Spectrum

Elite pulls (some) apps from iOS app store as “Bluetooth Spectrum” Kickstarter gets funded

UPDATE Sunday February 2nd, 2014: I’ve edited the excerpted Jan 30 statement from Steve Wilcox out of the paragraph below – Google the Elite website if you want to read the statement. Elite does seem to have removed essentially all of their emulated Spectrum apps from the iOS App Store (at least), for the moment. I don’t anticipate making further public statements on the issue here until it is resolved.

Further to my post two days ago regarding Elite’s (funded) Kickstarter for a Bluetooth keyboard for their Spectrum emulator apps, Elite has pulled their “ZX Spectrum: Elite Collection” iOS apps from the iTunes App Store.

At this time, Elite still has Odin games on the iOS App Store, including Robin of the Wood, Nodes of Yesod, Heartland and Arc of Yesod (in various forms).

Posted by Steve Wetherill in Retro, Sinclair, Spectrum, 2 comments

Public statement on Elite “Bluetooth Spectrum” Kickstarter

Today I added my voice to that of the other software developers who have posted on the Kickstarter comments page for the “Bluetooth Spectrum”, a Kickstarter campaign by Elite for a bluetooth keyboard add-on for Elite’s iOS/Android Spectrum emulator. The gist of it is that Elite is not paying license fees due for the “officially licensed” software which is the basis of both their emulator and the Kickstarter keyboard project.

The comments section of the Kickstarter project can be found here.

See this World of Spectrum forum post for more background.

For convenience, my comments are reproduced here:

After watching this Kickstarter campaign evolve, reading the public statements in this comment section from several Spectrum developers who maintain that they have not received payment for games licensed to Elite for the ZX Spectrum emulator (or indeed, that their games have been used without permission at all), and after private email communications from several of these developers (six individuals actually, developers of well known and loved Spectrum titles), I felt it time to make my own public statement.

Facts:

1. Paul McKenna & myself entered into a licensing agreement with Elite in December 2010 for the Odin Computer Graphics titles. Paul is the owner of the Odin intellectual property and my business partner, and I was the lead programmer on many of Odin’s games, such as Nodes of Yesod, Robin of the Wood, Heartland and others. Steve Wilcox is our contact at Elite. The agreement covered 9 titles, Heartland, Hypaball, Nodes of Yesod, The Plot, Robin of the Wood, Sidewize, Arc of Yesod, I.C.U.P.S and Crosswize, which were to be included in Elite’s ZX Spectrum emulator product for iOS and other devices.

2. We received (initially voluntarily, but later upon my prompting) royalty statements from Elite showing sales of the Odin titles. Eventually these statements dried up completely.

3. Over time, it became clear that royalties due under the agreement (which were to be paid within 30 days of the end of each calendar quarter) were not being paid. It is now over three years since this agreement was signed and to date no royalties have been paid. This is despite numerous requests, several of which have been acknowleged (by way of an email response) by Steve Wilcox, the most recent exchange being in December 2013.

4. At the present time, Elite is still offering the licensed Odin content for sale in various forms on the iOS app store (for example, Robin of the Wood: ZX Spectrum, Robin of the Wood HD: ZX Spectrum, and the Odin Computer Graphics pack which is an in-app purchase for the ZX Spectrum Elite Collection emulator, and which features Nodes of Yesod, Robin of the Wood and others).

5. This Kickstarter campaign has raised over $100,000 (£65,000) on the back of “officially licensed” software; however, I understand that in the cases of at least 6 individual developers, as communicated both publicly here and through private correspondance with each individual, the fees due under those “official licenses” have in fact not been paid. In another case I understand there is in fact no agreement in place at all (see Steve Crow’s comment below). To put a finer point on this, if you don’t pay the license fees, you’re not an official licensee.

In summary:

So much for the facts. I would encourage all backers of this Kickstarter to consider the information I have provided carefully as they decide whether to support this Kickstarter. I’ve been working as a game developer continuously for the last 30 years, I’ve worked on many major software titles, have a good reputation in the industry and have no personal motivation to misrepresent this situation.

 

Posted by Steve Wetherill in Retro, Sinclair, Spectrum, 1 comment

Spectaculator for Android now available!

As the title says, Spectaculator, the leading Sinclair Spectrum emulator for PC and iOS, is now available for Android devices.

This also means that for the first time ever, the Odin Computer Graphics catalog is now officially available for Android!

Click the image below for the Spectaculator for Android on Google Play:

Posted by Steve Wetherill in Retro, Sinclair, Spectrum, 0 comments

Odin Computer Graphics Anthology available for Spectaculator on iOS!

I’m pleased to announce that the “Odin Computer Graphics Anthology” is now available for in-app purchase on the iOS version of Spectaculator – the leading Spectrum emulator for iOS (and Windows). The following games are included:

  • The Arc Of Yesod (1985)
  • Crosswize (1988)
  • Heartland (1986)
  • Hypaball (1986)
  • I.C.U.P.S. (1986)
  • Nodes Of Yesod (1985)
  • The Plot (1988)
  • Robin Of The Wood (1985)
  • Sidewize (1987)

Hop on over to Spectaculator.com now and check it out!

Posted by Steve Wetherill in Retro, Sinclair, Spectrum, 0 comments

Jet Set Willy: The Final Frontier, the music

A couple of items of trivia about the music in “Jet Set Willy: The Final Frontier” for Amstrad CPC.

