The A-Z of geek: F is for Flowers of Crystal

Primary school children throughout the 1980's got their first experience of computers via an adventure game called Granny's Garden. In this game you had to solve various puzzles with the vague aim of rescuing some fictional children from the evil witch, who would often show-up unannounced, play some horrible music, kill you and annoy your teacher, who had lost count of the number of times they had heard it happen. Granny's Garden was rather well-known (and well-loved), however many people are not aware that 4-Mation software released a sequel....

F is for Flowers of Crystal

In Flowers of Crystal the planet Crystal is in danger, and only primary school children transported across the galaxy can save it. It seems that the evil antagonist, Mr Grubble, an industrialist and entrepreneur, has put the entire planet in danger. Along the way you will meet Jim, protector of the planet Crystal and after a long, convoluted back story, you will discover that your mission involves finding the Flowers of Crystal which have the power to save the entire planet, or something.

I am scared...

As in Granny's Garden, success in Flowers of Crystal involves carefully solving puzzles. The first puzzle involves reading the 'weather report' which gives a hint as to which items will be needed. For example, if the weather report tells you that it is likely to rain, then taking the raincoat might be a good idea.

Part of the world of Crystal - thanks to Super Jim

The next puzzle does not provide you will such an easy hint. You are required to navigate through a map of the game world moving from location to location using or finding other objects along the way. I am sure that when I was a child we managed to make much greater progress through the game (or at least we had guessed the code word for getting onto the second level).  I do know that you need a disguise kit to get into Mr Grubble's bubblegum factory, in which you will discover the security pass allowing you access to the City.  The world of Flower's of Crystal is a fascist police state in which one must always obtain the correct paperwork in order to be granted permissions to travel. I wonder what 4-mation were trying to teach us?

Teachers across the land would plug children into the Flowers of Crystal, and then sneak out for some of their own 'special water'.
Another teletext monster murders you for no reason. So senseless.
Choose wisely or you will be murdered and then some other kid will get a go, and you have to go back to your seat and do long division problems
If you somehow survive the first map, then you will find out a code that allows you to access the second level, which, from memory, was much more fun. It involved a few more puzzles, but crucially, the mini-games were more 'arcade' in style. I seem to remember one puzzle where you have to fly through a cavern avoiding lightning bolts. Or maybe I am just remembering our school corridor at lunchtime. There was also a game of Nokia snake built in, and some sort of creature known as the Exiles who were literally hopping mad. I have no screenshots of that part of the game because I haven't managed to survive long enough however there is a video below.  Playing this game will be much improved by using the 'save state' feature of your emulator, because being randomly killed is no fun.

Not again....
So, if you enjoyed this post and you fancy having a go, stock up on some bubble-gum (the only way to protect yourself from underground worms - obviously), and award yourself some geek experience points.

Video time

The most impressive Little Man Computer far

What follows is some of the most impressive code written for the Little Man Computer that I have ever seen.

Thanks to Eric and Will, here is a 'general purpose calculator' program, squeezed into the one hundred available memory locations of the LMC.

The program can perform Square root, DIV, addition, square numbers, Integer powers and multiplication.

In order to use the calculator the two operands are entered into the keypad first, and then lastly the operation is entered by selecting the corresponding operation code (listed in the comments).

For example, in order to perform the operation 13 DIV 2,
firstly enter 13 then 2, then 0 to select DIV.

You can download the source code from these pages, or find it listed below.


#Modified by Eric Rodriguez for more than just add and divide

#A general purpose calculator which works with the limitations of the little man computer



#1 or above for SUBTRACT

#0 for DIVIDE

#-1 for ADDITION

#-2 for SQUARE

#-3 for POW

#-4 for SQRT

#5 or below for MULT

#Input 1 is the first number

#Input 2 is the second

#Input 3 is the selection

INP #Enter the first number, this is the number that all the functions will be done to


INP #With square and power, due to limitations of little man computer size, does nothing but is the operating number



