The Powder Diaries – 6 – Commodore is dead – Long Live Commodore!

I’ll fix it tonight, Raila

One day we were having one of our meetings about what to do for powder; this time looked like was Tomas itself the one behind with the schedule. So Filippo and Nicola teased him about when he was going to finish some part of the game and he was invariably answering “I’ll fix it tonight”: that become a bit of a gag for a while, also added to unrelated stuff. Tomas has been more on the playful side rather than Filppo, that usually has a more serious – almost germanic – look  even if got its own share of sarcasm; however, talking about Tomas cannot avoid to remember how he used to call the dog of Maltese Raila (was called Karen, by the way and was a mix cocker) – Rail-A is one of the first enemies of City – the orange rail vehicle with the turret on; instead, Rail- B is the grey one and Rail-C is the vehicle that takes off. The wagons for Rail-A are called Rail-D.

REAL arcade sound effects – literally

In begin of 1993 Thomas started to meddle with sound routines inspired by the seven voice routines used in Turrican and Apydia; since most of Amiga games at the time were using mostly the same sample bank for sounds, i wanted something a bit different so one day i went to the local arcade in Marotta with my stereo and started recording arcade sounds; was lucky to be there in a moment there was no people so i recorder the sound effects of the demos of three-four arcade machines including the then pretty new Konami Shooter Xexex. Don’t ask me how a hardcore shooter like Xexex came in a small town arcade, dunno.


The stage start sound of  Xexex became then the transformation sound of the M1. For the voice announcing weapon names, was provided by Sara, the sister of Thomas.

Commodore is Dead: Long Live Commodore!

Spring 1994;  Parking lot of the then called Joyland (now Auchan) in Fano. A Saturday Morning.

I remember i did just bought the latest Commodore Gazette and Amiga Magazine computer mags and was sitting in my car reading it, enjoying especially the articles and tutorials about Lightwave 3D. Then i seen the article about Commodore asset liquidation.

Was like being struck by a lightning: all of the sudden all plans for my future seemed to shatter and my know-how apparently doomed to fall in obsolescence shortly;  not only: was since long time planning to invest on a more powerful Amiga or in an AGA machine and, knowing th eeffect of the supply  and demand law, might have brought prices of the remaining available machines to raise.

Had been hard to digest.

At the moment i also hoped for Powder to be finished soon so that at least we would have seen some return.

And, to add insult to injury, the Amiga Club in pesaro was one of those targeted by a sting from the local IRS police force due to changes in the italian software piracy law; since me and the other Powder devs were not active members they did not come at our door knocking and seizing all our Amigas, but for a while i had a strong stomach ache.

The Multimedia carreer takes off

In the meanwhile, i was trying to pursue my other childhood dream: do animated shorts. The presence of the Bit.Movie and of a prize in money was a good motivator, but nothing beats the being able to do the work you dreamed of when you were a kid! In the last two years, as already told, me and Maltese participated to the 2d and 3d real-time contests with our animations; plus i did the soundtrack for several Maltese 3d animations, like Virtual Battle:

Virtual Battle – 1993 from simone bernacchia on Vimeo.

i also had occasion to do music for the opening of a local TV show and for a couple of local commercials made by Maltese with mixed techniques – one of them was also presented in Pixel Art Expo in 1995.

After my Powder animation, i got some confidence and so tried to do a full short too; to save memory I worked with an eight color palette; the story I told was called “Mobile Suit Danko” (Danko was my nickname as Graphic Artist for Quazar, while my musician nick was J.M.D. that means Jovanotti MUST Die) – with a reinterpretation of Gundam Zaku as more cartoonized figures; a friend with Hard Disk helped me assemble it from the eight disk of anim files i prepared at home, and sent it to the same year as virtual battle: placed eighth beside problems with the MOD player both in my animation and Maltese one (that at the end sounded better).

Mobile Suit Danko from simone bernacchia on Vimeo.

