The Powder diaries – 4 – The tale of the Lost Poster

TradersCo

[Names are changed to protect the innocent]

Was through the computer club that we got in touch with a couple of guys from Bologna. According to their card, they were having a commercial software business but were planning to enter into the games market as well. Two tall guys, well dressed and kinda well mannered;

They call their company TradersCo.
In order to impress them more we tried to do another crunch time to have a more polished product. The map in ruins and factory were basically completed, excluded some extra particulars.

Also, since Forest was scrapped due to unsatisfying graphics while working on the einsteinSoft demo, the main enemy –  a huge robot ant – was put apart as well; however i managed to change the palette and recover it for ruins in the first part of the level. However even the Graveyard level of Maltese followed same early departure.

MECH-ANT DEMO.PIC3

The original appearance of the giant Ant with Forest palette: head is in 8 colors, body in segments of four

To this I also added the work in what could be used as the game package and advertising page: a poster 100cm x 70 cm with the M1 equipped with laser is facing the viewer with the Factory level in the background. The poster was done with mixed tempra and pencil colors and to finish it up I worked all night up to 9 am before one of our meeting.

We had a couple of talks in Bologna and then they did the offer. It was for an amount of – according to Maltese – 2.500.000 italian lire; a pretty tiny amount even for the time; at the moment I cannot remember if we were taking any royalty on sales. However we decided the offer was inadequate. They did not take the answer too good and we did not heard from them again. Plus I never went to know what happened to my poster.

Struggles between game work and studies

In the meanwhile of powder development, was also busy in trying to push forward my studies: in order to improve my calculus skills and since going to Ancona everyday was starting to be too expensive, plus in order to recover my math huge gap was having the help of a tutor; however, in the class calculus teachers were sneakily inserting special cases that were only discussed in the classroom lessons and, if like me, you were studying at home, chances were you WILL f*** up at the partial test.

So, when I was not studying, was working on designing sprites and graphics for powder; focusing especially on ruins and space, that seemed left behind. Especially space.

Having the light source from below presented a good deal of challenge; plus into space,missing the atmosphere, shadows are much more contrasted than at lower levels. Last but not least, wanted to picture the planet below in a more realistic way; the idea of having the planet was given to me from some magazine showing earth from outer space; an exhibition of NASA pictures in Senigallia gave me more hints on how to proceed and also ideas on how to improve the level color palette, honestly kinda bland. Since I was determined on not to use dithering, had the good intuition to work a bit like expressionist painters, mixing colors to achieve better gradients using what is called “Juxtaposition” of colors, where colors are paired together according to lightness and assonance.

space_grid_1_med

A close-up of part of the space tileset- especially in the top left structure is possible to see the justaxposition of the colors to create a more soft shadow and an intermediate shade of grey – without dithering!

For the planet, i wanted to hint the sphericity using a sloped horizon that develops up and down across the 30 screens of the level. Initially was just supposed to be a flat lower part of the screen, same as the opening of Rayxanber II on the PC-Engine, however the new effect seemed more realistic.

TOSAVE9

Here is possible to see the tiles that were supposed to represent the planet below, and the slope going progressively up and down to hint sphericity.

Finally, the strong shadow contrast allowed me to create several enemies with just four colors palette and still making it look good. Some were even kinda B-I-G, like a fat satellite passing by.

SPACECLIPPER1

Both the big satellite and the space station section are made with just 4 colors.

MatrixSoft

The offices of MatrixSoft  were located next door to a pizzeria and not too far from the mathematics,physics and natural sciences faculty of Bologna university. 
For those not aware of MatrixSoft  history, the software house was founded by Mr.Architect, a journalist that used to write for a pretty important italian computer magazine, which had a vision to offer “simulation of real life experiences” and, in fact, so far most of MatrixSoft  games were sport simulations; convince them to publish Powder would have been a tough sell, but was a good way to increase our job perspective.

