New Computer Gaming Initiative / Essential Correspondence

Date: 05/06/2000

From: Stephen Brooks (

To: Five NCGi players; addresses withheld.

Hi everyone,

This is really my problem (as the programmer), but I thought that there may be several different ways of resolving the issue and it would help to have as big a basis of different people's ideas as possible in order for me to produce an optimal solution.   The problem is one of program development and I'm rather surprised that it hasn't already occured well before the six-thousand-line stage, but there we are.

What problem? (Oh, sorry - I took GCSE English paper 1 this afternoon and I've gone all rhetorical, which in my case usually means writing things backwards).

OK, it sounds simple: while implementing the shop to buy upgrades to your ship I realised that the weapons inherited from distribution 2 are already potentially powerful-enough to wipe out everything on the screen, and you get them for free during the game anyway, so what use a shop?

But I want to have a shop in the game, since it's something that people have suggested to me as a good idea for ages.   On the other hand, inserting a shop but then removing the free bonuses would totally go against the grain of my development strategy so far, which is to continually add and build on what has gone before, keeping in all of the features because they are all good in their own ways.   If I abandoned this philosophy and started re-coding on a large scale instead of letting the thing evolve on its own and accrete new features, I'd be in the same situation as the people who make sequels such as Quake III from scratch by re-writing the whole thing each time.   I don't want to do that because it puts an inherent limit on the complexity of the game: in effect, it becomes proportional to the inter-distribution spacing rather than the time from initiation (June 1999).   In short, it won't be NCGi any more, therefore it will be crap.

One way of solving this problem seems to be to make tougher bad-guys, but I am left with little space in my byte-use chart (for the level maps) for a whole new range of them: I just have 5 values left and really don't want to start on a massive extension of the d.3 spec this late on (I want to finish d.3, honest!).   So maybe I could beef up the existing ones and then add some more? Sounds reasonable enough, but then I've got another slight problem of aesthetics to worry about: the flame-thrower and white-fire are very pretty and would make any different but more powerful weapon look unimpressive by comparison, especially when you have god-knows-how-many surround-fires and spread-fires as well.   I guess an approach to this would be to only include, say, one new weapon in d.3 and concentrate the shop on providing other things (like shields! - people have been telling me to put them in since last century!), and also maybe make the boni slightly rarer in the main game.

Well, that's a solution, but I'd be interested to hear if any of you can think of a better way of getting around these problems.   Effectively, I'm seeing the bad side of evolutionary programming: the old features sometimes get outdated and it's my (our?) task to keep them in harmony with the rest of the game so that it can continue to grow.


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