Sunday, 16 June 2019

MicroGouilles/MicroGargoyles: A Unique French Type-in Game

Science & Micro Life (#3, Feb 1984)
A few years back I ran across a neat type-in program in a french computer magazine called "Microgouilles" by Dominique Laroche.

It certainly is a wonder of the Internet age that I can lay my hands on a scan of a French magazine from 1983. A further wonder is Google Translate, which helped me read the article.  Here is the intro to the game from the magazine followed by a translation from Google (cleaned up a little by me):
Biologiste ou pas, si vous aimez jouer, vous prendrez plaisir à combattre les microgouilles, les derniers agresseurs en date de votre organisme. Un jeu de réflexes, en Basic standard, pour vous mesurer à votre ordinateur. 
Biologist or not, if you like to play, you will take pleasure in fighting the microgargoyles the latest aggressors to afflict our species. An action game, in standard Basic, to measure yourself against your computer.
The article continues:
Your body is invaded by a new kind of aggressor: Microgargoyles ("microbes + gargoyles"). These organisms have the ability to reproduce in abundance and die after a brief existence. Microgargoyles then become indestructible dead cells. There's only one way to win-- bring them into contact with a dead cell! To do this, your immune system has produced a new antibody. It's up to you to use it against the proliferation of microgargoyles. How long can you keep alive?
The game's rules
The game takes place on a checkerboard where you will find the microgargoyles " X", dead cells of "0", and the antibody cell "H". To play, you have 5 commands, four to move:
                  W  up
       left  A     S  right
                  Z  down
and the spacebar that allows you to choose your mode of travel, either to push one or more dead cells, or to draw one cell. Pressing the spacebar switches from one mode to another. Whenever a micrgargoyle encounters a dead cell, the microgargoyle is destroyed and you score a point. If the antibody strikes a microgargoyle, they will both become dead cells. As time goes by, the dead cells invade the checkerboard. It's up to you to score the maximum points before the end of the game.
Another neat thing about this program was that it was designed using only the most simple and universal BASIC language commands.  At that time the competing computer systems were completely unique in their operation. There were no standard operating systems like Windows, Android, Linux/Apple standards of today. The article provided alterations for 8 different systems:
The lines 90 and 100 of the program allow to position the cursor in XT, YT on the screen. Here's how to write this part of the program for different microcomputers.
TRS 80:
90 PRINT@ ((YT-1)*64+XT-1);
90 PRINT AT YT-1, XT-1
VIC 20:
90 POKE781, YT-1: POKE782, XT-1
100 POKE 783, 0 : SYS 65520
The program also illustrates another feature of the type-in program, the ability, or even expectation, of the users to hack the code.  I certainly applied as many tricks as possible that I have learned over the years for speeding up execution. So don't expect my code to look very much like the original. The program is not long.  If you're looking for a simple exercise to rekindle your BASIC programming skills, it is certainly worth typing in and modifying the original.  Try to get it to work on your specific system.  Even in un-sped-up form, the game is fun.  The following is a translation of the description of the code from the magazine.
The program
This program was written in a BASIC as simple as possible to be compatible with a large number of microcomputers, with the exception of two parts indicated in the listing.
The disadvantage is that this program does not exploit the possibilities of a specific machine (graphics, sound effects, optimization for the speed of execution).
It is possible and even advisable to modify this program to make it more compatible with your specific computer.
In lines 1980 to 2010, you can change the location of orders.
In lines 1780 to 1795, you can change the dimensions of the checkerboard.
In lines 1800 to 1810, you can change the maximum number of microgargoyles.
In lines 2030 and 2040, you can increase or decrease the difficulty of the game, by increasing the values of the variables DR or TM.
The game can be played using Mike Tinnes' Javascript emulator that I host on my faculty web space:  Just select "Microgouilles" from the cassette menu. In my distro of the VMC10 emulator, the game file is in the JimG subdirectory of the Cassette directory and is labelled "MICROBES.C10" for the sake of providing a somewhat understandable English 8 character filename.

MC-10 Microgouilles with simple text graphics possible on any 8-bit computer
Fundamentally the game is a variation of the global arcade hit "Pengo" released in 1983. In that game the protagonist is a penguin who must slide and push ice blocks to crush the attacking sno-bees and their eggs. In this unique French variation this premise is modified to something more appropriate to the land that gave us the medical breakthroughs of Joseph Lister and his discovery of the microscopic world, with a little Gothic ambiance thrown in from the architecture of Notre Dame Cathedral.


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