|RSD Sprite Editor|
|RSD Block Properties|
RSD Game-Maker had its own graphic tools (the "sprite/block editor") and a ".gif import" feature that we later managed to use to import larger graphics we crafted with Deluxe Paint. Everything in the game was made of one or more 20x20 pixel squares for which some properties could be defined, such as gravity, animations, score-if-hit and so on. It was an efficient way of bringing some flexibility for Joe Average, but it clearly had its limits.
|RSD map overview|
|RSD editing level 1-1 of "Twinnbee Land"|
my own BASIC sprite editor a funny (and fat) batman clone whose gun dropped a "bang" flag instead of shooting at Bilou: badman. While it was supposed to be an NPC in our RPG game, my brother immediately urged us to leave the BASIC editor and to re-do the character in RSD's 20x20 frame size. Pierrick enjoyed this alot and started sketching robbers, "manatthan red sky" and a rooftop-like environment where we could jump from chemneys to TV antennas. Badman would become our top floppy that we swapped with as many friends as we could, suggesting the most motivated ones to "join the team" in order to get a copy of the game maker itself. Tbob and his brother joined, although we have lost their few prototypes. Pascal "Kameah" also joined at that time and he was pretty prolific, converting the Manga universe he was fan of into .BBL files.
Setting the mood
Pengo Adventures" is the odd story of a penguin who tries to rescue a princess abducted by a mad, barrel-throwing Bubble. Sounds familiar ?
Piet thought we could try ourselves at something "simple" like Donkey Kong, reusing RSD's template character "PENGO.CBL" as a hero. It should be noted that the mad bubble is *not* Bilou, despite a strong similarity. The game featured 4 levels (new-york, egypt, north pole and a final space battle). Do not seriously try to play it : we faced the hard reality that RSD's game make isn't designed to mix ladders and gravity together in a single level. Pretty annoying for a Donkey Kong clone.
Facts: Piet(+Pype ?) - jan95 - 1map - lots of borrowed graphics.
This first episode is a weird mix of "realistic levels" (gettham-city, nazi stronghold, japanese waterfall and haunted mansion) and more "fantastic levels" (chocolate zone, lego zone, moonbase).
|The way to Japanese Waterfalls|
Badman was our first real collab, pierrick doing most of the graphics of the "realistic levels", teaching us the subtleties of pixel art, and letting us craft the levels with some suggestions here and there. We started to become more confident with the mechanics of the GM, introducing shots, bonuses and secret levels.
Facts: March 95, Pierrick(+Pype)@gfx, Piet@level design & fantastic gfx, Piet+Pype+Pierrick@realistic level design.
|Mutant forest of Blork Carnage|
Keeping the basic behaviour of Badman, Blork Carnage is a Gun&Gun game inspired by Duke Nukem and Bio Menace of ID software realised in Apr/May '95. It was our first satisfying attempt to produce bosses with GM and to provide shotgun upgrades. The game features 4 zones (spaceship, forest, lab, factory), each divided in two levels and a boss. Unfortunately, the 20x20 limitation for graphic somehow killed the interest after a while. Once again, Pierrick can claim character design & graphics while I (Pype) worked on blocks that my brother used in his level, and on the sprites for the lab & factory. Tired of waiting for more sprites of mine, he reused a spherical droïd and a large part of the tiles to run a one-level game "droïd" shortly before we decided that the rest of the story would be concluded in another episode.
Fact: Jack Boost will become a recurrent character in our later items, although not as easily reused in games as Badman. We will attempt later on to build a clone of Bilou: Sky Quest with the graphics of the mutant forest. It will be dropped and lost: not convincing on GM engine.
A tank Odissey
In May '95, my brother then starts a pair of war-labyrinth games "Panzer", most likely inspired by a C64 game he played that Easter. Both games are top-down and you drive a tank. Your goal is to shoot down any opponent, find the key and skip to the next level. The game is presented with our earlier productions in a local computing club and is surprisingly one of the kids' favourite: war effect.
In reply to those solo actions from my brother, I launch "Panzer III" while Panzer 2019 is not yet complete. The game is a slow-paced sidescroller and you can see Jack Boost in control of the WWII jump-capable tank. The action is slowy. The ramps can't be managed properly by the game engine... and nobody at the club care about freeing hostages. Let's face it: Panzer III is a failure.
