Progress on a new video game

In the spirit of showing my work, here’s a peek at a game I’ve been working on:  codename SPADE. 

A character moving through levels

SPADE started out as a cut down clone of Shamus, an annoyingly hard yet oddly addicting game I played for hours and hours on my family XT clone in the late 80s. Despite all those hours I never got close to clocking the game. I want SPADE to be a game I can actually beat.

I’ve been making the game in pico-8, the same tool I used to make yet another version of robotfindskitten last year. 

I started out building the maps manually using pico-8’s sprite and map editor. It looked kinda like this. Pretty fussy and complicated to write code around.

Pixel art is not my forte

For some reason I decided it would be easier and more fun to do procedural generation of the maps. Darius Kazemi’s articles on how Spelunky’s levels are generated provided the recipe. I expected it would take me a few hours to implement. 

It took a lot longer. Like ages. Like a “how the fuck did I ever consider myself a programmer” amount of time. I got really good at logging and debugging.

DebugView.exe is an app for looking at print statements

I’m now at the point where I have any number of levels and a character that can move through them.

I have a TODO list and whenever the mood takes me and I have some quiet time I try and knock something off the list. Adding robots is next.

I’m not sure when the game will be playable. Working on it is a relaxation thing more than anything else. It’s been quite satisfying to do little bits at a time. I’m collecting screenshots of the game, photos of notes, that kind of thing. That archive has already brought me joy.

 I know I won’t be putting SPADE on itch.io like I did for robotfindskitten. I think it’ll just be for me. I hope I can beat it.

Python to be renamed

I wrote this for segfault.org in May, 2000. I think I was living in London at the time. 

segfault.org was a nerd satire site, based on the style of slashdot that was popular in the late 90s and early 00s. It was founded and run by the internet’s Leonard Richardson and Scott James Remnant. segfault accepted reader submissions and they were kind enough to publish about a few by yours truly. 

Links to the post made it to a couple of Python mailing lists and Guido van Rossum kinda, sorta responded.

In a press conference held early this morning, Guido van Rossum, creator of the Python programming language Python, announced that his most famous project will be undergoing a name change. The new name for the language is Homer.

Python was originally named after the British comedy show Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Today Mr. van Rossum told reporters he had “gone off Python” and enjoyed watching reruns of the Simpsons. “I caught a Simpsons marathon last weekend – that Homer, he’s so useless and so funny. And that Bart, what a little rascal,” said van Rossum.

Mr. van Rossum denied that the name change was bcause former Flying Circus member John Cleese has repeatedly declined invitations to come round one evening for some pizza, a few beers and some late night hacking.

“No no,” he insisted. “I’m just sick of reading ‘I fart in your general direction’ on the error messages of every second Python program I use. I want some new jokes, and the Simpsons will provide them.”

As well as the name change it appears the Python organization will be getting a new sponsor – Fox TV. Australian-born Fox boss Rupert Murdoch explained:

“Yeah mate, Disney have got that bloody Squeak so I thought we should have a language too. It’s all fair dinkum, they get money, we get ratings. And anyway, the Simpsons is a bloody laugh, not like that limey rubbish.”

There were other benefits resulting from the name change, added Mr van Rossum. “Writing comments, for instance. Not everyone understood the phrase “Luuxury” next to a variable declaration, but everyone will get “Mmmmm, integers.”

Segfault.org asked John Cleese for his comments on todays announcement:

“I’m not too worried about the name change at all. Actually, I’m glad it’s all over. Perhaps he’ll stop pestering me about his god-awful hack-a-thons. If you ask me, there’s nothing you can do in Python or Homer or whatever-it’s-bloody-called-today that can’t be done faster and more efficiently in assembly code.”

Already Homer applications are popping up on freshmeat.net. Included among them are a a program that orderes a can of pop over the Internet when the TAB key is pressed, and a script that scans comments and replaces the word “Ni!” with “Doh!”

robotfindskitten for Pico-8

In 2014 I was faffing around with PutHTML along with a few people I’d met on IRC. After a couple throwaway experiments I decided to make a version of robotfindskitten, the Zen simulation originally written by the internet’s Leonard Richardson. It was very bad JavaScript code but it worked.

In 2018 I discovered Pico-8 and decided to replicate the experiment. 30-odd days ago I uploaded a working version of robotfindskitten to itch.io. It is very bad Lua code but it works. As of writing, dozens of people have tried it. Dozens!

You can play the game online at itch.io or download versions that will run on Windows, Linux, and macOS. And, you can get a “cart” that will run in the Pico-8 virtual console.

I really enjoyed making the game. I wrote the code, created the sounds, and named almost all of the non-kitten items. Like I said, it wasn’t good Lua code but it was very satisfying to build it from nothing and get it onto something like itch. I’ve started the next game which I think will be similar to the surfing and BMX mini-games from the 80’s California Games.