’s games I already had all the skills I needed to reproduce the screen in an actual Spectrum loading sequence and then simply screengrab the process and sequence them into an animated .GIF!

128K

The website itself was hand-rolled in PHP and largely based on old code from MykeWEB v5.0 and, whilst it uses some modern CSS tricks for mouseover effects and image wrapping, it’s quite an old fashioned affair using Tables and Transparent .GIFs for keeping everything aligned and as intended.

I think it looks pretty good in modern browsers and on the iPad, however, does suffer a bit in older browsers (IE8, for example, loses the menu mouseover and shows up the transparent .gifs for some reason) and on smaller mobile devices.

(I did briefly flirt with the idea of another mobile-ready flexible WordPress Site, however, I had a very specific look in mind and quickly realised I wouldn’t be able to do it justice with my wildly limited CSS skills.)

You can catch up with the latest news and reviews from the CSSCGC 2014, here.

More UDG (Crap) Games – Part One

Firstly, sorry it’s been so long since the last post – I’ve been really busy with work but I’ve also been through a massive spurt of new projects which has meant less time reminiscing over old ones. 😯

Ironically, although new projects, it’s actually back to where I began on the humble ZX Spectrum that I’ve been spending my time.

Last year I posted this retrospective peice about a couple of crap games I wrote for a competition back in 1998/99. A few months later and I received a comment from Dave ‘R Tape’ Hughes who was running the very same competition – still going after all these years! Having mysteriously never submitted the original games I decided that I would get back on the horse and finally enter something.

In the end I produced 5 titles for the competition and ended up being crowned the loser, having inadvertently entered a half-decent (albeit still quite crap) game. For my sins I was given the honour (or disgrace, delete as applicable) of hosting this year’s competition – which I have now been doing since early January here.

PPHMC SUFTII BDZXTO USS15AE ANGRBRDS

From left to right they are:

Peppa Pig: Happy Mrs Chicken (PPHMC) – a fairly straight-laced remake of the game featured in the show with big colourful character graphics and little or no concern for the eye-strain suffered by the poor player. As an added bonus the better you do the slower and more painful the game is to play!

Super UDG Fighterz Turbo II (SUFTII) – following on from the 1998 version this sees the number of playable characters skyrocket from 4 to 10 and the in-game fighter graphics double in size. Originally listed as an ‘unnecessary UDG Fighterz sequel’ in my notes this is the game that ‘lost’ me the competition. 😎

Burndown ZX: Takeout (BDZXTO) – a failed attempt to translate the frenetic gameplay of the PS2 classic to a simple 8-bit overhead format. Featuring an almost offensive rendition of My Chemical Romance’s “I’m not okay (I promise,)” some half-decent graphics and some of the slowest gameplay you’ll ever see.

UDG Strip Snap! 15th Anniversary Edition (USS15AE) – originally conceived as a cheap way of quickly knock up an entry from the original 1998 code. Although the only real difference is the addition of a 3rd playable character I still ended up having to completely rewrite it. The astute among us will also notice that I’ve missed off the half-bright shading on Hank on the title screen which really annoyed me.

Angry Birds (ANGRBRDS) – after finishing off the 4 entries I originally planned I couldn’t resist going back for one more and, at the time, my little boy was crazy for Angry Birds. The poorly explained gag in this one is that you can’t see where you’re aiming and all of the demolition physics of the original game takes place ‘off screen.’

You can download the games in one .ZIP – you’ll need a Spectrum Emulator to play:
Download CSSCGC2013.ZIP (77K)

The original reviews by R Tape, which are well worth a read, can be found here.

Finally, if you’re interested, I’ve also written a more technical retrospective ‘development diary’ in the guise of a CSSCGC 2014 ‘Feature’ which can be found here.