APPLICATIONSAIDE A LA CREATION DE JEUX ★ ZACK: DIY shoot-'em-ups ★

Zack: Zap Construction KitApplications Aide A La Creation De Jeux
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If you can't beat 'em, write 'em. Knocking out games will soon be easier than ever thanks to the soon-to-be-released Zack. Simon Forrester checks out the work in progress.

"The most powerful utility ever to hit the CPC". So claim Quantum. But then they would. They're releasing the darned thing. But what 'thing' is it? What could possibly deserve such hyperbole? Zack Construction Kit, that's what, an arcade game creation package, a package which'll take the hard labour out of writing games.

So far we've only seen an unfinished version of the package, but it's such an intriguing idea, we thought we'd bring you an in-progress report.

It's a game creator of two halves (and a couple more)

The main game creator is split into four parts:

The Graphics Editor - Offering art features that rival packages like OCP Art Studio, Zack enables you to design sprites, background layouts, consoles (‘console' being the package's buzz word for the panel where your score is displayed) and character sets (lettering, to you and me). It also has a facility which allows you to draw a sprite from various angles or in various states (ie, whole or half shot away) then group them as an object block; you can then define how the sprite should look at various points in the game.


You may think brilliant graphics like this take absolutely ages to draw; they don't, provided you've got a bit of artistic flair.

This part of the package is both powerful and easy to use, but so far it looks as if provision has only been made for games running in mode 0, which, I feel, is a mistake. There will be the occasional game

that would sit a lot more comfortably in a higher resolution mode, despite the more limited choice of colours - Myth thrived under these circumstances.

So now we've got our game drawn (with an astounding leap of effort justified by artistic licence and a limited space on the page), what's next?

Music/FX Creator - Erm... Veah. A slight problem here is that I haven't actually, in the sense of sitting in front of a machine and using it, seen this part of the package yet. That's because it hasn't been written yet.

When someone does get around to writing it, though, the music/FX creator will be what you use to write your title tune and sound effects like explosions, bullets, death screams, killer cucumbers from the planet fish, etc. Pretty essential really, so let's hope the programmers make a good job of it.

Program Editor - It's here that all the magic happens {are you sure you haven't been watching too much Saturday morning TV? - Dave). This is the bit where you write program that'll manipulate the sprites, tag all the bits of the background together and do all the ‘stuff that turns your work from a load of static pictures into a game. But don't panic - you don't have to learn a language anywhere near as complicated as Machine Code. The specially-written language is a straightforward affair. If memory serves me correctly (which it never does when you owe me a tenner - Dave), it's similar to COBOL, but it's structured more like Machine Code, with labels replacing line numbers and commands mainly dedicated to placing, moving and removing sprites as well as collision detection, sound and scrolling.


This bit's where you tag the sprites together to create frames of animation.

The jury's still out

Now would normally be the point in the review where I give my verdict. Quantum Computing, and in particular Richard Wilson (who wrote the package) should be getting nervous at this bit, with beads of sweat trickling down their temples. Which makes it a perfect opportunity to mash their brains by being a real jobsworth and saying, “This is a preview, so I can't make any judgements."

But I'm not that cruel. Today.

Bear in mind this is a preview, though, and there will be a final review when the product's complete. But from the standard of what I've seen so far, it looks like this package is going to be really rather stunning. Both the graphics and program editors are driven with a pointer and menu system, similar to that used in OCP Art Studio which is designed for joystick or keyboard control.

All in all, if you want to write games, this looks like it could be the package for you. Vehement non-programmers, stay away, because it's not just a case of drawing pretty pictures; you do actually have to write a core game program, even though it's in a fairly easy-to-understand language.

To sum up, then, this looks like it could well be among the more powerful and well-written utilities on the CPC. Whether it's the all-time best is another matter, as that really is a pretty big claim to live up to.

Simon, AA

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Here's the fab, funky text editor where you write such literary classics as, 'Game Over.'

★ PUBLISHERS: ELECTRO SOFTWARE
★ YEAR: 1993
★ CONFIG: ???
★ LANGUAGE:
★ LICENCE: COMMERCIALE
★ AUTHOR: RICHARD WILSON

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QUE DIT LA LOI FRANÇAISE:

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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.