Amiga Soundtrack Post-Mortem: Bomb Jack Beer Edition [2018]

When i did self-candidate to help Graeme Cowie [a.k.a. mcgeezer] on the sound part of Bomb Jack Beer Edition i thought this was a straightforward process. I already did help Alessandro di Gaia in another Tekhan/Tecmo game port – Rygar – now on hold, but i did develop my own technique on how to set up interactions and handle sound effects AND music together.
The main difference between the two projects was that initially Graeme was targeting unexpanded Amigas, and that meant i could use a limited amount of RAM, therefore micro-samples use were the best choice. Additionally Bomb Jack arcade was old enough to rely on simple waveform generation, so to have a similar sound would have been straightforward.

Development notes of the game can be found in this thread on EAB and also this other thread on EAB; in this article will instead talk about how the music and Sound effects were planned and made.

The complete game can be downloaded from this link.

Get Your Material Right

Having Been an arcade junkie in my teen years, i did knew the Bomb Jack arcade good enough to be disappointed by the Elite Amiga port and i wanted to help to do the best job.

In case your memory decided to wipe the pain away, let me show it in all its infamy.

To have a good arcade feeling i wanted to use two channels only for music and the remaining two for sound effects. I did that for Rygar and other projects and did seem to bring good results.

In order to recreate the arcade songs correctly i did use my google-fu skills. A thorough YouTube search did point me to several sources but i think this playlist was the more appropriate to follow.

For each level i did insert the main tune and then all the interactions (P running, bonus time, fire bombs, game over, the two high scores,etc.) at fixed pattern numbers. That was done in order to reduce loading times: if a player run out of lives in a stage there will no need to load further songs, just to point to the current mod pattern number.

A finished tune usually will end up having the following interactions inside.

This movie has been made with a mod file that i modified so that all sub-song interactions will run in a continuous seamless play. Normally sub songs will either jump back to the main song loop or stop execution (in Game Over and Stage Complete).

And Expand on it

I decided to try to recreate the sound effects rather than grab some arcade samples, also to train myself on create sound effects on my own. To give it an arcade feeling i used my trusted microsamples collection and started create the effects using milkytracker.

Each resulting pattern has been converted in .wav using the save to Wav function of milkytracker; furthermore, resulting samples have been converted to 8-bit mono with Audacity and lastly further downsampled to 8363mhz and saved in IFF 8SVX with Awave studio.

I also wanted to look around what other ports did: Bomb Jack Beer Edition is not the only player in the field, there have been several non-commercial ports.
Main reference have been Bomb Jack DX for the Commodore 64, still under progress, and Bomb Jake for the Atari XL.

From Bomb Jack DX i got the idea – as cameo for the 64 version – to use Magnetic Fields II by Jean Michael Jarre in the in-game music.

Instead from Bomb Jake i took the idea to use also Orient Express, another Jarre song, in the in-game. This provides a full five song loop that gives to all rounds a distinctive song/graphic identity, unlike the arcade that was having three songs repeating and mixing with the five stages.

Finally for the title song i remember wanted to troll a bit my fellow Amiga Users and i made a nice mix of the ugly Bomb Jack theme by Elite and the arcade Jingle, all joint together with micro-sample drums and colorful chords.
It’s a pity that Graeme at the end decided to keep Magnetic Fields II as title song, but that’s its game, at the end of the story.

Beer Stages

The core feature of Bomb Jack Beer Edition, together with a near arcade perfect port, are the Beer Stages.
Those custom made stages will appear if the player is able to collect an adequate amount of bonus points by trying to get as much fire bombs and multipliers as possible.

If the minimum quota is met, according to the amount of bonus points every fifth stage in sequence will be replaced by one of the following Beer stages (ranked from lowest to highest bonus points required):

– Pensham Monument
– Edinburgh Castle
– Chichen Itza
– London Parliament

Graeme wanted more dynamic songs compared to the usual ones in the arcade levels since those stage have an higher level of difficulty. I did create at least two original songs (Chichen Itza and Edinburgh Castle) and adapted some more or less mainstream song, following the borrowing music tradition of the Bomb Jack ports.

The musics that i have adapted to the game, using my microsamples sound bank were:

– Penshaw Monument Beer Stage [song supposedly from the Initial-D soundtrack, i ignore the original title]
– London Big Ben Stage [Corona – Rhythm of the night cover]
– Panjabi MC – Mundian To Bach Ke [unused, at the end]

Since all musics are qite short (no more than two minute each), i created a medley video where i play all those together. The unused title is also included at the beginning.

Unexpected (by me) Negative Feedback

Around end of February 2018 the coding of the game was mostly complete and Graeme was working on ironing out bugs and implementing beer stages. The game music was still using just two channels and a public beta was released.