Hopefully, Pierrick is back in June '95 to raise the bar with another kind of top-down shooter: Bloodwar. Lt Mike Blood docks his ship on a deep-space scientific station, answering an emergency call. He finds the scientific team killed and quickly realise that aliens have the station under control. Directly inspired from Team17's "Alien Breed", the game is creepy, difficult to master (with 4 buttons per weapon and 3 different weapons) and mercyless (the player screams and move backwards by almost 4 tiles when hurt). It has unfortunately been lost.
He's Back, Again !
It could have been fun if he'd have implemented the water, pyramid, pipe and space zones that were waiting to come to life since 1991 ... but I guess he wasn't satisfied by the gameplay as he dropped the project straight after the 1st level. As usual, the README file claims that PPP Team studio will deliver you the full version if you register the game ... nobody never asked for it :P
Technically speaking, Calimero on G-M was ambitious. The level design features lava swamps spitting fireballs, springs, bumpers and breakable crates that hold power-up bonus including the ability to fly. Bumpers, for instance, were implemented as "keys" that allowed every sky tile to reverse its gravity for a short time. Unfortunately, the result wasn't convincing.
Facts: Levels & Character by Piet, backgrounds & few sprites by Pype, 1 level.
|Badman & Rubishbinn, Badman II|
After an in-depth study of pixel art in Fury of the Furries, I (Pype) decide to practice the desert-night style and to revamp Badman sprite (essentially bringing more move in the cape animation). The twisted, humourous character and level design is still present, and will be reinforced at the end of the 4th level -- in the middle of the pyramid -- by a warp-thing that transport Badman in a parallel dimension where dunes have a Mario-shape, where the moon has a face and where Badman is now attacked by jumping cactus.
The following levels (bubble village and cheers woods) remain in that "alice in wonderland" spirit, including cameos of Bilou-like characters.
|Pyramid Zone of Badman II|
Pierrick further suggests to let the action continue in a creepy graveyard during a thunderstorm, populated by zombies and gnomes, that precedes Skyboy' (the second badboy and the final boss of this game).
|Badman II was large enough to feature a WARP zone.|
Badman II is notable by being one of the first game we realised with RSD that does not rip graphics from any sources. We remained however unable to produce .CMF files and thus still relied on games shipped with Game-Maker 2.0 and some Epic Megagames titles (mostly Xargon and Jill) to provide a musical support to the action.
The development of Badman 2 will span from 25 july to end of december '95, only to see the rest of the story advertised as "Badman 3" in March '96.
|The 4 heroes. (start the game at top-right corner of the map)|
It is the occasion for us to gain experience with 20x40 characters, but making sure 4 characters with distinct powers can travel a single map is too painful for continuing the experiment. The experience of the LBM->Gif->BBL conversion will also prove very useful later in Badman III and Twinnbee Land. Piet will do more "spin-off" games in September, including Cosmowars -- a shoot-m-up based on Zone66 graphics and using our "Polycosmos" myth as a backstory -- and F1 eater Mania -- a curious mixup of "Up'n'Down" (C64) and Pac-Man where you have to glob a certain number of dots on the track to finish the race.
I drawn the character, and my brother then took everything in charge. I must admit that he did an impressive job, I must said, mimmicking the look&feel of "Marooned on Mars", and nice shadow effects.
|"Electro Zone" of Biokid|
Early in 1996, while I'm still busy on Badman II, my brother imagines a small cyber-cop that is the only defense left for your computer against the terrific virus: the TERMINATOR 007. I must have been playing Megaman X quite a lot the month before, since the look I gave to Biokid is somehow reminiscent of Dr Lightman's creation. Once again, my brother takes care of level design and got fun doing all the sound effects by filtering his voice.
