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Post Posted: Tue Apr 15, 2014 5:40 pm
I was going to ask about the cross-platform handling of GB-Z80 vs. Z80, whether you avoided the relevant opcodes or had some abstraction (i.e. the macros you refer to). The identical screen resolutions of the GG and GB presumably helped too.

As for Lemmings 2 being better than Lemmings, I am getting the feeling so far that it is slightly less polished graphically - the palette choices seem a little glaring at times - and feels like it runs at a lower frame rate with some input lag. I need to spend some more time with Lemmings 1 to confirm that, though.

Edit: it looks like Lemmings runs at 12.5fps and Lemmings 2 runs at 10fps, neither is particularly great. I blame the Android emulator I was using for the input lag.

As it happens, I was a big fan of Lemmings 2 on GB as it was effectively my sequel to Lemmings on the SMS. Thus any difference I perceive between that GB version and these is probably very much in my head :)

Looking through the disassembly, it feels a little odd in places. Was it all hand-written, did the macros do some significant amount of code generation, or was there some higher-level language involved? (In particular I was tracing how the password is stored in memory, which seemed to involve storing it within the RAM sprite table (?) using algorithmically-chosen non-sequential sprite indices and then translating it to a real password only transiently, then copying that around a couple of times for some reason... well, my confusion may have made that description be all wrong, but it was hard to trace.)
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Post Posted: Tue Apr 15, 2014 7:13 pm
The only other copy of Pinball Mania I see on ebay has a EUR code on the label, so it must be European.
GameFAQs doesn't even have it listed, which why I guessed so. That's gotta be obscure for them to miss it. :D
After trying the ROMs, it seems that Pinball Mania is indeed a different game (different tables) than Pinball Fantasies, despite that the EU Mania cover art is (title difference aside) the same as US Fantasies.
I guess this side discussion is settled.
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Post Posted: Tue Apr 15, 2014 9:36 pm
Last edited by Phil on Tue Apr 15, 2014 9:48 pm; edited 1 time in total
Lemmings 2 probably suits the GG and GB more as you're not sat several feet away from a TV. Playing it in 60hz does make a big difference as I wasn't straining my eyes as much. Also pausing and unpausing is a big part of the game, so you can plan your next move and get in position in time to implement it! My MS won't reach to my sofa, so I've had to sit down on the floor so I was in a position to pause. A pause button on the controller would make this game so much easier to play!

I Know this isn't a issue if you playing it on an emulator, but as I always say if you have a Porsche in the garage, why take the bus?!

Anyway the lack of blockers in this game also means you have to try less obvious skills and use a different kind of strategy to the original Lemmings. I got confused with some of the icons, some of them were not that obvious to me! It's a good idea to study the icons in advance and the order they appear in before you start to play a level properly.

SMS/GG Lemmings 2 compared to the original Lemmings is a different animal as you've only got 8 lemmings to get home. The amount you finish with is the amount you start the next stage with! This is tough to say the least. Does the 16 bit version have 60 lemmings? I'm sure the Mega Drive/Genesis version does anyway! This makes every move critical if you want to complete a level and save all the lemmings. Pausing and unpausing does slow down the gameplay quite a bit, but it's a must as it's such a difficult game.

Lemmings 2 is also such an unforgiving game, one tiny mistake and you have to restart the level! I won't tell you how many attempts it took to complete level 3 of the beach stage, frustrating is not the word, but that only makes you more determined to try again and thus is the draw of the game.

All in all Lemmings 2 is a decent puzzle game for people who have a lot of patience!!! It's just a shame the game didn't feature more lemmings per level...but you can't have everything!!!
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Post Posted: Tue Apr 15, 2014 9:46 pm
Which emulator are you using? I've run L2 in Fusion 3.6 with no input lag at all. The frame rate for L2 does hover around 10fps, aside from when the game is paused. If I remember correctly, a large share of the processing time goes to collision detection (character-based look-ups first, followed by pixel look-ups). I didn't do any profiling back then, so I'd be interesting to see what else you turn up in your disassembly. :-)

The code was all hand-written in Z80 code, using macros for GB-Z80 vs Z80 where required, and compiled using KASM. Everything was edited in Boxer (DOS editor) and we wrote our own DOS tools in assembly too. Graphics were created in Deluxe Paint. The palette choices for L2 were aligned with the PC version as much as possible, so Beach may seem a bit glaring but I think the other levels turned out okay.