People started to complain that the music did not play good with only two channels. I decided to cave in and created a new version of all songs using three channels thinking things will subside, but was not enough. The criticism spawn from at least two separate dissenting groups: from one side the “purists”, that were expecting an exact replica of the arcade songs and, from the opposite side, a group that wanted the songs to use full samples and sound “worthy of Amiga capabilities” practically questioning all the work and research i made on the music so far. Both groups were pretty vocal and unwilling to compromise, and were showing a level of entitlement that, if we assume the project is an hobby project made in spare time by two guys with no purpose of money making, did sound excessive.

Me and Graeme tried to address criticism in a positive way but at the end the storm did not subside, so we did agree to disagree,we did leave the group and continued the work on our own.

Beside what happened above, it seems that this is an ongoing problem that can easily kill any motivation in other homebrew developers, as stated in several points in this EAB thread.

We also received positive comments praising the way we did treat the sound and was considering a nice addition to have the arcade game spirit reproduced.

Final Thoughts

Despite the last hour problem and trolling, working on the project was an enjoyable experience and will surely cooperate with other arcade ports in the best of my capacity, with the hidden agenda of giving finally birth to the arcade ports that a machine like Amiga can do and deserve.

The final game experience is summarized in this Hipoonios longplay.


Amiga Music: Block Off! Music Post-mortem [2018]

The Block Off! Story is simple; i took notice of the work of Colin Vella in the AMOS developers facebook group and asked to cooperate.

The game is pretty simple: the player need do destroy all colored blocks putting blocks of the same color side-to-side within the allotted time, and each level might present a different challenge: different layout, ice blocks, arrows, dynamite+detonator blocks, unmovable blocks and so on.

There is not a single source of inspiration for the musical work; in a way all is inspired by different games, musics and situations that happen to give me ideas.

The main music in example uses a sample that is well known to be used by Tim Follin in the Qix High Scores (and that i did stumble in a demoscene .mod file); gives a pretty distinctive tone and a mood between the happy and space euphoria. Being a title tune i did use all four channels plus my usual bank of microsamples, that comes handy when the memory footprint is needed to be small – since the game need to fit in one 880k disk the leaner the better.

Same instruments bank is used for the High scores tune, and a slower pace compared to the title tune, more relaxing.

In-game tune A (that for some circumstances become the third in appearance during the game) is instead inspired by the tunes often heard on the Dizzy games and try to keep a playful mood.

And In-game B is instead a simple reggatta tune in part fueled by dubstep and in part by other pop songs that happen to come up in the radio.

In-tune C instead has a bit of mixed feeling between horror and misterious. No particular inspiration beside some meddling with keyboard while looking for inspiration and then start to build layers on it.

Then have a couple of short jingles: the Game Over tune (one track in style of the high score music) and an harp blend at the end of a successful level.

From the technical side, all songs are typical protracker .mod files, with sizes ranging from 12k (level done, just one pattern) to 60k (title song) and have been composed using Milkytracker on Windows XP.

The in-game songs uses just three of the four available channels, keeping channel 0 free for sound effects, while the title song, high scores song, game over song and level complete song use all four channels.

The game can be downloaded from the links appearing in the EAB thread here, while the soundtrack is available here.

Amiga Music: Tanks Furry Music Post-mortem [2015]

Its been fortunate for me to work with Krzysiek “Koyot1222” Matys and with Pawel “Juen” Nowak in the making of Tanks Furry; they were receptive to my approach to music and i was receptive to their vision of creating a quality arcade game for ECS Amiga; the trend of finally develop new stuff is not new, and has been around in a faint way for the last three/four years; however 2015 has seen a resurgence of activity.
I actually went to know about Tanks furry by accident: i proposed to help Aszu and Sordan with the title music of Crazy Priest, an AMOS game that was proposed on the RetroKomp-LoadError competition in Danzig, Poland in October 2015; in the same contest Tanks Furry was shown and a video of the test version was uploaded on Youtube.

I thought that game was nice, a clone of the Arcade and NES game Battle City that i loved to play in the arcades, and i also thought that some music might have helped to set the game mood, so i sent a message in the page proposing to do songs for the game; Krzysztof responded that would like something for the main title.

I did follow my feelings watching the video: atmosphere should have been military-oriented but not too serious; could not avoid to have the soundtrack of Wings of Honneamise in my head, especially the part where Shiro start the training, a messed-up military march that, with the clunkiness of the instruments, both marks the strong ambitions and poor means of operation.

I did kinda follow the base structure for the main song but did left the clunkiness behind, i however alternated a solemn military march to a cartoony feeling in the use of the instruments. Final song did weight 124k.

I also created a Menu song: it follows the same base pattern of the main song but shorter. Uses only three channels (in expectance of sound effects in the menu) and microinstruments, therefore the weight of the file is lighter at 56k. Unlike my placement, it ended up on the end sequence.

The tools i used were Milkytracker and Audacity.
On the meanwhile that was composing this, i did start my work on two other soundtracks for the same team: one is Bridge Strike and the other is Project R3D the Game, that deserves a more detailed description.

If you want to support Team R3D on developing new Amiga games you can consider doing a pledge – even minimal – in their Patreon page.

