Wednesday 30 October 2013

ZX Spectrum Double Dragon Redux - Part 3

ZX Spectrum Double Dragon Redux - Part 3

It seems the original designers of Technos' Double Dragon put everything into the 1st level as the following levels are hardly graphically inspiring! Anyway, as promised, here is the (HD) Level 2 (Level 3 on the ZX Spectrum) graphics for the Double Dragon ZX Spectrum remake. This has less graphic tiles than the last level(s) and I suspect that some of the detail may have to go in order for the main sprites not to get lost amongst these background graphics.

Friday 18 October 2013

ZX Spectrum Double Dragon Redux - Part 2

ZX Spectrum Double Dragon Redux - Part 2

I've had the chance over the past couple of weeks to sit down and get on with producing some background graphics for the ZX Spectrum remake of Double Dragon and below you'll see the final result.

A couple of things about the level graphics. Consider it the High Definition version, the version "running on a high-end PC". Before the level graphics get to the game, it'll have to be optimised and some of the detail will have to be reduced, which I'll do once all the levels have been done, but this HD version will be going in my portfolio.

In the final game, this graphical varied level may have to be split into 2 bringing the number of levels to 5 of all roughly the same size.

Right, onto Level 2.

Monday 23 September 2013

Double Dragon Redux

Double Dragon Redux

ZX Spectrum remake

If you were around in 1989, chances are you would've been waiting on the home computer ports of the Technos classic arcade beet-em-up hit "Double Dragon". It arrived, all right, and it was rubbish. Everything about it was rubbish, sadly. Ocean/Image had released "Target : Renegade" the previous year, it's unofficial follow up to "Renegade", and that allowed 2 players to fight alongside each other simultaneously. It was a belter of a game whereas the ZX Spectrum port of "Double Dragon" was not.

Fast forward a few years and a homebrew remake was mooted by another ZX Spectrum graphic artist, Dean Swain (of Retro Ayslum). He produced the vast majority of the graphics and coding was started and AY music was created.....then nothing. After a while, it was dead. Then, 3 and a half years ago, a second attempt was made to remake it.

My new version of the logo
I can't remember how I got involved, but a team was assembled with a couple of coders, Dean Swain doing the background graphics and myself on sprite duties. We agreed on sprite sizes - relatively big but not as big as the arcade's - and I set to work.

I started on the hero, Billy Lee, first. A create quite a few iterations of him before I settled on the version you see below. The sprite isn't as stretched vertically as the original, but I felt a captured the essence of the arcade and put a little bit of my own into it.

Arcade Billy Lee sprite
My ZX Spectrum Billy Lee sprite
Billy Lee sprite animated
My ZX Spectrum Jimmy Lee sprite
I was so determined to capture that 80's vibe, in an early version of the sprite I had given them both mullets. In the end, it looks like I gave them more of a New Romantic hairstyle. Unfortunately, it was just after completing this sprite that I had to leave the project due to personal reasons.

Fast forward 2 years later. Dean had finished off most of the newer graphics again but was unable to finish them. I stepped in again. The original coders had left the project and legendary ZX Spectrum coder, Jim Bagley, joined. Jim has worked on classic Spectrum games, such as Ocean's "Midnight Resistance" and "Cabal". I went to work on the Abobo sprite. He was to be slightly larger than the standard Billy Lee one and I also had to try and pick up the design style I was using after a 2 year absence.

Arcade Abobo animated

My ZX Spectrum Abobo sprite

Abobo animated

Jim produced a demo showing a few of the sprites moving around the game world and things were looking promising. But, as with all homebrew games, real life often puts things on hold and that's what happened here. The ZX Spectrum "Double Dragon" remake sits in develpment hell, a state it's pretty much flirted with over the past few years. I'd still like to finish off the remaining graphics so if ever development does continue and I hope Jim does find the time (but he is busy), all the visual resources are there. I won't lose out, though. I'll have, what I think, are great graphics and they'll be sliding into my portfolio, that's for sure..

Watch this space. You've not heard the last of this remake.

Alternative version of my logo

Sunday 22 September 2013

The Speccies - ZX Spectrum The creation process - Part 1

The Speccies - ZX Spectrum

The creation process - Part 1

Last week, the game I was working on "The Speccies" was released. It was released as a free digital download for the ZX Spectrum and was also available as a limited cassette copy.

You get more details about the game, including the download, from the Tardis Remakes website. Go download it now! I'll go into how I went about creating the physical copies of this game in a separate article.

When I was first asked to do the graphics for this game away back in February, I knew nothing of the game it was based on - The Brainies/Tiny Skweeks, which was released on just about every format other than the ZX Spectrum - and at this point "our" version was still going to be called "The Brainies". I was keen to work on another Spectrum game that would actually be released, having been involved in a few others that just faded away.

I looked at the graphics from the DOS version that were sent to me and Søren, the coder of the coder of the game, may now be surprised to know that my heart sank when I saw those graphics. I still had no idea how the game played and I thought the DOS graphics were terrible. Having a look online, the SNES and Amiga versions weren't much better.

