Exit Stage Left

Good evening everyone, I’m… hang on a second, is this thing on?  Ah yes, it’s fine, it’s just covered in cobwebs since it’s been, you know, several months since I bothered to press that magical ‘Post’ button.  I’m sure there’s a couple of people out there somewhere who casually followed this nonsense but probably never wondered why I stopped suddenly. Never fear, though – I am still alive and rather than do something drastic like spend a couple of weeks in a jungle or become President of the United States in a bid to boost my profile, I’ve merely decided to tap away at my keyboard and produce a piece of writing that’s identical to the previous six on this page, only with different words and pictures.  Now isn’t that exciting?  (I assure you that was rhetorical…)

I note that the date of my last post was the 19th of June.  Those seemed simpler times for the world.  It was summer, Euro 2016 was on, and I was still optimistically clinging to my hopes of finishing my seminal Amiga game The Bumbling Misadventures Of Maxwell Mouse (yes, I really did call it something ludicrous like that) before I turned 30.  More than five months later, it’s freezing cold, Norwich City are useless and now I’ve revised my own ambitions to merely finishing another game before I die.  Although given recent events it’s unclear whether old age will bring that on or if the Apocalypse will get there first.

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Maxwell Mouse.  Yesterday.  Or, more accurately, several months ago.

Anyway, enough of that. That Maxwell Mouse, eh?  Whatever happened to him, anyway?  “Oh, it’s just another in the increasingly long line of projects worked on for a while, boasted about by its handsome, witty author and then quietly dropped when he gets bored of it”, you’re almost certainly not thinking right now.  The truth is, I got somewhat frustrated at the lack of a committed, consistent artist – yes, I’m grateful for the high standard of work I did receive (and there was a good amount of it), but so many people pitched in here and there that there’s inevitably no continuity of style and ultimately, bringing in fresh faces every couple of weeks and having to go through the game’s plot, style and boring techy details does get somewhat time consuming and limiting, both for me and for the guy pushing the pixels at the other end who is having a palette and entire ‘tone’ imposed upon him that he would chuck away given half a chance.

Consequently, I haven’t ditched it, I’ve just sent Maxwell for a nice, long holiday (hey, he’s got sunglasses and a backpack, he’s set) whilst I change tack and decide to program something I can finish within the time frame I have set myself (i.e. while I’m alive and the world still exists).  The only problem is, what sort of game do I write?  Clearly it has to be something relatively modest, but what’s a decent concept I can work with, and what’s suitable for me to share the code as I’m going along so budding coders can pick it up and get to grips with how it works?

I posed this very question over at the English Amiga Board and was given many genuinely intrguing suggestions (and, if I’m being totally honest, a couple of naff ones) but the clear winner, in my eyes, was a version of an old Famicom (amongst others) game called Door Door (those wacky Japanese, eh?).

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It is Door Door.  On the Famicom.  Where do I get a baseball cap like that?

Door Door, if you’re not familiar with it (and trust me, I definitely wasn’t), must rank as one of the politest videogames ever made.  It’s a standard early Eighties-style single-screen platformer at first glance, with the usual gaggle of bad guys following you up and down ladders in an attempt to murder you in the most charming way imaginable.  How do you stop them?  By, um, holding the door open for them and hurriedly closing it when they’ve accepted your kind invitation.  Well, obviously.  A quick play and a watch of somebody doing rather better than me at it on YouTube won me over.  Here’s something with potential – it’s simple on paper but with some clever mechanics in the background, numerous devious level designs and utterly hateful music that is surely the work of Satan himself.

Most importantly, of course, is the opportunity to really put my own stamp on it and turn it into a creation of my own.  I fully intend to have a lot of fun writing it and sneaking my own shamelessly self-indulgent humour in every time nobody is looking (but hopefully nothing as libellous as Maxwell), and while I’m doing that, I’ll make the source code public and hopefully inspire an entire new army of Amiga programmers in the process (some hope).  The only problem is, this all happened a couple of months ago, and already very little has happened.  “Oh, it’s just another in the increasingly long line of projects worked on for a while, boasted about by its handsome, witty author and then quietly dropped when he gets bored of it”, you’re almost certainly not thinking right now (hang on, this sounds familiar).

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Er, this is the sum total of Exit Stage Left so far.  Sorry everyone.

This is partly due to the fact there’s a lot of admin to get through to start with.  Now, I hate admin – I’d rather get my hands dirty and start playing about with ideas and creating funny bits – but I need to produce some test graphics and the like first, just so I can get one or two things on screen.  My artistic ability is roughly on a par with a five-year-old so it may take some time (just check that screenshot for proof of what we’re dealing with here).  Mostly, however, my prized A1200 is struggling these days – the keyboard has decided I don’t need the letter Q, or curly brackets, or anything like that, so I’m a bit stuffed, short of copying and pasting the offending characters everywhere.  On top of that, it desperately needs cleaning, recapping and a CF card installed, and as someone with zero knowledge of doing this myself, I’ve ordered myself a shiny new machine with all these delightful features included, and eventually I’ll keep my current one as a backup or something (I’ve written five games on it already – it’s served me well for many years, so there’s no chance of simply getting rid of it).

As soon as the nice uniformed man or woman arrives at my door with said computer, Exit Stage Left (as it will be known from this point on – thanks Damien) is ready to roll.  Maybe.  Just as soon as I’ve been to the pub first.  Or run for President.

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