Amiga Game Graphic and Music – Holy Warrior – W.I.P. [2017]

As many might already have understood, am trying to get back in both graphic work and music work (possibly also coding albeit simple); and when i did stumble in the indieretronews article showing the game by Dario Bongiorno (or Bongi as appears on Facebook). Dario did start to work on its game in the 90s but then dropped it – also due to Commodore demise.
Last year Dario decided to restart work on its game, and did ask for help in both graphic and music side. I offered myself to help him; thought was the right occasion to refresh my pixel art skills and to work in a genre – Fantasy RPG – that i usually did not touch.

First thing i proposed was the audio. Dario did let me know that space was tight. The game is programmed on AMOS and was already taking four disks. I give him some advices for optimization that took a while to be implemented, especially for the world map but now problems seems to be solved; however due to the still limited estate I decided to use micro instruments for the songs; beside the small space taken those also give a very distinctive footprint to the game atmosphere, with some reminescence of 8-bit RPGs on the NES and Sega machines.

Graphics speaking, the game was already doing a citation of games like Final Fantasy on the SNES: the way the panel and the fights are set up is indeed similar; using chiptunes enhance a bit the feeling, making you think to be in front of a PC-Engine rather than your miggy.

For the graphic overhaul i had an hard constraint about the palette; since Dario hardcoded it in the game, those were the colors I had to use; last 16 colors for the main character sprite and all others for the graphic environment and enemies. Fortunately colors were pretty versatile so had not too much problem.

The fighting screens have been redrawn too, and now have a better painting-like quality, despite the same palette.

Took me a while but i convinced Dario to change the map handling from using images to a tile system; that did help to reduce the game assets size considerably. I also pushed to have at least three sizes for the main character: a 16×16 sprite for browsing on the main map, a 32×32 for environments such as the village and others and a 48×48 for the fight scenes.

Now, due to the recent fatherhood of Dario [Congratulations again, by the way!], things might slow down a bit (real life gotta have priority), however we both are committed to continue work on the game and finish it. Stay tuned for more information!

HOMM2 music diaries – June-July 2014

So last may i posted on EAB forum proposing myself as MOD musician. Got two gigs: one from the gut who create downfall for its dizzy-like game and little later was asked by Philippe “Meynaf” Guichardon to port the music of Heroes of Might and Magic II in MOD files for its Amiga Port of the game.

And is on the second task that i want to focus on this article and possibly some future ones.

Tough nut to crack! The soundtrack is composed of over 20 tracks, the music is done on pc either via Midi with custom instruments or via CD tracks, in some cases in the “price of destiny” expansion pack there are singed parts (in german) so i know will never be the same as the original PC one, but who am i to defuse an impossible challenge?


Looking at the context and some of the music, plus the fact that the porter do not want to mix channels (processor intensive), i realized i can build some of the mods in a way that three channels carry the main melody and the fourth is of support and can be overridden by speech or sound effects.

As reference i took this youtube playlist of the CD tracks, and that is mostly the kind of feeling I want the mod files to have.

As mentioned in other articles, i actually have no real Amiga handy where to compose the score, however my actual favourite weapon, MilkyTracker on Win XP, has been put to the test for writing .mod files and feedback has been positive.

Another thing is that since there are some songs (i.e.combat 1) that have a recurring background, i could sample it and use it on the mod file. the “Combat” scream on combat 1 could be replaced with a generic crowd cheer (whoah) .


Before to leave i started to port lurking enemy (the enemy turn song) and had some problems both for its basses and for the motion of the song; i repromised to give it a second look or to rewrite as mixed version.

The day earlier instead i tried to port the grassland theme; so all possible problems with Milky showed up – which from the other side is good so i have an idea of the workflow i could employ; first the four version sound kinda flat (midi can rely on being projected in two channels) plus the lack of faithful instrument brought me to look on my mod bank for similar sounds. Redo a tune is harder than come out with your own: especially in a limited environment as Paula might be, plus memory contraints and the fourth voice as wildcard. But that is what makes it so compelling: being able to reach good results in a limited environment 🙂



I tried several combinations of instruments for Grassland, mostly coming from digging through instrument free data banks; a decent cello in the background is hard to find and for clavicembalo sounds I resorted taking it from a tune of The Weasel, however the high tune clavicembalo sound kinda weird;

[WIP] H.O.M.M. grassland tune Test G from simone bernacchia on Vimeo.

That made me look for better clavicembalo (harpsichord) samples; the ones i found comes from collections around the net: very good this Harpsichord sample bank  from a 1720 Blanchet and this Oboe sound from; those two instruments helped me in give a more realistic sound;

[WIP] H.O.M.M. grassland tune Test I from simone bernacchia on Vimeo.

Result is pretty impressive: might not have all the sounds of the original but has its own depth 🙂

The research for more realistic sounds brought me quite around on the net, looking mostly for .wav files until i started stumble in more professional sites that provided soundfonts; this format is used for most professional tools and usually provide a good instrument quality, however is not directly “consumable” by milky or other trackers: a tool to export in .wav file format is needed.

