Devious Designs


Status: Preview, Findability: 5/5

A curious and complex puzzler which involves unscrambling various famous structures of world famous works of art created by Dr Devious. In the game, you control JJ (JoJo) Maverick, the hero who must do the unscrambling.

The game featured some smart graphics by Bob Stevenson, which sadly many would never get to see as intended. Commodore Format also confirmed that Martin Walker was playing a part in the game too, handling all the various audio duties.

Originally it was rumoured that John Twiddy or Doug Hare were behind the game as developer, but both confirmed otherwise. Doug Hare confirmed it none other than Myth/Salamander creator Peter Baron who was coder of the C64 and Amiga/ST versions.

Peter started out on the C64 version, mainly because he had not quite picked up coding on the Amiga/ST at that point. When Peter finally got there, he did a source conversion in a day and had the game playable, even having Bob’s graphics ported from the C64!

The Amiga/ST editions had taken priority during the C64’s development, and by the time they were complete, the C64 version was 2 months behind. Imageworks spoke to Peter and Bob, and told them to drop the C64 conversion as they felt the C64 was dying out at that point. It had nothing to do with the collapse of Imageworks which came not too long afterwards.

Peter was tracked down in 2005, and very kindly gave a detailed account of the game which you can read  in Creator Speaks. Peter tells us that the game was born in a pub whilst drinking with Bob, where they came up with a main character who had mystical powers, and which could walk up walls and on the ceiling.

Although the game was produced very fast and at a good flow, the game was way too complex to play because of cramming too many controllable features into a joystick with one button. Levels had to be simplified down to add a good learning curve, but it was proving difficult. Most of the complex ideas were reluctantly dropped to try and save the C64 version. Even the easy levels were not quite so easy!

The game production lasted about 9 months in total on the C64 before the decision to focus on the other platforms took place.

Martin Walker was to do dynamic music that reacted to the game and the player’s actions. This was a very complicated idea which apparently caused Martin various problems (on the Amiga/ST versions at least). GTW spoke with Martin Walker and he confirmed that he would have been doing the C64 music, had the game been completed. Because he did music at the last minute for games, nothing for the C64 version was sadly ever started.

In 2006, Pete traced all of his C64 disks and passed on remaining code to GTW. In 2006, we presented the first ever release of the C64 conversion, an approximately 80% complete edition in total, so classified as a “preview”.

Thanks to Glenn Rune Gallefoss and Pete Baron, the game was carefully pieced together from its sources to get the Bonus levels working, which were corrupted in the original executable we were given. It was Glenn and Pete therefore who have made it possible to see Devious in its most finished state possible.

The guys originally found a manner of other goodies hidden away in the sources, including a hidden 4 player mode (though not at the same time), and some other various bits and pieces. Not all the pieces could however be put into the game.

Eventually it was decided by Pete to go with the original controls in the new source code, before Mirrorsoft changed everything. This is therefore most complete version of Devious in accordance Pete’s guidance during compiling of a final version. The sources could well be added to the site at a later date, pending if Pete gives permission for this as an additional interest point.

This is a great puzzler which has some really nice artwork by Bob. The extra bonus is that Pete has supplied 6 previews of the game in various early stages. You can find these in the original ported disk images in the download below.

Check out a piece of C64 history for yourself and see just what we missed out on back in the day.

Case closed!

Contributions: Doug Hare, Bob Stevenson, Peter Baron, Andrew Tuson, Glenn Rune Gallefoss, Jan Schulze

Supporting content

Creator speaks

Peter Baron and Bob Stevenson (Creators of Myth) speak about work on Devious Designs…

“Here’s a brief story of what happened before we started making the game…Pete and I locked ourselves in a nice hotel for 3 days and just focused solidly on the design. It was a good idea because I had a nasty habit of dragging him away from work and getting drunk for the whole day, such was my tremendous work ethic in those days :)

