>> Monday, July 23, 2007
I'm very excited about the official release Frog Feast CD-i is given at the Classic Gaming Expo in Las Vegas. This brand new CD-i game will launch 28th of July 2007, and above you can see the official CD-i cover. Since the existence of Interactive Dreams, we haven't been able to announce a single new CD-i game so this is all very exciting. I hope this motivates Charles and more people to develop more games on our beloved system. All important release info included. The CD-i version is an exclusive release and much more than just a conversion of the SNES version, read on why!
Oldergames (publisher): "Just in time for the 2007 Classic Gaming Expo, OlderGames is pleased to announce the commercial release of 'FROG FEAST' for the Philips CD-i. The initial run will be limited to 50 numbered copies and made available at the Classic Gaming Expo on July 28th... This product will debut and be exclusive to the show. Remaining stock will be made available the first week of August when the company returns from the show. 'Frog Feast' marks the tenth product to be announced by the leading retro-publishing company to debut at the tenth anniversary of the Classic Gaming Expo. The product will retail for $25 at the event and is available in a limited edition quantity of 50 numbered pieces. This is the latest offering of master programmer Charles Doty: FROG FEAST. This game, a tribute to the classic FROG BOG, was developed entirely from the ground up with a focus on fun, replay value, and a true love for making a great game. Control one or two frogs as you jump above the lillypads and entangle as many flies as you can using your amphibious tongue. The game is played in rounds after which your score is calculated. Whomever has caught more flies is the winner!"
The cover is labeled "DEMO/50". It says 'demo' instead of the number the published artwork will be numbered from: 01 / 50 all the way to 50 / 50. It is the complete game. Remaining copies "which I'm sure there will be" will be available on our website when we return the first week of August. Make no mistake: Frog Feast is done, and 100% complete and functional.
rastersoft (producer): "Frog Feast has been released, check the OlderGames website for more information. Thanks to all who helped test out Frog Feast for the CD-I, your efforts have helped to ensure the product should run on any CD-I player. Special thanks to: Devin, for keeping the hope of a Frog Feast for the CD-I alive. Your posts have helped motivate me to finish it. Special thanks to Omegalfa, your coverage of this game has helped push this game to completion. And, a special thanks to Bas. Thanks for the blog entries. It has helped inspire me to complete Frog Feast for the CD-I. Seeing the excitement for the project has helped out a lot."
Exclusive CD-i specific features are included like the exit feature, the pause feature, a better artificial intelligence of the fly bots, and last but not least: a credits screen! Charles: "I had never really thought about it before. There wasn't as much of a community involvement with any other release. It should be fun to add in." Personally I think this is an exzcellent addition to make the game much more complete. The last remaining bugs were typical for CD-i development caused by incompatibility issues between the variety of players. Charles: "Most of the time is now being spent fixing the remaining issues with Frog Feast, and implementing a few optimizations. I did get multi-player support working. My to-do list is currently down to:
1. Add Sound and Music.
2. Add an 'Exit' option and a credits screen.
There are probably a few additional bugs left; I intend to do quite a bit of testing over the next week. One outstanding problem is incompatibility with the CDI-350 and CDI-605 players. I got music files working on the CD-I version of Frog Feast. I tested the result on the CD-I 370, and it works correctly. I spend the most of the last two days working on getting real time files working on the CD-I. The biggest problem I had was getting master to build the file from the script. I was missing one character! I didn't put an '>' at the end of the filename. Without help from CD-i Fan I could've been stuck for awhile. Once that was working, it was easy to add support for the real time files to Frog Feast. I finally got sound effects into Frog Feast. It was quite a challenge to figure out all of the little issues to get sound to play correctly. It looks like I may not be able to have the background sound play during the game. The sound effects pause the background sound, which probably wouldn't be noticable. But, there is some latency in restarting the sound, causing a noticable silence. The game is fast paced enough that the frog, tongue, fly and water noices are almost always playing.
