Syderal

Syderal - a new-old project

Back in the year 2000, I had done all kinds of things in QuickBasic. Except, that is, the single thing I had wanted to do since I first started programming: a complete game. Although I knew everything I had to do, I had never sat to carefully design every aspect of a game, mostly because once I realised I was capable of more, I didn't want to do less than I knew I could, but then it was harder. Then, I decided I'd do something simple, but this time, I'd finish it.

The simplest concept I could think of was a space shoot'em up. I gave up trying to use a SVGA mode and I started designing my own graphics for 320x200. I implemented SoundBlaster sound by trial an error and had to include a small assembly routine that managed sound channel saturation so that I could play several sounds at the same time. I had the most fun recording the sounds for the game, using my own voice and editing it.


Adaptation

Years later, the first time I tried to run Syderal on a modern computer using DOSBox, I realised how non-standard my game was. Of course, I had tried it on my computer only. Under DOSBox, screen transitions were very slow and sound would fail to run properly. The system I used to keep the game speed constant wasn't as effective within the emulator either. I started to think I would have to heavily edit the source code to make the game run natively in modern systems so that it wouldn't end in oblivion.

In 2016, I rewrote the code, looking at the original source and adapted it to FreeBasic. The whole sound system had to be rewritten. I researched how to do it both in GNU/Linux and in Windows. The graphics had to be scaled up, the speed keep-up system was changed too. Joystick support also works very differently from what it used to. Finally, I made a few touches and published the game as free software. It's a very simple game, but there are some tricks in the code that can be very interesting to read for somebody programming their first game. Also, simple doesn't mean easy. Syderal is a very challenging game. Try it!


Bliss screenshot

Gameplay

The basics are just what you would imagine. Move your ship to the sides using the arrow keys and shoot with either the up arrow key or the space bar. You can go to the Options menu and set up your joystick/gamepad too. Enemies will appear and you have to shoot them for points. You get hit, your ship receives damage. When you're out of shields, it explodes and you lose a life, having to restart the level.

Now, some things are not as in other games. Most importantly, each level has a fixed duration and the only thing you have to do to pass it is survive that time. As you play a level over and over, you will learn what events will turn out and when, so you will be ready and know what to do. You have a certain level of laser energy that goes down as you shoot. It only starts to recharge once it's empty. While recharging, you're completely defenceless, so choose wisely when to use and when to save your laser! Passing a level or dying will also cause your laser level to be replenished completely. If you find yourself in a desperate situation, use the DEL key to give up a life. This will refill both your laser and shields. Another trick is that, if your laser is full, you can exchange your whole laser load for some extra shield by pressing the down arrow key, but this tends to be quite risky.


Background

In the year 2222, a group of highly experienced military pilots are recruited on Earth and sent to the Hyperspace Technology Research Facility, a huge laboratory-vessel in solar orbit between the Earth and Mars. The pilots are intrigued about their recruitment, as space pilots are normally trained very differently. On arrival, they are introduced to the Exogate I project. A machine capable of generating a well-controlled wormhole, big enough to transport a ship is presented to them. The ship has to be shot very quickly into the gate as it can't be kept strecthed for very long and will microscopic when a ship is not going through it. The space beyond the gate is still unexplored, but nanoprobes that have been sent suggest that the laws of physics, albeit compatible, are not exactly the same as in our region of the universe. Since many probes were lost, the first ships to explore this region must be equipped with laser guns and pilots must be prepared for everything.

When the first pilot arrives at the other end, he realises that the stretching of the wormhole has somehow scaled, causing microscopic particles to appear huge from the pilots' perspective. They must survive until the gate is reopened to be able to return and tell the tale.


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