Smash TV The Rip Off

Back in 1991 when I was a bicycle courier, I was looking for a programming project to fill up my spare time. At the time I had 2 Atari STs, one for development and the other for testing the code. My previous machine had been an Amiga which I'd tried to code on, but it had been an uphill battle with lack of resources, lack of coding knowhow for the specialist Amiga chips and lack of manuals! So I sold it and got two STs. Even though the custom hardware on the ST wasn't close to as powerful as the Amiga's copper and blitter, it was still possible to do some decent work on and it was a simpler machine to get straight into, programming wise. As far as games programming goes, all I need to know is where the screen memory is and how it's configured and it's fairly plain sailing from there.

So anyway, I'd been trawling about the arcades looking for some inspiration for a game project to start working on and I spotted Smash TV. In my teens I used to go to the arcade every Saturday and the sort of games I would play would be racing games like Turbo or Outrun. I also loved playing the vertically or horizontally scrolling shoot 'em ups like Terra Cresta, Nemesis and Xevious. I had never really been a big fan of the robotron format of shoot 'em up (2 joystick style) but as soon as I played it with all it's manic action, I knew it was the one.

I immediately started on the base engine for the game, getting a backdrop on the screen with a character moving about and crappy graphics just to check the functionality of animation and weapons systems. It was around this time that I met AR, through a very convoluted path. AR was a friend of a friend of a friend of my little brother who had mentioned in passing that I was looking for a graphics guy - I can't draw to save my life, my brother got all the artistic talent but he wasn't interested in doing computer graphics, he was sixteen and his interests were elsewhere... After meeting AR and seeing some of the stuff he'd drawn, I knew we could work together. I drew up a list of what was needed graphics wise, sprites, backdrops etc and I got back to the task of coding it.a

For those of you that have played Smash TV, the action gets pretty intense with a lot of stuff going on at once, you've got scores of baddies trying to catch you, other baddies trying to shoot you and you trying to shoot everyone else! That's a lot of sprite processing. During the course of developing Smash TV, I'd taken a number of trips to the San Remo arcade in Argyle Street in Glasgow, the only arcade that had Smash TV, to get a rough idea of baddie numbers, movements and patterns for each screen. It translated into hundreds of sprites and too much for the Atari ST to handle well. I soldiered on though and got the eight screens of the first level finished complete with end of level bad guy. It had taken around 8 months part time to complete and there was absolutely no way I could release it at the speed it was running, around 7 or 8 frames a second. It just didn't make for a good gaming experience.

Shortly after completing the first level of Smash TV The Rip Off, a couple of friends who had started a small games development company intimated to me that they had been having some challenges finding a programmer. They'd already had one title released on the ST and Amiga and were currently working on what was to become a critically acclaimed Amiga title. My reaction to this statement was that if they couldn't find anyone, I'd be happy to give it a go. It was quite good timing for me because it was coming into winter and it's not the best time to be riding a bike for a living! After going through a number of game ideas, we settled on an arcade style top down mafia role playing game for me to work on, more about that here.

Andy, the main programmer, had been given a new Amiga development system to work on, so I inherited his old SNASM development kit. It basically consisted of a 286 PC with a modified SCSI card in it which was hooked up to a custom interface on the side of the Amiga. It was a great piece of kit, I would code on the PC, hit a pre-programmed shortcut key and the code would be compiled and injected down the SCSI cable into the Amiga all in a couple of seconds. It also allowed me to singlestep through the code so that I could troubleshoot bugs and stuff. I still had Smash TV on my mind and had decided that when I had some spare time, I was going to port it to the Amiga, rewrite the graphics and sound routines and see how much of a difference it would make. Christmas came and I had some spare time. I think it was around 8 o'clock at night that I started the porting and had it finished the following morning. I had already been working on ***** *** for a while and had developed pretty fast sprite routines, so the routine rewriting was kept to a minimum. The first time I fired up Smash TV the Rip Off on an Amiga, it was mind blowing, 25 frames a second with no lag, awesome!

I wrote a short intro screen for it, packaged it all up and sent it off to a couple of magazines and shareware houses to see if they were interested in it. I was amazed at the results, the two magazines I'd sent it to gave it rave reviews (see below), saying it was better than the official Ocean one and then the orders started rolling in. From all over the world! What I thought was great was that some people sent me money, even after they'd got a copy, they liked it so much.

I'd been full of good intentions to put in additional levels, but my lifestyle and general laziness didn't allow for it, so it never happened.

To get your hands on a copy of Smash TV the Rip Off (and one or two other interesting items, click here)


Amiga Power Review - May 1992

The One Review - May 1992

Amiga Force - Autumn / Winter 1992


(c) 2008 Mark Gallagher (