Chapter 29 - July 2nd, 2016

Breaking Boundaries

Last chapter I spoke about how I fell short of my 80 screens target due to my desire to have lots of detail for a rich scrolling landscape. The price for that detail was the extra memory requirements which reduced my 80 screens to 65.

I decided that this was ok since I didn't want to part with the added detail.

Well, that turned out to be an itch I just couldn't scratch. I wanted the detail but I also wanted my 80 screens!

So I reallocated some of the memory used to store fonts and graphics and I freed up just under 4K of RAM. This meant that the map data spanned past the 8K memory block that I had assigned so I added the ability to auto flip between the two memory banks so that the scrolling routine drew the landscape seamlessly as  one. I then used the extra map space for an additional zone in the game which brought the total to five zones. This zone I called Zone 5.

The total number of screens that spans the game is now 85!

To make it even more challenging, this zone requires the player to qualify for entry. By the end of the fourth zone, the player must have collected 25 tokens and acquired a score of more than 4000 points otherwise the game ends here with little fanfare. This forces the player to make an effort to collect as many points and tokens possible and not just take the easy approach by simply dodging every obstacle.

When you qualify, the game continues into Zone 5. The background for this zone utilizes palette flipping to display a few more colors than what the Color Computer 3 can normally display. It's subtle but looks clean and classy. There is also a bit of fanfare to celebrate your achievement.

I won't be showing any screenshots of this extra zone. This is reserved for those that earn the title of Pop*Star.

The Joystick Dilemma

I’m still dogged by the fact that the game is more responsive when played using a good switch or digital joystick as opposed to the loosey goosey Tandy analog sticks.

Age has diminished my joystick dexterity that I once had but switching to my Wico switch mode stick is like stepping back in time. The difference is like black and white.

To improve the playabilty with my Tandy Deluxe Joystick, I tried attaching it to a wooden base board held in place with two thick rubber bands. This stabilizes the joystick so I can move the stick more accurately.

The length some gamers go to achieve a high score!

My scores improved dramatically but still no match for what I can achieve with my wico stick.

Player’s skills vary with different  joysticks depending on what they are accustomed to but I don’t want to dumb down the game specifically for the Tandy Deluxe Joystick (and my inability to use one properly!).

Neil Blanchard sells a joystick adaptor that will allow most switch mode digital joysticks and gamepads to work on the CoCo. If you’re serious about your CoCo gameplay experiences, I highly recommend such a device!

CoCo3 FPGA Compatibility

I have been working with Gary Becker and Roger Taylor on each of their CoCo3 FPGA implementations. Both projects had trouble with the GIME chip hardware horizontal scroll and with some of the timing of the Timer interrupt.

I created a custom version of the game that disabled the plane control and collission detection so that the entire game scrolled non-stop from start to end. This allowed Gary and Roger to focus on the problems with scrolling and they have now both got the game scrolling smoothly like on a real CoCo3.

The added benefit will be that other games that may use these features should also now work on the FPGA CoCo3's.

End of major development

After finalising the end-of-game sequences and fixing several other problem areas, the game has now reached the end of major development. This now brings me into the end-user game testing phase.

I've had a few family members play the game to monitor their reactions. So far, I've been getting the thumbs up.

I have decided to assign Steve Strowbridge (The Original Gamer) and L. Curtis Boyle (The Tandy CoCo Games website) as the official game testers for Pop*Star Pilot due to their knowledge and activities in the CoCo gaming scene.

They will begin their testing as first time players and sending me reports of the things they like, things they don't like and offer suggestions for improvements.

It could be a long few months but hopefully they'll be gentle on me!   :)


Copyright 2013 by Nickolas Marentes