Looking more around i found an open source .sf2 to wav converter for Windows at this address:; what it does is to split all audio files composing the soundfont and exporting them in .wav file on a folder.

Then the sample is passed through Audacity, where is flattened to Mono and saved in .wav 8-bit (save -> other uncompressed format -> .Wav (microsoft) 8-bit) then loaded in milky and “resampled” to match the protracker range of sound going in the Sample Editor [smp ed.] and choosing ‘advanced->resample’ from the right click menu.


Once in the option requester, setr the “relative tone” and “fine tune” values to 0, select “Precise sinc” on the Interpolation dropdown option and click OK.



At this point i usually save the instrument in .xi format from the [save] button on the top of the instruments list. Range used by protracker mods is between C-3 to B-5 according to milky scale. If higher or lower octaves are needed i usually load a copy of the instrument in another slot, go in the instrument editor [Ins. Ed.], press octave up or octave down at need then go in the sample editor and again use resample putting to 0 the values to render the sample.


Plus since, unlike the good old protracker, there is no chord and no merge samples feature, sometimes i need to “render” in .wav using an empty mod the chords and composed samples and do on the rendered track the flat/8-bit/resample loop again.

Being a Bedroom Musician in the Tracker Age


Writing music in .mod format has been a part of my artistic expression since long time; while not musically trained in the canonical way -beside some of the typical flute lessons and the basics of note reading in middle school; when in 1983 i bought my first computer, a ZX Spectrum, the sound was driven by a beeper built-in inside and was able to do just a note at the time of pitch and length decided by a BASIC instruction; so not too much field for tune making there, at least until the first advanced music routines appeared, and were published on RUN, an italian cassette driven magazine; that made me experiment with some pieces (tried to redo the hang-on theme) but that was it. Then in 1988 i bought my Amiga 500 and finally got my hands in some music software: at first Sonix, where i did learn the ropes on basic music making, then in 1989 a mostly unknown tracker from LinEL, called SoundFX, where instead i did learn the basics of tracking.

Around the same time was introduced ot music rippers, but since did  not knew about mod files, i mainly used those programs to get sound samples and then re-use it in SoundFX after converting them in 8SVX format; little later got introduced to Noisetracker, a soundtracker free clone – but able to work with non-original ST disks, as the original Ultimate Soundtracker, if i remember correctly, used a ST-XX volume name system for sample disks that prevented to read from other sample disks;  Noisetracker worked that around by just the need to use a ST-00 volume, not even always the same disk, just same name.

As for finally getting in “the field”, as i said in the Powder Diaries, got in touch with Thomas and Filippo in doing graphics and music for Quazar, and then also for Nicola under the Nike name;  those were simple songs, with most of the instruments coming from the ripped mods or from “RAM scanning” after a reset with Audiomaster.

The involvement with Quazar and the Powder game made me deal with the problems of providing a good audio experience with little memory space; the songs in Powder, excluded the main theme, had a set limit of 75k, that luckilly reached rarely; other projects, such as the ARZENAL utility disk, were having a much smaller footprint (guess not even 2k) and so complex instruments were not an option; however in 1989 i stumbled on a intro that was using what i used to call “micro instruments”; that was the easiest way some people found to do chiptunes using soundtracker: using very little chunks of samples is possible to obtain pretty pure waveforms and small size drums; did some experiments with it but none of those were published.


Music: Amadeus (cover) – 1993 from simone bernacchia on Vimeo.

This music uses microsamples to obtain chiptune effect.


Had also occasion, together with Marco Maltese, to do soundtracks for its CGI animations, including a local TV program opening, three local TV advertisings and three animations ptrsented at Bit.Movie and Pixel Art Expo; plus other unfinished ones. Doing music for those is a different deal from doing it for video games and demos; since there are no big memory constraints samples can and must be the best possible, and sound need to be richer to mask the limited capabilities of Amiga hardware.

Music – Deimos (v3.2) – 1994 from simone bernacchia on Vimeo.

An example of music for a (unfinished) animation of Marco Maltese.



 Being a “lamer”

In the demoscene culture,and in particular on the tracking scene, is – or was – considered a lamer he who rip mod files ,harvest samples and reuse it in its own compositions. I was almost the only amiga user for a while in my town and for sure the only mod composer in my area: up to the half of nineties could not afford a sound sampler not to mention a CD player so all instruments I had forcefully got it through ripping; so according to your point of view and seen literally might I be considered a lamer?

Ripping modules has been, as said, both a way to replenish a starving sample bank but, also, a way to learn to use the tool: when i used see an intro or a demo or play a game and hear some nice sound effect or transition i wondered: how did they do it? Vibrato? Arpeggio? playing with pitch?

And then you find yourself in front of the file and you can see the magic going on: for a while that has been my only documentation on how to use the tracker: songs themselves; and so i did learn to use the basic effects: the arpeggio, the pitch up/down, speed, jump  and the volume; following i also learn portamento and other effects; but to learn the Protracker stuff had to wait the online documentation built in, was simply too much.

