Seawolves: Final Pre-Launch Update

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By Kodiak

Apologies for being so quiet for such a long time, but I have been polishing Seawolves and the SFX player that it and Parallaxian share.

At the moment I am pretty much just going through the code to clean up a few remaining bugs; it may sound easy, but it is actually very time-consuming (i.e. difficult!)

Quick Game Overview

The game has 8 levels:

  • Clear, sunny seascape.
  • Dusk, with mountainous islands (see screenshot below).
  • Moonlit night.
  • Polar ocean.
  • Tropical hazy seascape, with volcanic island.
  • Night-vision mode at night.
  • Forested island.
  • City harbour.
Seawolves screenshot

Each level consists of 3 rounds, and if you lose all 3 rounds, it's game over.

Likewise, if you sink more than 3 civilian vessels, the game ends for you.

The third way to die is if your damage level reduces to zero, which can happen in several ways; however, a helicopter arrives from time to time to drop off a repair kit, so if you collect it, your sub's health goes up.

Finally, if you fail to meet your assigned kill quota for a given round, that too will cause the game to end for you.

As the game progresses, the rounds become longer and kill quotas higher, and new enemy vessels enter the fray.

Notes on the Planned Release

The game is to be initially only a digital edition, but with a cartridge edition to follow if all goes to plan.

At present, it can only work on PAL due to the huge amount of raster time the visual effects require, as many of them are real-time effects. The game is only just about possible, by the skin of its teeth, on PAL.

However, I would like an NTSC version to be developed, albeit with less complex effects; a major challenge would be converting all the timer interrupts from PAL to NTSC timings, given that there are dozens of NMIs active in-game, and a whole new approach to the torpedo rendering would have to be devised for NTSC.

Due to its offbeat technical aspects, I am also planning on releasing design and coding notes for the game.

Rejected Sprite Designs

I also thought it might be interesting to show some of the sprites that were designed for the game, but which did not make the final cut for one reason or another.

1. Large Sea Mine: This was designed by John "Hend" Henderson for the game and I was intending to use it in the title page, but in the end, RAM restrictions meant I had no room left for it... at least in the digital edition of the game. I am still emotionally attached to this design (and John also provided a rust-covered variant of it) so it may make a comeback if I produce the planned cartridge edition of Seawolves.

(NOTE: The hi-res overlay in this design ended up being used in the freebie game, Seawolf II.)

Seawolves unused seamine

2. Porpoise: Early in the game's development, the plan was to have dolphins and other sea creatures frolicking in the foreground, the idea being you would be penalised for killing any of them. Hend designed some dolphins and I knocked out the porpoise design below, but again, with RAM being finite and with slick orca and kraken designs (also provided by Hend), I decided that adding dolphins and porpoises would be needless overkill.

Seawolves unused seamine

3. Fighter Jet: To make the gameplay more interesting, I wanted the enemy forces to retaliate and for a long time that was to come in the form of airstrikes against the player submarines. I even coded a sequencer for this, but a few days ago I removed it from the game and replaced it with something better... The fighter design below was originally rejected because it looked too cartoonish, that is, it was stylistically out of kilter with the game, even though for a few days I was somewhat invested in the design.

Seawolves unused fighter jet

4. Stealth Strike Plane: As an improvement on the fighter jet, I used the design principles from Parallaxian's "Figment" fighter (i.e. make a 2 sprite aircraft composed of a hi-res rear end and an MCM front end). The sequencer code, however, revealed it looked all wrong when swooping in at anything other than very high speed, which surprised me; so I had to reluctantly bin the design and concoct something slower.

Seawolves unused stealth strike plane

5. Drone: With the need for slowness now dictating the design of the air strike vehicle, I was convinced a drone would be more appropriate. How wrong was I! Design-wise, it fitted better with the in-game vibe, but animation trials were disappointing; it looked too big and ungainly, compelling me to return to the drawing board once more.

Seawolves unused drone

6. Co-Axial Rotor Helicopter: As a fan of co-axial rotor helicopter design, I naturally drifted towards a look not dissimilar to Cold War era Soviet naval choppers, and found that this, finally, suited the game's airstrike delivery platform requirement, plus it looks kind of evil in a retro Warsaw Pact manner. I was intent on keeping this in the game right up until a few days ago, but then I felt that it conceptually clashed somewhat with the friendly helicopter that delivers repair kits to the player submarines and decided a more interesting way for the enemy to strike back would be through lobbing projectiles from some of their ships.

Seawolves unused co-axial rotor helicopter

7. First Version of the Friendly Helicopter: As I said above, the game has a friendly helicopter that appears every so often to drop off repair kits for the player submarines, and for this I drafted some unsuitable prototypes, notably the 3-sprite design below. Although this was rejected, it laid the basis for the final design that I am very happy with.

Seawolves unused friendly helicopter

I hope you found the above interesting, and that you will look out for some preview clips of Seawolves in the very near future.

This is Kodiak signing off...


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