The story intro, level intro screen, and password system were written by Darren Clayton - so I can't speak to his coding choices. L2 Game Boy is essentially the same code throughout, just with some palette switching in the panel area that allowed me to squeeze in some more graphics at the expense of making those graphics one bit color depth.

Lemmings GB was pretty horrible to play in my opinion. Clicking on a lemming only activated that skill only as soon as the lemming sprite was on a character boundary, so clicking on lemmings near ledges would result in them falling off. That was one of the drivers for me writing a better detection/modification system while only having to make compromises on a few of the skills that could modify large areas of the map, i.e. Glue Pourer became Pyramider. Lemmings on GG/SMS did a much better job in this regard.

Maxim wrote
I was going to ask about the cross-platform handling of GB-Z80 vs. Z80, whether you avoided the relevant opcodes or had some abstraction (i.e. the macros you refer to). The identical screen resolutions of the GG and GB presumably helped too.

As for Lemmings 2 being better than Lemmings, I am getting the feeling so far that it is slightly less polished graphically - the palette choices seem a little glaring at times - and feels like it runs at a lower frame rate with some input lag. I need to spend some more time with Lemmings 1 to confirm that, though.

Edit: it looks like Lemmings runs at 12.5fps and Lemmings 2 runs at 10fps, neither is particularly great. I blame the Android emulator I was using for the input lag.

As it happens, I was a big fan of Lemmings 2 on GB as it was effectively my sequel to Lemmings on the SMS. Thus any difference I perceive between that GB version and these is probably very much in my head :)

Looking through the disassembly, it feels a little odd in places. Was it all hand-written, did the macros do some significant amount of code generation, or was there some higher-level language involved? (In particular I was tracing how the password is stored in memory, which seemed to involve storing it within the RAM sprite table (?) using algorithmically-chosen non-sequential sprite indices and then translating it to a real password only transiently, then copying that around a couple of times for some reason... well, my confusion may have made that description be all wrong, but it was hard to trace.)
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Post Posted: Tue Apr 15, 2014 10:00 pm
It is possible to complete levels without pausing, it just requires a greater degree of skill and practice. In testing we used pause on sparingly to ensure levels could be completed. After a while you get pretty adept at holding down 2 and stabbing at the d-pad the appropriate number of times. :-)

The maximum number of lemmings was a conundrum at the start of development. I looked into pure background map animation, a blend of that and sprites, and just sprites. I believe in Lemmings 1 they have some kind of funky sprite multiplexing going on to get 16, but in the end I decided that the number of lemmings wasn't actually that important in terms of gameplay, as the aim of the game was unchanged. So I stuck with 8 to reduce complexity, sprite flickering, and processing time. I had also noticed that many of the levels just involved sending one or two lemmings off across the map to get to a point where they can rescue the rest - so having 8 lemmings or 60 lemmings didn't affect gameplay.

Phil wrote
All in all Lemmings 2 is a decent puzzle game for people who have a lot of patience!!! It's just a same the game didn't feature more lemmings per level...
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Post Posted: Tue Apr 15, 2014 10:02 pm
I was using a smartphone emulator. I need to resurrect my DS for mobile emulation with real buttons :)

I think the graphical ugliness seems more in the out of level parts so far. It seems like the base tile sets are pretty small to give more space for modifiable tiles, but that means the levels can seem a bit sparse. How close is it possible to get to the 128 modified tile limit?

Part of the fun of Lemmings is when you have a stream of hundreds of lemmings walking through the route you've created. That, and nuking them - while I can see why the particle effects are out, it's a shame not to have them deform the landscape when that happens. Tile limit issues again? Some custom Lemmings levels (on other platforms) even rely on the nuke explosions to clear the path to the exit...
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Post Posted: Tue Apr 15, 2014 10:10 pm
Ah yes, you're right - I just looked at the larger images. Pinball Mania came quite late in the release cycle on the GB too (95, I think) so it might not have sold many copies.

