KEVIN EDWARDS Q&A
The Galaforce creator reveals the story behind his hit space shooter
CAN YOU BRIEFLY DESCRIBE YOUR PATH INTO GAMES PROGRAMMING? it started at school in 1979 where i had access to a Commodore PET computer then moved to a nascom 2 kit computer, and finally to the BBC Micro. a group of like-minded friends wanted to write their own games and i guess there was a bit of healthy competition between us as to who could get their games in the shops and make a bit of money. WERE YOU A BIG FAN OF THE CLASSIC ARCADE GAMES OF THE ERA? absolutely. The early arcade games were just amazing and consumed a lot of my spare time and money. i used to travel around Manchester to play them, in takeaways, city centre arcades and even record shops. it was always great when you discovered a new game. HOW DID Galaforce COME ABOUT? DID YOU CREATE THE GAME FIRST AND THEN TAKE IT TO PUBLISHERS? Galaforce was a project i was developing in my spare time, with a shoot-’em-up game as a goal. From a coding point of view, it started with a set of software sprite routines. i tweaked and reworked them so that they were as fast as possible, reducing the CPU clock cycles they consumed. after this i began building the rest of the game framework – alien pattern movement, missiles, starfield, scoring system, player control etc. Galaforce took elements from several arcade games including Galaga, Star
Force and Galaxians. i then added my own elements to improve the gameplay. When the game was almost complete i approached superior software to see if it was something that it would consider publishing. i got a quick, positive response from Richard hanson and we began tweaking and polishing it ready for publishing. i also persuaded a school friend of mine, Martin Galway, to create the music and sound effects for the game. CAN YOU RECALL ANY PARTICULAR TECHNICAL CHALLENGES YOU FACED DURING THE DEVELOPMENT? it would have to be memory – or lack of it. i battled with the game’s memory footprint and had to optimise the code and data size constantly. Galaforce ran in screen Mode 2 which takes 20k of memory out of the available 32k. HOW DIFFICULT WAS IT PORTING THE GAME TO THE ACORN ELECTRON? Galaforce was ported to the electron in about a week. Most of the development could be done on the Beeb and then tested on electron hardware when required. The biggest chunk of work was changing the sprites, and other artwork, to use four colours instead of eight. The game was switched to screen Mode 5 and the music was simplified to a single melody track. Both versions were very well received and sold well thanks to Richard and his team at superior. WHAT PROMPTED YOU TO RETURN WITH Galaforce 2? i wanted to add some important elements that i didn’t have the time or memory to do in Galaforce and to bring it up-to-date. This included improving performance, increasing the number of active sprites, adding minibosses and special pick-ups, introducing more complex attack patterns, more missiles and so on. however, it was 1987 when Galaforce 2 was started and sales of 8-bit computer games were dropping off quite substantially. This didn’t put me off and i decided to push ahead with the game. it wasn’t released as a solo title and was instead put on a compilation with three other titles. sales were okay, but times were hard for Beeb software and Galaforce 2 was my last Beeb game.