Your Spectrum
Issue 17, August 1985 - Games Designers
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T H E   G E N E R A T I O N   G A M E

Games creators aren't new exactly but they're still the best and quickest way for even the duffest programmer to knock out some ace arcade action. And talking of duffers, we've asked Tony Samuels to create a couple of classics while Peter Shaw looked over his shoulder and took notes.
really set the trend and it's worth taking a look at how they've stood the test of time and whether they'll help you transfer all your brilliant ideas into code.
So, what do they have to offer? Well, that's easily answered - they both allow you to create machine code style games without having to learn a programming language first. But let's not pretend, the games you write won't be as good as the ones you could write in machine code. But they will be quicker to bash out and they'll be a whole lot better than anything you could knock up in Basic - and a whole lot simpler too.
If this sounds like just what you've been looking for, the big question is will you be able to create the sort of games you've always dreamed of writing? Well, life isn't all a bed of ROM chips and it's unlikely that you'll get precisely what you're after.
Of the two programs, Games Designer is the less flexible as it only allows you to create shoot'em ups. But on the plus side, you can produce games more quickly and easily with this package. With HURG you can also have a go at platform and pacman type games but its animation and sprite handling trip it up when it comes to final
The most appealing aspect of both programs - is that they're menu- driven. This is what sets them apart from other games designers like White Lightning.
Brilliant as that program undoubtedly is, you still have to become proficient at a programming language - Forth in this case - and that can require the skills of a brain surgeon. No, with Games Designer and HURG the menus guide you as you create your sprites, move them and animate them. The program then puts this information into a game buffer that's looked at by the executive
What's all this then? An in-depth review of two programs that have been around long enough to qualify as golden oldies? That's true but it's really only now that everyone's caught up with what the programs were originally trying to do. New computers like the Macintosh have shown that you don't have to be a machine code whizz to use a computer to the full and this attitude is filtering through to the Spectrum. Look at The Artist program we reviewed a couple of issues ago - simple to use but producing some spectacular visual results. Well, these two games creators
Quicksilva / £9.95


Not now available on Tony 'Slim' Software, this is a game that's gonna really knock your Thicko Shakes for six. Feast your eyes on the format, gorge yourself on the graphics. You play the part of an unsatisfied fast foodie who's after his grub - first the burgers, then the fries, Big Max and turbo-charged apple pies. Just shoot 'em up and count the calories.
You've got up to 32 sprites to play around with on each game. Use this chart to set them up, but a word of warning - don't lose the manual or you're in big trouble. Games Designer loses one point for lack of menu-driving! These sprites, 00 and 01, are the two-stage animation sprites for the first screen. You can have anything up to four stages of animation. Your sprites can only be 12 pixels deep by 12 wide. That's considerably smaller than the ones you can create with HURG but they are 'real' sprites. By that, I mean they're smooth scrolling and fast. Study this carefully - you'll find it the most useful menu in the game. Its function is to define what the aliens get up to on each level, how many you'll have to face and the consequences of being zapped by one. Here you can control the speed of your aliens and whether or not the nasty critters drop bombs on you. You're offered a choice of seven variants that cover slow speeds, fast speeds, turbo speeds and bomb-droppin' death-dealin' nastiness. Each game has a basic eight levels but, of course, you can repeat any level to give the impression that you've created a megagame. This column lets Games Designer know where to go after the current screen's been completed. So this is it - the end of the hard work, the heartache and the sleepless nights. And in the true Tony 'Slim' Samuels style it's about food - Maxburgers from Outer Space. Need we say more? At last, here are our two-stage fully animated sprites - the world famous YS bouncing burgers. What d'you mean you can't see 'em moving? Well, you'll just have to take our word for it! And for the fact that they're following the patterns that were laid down earlier.
Take a look at the main menu. You'll find here all the options you'll need to take you further into the editing menus, and on the way to producing your very own monster megahit. The Play Game option allows you to play the game you're currently editing. That way you can judge whether an alteration works or not. Use the Anim column to define the alien animation. Just like the sprite designer, you'll need to have the manual close to hand if you're going to make head or tail of these numbers. The background stars were added with the Special FX function. They can be moved in one of four directions - up, down, left and right - but they don't affect the play of the game. They're just there to add another element of interest and let's face it, Tony's game needs something to stop you nodding off!

