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Walker's Way Logo

Diary of a Game - Citadel - Part 8

Many, many thanks to Philippe Lesire for scanning and OCRing the Walker's Ways from issue 46 to 52.

Issue 51 - July 1989

After a brief absence last month (apart from his ace music demo!) Martin is coming near to completing the CITADEL

Tuesday 28th February Since it takes so much effort to get past the traps it's about time you got some reward for triggering them, so now 50 points are awarded for each (whoopee!). Other improvements today were the inclusion of a proper low energy alarm and a new sprite design for the next baddie - the STUNNER. It will fire energy bolts which temporarily stop MONITOR in his tracks for a few seconds. The other proposed baddie Is the BEAMER. This doesn't move in the conventional sense - instead it 'beams' from one tile to another two further away. Should prove interesting to deal with, eh?
Wednesday 1st March Some of the baddies have a different personality and actions, rather like the range of pieces in chess. The STEPPER will stop and wait when you do, giving you the chance to decide which way to proceed, whilst at the other end of the spectrum the KAMIKAZE will hurl itself straight at you - the only defence is to turn and run whilst firing backwards at it! Today some of these characteristics were enhanced. The AGGRESSOR now dashes in at high speed, then stops and fires when close. The CYCLON moves slowly but takes many hits to dispose of.
Saturday 4th March I've decided to implement the new security force beam generators next. These will provide the doorways with an extremely effective deterrent to intruders - one touch of the force beam will instantly fry all players who try to charge through without first finding and deactivating the associated switch! Tee Hee! The design has also been finished - a large industrial laser with style variations for each type of city.
Tuesday 7th March The switches linked in beautifully and now the beams can be deactivated by using the capture probe on the associated switch once it has been discovered. Although MONITOR already detects the generators themselves as solid objects, he needs a small addition to be destroyed by the beam.

The switches are reversible, ie they can be both switched on and off at any time using the capture probe. In fact any of the trap objects can be 'used' at any time, even when on the other side of a solid wall, as long as they appear on screen and the trap has previously been triggered and its doors are therefore open. A novel tactic using the switches is to close the 'door' behind you after passing through it safely. It's rather amusing to see the mobile aliens clustered around the wrong side of the force beam, trying desperately to fire at you.
Wednesday 8th March The final touches to the doors are now complete. MONITOR now gets 'fried' by the beam, but both the player and the baddies can fire through it. A particulaly nasty tactic which gave me some evil delight is to wait just beyond the deactivated beam and switch it back on as a baddie comes through. Phut! Well they're MY pixels m'lud!
Friday 10th March A fruitful session brought forth a new type of firepower - the BURST fire. This launches all the player's bullets in one huge salvo. It does take a little longer to reload, BUT this is amply compensated for by the fact that every type of alien can be taken out with one accurate shot.
Saturday 11th March Right. A new bullet design for yesterday's BURST firepower, and then I got down to the lift shaft design. To connect the two parallel 'sides' of each city world, the lift shafts allow free access at any time, and in fact each level could be described as a three dimensional maze (albeit a small one!)
Monday 13th March Multiple levels am now catered for! All of the data has been moved into position carefully, and there is enough space for eight levels, each having two different 'halves' of 16 screens each - a total size of 256 screens' worth of strategic mayhem! There are different styles of graphics ranging from squeaky clean metallic to dark and dingy alien oppressive. The next thing is to code the routine which takes the player from one 'side' to the other within the double-sided cities, or to the next completely new city when the main exit has been accessed.
Friday 17th March The sequence of events between levels and 'sides' of each city is now: MONITOR enters lift, sinks through floor level, city fades to blackness. New city fades up, MONITOR rises up through floor level lift shaft.

Now the level designer must be updated to include the new features, and then the levels themselves can be commenced, along with the dispatching of a test disk to Cyberdyne Systems in Exeter who have generously volunteered as test pilots (There! No more grumbling that I don't mention you in the diary any more - and I'll send you the bill shortly!).
Tuesday 28th March The construction set now has a whole set of new commands - plot horizontal or vertical force beam generators, plot lift shaft and, most important of all - delete the item at the current position. This at last allows traps or any other object to be dropped or picked up anywhere in the city, so that many different tweaks can be caried out when designing new cities. The switches can be linked to any force beam, and the first sample city has been designed - a fetching creation in the alien design, complete with some nasty defensive spots.

