Chapter 13 - Scrap the Music

A busy week on Gunstar with the finalization of one part and cancellation of another.

First, the good news...

Armed and Dangerous

I have been working on finalizing the GunStar armoury and have contacted Stevie Strow to get his philosophy on firing styles. His preference is fire-fast-and-many and I have come up with a firing format which should satisfy most trigger happy players while still requiring a level of skill.

I have 3 firing styles available for the GunStar.

Single shot x 2
This is the base firing format and has 2 shots on screen at a time.

Triple shot x 2
Fires 2 sets of 3 shots which spread outward to give a wider hit area.

6 shot Multi-fire
Single shots but 6 projectiles on screen at a time which allow for a good spray of shots.

More sound optimizations

In an effort to save CPU cycles, I have been looking at my sound routine for optimizations. My sound routine was compact and efficient but if I could save even one cycle, this saving would be multiplied by 6500 because this is how many times it is triggered per second.
I enlisted L. Curtis Boyle to use his powers of cycle optimization to find savings in my routine and he has managed to speed up my routine by a few cycles. This now buys me more CPU time for the upcoming sprite routines for the Alien characters.

This increases the number of sprites I can display per frame or allow larger sprites to be had. It could also make a conversion to 6809 code more viable by reducing how much of the game would need to be sacrificed to allow it to run at a satisfactory rate.

This is a major milestone!

And now the bad news

I spent a lot of time trying to improve the music playback routine for the Title Page intro screen. Although it worked well as a music system that generates 4 voice music with envelope control of each channel, it still sounded like a software synthesized system using square waves mixed as one to drive a single 6-bit DAC. The fidelity wasn't quite there when compared to dedicated hardware such as a sound chip.

The other more important issue was simply that I am tone deaf when it comes to music composition.

Most modern games have a separate person or team to create the music. Even back in the 80's, many of the games which had high quality music employed the services of a composer or musician.

I am no composer!

Since GunStar is a commercial level product, I wanted an original tune and not copy someone else's music.

After days of agonising, I simply wasn't happy with the results and didn't feel anything I created was worthy as a main theme.

I therefore made an executive decision to pull the code and music out of the game. I was never a fan of music in a game unless it was high quality like many of the games I see on my Amiga or even the Commodore 64.

My conclusion... even with a good sound system, an unprofessional music composition can ruin the presentation. Just as in real life, if someone with a great voice sings a bad song, it will fail.

I don't feel the game has suffered by the omission and I can now move on with a clear head.

Coming up

I can now resume my work in designing the background graphics level design.

Click on the image below to see a YouTube video of my progress so far.

Video Blog #3

Copyright 2017 by Nickolas Marentes