I've spent the entire day looking for the problem on Mini MMC based players. I cannot find a solution for the problem. I've rearranged the FCT many times, done traces on the Balboa version of Frog Feast, studied many FCTs from different games and even followed the code through the Balboa sources. The image I get, on my CD-I 605, is 320 x 224 or 256. Frustration is setting in as there is no clear answer or any direction on where to search for a solution. A 320x224 ot 256 mode is not listed in any documentations that I've seen. But thanks to CD-I Fan, the problem with Frog Feast playing on Mini MMC based players now is solved. I had already implemented part of the solution, and had tried the other part. But, I had never tried both parts. This is a big relief to have this behind me. All of the bits (3 in total) were used in the Balboa sources. Now, to implement the last part of Frog Feast, and wrap this up!"
cd-i fan: "What Charles is very tactfully not mentioning is that the wrong setting of the bits was done by sample code I provided :-( It turns out Mini-MMC hardware has some interesting undocumented features!"July 22th: Charles: "What a difference a day can make. I've gone from wondering if Frog Feast would ever work on a Mini MMC CD-i player, to feeling confident about a release. I've resolved all of the issues that I'm aware of on the CD-I version of Frog Feast. There was another issue that would've caused Frog Feast to fail on any system without a DVC cart or extra memory. I was allocating memory for sound that was 18 times bigger than it needed to be. This turned a 27k memory requirement into almost 512k. This was futher compilcated by the fact that I didn't think about the extra memory provided by the DVC cartridge. I now have one thing left, and that's displaying a credits screen. It won't be anything spectacular, but gives credit to the people that have made Frog Feast possible, and a couple of marketing weenies. (just kidding RW) :)
Frog Feast will work without a DVC. The initial problem was a bug in my code. The music and sound effects will work on any CDi player. It may run a little faster with a DVC, but I'm not sure. It was designed with systems such as the CDi 220 and 450 in mind. Additional testing was done on a CDi 605 with no extra ram or rom. The only reason the DVC is mentioned is because it hid the bug in the code.
It seems the game was inspired by Mattel's original 1982 classic Frog Bog, which also spawned an Atari 2600 version called Frogs and Flies. It seems though that Mattel itself was inspired by Gremlin's 1978 arcade game, Frogs, which utilized a background overlay. While is some ways Frog Feast is actually graphically less rich than the Mattel version(!), it's refreshing to see a homebrew game inspired by something a bit different than the norm.
CD-I Frog Feast... Waxing poetical
The journey to complete Frog Feast for the CD-I began a little over two weeks ago. In the process I've learnt more about the CD-I that I would've thought possible. It all started with a simple request for examples on using the CD-I RTOS. I had come to realize that the Balboa library wouldn't allow the level of performance I needed. For the most part, the Frog Feast development was driven by the rapid pace of implementing features. There were a few moments where I had to wonder if Frog Feast would run on all CD-I models. In the end, overcoming these frustrating challenges, provided the extra motivation needed to properly finish Frog Feast. I feel Frog Feast is a solid game for the CD-I.
Developing Frog Feast, for the CD-I, reminded me of the programmer stories I read about in ZZap! or Amiga Format. Writing much of the underlying code in 68000 assembly, and the optimizations needed to get everything running smoothly, felt like being a programmer in the early 16 bit days. I got a glimpse of the challenges faces by these early programmers. They had to overcome some pretty big issues to get their code running smoothly on these limited platforms; and doing all of this while struggling with limited documentation and early development tools. The only true answer to their problem was the challenge to overcome it. They would have had to try many solutions before they arrived at the one that did exactly what they needed. I also developed a great admiration for the few development companies that released arcade or fast action games for the CD-I. Getting decent speed on a system not designed for fast action games is a huge challenge. This is probably equivalent to developing a dos game using the BIOS: something never used in dos games.
The CD-I version of Frog Feast is, by far, the most optimized version of Frog Feast. Much of the game code was redesigned to eliminate speed issues. The low level graphics routines were optimized for speed and designed to do only one thing as fast as they can. The SNES and the FM Towns versions are the second and third on the most optimized list. The SNES version was more challenging to get working correctly, due to battling the 65816 and development tools. And, I'm not as fond of the 65816, compared to the 68000. The CD-I version has additional features not available in any other version; it has an exit option, a credits screen and, slightly better AI. The load time on the CD-I was not an issue. I thought this was going to be a big challenge. Everything that is needed, except for the credit screen and sounds, are loaded while the two opening screens are shown. The loading time only takes up part of the time displaying the screens. This version of Frog Feast has the greatest number of blog entries; which, I believe, shows the number of challenges faced developing the CD-I version.
In the end, I'm pleased with the results and enjoyed overcoming the challenges of the CD-I. I look forward to developing more games for the CD-I. For a few weeks, I had a chance to experience what it was like to be a programmer in the early days of 16 bit game development; optimizing code to overcome speed issues and, redesigning code to avoid slowdowns. I say to the CD-I, in my best Arnold voice, "I'll be back!"