Me and Maltese met with the then lead graphic coordinator: Mr.Merovingian. He let us know that – obviously – they were not interested in Powder, however our graphic talent might have proven handy but, to be sure, we would need to undertake what they called a “test sample” work. This kind of unpaid gig was – and I think still is, in other fields – a way for MatrixSoft and presumably other software houses (and not only) to have their cake and eat it.

Designers had to do small gigs like design of map elements or game sprites and, if deemed adequate, they might receive more gig,paid this time.

So I  was assigned a couple of gigs: the first was to design a tileset for a deep forest; the second one to design an enemy, follower of a secret cult; both presumed to be used on the new CreepyGuy game series, based on an interesting ideas: small adventures for a small price monthly sold in newsstands – the main source of software for most italian kids.

The enemy I drawn was inspired by the Egyptian God of Dead Anubis (if only i knew what a coincidence to some AROS fork project ^^);

ANIMOBJS.DARK

 

The Anubis Accolite animation – no, not AROS related 😛 

After an adaptation from my manga-ish palette to the CreepyGuy one and little adjustment for the animation, that was it.

Same for the forest tiles, disappeared onto oblivion. Thought those assets were deemed no good and so were discared. Little did knew those were used in two of the CreepyGuy issues, until one day i found the footage on Youtube.

Following those first attempts, they gave us assets for another oncoming series, work name MangaMan for which we had to create a Japanese metropolis environment and some enemies; my turn was a yellow ninja – actually wanted to do an harlequin ninja but then it appeared confusing to the eye.

NINJA.LATESTMOVES

 

The ninja animation: more or less the same moves of the Anubis accolite
plus going up and down the stairs

Even of those have no recollection on whether were used. However i still have the tiles and the test animations. Since i was adamant to really land a job in the game world i documented myself and worked hard on try to recreate a typical japanese suburban area environment.

 

J.J.BLOCKS2.SENDJ.J.BLOCKS2B.SEND

  Part of the Tilesets for the MangaMan project

J.J.DKOBLKDEMO2

An assembly test with map tiles

The tileset for CreepyGuy and the other project were a bit different from the usual 16×16 used on Powder: those were 16×10, guess in order to have a better vertical elasticity.

I also wanted to propose a soundtrack for that game, however have no clue if it was ever heard…

at the SIEL

Trying to catch attention from the specialised press, me and Maltese packed our work copies of Powder and headed in Milano. There, we were trying to meet two different group of people: on one side Mr.Wheat and wolfSoft and on the other side the computerMag crew so that,maybe, if they interview us,some publisher might get interested. We tried to talk again with computerMag already some month earlier but at the last minute nobody was available to interview us; so was our idea to meet the columnists at SIEL, a now defunct Consumer Electronics show in Milano, also to try to have a clue about latest trends. We visited the expo and at the end we went to the publisher stage. There had occasion to talk with one of the columnists about the game – well, more having a multitasking conversation while he was playing Thunderforce IV on the Megadrive. By the way, me and that columnist are actually cooperating to the same open source project now[hint,hint].

I remember also that i seen running Wolfenstein 3D in some PC in the fair, and that was at the time mind blowing for me: had a strong feeling that times were about to change.

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The Powder Diaries – 3 – A tour in Bologna Hinterland

EinsteinSoft

[NOTE: Names were changed to protect the innocent]

Summer of 1991; Me and Maltese were eager to work in the then promising italian/european games industry, beside working for what will become Powder.

EinsteinSoft was one of the emerging software houses in early nineties,together with MatrixSoft – still in Bologna-and WolfSoft in Milano.

It was also the first software house me and Maltese contacted to try to work in game development beside powder-at the time still unnamed, responding to a “call for talents’ ad appeared on a computer magazine.
At the time EinsteinSoft just released its first game, and was having another couple of games in the work. We got held of one demo through one of our “dealers” and thought we could do better, both in music and in graphics.

So we prepared a couple of demo disks,with some test graphic from m-type and what was still not powder, and I added a disk full of mod files-some made for the occasion and now mostly lost.

