No, I don’t mean Robert Maxwell, of course (for one thing, I’ve already flogged that particular ‘joke’ to death), but my very own Maxwell Mouse, having gone into hibernation for what feels like a couple of millennia (if mice can go into hibernation, that is). For crying out loud, people have been into space and come back in the time it’s taking to create this bloody game. It is not uncommon for projects to fall by the wayside as anyone who’s followed the Amiga scene in recent years will know all too well, but look. It’s alive. Honestly. Give it a prod with a stick or something if you don’t believe me.
I had planned to write a couple of blog posts every month when I started, but that only works when you actually have something worth writing about. Most developers (or, more pertinently, aspiring developers) have their own tales of woe to recount when the subject of dead projects raises its ugly head, more often than not involving a lack of spare time, motivation, ability… you name it. I was fortunate enough not to suffer with any of these things (well, time will tell with the last one, I suppose). I just ran out of new graphics to work with.
As I think I’ve discussed before (it might only have been in my head, I can’t be bothered to go back and check), Maxwell is not a small game. The amount of sprites, background blocks and general artwork required is hefty in the context of modern Amiga releases. It is simply not possible to expect one person to do it all without paying them a salary for a year to do it, so I have to rely on the goodwill, enthusiasm and sheer talent of volunteers to help me out. Amigapd.com‘s very own Chris Clarke has supplied me with all those lovely platforms and backdrops, and now I’m pleased to have two excellent and experienced artists on board – namely Kevin Saunders (beavering away on upcoming blaster Reshoot) and Toni Galvez (a highly capable videogame artist whose most recent public Amiga work, to my knowledge, is featured in this little demo, but I am happy to be corrected if this is inaccurate).
Kevin has already generously supplied me with a full complement of characters to plonk onto the map. There’s no animation or anything like that yet – I’m more interested in getting everything in and working first before worrying about polishing it all up – but they by and large fit in well and means I can concentrate on getting my hands dirty with the important stuff, namely the puzzles and the interaction between Maxwell and the other inhabitants in the sleepy town of Great Yarmouse (sorry about that, by the way).
Ah, character interaction. I’ve had a lot of fun with this one. I’ve done a surprisingly large amount of writing so far in my typical self-indulgent style, which is resulting in all manner of appalling jokes (and quite possibly libellous comments, to the point where if I keep adding them at the same rate I’ll end up in court for the next three decades) ending up on screen. I’ve also had to balance that with moving the game and the storyline on, so the puzzling element has been more of a challenge. They’re all of the ‘carry an item, give that item to someone, they then give you an item in return, give that item to someone else’ variety so there’s not exactly a great deal of sophistication involved, but the trick is to ensure that you can’t sail through it blindfolded without making the solutions impossibly obscure.
There’s also another potential obstacle, too. I’m not going to go into masses of detail as I don’t want to spoil it before anyone’s had the opportunity to see it, but I know where the first level begins (in the pub, natch) and how it will end (with Maxwell triumphantly speeding into the distance on a jet ski, as all blue mice are notorious for doing), with a bunch of already-established objects and characters to work with. Just you try to get from A to B with that lot, ensuring you can’t simply miss half of the game out when playing through it for real – it’s harder than I thought it would be. So I sat down with some actual, physical paper (yes, in incredible scenes, the computer was turned off for a while) and wrote a walkthrough, as if I’ve already completed it and wanted to publish a solution for other people. This was far more effective than I anticipated – having it written down on paper as opposed to in my head made it all much easier to follow, so now I can develop all of the set-pieces and dialogue safe in the knowledge it’ll all come together as I’ve intended. Hurrah, as they say (whoever ‘they’ may be).
Well, there we go. It may not have been too exciting, but at least there are signs of life. Contrary to popular belief, Maxwell is alive and well and is currently at the pub (or is that me?), despite the project threatening to become a total car crash. With any luck, it won’t take another two months before the next update and I might even make it a bit funnier next time.