PARALLAXIAN - a stunning "next generation" shoot-em-and-bomb-em-up for the C64, pushing the machine's limits!
(By Jon Woods in collaboration with Protovision)
You are a crack pilot manning the S-1000 Figment, a VTOL "YCF" (Yaw Configured Fighter) designed for low level deep interdiction operations in hostile airspace taken over by a rogue AI on the new terra-formed microplanets orbiting earth.
Your mission: Penetrate occupied zones on the microplanets to rescue downed colleagues, destroying enemy airborne and ground forces to recover territory lost to the enemy. You will need every ounce of your advanced fighter pilot training skills during frantic dogfights, frenetic ground-hugging bombing raids and brutal fire fights on the ground!
Gameplay consists of 3 core elements built on the principle of freedom to roam the explorable game world in pursuit of completing the mission, which in every instance is the pacification of each planet.
Those 3 elements are:
(i) Air-to-air combat - This is where the player engages in turn'n'burn dogfighting sequences with two kinds of enemy; the first is the Hunter Killer drones, which guard hostile airspace and like to get on your tail and try to hose you down from behind with their lasers until your shields collapse and your plane succumbs.
The second type are the Backfires, which roam the skies, enticing you to give chase as they duck and weave and double back to throw you off their tails, firing back at you as they try to make good their escape.
There are also strike planes and other enemy aircraft to shoot down but the main air-to-air thrill is in the high speed aerial engagements.
(ii) Bombing ground targets - Since your primary mission on each level is to neutralise and reclaim enemy airspace / territory, bombing is a critical part of the gameplay. Low level, tree-top strikes mean you can effectively carpet bomb enemy forces, but there will be times when high altitude bomb drops might provide better protection for your plane.
When the territory is reclaimed, it becomes colonised by friendlies but you must be careful not to destroy them lest you hand territory back to the enemy forces.
A key objective on each micro planet is to find and neutralise the enemy HQ, which will be guarded by airborne and sometimes ground forces that are impervious to your weaponry until the enemy base itself is destroyed.
Typically, this will require swooping bombing attacks at low level back and forth over the enemy HQ, ducking and diving to avoid the defensive barrage overhead.
(Clip below: flight-testing the new shadow effect and blowing up some Dotbots in the process!)
(iii) Ground-based actions - The pilot can land and disembark from the plane to engage enemy combatants on the ground, where ground forces will stop running and start firing at you. Thankfully, the pilot can jump and dive down flat, as well as fire back as he battles his way to rescue downed fellow pilots, avoiding landmines on later levels.
Enemy ground forces can also call in reinforcements who arrive by air, so it's extra dangerous to be on the ground and your pilot will inevitably take hits.
The pilot will also be able to call in an air strike once per level, to assist him while on the ground.
Both the pilot and the plane will need regular returns to base, where a cure-all medical unit revives the pilot's health and where the plane's fuel cell can be re-energised.
Success is measured in percentage of mission completed on each level, not by the standard method of scoring points.
Rank and insignia are to be awarded for progress; however, poor performances will elicit scorn or reprimand from the commanding officer.
Levels are to be accessed in a slightly non-linear way; the player can begin on either L1 or L2, but both have to be completed before L3 / L4 can be accessed. Finally L5 comes after that.
The levels consist of 5 planets:
- L1 - A forested Alpine planet.
- L2 - An arid desertscape modelled on the American south west.
- L3 - A tropical waterscape, with boats and splashing effects.
- L4 - A snowy polar planet.
- L5 - A "mega city one" style apocalypti-scape / dystopian urban location.
So the game is being designed as a full-sized, strident, multi-level experience that lavishes the use of non-standard colours across a variety of beautiful landscapes, somewhat showcasing my penchant for landscape art in the process!
But above all, it is being designed as an electrifying game-playing experience.
The game is built around its Raster Interrupt (aka "IRST") engine, which performs all the necessary screen splits, border opening, smooth scrolling, DCM colour-mixing, software sprites, and other important elements that require precise alignment with the raster (the screen refresh renderer).
But the game also employs a secondary interrupt, the Non-Maskable Interrupt (NMI), which serves two purposes:
1. It plays sound effects (SFX) that require high speed refreshes.
2. It also provides a lightweight, cycle-sparing multiplexor for some sprite effects.
The NMI is not triggered by the raster refresh in the way the IRST is; rather, it fires every so often on a schedule handled by a timer inside the C64, so the key thing is to set it up in such a manner that it creates a "standing wave" that doesn't slide up or down the screen. This way, it is possible to weave its trigger occurrences between IRST trigger events and thus have the two interrupt types working in harmony.
I hope by now you feel confident in my abilities as a game designer, coder and graphician.
But you should also be getting a sense for my passion for this game, as that is what has driven this game into pushing the C64 into corners it has never ventured near before, at least not in a gaming context.
So while I have drawn heavily on the C64 demo scene for inspiration in terms of disregarding established norms on what should be possible on the machine, I have long been compelled by a desire to create this game.
If you visit my downloads page, you will find old technology demonstrators of the 1995 prototype for Parallaxian, which in those days was called Colony.
And while the new game uses perhaps less than 5% of the old source code, those demos show that the seed for Parallaxian was sown a long time ago.
In fact, truth be told, the earliest twinkle-in-my-eye for the game was probably while I was still a hormone-addled spotty teenager, obsessed with parallax scrolling and the idea of a colourful landscape based game which the adolescent me wanted to call Impasse.
When I returned to the C64 scene in summer 2018, I soon found I hadn't lost my passion for that game concept... and thankfully, the 6502 instruction set was still engraved in my grey matter, despite it now being accompanied by HTML, CSS, JS and PHP as a consequence of my immersion in "full stack" web development.
So in essence, I returned to the scene as a more broadly experienced programmer, but also with the benefit of having access to wonderful resources that were absent back in 1995 when I made those old demos; resources such as online forums serving the demo scene (total goldmines for any ambitious C64 coder) and, of course, new cross platform development tools enabling faster game coding and design by using PCs instead of doing it the old, hard, ugly way on a real C64.
I'm also better networked now, with good relationships with respected and experienced C64 sceners and thus, all these things considered and factored into a collective whole, I trust you consider me to be capable of delivering this staggeringly impressive game as outlined above.
Believe in me, therefore, and in this game and together, let's make it happen!
Risks and challenges
The greatest risk in any stridently ambitious game project like this is the technical accomplishment of it.
However, in this case, all of the key game technologies have been resolved and thoroughly polished.
The greatest challenges remaining would be to ensure the design of the additional levels and the composition / arrangement of the title screen music can match the high standards set thus far. On both counts, I am confident as neither poses the difficulty level of developing and refining the codebase for the now completed underlying game engine infrastructure.
I have also taken careful measures to ensure a supply of cartridges, disks and packaging for the finished product.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)