[Acorn Gaming]


Games Development

Acorn's application note for games programmers
Mattijs van Delden's abandoned Pinball game

Writing software for Acorn computers is, in some respects, a lot easier than writing for many other computers. There is an excellent version of BASIC built in, and the Operating System provides support for lots of primitive operations necessary in games, such as sprite plotting. Having a standard OS, sound and video system means we aren't plagued with the compatibility issues afflicting PC programmers - it is not necessary to test work on hundreds of different video and sound cards (although Windows 95 went some way to alleviating these problems). Writing code which works on all Acorn machines is not too difficult, although with the advent of the Risc PC things have become a little more complex if it is intended to provide more advanced facilities for those with more powerful computers.

In the early days of home computers it was taken for granted that the best published games would be written in 100% machine code. Early computers were much slower and so this was often necessary to achieve a reasonable speed of execution, but modern computers are far faster, and very often the speed of assembly language is not required, except, possibly, for a few core pieces of code which are either executed very often, or must execute very quickly.

It is quite feasible to write entire games in pure BASIC - and many people have done so. For some games which are not speed-critical BASIC is perfectly adequate, whilst for fast-moving games BASIC can be more limiting, although a combination of assembly language and BASIC can be a good compromise. Many recent games have been written mainly in C, a popular compiled language for which a few different compilers are available, sometimes with core plotting routines written in hand-optimised assembly language, although since C compiles to produce machine-code this is often not necessary.

It doesn't take a genius to notice that many games rely on the same core routines - mainly fast sprite-plotting routines, although some games rely instead on speedy 3D algorithms. As a result there a few libraries of such routines available, allowing programmers to avoid the drudgery of writing their own, or enabling those not capable of writing them themselves to take advantage of their speed.

Although not exactly a work of genius, aspiring games programmers might like to have at least a cursory read of Acorn's application note for games programmers, which I've formatted in html.

Here's a couple of pages all about the development of Matthew (Mattijs) van Delden's abandoned Pinball game. The game may have been abandoned but someone might still find this interesting.

You could also try connecting to the Game Programming home page.

Alternatively try The Nexus, some games development pages at the Games Domain.

...this page last updated: 14/9/96...
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