Star Bores – an old Text Adventure from the early ’90s

A long time a go, in a city far far away (ok, it was a town then and it’s only 92 miles up the road from me now) I wrote a computer game. It wasn’t good, it didn’t sell more than a few copies.

The game was Star Bores, a Star Wars parody that originally pre-dated Spaceballs by two years. But, as you will see, it suffered massive schedule slip, a lot of delays, massive apathy and eventual consignment to the shitbin of computing history.

It all started back in 1985, when I got hold of a copy of Gilsoft’s The Quill adventure writing software for the ZX Spectrum. I’d played a good few games written with it, including some excellent ones by Delta 4. Thinking “I can do that, how hard can it be?” I launched half-heartedly into games design.

The first version was a simple 20-ish room affair which just involved getting Luke on the bus to get off the planet Tattoo.  I hawked it around school on cheap C15 cassettes for a while, until everyone told me to sod off. It was utterly awful, and I’m thankful that the likelyhood of any copies remaining is very very slight.

Version 2 (late ’85-early ’86) included graphics using The Illustrator add-on to The Quill. The text was cleaned up, the puzzles were made more logical, and it made more sense. I remember being particulary proud of the drawing of a Mercedes Minibus for the final end screen.

Sadly, in April ’86 my mother died, orphaning us. In the follwing upheaval I lost all my data tapes and notes, as they “weren’t considered to be important”. Neither was my self-designed ZX81 controlled Logo Turtle, but that another story that goes on and on and on…

Early 1987 brings us to the Amstrad CPC6218,  the Graphic Adventure Creator, and a re-write from scratch.  Once again it was awful. And thus swiftly abandoned.

Shortly afterwards, I managed to scrape up the money (by selling brushes door-to-door) to get a copy of The Professional Adventure Writer! It ran uder CP/M on the Amstrad 6128/PCW8258. It was great. Sadly, my game writing skills were still not.

But, Keeping calm and carrying on (before that was a thing), I reached a final release in early 1988. Two years after Spaceballs came out. It was still rubbish.

Still, I spent a fortune sending 3″ (yes) disks out to those magazines that might be interested. Nothing, except for a letter from Amstrad Action along the lines of “Thanks, but no thanks”. Some more copies were done for a local games shop, but more cases were stolen than games bought (Amstrad 3″ disk cases being rare as rocking horse shit at the time).

By 1990 I’d moved south and the CPC had packed up. By now the sorry saga whould have been over, but in about 1997 I heard about getting data from old Amstrad disks onto PC disks.  So I did. And I got it running on a PC!

Since then it has been available on a number of retro download sites, and in total has had over 1000 downloads (he says, making numbers up like a British Politician).

Anyway, you’ve come this far so you need some sort of reward.

Here is a zip of the CPM version: starbore.zip

 

 

Gilneas – The City That Blizzard Forgot

Back in the long long ago, the before time (ok, December 2010), Blizzard released World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, and everyone got all excited as they usually do. Then people got upset that their favourite race/class got downpowered, then they became happy that they could fly in the old lands for the first time, and that kept them busy for a while.

Alliance fanboys played rolled up Worgen characters and played their way through the new dedicated starting area.  They were amazed to see an amazing cod Victorian-Gothic land with some fantastic architecture and landscape, and of course, big fucking werewolves.

From the brooding darkness of Gilneas City, to the grandeur of Greymane Manor, the Gilneas starting zone is wonderful. It is a series of well thought out quest chains, stunning cutscenes, and… well then it ends. The character getting shuffled off to Rut’theran Village on Teldrassil, and Gilneas is never spoken of again.

Unlike the Goblin (and later Pandaren) starting areas, which are off on separate islands that can’t be returned to, Gilneas is on the Eastern Kingdoms mainland. You can go back there, but it most will have no reason to. There are no quests, no NPCs, no… anything, except a stunning and forgotten zone.

This makes is idea for roleplaying in, and, if you are in to such things, modifying to add quests and NPCs (but that is a subject for another day).

So… onward…

Get to Gilneas!

Well, to put it bluntly, one does not simply fly in to Gilneas.

Horde characters have a flightpoint at The Forsaken Front in Silverpine Forest, which is just north of the wall. (You might be lucky enough to have the Forsaken Forward Command flightpoint in Gilneas itself, but its not guaranteed).

The closest that Alliance players have to offer is Chillwind Camp in the Western Plaguelands, which is a long flight/run over/though Hillsbrad away.

Because of this faffery, if I were to be modding Cata WoW to add new content in Gilneas, I’d make it suitable for Level 60, as by that level the characters can fly in to it. Or, I’d make portals to get there. But I’m clearly not doing that as it is Against The Rules.

No matter how you get there, get there if you can.

Gilneas City

For now I’m just going to look at Gilneas City itself. The surrounding zone is the subject of another time.

