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The Woebegone Trail: DevLog - Day 4 - First Code


Torq

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Woebegone: An “The Oregon Trail” Homage - DevLog: Day 4 (05/20/24) - "First Code"

 

Disclaimers

 

The first thing to say, here, is that this is NOT the actual/final presentation!  It is a low-fidelity, coarse, facsimile of it. Its purpose is purely to bring together the elements/techniques that'll be used in presenting the "Travel Screen" (which will also be the core of the "Title/Start" screen, and the architectural hub of the game), to act as a testbed/playground.  It is a quick, dirty, and entirely unoptimized thing (it's at least twice as big a file as it needs to be right now), both in terms of code and "graphics" (such as they are) and is more for fiddling with ideas than anything else.  Thus, I expect that precisely none of the code involved here will actually be part of the final game.

 

image.thumb.png.c56d00392af9eeae90fea36ce342ae7f.png

 

As much as anything, I'm including a screenshot (its hard to get one that's easy to read ... better to run the binary) and the .XEX file here just to show I'm doing something ... not just babbling on about it ...

 

travel.xex

 

In & Out

 

In this testbed there is a custom display list, display list interrupts (changing colors, repositioning graphics, swapping character sets ... including a more than one-scanfline "long-running" routine, that will get broken up into a chained multi-interrupt approach in the "real" code), player/missile graphics (the very rudimentary "sun" and the extraordinarily ugly moving "cloud"), custom character sets, smooth scrolling, and a slow-moving player all running together.

 

I did not get to doing the graphics necessary to make the parallax scrolling elements of the display useful, which is another story ... so that piece is not included here.

 

Fonts

 

The very-nice custom wood-stamp/burn-style font was created by @damieng and is called "High Noon".  Damien has made hundreds of excellent fonts available, in multiple formats (including Atari .FNT files), on his typography page, here, and is gracious and generous enough to allow them to be used with just a mention in the game's credits.  I like this font for the titles, banners, signs and other non-status/detail and narrative texts - so there's a good chance it'll remain.

 

For the detailed, main, status/value and narrative/story text(s) something using true mixed-case (rather than small-caps) is likely to be required, simply to make large blocks of text easier to read.  Which means that there will be at least two custom text fonts in use, not including those necessary for the ANTIC MODE 4 graphics (such as two of the three clouds here).

 

More Tools (Graphics)

 

I spent the bulk of the last two days (which is why this is day "four" and not day "five" of this project) of my weekend "Atari Time" looking at graphics tools.  Specifically those for creating character sets, sprites, sprite-sheets, tiles/tile-maps and bit-map editing.  I normally use Adobe's suite, Pixelmator Pro and some other more photo-centric tools for everything, but in this case I wanted to try and find something a bit more special purpose.

 

I found, and tried out, LOTS of graphics tools.  

 

As excellent, powerful, capable and flexible as many of them are ... both community/free tools and paid/commercial solutions (I'd happily buy something if it worked "just so" -  I don't need it to be free) ... unfortunately none of them quite fit the bill for what I want.  And what I want isn't particularly complicated, it's just very specific.  Not meeting those specifics makes the process irritating for me (my OCD again, I'm sure).

 

So ... rather than having to accommodate the (to me) odd ways some of these tools work, the need for many of them to run under Wine/CrossOver or VMWare, and/or dealing with non-native widget-sets/UX, it's just easier, faster and smoother for me to use existing, powerful, but general purpose (e.g. Photoshop) tools, do a little customization with a template or two, and write a couple of little utilities to shift the output into the formats and structures I need/want.

 

And that's what I'm going to do over the next day(ish) ... and then I can press forward here.

 

What's Next?

 

Before moving on to being the "real" code, I want to add the parallax scrolling for the more-detailed clouds (will be more varied the two static ones you see currently), prairie/mountain backdrop, open plains and then rocks etc. in the foreground.  And, of course, the oxen and wagon.  To do this, I have to create those graphics, which is, of course, dependent on the tools mentioned above.

 

And at that point I'll start putting in proper graphics (though I expect those will evolve and refine over the entire build-duration).  That'll include more granular/smoother sky/horizon/prairie background color transitions.  The ugly PMG cloud will go away.  Additional PMs will add depth/additional parallax via priority control.  The sun will be redone to be smoother and more interesting.  Palettes and details will shift with time-of-day, season and weather.  ALL the colors will be redone, and the status area done as something legible with more detail, rather than the "need to put something here" MODE 1/2 lines there now.

 

 

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I'm looking forward to it and if you decide to produce a physical cart, I will happily buy a boxed copy. One of my favorite games ever.

lake-wobegon.jpg

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I appreciate the vote of confidence!

 

I'll have to look into what making a physical cartridge would entail ... mostly from the perspective of how much space I can (reasonably) get, and the implications for how the code/data is structured.  Though since I'm already planning on loading all the graphics from "disk", those images are natural candidates for separate banks in the cartridge.  

 

It might all fit in a 256KB cartridge.  320KB would be a shoe-in.  512KB if I was able to secure appropriate graphics to make it worth using something like RastaConverter to convert and display them.  And it's the "landmark" graphics that are the real space-eaters (relatively speaking of course ... hell, whole, epic/classic, 8-bit games fit in the space needed for just a single iOS or Android app icon).  The core game logic, main screens (travel, status, hunting, river crossing, trading) and their supporting graphics etc. likely fit in 24K-32K.

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