BRZ DIVIDE #case 0





BRZ SQUARE #case -2


BRZ POW #case -3


BRZ SQRT #case -4

#else fall through to mult

MULT LDA B #Multiply Function












DIVIDE LDA A #Divide function















ADDITION LDA A #Addition Function



SUBTRACT LDA A #Subtract Function



SQRT LDA A #Square root function
















SQUARE LDA A #Square function (set A = B and let multiply do the rest)
























MULTOUT DAT 684 #default out - to OUTPUT

POWOUT DAT 674 #power out - to MULTRTN






X DAT 001





The A-Z of geek: E is for Elite

When I was knee-high to a grasshopper, I persuaded my father to spend £15 of his hard earned cash on software that I assured him would 'really help me understand astronomy and physics'. In reality, it was a game of intergalactic trade and combat. What followed was many a Friday night of my youth spent battling with pirates and Thargoids on my BBC model 'B'.  Buckle your space-seatbelt for a trip through a procedurally-generated universe...

E is for Elite

Created by a young Ian Bell and David Braben, Elite was the first 3D space simulation game of all time. It featured a universe of 8 galaxies, populated by harmless bug-eyed birds, communist rodents, various coloured frogs, birds, lizards and edible arts graduates who have an exceptional loathing of sitcoms.

Elite running on the BeebEm BBC emulator.  Here I have travelled from the starting point at Lave to Diso (a planet populated by 4 Billion democratic cats).
The aim of the game is: do anything you want. This was rather a new concept for computer games for at the time games gave your three lives and expected you to play for ten minutes. In Elite you can fly to any planet you wish; trade with the various alien species you encounter; do battle with pirates, aliens, trade ships or the police. You can upgrade your space-craft with missiles or lasers, or buy from a variety of other space-technology.

Trying to dock at a space station required matching the roll of your spacecraft to the roll of the space station in addition to some careful initial 'lining up', all the while being careful not to press the trigger on your laser cannons (they don't like it - not one bit).
A photo of the manual showing artistic representation of various polygons, I mean spacecraft that you will encounter.
A list of fun stuff you can do in Elite

  • Watch planets spin below you at ludicrous speed (as the inhabitants all fly into space due to centrifugal force).
  • Wait outside space stations and glooping the police as they emerge to arrest you for glooping the police, who then send more police, who you can gloop...
  • Travel the galaxy by only using your fuel-scoops to refuel.
  • Travel into deep space looking for pirates to gloop (and using your escape pod to get home again).
  • Fill up your cargo bay with questionable products and try to blast your way into the nearest system.
  • Sell your defeated enemies to the slave trade!
  • Gloop innocent traders and steal their stuff (then sell the traders as slaves).
  • Try and find the space-dredgers and the generation ships indicated in the manual (SPOILER: they don't exist).
If you like this game, then you might like...

A few years ago I wrote a 2D space shooter game for Windows.  It is called Starfunk. You may wish to go and play it.

Introducing Star Funk for Windows. Kind of like Elite, but 2D. Visit strange new worlds and encounter mysterious beings, then kill them to death and steal their stuff.

Video time:

The A-Z of geek: D is for DOS

This summer I purchased an IBM PS/1 computer.  This machine was originally released 26 years ago in 1990, the year that the Hubble space telescope was launched; Thatcher was replaced by John Major; Iraq invaded Kuwait; the Channel Tunnel between France and England was completed and Deee-lite released "Groove Is in the heart". 

The IBM PS/1 runs an Intel 80286 processor at 10 MHz and has a massive 1024KiB of RAM.  The system has one 31/2 inch floppy disk-drive and a 40MB hard disk.

...So, prepare to type "cd.." because today...

D is for DOS

DOS is the name for a family of command line disk operating systems popular throughout the 1980s and 90s. My IBM PS/1 runs IBM DOS4.01.

An IBM PS/1 in slightly better condition than mine.

The computer does not run Windows. Instead it has a four-quadrant graphical displaying giving access to a fairly comprehensive system tutorial; MS-Works office tools; file explorer and DOS. The display can be navigated with either the mouse or cursor keys.

The IBM Graphical User Interface.
This machine was designed for home users with little experience of computers, and so everything has been made as simple as possible. In fact, you do not need to know any DOS commands to use the system, but seriously, where is the fun in that?