[Sorry this screenshot is so crap, but I had to use a mag scan rather than an actual program screenshot.]
There are eight different flight paths for your aliens to follow. Choose them with the Movement Editor and use them in combination or on their own to get those enemies zig-zagging. The Sprite Menu will take you on to a further set of menu options that allow you to change the shape of the sprites for the player, aliens, explosions and so on. Pat here stands for pattern and defines the movement paths of each alien. You can create up to eight different movement patterns.
This option takes you on to the Attack Wave editor. Here you can define the scoring system, the speed and the next screen the program'll look to after the current level is completed. Use the Configuration Menu to tell Games Designer how your game will operate. You can choose from four types of game format - Space Invader, Scramble, Berserk and Asteroids. You're also asked what colour back- and foreground you require and what type of special FX (Groan! Ed) you want - stars, for instance. Defining sprites is pretty odd to say the least. You create half the sprite at a time and then use a binary-style control to set or reset each pixel. If you want to end with a bang, not a Wimpy, then you'll need to use the explosion sprite that's kept in the last four stages of animation. You can define exactly what the explosion looks like, which is an improvement on HURG - that only lets you define its size.   Max controls (any relation to Max Headroom? Ed) the number of aliens that have to be annihilated before you pass onto the next level. You can choose any number between zero (which is pretty pointless) and 99 (which is pretty impossible). There's no way of disguising that Games Designer's pretty limited in what it can achieve - the four types of game you can bash out are all rather old hat. But the way it does it is excellent. The animation of the sprites is superbly smooth and there are tons of useful options for you to play around with. All in all, a lot of fun if you accept the limitations.

Overall rating: 8/10 Completion time: 2½ hours
Melbourne House / £14.95


Also known as Mortician Max, the second offering from the Tony Samuels school of second-rate software takes the platform game onto a whole new level. Here you have to wander around the Maxburger factory looking for the vital victuals. Scoff the lot but watch out for the heavies - there's Thicko Shake closely followed by Derek Dishcloth and Sid Sausage. So, get eating and get out'a there!
Your first task in Collision Mode is to pick an Ink colour for your own character. Your only restriction is that you can't colour him in, the same as anything else on the screen.   HURG's been cleverly designed to run hand-in-hand with Melbourne Draw. Using the Load Background option, you can load in a previously designed Screen$ - without it the whole game's a bit pointless. Game Variations is pretty self-explanatory - it just asks you which of the four possible games stored in memory you want to edit. It'll also take you into the Player and Object menus. Meet Derek Dish Cloth who's on the tail of your silly Willy though there's an element of randomness thrown in to give him a chance to escape. Thicko Shake on the other hand moves completely at random but only in a limited area of the screen. Tony created the background for Manic Maxburgers using Melbourne Draw - if you're a dab hand at pixel painting that means you can create some amazing levels to your games.
The idea behind the collision table is quite simple - everything that appears on the playing area can be recognised as soon as your character comes into contact with it. Here's the key to understanding the collision table. The 'no go' symbol tells you that when your little man touches a combination of Ink and Paper designated as a 'no go' area, he'll be able to stand on it but not pass through. The 'eat' and 'crash' symbols work in much the same way and the 'go' symbol covers the rest. Scoring lets you define how quickly you'll amass the points when you eat or shoot objects. It'll also allow you to set a bonus once a new sheet's started - a bonus in itself over Games Designer. Now here's a nice touch. The platform looks as though it continues to the edge of the screen but the last two characters are coloured green on yellow rather than green on white. The Collision table has been set up so that if the man taps on it the whole platform just crumbles away. Nasty, eh?
This little chap was brought to life using the editor option. By choosing the other options he can be mirrored, animated and so on, which makes it much simpler to create his brothers and sisters if they're all basically the same. These characters have been designed for two-stage animation - our little Willy-clone walks to the left and to the right, but Tony was too laid-back (shouldn't that be lazy? Ed) to animate the up and down movements. The New Frame Conditions option lets you decide how hard a player's got to work before he can move on to the next screen. You can make it tough by having him shoot or eat all the objects or you can just set a fixed time delay or make it when he's reached the exit point. The collision detector has been programmed to make anything that appears blue on yellow paper licensed to kill. So, all the nasties are this colour plus, for good measure, a few extra static objects that've been added with Melbourne Draw.