After a couple of weeks maltese received a call from Mr.Pinky, musician and supervisor at EinsteinSoft; he was interested in meeting us, but not too much for me and Maltese skills, more for the game we were working on.

Einsteinsoft was located in a small town in Bologna hinterland and,due to having lost the same train that the programmers took, I was a bit late in reaching their office -or better basement. Beside the logo on the doorbell nothing in that two story condo could have announced a software house.

Right next to a washing machine an elder lady pointed me to a door nearby where was a small office with a couple of Amigas and c64,  there were empty boxes for their games ready to be shipped and a couple of mass floppy duplicators.

There I found back Tomas, Nicola, Marco and met in person Mr.Pinky and the producer and owner of EinsteinSoft, Mr.Brain. Mr.Pinky  was a pretty handy, well enthusiast and maybe a bit naive guy dressed casually in jeans and t-shirt: blond,tall, short hair and an acne problem; Mr.Brain was much more business minded and seemingly with interests in more than one activity (i still remember EinsteinSoft calling card was also having in the flip side a video and software duplication service logo), dark curly hair,in a grey suit,red tie and dark shades even indoor.

Talks were on the distribution, royalties (verify) and timelines; a playable demo with at least two levels for an incoming computer fair and then – probably – a contract.

Prototype

The rest of the summer  and early fall 1991 we worked hard to create at least two semi-working level of the game. The choice ended up in the first two levels: sea (now removed) – designed by Maltese and City, designed by me. The game got called provisionally Prototype – which was both a reminder of its provvisional shape and also a pun to R-Type :).

Me and Marco worked on design a logo for the preview in interlaced med-res; was an interestig mix of organic and high tech.

 

PROTOBIG

A work file of the Prototype logo; the final version got lost in a disk error 😦

 

And around that period, the first draft ot the title tune came up: a completely different rhythm from the final one but the base melody was laid down; after a couple of days i put that to rest, since was running short of ideas on how to unravel it.

Music – Powder – Main Theme Music Draft – 1991 (unreleased) from simone bernacchia on Vimeo.

 

Even The gameplay of powder went through several transformations while we were working on the new demo. First we had the idea of keeping all weapons at once with no limitations; however the programmers – especially Nicola that was an hardcore gamer – complained that in that way the game was too easy, so we thought several ways to implement some sort of progressive power up.

One of the ways was to keep transformations available from the beginning but with reduced firepower, then either at the end of the level or halfway to meet a shop – pretty popular in other shooters – where to use the accumulated credits – obtained killing enemies – to purchase upgraded versions of the weapons. To run the store we thought to use a character digitized out of the Spaceballs movie: Vinny (in italian Vincenzo or Vince), the sidekick of the notorious space mobster Pizza the hutt. The moves were almost perfect for a store: how it speaks and turns, the funny nervous tic, how at the end points at you the fingers as to say “you made a good deal,man” not to mention the shady look perfect for a sneaky second-hand weapon dealer! However at the end we decided for a credit system: the more enemies you kill, the more credits you get to change your ship.

Wish i had some screenshots of it, but Maltese lost all amiga material since he moved several times across Europe.

Same time around, had the first draft of the Ruins level boss; was not supposed to migrate in a robot yet but the wicked statue got build up easily. Trivia: its face is (deliberately) reminiscing of a girl that I used to be infatuated of .

MCP-FIORY.2

Somebody in a small city not too far from Fano is having a deja-vu…

And a “little touch” of ego, as big as a mountain top never can miss…

TOSAVE18

Yup, is a Mount-Rushmore-like Devs Mass portrait that one!

Despite we were supposed to release with EinsteinSoft, we felt this game was our pet project, and claimed ownership on it; so at the end we sent the demo of the game to an italian magazine, hoping to produce some hype.

Took some month but It did.

A small article the size of a coupon appeared in the November 1991  issue ;

powder_tgm_preview_ok

The snippet appeared on the magazine

 

The day the magazine came out I remember at first the excitement to find out the small article and the picture of sea: i called all the others on the phone and we were all excited. However the excitement rid not last long. The same day Tomas called for a meeting at his home: Mr.Brain wanted to talk with us.