Speaking of obscure games, I now remember that we developed Wayne's World on the Game Gear, based on the SNES version. That didn't get released either and ended up on the cutting room floor. And before you ask... I don't have the ROM file for that either. :-(

KingMike wrote
The only other copy of Pinball Mania I see on ebay has a EUR code on the label, so it must be European.
GameFAQs doesn't even have it listed, which why I guessed so. That's gotta be obscure for them to miss it. :D
After trying the ROMs, it seems that Pinball Mania is indeed a different game (different tables) than Pinball Fantasies, despite that the EU Mania cover art is (title difference aside) the same as US Fantasies.
I guess this side discussion is settled.
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Post Posted: Tue Apr 15, 2014 10:12 pm
I think I'm just so used to SMS Lemmings 1 with ten to twenty lemmings on screen at once, I was a little disappointed with just the 8 at first. With what you've said, I totally understand your point about using 1 or 2 to make a safe route for the others to follow...these lemmings just live in rather small clans ;-)

I love Lemmings 1 so I'm a little biased, but it's refreshing you made a sequel which was quite different to 1st game. I think it'll take me a while just to get used to the controls and the style of gameplay...

I'm in no way criticizing the game, it's brilliant to play a new title...
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Post Posted: Tue Apr 15, 2014 10:20 pm
The 128 limit could be reached on many levels, depending on the mix of skills and the alignment of triggering digging skills such as the Fencer, which can dig diagonally until it reaches a steel block, water, or air. For example, the Flamethrower skill can modify 4 characters if perfectly aligned, or 10 in a worst case scenario - so you can chew through that 128 pretty quickly.

The individual Bomber skill does modify the landscape, but the Nuke explosions do not. I don't actually remember the reason for not modifying the landscape during Nuke, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was related to framerate as there was no obstacle in terms of modifiable characters.

The 128 limit also simplified the lookup of detection and graphical characters - just check bit 7 to see if it is stock (in ROM) or modified (in RAM).

Maxim wrote
I was using a smartphone emulator. I need to resurrect my DS for mobile emulation with real buttons :)

I think the graphical ugliness seems more in the out of level parts so far. It seems like the base tile sets are pretty small to give more space for modifiable tiles, but that means the levels can seem a bit sparse. How close is it possible to get to the 128 modified tile limit?

Part of the fun of Lemmings is when you have a stream of hundreds of lemmings walking through the route you've created. That, and nuking them - while I can see why the particle effects are out, it's a shame not to have them deform the landscape when that happens. Tile limit issues again? Some custom Lemmings levels (on other platforms) even rely on the nuke explosions to clear the path to the exit...
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Post Posted: Wed Apr 16, 2014 9:57 am
Thank you very much for the release, Mr. Taylor! As a huge fan of Lemmings games, I appreciate a lot surprises like this!

I find the game pretty good, a respectable and enjoyable adaptation from the Mega Drive port; a memorable tour de force. Also, it is very nice to find the SMS/GG version have unpublished levels.

However, I have a few complaints: apart from the title screen one, I think the music tunes are not very thrilling. I would say they are even too silly. And there is no chance to just try to enjoy them while Pause is activated, because music stops then. It is a bit sad. But perhaps I am biased due to my love to the first SMS Lemmings game and Mega Drive's Lemmings 2.

By the way, to have a Pause button in the game menu, like the rest of Lemmings 2 versions do have, would have been an ultimate improvement, at least for the SMS, whose damned Pause button is very far from players. The Piramider ability it is also frustrating, and not very intuitive.

Finally, I think the all-black background title screen is very bland. But I suppose that simplicity were mandatory, due to the limited rom cart memory.

I hope my criticism does not upset you. The work you have done with this version is absolutely remarkable, and I am very happy to play with it.

Thank you again, Mr. Taylor!
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Post Posted: Wed Apr 16, 2014 8:19 pm
L2 SMS/GG was based on the PC version, and if you look at a YouTube video of the Beach level you'll see that it's a faithful reproduction in that regard. The title screen had to be kept simple due to cartridge memory limits, as you quite rightly guessed. The tunes are also a good stab at recreating the PC or Amiga tunes that play with each level. The 8-bit versions are never going to quite measure up to 16-bit, but they're faithful reproductions.