The IBM has a graphical 'file explorer' program built-in. They have tried to make it look like a filing cabinet, and although it looks great, DOS is much more fun.

The first thing that I needed for my computer was a text editor program to edit bat files.  I chose to use a shareware application called "QEDIT" from SemWare. I then created a bat file in the DOS folder. The bat file contains the following two commands:

c:\utils\qedit\q.exe %1
type %1

The first line is the path to the qedit program which allows an optional parameter. The second line passes the parameter to the qedit program. I then saved the file as "c:\dos\qedit.bat".

This allows me to edit any text file, or create a new text file, by typing "qedit <filename>" from anywhere in the command line.

DOS was really a great system because it allowed you to create as many bat files as you wanted. If they were saved to the DOS folder (or another folder that you could specify in the configuration settings) thus expanding the system's vocabulary.

The second job I did with the IBM was to create a 'help' file to allow me to keep track of all of the user-defined bat files that I was creating.

The help file is accessed by the command 'help' (which, of course, runs the 'c:\dos\help.bat' script), or 'help <topic>' which then gets information about the specified topic.  This is achieved with the following code:

@echo off
ECHO Greeting message
IF %1. == . GOTO showall
IF %1. == helptopic1 GOTO helptopic1
IF %1. == helptopic2 GOTO helptopic2

GOTO end

ECHO SYNTAX: help <topic>
ECHO Help available for the following commands:
ECHO helptopic1, helptopic2, etc
GOTO end

ECHO help provided here
GOTO end

ECHO help provided here
GOTO end

ECHO That's all folks!

Well that's about all I've done with DOS on my IBM PC apart from loading several DOS games, and also playing with the version of BASIC that comes with it.

If you find the need to dust off your DOS computer, then there are a load of DOS games archived on various websites, not least, this one.

So, it's video time.

Here is an IBM PS/1 promotional video, with (hilarious) jab at Apple computers.

IBM PS/1 showing boot-up time.

An IBM running Prince of Persia

An IBM PS/1 running Windows 3.0

The A-Z of geek: C is for Crystal Caves

25 years ago this month, hapless space adventurer, Mylo Steamwitz first entered the caves of planet Altair, search for the crystals that he can sell at the Galactic Trading Post to fund his various schemes.  Yes, folks, if you thought C was for Chuckie Egg, then you were wrong....

C is for Crystal Caves

Screenshot from Crystal Caves volume three (used without permission).

Crystal Caves by Apogee software is a platform game for DOS.  The game features sixteen different levels that can be attempted in any order.  The aim of each level is to collect all of the coloured crystals whilst avoiding the various baddies and hazards along the way.

It terms of game play, it feels a lot like Manic Miner of which there have been many clones, but Crystal Caves is the boss.

Navigation is a simple left, right, jump affair, and you can blast enemies with your rocket pistol. There are also moving platforms and lifts as well as acid its and spikes to avoid. Rocks, stalactites and ooze will tumble from the ceiling and a variety of critters will attempt to get in your way: slug-things, rock-monsters, spiders, snakes, egg-bombing birds, robots and triceratops will all attempt to squish you. Poisonous mushrooms sprout everywhere as well as slime pits that need to be jumped. Along the way you will encounter a multitude of objects from fruit to candles.

Puzzles involve opening coloured doors by pulling the matching coloured lever found somewhere in the level. In some levels you must contend with reverse gravity and blackouts. Shooting the air-regulator by mistake will result in dangerous decompression that is fatal.

I'm struggling to take a screenshot on my IBM PS1, so here is a screenshot that has been shamelessly pinched from google image search for Crystal Caves.

One interesting fact is that Crystal Caves contains a bug that, when run on Windows XP, will rather dangerously reset your clock by one hundred years. Apogee released a patch for this bug fifteen years after the game was released, which wins both the award for longest time between a bug being patched and the actual release of a game, in addition to one geek experience point from us.

If this post has in any way excited you for Crystal Caves, then you may be pleased to know that there is a fan website dedicated to it, although it hasn't been updated for several years.