That afternoon we were all in Tomas den while he and Filippo were talking at the phone with a slightly upset Mr.Brain, that was mentioning how we break its trust and violated ethics talking about the game with the press on our own, that did not liked at all how we were – according to him –  trying to pressure  in publish the game and raising the price by raising the hype and that, in short, he did not want to publish powder anymore.

And so that was the end of our relationship with EinsteinSoft.

Plus, we also convened that using the Prototype name would result in more problems and some stigma, so at the end the name Powder stuck and became final.

Five Bedroom coders in search of a Publisher

That however did not stop us to look for a different publisher for our game. Just remember that those were the early nineties and Internet was still a toy in the universities rather than a mainstream media. Even having a modem and be able to call BBS in 2400+ BPS were still a bit a privilege – not to mention the telematic-unfriendly phone fares in Italy at the time. I remember me and Maltese preparing a couple of demo disks for graphics and music and again trying to submit it to Konami – that at the time was expanding its presence in europe with the Gametek label, dreaming a game related job in London or in UK; however nobody answer us and our written and spoken english at the time was WAY worse than now :/

Around that time Maltese went in touch with Danny, a member of a local computer club located in Pesaro. The so-called club was, in short, a sort of Pirate’s den where games were rented or sold; i still remember the walls covered of wooden shelves with red and yellow floppy disks for Amiga; this was before the piracy laws changed so all operations were legit. However, Danny and the club owners, had some leads about people in Bologna willing to enter the computer game business and interested in publish our game.

Plus, by the end of the year, finally the main theme was done the way we know. mostly. Was missing the final piano solo at the end.

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

 

 

 

The Powder Diaries – 2 – a Summer of Coding

A summer of Powder

The summer of 1990 has been one of the most intense times since; me thomas filippo and nicola were busy in working with powder and also trying to go to the same college. Marco was more adamant in getting in the game industry straight away and was trying to focus deeply in the game. So its work was in a more advanced state.

At the time powder was being written using the Seka Assembler, but later developers found the Asm-One assembler to be more performant and switched.

Taking advantage of its parents busy schedule, me, Maltese and sometime Tomas were using Maltese living room and bedrooms as development studio. We planned powder to have ten levels, five of which with Maltese graphics and five with mine. My levels were supposed to be (according to our internal naming): city,factory,ruins,forest and space while Maltese levels would be: sea, starships graveyard,clouds, Maze and final. Maltese also took in its hands the player ships design – for coherency and also because was better able to design the tilt of the ships.

Maltese started to sketch ships for the game and, for test purposes, adapted one of the main ships he designed for M-type to the Powder palette; Tomas andNicola loved it and started to fantasize about power ups; we were looking for a way to avoid the Power Up syndrome too,and recently we had occasion to see a Toaplan coin-op called Hellfire, where the player ship was able to switch fire positions, and thought we could have different way of fire available at once. At the beginning we had only the normal shoot and the laser, then we expanded to include homing missiles, the orientable cannon and the armored bomber. Another coin-op we took inspiration and in exchange we had parallel ideas to was Air Buster, even though rhytm and play actionwere at the end different.

SBE and SPE

The game has started using a 16 full color palette; it was the convinction of Nicola and mine that the actual use of dual playfield (three bitplanes for foreground, three bitplanes for background) was too chastising for a nice arcade-like graphic style, so we decided to reduce the frame rate at 25 fps and keeping the palette full 16 color. This would have allowed big sprites moving at a decent rate. However the code review of Tomas and Filippo shown that lot of raster time was lost and that keeping all elements at 16 colors was going to waster raster time and memory,. so they came out with an idea; it was possible to enable or disable less bitplanes using some selected palettes; they called the system SBE/SPE (Single Bitplane Enabled / Single Palette Enabled); that gave us graphic artist a way to create sprites with less colors but with interesting schemas. Then the use of those palettes were enabled by flags in the enemy editor.

space_enemyship

This work file from Space shows all 2/4 and 8 palettes available.