Now, top-down graphics can be quite difficult to do, but when you are limited to 2 colours and 16x16 pixels, things start to get a little tricky. Doing a top-down graphic of a Brainie walking wouldn't be very exciting both visually to the player and to me, the person creating the graphic. I decided that I'd have the Brainie roll. Yeah, roll. That'd be fun to do! The number of frames to animate a sprite on a ZX Spectrum can be limited due to the small amount of memory available. 4 frames would be no good, but if I could use 8 frames, then I thought it'd look good. Thankfully, I was told, "Sure, 8 frames is no problem. It could make things easier if everything had 8 frames." I'm paraphrasing, of course.

Off I went, to create a sprite that I was determined to have something of my design....and this is what I came up with.
I know, pretty rubbish, right? Not only was the character itself pretty uninspiring, but the frames for the rolling just weren't right either. I took a step back from the computer and went about sketching each frame on paper using pencil and then I'd film it using the Vine app on my iPhone. I would kill some time on a Friday night, at least.
Not only was this an exercise in getting each of the 8 frames needed for rolling, but also to try out an slightly new design fora Brainie. When I create a character, it's all about proportion and I felt I now had that right. I still felt that there wasn't enough on the Brainie itself, so when it came to creating the character in pixels, I highlighted it's face. This was also a way of showing that it was rolling rather than it's eyes and feet looking like they are spinning.

And after only 3 iterations (the 2nd displayed up there and the 1st is almost identical to the 2nd other than having no "brow") I got the character design right and it never changed.

I had the sprites for moving down only, though, therefore looked into frames for it turning around - couldn't manage it due to the 16x16 pixel limit - always facing down but rolling backwards when going up and always facing but rolling sideways left and right - again the 16x16 pixel limit proved this impossible. I even considered making the character smaller by 1 pixel an all sides, but then it actually lost character, so quickly abandoned that idea. In the end, we compromised. When he was static, he always faced you and selecting which way to move, he'd face that direction and roll.
I'd add more facial expressions and movements to it later on in development, but I was feeling good. I was also starting to get into the game, especially since it was similar to a game I'd just been played and loved on my iPhone, "Squarescape". I had got, what I thought, was an aces animated character that really looked like it was rolling properly and I assumed the difficult part was over. There wasn't much else to be animated and surely the other sprites/tiles would be relatively easy. How wrong was I! It turns out this graphic was one of the easiest.

Monday 16 September 2013

Edge of Heaven

Edge of Heaven

So, my "The Making Of: E258 Vice City cover" went up on Edge's website today and this evening my phone has been notifying me of all sorts of things. I'd like to thank all the people who have sent me some aces messages. I'd also like to thank Tony Mott, who gave me the opportunity. Cheers, Tony.

If you've come here via "The Making Of" link, don't click on the link above or you could end up in some endless loop!
10 GO TO 20
20 GO TO 10

I tried my best to describe the how and why I do things in the article and I hope I've managed that. I found it difficult to express in words the things I do without really thinking about it as I do it. Somebody said that I make it look easy. Those that know me will know just how much I put into it and that I can agonise over every pixel. Anyway, I hope you like what you see here and keep returning to see what new artwork I have to offer.

Now, what I did this evening, other than testing a game that I worked on - but more on that later - was something that I was quite interested in doing. I create these Spectrum graphics on a PC using Photoshop and a utility called SevenUp, which is a Spectrum graphics utility, but sometimes I just want to see what I do loaded up on a real ZX Spectrum and appearing right there on my telly. This evening I did that with all my GTA Vice City and Red Dead Redemption loading screens. It's also a way of showing those people that say, "Naaah, that wasn't done on a Spectrum."

So, let's begin.

Here we are all set up and ready to go. My, that's a thing of beauty, isn't it? That's a ZX Spectrum+128 there, the PSU humming away just off camera like the sound emanating from a Nuclear Reactor*. Although, you can't see it very well, the 128 Menu is displayed and I'm going to go old-skool and switch to 48 Basic.

*may not be true.

That's some efficient coding right there.
Each panel is a SCREEN$ and will be loaded separately, overwriting the previous one. I've got a pause after each one is loaded so I can take a photo. A simple key press will load the other once a press play on the tape again, of course.

Oh, now that's art!

 The beauty of attributes.

I don't blame you for checking out my door reflected on the screen. As doors go, it's something to behold. It's also lucky that I wasn't naked while taking these photos. Or was I!?

Here we are on the Diaz panel. This is my favourite panel of the lot. Just. I love them all, of course, but there's just something about this that I love.

Finally, we are now onto the Red Dead Redemption loading screens...

John Marston looking better than I thought in glorious monochrome.

I hope you've not lost interest by now. I was excited to see something that I created working on the thing it was made for. The slightly blurry analogue images just adding to the overwhelming feeling I was getting tonight.....okay, enough....MOAR ARTWORK to come.