Interview: Amcog Games

posted in: Games | 0

amcogThe Wakefield show saw the release of one of the first commercial games for RISC OS in many a year. Now available for purchase on the PlingStore for the reasonable sum of £9.99, Overlord is a space shoot-em-up from Amcog Games, featuring 47 minutes of original music including 7 in-game themes, original sound effects and graphics.

A review of Overlord is in the works, but before that, we had a few words with the game’s developer Anthony Vaughan Bartram. Questions are in bold, with Anthony’s answers written underneath them.

Tell us a bit about your background, have you been involved with RISC OS for a while or have you come into the scene more recently?

I’ve only been using RISC OS since June 2014 and found my way to it via the Raspberry Pi. Although I’ve been tempted to use it for a few years. Back in the ’90s I released 3 shareware games for the Amiga, which can be found within the Aminet collection. These included Rubber which was an original platform game and also Mutant Penguin (Video) which was a Pengo clone. Prior to that I used to write games on my BBC micro for fun.

Mutant Penguin
Anthony’s ‘Mutant Penguin’ for the Amiga

I have a mostly finished game in 6502 listed as Vortex Demo that’s distributed on the Stairway-to-Hell collection. I’ve also got some unreleased but mostly complete games for the PC and Amiga, which might get posted on the internet in the future..

How big of a challenge did the development of Overlord turn out to be, did everything go to plan or were you faced with any obstacles on the way?

Overlord evolved over time, based on feedback from friends, family and play testers. There were quite a few technical obstacles which I encountered. This is one of the reasons why I’ve kept the code open so the routines from Overlord for graphics, sound and MP3 playback can be re-used in other projects.

Examples of problems that I found include:

  • Ensuring flicker free smooth animation on different contemporary RISC OS machines. For example, the Raspberry Pi HAL seems to have some variable behaviours regarding vertical blank waits and when draw buffers are switched.
  • Good AMPlayer MP3 compatibility with Virtual Acorn emulation but incompatibility with Cortex processors. This means I required more than one MP3 playback solution based on operating system version.
  • Setting up and restoring video modes correctly and compatibly e.g. correctly resetting the video on exit from the game to ensure that the user desktop was displayed correctly.

Also, there were technical problems around, for example, collision detection. The scaled sprites are drawn with their origin at the lower left corner whilst rotated sprites move their origin relative to the rotation. So I had to ‘normalise’ the origin of the sprites in order to produce meaningful and consistent collision detection.

There is a list of bugs at the top of the !RunImage source file which describe the problems I found and fixes that I made.

Overlord, now available from the PlingStore

Being a commercial release, Overlord clearly required a good amount of time and effort. Overall, how long did the project take from its conception to its release?

Overlord took around 10 months to develop including a 2 to 3 month beta cycle. I spent between 6 and 10 hours a week working on the game together with lots of play testing. However, much of the music pre-dates July 2014.

Each minute of finished music required 1 to 2 hours of writing, recording and editing. There were many more tracks where were rejected and which were candidates for inclusion. It was mostly a question of choosing candidate tracks that fitted the game best and editing/adding to them where required.

How has the reception been for Overlord so far?

The reception has been very positive and the game sold well at the Wakefield show. Still waiting for up to date figures as Overlord has been in the PlingStore for less than a month.

What are the plans going forward, are you going to stick to just game development or are you looking to branch out?

I plan to continue working on games. However, I’m also working on a software synthesiser / music tracker. I’ve written the DSP for the sound module so now I’m testing it and trying to integrate it with shared sound.

Can you tell us a bit more about any projects you have in the works?

I have two games in development at the moment. I’ve just started prototyping to see how well certain techniques look and I hope to develop the required game engine from that.

There seems to be a lot of interest in strategy games for RISC OS and I’ve always wanted to write an arcade-action adventure/RPG game. I have an unpublished fantasy novel called ‘Nathan and the Firestones’ which I’m using as a basis to work from.

Thanks Anthony, looking forward to playing your future games!

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