Monday, 11 March 2019

RetroChallenge 03/2019: Manic Miner

This is update on my original project for this RetroChallenge. I have been working on a platformer game using only MC6847 semigraphics and BASIC. I have been able to work out most of the player movement mechanics. Jumping, falling, ladder climbing, picking up gold piles and moving to the next level have all been implemented.  Since my last post and video I have also added ladders to the screen and the placement of piles of gold.  I'm tentatively calling the game simply "Miner" after the "Manic Miner" platformer classic for the Sinclair Spectrum.

I had been thinking Miner 6809er, based on Miner 2049er for the Atari , but then remembered that I'm an MC-10 coder! But Miner 6803er just doesn't roll off the tongue. Perhaps I'll port it to Coco after I'm finished so I can use that title. Or I'll simply call it Manic Miner and recreate the fancy flashing loading screen of the Speccy game:

I'm planning to implement other features of Manic Miner, such as the timer (air supply) and enemies that make your life difficult. Right now I have graphics for bats, snakes and boulders, but I'm not sure if I will be able to get all 3 working and whether I can have them exhibit different movement behaviors. We'll see what can work without sacrificing game speed too much. This is the fun of BASIC game coding. Can a playable game be achieved or not. Won't know until we try. Usually something can be worked out, but sometimes sacrifices will have to be made in an original vision. My highest hope is that I can have three different types of enemies with unique movement characteristics: Bouncing boulders, that roll across the bottom of the screen from a random side; Flapping bats that crisscross the screen at random heights; a snake that patrols on a specific platform. At least 3 moving on each screen at all times.

I like the way the random automatic levels has turned out. It might help provide a little variety and challenge to the game to offset the lack of enemies or speed of machine language equivalents.  The only problem is that sometimes the screen will not render paths  to all platforms given the player's jump limitations. I have worked out what I think is a work around for this. The player is going to be able to place some sections of ladder/platform left or right, to help bridge gaps.  The number of pieces of ladder carried will be limited and only replenished by going deeper, perhaps a piece every level up to a max of 3 or something like that. I'm also considering the ability to jump straight up and grab the bottom of ladders.  Decisions will have to be made.

I'm thinking that the player will have to collect all three piles of gold each level before being allowed to proceed deeper into the cave. Not sure if I will make the goal some set number of levels (e.g. 20 like in Manic Miner) and then you get an elevator ride back to the pit face. Or perhaps, just an endless descent.  My sense is that a fixed goal is best.  Or optional gold collection and a key that must be retrieved to open the next level. That probably makes more sense and then a fixed number of levels. The challenge will be risking to collect as much gold as possible and make to the bottom with the highest score.

If any RetroChallengers have recommendations, add a comment below.

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