Meanwhile Pascal has instilled some manga in our references, and the terminator looks like a robot from Capsule Corporation modelled after Bilou. To defeat it, you need to locate a virus definition floppy, that makes Biokid fire large "Yotsemeka" energy wave. We were planning to model further levels on the SToned that killed our 8086 and the Tequila that nuked Pc Julius' first 286. Pacman makes a cameoh, as well as a nice prehistorik man. Unfortunately the prehistorik level doesn't work as expected, and the game is then dropped after the 5th level.
|Twinnbee Land (map edition)|
Twinnbee Land -- an attempt to port SNES title to the PC -- was different: characters are round, and that was much more my cup of tea. Since the Capsule-Corp-like robots for Badman-II had been dropped, I decided to refresh the graphisms. The inital maps were drawn in '95 and I was still drawing sprites/tiles on it in January 97. The water level gave me a hard time, but also motivated me to work on a "BBLTaker" program that could extract tiles so that I could apply a BASIC animation on it (sinusoidal move, that I used in the QuickBasic version of Bilou). I was fairly proud of my new forest, which was unfortunately lost in the disk crash of July '97.
Badman III -- The limits.
In august '96, Badman has released Rubishbinn in Badman II, but the "legacy" in place becomes too important for what we still want to achieve. Two characters, cut-scenes, 10 BadBoys and 3D-isometric levels... Moreover, Badman III introduce special moves -- a dash for Badman that allows him to slide under small roofs and a spin-jump that breaks blocks for Rubishbinn -- so that playing levels work differently for the two characters.
|Cheese Moon tiles, Part 1|
Another obvious difference is that backgrounds will be drawn in Deluxe Paint II and then imported in GM, while playable blocks are directly drawn in the block editor. Although the cheese moon is "just made of cheese", it fills two BBL sets while a world in Badman II typically used 50% of one BBL set. We can note influences from James Pond III - operation Starfish, Commander Keen, Alfred Chicken and probably much more. Appropriate pixel art animation give the illusion that we have bouncing ennemies, or that the Astroflasher Megawatt III actually "blast off" the ennemies on the distant background where they hit the ground in a puff of smoke.
|Cheese Moon Tiles, Part 2|
The size of the tileset is not the only overdimensioned element of Badman III: the game should have featured 10 end-level badboys, and a "pipe world" (inspired from Bilou's Pipe Zone, which is itself a reharshal of Calimero's Pipe World, which has roots in the Piranha World of SMB3) connecting them altogether "à la SMW Star Road". As such, an important part of the map is dedicated to secret accesses and insanely difficult areas. Additionally, Piet provided a "Doors-Maze" level where player is wrapped around the map, change character in-game and so on, making the 4-MAPs game consuming up to 42 nodes and 99 links on the Integrator.
|No room for 1UPs, Sorry.|
The presence of a GameBoy in the background motivated the introduction of a "Nostalgy Zone" where a GB-badman moves around a GB-coloured version of the Mansion seen in the 1st Badman game. Playing with Rubishbinn doesn't allow to enter that secret level, but instead suggest a serie of 6 themed contests (small courses) in the toy zone through which RB must prove that he is on par with his leader.
The dawn of an Era
the revamped woods of Twinbee Land, the structure of Badman III ".gam" file, monsters mapping on the toyzone and the first test map of the Ice Zone, plus Spector -- my brother's last temptative game, to mention only those I remember for sure.
|Only 1 screen of the Ice Zone survived|
Moreover, my skills in ASM at that time has became sufficient to make the RSD game maker fairly obsolete. Especially, one of the biggest drawback of the RSD GM is that we are unable to create musics for it. And my brother is pretty proficient on musics by that time... and since my 6-track S3M music player is sufficiently stable to keep running while a small breakout game is running, I will never turn back to RSD but rather start a 3-year long quest to define the Ultimate Game Maker from PPP Team Software. That game maker will never appear, nor will the game engine. The best that went out of that MS-DOS game-in-modplayer approach is Crazy Brix and Out'm'up, presented at Inscene 99 and Y2K 100k game competition, respectively. It settled the roots for the game-engine and tools I'm currently developing for the DS.
The incomplete and buggy AST->CMF converter was lost together with the latest updates on Badman III. That was certainly the final blow to kill further development. In december '97, a folder "UGM" (for "Ultimate Game Maker") has appeared on my disk, importing knowledge about .IT file replay, Xmode and VBE, XMMS, protected mode ... This is where the GEDS project (Game Edition on nintendo DS) has its roots in, although many parts have been dismissed and that the overall approach has strongly changed (result-oriented rather than tool-oriented).