The first pitch to a publisher that we gave was probably the worst I’ve ever been part of. But of course, is very funny looking back on it now. We went to pitch the game to a friend (Phil Harrison, who incidentally is now the head of SONY Worldwide Studios)of ours boss. This 6ft 6” scary
looking rich American businessman walked in the room shook my hand and almost cracked every bone. We had some rough ideas but they weren’t fully formed and we had never really pitched an idea. I think I might have nervously acted out some of the characters movement. The guy just looked at us as if we were a couple of madmen that had just escaped from the asylum… Anyway…

We came up with a bunch of interesting ideas and we drew the game design by hand and painted the front cover (a square earth) CRAZY but it actually looked good and we were both very proud of it…

Pete, I can’t remember if we did that design doc before or after that pitch…

Anyway, the second pitch to a different publisher went great they loved the idea and after a month of contract negotiations, we had a deal…

It was really a fun time, we made some really good games. Myth, Salamander and Devious Designs… I was in a meeting recently and this guy said out of the blue “How did you do the flames in Salamander?”… ”

Bob Stevenson.

“Devious Designs was a game concept that Bob and I came up with in the pub just after we finished Myth. We were really into the idea of putting mystical mind powers into a game and the whole running up walls bit was mainly the result of a pint too many (as if there is such a thing!).

To be honest we designed a game that was too complex – the character (J.J.Maverick) had a huge range of moves – picking up, pushing, pulling, throwing blocks… also the ability to mentally ‘merge’ with blocks then control them like missiles… plus the whole ‘down is the direction your feet are facing’ thing which allowed him to walk up walls and upside down. Although I’d previously managed to cram a Lot of different moves onto the old C64 one button joystick for Myth, the controls for DD became far too unwieldy and the learning curve was too steep. We got the ‘first playable’ together in record time (I think it was about a month and a half) and then spent the next 3 months trying to make the game work the way we’d envisioned it. In the end and very reluctantly, we started to remove special moves.

We ended up leaving the core set of block moving functions, and the gravity distortion (because everyone thought that was a highly distinctive feature) but stripping virtually everything else. The C64 version was the lead product, mainly because I’d never written anything on an Amiga or Atari at that time and I needed some lead-time to read the manuals and learn 68K assembler language. However even after stripping down the move list the game still felt somewhat awkward to play – we were having trouble designing the ‘easy’ levels that would introduce the player to the moves in a logical and progressive manner and our ‘test’ level was what became the Big Apple for New York advanced level (this was one of the harder puzzles in the game) so we had a lot of complaints from Mirrorsoft about the learning curve and general difficulty level.

Nine months in we felt that we’d done about all we could do to fix these problems and we were both dieing to get started on the Amiga version. I did a straight line-for-line code conversion from the 6502 assembly language to 68K and rewrote the I/O libraries to work on the Amiga, and surprised Bob by converting all his C64 graphics too… we had the first Amiga playable ready one day after we started on it, which went a long way to restoring Mirrorsoft’s faith in the project :)

That’s pretty much where the C64 version stopped. Development went ahead on the Amiga as lead machine from that point on, and more moves were sacrificed in favour of the new gun and floating elementals (a feature we were not at all keen on). We sat down for a week with grid paper and designed many of the puzzles, including the Igloo which was finally simple enough to prove to the managers that the game could be made playable. By the time the Amiga and ST versions were nearly done, we were over the original deadline by two months and rapidly running out of money, we discussed the situation with Mirrorsoft and (rather surprisingly) they said that the C64 market was no longer large enough to be worth supporting so we should finish up the 16 bit versions and push them out for release.

The music was done by another contracter – I don’t think it was Martin Walker this time though I can’t be sure – there should be a credit in the Amiga/ST versions as they were all done by the same guy (Frank – “Amiga credits show that Martin did do the music, so this is now confirmed.”). We had decided to attempt to use dynamic music that reacted to the game and the player’s actions, so we requested a huge selection of audio loops that could fit together in a large number of ways – the idea was to ‘build’ the tune by choosing the appropriate loop that fitted onto what had gone before. Unfortunately the musician had a lot of trouble putting this idea into practice – the loops were too short and it was very hard for him to hear what it would sound like in each permutation. If I’d had a bit more time I would have put together a play-back tool for him, but in the end I think we settled for a regular tune.