Crystal Caves gameplay video:

The A-Z of geek: B is for Baron

When I was eleven years old I was walking home from school with a friend to go and play at his house on his BBC microcomputer. I was describing a game in which you must navigate a complex castle, avoid the guards and solve puzzles.  The game I was describing was Castle Quest, but the game my friend introduced me two that night was Baron - and it changed my life.  Get ready to jump over acid pits and test your wits against an army of cute animals....

B is for Baron

Baron, by Superior Software, is indeed a similar game to both Castle Quest and Citadel, but in my mind it is a much better game.  No other game has captured my imagination like Baron.

One of the many infinitely-replaceable guards sent to crush your hopes of rescuing the wizard. And by 'crush' I mean make you lose a few hit points and have to start the screen from the beginning again.

In Baron you play the part of Prince Jason who is on a solo-mission to rescue the King's best wizard from the clutches of the evil Baron.  I don't think that Prince Jason intended to go on a solo mission, it is just that he got separated from the rest of the rescue party and now he is lost in the Baron's forbidding fortress and must make the best of a bad situation.

Enemies that you face include guards that can be dispatched by spitting in their faces.  This does not kill them, however it does force them to disappear off-screen to wipe the offending spittle from their visage whilst cursing your disgusting habits. Homicidal mice and snakes also populate the castle, although in most cases these can be easily avoided by simply jumping over them.  There are also bouncy space-hopper type of monsters who are best avoided by running underneath as they bounce around.

I will crush you unless you stand on exactly the right pixel.  And by 'crush' I mean make you lose a few hit points and have to start the screen from the beginning again.

The similarities... the similarities... oh!
Other enemies include the dreaded skeletons who can only be defeated by solving a puzzles that involve you creating a one-shot sword and shield combo, allowing you to take out one skeleton from the game....but which one?  There are no save positions in Baron, so completing these sort of puzzles is entirely trial by error, and errors, of which there are many, require you to start the game all over again (the save state function of your emulator will help here).

What are YOU lookin' at?
The many puzzles in Baron involve among other things: collecting keys to open gates throughout the dungeon, discovering secret passages and finding teleportation devices.  Useful objects are scattered throughout the castle, however you may only hold two objects at any one time.  That's all part of the fun.

A teleportation machine ready to use.

In order to succeed at Baron the game instructs you to find four magic items that belong to the wizard and teleport them to his cell.  Don't teleport yourself to the cell by mistake though, because that is a one-way journey, and the King has no more sons left to rescue you.  There are also four static baddies that are almost impossible to defeat, one is a mouse, there is also a bear, wolf and a rabbit.  If memory serves correctly, the mouse is defeated by summoning a magical mouse trap, creating a magic cheese knife from the mystical scroll of cheese-platter creation +1, then arming the trap with a small slice of cheese. Phew!

The impassible rabbit, who apart from being in cahoots with the evil Baron, was also a fitness freak.
I never completed Baron.  I did manage to get through just over half of it, which is more than anyone I have ever talked to about the subject.  It dawned on my many years after first starting my quest, aged eleven, that Baron was probably never meant to be completed.  It was created as a filler.  It was just a game to put on side two, of tape two, of the Play it again Sam 11 compilation tapes (along with Pipeline, Barbarian and Monsters).

Baron also contained an interesting bug.  You start the game with two hundred hit points which can be lost through either being touched by an enemy monster or acid pit, or indeed one point is lost every time you spit at a guard.  There are health packs littered around the castle, however the discerning player will want to know how to cheat the game by exploiting this little bug (shhhhh, look below).

An Acquisitions Incorporated joke for those in the know...

Each time you lose four hit points in a row you are forced to start the screen from the position in which you entered.  Presumably, this was to prevent falling into a pit of acid to be fatal Aeofel moment.  Once your health reaches zero then you are killed in a puff of 8-bit animation.  However, should you also spit (thus losing one hit point) at the exact moment you lose enough hit points to take you to zero hit points then you can trick the computer into registering the 'negative one' value of your hit points as nine-hundred and ninety nine hit points (five times more than you start the game with) thus imbuing you with immortality that can be repeated as many times as you can get the timing just right...

