Atari ST/E Santa Goes Berzerk #1 Exploring the STOS Standard Feature Set

Watch the companion video. I story explanation follows:

Atari ST/E Santa Goes Berzerk #1 Exploring the STOS Standard Feature Set

A couple weeks ago I started working a little game as a demo for a Bill Lange hosted “Zoom” (it wasn’t Zoom, but Zoom is a generic term now) sort of demo / Holiday party. The party was really fun with about 30 or so people coming in and out, showing demos of various Atari projects, games, etc, covering pretty much all of the Atari systems and computers in the demos or discussions.

I started out by make a few sprites modeled after a Sprite sheet I found for Berzerk, and then created an ICON single bit plane font (so one color).

I made all of the graphics, ands music but didn’t start coding anything until the night before the demo was due because of work life balance issues =)

I have been exploring the ST and STe features in STOS with the STE, Blitter, and Missing Link 3rd party extensions, but didn’t wanted to see what vanilla STOS can do in its own.

I started by placing my icon font, which is is a 16×16 set of tiles that work like a font, on the screen to Spell out “Merry Christmas 2020”. I didn’t use a real font (STOS font) because low res ST fonts can only be 8×8 and possibly 8×16, and I wanted 16×16. The Icons sets in STOS are 16×16 and lay out on a 20×12 grid on the ST Screen (with some buffer on the bottom of the screen (16×22) = 192. They are a single color and remind my of Atari 8bit ATASCII redefined characters.

I set color 14 to flash between a red and green gradient animation (A cool Built in STOS feature that is usually tuned off, but I found a nice use for it). and made that to be the color of the Icon font. I then added the player sprite as a STOS sprite and had him shoot at the letters and in the font and have them explode using a missile drawn in pixels, not as a STOS sprite. This seemed to work really well.

Satisfied, I took a YM ST tune that I created using a single voice in the STOS Music Accessory and had that play in the back ground while the player ran around and shot letters using the STOS move commends. This isn’t my standard development philosophy, by the way, I would usually make a single game loop and time everything to the Vertical Blank,. That was little but outside what I would have done as a kid, cracking open the manual on a 1988 Friday night and trying to make a game. That was the scenario I was trying to replicate (sort of, as I have spent some time making the assets earlier in the week).

In any case, the Chip sound player in STOS didn’t seem to effect the animation playing, so this was good. I Then tried to make some sounds with the “noise” registers, and found that while they kind of worked, I didn’t have time to fully get in and make them using the Music tool and store them in a library. That would have been ideal. Instead, I used the standard “shoot and boom” STOS commands, which sound OK for an Alpha demo. What I didn’t realize is that these sounds stomped all over the single channel music when both are playing at the same time. So, I decided to time the music to stop when the player starts shooting letters to reveal that “Merry Christmas 2020” is actually “Santa Goes Berzerk!!” (watch the video)

I took an old song I made 20 years ago, called “Santa Goes Berzerk”, and exported it as a mono 22khz PCM 8bit file. It sounded ok. But I had to chop it down to about 10 seconds for it to fit into a STOS Maestro sample bank. The quality will be improved when I use a Stereo sample for the STE build.

Finally, I started to add some multi-colored sprites like a Christmas Tree and presents to the screen and some sprite versions of multi-colored robots, from the original Berzerk. The title screen “player” was going to start destroying them as he “goes Berzerk” and ruins their Christmas party. I got stopped in my tracks though. The Maestro sample play stopped my Sprites from moving, and when he did move, the missiles be fired as drawn pixels, were really slow with the extra Sprites on the screen.

So I took a breath. It was late, probably 4 AM on the day of the Party and I was not close to finishing the demo because I was not using the STOS resources properly. I decided to have the game wait until the Sampled song finished, then have the player go after the robots, presents and tree. I first replaced the Robots with ICON font versions that don’t take up any (or much) processor and replaced the drawn pixel missile that the player shoots with a new missile STOS Sprite.

I then had to re-time everything to work with the gained speed, and basically I ran out of time.

So, the next version will replace ALL sprites with Missing Link extension Sprites, and the sampled Music with STE Stereo music and add the destruction of the Evil OTTO Christmas Party…then, its on the making an actual game, not a title screen =)

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