The Sad Snail Collection
During the eight and a half years I’ve owned my Sam, I’ve spent quite a bit of my time programming on it. While a lot of my programs were never finished, or had a very specific use, I also managed to write several programs that were of a quality and usefulness that they were included on various issues of the Fred Disk Magazine.
Given the recent interest in the Sam due to SimCoupe, and the fact I had three completed games that never made the light of day, I thought it was time to include all my major pieces of work on one disk, and make it available to all.
This collection is that work.
I have aimed to include my major contributions to Fred, which are more for memories sake. It took me quite a few attempts before I reached an “identity” I was happy with, that of Unc of Sad Snail Productions, so many items are of older identities, including my first guise as “Tizo”
I guess this disk is just as much for me as anyone else, but I hope you enjoy it. As well as just describing the games, I plan to waffle on about the history of them as well, and on any other Sam related topic that passes my mind. This collection is also my Ego trip if you will allow me the pleasure.
Several of the games have never been published before. They were written in a selfish weekend originally for Fred, however this co-incided with a rough patch in Freds History, and they never saw the light of day. There are 2 disks floating about with them on, so they may still make it one day ;-)
Finally several programs have contact information, which due to the amount I’ve moved about in the last 8 years is likely to be incorrect. Current contact information can be found at the end of this file.
On with the descriptions…..
Starshot was one of the first things I ever sent off for Fred, and the fact that it was included boosted my confidence no end - had it not been I may never have bothered again! Playing it again when adding it to this collection was strange. There was so much that could have been improved with it, but at the same time I still found it playable.
Appearing on Fred 24B, (the 5th fred disk in my collection), starshot is a simple “shoot’em up” written using the Games MASTER package. It was controlled with mouse or joystick, though mouse was probably more playable!
Starshot was written in 1992, at which point I was just turned 17, and it was my first substantial program, even if I didn’t know much about smoothing edges. While sorting through disks to find this game, I also discovered some groundwork on a sequel - “DeathBlade” - which I’d completely forgotten about.
Skipping forward to Fred 45, and we reach 2D graph.
Finished in April 1994, this was a purely BASIC program.
I had been playing around with the idea of window systems and had a whole set of routines called “TizWin”. I decided that I may as well put them to some use, so used them to give a nice front end to some graphing programs I had done.
The program is somewhat slow at points, but after all is entirely done in basic, and allowed several “windows” to be open and switched between. Other than a simple front end for some of my disks, the “TizWin” system never saw the light of day again.
2D graph has the honour of being probably the largest BASIC program I ever wrote, coming in at around 42k, something I’d never have managed on the speccy!
Also in April 1994, I wrote “Mine”, which appeared on Fred 46. A traditional minesweeper game, this was the first program I wrote which I’d consider nicely polished.
Although slightly slow when first setting up, the game was as customisable as possible, and features a fairly substantial help section including a “rolling demo” of an example game.
Mine was also the first game I attempted to give a plot, the style of which stays constant with future games and probably reveals far too much about myself!
Continuing with the BASIC theme comes Fortress (Fred 54) a two player game requiring some thought. One of the few games I remember playing on the BBC’s at school was a game called barrage, wher you attempted to destroy your opponents base before they got yours. When I first got my Sam I printed out the code and vowed to convert it. 5 years later I finally did so, ignoring the source and writing from scratch.
Again this game features a fairly simple front end, and a fairly indepth set of help. I hope the help is somewhat amusing, and not in an ironic sense!
Probably the game which made Sad Snail Productions famous is the “classic” EGGBuM. Easy to learn, difficult to play I know of very few people who have successfully completed this game! The only thing on the Sam I’ve ever really co-written, possibly explaining why it is so nicely polished.
The name itself took around two hours one Sunday afternoon to agree upon, along with the “Sad Snail” coding name, the one name I’m finally happy with. Why we chose EGGBuM will remain a secret, but it just sounded perfect for the game.
EGGBuM was written using GamesMASTER, with a few minor setbacks from time to time, and appeared on FRED 57. A version for the PC, with some changes and additions is being worked on by another coder, and it may even get published one day…
Having finally completed a tune on E-Tracker, I decided I needed to write something to use it. The most obvious choice was a menu for FRED. Wanting something that would stand out and be used, I came across the idea of turning the FRED logo into a slidey block puzzle game.
After some problems, it finally appeared on FRED 63, and I decided to reuse the code for this collection. The menu was written in Sam C, and became a learning experience, but not because of C for a change…
I had several problems with either the menu crashing, or causing other programs not to be able to load. Each time I traced this to the E-Tracker driver I was using. (It allocated pages which it didn’t return, and happily overwrote the top end of the system heap, ignoring anything that was already loaded there.) A few modifications and I have the version I’m finally happy with.
3D Maze was written in Sam C, and is included here for the first time. I had bought Sam C, and wanted to write something using it. One idea which appealed was the traditional first person perspective maze game, however wanting a twist to make it my own I decided that you should be able to turn “up” and “down” as well as “left” and “right”.
Much thought was given to the rules for actually drawing the view on screen, in order to try and allow the player to see things like a turning that go left and then straight up differently from a turning which just go on in the same direction. It makes more sense when you play it (hopefully).
It takes a while to get used to what each view means (colour would have helped), but I hope that it isn’t too hard to get used to.
It’s only a small fixed maze, had I tried to add a random maze generator I’d never have finished it….
Another unseen Sam C game, but with a slightly different history. This one is a port of a game written by someone else, in a different language, for an internet BBS. It’s a puzzle game along the lines of “push blocks into nasties”, but with a few additional twists. Having a set of 24 well designed levels was too much for me, and I had to port it.
It began life in basic, but I wanted to port it to C so I could provide some level of forcing the player to play the levels in order. Having 37k or so of level data provided quite a few difficulties in itself, but increased my knowledge of Z80 assembly (from nothing!) in order to get it to work.
The level passwords were choosen fairly randomly from a dictionary, and I’ve since lost the list. It’s not too hard to hack the data file, I basically put enough on to stop people moving levels about, so I guess I could recover them that way.
The last of the “unseen” games is a return to BASIC. This is a version of a board game I was lucky enough to be introduced to earlier this year.
The basic idea is to use thought and logic to locate some hidden “components” inside a box, with as little information as possible.
As with Mine I included a rolling demo to demonstrate some of the ideas, and tried to make it reasonably flexible with regards control and difficulty.
What more can I say?