Release Notes – Stercore 64 (C64)

Your correspondent released a scrolling shoot ‘em up for the Spectrum last week to some… response but, since that particular genre is more commonly the territory of a certain other 8-bit system, it only seemed proper that a version be produced for it as well. So in keeping with the “grand tradition” set down by games publishers during the early 1980s of merely sticking the number 64 on the end of a game’s name we now have Stercore 64, a close to exact port of the Spectrum original which only changes things for the C64’s palette and adds some SID-powered music that burbles away to itself in the background during play.

There are graphical variations to allow for the different palettes, but the way that the scrolling background and all of the moving objects are handled during play is the same on both computers, using software-generated sprites rather than the significantly easier to program hardware ones that the C64 has available. All of the object rendering code for both versions of Stercore were written by your correspondent – it’s always been commonplace for Spectrum developers to write their own code for these tasks[1] –  and the only significant difference between versions is the layout of the screen memory which, to your correspondent’s mind at least, is actually less convoluted on the C64.

Stercore 64 (Spectrum)

Regardless of what the author has claimed previously, it really doesn’t require a “mathematical genius” to write a game like Stercore for either platform and it’s worth noting as well dear reader that your correspondent deliberately avoided using the C64’s hardware sprites and scrolling which usually make developing 2D action-oriented games easier. Although it would have to sacrifice some of the colour, a “re-imagined” version of the game could have offered far more detail in the background graphics and larger moving objects whilst still retaining all of the speed.

[1] Game developer Bob Pape has previously written about his early steps on the Spectrum and trying to draw objects by directly calling the BASIC PLOT command before realising how much faster it would be to write his own routines. The game he’s most famous for is R-Type, considered to be one of the best scrolling shoot ’em ups on the Spectrum.

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Release Notes – Stercore (Spectrum)

The outlying worlds of the Galactic Federation have already found themselves coming under fire from the Repugnant Swarm and their next target on the way to the centre of our galactic hub is Stercore 48, a deep space refuelling point and trading post. These outposts aren’t completely lawless but can offer various entertainments of questionable legality to its visitors, although you’ve chosen to spend a relatively quiet hour occupying a corner booth in one of the seedier dockside pubs, nursing what the bar staff are generously calling “a beer” and waiting for your garbage scow the Theresa May to refuel.

That peace is shattered as proximity alarms are triggered by Swarm fighters but, whilst the other pilots make for their allotted bays and get the heck out of Dodge, your intentions are different; the Theresa May might be a bulky, rusted piece of pretty much obsolete space junk but she’s also armed to the metaphorical teeth so going up against an incoming fleet of fast moving fighters seems like a sensible idea apparently? Anyway, this is a shoot ‘em up and nobody reads the instructions for these things unless it’s to kill time during loading so I’m surprised you’re still paying any attention at this point!

Stercore (Spectrum)

Stercore is a high octane scrolling shoot ‘em up for the Sinclair Spectrum which was, because your correspondent is still very much a beginner with Z80 assembly language, pretty much developed with the 2018 iteration of the Comp.Sys.Sinclair Crap Game Competition in mind since that’s somewhere to release it where bad games are actually celebrated. Despite being painfully simple it does at least scroll a large chunk of the screen – using the Spectrum’s colour attributes for background data – and move some objects over and sometimes under the landscape as it whizzes past.

Stercore (Spectrum)

As always, the source code for Stercore has been made available from the relevant Github repository although it probably needs a disclaimer since seasoned Spectrum programmers will no doubt find your correspondent’s work to be at best and rather euphemistically described as “poorly optimised”.

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Release Notes – Super Hyperzap (C64)

After the release of Hyperzap 2018 there were a few comments about it’s simplicity; that was a deliberate design choice on your correspondent’s part – the intention was to replicate the kind of game a newly-minted C64 assembly language programmer would possibly write – but in an effort to make people happy, those features were duly added around a week after the game was released… and promptly forgotten. Fast forward a little to a couple of days ago and your correspondent remembered that he was planning on releasing a couple of C64CD things during 2018, so nefarious “plans” have been laid to push them out of the door during the “festive season”.

So dear reader, the first of those deliveries is Super Hyperzap, a slightly upgraded version of the original Hyperzap 2018 which, along with swapping the soundtrack out for a more recent one, adds some variety to the enemy designs and allows them to animate , includes explosion graphics when enemies or the player are destroyed and, most importantly of all considering the aforementioned feedback, has the enemies moving horizontally as well as vertically. This latter amendment fixes a fairly major design flaw in the original which it in turn had inherited from the first Hyperzap.

Super Hyperzap (C64)

The author recently made the rather amusing but false claim that he “tell[s] it like it is, trying to uncover the mysteries that Commodore created surrounding the C64” but the main problem with that statement is that there aren’t any mysteries because Commodore themselves and the various third parties have documented it extensively and, because of that, there’s a plethora of games similar to Super Hyperzap out there from programmers learning their craft and actually putting it to practical use in the process.

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