I first came across BoulderDash on the ZX-Spectrum and was totally awestruck by the game. A year or two later, I owned a computer called an "Acorn Electron" (a poor man's BBC); it was a 32K 6502 machine.
Once I decided that I wanted to start writing in assembler, (took about a week to learn) I decided to start work on writing an "improved" version of the game. I already had hundreds of new ideas for additional features, and after about 3 months I had a pretty fast smooth version to play around with. Some of my new features were:
Anyway, at the time when I had a perfectly good game engine,I heard that a software company called TyneSoft were in the process of doing conversions of First Star games for the BBC/Electron. So I headed down to the Olympia Computer Show and showed them a videotape of my game.
They seemed quite impressed, and said they would be in touch....
After a few days, I got a phone call saying that they wanted to publish a version of the original BoulderDash (I hadn't bothered showing off my own ideas). The process of actually turning my game into a simple copy of the original should have been fairly straight-forward.
In fact it took over 3 months, meaning that I missed a Christmas release date. The reason was simple: I simply couldn't figure out what pseudo-random method Peter Liepa had used to generate much of the background patterns in each cave (ie random sprinklings of boulders/spaces etc.) TyneSoft said they would try to get the information for me but never did. Eventually I had to painstakingly go through every cave on the game (using a copy of the original game on the MSX), copy down the map for each level, then find some way of squeezing the 100+ levels into the memory available. On a BBC there was only 32K total memory, 10K of which was needed for the screen.
Anyway, eventually I finished this exhausting task (January 87) and took the disk up to Newcastle. We signed a contract which gave me an advance of £400 and a royalty of 65p per game sold (at £10.00 a copy!) The game got pretty good reviews in the mags and It was a nice feeling walking into a WHSmiths newsagent and seeing copies of my game on the shelves. :)
Despite this, I don't believe it sold that well. The old 8 bit computers were going out of fashion with the arrival of the ST and Amiga. Plus the BBC/Electron share of the market was pretty tiny in the first place. I don't have any real idea of how many copies sold though, the software company never bothered sending any royalties or even information, and after a few phone-calls I gave up trying to get them to pay up.
This experience put me off the idea of writing games for a long time; I had hoped that the royalties would help me with the costs of going back to university to study physics.
I kept my Electron up until the time I could afford an Amiga (A600), after graduating. And finally, I'm starting to get back into coding again. Probably too late, mind. :-/ I just hope the Amiga doesn't fade away just as I'm ready for my second shot at fame. ;-)
This is what I believe is crucial to a good game, the so called "playability" of a game is related to the simplicity of it's rules, and the complexity of the consequences of those rules.
Even after I'd been writing and testing the game for 6 months, I still found that I could waste hours at a time just setting up weird scenarios and seeing what happened. I only got tired of the game during the tedious business of entering/compressing/testing every cave.
The main code took up about 6K! (incredibly optimised; I'm a bit of a perfectionist, hehe), and the data (caves etc) took up about 13K.
Oh, if anyone still has a copy, try pressing "B" on the title screen for a secret credits list!
P.S. To anyone who pirated my game, no sweat. it's not as If I got any royalties anyway. :)
I just wish I'd had the chance to chat with him.