The criticism of the Pyramider is totally fair, although you get used to how it works pretty quickly. The Pourer skill in the original just couldn't be reproduced, so an equivalent had to be devised. The Pourer skill was simply to fill in holes and get lemmings out, so the Pyramider was the closest analogy I could think of - build a double-sided ramp that lemmings to scale by either walking up or turning into "Stucker" skills to climb out.

I switched out the Pause option with Restart after seeing how long it took to get back to trying again. Although this is a bit of pain for SMS users, trust me when I say that having to click through 20 to 30 seconds of screens before you can try again is more painful. :-)

All criticism is valid and it's really interesting to hear it now. I think if I was to write it again I'd change a few things but mostly I'd leave it as it is. :-)

Ron_Stard wrote
Thank you very much for the release, Mr. Taylor! As a huge fan of Lemmings games, I appreciate a lot surprises like this!

I find the game pretty good, a respectable and enjoyable adaptation from the Mega Drive port; a memorable tour de force. Also, it is very nice to find the SMS/GG version have unpublished levels.

However, I have a few complaints: apart from the title screen one, I think the music tunes are not very thrilling. I would say they are even too silly. And there is no chance to just try to enjoy them while Pause is activated, because music stops then. It is a bit sad. But perhaps I am biased due to my love to the first SMS Lemmings game and Mega Drive's Lemmings 2.

By the way, to have a Pause button in the game menu, like the rest of Lemmings 2 versions do have, would have been an ultimate improvement, at least for the SMS, whose damned Pause button is very far from players. The Piramider ability it is also frustrating, and not very intuitive.

Finally, I think the all-black background title screen is very bland. But I suppose that simplicity were mandatory, due to the limited rom cart memory.

I hope my criticism does not upset you. The work you have done with this version is absolutely remarkable, and I am very happy to play with it.

Thank you again, Mr. Taylor!
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Post Posted: Sat Apr 19, 2014 7:03 pm
I have just completed the whole game, and I think it is GREAT. You were right: the tunes sound very well once you get used to them! =)

The gameplay is good, and the difficulty of the levels is more challenging than the first SMS Lemmings game, but the learning curve of the game breaks itself sometimes: I have found a few extremely easy backroutes for some levels along my quest, and a level that allows one death, despite it is clearly possible to save all the Lemmings. I will list them in a coming post, if you want to discuss or explain them.

It is a pity that Lemmings 2 was not released back in 1994: I think it is one of the best games, and absolutely the finest, of the final years of our loving Master System.

MattTaylor wrote
L2 SMS/GG was based on the PC version, and if you look at a YouTube video of the Beach level you'll see that it's a faithful reproduction in that regard. The title screen had to be kept simple due to cartridge memory limits, as you quite rightly guessed. The tunes are also a good stab at recreating the PC or Amiga tunes that play with each level. The 8-bit versions are never going to quite measure up to 16-bit, but they're faithful reproductions.

The criticism of the Pyramider is totally fair, although you get used to how it works pretty quickly. The Pourer skill in the original just couldn't be reproduced, so an equivalent had to be devised. The Pourer skill was simply to fill in holes and get lemmings out, so the Pyramider was the closest analogy I could think of - build a double-sided ramp that lemmings to scale by either walking up or turning into "Stucker" skills to climb out.

I switched out the Pause option with Restart after seeing how long it took to get back to trying again. Although this is a bit of pain for SMS users, trust me when I say that having to click through 20 to 30 seconds of screens before you can try again is more painful. :-)

All criticism is valid and it's really interesting to hear it now. I think if I was to write it again I'd change a few things but mostly I'd leave it as it is. :-)
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Post Posted: Wed May 21, 2014 8:21 pm
Maps!

www.smspower.org/Maps/Lemmings2-SMS

That took ages, I might not get to the GG ones for a while...
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Post Posted: Thu May 22, 2014 6:55 pm
What is the intended solution for this level? It seems awfully easy!

