Ted Szczypiorski is the creator of the soon-to-be-released Odyssey² homebrew, Planet Lander!. Ted took a break from programming and from managing his web site, TedFoolery.com, to answer a few of my questions.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I'm 31 years old, living outside of Philadelphia, PA, with my wife and 1.5 year old son. I work as a web programmer (mainly PERL, ASP, PHP). My hobbies are anything involving music or computers. I've been playing with and programming computers since I was 7, when my dad brought home a Commodore PET.
Why did you decide to write a game for the Odyssey²?
I've always loved the Odyssey². It was my first game system. I can't tell you how many hours I spent playing it.
I think I long to be a game programmer, but the weight of the modern games boggles my mind. One person can't write a game anymore -- you need teams of programmers, art departments, and beta testers (just to see if the game runs, let alone testing the quality of the game).
I stumbled upon Sören Gust's web site, where he has a tutorial on writing for the O2, and that's when it occurred to me that I must write a game for the O2.
Why did you pick a Lunar Lander-style game? I mean, wasn't Out of this World! good enough? ;)
I never had Out of this World!, so I didn't know that it was a lander-type game, until just now (I just read the instructions from www.ozyr.com). Oh, well. I think mine is different enough, and more like your traditional lunar lander game, that you wouldn't confuse the two. If I had known what Out of this World! was, I probably would have written a different game. I don't want to "step on someone else's toes."
Editor's Note: Those of you who have played Out of this World! will recognize the sarcasm implied in my question. It's most definitely NOT good enough. Planet Lander!is far better.
How long did it take to program Planet Lander!?
That's hard to say. The first record I have of it is from 9/03 and I finished it in early 2/04. I write for maybe 2-3 hours late at night, if at all (the baby takes up a lot my time). I took some breaks, though, from coding. I built Sören Gust's RamCart, so I can test the game on a real O2. This took at least a month to build, wait for parts, debug, etc.
Please share your thoughts on programming the Odyssey². How challenging is it?
The main challenge, I think, is getting used to the processor -- a very primitive Intel 8048. The page limitations suck. The instruction set is limited, too, so doing "advanced" calculations can be tedious. But, if you're not trying to figure out a Mandlebrot Set, then it gets kind of simple to code.
Let's say someone wants to program his own Odyssey² game, but has no idea how to get started. What advice would you give him?
- Learn to program in C or BASIC (NOT visual basic). 8048's don't do GUIs or Objects, so forget it all. You'll be programming in 8048 machine code and these 2 languages are closer to that then anything with "visual" or "++".
- Go to Sören Gust's and Dan Boris's sites and download as much as you can and read it as much as you can.
- Get information on how microprocessors work. There is plenty of free stuff on the web.
- Sören has lots of sample code to try. Tinker with it. You won't break anything.
- Build or Buy Sören's RamCart or get an EPROM Burner and make a cart to test your game on a real machine. The emulators are very forgiving. So, things that work on your PC might not work on the real O2.
- Get some patience.
What is your favorite Odyssey² game and why?
K.C. Munchkin!, hands down. I don't know why. I sat for hours as a kid playing it and I can sit for hours now, too. I guess it's because the game play is good. Smooth graphics. Even the sound is good -- you forget that there's only ever one beep being played at a time. It's only problem is that bug on advanced levels where the colored Munchies appear too low.
The "support materials" for Planet Lander! (the online box art, label and manual) are quite well done. Did you create all of that yourself?
Yes, I did do them myself. I did get some help from my friends PhotoShop, Quark, and Epson scanner, too. It is amazing how close Helvetica is to the font in the original O2 manuals and labels.
You've stated that you're already working on another Odyssey² game. Can you give us more details about it?
- It's a strategy game
- 2-player, or play against the computer with selectable skill level (I've never written a complete AI, so this is something new for me)
- Multiple screens
- A few variations to choose from
- Utilize The Voice
Do you have any future development plans beyond the next game?
Nothing set in stone, but I have a few ideas. I would like to write something for every system I owned as a kid, so I'm looking at Vectrex and Colecovision. But it takes time to learn a new system, so I just might stick with O2 for a while, we'll see.
Why "Ted Foolery?"
I was going crazy for 2 weeks trying to think of a name for my web site, which has diverse sections (music, classic gaming, baby/family pics). TomFoolery.com was taken, so I went with TedFoolery.com.
Anything else you'd like to say?
I never imagined I would get such a great response from the public. Even if only ten people like my game, it's nine more than I thought would. So, thank you.
Thank you to Sören Gust and Dan Boris for putting their knowledge into PDFs so I can learn from them; and Classicgaming.com and every other Odyssey² and classic gaming site on the web.
No, thank you, Ted, for giving all us Odyssey² fans another game for our too-long-neglected machines!