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


[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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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 ^^);



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.



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.



  Part of the Tilesets for the MangaMan project


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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