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Post Posted: Thu May 22, 2014 7:15 pm
It seems in the original you can do it with stompers and jumpers, but still ignoring most of the level. It's called Blow Back elsewhere, but it also had extra mechanics (steam jets and a switch to turn them off) so maybe that's why they changed the name. Here's a walkthrough description:

Quote
Make the 1st lemming a Stomper to get through the pipe below the entrance. The jet of steam will boost everyone up to a platform to the right of the entrance. At this time you may want to speed up the game until the last lemming has gotten on the platform, then quickly slow the action to normal speed. You will now have about 4 chances to get one of the lemmings on the platform to Jump the gap over to the trampoline and hence boosted up to the top where he will use a small red valve to shut off the steam jet used at the beginning. (No, there is no "shutoff steam jet skill" - for once a lemming doesn't have to be told what to do). Now make someone a Stomper in the middle of the platform where all the lemmings are waiting. The first one who walks to the left and drops into a pit created by the course of the steam pipes should be made a Filler. When a lemming goes far enough left, have him Stomp down to land on the pipe ahead of the steam jet. This will kick everyone upstairs from where they can walk to the exit.
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Post Posted: Fri May 30, 2014 9:20 pm
I'm late to the party, but just want to say thanks also. Really interesting thread to read through. Cheers Matt!
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Post Posted: Tue Jun 03, 2014 9:04 pm
awesome! Thanks a lot!!
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Post Posted: Thu Jul 24, 2014 8:38 pm
MattTaylor wrote
L2 SMS/GG was based on the PC version, and if you look at a YouTube video of the Beach level you'll see that it's a faithful reproduction in that regard. The title screen had to be kept simple due to cartridge memory limits, as you quite rightly guessed. The tunes are also a good stab at recreating the PC or Amiga tunes that play with each level. The 8-bit versions are never going to quite measure up to 16-bit, but they're faithful reproductions.

The criticism of the Pyramider is totally fair, although you get used to how it works pretty quickly. The Pourer skill in the original just couldn't be reproduced, so an equivalent had to be devised. The Pourer skill was simply to fill in holes and get lemmings out, so the Pyramider was the closest analogy I could think of - build a double-sided ramp that lemmings to scale by either walking up or turning into "Stucker" skills to climb out.

I switched out the Pause option with Restart after seeing how long it took to get back to trying again. Although this is a bit of pain for SMS users, trust me when I say that having to click through 20 to 30 seconds of screens before you can try again is more painful. :-)

All criticism is valid and it's really interesting to hear it now. I think if I was to write it again I'd change a few things but mostly I'd leave it as it is. :-)

Ron_Stard wrote
Thank you very much for the release, Mr. Taylor! As a huge fan of Lemmings games, I appreciate a lot surprises like this!

I find the game pretty good, a respectable and enjoyable adaptation from the Mega Drive port; a memorable tour de force. Also, it is very nice to find the SMS/GG version have unpublished levels.

However, I have a few complaints: apart from the title screen one, I think the music tunes are not very thrilling. I would say they are even too silly. And there is no chance to just try to enjoy them while Pause is activated, because music stops then. It is a bit sad. But perhaps I am biased due to my love to the first SMS Lemmings game and Mega Drive's Lemmings 2.

By the way, to have a Pause button in the game menu, like the rest of Lemmings 2 versions do have, would have been an ultimate improvement, at least for the SMS, whose damned Pause button is very far from players. The Piramider ability it is also frustrating, and not very intuitive.

Finally, I think the all-black background title screen is very bland. But I suppose that simplicity were mandatory, due to the limited rom cart memory.

I hope my criticism does not upset you. The work you have done with this version is absolutely remarkable, and I am very happy to play with it.

Thank you again, Mr. Taylor!

No word in describe my grateful. Im brazilian SEGA fanboy. Thanks for to have believed in SMS. The console had potential but with lack of games don't was a rival for nes.
With other powerfull consoles actually i got myself playing sms games.
One question: What about a Meka contribuition in programming?
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Post Posted: Mon Apr 27, 2015 2:37 pm
MattTaylor wrote
I'm also fairly sure that Pinball Dreams was developed for the Master System (the Game Gear ROM is already available), as that was pretty standard for us - doing the GB, SMS, and GG versions simultaneously. SMS and GG were straightforward to produce if you were doing one of those platforms.

I wonder how Pinball Dreams would have used the Master System screen? Presumably the pinball tables would have remained 160 x 256 pixels, the same as the handheld versions. This is significantly narrower than the SMS display (only 20 of the 32 8-pixel columns), but still tall enough to require vertical scrolling.