I still have a box of 5.25″ floppy disks from years ago, so it’s possible that some of the source and maybe even a playable version are still available on one of them – I’ll dig through next time I’m up in the attic and send you anything useable that I come across.

Later talking about how to play the game, and the game’s excellent moves…

“JJ has ‘personal gravity’ so whichever way his feet are facing, that’s ‘down’

(directions in ‘quotes’ are relative to JJ’s feet)

(*) He will always fall ‘down’
(*) Jump is ‘up’ on the joystick (away from ‘personal down’)
(*) Forwards and turn around are as you’d expect
(*) Jumps can be directed by diagonals
(*) You can grab a wall which is in front of you while jumping by pressing towards it, you will then stand on it
(*) Walk around inside corners by pressing towards the wall until you climb onto it
(*) Walk around outside corners by just walking forwards over the edges – you won’t fall
(I think there was a way to *make* him fall rather than walk around, but I can’t find this move now)
(*) Grab a block in front by fire
(*) Release a grabbed block by fire again
(*) Lift a grabbed block by ‘up’
(*) Drag a grabbed block by ‘backwards’ (love this animation!)
(*) Throw a lifted block by ‘fire+direction’
(*) Drop a lifted block by ‘down’

(*) If lifting a tall block from a position higher than it’s lowest point, ‘up’ repeatedly will slide it up
(*) If dropping a long block then ‘down’ repeatedly will slide it forwards until you can drop it

(*) You can drag ‘L’ or ‘+’ shaped blocks by grabbing from inside the corner and pulling
(*) Mind-meld into a block using ‘down’ while standing on it
(*) Mind-meld through blocks using direction while mind-melded inside them
(*) Mind-project a block (carrying you with it) by pressing fire while mind-melded in it
(*) Exit a mind-melded block by using ‘up’ until you’re outside it
(*) mind-glue a grabbed block by ‘down’, this will produce a glue-cursor that can be moved
(*) Stop mind-glue mode by pressing fire
(*) glued blocks cannot be separated (I’m pretty sure there was a “fragment” mode too, but I can’t find it anymore)

(*) Each block has ‘personal gravity’… they change colour to let you know which way that is
-blue = down-screen
-green = right-screen
-purple = left-screen
-red = up-screen
(I think… working from memory here… colours may be different)
(*) Moving a block which is holding another block may have unexpected consequences if you ignore their ‘personal gravity’ directions!
(*) Grabbing a block will instantly change it’s gravity to match yours, this may also have unexpected consequences

(*) Kill enemies in the obvious way (throw blocks at them)
(*) Kill enemies in the Mario way (jump on them)
(*) Kill enemies in the Jedi way (mind-project a block at them)

(*) Red ‘lozenges’ are teleporters
(*) Platform ‘tubes’ can be jumped into from below
(*) Bonuses have screwed up graphics, I think they’re points only, but may have other purposes
(*) Collect bonuses by throwing blocks at them also

(*) Level 4 is a bitch, remember that you only need to cover the marked squares, you can have bits sticking out and it’ll still work!
(*) You can complete a shape by throwing the last block ‘through’ the last square – it’ll be recognised instantly so it doesn’t need to be supported

Things we really needed to add before release :-

* big effect for transition between the blocks and the ‘finished shape’
(rotating animating smoke/sparks/dust sprites)
* more ‘easy’ levels before the hard ones
* more levels generally
* fix the bonus pickup graphics
* fix the bonus level bug (I think I did this, hopefully it’ll be on the PC
disks and re-creatable somehow)”

Peter Baron.

Update history

01/08/23 – Major tidy up of the text. Written probably by teenage me!

Posted in: GTW64 archive | Tagged: | 4 Comments

4 Responses to Devious Designs

  1. With Mr Walker, supposedly, back on work in actual C64 scene, at least a piece of the remaining 20% of development could be resumed. Let’s send some love to the team, you never know, it could work :-D

    • Would be amazing if Martin was able to find something of his music or even finish off – then to see Devious Designs properly finished. I believe that it would require quite an overhaul, as the game changed a bit by the point of the final Amiga release. Would be fantastic if someone did take on trying to finish off and polish into a full release.

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