Sampling vs pure tracking

I am pretty convinced that most musically oriented people can take advantage of Paula and its four voices at the most of its capacities but, being honest, the BEST way to use paula channels is not the MOST clear; whoever analyzed mod files knows that some of the most impressive use several samples for several instrument states or play styles, and at least two or more chords (multiple note samples).

Coming from a linear music composing program like Sonix, the idea of composing music using samples of music to insert was, at least in the end of eighties, antithetic to the approach that instead Sonix was proposing, like using instrument to create melody and rythm; and having a self-learner approach to music making did not help concerning chords, that are still a bit a black beast of mine beside the usual min (C-E-G#)and max(C-E-G). the concept of using sampled pieces of base drum or a bassline or a piece of sampled melody seemed like cheating; of course with the growing in popularity of House Music and Hip-Hop things started to get a different approach but, at least for the first three-four years, there was this idea that to do music i had to try hard using instruments and effects; however, the more ran into other people mod files and try to understand their secrets, the more i got the clue that to get the best sound impressions, a mix of instruments and samples were required.



About writing music for games

I might say that my pro career as musician mostly started with powder and essentially ended with Powder; also because in the end of nineties trying to do tracker music on a power mac was close to impossible: the modplug tracker was far from operational and pretty impractical to use, at least for me. Most of the gigs – if we can call it so – were coming from Marco Maltese work in the video publishing service: i was cheaper than a licensed musician Furthermore, after the split with Maltese, that was my main provider for track requests either for its animations or external works like local TV commercials (two), had no more requests for soundtracks; from the other side, inspiration slowly faded away.

Only recently, thanks to Milkytracker on PC I restarted a bit to do some music but until now is essentially for my own leisure. Wish to compose soundtracks for some of the retro revival games around; if anybody wants me to just drop me a mail – actually got busy with a pretty (unpaid) big project so hold on it, but you can still contact me for later projects 🙂

By the way, my mod files are actually stored in the AMP site and i have encoded most of my tunes in video format so that are visible in my Vimeo profile.

The Powder Diaries – appendix – Archeological Digs

Not enough developed to be a full chapter, here i introduce a better insight on the 1991 demo.

The 1991 demo was called “M1 Prototype” on the title screen. Due to the disk error i mentioned on chapted 2, Maltese decided to redo the title screen at its own liking. The demo is using a homebrew trackloader and is known to not work on machines with os older than 2.0.

I found the disk at home when i went to Italy last may and made a DMS of it;  later last week i installed WinUAE in my laptop and tried to make it run, with little hopes being that disk already picky on my old A500 and never worked on my 1200.

Meddling a bit with settings i made it work finally!


The Prototype Demo loading screen


And the splash screen once loaded

So in this demo we have the first half of the later scrapped Sea Level and a first version of the City level. There are some playability differences with the final version such as the fact that is possible to collect energy pods to restore the ship energy (very little) and that the credit system is using thousands of units, like 500 credits for a change.

Sea has a pretty nice palette and shows the skills of  Marco Maltese at its finest as much as in Clouds; the enemy placement and strategy is interesting too.


A screenshot from Sea

Even the already known City level is different from the final one: first of all the sea flyby part is longer, then there is traffic roaming the city – as private vehicles and trucks – and some police roadblocks; plus the end of level boss is not a robot like in the final version – rather is another big helicopter. Also there were some kinda funny behaviour, liks some kamikaze Rail-A falling down the rails.

Download and Use

The demo is available as zipped DMS (DiskMasher) file; to use it in Amiga you need to unpack it using the DMS tool to create a physical disk; to use it in WinUAE or other emulators or even Minimig i guess you just transfer the .dms in the card and that’s it – don’t know about further settings.

For WinUAE i found out the settings in the following picture work for me:


I used A600 basic, with the slider compatibility set to Best Compatibility.

The demo can be downloaded from Aminet at this link.

Still in Aminet, is also the 1997 demo previewed in Amiga Format;  it contains the final version of  City and City Boss. This other one can be installed on Hard disk and can instead be downloaded at this link.

The Powder Diaries – 8 – Verkosoft to the rescue!

Verkosoft to the rescue!

It is the fall of 1997 and, for most of us, Amiga and powder are things of the past. Still Nicola and Thomas liked to tweak with the Eneditor in order to make the levels a bit tougher  – actually A LOT tougher, and sometimes taking enemies out of the original context – but i did not touch its work files since long time.

Then, all of the sudden, Filippo calls us. Thanks to the city demo We found a publisher, they say; at this point revenue and fame were no more a priority: as long as the game finally could be published everything was good.