So I suppose we should start with a map.

The city, as you can see, is roughly circular and split in to five areas, which I’ll look at in turn, highlighting all the usable buildings and other features of note.

Merchant Square

  • 1-10 denote open doors leading to small single room areas, large enough to hold maybe one NPC and some clutter.
  • 11 is a small graveyard.
  • 12 is the ruined market square.

If I were doing anything here, I’d put traders in the buildings and the square, and maybe a mourner at the graveyard.

Military District

  • 1  leads to a cellar full of cannons and cannonballs.
  • 2 and 3 lead to stair up and over the the roof, connecting to each other.

Greymane Court

  • 1 leads to a tunnel that exits out in the main zone.
  • 2 & 3 are entrances to a small inn like building with a bedroom upstairs.

Cathedral Quarter

This area is a bit dull. There are no buildings to enter, just two large areas full of tents with Alliance banners by them.

Light’s Dawn Cathedral

The Cathedral is just one large room. Maybe you could stage a rock festival in here, or even a wedding.

The End

So there’s your quick tour of Gilneas City. I’m sorry there are no actual screen shots, but if you want to see it go visit it yourself.

 

Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Blackpool

“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” (IMDB, Wikipedia) is not actually a bad film. It is entertaining, quirky, and stars Eva Green and Samuel L. M. F. Jackson. So what could I possibly find fault with? Well the clue is in the title: Blackpool.

Not that Blackpool by itself is the problem; I love Blackpool, its my second favourite place in the world. The problem is the film’s utterly bobbins depiction of the Promenade.

Ask the average person what they know about Blackpool, and they will probably mention the Tower, the Piers, and the Trams. So, logic tells us that if setting a part of a film in Blackpool, the three things you don’t want to get wrong are: Tower, Piers, Trams.

Cocking those up would be like leaving some special effects guy in charge of large and unruly genetically engineered lizards.

Ah, you are thinking, he’s just reusing an old Buzzfeed joke for no reason. Nope, actually I had a reason for that. While I lay a lot of the following criticisms at the door of the script writers(s), I feel the VFX team are also complicit, as they should have been the ones to yell “READ A FUCKING MAP!” Although, had they done that, they’d probably have cut down their work load and been paid less. Mercenary bastards!

So, ignoring a massive amount of the start of the film (which isn’t set in Blackpool), we start at 1:35:22 with the ship arriving at the pier.

Ok, starting with the most glaring error: There is no pier opposite the Tower.  Directly opposite the Tower is the Tower Headland, which has the Comedy Carpet (not actually a carpet) on it. See theis Google Earth thing:

The nearest pier is North Pier, which is a couple of hundred yards to the north. It looks the same for most of the length, but the entertainment complex at the end is missing. And the land based complex is different.

Also, if you look closely, none of the seafront building look the same. And the church tower is on the left instead of on the right.

Anyway, enough of that. Let us move on to the ship landing at the pier.

The North Pier deck, with a CGI building and tower.

Now while a ship landing at the pier happened frequently in the olden days, at the time the pier had a landing jetty which extended it length considerably (never mind the missing entertainment complex).  These days it just would not be possible.

Look what happened the last time a ship got too close to the sea front:

Click if you need to know more

Anyway, they get off the ship and go into a Ghost Train at the end of the pier. One that curiously wasn’t there in the long shot.

Yet when they time-shift, and look out again they see this:

Which is obviously Central Pier (the only one with a Ferris Wheel)

And completelty the wrong shape for the pier seen before. This will come back again…

In the meantime, we have this… kite girl on a rope hitting the tram power lines.

There are a lot of problems with this. First in my mind is that the power lines are too close together. Second is that the 600vdc power would easily earth over a damp rope in winter, thereby causing severe burns to her abdomen and hands, and also probably kill the lad holding the rope. Thirdly, for safety reasons, an incident like this would cause the power to be automatically cut over a large stretch of the line. So she would not be in danger of being hit by the tram.

My contact at Blackpool Transport admits that they hate this scene.

So, back on the pier(s) 1:39:55 gives us this:

So that Central Pier, shortened (see above).

And towards the end of the film we have this:

This shot not only misrepresents the buildings on the sea front, but appears to bend the coast round. The perspective is all to cock.

And then this:

The shot doesn’t even come close to matching the skyline from the first shot.  And we’re back to North Pier (minus the end bit).

We’re at the end now. Have we learned anything?

Well, maybe that authors, scriptwriters and VFX people should actually visit places before they write about them and try to CGI them. Two days in Blackpool could have prevented this. Or ten minutes on the phone to someone living in Blackpool. Perhaps asking the hotel staff about the area might help.

I’ll update this later in the year with some “boots on the ground” photos to clarify bits.,

words words word, and some pictures