Metal Warrior 4 V1

Covert Bitops

Status: Preview, Findability: 5/5

Really the C64 scene has been quiet spoilt in recent years, with hard, dedicated and enthusiastic sceners who have produced software of high commercial quality to keep us playing new things on our C64. Lasse Á–Á¶rni is one of those sceners who has given the machine probably one of its most successful series since Dizzy.

Although the Metal Warrior had a much more serious and much darker theme to it than Dizzy ever had, and gameplay which was described by people as a 2D Halflife style of game.

So after a very successful trio of games, was their room for a 4th?…. Almost there wasn’t, but a change of heart meant that there eventually was in 2003.

So why is Metal Warrior 4 a GTW?… Well, it isn’t, but then Metal Warrior 4 had a very different shape and construction to it compared to the final release of the game.

A year’s worth of work had been done to the game by Lasse, there was an ambitious C-like scripting language which Lasse describes as “CovertScript”, which allowed multithreading capabilities for the game.

Gameplay is very similar to the final game, though climbing happens sideways, status displays are different, sprites are much shorter and screen frequency is 25hz instead of 50hz. The preview is very limited and scripted.. and has Lasse describes “The story idea I had at the time was much more cinematic and linear, opposed to the exploration and freeform combat in the final game.”

Also the game’s engine had key failures which meant that it was eventually scrapped, such as “there was no “global” world state” (as Lasse describes) and the level maps were reset each time a player entered it. Overall the engine was too over ambitious to fully work for a C64 game and so a major engine overhaul occurred in April/June 2003.

Graphically the first version of the game here is much more colourful, which each char having its own colour. The Intro picture is also slightly different, with brunet instead of blond. The Title screen is also different structurally.

Sonically the game is the same, with some minor SFX differences.

The actual game starts in a different location, which is inside the Agent HQ centre… so really the structure and appearance of the game is quite different to the final version (Although the majority of this preview would have been used in the final version).

This preview is playable, but it is an insight to how the game might have been had it followed its original style. Really though, the changes made were for the best, and allowed you to have a game which was far greater than what is here, but its still very interesting to look at and admire.

Lasse has kindly submitted his design notes also for you to check out and learn more about the game’s initial development before it had a major overhaul.

Yet more has been submitted by Lasse on the 13/05/05, which is a early test demo disk image featuring combat and talking in a test level. The disk image is labelled mw4_v1_combat.d64 and contains some content never seen before as far as we know. The preview is from early 2003.

If we learn more, or find anything else which can be added to this entry, then it will be done. But really this is a open and closed case, with no search needed to be made. If you want to play the full version of this, then go download the full complete version 2 which WAS finished.

An interesting early insight to a fantastic ending of a series…

Contributions: Lasse Öörni

Supporting content

Available downloads

Creator speaks

Henk Dekker speaks to GTW about work on Metal Wars…

“When we started developing Metal Wars, Robert and I were inspired by those addictive shoot’em up arcade games like R-type with their giant animated end-of-level bosses. We both had some rough ideas of what the game should look like. Robert did the graphics, and I did the coding for the game. We figured that music and sound-fx could be added later, so those were ripped from some other game for the time being. Metal Wars was not the first game that we started. Before that we had been working on another shoot’em up – which we also never completed – called “A.B.C.” for Automatic Battle Computer.

We wanted the graphics in Metal Wars to look as nice as possible, so we used bitmapped graphics instead of the traditional character screen that we used in A.B.C. As far as I know, at that time we were the first to do a bitmapped scroller. Scrolling a bitmap costs lots of cycles on the C64 and was simply implemented using double buffering. Since the speed of the smooth-scroll was fixed at only 1 pixel per frame, there was an 8-frame period for updating the background.

The gameplay however was not too interesting yet because the enemies simply followed some pre-programmed paths and did not interact in some intelligent way. If we were going to complete the game, we probably had to make that part a lot more interesting.

If we would have managed to complete the game, we wanted to sell it for release by a software house. But we never completed it simply because we lost interest in working on it once we proved that the basic ideas of bitmapped scrolling and huge end-of-level bosses worked. We were not motivated enough to design lots of levels and to work on an interesting gameplay.

After the C64 I did some coding on the Amiga, but I never released anything useful. I just played a little bit with 3D gfx and other nice Amiga features, but it didn’t take long before I got bored with the Amiga.
Nowadays I don’t do any spare time coding projects, since I already have a full time job developing embedded software. Especially DSP-related applications are very interesting to me.

I have a great admiration for the people that can find the time and perseverance to still be active on the C64. Even today they manage to keep the C64 spirit alive.

Jan 12, 2005″

Henk Dekker.

Related articles

Lasse has very kindly allowed GTW to host his design notes which he made during the production of the game.

There is a load of notes and weapons lists which detail his plans, which sadly I haven’t had time to HTML’ize just yet. So for the time being, and until the near future, I have put up the GIF compressed scans which Lasse originally emailed.

Please click a link below, and the design notes will load in a new window. Lasse has kindly provided a English translation of these design notes here.

Page 1 – Statement

Page 2 – Overview pt1

Page 3 – Overview pt2

Page 4 – Story pt1

Page 5 – Story pt2

Page 6 – Story pt3

Page 7 – Endings

Page 8 – Levels

Page 9 – Agent Drugs

Page 10 – Weapons

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