No Bilou ?
|Something nobody will ever see.|
More surprisingly, Bilou's Quest, the RPG, also stick to a BASIC implementation. Badman was produced out of that project, and a readily available and powerful sprite/map editor would have helped the project to survive. However, RSD G-M clearly hadn't the guts to properly render the "Zelda: Link's Awakening" look and feel we were aiming at with BQ ... The closest temptative has been a rendition of Rodrick's Quest maps by Piet starring Bouli as main character. It turned out, unfortunately, than giving a sword to a top-down character in Game-Maker is a complete pain and the game was dropped long before it disappeared in the disk crash.
Through 1994, Piet had been fairly prolific at sketching Bilou-featuring games that would come aside from Bilou's Adventure & Quest. Bilouski (a clone of Ski64), Biloutris, BilouKart, and an untitled game cloning "Spy vs. Spy". The only that actually got prototyped was Bilou Sky Quest on C64's S.E.U.C.K., which was later also attempted on G-M with Blork Carnage tileset as a background. RSD's odd scrolling and infamous lame support to space shooters will burry the project the very afternoon it was started.
It may be surprising that there has been virtually no cameo of the #1 star of PPP Team in G-M games. The "bubble village" of Badman II is populated by Bilou-alike characters, although it wasn't Bilou himself. "Mo the Sorcerer" in that very village *is* a cameo of a character that never got its own game (that should have been inspired from "Misadventures of Flink"). I can only assume that the completely different universe of Bilou made it unpractical to mix Bilou-based elements into other, more realistic, games.
The Lost Levels
A few pictures and memories are what's left of them after the disk crash ...
|Froggy, a solo game by Piet with overall look reminiscent from Keen III and heavily recycling monsters from Fury of the Furries||Droïd in the Fire Cavern, another solo game by Piet, recycling a baddie from Blork Carnage|
|Grungee, a Q-Bert clone with a hammering red blob, flattened by Piet into a Game-Maker platformer||The spaceships envisioned for the full version of Cosmowar. Some will be reused in Cosmowar||All the levels envisioned for Badman II+III(+IV?)|
|Burner & Ice, a prototype platformer caracituring Piet ∧ Pype, later renamed "Martin Bros."||Bloodwar: two zones of alien-infested space station lost forever||Spector: nothing left but memories of that solo game by Piet|
Sketches for additional monsters and weapons in Bloodwar
The first level of Spector : escape from jail
Grungee ported to the Game-Maker
Recovery, Extraction and Snapshot TOols for Rsd Entertainers
My first tool for RSD game-maker was simply a BBL exporter, dubbed "BBLTAKER" It was built in '96 during the development of Biokid and twinnbee, and extensively used for Badman III. It is simply built on the observation that .PAL files exactly contain the values used to program VGA colour registers (256x3 bytes, with values ranging from $00 to $3f) and that every *BL file is exactly nx20x21 bytes with n matching the number of blocks allowed in .BBL, .CBL or .MBL ... plotting adequately the content of the file in video memory after the .PAL file has been loaded in colour registers renders directly the blocks on screen. The program was written in MS-DOS assembly and could be invoked by a BASIC script, for instance to script water animation (twinbee, biokid) or in a .BAT command file prior to a DPII screen capture (Badman III). You may find it in badman3.zip, although it is likely to be unusable.
|the generated mMonster2.png|
[.PAL-file] ::= [color]x256 [color] ::= [red:8][green:8][blue:8] [.BBL-file] ::= [BBL-block]xN [BBL-block] ::= [BBL-row]x20[BBL-metadata] [BBL-row] ::= [color-index]x20
A more recent tool can achieve the same result:download bbl2png.pl, a PERL script using Image::Imlib2 package for PNG export. You will use
The "--sprites" extra argument is suggested on .MBL and .CBL files: it makes color #255 to be transparent as it is the convention in the Game-Maker engine.
|BBL metadata dump|
b5: blocking directions
b7-b8: score increase when hit
b9-b10: hitpoints increase when hit
b11: change into block #x ...
b12: ... after x ticks
b14: change into #x when touched
b15: gravity directions
b16: is inventory item
b17: special action (lives, keys, ...)
b18-b19: value for special action
The perl script bblmeta.pl can dump those fields both into HEX and provides a textual interpretation. E.g. "B" indicates a solid block, "a" an animated block (in which case an additional (aXX,YY) indicates the target block and the delay.
