Prologue of becoming a game developer — 8 bit days

It was the beginning of autumn 1986, when I saw my dad walking up the stairs with a Commodore 64. Screams and joy had followed by me and my brother, since we were long asking to have an Atari, a word which equals to video console in my country, Turkey, rather than the brand itself even today!

Commodore 64, my first love 😍

Being 39 now, my mind is cloudy on what I did with it day by day but I assume it was all about playing games at the beginning. Soon enough just playing games wasn't satisfying enough and the dream became how to make them which would turn into reality sooner than I thought! One funny story before continuing ; I had heard that a friend’s friend was claiming that he is creating games on his C64 so I immediately rushed to meet this guy to beg him to teach me how to do it. When asked, he said “Sure” with typing “LOAD” into the screen and pressing the play on tape while telling me “that’s it!”. I don’t believe my face took such a disappointed expression ever again 😒.

Anyway, unlike such knowledgeable friends, those old computers came with great manuals which were explaining how to program on basic. I don’t remember how long it took but at some point I had made my first game which was basically a random number guesser with built-in character set made graphics and animation with a Robin Hood alike guy shooting arrow. Probably realized that wasn't going to get me anywhere, my second attempt was to make a Football Manager (Soccer for the American audience) game which was common to have only text on those days. Again, probably me and my brother only witnessed how awful it was 😊. Soon I realized that Basic wasn't enough and to become a real, 10 year old!, professional, so I needed to learn something that came from outer space, created by aliens, called Assembly :

LDA #$01
STA $0400
RTS

Since it was pre-pre-internet age, it wasn't that easy to reach knowledge and all I could find was a book named “Programcının El Kitabı” (“Programmer’s Reference Book ” as it translates) and that book basically was just a list of all 6510 assembly commands with a small description on what they are used for, bah! I was so confused that it took me even quite a while to realize that I needed a kind of special editor to write on that language! Soon, I had my “Multi Ice 3” (A local version of “Action Replay 3”) cartridge which allowed me not only write assembly code directly to the memory but also dig into the codes of the games I loaded into the memory, wohooo!

Multi Ice 3 Cartridge, aka Action Replay 3

And than came step 2 ; All that time I was using a tape drive which was showing it’s limits on storage for serious things. It was also the time of 16 bit computers rise (Looking at you Amiga) but without being able to convince dad to buy one (pricey!), we could settle with obtaining at least a 1541-II disk drive for our mighty C64 and that turned out to be a really good choice.

1541-II Disk Drive for Commodore 64

Soon I started to study all kinds of games and the codes behind them. At that time, it was a norm to use cracked software and nearly all of them was being imported by groups with nice looking importer group intros inserted in front of them. Most of the time those intros were catchier and even technically advanced than those games they were linked to and it was quite tempting to be in that world. Luckily those intros contained contact information on them and giving a little bit of a try, soon turned out to enter into the world of demo scene which contained happenings like becoming a demo group member, swapping disks with people all around the world, cracking games, uppps 😲!!

This looks suspiciously familiar!

Despite of all these dazzling events, becoming a game developer was still the dream and I was looking into ways on how to accomplish this. At early 90s, It was nearly the end of commercial life of C64 so big software houses were turning their eyes into 16 bit and beyond. That was also the time that lots of those demo scene members started to take over making games for the machine with less commercial expectations. It was that time I had made a contact with one the best graphicians of the demo scene who happened to work on making games as well. He had a few of game ideas he already made graphics for and I also had a few prototype games made with my gorgeous! art. In the end, this partnership resulted with 2 games being developed and released as follows 🤩 :

FastBall for C64, MenuScreen
FastBall for C64, InGame Screen
Pieces for C64, Menu Screen
Pieces for C64, InGame Screen

There I had it, being at 15, I had became a professional game developer, sort of, if you count that I didn't make any penny from them 😢but still the goal was reached. Developing those games was also a little bit dangerous if I may say so due to an interesting factor. It was the time that I had to prepare for the college entry exam, which was something you had to study all year long to be successful and my dad was strictly against me getting involved into the computer during that time. Considering this, I did all the development when dad was out home and luckily never caught. At the same time I did win the university exam as well, so everybody was happy at the end 😋!

College meant to go another city (quite a big one, İstanbul), live apart from family and have lots of fun with new friends resulting a disconnection from game development as well as other computer activities for quite some time…

To be continued on part 2…

This week’s post is pumped up by Octahedron, such a beautiful soundtrack and game :

And also the gameplay video of Pieces :

About

Özden Irmak is the owner of a one man indie game studio named Creamative and occasionally posts, such as this, about gaming, indie games and development experiment of it’s upcoming game Clan N to be released in 2019 on PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Steam and Windows 10!