Looking for a title

Well it was hard to find an appropriate name for yet another shoot’em up: most of the names were pretentious and bold looking: Thunderforce, Herzog Zwei, Cardiaxx, Io, R-Type, Salamander, etc. I suggested Powder both for the assonance to the gunpowder and also for the skill of our ship to reduce enemies to dust (in italian the name “polvere” can be used for powder, dust and occasionally ashes).

I was trying to create something that was unseen on amiga – at least at the time – like a multiplexor(?) robot made with all pieces where you can destroy the shell first then you have to destroy the internal machinery; it was supposed to be placed as city boss but at the end it had to be scrapped due to memory constraints and for the bad look of the rotated pieces.

The game graphics also got reworked. The first level to be reworked was Forest, suppsedly set in a redwood forest; palette got adjusted to a milder shade and the background tiles reworked based on some encyclopedia and magazine photos. For the ruins level I remember took inspiration from my art school books and tried to reproduce several architectonic features and monuments; plus the sky was much more in the purple tone, since the idea was we were liberating an alien world.

Factory, instead, was inspired from my night outskirts around Ancona, especially by the oil refinery, its compicated towering and piping structure and the way was glowing at night, together with the glowing lightnings over the Adriatic sea on rainstorms; all reminded me strongly of Blade Runner (guess you realized am a strong aficionado of this movie,huh?) and inner piping of structures like the Atmospheric processor in Aliens. It was sharing the original city palette at beginning.

A very important thing that hoped could distunguish powder – at least aesthetically – was the idea that every level got a different light sourcing and every object – including the player ship -would be affected by it; that meant more work but also a more immersive feeling.

Fall 1990

It was september, time for university entry tests. It was our intention to work together and,if possible, to stay together. With the exception of Maltese, more determined to work straight out, me and the programmers underwent entry tests in Cesena and Bologna respectively.

Tests were pretty hard for my background and, beside Tomas attempt to decode the barcode close to quiz answers by hand, nothing else particular comes to my mind. however at the end, the team suffered a split. Nicola was admitted in Cesena , Filippo in Bologna and finally me and Tomas went to pursue Electronic Engineering in Ancona, or “Tyrell Corporation”, as i called it inside my mind.

Ancona

So in the fall and winter of 1990 my course of study in Ancona College started. The Engineering faculty is located in a place called Monte d’Ago – on the top of one of the hills surrounding Ancona; to reach it i was,from the Ancona train station, required to cross the street, reach the bus stop, take the overcrowded bus to the cemetery below, then go uphill on the slope for another 400/500 feet with no sidewalk to the entrance of the main movie-theater-like classroom located in “quota 145” (no names for floors, just the elevation in meters). Do everything in reverse to go home, not mentioning train problems, bus problems,etc. so when possible i tried to go there with the car, but then finding a parking was sometimes next to impossible, since was not the only one.

However, was there listening to the teachers talking about disciplines that were at a WAY higher level that me, an art school student graduated from a side institute, were able to handle properly, but i was trying. I found myself trying to follow and copy almost painstakingly the most of the stuff that teachers were writing (badly) in the whiteboard; beside that, the work on Powder still continued, albeit slowly, on the evenings at home or in some of my notebooks, with sketches for enemies and maps and trying to create animations, that was a bit hard since the Dpaint version I was using was still at 3 – that means no onion skin, just a lot of back and forth on frames to make sure the animation was right.

Some reworking had been made to the factory level: after one discussion with thomas that said that the level and concept “looked like sh*t” i was so upset that modified the palette and reviewed all of the graphics already done working all night for it! Fctory was at the core of my idea of different light sources – together with space – and i really did not wanted that scrapped out!