Right to left you'll have the following information :
1c (r01 c13): 400100000000000000ffff1b64001c0400010000 --ga-x- (a1b,100)(h-1) ^ coords |--- complete hex dump of meta-data ---| |flags| |---details--| +- block number
On the right side, "flags" tell you roughly what are the properties of your block. here you see an Animated block that has downwards Gravity and that hurts the player (x) on contact. Details tell you that it animates to block 1b after 100 ticks and that hitpoints are reduced by 1 on contact. On the left, you have block number (block #x pixels are located at bytes x*420..x*420+399 in xBL file) and the row/column coordinates on the picture generated by my bbl2png script.
Last -- but certainly not least -- bbl2map script can render a whole .MAP file, digging pixels in .BBL files and .MBL files, and exploiting .MON monster-description files to overlay monsters over the map to provide files suited to level design analysis and game revival efforts. The Badman II level overview picture shown above has been generated with this tool.
[.MAP-file] ::= [MAP-row]x100[monsters-info] [MAP-row] ::= [MAP-cell]x100 [MAP-cell] ::= [tile-number:8][monster-slot-index:8] [monsters-info] ::= [monster-slot]x200 [monster-slot] ::= [animation-in-.MON-file:8] [unknown:16] [default-X-location:16] [default-Y-location:16] [unknown:16]
[.MON-file] ::= [monster-info]xN [monster-info:300b] ::= [unknown:10b] [animation:84b] [unknown:206b] [animation] ::= [frame]x21 [frame] ::= [.MBL-block-index:8][delay:8]
[.GAM-file] ::= [RSD-padding][game-info][level-info]xn[strings-table] [game-info] ::= [#levels:16][unknown:?] [level-info]::= [padding][level-name][files-indexes][link]x20
a .gam extractor tool producing XML representation of .GAM file content and an alternate version of the tool producing a shell script for automating BBL2MAP use.
FAQDo your tools work with any game ? Yes, if your game has been built with RSD Game-Maker. It won't work on Yoyo Games Game Maker, SEUCK or anything else.
Will you port GM games on the DS ? It's not in my immediate schedule, but an anniversary edition of Badman could be envisioned. Don't hesitate to vote for your favourite game: that could motivate me.
Why aren't working on xxx on the DS ? Such as Badman or Biokid or Blork Carnage ? The #1 reason is that I believe their graphics are obsolete and their action too much constraint by the old limits of the Game-Maker. If I was to port them, I'd throw sufficient work at it so that it would be fun to play by kids, not simply a nostalgy thing.
Will you produce tools for porting other games on the DS ? 1:1 conversion isn't envisioned. There are a number of technical subtleties that won't help. Plus, in some games (including the Badman Series), the gameplay is strongly dependent on weird effects of the Game-Maker physic (sic) engine. A converted game might even not be playable.
Can I use your tools for porting a GM game to XXX ? Yes. The tools are public domain, and you can use for any purpose: X-Box or iPhone port, online conversion server, a Win32 batch utility with a front-end... Just keep in mind that the game itself may have copyright holders. Esp. PPPTeam remain the sole holder of copyright on the original content of our games.
Will you keep working on those tools ? If I happen to understand more things, yes. I don't set myself any deadline, though.
Are there other RSD Game-Maker games ? Sure. Looks out for Aderack's wiki.
What are all those post about Badman and the DS, then ? ...
Okay ... Okay. I admit: I think that it could be interesting to have an anniversary edition of Badman I on the DS ... Just to see what it would look like... or to show my little nephew "look, this is the game your (god)father and I were working on when we were 16". The game had such simple graphics that I can fit all the sprites of the game in 64K even though I overuse a 32x32 area for 20x20 sprites. Some content will have to be reworked (e.g. the dirt of Japanese Waterfall), but then, it's content that we hadn't the right to put in our game anyway. And there are a few musical themes written already. Let's say it is a distant project that starts becoming feasible with the introduction of dynamic monsters in my own DS game-making tools.