And since we wanted to make it come out fast, we had to cut a LOT. No more space level and boss, no more factory boss, no more ruins boss, no more intro pictures – beside the Game Over and the End Game ones.
Since I did sever contact with Maltese sone times earlier , had to provide some of the missing assets like more decorations in the final level and the end graphic. Actually, I had to prepare the package box graphic and had to re-create the logo in vector graphics using freehand. The 3d image in the game package was done by me using lightwave 5 on my 1200 and rendered at 150 dpi, with extra touches in photoshop for the laser ray and little extras; I am mainly a 2d person while Maltese was the one with most experience on 3d, but this one imo came out decent enough. Some extra touch with Photoshop enhanced things better.

At the time of the final rush, however, was  providing my services as contractor to an advertising and web agency in Fano, so my exposure time was reduced. For the game testing and enemy placement remember Nicola Filippo and Thomas took the lead: due to that, they started to tweak the game difficulty to match their own skills and in some cases to misplace or change enemies destination -such as, in example, the big Fuel tank in Factory that was supposed to have an engine in front and instead became a fat ship to destroy; that also increased the difficulty level to pretty hard.

The final package of Powder, as shown in Hall of Light: more “real looking” than my pristine hi-res Jpeg 😛

The package wrap was put together in Freehand and the only text we had from the company was the payoff in the back of the box. There was also space for any copyrights and disclaimers that i left available for the publishers – that however did not noticed, thats why those two lines with the filler text “all copyrights goes here” in italian language appears in the bottom of the wrap.

The irony was that, during the nineties, i was looking at the game boxes of export Megadrive games with a deep envy for the plastic box and the colorful detailed artwork, while at the end, with time and budget contraints we ended up with a pretty crappy anonymous cardboard box too.

Published, at last!

And so in 1998 Powder came out under the Verkosoft brand, Epic Marketing in the UK.

The cuts, the difficulty problems and the age at the end shown its effect, so much that Amiga Format killed it with a 23%; other magazines were more forgiving, however is sure that when Powder came out the Amiga scene was no longer the good shooter starving market that we embraced in 1990, rather the inflaction-ridden mediocre shooter wasteland of 1998.


The Unforgiving review of Powder on Amiga Format

Other magazines were not that hard with it, like the Italian The Games Machine, that gave it an indulgent 79%, but AF review indeed marked the kiss of death for our beloved project.


The review of Powder in the italian version of The Games Machine:
thanks to Mauro Corbetta of RetroEdicola for the scan.


The Aftermath

In summer 2005, just a couple of months prior of my departure for the States, all former members of five stars met again in a restaurant in Fano,for what we called the “Powder Dinner” – at the end the earnings in the already meager end-of-nineties agonizing Amiga market were so tight that we were barely able to pay a dinner for it. Also was my last time I seen Maltese in person, with its first czech blond wife.


There we are: the Five Stars VG studio in 2005!
From the top left: Simone Bernacchia , Nicola Valentini, Filippo Carletti;
bottom: Thomas Paoloni, Marco Maltese – sorry for the bad quality of the scan.

I met the programmers again this year, in occasion of my trip to Italy; Maltese – now living in Sicily, was not present but was nice to see each other after long time! So they also had occasion to meet my wife and had a pleasant time; the main reason however was to get a leftover copy of Powder from Carletti to deliver at the president of SCCAN here in southern california, that was looking for it after i told him about my experience in doing graphics and music for the game.

Some Satisfactions, at last!

In 2009 Amiworx published a donationware CD called “Amiga Meets Piano” where, among the other popular Amiga game tracks the main theme of Powder -to my great surprise -is also featured, albeit incomplete, but this means somebody considered it good enough to be performed, and for me that is a big compliment!

In 2012 the Amiga Longplays channel featured a Powder longplay; found mostly favourable comments, especially about the soundtrack;

also on LemonAmiga the rating of 4.2 is pretty decent; plus the user the user frikilokooo Wrote:

In my opinion one of the three funniest Amiga shmups,its best feature is the addiction and its gameplay is different of the others shmups,highly recommended.The game is very underrated maybe because it came too late to the market.The graphics are unbalanced,some graphics are very good and others graphics are average,maybe by the fact that one of the two graphicians of the game is much better than the other one.The game has the best ingame music of any Amiga shmup(the best outgame music is for ProjectX though).Only a couple of glitches:no autofire,no two players mode and very unbalanced weapon system that ends using homing missiles at the end because the other weapons are worse,becoming very monotonous always the same weapon.

In 2011 I started to meditate on write down my memories on this experience, but lacked the time to do so: it was supposed to be just an episode on my blog (still in at the time); then a discussion about Amiga vs c64 and games design and working appeared on the forum, had occasion ot talk about my experience with Powder and the interest generated gave me the spark to start to write about Powder in a more expanded way.

I already started to put my songs in the AMP site and as videos on Vimeo, and the Diaries are giving me the occasion to work harder in showcasing most of my work that in my opinion need some exposure.

I would have also liked to recover the sources and try to make some kind of  “director’s cut” or maybe some other game based on the same engine; however, when i tested the work disks in my 1200 most of the floppies were giving me read error; i gave them to a friend of mine that has a catweasel-like device in the hope to recover something.

