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Steve Wallis

Telephone: 07725 735255

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The computer games of Steve and Sean Wallis

Towards the end of my time at school and during my first couple of years at university, I designed and implemented a fairly large number of computer games, collaborating with my brother Sean in the implementation of many of them. Some of these were sold commercially, by Kuma Computers, on the Sharp MZ-80K/MZ-80A/MZ-700, Amstrad CPC-464 and MSX platforms.

There are several CPC emulators now available on the web, including Caprice32. This emulator is probably the best currently available for Windows platforms, but other emulators have been written for alternative platforms and Caprice32 may be ported to other platforms in the future. There are also several MSX emulators available; I recommend openMSX, which works on other platforms as well as Windows. The first thing you need to do to try out any of the games is to download and install the emulator.

To try one of the games out, download a compressed directory (zipped folder), or a Caprice32 snapshot which I have created to simplify starting the games up, by clicking on one of the appropriate links below:

Advice for using the Caprice32 emulator

The method for loading games into CPC emulators will vary from emulator to emulator, so consult the documentation if you have any problems. The method used for Caprice32 (whose documentation will probably be at C:\Program Files\Caprice32\docs) is described below.

Start up Caprice32 and a blue screen should appear, with yellow text, ready to type commands in. If you have downloaded a Caprice32 snapshot, simply drag and drop it onto the emulator window (or select the Load Snapshot... menu option or press F2) and the game should load immediately. Otherwise, drag and drop the zipped folder (or the .dsk file after uncompressing) onto the emulator window (or select the Insert Disk... menu option or press F6), and you then have to load the game from a virtual floppy disk. You must then load the program by typing RUN" in (use SHIFT-2 for the " character) followed by the programs name and press the ENTER key. The documentation advises you to use the CAT command to find the name of the file to load the smallest with the .BAS, .BIN or no extension, but for our games the name is the same as the real filename, except for Buster Block for which busterb should be entered instead of bustblk.

There is one complication to using an emulator some of the keys are in different places on modern keyboards to their location on the machines being emulated. Decent emulators like Caprice32 map keys on the respective keyboards so that most of them are in the same relative positions as they were on the original one. There were three slightly different keyboard layouts used on CPC machines (original, French and Spanish) and these are shown in the Caprice32 documentation. Therefore, typing commands to load one of the games or playing a game itself may require pressing a different key to the indicated one. If the indicated key does not work, experiment with others until you can control the character/spaceship. However, two of our games (Buster Block and Rock Raid) allow the user to press K to redefine the keys used in the games.

I have some hints to get the best from the Caprice32 emulator. Firstly, override the default option to display “scanlines” and use “line doubling” instead, either using hardware or (if specifying that makes the game run very slowly because it is not available on your graphics card) using software this makes the display look a lot better and should not noticeably affect performance on modern PCs. To do this, select the Options... menu option or press F8, and modify the “rendering style” which is one of the Video options. Secondly, you may like to use the option to switch between full-screen mode and displaying in a window. The key to do this is ~ according to the documenation, but it is actually ` (below the Esc key) on my laptop keyboard. Thirdly, select the Save Snapshot... menu option or press F4 if you want to save a game part-way through or simply the high score table, and load the snapshot again later as specified above.

Most of the games have a joystick option which should be compatible with game controllers available with modern computers. Ensure that the controller is plugged in before starting Caprice32. Select the Options... menu option or press F8, click on Input, select the controller in the “input device” pull-down menu, click on Configure... and configure the controller to correspond to joystick 1.

Advice for using the openMSX emulator

There were many different MSX machines and it is necessary to download the contents of appropriate read-only memory (ROMs) as well as the openMSX emulator. The people who converted our games from cassette to disk did not do a very good job and some of the games do not work with every machine. To run all of our games, you will need to download the ROMs for Philips NMS 8250, and Toshiba HX-10 with a Sony HBD-F1 disk drive. [Hyperviper does not work for the Philips and Fruity Frank does not work for the Toshiba.] Place the ROMs in the share/systemroms directory (unzipping for the Philips).

It is easiest to use the Catapult user interface that comes with openMSX. Select Philips NMS 8250 in the MSX type pull-down menu, or Toshiba HX-10 in that menu plus Sony HBD-F1 in the list of Extensions. Click on the floppy disk icon next to “Disk A” and select the game file (which you can leave zipped or uncompress to yield a .dsk file). Click on Start to load and run the game; you may need to hold down the left Ctrl key until you hear a beep.

There is an option under “Video Controls” to switch to “Full Screen” mode; on Windows platforms at least, pressing F12 or holding down Alt while pressing Tab should switch back to showing multiple windows.

Most of the games have a joystick option which should be compatible with game controllers available with modern computers. Ensure that the controller is plugged in before starting Catapult and select joystick1 in the “Joystick port 1” pull-down menu under “Misc Controls”.

Note that we had a policy of putting Copyright notices in most of our games to one particular person, even if more than one of us was involved in the design and implementation of a particular game, and that I used the name Steven Wallis at that point in my life (even though I had started preferring the name Steve during the sixth form at school). I have now changed my name by deed poll to Steve Wallis, the name I have used during my political and academic lives (leading up to the development of my modelling language SDML).

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