 
FAC2.1
TOSAVE15

A workfile of Factory – there are three screens full of blocks like this!
In the top left a couple blocks remaining from the old version above,
that was having a much more contrasted lighting

Even soundtracks were progressing, albeit slowly. Was around this time that i created the soundtrack for space, the one for factory and had to rework the boss track that I did for city, making it the main level track, due to the fact that programmers got fed of it and that they thought the boss track was more suitable for the level action.

Music – Powder City Level soundtrack v2 – 1990/91 (Unreleased) from simone bernacchia on Vimeo.

Had also my first event-driven soundtrack done: the one for the space level; our first idea was to have at least two point of interaction: one with the energy less than 50% and the other one with less than 10%.  It was also meant like this due to the fact that at beginning we expected the player to have only one life.

Music – Powder Space soundtrack v1 – 1990 (Unreleased) from simone bernacchia on Vimeo.

 

The powder Diaries -1 – The seeds are sown

I tried at least three times to write memories about this game; it was our mother lode project and writing about it in a satisfying way is a good deal of text and so is not easy. This is the first part, talking about the beginnings and how the idea came out.

the Beginning: QUAZAR, Nike and M-Type

In 1988 had occasion to met with Max,another amiga user. We were exchanging games and tools; one day he showed me a demo made by some schoolmates. Was a simple demo with a starfield and a scroller plus a ripped module but was kinda exciting for me. Since I got my amiga 500 I was intrigued by the crackers intros and, having finally the opportunity to know one of those groups – albeit tiny- was a good chance. so i started to cooperate with them.

Around the same time, i got in touch with Nicola Valentini – nicknamed Nike – that liked to swap software and was trying to learn assembly for coding; i later found out he was in the same classroom with Filippo and Max: how small world, isn’t’it? However, he was coding small intros for which i helped do the graphic and the music; it went with the nickname “Nike” but haven’t found its stuff anywhere

Filippo and Thomas lived in a suburb of Fano, called Centinarola; Especially Thomas used to live in top of a hill in the middle of marche landscape, and we were used on Fridays to reach the place and sit upstairs in the old kitchen – where he had its own lab – to do code experiments and decide what to do next.

and after a couple of simple demo, one came out that was a bit unconventional: using balls we made an animation of a figure; using the joystick we were able to move balls around and to create animation frames. So in the spring of 1990, the internally called “Pupo” Demo came out, and was a mild success.

Quazar Anniversary Demo a.k.a Pupo (1990) from simone bernacchia on Vimeo.

I knew Marco Maltese since the eighties; we were both spectrum users and both were  building our games in Basic on the ZX spectrum and compiling it; actually he taught me some trick like using IN ports to read keys or joystick, or to use the IS compiler rather than the FP to have dramatical increase in speed – with the sacrifice of tihngs like DIM and other advanced instructions, though.

When Amiga started to be sold in the 500 model he was working in a local computer store in Senigallia, actually he was also dating the daughter of the store owner, but this is secondary: in its position he was exposed to a good deal of hardware and software and had occasion to test the 500 beforehand. I started to get some software such as Deluxe Paint or other utilities even BEFORE to buy my own 500, because once i saw it i falled in love with it; was able to buy my Amiga 500 in summer of 1988 and started to meddle with dpaint.

Both me and mMaltese were r-type fans and estimators, snd that was obvious: r-type came out in 1987 and set a new standard for horizontal shoot’em ups both in the graphics and in the gameplay, providing,with its beam cannon, an elegant solution to the power-up syndrome.

We begun to plan to build a worthy evolution of the game, hoping to squeeze the amiga machine with 32 color graphics – if not 64 with Half Brite – and HUGE enemy sprites. However,our knowledge of the new hardware and a proper workflow for the capabilities of the machine was unknown to us: surely the Amiga Basic would not be able to handle the mass of graphics we had in mind, and at the time AMOS was still just an hypothesis,not even vaporware. At the end our designs were mostly brainstorming and a way to improve our skills in a more powerful environment than the Spectrum and C-64 one. I was composing music on the sonix program first, then SoundFX and at the end Noisetracker – a Soundtracker clone; and he was designing ships on dpaint, but everything was kinda hanging waiting to have the way to develop. Our knowledge of BASIC was not going to cut it this time for our expectations – that included as said big bobs, maybe even lot of parallax scroll.