[Sorry this screenshot is so crap, but I had to use a mag scan rather than an actual program screenshot.]
Take a look at the editing window. Here it's 16 by 16 pixels but it can be anything from 8 by 8 up to 16 by 32. HURG's based on character blocks so you can have bigger sprites but don't expect them to move as smoothly.   If you exit to the next stage, you can set the animation and movement speeds. You'll be shown your animated character running across the screen as you alter the parameters. The collision table works by telling the games designer routines what to do when your character hits an object. It's all done with attributes so take care that you don't use the same colour for completely different objects. You can chop and change these symbols by choosing a character from the menu and then positioning it on the grid using control keys or joystick. This is the goods that Games Designer didn't come up with - a title page. Here you can write your instructions using the very crude word processor and then add a bit of life by including some of your whizzo animated objects. Use the Path Generator to set the course for your on-screen objects. If you prefer, though, you can get them moving in completely random ways and cut this option altogether. HURG really does have all the goodies you could wish for - if only the rough edges had been tidied up in the rush to get it on the shelves. True, it's much more flexible than Games Designer and offers a greater range of possibilities but it's really not all it could have been.

Overall: 6/10
Completion time: 4 hours including time on Melbourne Draw.

routines when your game's running.
One area where White Lightning, say, scores heavily over these two, is its ability to save a game off independently of the main program. This could be done by having an editor in the low part of memory that would affect the game database in the top of memory. Then the sprite routines and so on would come somewhere in the middle and look at info in the database. This way it would be a doddle to save off the middle to top parts of memory as a stand alone game with a short bit of code to tie it all together.
As often happens in a comparative review like this, my choice falls somewhere between the two programs. If only the smoothness and slickness of Games Designer could be combined with the flexibility of HURG. As you can only plump for one, you must decide what sort of games you're after.
If it's just shoot'em ups then go for Quicksilva's but if you're willing to sacrifice a certain amount of smoothness in favour of a wider range of games, go for HURG. One word of advice if you're veering towards Games Designer - it might be worth your while looking out for the version that Marks and Spencer brought out at the end of last year.
Finally, let's do a bit of dreaming - what would the perfect games creator package look like? Well, it's going to have to incorporate all the wham-bam- pow features of the new software. Alien 8-type 3D graphics would obviously be a plus as would a larger range of game formats to choose from. Also a graphics editor such as the one on The Artist would be a big help - even better if it were completely icon-driven. It's going to take a lot of work to come up with something with all those features, so it'll
be interesting to see if any software house takes up the challenge. Of course, if you've written a program like that or you reckon you could, we'd love to talk to you at YS. Now there's something to think about!

comparison chart
Whilst it could be said that it's stretching things a bit, having to cope with offensive junk food throughout the cosmos, it could also be said that deep space is the best place for burgers - all of 'em. This Maxburgers saga only really goes to prove just how easy an' quick producing sub-Asteroid clones is - which says nothing for the commercial software houses who still do it. 4/5

So there we are, a classic off-the-peg platform game, admittedly a trifle vague in the killer ketchup avoidance department but nevertheless eminently playable. Dodging dirty dishcloths and savage side-orders to get through the four screens could lead to 48K's worth of anorexia, though. 3/5
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