01 - Brainstorming an idea
Buoyed by the encouraging sales and healthy response by the
community of my game Pop*Star Pilot,
embarked on the search for another game idea to create on my favorite
computer. Something challenging, ground breaking and that
will make me lots of money!
Ok. I'll settle for the first two out of the three... but it
doesn't hurt to dream right? :)
I began by giving some serious consideration in recreating
my past CoCo
Dilemma with enhanced CoCo3 graphics, even coming up with some
some ground breaking graphics. But having already created Donut Dilemma
times, over three different platforms - TRS-80 Model 1 (1984), Color
1&2 (1986) and the Australian produced Maximite (2013) - a fourth iteration was less appealing to me.
I then turned my attention to another of my early creations,
This was my first CoCo3 specific game which I created in 1988.
remember having high expectations for this game, but in the end I felt
short in several areas. By this time, Tandy Electronics in
taken an interest in selling my games so it was a matter of pumping
games out while the interest was there. The disadvantage of this work
emphasis shifts to quantity
instead of quality.
While people said it
great game, for me personally it was a disappointment and I had often
about a remake to remedy the short falls. But
I was weary of another rehash and decided that I
wanted to pursue something fresh.
thinking of game genres I’ve
yet to explore and I
gave strong consideration in doing a
version of Pipe Mania.
was an arcade style puzzle game which became very popular on other
systems. This is also a game that may appeal more to people who may not
be into fast arcade type games ... although Pipe Mania can get very
testing especially in the higher levels.
But puzzle games don't appeal to me so much and I felt that if I was to
devote so much time to the development of a commercial grade game that
I should at least choose something that I enjoyed and would be
motivated to accomplish to the best of my abilities.
I decided that I wanted to do a game that stimulated the natural beast within. A game with fast
flowing explosive visuals
accompanied by the sounds of orchestral chaos. Something with a shoot-first-think-later experience.
another arcade shooter!
grew up in the 80's and was exposed to many of the great video game
classics of that era. In particular, I loved the wave of scrolling
vertical shoot-em-ups (SHMUPS) that appeared. I use to watch others
play these games at the local video arcade, watching on mesmerized like
a connoisseur at an art gallery.
In reviewing the vertical scrolling SHMUPS on the CoCo3, I find that
there were very few. There was really only Xenion and my incomplete game from
1992, Cosmic Ambush. They
were the only vertical scrolling SHMUPS I'm aware of.
Xenion (1988) by Michael Duncan
Cosmic Ambush (1992) by Nickolas Marentes
There have been several other vertical shooters on the CoCo3 such as Marauder by Craig Stewart and Zenix by Jeremy Spiller but these
were not vertical scrolling
(Marauder had a scrolling starscape, not landscape). The CoCo3 was
devoid of this style of shooter whereas on other systems such as the
MSX and Commodore 64, there were several well done SHMUPs of this kind
was my first attempt at creating a vertical scrolling SHMUP for the
Prior to this back in 1984 I had created a SHMUP for the TRS-80 Model
1 called Escape Zone. It was
my last game for this system before
jumping across to the CoCo1. It was a reasonable attempt at a SHMUP for
this computer although by 1984, the TRS-80 Z-80 based range was
starting to lose it's market share and people weren't buying games for
them so much.
Escape Zone (1984) for the TRS-80 Model
1 was my first vertical shoot-em-up.
Zone carried the hallmarks of many SHMUP's of the time, fast
graphics, lots of sound and a few novel special effects such as the
disintegrating laser fire from arcade Defender and some neat "sprite"
As you can see, I was (and still am) quite fanatical about vertical
of the history lesson already!
I've been turning ideas around in my head, run several code tests
to determine what I can and can't do to see if it can all be put
together the way I envision.
The CoCo lacks some of the hardware features available on several of
the other micros. Features such as hardware based sprites, sound
chips for non-CPU intensive sound effects and a tile based
graphics system. Some of these other systems only contained a mediocre
CPU such as the 6502 but in their favor, one could not under
estimate the additional
power that these hardware assisted extras provided.
In our favor, we did have the second best 8-bit CPU made. The Motorola
6809 is a very powerful and efficient CPU and offers the inventive
programmer many short cuts compared to the competition.
Wait a minute! Did
you say second
I'm afraid the 6809 has been toppled from it's throne and made way for
it's genetically enhanced twin... the Hitachi 6309!
I've had a 6309
installed in my CoCo3 for some time now but apart
from a handful of standout programs such as John Kowalski's
brilliant Donkey Kong conversion and also his MOD music player, there
isn't too many other reasons to upgrade... unless you're an OS-9
6309 is better known for it's ability to run NitrOS9 which is an
improved version of OS-9 operating system that takes advantage of the
fact that Radio Shack soldered the 6809 onto the
CoCo3 motherboard meant that removal of the original 6809 requires the
desoldering of this 40 pin chip. An exercise that risks damage to the
PCB if you're not skilled in the procedure.
I have never
programmed for the extra power capable of the 6309 because
I've always created software designed to work on the most common
hardware configuration with the exception of requiring the 512K RAM
L. Curtis Boyle
has been hounding me for some time to try it. So, to shut him up and
get him off my case, I did. :)
I'm a convert!
The 6309 is a
marvelous upgrade to an already marvelous chip! The extra
registers, extra functionality and lower instruction cycle count when
used in native mode leaves me to ponder why such a gem never made it's
way into an updated CoCo3 by Radio Shack before it was discontinued.
This could have
been a "CoCo3 Plus" and it
would not have cost any more to manufacture.
It's important to note that both the VCC and MAME emulators support the
6309 so anyone could run the 6309 version of software and then decide
if it's worth
attempting the upgrade for their real CoCo3. Mark Marlette of Cloud 9
will do the upgrade if
you ship him the CoCo. Hopefully others with the skills will also
provide such a service.
So, as you can see by the title of this blog, my new game is to be
It will be a vertically scrolling shoot-em-up and hopefully feature
some fast, explosive graphics and the best sound that I have
attempted thus far. In essence, it will be the continuation and
improvement of my game Cosmic Ambush
complete with scrolling background and more graphic effects.
It will be designed to run on a standard 6809 based CoCo3 with 512K of
RAM and support the 6309 if found to achieve some extra speed and
I'm not putting a completion date at this very early stage of
development but I would like it to be ready in time for the next
CoCoFest. Of course, life has a way of changing one's plans so don't
stamp that last comment in stone just yet. :)
I have begun developing some of the demanding components and hopefully
will be able to divulge more details in the next chapter installment.
For now, I'll leave you with a few screenshots of some of my favorite
vertical SHMUP's which I am using for direction and incentive. I'm
aiming high with these images but if I can even come close, it would be
a great outcome.
May the force be with me. :)
Star Force (NES)
Battle Squadron (Amiga)