The project was called M-Type (a pun between R-type and the initials of Maltese), and i remember its idea was to have multiple ships with multiple way of firing; in some way this predated the idea of powder but also of the future evolutions of the R-type franchising, especially R-Type Final – that came out in 2003.

That is the problem when you live in the future: everybody else that follow your tracks – consciously or less – ends up looking like a copycat.

February 1990

At the time I was an art student; well not exactly: being sent to repeat my fourth year in Art school twice, despite my efforts and overnight work  this in italy means you are done with high school, and not in a good way. so went to study in a private institute to get my five year degree (called “maturity degree” in italy) and in the meanwhile was continuing to work on some graphics for the M-type project; my ideas were mostly on paper about semi-organic ships (imagine metal ships with blood vessels protruding from it.

Tomas and Filippo were trying to make some games to increase their skills in assembly coding; Tomas was working on a side volleyball game a la “Power spikes“, and we had the idea to use non-human characters for it; i recovered a funny hairy character i designed for an old BASIC spectrum game and made it the main player;  the provvisional name was “alien volley”.

Then one day me and nicola were talking about the recent r-type conversion – made by Factor 5 – and how we were thinking we can do it better. Was intention of nicola to learn to program in assembly, and a video game seemed to be the right project. Keep in mind that at the time there was a shortage of good horizontal shooters on the Amiga: the best so far was R-type, and then Blood Money – despite being technically good – was very difficult; plus Menace was too easy.

That spring Nicola went to a trip in Budapest with the school for five days; however, i think he got struck by a lighting or something like that, because when he came back home started to write a tool to compose maps, that we called MED – acronym for Map Editor; was a pretty simple tool that allowed to choose a group of tiles from a page and to copy it in the scrollable area, ten blocks at the time. Blocks were 16×16 pixel and 16 color depth. He also started the base code for Powder, at the time with only the ship shooting in the scrolling landscape.

And so I started to design the first map of the game: city. At the beginning the inspiration for city came to me from blade runner and the several cyberpunk stuff trending in that moment, so that the round building and the grey stones one survived all the way to the final game,albeit modified and improved. Same for the monorail tracks around; the only thing that did not survived was an olive color in the palette (thought because one of my first enemies was a flying version of my first car), replaced by the light brown.

NIKE'EM-UP ELEMS1Some early sprites that I made for the player ship when i started to work with Nicola – also see the test for the factory ship at night on the top

At the time was nicola itself to convert the IFF graphics in raw format (RAW format under Amiga mean that the bitplanes are saved one after the other uncompressed), then in the future we found some external tool for that, maybe prepared from demoscene coders.

One day Nicola shown up at Thomas since was asking help on how to fix the code for the game, that was kinda behaving poorly;  Filippo and Tomas decided to help Nicola and at the end all of them decided to join together in building the game. There have been some moments I wish was able to capture, like when Tomas found a weird routine in Nicola Code and commented aside “How the f***k is possible to wait for the blitter this way?”.

I also prepared the first music for the game; i found the guitar chords in a demo that was using wireframe graphics for text and meters (forgot the name) [EDIT: was Vicious circle from The Vector Analizer intro of Prophets] and loved it; at least for one year this music was on our ears while trying to test stuff. We were thinking at a way to make the music react with the game so there are at least two or three situations sketched up.

Music – Powder city soundtrack v1 – 1990 (Unreleased) from simone bernacchia on Vimeo.

Since we were still planning stuff, Nicola wanted more variety on the graphics and thought my ship was not too fancy; so i thought Maltese was the right guy and so did let him know about our project. The other liked its graphics and so at the end he was in too.

So far was able to work on the game just sporadically since was also busy with my final exams, but after the half of June, finally relieved of the taks, was able to get more involved on it.