I asked Maltese about some material to show here, but he said he lost it all, since he moved several times during the last fifteen years; plus stated in a chat that he is not that affectionated to those past events and forgot most of the things happened then; however, if he or the other members of the team decides to add more particulars they can get in touch with me.

Gathering the Memories

Honestly,  most of the material i had it with me the whole time, since i tried to show it on some demo CD that i made when looking for work in Italy and abroad after got laid off by my employer in 2003, but so far never received any feedback on it;

At the end the real triggers that pushed me to publish the powder diaries were two: The nonsoloamiga discussion helped me gather in my mind most of the technical data, but the real one is likely more ego-related; having all my tests, work files, animations, unused musics rotting on the floppys in boxes on the basement at home and in some demo CD-ROMs and folders in my laptop here on the states; i treasured this material for years even in cases holding it to show on interviews due to the fact that was a project in progress; then, when the game finally was out, all the material due to technology advancement became outdated, but i always hoped that if i shown all my stuff and attempts probably the consideration of people towards me could have shifted to a different level: at the time, at least until i started to win contests, had the perception that people thought was wasting my time: even a here withheld Five Stars team member thought the same of my animations, then awards proved i was right.

So as this day, i considered Powder history however worthy to be told also as part of my youth dream and work for hopes on a better future, despite its little to no influence in the Amiga market.

At the end, were those diaries just an ego trip? Very likely, but am glad to have done my work on it and don’t regret any minute spent!

Want to get the advantage of the last rows of text to thank all the people I worked with and those who in some ways supported me either logistically or morally or that, with their mere existence, gave me ideas and reasons to go on.

Music – Powder Final Credits (1997) from simone bernacchia on Vimeo.


The Powder Diaries – 7 – The long dark tea time of the soul

All’alba Vinceroooooooh

After my partial defeat with the Delusion! the videoclip, was particularly bitter on the shortsightness of the music business – something many others had to deal with in future as we know, but that did not discourage me to continue my career: at the time i already started another project – that was able to continue to work thanks to the purchase of a side 2 megabytes RAM expansion.

The animation “N.O.L.W. – The Night Of the Living Wrecks” was presented at Pixel Art Expo in Rome and placed second; with the money i was able to buy a second hand Amiga 1200 that replaced my 500; then came, in Easter Weekend, as usual, the Bit.Movie. I remember was there in the awarding ceremony and they already assigned the third and second prize; assigning the first they started talking about “how the author re-interpreted a cult movie and give it a new meaning “, pretty convinced it was a slow boring animation I seen in the same contest to win so, when instead they announced my name was pretty surprised.

N.O.L.W. – La notte dei rottami viventi – the night of the living wrecks from simone bernacchia on Vimeo.


The prize also gave me way to expand further my machine, so I bought a hard disk (half gig, at the time pretty big), a Viper 030/42 mhz + FPU (later found out was a EC030 so no MMU drivers for me) and 16 megabytes, later brought to 32 and also a Microvitec monitor – meant that the times to draw animation on TV were over for me.

The long dark tea time of the soul

At some point money for studies ran out and I found myself working as ad spreader – those people who put junk mail in your mailboxes: was one of them, and did that job for little more than one year while looking for a job in my field.

That also lead me to take a country funded course in office automation so that I would have been able to work in a office. Thanks to shapeshifter, was able to do my homework on my Amiga on Word and Excel and, when had the time, was studying on my own how to do DTP and graphic design, trying to recover my high school know-how and a more traditional track; the fact that was working on Amiga rather than on P C or Mac (despite Mac emulation) was not helpful either: DTP people were almost exclusively a Mac shop and also pretty proud of it: for them my emulated mac was some kind of travesty.

Was working together occasionally with Maltese in doing soundtracks for commercials and some of its – if i can call it this way – failed experiments too; was also teaching myself HTML using some booklets bought in a local bookstore; at the time things were much simpler than now and having a Netscape install and a text editor was enough.

Music – Deimos (v3.2) – 1994 from simone bernacchia on Vimeo.

One of the themes for a never-finished project of Maltese – since there were no memory constraints those musics were more rich in audio samples and effects

As musician also worked with the main organizer of Pixel Art Expo in doing the soundtrack for its animation – made on imagine PC and VLab Motion – for Imagina, called DevilBalls; even if at the end was not qualified to participate i still consider it an interesting experience, with him sending me the tape of the animation and me creating the music and adapting it to the flow; normally in traditional animation the music comes first and animation adapts to its flows but CGI made the roles get reversed in this case.

Music – DevilBalls (1997) from simone bernacchia on Vimeo.

Together with the same guy and an italian-british AMOS programmer i also worked on the static and animations for a soccer manager game;  the animations were supposed to be sprite driven (for more situations to show) and inspired by the then new isometric Fifa Soccer on the Megadrive to save memory, but ultimately we decided for small pre-rendered animations in a stadio-like megascreen; i also made a music for it that at the end was not used.

