Melkhior’s Mansion – Project Update #12

Welcome to project update #12 for the conversion of Melkhior’s Mansion Spectrum Next!

It’s been one week since the game was showcased at PLAY Expo Manchester 2019 and I can tell you that the response has been amazing! I’d like to thank everyone involved for your continuing support of the project and the Spectrum Next!

I set the deadline to have a demo ready for PLAY Expo Manchester 2019 back in February which I met with flying colors! I’m now taking a short break from programming as it’s been a busy year so I need to recharge.

As some of you may have seen from the footage on youtube, Melkhior’s Mansion Next has progressed to the stage where Sir Stamperlot can explore the game world and collect food. I will place a link to the youtube videos at the end of this week’s update.

The first revision of the 3D isometric engine was used in the WIP demo for the show. The deadline was too tight to develop an alternative so I decided to keep version one. Sadly, it is not suitable for the game as the sorting method has some problems. The principle for the 3D masking will be the same for engine version two so it’s just a matter of redesigning the sorting algorithm.

Now that I have a functioning version of the game, I can understand the original data set from the PC version which means I am able to import more of the data rather than hand type it in to the code. An example is the positions of the entities within each room, I now know exactly where to look in the original XML data for the positioning of most objects.

This discovery was made when I cross referenced the screen positions of my objects for the demo with the original data set. I immediately saw the connection to screen co-ordinates that I have manually adjusted by eye. This is a great leap forward for the project to keep the data conversion process as auto-mated as possible. It was never going to be practical to hand type data into the code as the original developers are still working on the PC version revisiting areas to tweak them as and when needed. Updates can mean lots of extra unnecessary work at my end to refresh manually edited data.

I’ve spent a lot of time speaking with the original development team recently about the project and was able to chat to them directly at Manchester which was awesome. I now have the C# source code so I can examine various details when I’m unsure or failing to guess by eye by looking at the PC version as it runs. This is a huge bonus!

I added the original Atic Atac sound effects during the week leading up to the show which really does give the game that nostalgic trip back down memory lane. I am hoping that permission can be granted to use original samples of ZX Spectrum 48K beeper for the final release!

The game is getting a lot of attention on social media, especially when the original PC team post an update on their twitter accounts. It has also been filmed for a forthcoming documentary that includes the Spectrum Next, myself and other team members. I will keep you posted when I have more details about the documentary.

In summary, I am really happy with progress of the project. I’m now in a better position to take things easy and spend time re-factoring the code. There is a lot of code to write “under the hood” on the engine so visually, the game will not progress for the next six weeks or so. I also have to finish and add my Z80N core to my emulator so I can run native Next code on the PC based development build. Maintaining two versions of the game is proving to be time consuming so I will be switching to running a larger percentage of the actual game code in my emulated version. The goal will be to write important and more complex code in x86 as I profile various methods and algorithms keeping most of the generic game code in Z80. This will speed up development of the project once this system is place but sadly, it is time consuming to set in place thus contributing to the six week re-factor period.

I also need to write some game editing tools into my x86 based development emulator. This will allow me to tweak and edit various objects found in the game world. It took three hours to hand position 60 items of food during the final stages of the Expo demo!!!

Some of the data will need tweaking and refining as I am not adding 100% of the original PC game data because that would just take far too long and in some cases, their data is not compatible with my simplified Spectrum Next game engine. The real-time game editing tools will be fun and really help to adjust the game as it runs to make sure objects are in the correct locations.

I am currently creating pixel art assets for my slow burning project “Ice World” while I let the last three months of development sink in. I have a clear definition of the direction I will be taking the development of Melkhior’s Mansion when I continue after this short two week break.

Here is my interview from PLAY Expo Manchester 2019, a big thank you to BLAST PROCESS for the video:

I’d also like to thank Dom Robinson from DVDfever.co.uk for last week’s video blog update, recorded live at the Expo:

I will be back late next Sunday night UK time (GMT) with update #13.

KevB aka 9bitcolor.

https://twitter.com/9bitcolor

https://twitter.com/EricRetro

https://twitter.com/hot_piping

https://twitter.com/alberto_mcalby

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