Videos of game play:

The A-Z of geek: A is for Arcadians

I have decided to post a series of geeky things in alphabetical order. Most probably these will all be retro computer games that I play on my vintage machines, but as time goes by, well, who knows...? All I can admit is that the geek factor will be high and the memes spicy.

Kicking off the list with...

A is for Arcadians.

Arcadians is an arcade shoot-the-aliens game for the BBC microcomputer, reminiscent of Space Invaders.  In actual fact Arcadians is it a clone of Galaxian licensed to Superior Software.

In Arcadians you control a space craft at the bottom of the screen and defend yourself from the hoards of three-coloured aliens that attack you from above. The aliens have just three tactics: move horizontally; dive down dropping bombs, and dive down in greater numbers dropping more bombs.  You score twice as many points for roasting the aliens whilst they are moving, with the exception of the bosses who can net the skillful pilot up to 800 points with one shot. The aliens attack with ever increasing numbers as the game progresses.  The position at the far left and right of the screen is usually a safe place to hide from the suicidal aliens, however getting there through a hail of bombs is a tough task, and you may only have one missile in the air at any one time.

"We are the Ardacians" they taunt.  Instructions "Destroy all aliens"
Arcadians was one of the first games I ever played on the BBC computer and hence its position in this list is guaranteed.

Video of Arcadians game play (not my video)

Arcadians is available for your retro beeb computer or emulator and is available from the usual places. See if you can beat my hi-score for today of 9210 and earn yourself one geek experience point if you succeed.

The gorgeous MODE 7 introduction screen running in BeebEm


I was delighted to discover recently of the existence of RISC OS pico for the Raspberry Pi.

RISC OS Pico is a stripped-down version of RISC OS for Raspberry Pi. Essentially they have stripped out the graphical user interface from the operating system leaving a Raspberry Pi that boots directly into BBC BASIC VI.

Raspberry Pi booting into RISC OS Pico, showing BASIC prompt and more RAM than you could possibly ever fill.

RISC OS is an operating system designed in Cambridge, England by Acorn. First released in 1987, its origins can be traced back to the original team that developed the ARM microprocessor. Anyone who remembers the Acorn Archimedes range of computers will be familiar with RISC OS. For a 30 year-old OS, it really was ahead of its time. RISC OS in now owned by Castle Technology Ltd. You can find my adventures with RISC OS lurking on this blog.

RISC OS Pico boots very quickly (about eight seconds on my Raspberry Pi 2 between pressing SHIFT+BREAK and getting the BASIC prompt) as shown in this video (running on an early model Pi):

Installation is very easy. You simply extract the ZIP archive onto an SD card with FAT format.  The hardest part is finding an SD card that can be formatted in FAT format (not FAT-32).

Once loaded you have a computer that boots directly to BASIC, leaving you with a rather silly amount of RAM available for your programs - thousands of times more memory than available on the original BBC microcomputers, and of course a much faster processor.  BBC BASIC VI is rather more advanced that BASIC IV on the BBC Master, with greater graphics capability and some extra commands such as WHILE...ENDWHILE and CASE...ENDCASE structures.

The distribution comes with some example programs and a guide to writing BASIC programs for RISC OS.  There is no other documentation supplied (unless I am looking in all the wrong places) so you will have to figure stuff out for yourself.

Setting the time is achieved through the BASIC command:

TIME$ = "16 Sep 2016.18.51.00"

Or whatever the current time is for you, although you will be disappointed if you do not have an on-board battery backup, which sadly the Pi does not yet have (the clock resets to 1970 when you power down).

Retrieving the time is achieved through either printing this variable, or the operating system call:


Other nice features I have discovered so far:

There is a BASIC editor program that beats the BBC Master.  Simply type 'EDIT'.  Options are selected using the function keys:

f1 - OS command
f2 - LOAD program
f3 - SAVE program
f4 - Search and edit
f5 - Search and replace
f7 - Search

A full list of function key definitions can be achieved with CTRL + f5.

There is also a full set of documentation for each of the BASIC commands.  Simply type:

HELP <command>

Well, that's it for now, because that is all I have learned so far.  I am going to continue to play with Pico, possibly try and get some BBC Master programs to run on it, so be sure to come back soon for more...

