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By Simon Forrester

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Alien Smash | Chaos Road | Monster Mash

This article first appeared in Commodore Format issue 45.

Aliens have captured CF's regular SEUCKster, Jon Wells, this month, so Simon Forrester wrote his feature, while Dave Golder rushed off to conquer the alien race and rescue him.

Loads of people write SEUCK games - I know because I get buried daily in a pile of Jiffy bags full of covertape submissions. It looks as if quite a few people have got the idea of writing good SEUCK games from the previous Secret of SEUCKCESS features, but there are still a few left to reach. Coming up, then, are ten things you have to remember when writing your masterpiece:


Decide on a scenario. Standard alien-bashing games are never going to capture the imagination of either the player or the reviewer (if your game gets that far), but a nice, novel plot does wonders. Check out some of the more recent re-hashed covertape game plots if you want a good example.

2. MAP

Keep your map simple - it's very difficult for the player to navigate, steer and shoot things at the same time. If you plan to give the player a choice of routes, make sure both are possible (just make one more difficult than the other), as they won't thank you for letting them play for five minutes only to come to a dead end.


The screen doesn't always have to scroll. If you want to keep the player interested, have them stop occasionally to fight a larger enemy or an end-of-level guardian. There's no point having nice big aliens floating around if you don't give the player the chance to stop, savour them, and kill them properly and with style, instead pushing them forward past the guardian before they've had a chance to let loose the ammo.

Alien Smash by Martin Edwards

I thought Alien Smash was a reference to those robots that used to advertise mash potatoes.


Try to give each different sort of enemy its own particular sound effect - it's always nice to have different things making different sounds, and it'll keep the player interested for a hell of a lot longer if you give them variation when they kill or collect something.


Don't make your game too difficult to begin with. If the player gets killed twice within the first five seconds but then has to spend several minutes flying past a dull, featureless landscape, they're not going to thank you. Face it - they're not going to like you either. Build the difficulty level up slowly and let the player learn from their mistakes (it's called a sensible learning curve).


Get someone else to playtest your game - if you've written a game then you're obviously going to be very good at it, but if you don't get a second opinion, you'll never know how good it is, or which bits need to be changed.

Chaos Road by Martin Edwards

It's complete Chaos... or is it? You should think carefully about the positioning of your enemies.


Always take time to draw your sprites - they are one of the most important elements in the game when it comes to impressing or pleasing the player, and a variety of interesting enemies keeps them interested for longer. It also helps if you draw your sprites on a black background - it looks better.


Vary your attack patterns. If each enemy attacks in the same way, your player will fall asleep from sheer boredom.

Monster Mash by Jon Wells

Decent end-of-level guardians are a must.


Use the object editor. Moving objects that are essentially irrelevant show the player that you've spent a lot of time worrying about attention to detail. For example, if the player gets to fly past a crowd cheering them on, they'll know you've spent time on this game.


Finally, try to use a sense of humour. Computer games are supposed to be fun, and if you recognise this, so much the better. It's easier for an enemy to kill a player if the enemy happens to be a tin of pickled yams flying at them screaming 'banzai' or something.


I stood outside Sainsbury's in Bath and asked a few people what they thought the problem was with most SEUCK games these days. Here's what they had to say:

- Mrs Queegee Bananahoe, 67. "I don't like the way them shooty games don't let you take a breather.
  It'd be nice to stop moving forward and spend a few minutes making a cuppa, or shooting the giblets
  out of some gigantic mutant space turkey."

- Lionel Blair, popular entertainer. "Some people always use the standard alien attack patterns, and it's boring
  (does a little tap dance). What am I famous for, anyway?

- Cyril Bristlecocker, nine. "I don't like the way the kernel engine is programmed. Imagine not creating a form
  of index register using a second stack? The whole thing must run so many nanoseconds slower
  than it could you know. Words fail me..."

- Roger Obviouslymadeupname, 35. "I think it's appalling. It should be banned, as I said in my letter to
  my MP, the Queen, and Philip Schofield. Am I going to be on the telly then? What exactly is a
  SEUCK game, by the way?"

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