Along with these fundamental changes, the cities themselves have been shrunk to slightly more manageable proportions. Each city now consists of two 'sides', each of eight screens total size, ie each level is 16 screens in total. This allows a much higher density of traps, much more action, and still feels vast in practice.
Thursday 30th March A casual change to the code to allow entrances and exits for a city to be both on one 'side' of the city caused rather more problems than expected. After passing through the lift shaft MONITOR ended up in an unknown and strange part of the city (it was a bug you see, and quite an obscure one at that!). After happily leaping into a routine for several weeks it was discovered that the 'Y' register needed to be set to zero beforehand. Quite by accident this happened anyway. Such is life!
Saturday lst April The first report has come in from my erstwhile test pilots at Cyberdyne. The general consensus was excellent'. and I'm much helped by all the feedback.

MONITOR's built-in MINISCREEN was much liked by all and the new graphics and sprites admired. Various small but extremely useful points emerged - as they kept falling down the lift shafts by mistake the fire button now needs to be pressed before entering. And since the player's bullets only have a limited range it seems fair that the alien bullets must have the same.
Monday 3rd April My birthday, but don't think that I'm going to take a day off. Nosiree - this programming lark must press on! And very nicely it did too. The next city style is a dark and oppressive metal-armoured place with huge conduits and a rivetted floor.
Tuesday 4th April The terrifying armoured place had the final rivet hammered into it this afternoon, and the traps themselves have doors that open like a camera shutter. With the new sound effect it works beautifully.
Wednesday 5th April The Ancient style has a novel twist in that some of the pyramidal wall sections have small gaps allowing both parties to fire through. This might give you a bit of a shock when you first see them. but it creates great opportunities for knocking out installations from the safe side of walls. Just watch out for attacks down apparently empty corridors!
Thursday 6th April After feeling a bit aggressive today I decided to modify my PRISONER mode to allow the captured mobiles to ram the enemy. At last I can hide round a corner and knock out the enemy without getting in the line of fire! The PRISONERS themselves have a limited ability to take all this extra action, and will eventually explode in a shower of metal shards (oooh!).
Saturday 8th April Final touches to miniscreen included a flashing indication for the current target - E for energy, C for capture, S for switches and F for additional firepower. When the thrusters operate it displays an animated revolving symbol, and all should be completely readable even on 12" black and white TVs!
Wednesday 12th April With three levels playable, now seems a suitable time to install another batch of little touches - multiple lives and a lives indicator at the top of the playing area as well as an indication of the current city number.

Each level has its own different starting point(a horizontal scroller always starts on the leftmost point - CITADEL could start anywhere!) so all of the appropriate data needs to be stored. By popular demand (mine!) an extra MONITOR will be awarded every 10,000 points. Hooray!
Friday 14th April At long last the music is underway - one of my full-blown film soundtracks. This one should sound even bigger than my music for ARMALYTE (cheque in the post please!) - after all, everyone improves as they go along. The title music sounds menacing and mysterious.
Saturday 15th April Along with continued activity in the music department today also saw the start of the title screen. I'm hoping to include a demo sequence, especially as the game now contains such a variety of gameplay - I'm sure that the casual player just won't realise what a variety of uses can be made of the captured mobiles. During the course of the last few days' play they have been used to: plug the top of security launchers to prevent other mobiles being launched; ram and destroy other mobiles around corners; sent ahead for use as a battering ram to destroy gun emplacements without firing a single shot; and even swung round and round like a mace to knock out hordes of WATCHERS swarming out of a nearby launchers!
Thursday 20th April An excellent all-rounder. First the ancient city style was finished and then another style city which incorporates glass tubes with metal reinforcements. That's five styles completed already. A session with the level editor saw level four well under way, and pretty mean it is! Then to round off a comprehensive day the title music was lengthened.
Monday 24th April The title track is now almost complete, and I'm very pleased with it. It really has a 'soundtrack from a film' feel to it. A few sound effects have also been tweaked. The low energy alarm was a bit too fierce; as long as you are aware of it when playing there's no need to deafen everyone!

Later on in the day the first playable outing into city number four took place. This contains glass and chrome flowpipes and one of the nicest city atmospheres sounds so far - rather like the Dalek city on Skaro in the first ever encounter with Doctor Who (anyone remember that far back?). One of the switches is situated in a mini-arena bristling with defences, and every move triggers yet another potential destroyer. Great stuff!
Tuesday 25th April Well, I've entered the 'what so we do when we lose a life' debate. Countless reviews have bemoaned the fact that in many shoot-'em-ups a small mistake can send you back to the beginning of the level - and this can be quite a way with some games! CITADEL now has a small addition which remembers the last lift shaft visited, and your gleaming new MONITOR is delivered here if you run out of energy and receive a direct hit. All of the switches and traps are still in the same state too, so your efforts have not been in vain - at the very least you will have 'softened up' the security installations!

