It's been claimed that this year's Acorn World show at Olympia 2 in London
was the best Acorn show to date. Whether or not this is true, one thing is
certain - it wasn't the best show for new games. In fact, it was almost certainly
the worst. There weren't even half the number of new releases there were at
last year's show.
Probably the most eagerly awaited Acorn game is Robert Templeman's
Destiny, due to be published by DoggySoft.
The hype for this game has been regularly and liberally scattered all over
comp.sys.acorn.games for the best part of the past year, and so expectations
are high. From reading Robert's postings to the group I had reached the conclusion
that Destiny was probably all hype and no substance. A dream that would
never be properly fulfilled. Fortunately I was wrong.
The first thing that struck me about Destiny was its speed. Despite the
fact that the version on display was written half in BASIC it was still running
at a respectable speed, especially given that it was running on a Risc PC 600
with its original processor. At first sight the game seemed rather too brightly
lit, but closer inspection revealed some interesting features:
- The game is, in fact, properly lit - the picture here shows the subtle
distance fade off
- The game has a much better lighting model than Doom,
which can only alter textures to simulate non distance-related lighting -
the lighting effect is either
on or off in Doom, whereas Destiny can graduate the effects.
- The water looked really good, with its height physically undulating
rather than Doom's stagnant texture map changes. Impressive.
- Doors animate when opened, rather than merely sliding aside
- The game has a proper 3D model, unlike Doom's shortcuts which limit the
level design possibilities
- It can cope with large texture tiles
- The game can run using a variety of different screen resolutions
Unfortunately the harddisc Robert brought to the show with the monster
handling code on turned out to have become damaged, so the "other lifeforms"
were not on display, although a preliminary animation of a running
dinosaur was. Robert has access to departmental rendering facilities and
hopes to produce some very well animated creatures, although they will
be sprite-based (like in Doom) as opposed to Quake's true 3D
creatures which plot lots of polygons.
No weapons were on display, and there's obviously still quite a way to go,
but the fundamentally important rendering code was certainly looking very
promising. Working on the game with Robert Templeman are Robert Alcock,
Simon Frazer and Andrew Ingram, with music composed by Mirko Vidovic.
They hope to get it finished for the Wakefield show next spring, and it
will cost between 30 and 35 pounds, which seems a reasonable enough price.
Have a look at the Destiny WWW page for some more screenshots.
TBA, sadly, didn't have any new games on display, although this was possibly
the first time Mirror Image and Merp has been available at a show.
TBA didn't think enough of the game to have it on display, however, preferring
multiple copies of the game they were most heavily promoting, last year's
Cobalt Seed for which they were handing out colour A4 fliers. By
the end of Saturday they'd sold out of the game.
Cobalt Seed is an "into the screen" scrolling shoot'em'up with
3D texture-mapped graphics, and uses TBA's TAG game engine. It wasn't
discounted for the show however, which seems odd to me since it's
tempting just to order it from a reseller for less, with TBA in turn
getting far less money. But then if they sold out I suppose most
people don't care.
The best bits of the TBA stand were the bits that weren't on display.
TBA's TAG 2 engine, which includes a lighting model with proper
shading and is the result of over three years of development, looked impressive, although it's pretty much a StrongARM
only thing, with all but the simplest models running too slowly on
an ARM 710 (Darkwood, anyone?). Still, it was impressive enough,
although I was a bit surprised at its lack of speed, and its object
culling seemed a bit trigger happy. The clipping and texture mapping
seemed fine, however, and it's probably not optimised yet - so maybe
it isn't fair to comment on what was merely a project in progress.
The rally game in development using it looked promising, although
I hope the visuals will be backed up with a suitable driving model.
TAG 2 is free to developers, although any games developed using it
must be sold via TBA, who will naturally deduct royalties. As well
as being able to chuck 3D objects at the screen it also includes more
general game management code, and desktop designers. It was actually
pretty impressive - it was very easy to alter the game parameters and
then rerun it, and it appeared stable. TBA mentioned last year that
they could run Cobalt Seed with their new TAG 2 engine and
it would all work properly, complete with depth shading. I cynically
thought that this might be an exaggeration, but it's actually true -
I saw it running, although the shading isn't that impressive, really.
The graphics weren't designed for shading, apparently, so the game
won't be available in this form.
TBA were selling all their previous games (except Dragonball, which
I spotted for £2 in the NCS charity sale).
Axis is now more expensive than
it was at launch, years ago... (it's also still a very impressive
game, with its full screen rotation). The other games on sale were
FTT, Cyber Ape and Command Ship, and TBA were
also selling their pleasingly cheap joypads and - rather
incongruously - a file compression system called TBA FS,
which seemed slightly overpriced at £25 given the crowded market.
Finally, Peter Otterman's Proposal is
apparently still very much in development, and it won't be using TAG.
