Status: Preview, Findability: 5/5

A pretty big turn up for the books when Ramos gave GTW the heads up about this game. Mark Gallagher is already known to GTW thanks to his other game Shylock which was uncovered, but on a set of pages he also did a bit of digging around some old C64 disks and uncovered one of his only commercial ventures for the C64 – Deathstalker.

Deathstalker was originally thought to be a Spectrum/Amstrad only game, which was a bit of a surprise to myself – as pretty much all of Codemaster’s games were cross converted… however it seems now we are getting a trend, what with this, Mission Jupiter, Twin Turbo V8 all coming forward.

The original Amstrad game was developed by Tony Warriner and released in 1989, it was an average affair – receiving fairly poor ratings, which seemed pretty harsh. The game itself is a sort of Karnov/Switchblade looking game, but with slightly unclear graphics and gameplay. It did however feature a neat David Whittaker tune!

After doing a bit of C64 work, Mark applied for the job of converting the game to the C64 when an advert was put out for converting the title. He got the job when very young and went to visit the Spectrum’s developer Tony Warriner. He was given all of the game code and graphics to take apart and create a C64 conversion. Unfortunately due to a bit of coding inexperience, Mark ran out of memory and found that he had to ditch doing the conversion for Codemasters. More details can be found in Creator Speaks!

Mark had actually got quite far, but because of the error – development stopped. It wasn’t until recently after by chance coming across some disks that worked. Mark recovered the game and ported it over to PC for people to download. And so here it is!

The demo is very early and does not feature proper sprites, just blocks – but you can walk around the landscapes, and there is a bit of minimal interaction. Music is borrowed from Matt Gray. The graphics as you can see are a straight port from the Spectrum, and are very unclear in the grey tone. Also beware that picking up some objects will crash the game!

Also now added is a quick tidied up version from Ian Coog which means you can pick up objects without the game crashing!

We are hoping that there may be a bit more of the game to recover, maybe one with the sprites in place and maybe even a long lost David Whittaker tune!…. Possibly the version that ran out of memory is a lot more complete, but its early days yet! Maybe we may see more of this yet?…

Watch this space, but grab yet another long lost Codies game!….

Contributions: Ramos, Mark Gallagher, Ian Coog

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Creator speaks

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“Back in the mid to late 1980s (I think I was about 16 or 17), I answered an advert looking for a C64 programmer to do a software conversion of a Spectrum game called Deathstalker by Codemasters. I went on a day trip down to Hull to meet the programmer, Tony Warriner. He picked me up from Hull train station in a white Ford Escort and we took a drive over to the office to check out Deathstalker. I’d never played the game before, just seen screenshots.

Deathstalker was a 2D action adventure viewed side on. The unique selling point to Deathstalker was the way that certain sections of the screen were only visible when the character was within sight of them. For example, there could be a deep well or chasm onscreen, but the player wouldn’t see the well or chasm until he’d walked fairly close to where it was and then it would flick on to the screen. I was a fairly accomplished programmer at this point and was quite happy to take on the conversion. I was furnished with all the graphics and maps for the Spectrum version so that I would have something graphical to work with during development.

Up until this point I’d been using an assembler for the 64 that worked by using line numbers so that the source code could be saved as if it was a BASIC listing. I can’t actually the name of the assembler but it pretty crappy and should only really have been used for small demos and not full games. The code written on the crappy compiler would look something like this:

10 SEI

20 LDA #$78

30 STA $0314

Etc etc

This was fine initially, but when it got to the point of bug fixing and then having to insert extra code, that’s when things started to get quite challenging. I remember spending a good deal of time re-numbering a lot of lines so that I could insert more code.

The game itself was starting to take shape, you could wander round the map, and the scenery that should disappear did disappear and reappear when appropriate and there were baddies that would react to your presence. Then it all went horribly wrong, one day I tried to do a compile of the code, but the listing was too big for the compiler and it crashed all the time with an out of memory error. I wish back then I had found out about Turbo Assembler. If I’d been using that, then a C64 version of Deathstalker may well have become reality.”

Mark Gallagher.

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