Learning curves for games (how much further you manage to progress each time you play) are tricky things to get right. Let's face it, the ubiquitous end-of-level guardian serves two functions - the 'ooh-aah!' graphics thrill and a huge 'step' in the learning curve unless it's done properly. Most players will get to this point at least several times and then lose all their lives trying to defeat this one creature. Although ultimately very satisfying when you master it, it can be a source of terminal frustration for those of a more nervous disposition!
Wednesday 26th April A rather hectic day had me going out in the car three times, and work had to fit into the gaps. Even so, it was a fruitful time - the title music is now complete (all four minutes of it - my musical pieces always grow don't they!) and it really suits the mood of the game. The CITADEL logo for the title screen is also basically complete in a fetching moulded metal look with Egyptian overtones (after all, the cities have been built by an ancient civilisatlon!), and tomorrow's main task will be to incorporate both of these elements into the rest of the game.
Thursday 27th April The basic title screen is now in place. I've used the famous 4K cubby hole underneath the I/O chips to store it and the associated colour map and character set. All that needs to be done is to move the data when it is needed, and save the main game character set in the cubby hole until need later. Mind you, switching the ROMS in and out can cause problems if you get only a single value wrong (I know - I did the first time!).

Issue 52 - August 1989

Martin, upon Seeing a 6 Inch MuggerYou've read the review of the superb CITADEL, now hear how Martin finally completed the game he's been working on for over a year! with some particularly nasty traps on the later levels.


Saturday 29th April The main design of the new diagonal HAZARD cities continued this weekend. These look very different from those previously, and also bear in mind the twists that are now beginning to appear from one city to the next. One of the later cities will have no walls at all - instead there willl be bottomless chasms between the pathways. This will have one huge consequence. You (and the enemy) will be able to shoot across the divide, providing a sudden increase in possible attack points.
Wednesday 3rd May The main design work commenced this morning on level five - the ancient city of CHAMBERS. There are no switches to locate here, but all force beams are activated in timed pulses, hopefully giving you time to pass. This one is a real three-dimensional maze of narrow winding corridors and individual cells.

I've now had an opportunity to observe more people playing the game in different ways, and two clear types emerge - those who daren't stop and rely on their momentum to keep dodging the flak, and those who, like me, prefer to stop and think before the next move. CITADEL does seem to be successful at appealing to both those who like their shoot'-em-ups laced with strategy, and those who prefer strategy with a bit of action.
Thursday 4th May Level five (the ancient city of chambers) needed a few tweaks before the timed force beams fired up correctly, but once in action provided a very different style of play. Although it is easy enough to time your dash through the beam generators (this isn't one of those pixel-perfect platform games!), waiting for a suitable moment allows your pursuers to catch up.
Friday 5th May Later on a new and devastating type of alien mobile emerged from the sprite editor - the DESTROYER! This will only appear in later levels (a good job too, as you'll need plenty of practice in earlier levels before meeting it for the first time!), but may put in an appearance early on if you hang around too long. It moves quickly, fires a high speed globe and never stops to reload. You'll not thank me the first time you come across one!
Monday 8th May Well, the events of the past few days can finally be revealed. On Friday I signed a deal with ACTIVISION, who had shown a great deal of interest in CITADEL over the last few weeks, and they now have the rights to publish it around the world! The deal also suggests a finish date of June 1st, which is exactly what I had in mind.
Monday 15th May Martin With Disks for EarsThe final graphic style is a rather fetching creation in GOTHIC spikes and flourishes. The bosses and shield like protuberances would not look out of place hanging as trophies from the walls of a Scottish castle. The atmosphere is perfect for the final twist - the traps will remain shut even if you move directly on top of them. Then, just when you are wondering what possible hazards there could possibly be in a city with no defences, you will discover the dreadful truth. Triggering traps containing energy switches or equipment will activate every other trapdoor in the vicinity.
Tuesday 9th May The graphic blocks for the VOID level worked out extremely well today - this city will definitely be one of mr favourites. Between each pathway is blackness and despair and you will despair too when you get attacked by something from the other side of the chasm! This set of graphics completes seven styles in all, so I have one more to go.

Various tweaks were made to the weapons today - by popular request the burst fire now not only produces a salvo of four bullets simultaneously, but also has an increased range! It does however take more energy to capture and lasts a shorter time before petering out.
Wednesday 10th May A few minutes of controlled panic ensued this morning after my monitor suddenly went 'click' and the picture vanished. Luckily I keep an old TV for emergencies, but five minutes later the monitor started working again. I suspect a loose connection - let's hope it's going to hold out until June 1st!