GIOCATORE-3_CLIP-16C Euro_League_Manager_2

Above: one of the work files, and below the final display how it looked for the soccer manager game.

Serious troubles and lockups between my accelerator and the surf squirrel i bought as second hand forced me for a pretty intensive (and money rewarding) gig to buy – for the huge (for me) amount of Five Millions of Italian lire of the time – a Power Mac Performa 6400; this however opened the door to a more steady flow of work for websites and multimedia work (mainly presentations, video animations and web sites) using Macromedia Director and the – then new Futuresplash Animator, in future known as Flash; for 3d i was still using Amiga though due to the fact that my performa was not powerful enough to work with Lightwave at a reasonable speed; so at the end had a mixed work environment, exchanging data in a rather painful slow way via serial connection and Term program.

I also had occasion to set up an exhibitions with other people living in the close city of Ostra, where we showed our works in paintings and in a slide show with pictures and animations made using Scala. It was called in italian language “Onde di luce e immagini photogeniche” – a pun using Lightwave, Imagine and Photogenics names; beside that i also held a small personal exhibition in Senigallia called “Scarabocchi Binari” – in english Binary Doodles, so now you know where the name of this blog came from.

The Fading of the Five Stars

For events not connected to Powder, however, me and Maltese had a bad discussion about a gig we were doing together and for a long while we hardly talked to each other.

Job roles, family changes (Tomas got married and had kids in example) and conflicting schedules brought Five stars to a de-facto split, not to mention Quazar disappearance.

For a better city Soundtrack and more bling – literally

Around 1995 had Thomas and Nicola complaining since a while that they were so tired of the City soundtrack that I provided them in 1990 that needed to turn off the volume when doing testing, I did try to create alternate tracks to no avail for a while, when i was not busy with other stuff: at least three different tracks were made before choosing the final one;

The alternate tracks can be found in the Powder Musics Album of my Vimeo profile once will have time to upload them.

the one with the guitar riff won – it also shows that Powder has a rock soul maybe?

Music – Powder City Level Soundtrack Definitive (1996) from simone bernacchia on Vimeo.

One of the songs rejected was instead used for the City boss.

Music – Powder City Boss soundtrack – 1996 from simone bernacchia on Vimeo.

Nicola and Filippo thought that the city level was too flat and unappealing so asked me to add some animations, including the pulse of the crane lights and the glass glare in the buildings;  i also reworked some of the posters to have a more polished look. One of the rejected one was my tribute to the OAV Genmu Senki Leda, which I tried to portray in a hypothetical sequel promotional ad.



The Rejected Genmu Senki Leda II Poster in the original workfile – using the same City 16 color palette and my now well-known justaxposition technique

Habemus Logo!

Even for the logo there has been progress: after the first phase, where i was looking for a more Psygnosis-style shape, a clearer font came out that seemed satisfying and also look good if filled. Several tests were done with different filling material, with a crater field as main candidate – also to recall the dust itself; filling on Amiga never been a problem thanks to Deluxe Paint Stencil feature.


The final font face, with the initial crater filling

Also another characteristic i wanted to add was an electric spark going through the logo: not a new idea, i did that in the past for a test Quazar logo, but now skills gave me more accuracy; i tried two blue tones,one on the navy blue the other on cobalt blue, that resulted more convincing For the inner pattern at the end we decided for a clod of dust, obtained with a furious and merciless application of the smear filter to the crater landscape and a change of palette. The logo and the initial screen graphics is at 32 colors.


The logo almost final, just with the electric spark in navy blue shades rather than cobalt blue 

The Final level, how you never heard it…

The actual incarnation of the final level has been mostly cobbled up in the latest month prior publishing, and is also using a music that was meant for the now lost Clouds mega-saucer Boss Fight, but it was meant differently, even this with an approach phase and then with the Boss fight following; at least the boss is the same, with a human size figure growing to a giant robot, Megaborg style  (that strangely has a deja-vu feeling…), but was not meant to come out from the destroyed ship, rather to wait for us and then transform, with a crescendo and then the fight.

Music – Powder – Final Theme – 1991 (Unreleased) from simone bernacchia on Vimeo.

The Approach theme

powder final boss 0004 from simone bernacchia on Vimeo.

The final Boss fight theme

…and how you heard it

I had to finish the graphic for the final level at the end: we were unable to get in touch with Maltese and so had to cobble up the background graphics and the map. For the music at the end was decided to use the music meant for the discarded Clouds boss – made by me with samples of an electric guitar played by a friend of my brother as experiment and then loved by Maltese at the time.

Music – Powder – Clouds stage boss (1993) from simone bernacchia on Vimeo.

Pity that the replay routine messes it up a bit compared on how was supposed to play, but still makes the level pretty intense!

The Powder Diaries – Service Announcement

Last month have been in my home country for three weeks, where i also dug more into my disks to retrieve more powder data and files. Pity that, due to the lack of broadband, was unable to update my blog, but now that am back am slowly filling the gap and should be able to publish the final parts of my diaries soon.