No release date was given for it, and, apart from the forthcoming rally
game, no other new releases appear to be in sight.
TBA's web pages have
more details about TAG 2.
4D were at the show, as ever. They didn't have anything very exciting on
display, unfortunately, although they did have a three for two special offer
on their games, which were also reduced (but then their normal prices are
often ridiculously expensive).
They have two new game compilations due out soon. First up is The Real McCoy 5, which includes a new game called Anti Grav, complete with typically
poor graphics, Chopper Force, Demon's Lair and Pandora's
Box. I'm not sure this is all worth £34.95...
The other new release, Logic Mania, includes a Pipemania-clone
called Gloop; a vaguely Tetris-genre game developed from a program published in *Info in
Acorn User called Tilt; and two simple-looking puzzle games called
Blindfold ("A game of memory. Negotiate the maze - blindfold!". Sounds
fun! Not.) and Atomix ("Calculate molecular construction"!). This
compilation also costs £34.95.
4D's upgrade policy continues to disgust all right-minded people. How on
Earth can they warrant charging £17.50 for most of their upgrades,
some of which are very simple!? None of them are improvements, merely
fixes. At least they have the decency to recommend
that you buy Game On! first since "this may be the cheapest option".
The Fourth Dimension are now selling Superior Software's entire back catalogue
of game releases - and at full price! And that's without either Risc PC
or StrongARM compatibility guaranteed.
Obviously hoping to cash in on the emulator craze, 4D are now also selling
a large range of Acorn 8-bit software, with
the Superior Software catalogue, their own games and Aardvark games.
Interestingly, they hope to release previously unreleased gams,
including Beeb versions of Break 147 and Superpool, new Aardvark games,
and Repton Infinity ports of Psyanki and Man at Arms.
Funniest promo award goes to 4D for this:
Dumpmaster £9.95 - Take screenshots of our games, for inclusion in
your own fanzines, or maybe to promote us!
What can I say!? (Dumpmaster is a Beeb program, by the way).
The Fourth Dimension can be contacted by
Werewolf Software were the only company with a brand new game (4Ds' weren't
available) - the imaginatively
named Tanks. Whilst the game looked fun to play, it's hardly likely
to win any awards for originality or graphics. It's one of those simple games
where you stand on a hillside, lobbing missiles at your enemies. The most
similar commercial game is probably Worms (on which this may well
have been modelled). This is the sort of game which is brilliant fun with
lots of people - and Tanks allows 12 at once, which must make for
some hectic gameplay! I'm not so sure about its merits as a one-player
game, however, although it does include computer-controlled opponents.
As you earn money by killing your opponents you can upgrade your tank to
buy newer, better weapons, including missiles, lasers, shotguns, MIRVs,
Nukes, Funky Bombs, shields, parachutes, tracers, deflectors and others.
Or so the flyer says.
Apparently the game sold well,
so hopefully it'll inspire Werewolf to produce something a bit more
adventurous next time...
Werewolf software can be contacted by
email or you can connect to
Oregan had no new games, but had an offer of any two of their back issue titles
for £24.95, with a choice from Burn 'Out 2067 BC, Sally
and Wally, Arcturus and Magnetoids. No Risc PC upgrade
was in sight for Quark, which seems a shame.
Clares were selling some of their old games at show prices. Fervour was
£10 (although it's not Risc PC or StrongARM compatible) and the
ancient Interdictor 2 was £10 (although £1.50 on the
Q-Tec also had a rather unique product called ARM-Switcher available, which allows
you to fit two main processor cards, and switch between them. This could be
useful for games ("Ideal for Game Players" said the blurb), and might be worth the investment if you've got a large
catalogue of games you want to run!
Probably the best gaming bargains of the show were on the Norwich
Computer Services charity sale, with Heimdall, Iron Lord
and others all for £2 each.
On Saturday I went to the Oregan Cineworks demo which happened to be immediately
before the talk on The Future of Acorn. However, I wasn't aware of this
(I only read as far as "The StrongARM card, by Chris Cox" and didn't realise
it was a two-part presentation...). I didn't half feel stupid when I was one of
just two people to leave the theatre only to discover there was a queue of
over 900 people outside! (Only a few of whom could get in). Duh...
I found the Oregan demo, by the way, unintentionally hilarious (for me, but
not for the poor guy presenting it). Cineworks
crashed on loading its second movie - which seemed rather like a word processor
crashing when you enter text! It also appeared horrendously slow, but this was
apparently due to the CD-ROM drive on the demonstration computer being broken.
The software crashed a few times, and at one point a nice blank error box came
up, which Oregan tell me was due to bugs in other software installed on the
machine - quite believable given the amount of unfinished, not properly-tested
software being run and installed on it over the course of the few days.
When the machine was reset the errors occurred again. It must have been
a nightmare for the speaker...
...this page last updated: 13/11/96...
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