One possibility: Set bit 7 of VDP register 0 to disable vertical scrolling for the rightmost 8 columns, and use this area as a (vertical) status bar. Centre the 20 column pinball table within the remaining 24 columns, scrolling them vertically as needed. This would produce a screen layout similar to the Genesis pinball game "Dragon's Fury", which also has an 8-column status bar on the right hand side (added when the game was ported from the PC Engine).
Dragon's Fury.png (13.49 KB)
Dragon's Fury.png

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Post Posted: Mon Oct 26, 2015 9:24 am
Wesker wrote
As he said, there's also some voice playback in the Game Gear version which is missing in the Master System version, for example before starting the levels (Let's go!).
Maxim wrote
I don't see why that had to be cut...
MattTaylor wrote
The sampled speech was a last minute addition to the Game Gear version.
Wesker wrote
How about adding the sampled speech from the Game Gear version to the Master System version?

Even without access to the full source code, given the information in this topic it would be fairly straightforward to add the speech to the Master System version. Unfortunately there is one obstacle (which probably explains why the speech was not added to the SMS version in the first place): insufficient ROM space. Given the larger graphics assets (e.g. the Psygnosis logo) used in the SMS version, there simply is not room for the 7KB of data required for the speech.

It is interesting to compare this lack of space to the Game Boy version - over 190KB (37%) of the GB ROM is unused. I expect this is mostly due to the use of 2bpp rather than 4bpp graphics.
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Post Posted: Mon Oct 26, 2015 9:47 am
I guess the graphics could have been crunched to make space. There's size variation in developer logos between games, presumably for this reason.

If we instead expanded the ROM - since that's free, unlike in the 90s - we could also apply our best modern techniques to improve the clarity, maybe also increase the sampling rate if the data is available.

Reading some old magazines recently, in the 80s at least, third party developers were assigned a ROM size by Sega, and had to cut features to fit. I don't know how long this lasted into the 90s...
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Post Posted: Mon Oct 26, 2015 10:00 am
Matt, on the off-chance that you are still around, I have a couple of questions regarding the authorship of parts of Lemmings 2:

  1. Do you recall who wrote the game's sound engine? Hook's credits contain "Master System Music Conversion by Matt Furniss", so it must have used a Krisalis (Shaun Hollingworth) engine, but Lemmings 2 instead has "Music and sound by Mark Cooksey". Was the sound engine developed inside Spidersoft or did it come from elsewhere?

  2. Similarly, you mention here that the compression routines were written by someone else - was this someone else within Spidersoft or was the compression code licensed from another company?
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Post Posted: Sat Jun 03, 2017 8:02 am
Sorry, I completely missed this post and a few others! Better late than never...

RetroSpark wrote
Do you recall who wrote the game's sound engine? Hook's credits contain "Master System Music Conversion by Matt Furniss", so it must have used a Krisalis (Shaun Hollingworth) engine, but Lemmings 2 instead has "Music and sound by Mark Cooksey". Was the sound engine developed inside Spidersoft or did it come from elsewhere?


Mark Cooksey provided the engine and music as a standalone module. It wasn't developed within Spidersoft, and I believe Mark wrote it himself.

RetroSpark wrote
Similarly, you mention here that the compression routines were written by someone else - was this someone else within Spidersoft or was the compression code licensed from another company?


The compression routines were written by Dave Cooke at Spidersoft. Compression was exclusively used for VRAM data, level maps, and detection maps/characters. Game logic, sound, and static data all ran directly from ROM.

Interesting fact about Dave: He wrote all of his code out on paper as a first pass, read it through and debugged it there before typing it in. If memory serves me correctly, he also wrote the platform detection system used in all of Spidersoft's platform games (including 16-bit versions) and the pinball detection and physics code for the 8-bit Pinball Dreams and Pinball Fantasies. This 8-bit code was ported to x86 and 68000 for Pinball Mania.

I wrote all-new detection code for Lemmings 2 because Spidersoft's platform detection code was designed for character-mapped platform games and couldn't be modified as it was stored in ROM. L2 required pixel-level detection and modification of the level map during play.
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Post Posted: Thu Jun 06, 2019 12:51 am
I’m rereading this thread and I just noticed that the Andre Agrass Game Boy game Matt programmed also never came out.

I wonder if he has the code for this game too.
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