...if you are still awake, then you might like to read some more posts about the BBC Computers or RISC computers, or you might just want to play a browser-based adventure game.

#BBCBASIC #RISCOS #Pico #RaspberryPi

Perpetual Calendar app updated to include Timely

I have updated my perpetual calendar app for the BBC Master Computer.  It now includes the "Timely" app which I discussed in a previous post.

DOWNLOAD the SSD file for your BBC Master or Emulator.

The perpetual calendar (running in the emulator) showing a view of the 19th June 2019.

The full suite of programs now offers the following features:

  • A perpetual calendar which is good for the next hundred years or more, including dates of Easter, up to 365 custom recurring events or one-off calendar events.
  • A clock (available in both calendar, and "Timely" modes).
  • A timer (counts upwards in seconds).
  • A countdown (counts down in seconds).
  • Up to 6 alarms (which can be saved and reused).
  • A CMOS clock reset utility (thanks to Beebug magazine).
  • Comprehensive documentation and a help system (does not work with second processor).

The "Timely" app running on vintage BBC Master Computer, showing a 20 minute countdown.
Machine code help routine.  Bring up a list of help topics with *H, or find a specific help topic with *H <topic> Unfortunately this feature will not work with the 6502 Co-processor.

If you are still awake then you might want to read other BBC Computer related posts, or just some random programming stuff.

#BBCComputer #BBCBASIC #Programming #perpetualcalendar #time #timer #countdown #calendar #teletext

Get lost with maps too

Introducing our second instalment of awesome map apps to get lost in right now. If you missed the first post, you can grab it here.

The planet's history of violence

There is no denying it. We are one bloodthirsty species. With this app from Nodegoat you can discover all of mankind's battles in one interactive map. The data has been scraped off Wikipedia for all articles relating to a battle that has both a location and a date. Using the app you can focus on a particular country or historical period, or change the slider and watch the carnage unfold.  If you like this app then you might also like the video at the end of this post.

Visions of the Ring

Frodo and Strider, on their way for a pint at Bree.
Ever read Lord of the Rings and felt the need to track both Frodo's journey and the location of the Ringwraiths simultaneously? Well, probably not, but now you can anyway, with Visions of the Ring thanks to Hayoo. With this app you can plot the timeline of the classic book and the location of the main protagonists and antagonists, thanks to some careful research using the Appendix and other sources. Definitely plus one geek experience point awarded to Hayoo.

Solar Beat

Solar beat, like a big cosmic record player, far out, maaaan!
What is the sound of the solar system? Whitevinyl design present Solar beat, a musical orrery. Watch the orbits of the planets around the sun, each one making a different tone as it passes a line from the sun in to interstellar space (which presumably represents the first of January). The result is a haunting and beautiful melody.  Do check it out now. You can alter the speed at which time passes in this solar system, and the number of years that have elapsed is displayed on the dashboard at the bottom.

European Countries Quiz

Some are easy to spot, but I did struggle to find Andorra.

This web app from Sheppard Software tests your knowledge of European geography.  The name of a country is displayed or spoken and it is up to you to find it on the map, scoring points for correct matches.  Sheppard Software have countless other fun educational quizzes on their site.


A typical rainy day in Lancashire.
Ventusky is a brilliant animated weather map app with plenty to play around with from rain, snow cover wind speed etc.

Hurricane Hermine battering the coast of America right now

Video time

The world population has grown by 0.8 billion people over the past decade.  This number is equivalent to more than the population of the United Kingdom each year, or four Americas each decade. Watch the World's population grow from 1CE to the present day and beyond in under 6 minutes.

Isao Hashimoto's map shows a time lapse of every atomic explosion from 1945-1998 with the size of the dot proportional to the atomic yield of the explosion.

Watch a timelapse of every significant battle from 1000AD to the present. The size of each explosion is related to the severity of the fighting.

Perpetual calendar version 1.4

I have updated my BBC Master calendar program.

