Arc Developments are a software development company that seem to have had a low profile In the past. Is it because they're based In Walsall, one of the backwaters of Birmingham who's only claim to fame Is probably the efficiency of their traffic wardens? Garth, our own boy racer, tried to park his car in Waisall...
'Go on. I'm only 15 minutes late." I said to the Lone Cowboy of the single yellow lines. With a crooked grin, a flash of his ballpoint and a flourish of white paper, he'd taken my number, written the ticket, stuck it to my forehead and sent his pen spinning back into his pocket before I could even rip out my press card.
It was somewhat surprising to find that this miserable minion's efficiency paled into insignificance alongside the quiet success of Arc Developments, whose gentle and unassuming manner is in direct contrast to their efficient, market-conscious and highly professional approach to business. They are the team responsible for US Gold's Forgotten Worlds and are currently working on X Out for Rainbow Arts. With a fresh parking ticket still attached to my forehead. I went to see how the team worked
The Arc team from left to right:
Warren McCormack (seated) , Chris Coupe ,
Richard Underhill , Byron Nilsson , Paul Walker and Tim Round
Q: How did Arc Developments come into being?
Beyron: We all worked for Elite as various parts of their in-house team. Paul arriving in April of 1987. I worked on Live and Let Die. Question of Sport and Pop Quiz. Chris wrote Hopping' Mad and Storm Warrior on the C64 and Rich had had a stint on Overlander. Question of Sport and Pop Quiz. Paul, as a graphic designer had input into various programs but, like the rest of us, he found it dull and lacking so by October of 88 we'd all decided to set up together to do what we did for Elite but be able to have a far greater input into design of a game.
Q. What was your first job?
Paul: Forgotten Worlds for US Gold. We worked really hard on the game, to get the graphics right and make sure that the program was at its best. We decided from the outset that the most important thing for us as a company was to produce good products ON TIME. We think we achieved that with F.W. and we intend to continue at as high a level as we can produce.
Q: So, X Out s your second job. How's it doing?
Byron: Well I'm working from the Amiga version of X Out from Rainbow Arts and I've got to squeeze as much as possible into the Spectrum. Rainbow Arts will give me a specification for the movement patterns and intelligence of enemy ships, monsters and missiles and I have to implement them. So far, I've managed to get everything in but there is a fair bit of jiggery pokery concerned with the backdrops.
Q: Yes, what exactly happens with the graphics?
Byron: Graphics are first made up by Paul. He replicates the various ships and monsters, etc using Delux Paint 3 on an Amiga. I then try to move them around the screen according to the specfications I have to work to. This poses some problems. The Amiga has far more memory which isn't so much of a problem in terms of sprites but the backdrops have had to be redesigned by Paul using monochrome with various types of shading or stippling to achieve the desired results - this takes less memory. Also, the Amiga backdrops are made up of blocks -64 are used on level 3 and the speccy just has to have less.
Q: Are there problems converting graphics from the Amiga version to the Spectrum?
Paul: Well, I draw the map from start to finish, and the longest screen is 7,040 pixels long. If you multiply this by the height of 256 you end up with 112K of pure backdrop. For the spectrum this has been condensed down to 6K which It does by recalling parts of the map and re-using them. It s like building a wall with lego bricks and taking bricks from the left hand side and using them to continue building it from the right.
Q: Why were monochrome graphics used?
Byron: Well, I've used a 'two pixel boundary' for movement which basically means that each sprite moves 2 pixels along for each cycle of the program. Colour only moves by 8 pixels per cycle so if there were colour sprites the colour would move once for every four moves of the sprite which gives the overall impression of it 'jumping' after the sprite.
Q: So you can't use colour and get smooth graphics?
Byron: No. not unless the sprites move quickly. The missiles move quite fast - between 8 and 16 pixel boundaries, so there's a good chance that I can use colour on them.
The end of level nasty looks dead hard. Shoot out his ventricles and then shoot the old bonehead right between the er... eyes
Q: How about sound. What's happening with that?
Paul: We want the sound to be as good as possible, and on the +2 and +3 machines we want to utilise the fact that the Spectrum shares the same sound chip as the Atari ST. These machines will have sampled music with the title sequence, taken from the Amiga version - the 48K machines will have some music but obviously this will be limited due to the memory size.
Arc developments are a young company that have nothing but success to build upon, and a dedication to their work that should act as a yardstick for other established companies to measure their success by. We will be following their progress closely in the New Year. And I have a feeling that other software development houses will soon be doing the samel
Sinclair User #93 (1989)
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L'Amstrad CPC est une machine 8 bits à base d'un Z80 à 4MHz. Le premier de la gamme fut le CPC 464 en 1984, équipé d'un lecteur de cassettes intégré il se plaçait en concurrent du Commodore C64 beaucoup plus compliqué à utiliser et plus cher. Ce fut un réel succès et sorti cette même années le CPC 664 équipé d'un lecteur de disquettes trois pouces intégré. Sa vie fut de courte durée puisqu'en 1985 il fut remplacé par le CPC 6128 qui était plus compact, plus soigné et surtout qui avait 128Ko de RAM au lieu de 64Ko.