Beside that, the existence of the lighttable tool on Dpaint allowed me to experiment and started to use cel-animation;  my first work to use that was a video clip cover of a popular Vasco Rossi song at the time – called Delusa – in its Disco remix; inspired by the lyrics (talking about the girls of a then popular TV show full of girls) and the work of an artist called Cavezzali, that used to portrait naive women as geeses  (well that is the italian equivalent to the Blonde stereotype), i made my own version of the videoclip, assembled synced and recorded on U-matic tape and sent it to the contest; expecting at least to place in the first three positions (and the contest involved prizes in money, so i was hoping to get at least an AGA machine with that cash).

Delusion! the videoclip from simone bernacchia on Vimeo.

Problem was, to use the song i needed a waiver from the recording company. So i got in touch with them to get one but the manager, Mr.MoneyMaker, said that was not going to do any exception and should request for a permit with the standard fare, that was like $5,000. Considered that the first prize of the contest was just not even $1,000 i decided to re-record the animation with a soundtrack made by me using protracker. It placed tenth if i remember.

However better times were in sight.

At the i also had occasion to befriend some of the volunteers that were providing access to the Amigas in showcase –  some also involved in the Rimini Amiga Club – and also professionals that were using Amiga for broadcast and computer graphics work; that later included contacts with other programmer including some MatrixSoft coders that made several sports games at the time.

The Bosses that weren’t

The idea of having a separate sublevel for each boss seemed to me a good one; that meant more room for creativity and for boss graphics.

Pity that at the end, those boss levels were scrapped for time constraints: in my opinion they would have added more appeal and athmosphere to the final game.

The graphic palette between the main level and the boss level was the same, same for the player ships, keeping continuity; just the boss level was usually no more than ten screens long and with one screen only of graphic blocks.


The factory boss sublevel was supposed to have the ship enter in a giant elevator; a huge door close behind, a counter showing the elevator going down (unrealistic, I know, but pretty coreographic) then the ship go further in a huge underground hangar, crossed occasionally by electric lightning until the ship
is surrounded from a huge assembly crane.


A composite of the Factory boss

The music I create for that was quite dark and syncopate: by chance i ended using the same samples as for the Factory theme.

Music – Powder – Factory Boss Music -1992 (unreleased) from simone bernacchia on Vimeo.

The ruins boss was supposed to start with a tunnel in the temple while mines are sitting on the top; at some point the mines explodes and the ceiling is falling down: so the ship needs to avoid debris.After a while the ship reach a junkyard, where the real boss resides. The boss is a mole-like robot tower structure.


Blocks to compose the Ruins Boss level


An animation test of the tower-like mole coming out

And this was the music: to remember that the boss music as intended is made of an introductory part – while reaching the final fight – and the the boss loop; there were two exception: one is city level and the other one was clouds.

Music: Powder – Ruins Boss level (1993) [unreleased] from simone bernacchia on Vimeo.

Finally, the boss sub-level in space involved a long tunnel where several armored ships need to be destroyed and a spheric core protected by two lasers and an energy shield.



The music for the space boss came out almost techno-style, fit the environment and put in the mood; am pretty satisfied of this one.

Music – Powder – space Boss level (1993) [unreleased] from simone bernacchia on Vimeo.

Foreground Sprites

Even if they were implemented as early as 1991, the most of the foreground sprites (those elements that go in parallax in front of the ships) were mostly designed now. We were using it, possibly sparingly not to clutter too much the field of view and were sometimes made of one or two 32 X any-height three colors sprite. The most notable example of those are in the city, especially the huge dish, but also several trees in ruins;  also many of enemy bullets were sprites with their own three colors palette. Together with the lower score panel the display of those brings the contrmporary colors on screen to around 50.




Some of the sprites work files for City, Ruins and unused for Factory and Space – the katakana in the last picture was a joke in italian (done while being bored) about how Nicola would have said that sprite “Got Balls”