Calendar running in the BeebEm emulator

The new features are:

  • 'Green letter day' - these are custom dates that you can set so they appear as green days in the calendar.  The dates are simply stored in a text file and you can add a single string of 38 characters to describe the event/day, for example "Auntie Maggie's birthday".  Dates can be set as either one-off events, or annual events.
  • The calendar automatically updates when the date changes in real time.  For example, if you are watching the calendar on the 30th November, late at night, the calendar will switch to 1st December at midnight.
  • Clock has been added. A simple depiction of the current time, which updates every five seconds.
  • Months in the future are depicted in green, and the past is depicted as red.
  • I have included an example data file ( which includes some 'green letter days'.

In the future I may add the ability to add multiple events for each day.  I would have to change the underlying data structure so that events are stored as a linked-list, but I would also have to think about how the events all fit on the screen.

You can download the single-sided disc image for your BBC Master datacentre or for your emulator.

  • Hold <SHIFT> and press <BREAK> to load.  
  • To load the documentation: CH."docs".
  • The dates data file is and should be edited in your text editor *EDIT

Perpetual calendar

Today I wrote a Perpetual Calendar program for my BBC Master 128.

The calendar calculates the dates of Easter, as well as indicating the date of Christmas and Halloween.  Obviously, calculating the date of Easter was much harder(!)  I have managed to get somewhere with calculating the full moon phase as well, but I didn't quite finish this bit.

Perpetual calendar running in the BeebEm emulator, showing the date of Easter for 2017.  By the way, the date of Easter 2018 is 1st of April - NO JOKE!
I am grateful for the following contributions.  The basic calendar function was first published in BBC Acorn User magazine in July 1987, written by Paul Skirrow, and was published in their 'Hints and Tips' section.  I have modified it so that the calendar displays interesting days in colour. It also picks up the current date from the CMOS RAM, so this program will only run on a BBC Master 128, or otherwise a BBC computer fitted with an internal clock and battery.  You can emulate this in BeebEm, but it might struggle to pick up the correct date without some configuration.

The awesome teletext font first appeared in BBC Acorn User magazine in November 1990 and was written by Martin Osborne.

The current functionality allows you to skip forwards or backwards in time in steps of months or years using the cursor keys, or you can go to a specific month by pressing f0 (f10 in the emulator).

In future versions I would like to be able to enter 'red letter' days - ie let the user enter appointments, either recurring appointments like birthdays, or one-shot reminders for the dentist etc.  As it stands the program is only a rebuild of the existing perpetual calendar which I wrote about here.

You can download the SSD single-sided disc image here.  This will run in the BeebEm emulator, but you will get much better experience running it on vintage hardware using the DataCentre add on.

A sample of the help file supplied on the disc.

Introducing Weekend Warriors

This August I have been working on a new game: Weekend Warriors.

Weekend Warriors is a strategy text game of spell-casting and problem-solving. You play the part of a wizard protecting your kingdom from the endless hoards of computer generated enemy horror.

You have at your disposal over sixty unique spells from which you must choose those that will defend your kingdom. Some spells will summon creatures to do your bidding, whilst others represent magical objects, places and enchantments that will aid you in your quest.

At each turn you must defeat the hoards of your enemy by matching symbols on your enemy cards with powers generated by your own creatures.

Facing your first enemy: The Baby Giant Slug, adept at killing noob wizards, this monster requires 2 points of combat power and 1 point of defence power in order to be defeated, however there is a short cut - just one point of fire power will toast this slug to death.
Spells are cast by spending either gold (generated by defeating enemies) or mana points (one point is generated each turn).  The more powerful spells cost more to play, and sometimes they are delayed one or more turns, so you need to think about what you will need in advance.

Unlike many games of this genre, you have access to every spell in the game, which you can access at any point in the game by opening your spell book.  There are currently over sixty unique spells to choose from, with more coming soon.  It is recommended that you study each spell carefully and weigh-up their costs against what you require to win. Some spells reward you for having already cast other spells, for example, the spell Bloodlust gives you combat points equal to the number of warriors you have in your battlefield, so it would be a good strategy to spend precious resources building up your army of warriors.

The spell book showing some of the available spells.

Weekend Warriors allows you to play the game however you want, and you are rewarded for knowing the spell book inside out.