A new gauge has been added to the top of screen 'info pods' which shows the remaining energy in any captured installation. This allows you to see when your precious battering ram is about to batter for the final time, and you can then recapture it if you wish, giving a full recharge (at the expense of your own energy). This certainly makes you think a bit more in the midst of all the action.
Saturday 13th May The first design for trap placement in the VOID level was just a bit too fierce - with flak coming from eight directions and from across the chasms too it just seemed too much for my poor brain to take in at once. The revised design restricts this level to four way firing installations only, and this proved to be ideal. You still need eyes in the back of your head though!

Preparation for level seven proved to be quite quick. This one is the aggressive one that traditional shoot-'em-up players will feel quite at home with. All guns continue firing at you even when you are stationary and they don't stop to fire, but just trundle relentlessly towards you in a threatening manner. The DESTROYERS also put in their first appearance.
Tuesday 16th May After a neat suggestion by Robin (the graphics king of Cyberdyne) each new MONITOR delivered alters a life is lost comes in a different colour. A small modification maybe, but it does enhance the feeling that the player controls many devices. The space bar now allows the player to lock a mobile under control into a fixed position relative to MONITOR. This can be extremely useful for protecting MONITOR from a particular direction whilst firing in eight directions and moving any way you like.
Wednesday 17th May The proximity routine for the GOTHIC level is now fully debugged, so tomorrow will see the start of design work for the final level. And don't worry about the lastability. If you ever manage to loop the game, restarting on early levels will introduce the random trap option. This will also be available from the options on the title screen, and although allowing the switches or equipment to remain in the same positions, all the enemy defences will be completely randomised in each level. Not a suitable choice for a beginner, or the faint hearted. You have been warn!
Thursday 18th May The GOTHIC level is now in and working, and a most mysterious experience it is! There you are, happily floating down a corridor when suddenly all hell breaks loose all about you. Pneumatic trapdoors burst open in every direction, and staying alive just doesn't seem to be so certain any more...
Friday 19th May This afternoon saw me visiting ACTIVISION again for discussions about the packaging and instructions for CITADEL, as well as showing the latest version of the game to SOFTWARE STUDIOS. I'm pleased to say that by the time I'd finished showing all the new features and playing through the entire game, they sat there with their jaws hanging open. "We didn't realise there was THAT much in it!!" was the first response. The new twists add so much variety that many of the later levels feel quite different to play. So, when you've mastered the basic techniques of the game, you will be prepared to enter new experiences in the deeper bowels of the long deserted cities.
Thursday 25th May The random trap placement option was added today, along with the selection and messages on the title sequence. This option will greatly increase the longevity of the game, as even if you get to know every city backwards a whole new vista opens up. In action it's quite frightening, as approaching any trapdoor is now a nerve-racking experience.
Saturday 27th May The attract sequence is now well under way, with the appearance of every new device synchronised with the title music. After dismantling my monitor screen today I managed to locate the loose soldered joint that had been causing my picture to disappear over the last few days. That's one less thing to worry about. However, believe it or not my 64 power supply seems to be starting to throw out random spikes that cause everything to crash. And you thought a software developer's life was easy?
Tuesday 30th May The instructions were written today using an ST after my 64 crashed yet again and lost two hours work. ACTIVISION have despatched a replacement by courier which will arrive tomorrow. However, by this evening I just THINK that I may have traced the problem. I'll let you know at the end of tomorrow if my strange hunch turns out to be true!
Wednesday 31st May My hunch was correct. The cause of my computer crashes was... MY SOCKS! Believe it or not, after checking when the crashes started, I remembered getting the odd static shock when touching some equipment. These new socks were bought just before it all started, and contain a lot of nylon. A thorough check of all the mains wiring found one loose earth wire. So, after a few hours my static charge was finally discharged through the 64. Crash! All day today (with better earthing and different socks!) there have been no crashes (touch wood, or should that be metal?).
Thursday 1st June Well here it is. The final (official) day. Although final acceptance date is the 15th, to allow small changes to be made at ACTIVISION's request, this is the date when the latest version will be posted off to Software Studios in Reading for final comments.

This is definitely the last diary instalment so I'd like to take the opportunity to thank all the people who have helped it on its way. Julian and Steve for asking me to write in the first place, all those moons ago, and Gordon, Kati and Maff for continued enthusiasm, along with Stuart in the final straight (What about me? - Randy). I couldn't go without special thanks to all those Zzap readers who took the trouble to write to me. A special thank you must go to Colin Neal who recently sent a massive 10 page epic complete with sketches, maps and ideas.

Goodbye, and we will meet again (who was that masked man?).

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