Title Screen Music

The title screen music is of course Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. I wrote the music player for the game, and sourced the actual music data from the C64 version of the game (which had a nice 3 channel rendition of the tune). Since I never had any contact with the programmer of the C64 version of the game, I sat down one (long) night (while housemates Stoo and Marc went down the pub) with a hex dump utility, a pre-release copy of the C64 game, and a Casio MT30 keyboard (I loved that keyboard!). I spent hours poring over the hex data looking for a byte sequence that resembled the distinctive triplet that begins the Moonlight Sonata, playing the note offsets on the MT30. Eventually, I found the right sequence of bytes, for all three audio channels (and figured out how note duration was encoded), and dumped the data over to the Amstrad. After hours of monkeying around, I eventually had the whole tune playing (in full three-channel, square wave glory on the Amstrad CPC’s General Instrument AY-3-8912 sound chip)!

It turned out … OK, here’s a rendition courtesy of a dedicated YouTuber:

In-Game Music

The in-game music for the original Spectrum version of Jet Set Willy was “If I Were A Rich Man” from the movie “Fiddler on the Roof”. For whatever reason (word had it that publisher Software Projects ran into rights issues), new music was needed and so I came up with a catchy (if not … repetitive) little ditty, composed 2-finger style (and transposed by hand) on my trusty MT30. This tune (which was the first original music I had written for a game) can be heard here (again courtesy of a dedicated YouTuber):

This (untitled) tune is a 2-channel composition, so that the third sound channel on the Amstrad CPC’s AY sound chip could be used for game sound effects.

Posted by Steve Wetherill in Amstrad, CPC 464, Music, Retro, Sinclair, Spectrum, 1 comment

…. and we’re back (with comments on Jet Set Willy 2)

I haven’t been active around here for a bit, but I felt motivated to write after reading Julian Wiseman’s “Jet Set Willy 2” page, and exchanging correspondance with Julian.

I’ve previously provided detailed commentary on the development of the JSW2 game for that site. While I’m not credited in JSW2 for the Sinclair Spectrum, that game does contain code, art and design contributions from me – JSW2 is basically a backport of the Amstrad CPC version of Jet Set Willy developed by Derrick P. Rowson and myself. During development of the game we basically doubled the number of rooms in the game, which was released on the CPC as Jet Set Willy: The Final Frontier (because of the multiple Star Trek references contained in additional sections of the game added by Derrick and myself). I left Software Projects after completing the CPC version, whereupon Derrick did the port back to the Spectrum. In the absence of further post-JSW output from Matthew Smith, relabeling the backport of the Amstrad game must have been financially attractive for Software Projects. From what I can gather from some light Googling, the CPC release was eventually renamed to Jet Set Willy II: The Final Frontier (original release did not have the II designation), and then another version of the game called simply Jet Set Willy was released. That version had all the additional rooms removed. If anyone can confirm or deny the accuracy of this info I’ll update this post to reflect that.

Derrick’s latest notes on Julian’s site add color to, and in some cases differ from, info that I’ve previously given. It has been a long time, and nobody has infallible memory, but I’ve taken the liberty of providing responses here to some of Derrick’s recent comments.

The Sewers. The Sewers were not inspired by Holt Road. Their inspiration was just Victorian sewers. The layout of the screens shows that above the cold store is the swimming pool. I concluded that in order to empty the pool would need a drainage system going to the river. e.g. the sewage system. The first few screen were already drawn by me before Steve saw them. He then mentioned they reminded him of HOLT ROAD and thus the addition of Holt road. Since I had never visited Holt road and was not actually aware of the train station nearby, I can conclusively state that Holt road was not the inspiration.

As to the inspiration for “The Sewers”, there are shades of grey here. Derrick may well have created the initial sewer screens, and the reasoning Derrick provides is logical (in that the room layout makes sense). So, perhaps I was reminded of Holt Road and environs by some initial screens done by Derrick. That said, I clearly remember developing several of the rooms in that area, amongst them the Holt Road screen, which was obviously one of the inspirations for me personally.

Below is an image of Green Lane train station in Birkenhead, where I would catch the train to work each day while working on Jet Set Willy. Green Lane is at the bottom of Holt Road and with its Victorian era red stone arches is reminiscent of screens in The Sewers.

Service to Liverpool, Green Lane Station, Birkenhead (El Pollock) / CC BY-SA 2.0

When I rewrote the various Amstrad versions of the game, I added an additional two letters to the cheat code. Making the OFFICIAL cheat code to be “HIEMMRAIDNAPRRRTT”. This cheat code works on both JSW1 and JSW2 on the Amstrad.

Interesting because I recall the “HI” addition to the cheat code during my time working on the game

Hackers and crackers have destroyed the way the cartography room works on most of the versions I have seen recently. By not understanding what the data for the cartography does, they have allowed this data to be corrupted or even removed. This means on all the Amstrad versions I have played on emulators the cheat code cannot find and draw the proper rooms. (shame)

Ironic indeed.

“ATTRIBUTE CLASH” ?????

I made a passing comment on “attribute clash” on JSW2 for the Spectrum. In JSW1, Willy always takes on the color of either the background (typically), or of moving enemies should he overlap their attribute extents (you would usually, but not always, die when that happens). In JSW2, I notice that moving enemies appear to take on Willy’s white color in those cases. In fact, there seems to be some sort of color fighting happening.

Much of this is nit-picky stuff and I don’t often get motivated to speak up about such things. In this case, the development of the Amstrad CPC ports of Manic Miner and Jet Set Willy was a formative period for me, and so the subject is near and dear to my heart.

Derrick, if you’re out there and you are reading this I would love to hear from you!

Posted by Steve Wetherill in Amstrad, Retro, Sinclair, Spectrum, 0 comments