Each turn consists of two phases.  In the first phase you may look through your spell book and choose spells to cast. You may wish to examine the creatures and objects already on your battlefield for activated abilities or to 'rest' creatures you do not need.  In the second phase your creatures spend their 'stamina' points generating powers for you to use in defeating the computer-controlled enemies.  In this phase it is too late to rest your creatures, although you may still cast new spells and organise your armies.

Viewing an item in your battlefield.  Here is the battle axe, which is just waiting to be equipped to a suitable dwarf.

Weekend Warriors is ready to play in public beta form.  There are probably a few bugs still to iron- out, and undoubtedly the game-balance will need tweaking based on feedback.

All constructive feedback is welcome.

Further updates in the future are planned, with more spells and enemies to keep you going.  What is even more exciting is that there is planned original artwork for each spell and enemy in the game coming soon from the talented artist Pob, who worked with me on Spellunker. You can check out Pob's artwork for Spellunker here.

One of the creatures in the spell-book view, showing (from left to right) name; 'summoning' button; spell class and types; description; placeholder for artwork (coming soon); flavour text; casting costs; stamina; abilities; links to other spells that work well with this one.
To get you started with Weekend Warriors, I've created a short tutorial.  Just press the 'Help' button in-game and choose a help topic.

Weekend Warriors tutorial running on my Lumia 950.

If you have enjoyed this post, then you may like this post from last year's game Have Spell Will Travel.

Summer projects over the years

So, I haven't posted for a little while. I have been enjoying the hot weather and some time off work, however I have also been working on a new project (some teasers at the end of this post...)

Each summer I aim to complete a new project.  Listed here are some of the best projects I have attempted over the years....

...starting with...

2008 The Unofficial Talisman Computer Game

An electronic implementation of Talisman - the Magic Quest Game.  I wrote this for fun and to develop my programming skills. It was in no way an attempt to undermine Games Workshop's intellectual property, however, GW did flex their legal muscles and I decided it best to remove this game from all sites that I control.  Nevertheless, it was tremendous fun to create, and it is still tremendous fun to play today.

2012 Star Funk

Here my mining vessel is under attack from a group of passing traders.

StarFunk is a game of Inter-Galactic trade, exploration, mining, piracy and combat for Windows.  If StarFunk is like any game, then think of Elite, but in 2D.  It is completely open, and although there are several missions to complete, how you play and what you do is entirely up to you - although getting on the wrong side of the space police is usually a fatal decision.

2013 Space Combat

I never quite finished this game, however I did distribute the code for anyone who wants to finish it.  In Space Combat you must defeat wave after wave of enemy space craft by throwing dice to overcome their defences.  The executable version is playable, at least for the early levels.

2014 Spellunker

Spellunker is a spelling and adventure game for Windows. You follow the story of Wordsworth Spellunker in his quest to find the truth about his parents.  Along the way you must defeat the various, ever-more challenging levels by casting magic spells - literally spelling words from the assortment of letters you are provided with. The longer your word, the more points you accrue.

The artwork for Spellunker is provided by the lovely Pob, and some of the story-line was created with thanks to Ben.

2015 Have Spell Will Travel

Have Spell Will Travel is a web-based adventure game. You play the part of a hero, defending the town from dreaded kobold attacks. At every turn you will be asked to test one of your many abilities. You could choose your highest stat, but you never know how dangerous your enemy is. With a little luck and skill you may survive long enough to quest for the fabled Sword of Gygax, or even defeat the dread sorcerer, Warren Fogbender.

You can choose from one of over 168 different characters each with a unique set of abilities.  Want to be an Ogre-ninja?  How about a Fairy witch?  Well, with Have Spell Can Travel, you can!

2016 - New game coming soon.

Early version of Weekend Warriors being tested in the Edge browser.

I am currently working on a new game.  It is still in the early stages, however I can say that it is a strategy game in which you must balance your attack and defence powers to overcome various challenges thrown at you by the computer.

The working title is Weekend Warriors, so called because one of the characters in the game - The Weekend Warriors - are so tough you may only play them on a Saturday or Sunday.

That's all for now, but stay tuned to find out more.