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Advent 2021 day 1

It's that time again. Time to open up a calendar or two containing information and fun (etc). Well, maybe neither of those but a lot of chocolate.

Here is an overview of my five (!) calendars this year. I meant to upload it yesterday, but was just too tired.

And here, yup, two videos, is today's opening. Will Celebrations give us a Bounty for the very first day?


Stay tuned, for the next fifteen days (sixteen including today), a new series!


Mamie Fletcher's House 1

Where did the idea come from?

During the late Spring, I remembered a game that I used to play on the Sega Master System. It was a game called Ghost House, which was originally supplied on the short-lived card format, rather than the usual slot-in cartridge. Cards weren't as popular as they could only contain up to 32K.
Still, Ghost House was pretty impressive as to what it could fit into that 32K.

I found an SMS emulator for Android, and sucked at this game about as much as I did when I was a child.

Playing Ghost House
Playing Ghost House.


While I was at work, I wondered if I could create something along those lines for RISC OS, and in mid July the basic premise of Mamie Fletcher's House (hereafter called Mamie) started to take shape.

The problem was that Ghost House was a typically masculine late-80s game. You were a bloke with a big head (and even bigger ears) and your method of dealing the various critters (only one of which was actually a ghost!) was to punch them in the face, stomp on them (sometimes), or stab them if you collected the dagger. There was a fire breathing ball of anger, and a rather cheesy looking "Dracula". Neither of which were ghosts. I think some of the later levels included a mummy...which isn't a ghost either.
All the way through, there was this cheery eight bit tune playing. It was fun, and harder than it looked, but very eighties.

I wanted something a little more based in possible-realism, and it came to me while wiping down the tables in the staff break room at work. The basic premise is that you are a girl who has been sort of pushed by her classmates into exploring a weird old house that is supposedly haunted. There will be no sountrack, only ambient sounds. And your weapon? Inspired by the film (and game) Fatal Frame, it is a camera. Taking flash photos of ghosts captures them.

Fatal Frame gameplay
Fatal Frame gameplay.
I avoided using the phrase "camera obscura" as is used in the movie (and game?) because while it sounds like a cool camera that can take photos of the other realm, that isn't actually what a camera obscura is. Not even close. ☺


Bringing the idea together

The next question was how to make it happen. Mamie was always going to be a platform game, but there's a lot that needs to be thought about in order to make such a thing happen. The first thing is to think about how it will look, and how different parts would behave.
I have an app on my tablet - some sort of drawing/doodling app by AutoDesk, that is almost a good app but has some annoying things that make it, well, annoying. Anyway, using a carefully prodded finger and the Undo button in tandem, I ended up with this:
What I wanted Mamie to look like
What I wanted Mamie to look like.

I had figured out that the two primary characters would be Lucy, the player controlled character, and some sort of Ghost. But just going around taking snapshots of ghosts was not so interesting, so there needed to be two types of ghost, one a little harder than the other.

There would also be some basic game mechanics, such as ladders and steps to climb up. Edges to fall off. And of course a hole to jump over - it's obligatory.

The very first "computer game" I owned was a little bright orange dual-LCD gizmo that played a game of Donkey Kong. So I've played the platform game that had the platforms that gave platform games their genre name! They are a specific type of game where you see a world side-on and control a character up and down along a set of on-screen levels. One that will be well known to those who grew up with a Beeb is Chuckie Egg, the game that did impressive things with only four colours.

Chuckie Egg
Chuckie Egg.

Rather than having the entire play area on-screen at one time, I decided to have a sideways scrolling map which was to be about four screen-widths in total. A little world to explore in order to look for things.


Sarcasm and Cynicism

For those who know me, or at least, waste precious moments of their lives reading this crap, the idea that there will be healthy doses of both sarcasm and cynicism are no surprise.

The scenario describing the setup is as follows.

Mamie's scenario
Mamie's scenario text.

I won't show the successful-ending text (spoilers!), suffice to say... it's probably not quite what you were expecting.


Why Mamie Fletcher?

It's part of the subversion of expectations. There's nothing at all scary about a name like Mamie Fletcher. It's not Voldemort, for instance. Instead, Mamie Fletcher sounds like the sort of kindly granny that gives neighbourhood children apples from her garden, and whimsically dispenses dating advice half a century out of date to teenagers (which the girls think is cute because she tells the guy that any boy worth dating would always open the car door for the girl, and pick up the tab for both meals).
And when teenagers talk about how brilliant their music is and how liberal they are, she blows their minds by putting on a Hendrix LP and casually mentioning that when she was a teenager herself, everybody was happily chillin' to this with a joint smouldering precariously between their lips. And to ram the point home, she makes sure they know that they were all the original hippies. So don't think any of you young'uns have anything that either impresses her, or that she hasn't already tried before their parents were born.
Like, coolest granny ever, right?

Not something to do with a haunted house.


What's to come

Between now and my (actual) birthday, I'm going to write a series of articles about different aspects of the development of Mamie.

  1. Introduction (you're reading it)
  2. A world of tiles
  3. The test code
  4. Creating Lucy
  5. Animating Lucy
  6. Creating the Ghosts
  7. The camera flash
  8. My brilliant beta testers
  9. Making things more challenging
  10. Toilet humour and sound effects
  11. The music
  12. Fun with development builds
  13. How Mamie was written
  14. Those little extra touches
  15. Some hints and tips
  16. A special birthday gift to you!

I hope you'll enjoy reading these articles.

Tomorrow, a world of tiles...



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