NO is a graphical role-playing adventure for the Commodore 64 and my first commercial project ever. It was developped by Ordilogic (our team) and published by Lankhor. Although the game was finished in 1987 (as shown in the main titles of the game), it was only released in early 1988 due to localisation delays. It is available in English, French and German.
Click to download in MP3 format (9.63MB)
The game uses a graphical interface at a time when text input adventure games were still common. It takes up 3 double-side disks (six sides total), mainly because of the many images it contains.
How it all started
When I changed school in 1985, I met with Yves Grolet. We had been tinkering with computers for a few years without knowing each orther and we both had a C64. We started developping ideas about making a game of our own. Yves was way ahead of me in term of programming and I was not too bad at making computer graphics.
We named our group Ordilogic (from the word 'ordinateur' which means computer in French) and started working on our adventure game. We were 16 years old.
There is some story behind this logo. At the time I was starting to play with my newly aquired Amiga and early ray tracing software. I was fascinated by all the techniques involved in computer graphics and this logo was a sum of all the notions I had recently absorbed, such as anti-aliasing and reflexions. Of course all this was done by hand pixel by pixel with the C64 multicolor and palette constraints.
If you look at the reflexion in the left mirror, you can see the triangle has some thickness although you cannot see it in the main view. I thought it was cool that you could give indirect hints like that through the use of reflexion.
NO was developped in the course of 3 years, during our evenings after school. It was mostly written in Basic with some assembly language on top for special routines, such as the split-screen which allowed the game graphics on top to be in multicolor mode (3 colors + background per 4x8 pixels bloc) while de text description and action icons on the bottom were in high resolution (2 colors per 8x8 pixels bloc).
The logo of the game has also a story attached to it. Before I moved to my new school, I was dreaming about making a game based on the popular V series, of course without knowing anything about IP. You've got it, the NO logo with dripping blood is directly inspired by V.
I was working on my SX-64 (a portable version of the C64) which I still have today in perfect working condition (see my workspace page here). However the screen was so tiny, I had an extra monitor connected to it to see the details in my images. The problem was that it was a monochrome monitor. Hence some small color errors that can be seen throughout the game. The fact that the painting software I used didn't have a proper zoom mode didn't help either.
I used a SuperSketch graphic tablet (with the included SuperSketch software) to create all the multicolor images.
I still have a working one these days, and you wouldn't beleive how unprecise it was. Not just the poor 8 bits converters, or the plastic mechanical parts, but the sheer amount of noise meant most of the time you had to guess where the pixel brush would end-up when you clicked. Hopefully there was a one-level undo function. There was no zoom edit mode, so no actual way to precisely place pixels. That is why you rarely see ordered dithering in my images of that time.
I usually started with basic shapes and from there worked on to improve the image until it was satisfying. It could take several days (or actually evenings) to complete a single image depending on complexity.
Sometimes the image was not descriptive enough for the story so I had to add elements, even in the background. There was of course no layers, so you had to be careful not to break anything in the foreground.
At times, I started with some basic idea, and as the image was building up I would get new documentation or ideas and the underling shapes would entirely get covered with new content:
All hi-res images (such as the objects that can be examined) were made with Doodle, a graphics program that worked in the 320x200 pixel 'hi-res' mode (2 colors per 8x8 pixels bloc), with a joystick.
Complete image galleries
Concept sketches and map
A few concept sketches with some concepts embeded in an early version of the map. There's also a map from Yves (not final) and the map I used as a ref for drawing all images.
I've created an english version of a tentative final map that includes a small walkthrough. Hope that helps.
What went right
Obviously, the simple fact of being able to ship an actual game at first try is actually quite a feat in itself.
Despite the non existence of the internet, and the fact we both lived 20 km apart and had no cars, we managed to keep a good level of communication and share a common vision of the game throughout.
What went wrong
Overly ambitious. Three years in the making, that's a lot.
To my best knowledge, about 400 copies were made and sold (not a typo!). That probably barely covered the publishing costs and we never saw a cent from the game. And yet we continued making games after that, go figure.
For some reason, we decided I would do the cover painting myself. This was the first time I touched real brushes in my life and I wasn't really good at it to be honest. Not to mention it was heavily 'inspired' (read 'copy') from one of Iron Maiden's album cover. It also appears on the title screen. Shame on me.
While I'm at it, some of the monsters from the game were directly digitized from an old art book. We just were too young to realize we could have been sued for that. Those were the 80s.
I just cannot fathom why on earth the publisher didn't warn us about that. I guess publishers were already very bad at what they were doing, even back then.
Design, story and programming: Yves Grolet
Artwork: Franck Sauer
Additionnal programming: Gilles Delmotte
Arcade games: Pana and Yves Grolet
Music: Geert Vandevenne
Texts verification: Franz Grolet
How to play the game today
If you don't own a real C64, the best is to use the VICE emulator that can be downloaded here.
Then download the game disks (see below).
When in VICE, mount the first disk on drive 8.
The game should start momentarily. I recommend to use an XBOX360 controller if you don't have a joystick (change input device in VICE to XBOX360 controller).
If you own a real C64, one easy way of transfering the game is to use a cartridge with standard flash memory such as the excellent 1541 Ultimate II. You can order one here.