Undead

Miha Rinne

Status: Preview, Findability: 5/5

A rather ambitious title which sadly never made it as more current life commitments came about.

This was to be a cross between Narc, Splatterhouse and Final Fight, featuring some nice graphics similar to those in Rubicon, and over 200 frames of animation. The bitmaps were quite large, so the 1541 had to be hacked quite well to load in the graphics at good speed. Music was composed for the game and worked very well with the game. The game was being produced around 1990/1991 time.

It took about a year to come up with a fully playable level of a game which was very ambitious to say the least. It was demoed to people, but no-one really picked up the project, and eventually it was realised that the game was just TOO ambitious to be created for the C64, especially for the tape market!

GTW first learnt about the game back in 2006, and things stalled a little with the fixing of the game to present to you due to real life commitments.

But in December 2010, GTW is finally proud to present you with all the remains to Undead. This includes a specially produced slideshow and tidied up and running version of the game by Conrad! The slideshow in particular is superb!

Thankfully you get to play the first level so you can get the chance to see how things were. Overall its quite like Splatterhouse more than the others! Although there are glitches and things are not quite complete, it is quite fun to play and pick up objects and there is a large amount of controls to know. Here is an overview from the author:

INSTRUCTIONS
Use joystick in port 2

  • Fire – hit / fire gun / use item / throw, it will alter on three different hits. If zombie is close, player will grab it and hold.
  • Left / Right – move forward or backward. Hold fire to turn
  • Up – pick item from the wall (not useful in this demo)
  • Down – pick item / crouch (fire when crouch will activate the kick)
  • Space – use gun / put gun away

Tips: You can use zombie as club, let them come close and press fire to grab, if you hold fire and press left / right, Jon Plissken will wield zombie
You can take up to three bites, then Jon will fall down and lose a life. He will get up when you move the joystick

When playing the demo, some frames are not visible when moving left, unfortunately. Game will load up 16-colour bitmap screens while you walk, but there are only few of them. After the graphics run out, you will only see garbled mess.

Additionally there is a music demo which you can run and several story files. We have also included all the work disks with picture files and the original loader materials supplied from Miha, in case you want to have a sift through.

Overall it is a huge shame that this game never quite made it, as it looked to have a lot of promise. Maybe if the game was done in a slightly different way, it could have been released by a big company back in the day and done well. Still, thankfully the game has survived and now you can check things out for yourself!

Also check out what the authors had to say in Creator Speaks, but also enjoy the game and pics! :-)

Here at last and case closed!…

Contributions: Pekka Kleimola, Miha Rinne, Conrad, Fabrizio, Fabrizio Bartoloni

Supporting content

Available downloads

Creator speaks

Miha Rinne and Pekka speak about work on Undead…

“Undead was my first project I collaborated with a programmer. I was responsible for game design and artwork. The way I designed it was gleefully amateurish; I simply wanted it to be the epitome of everything I felt was cool at the time; (especially Splatterhouse coin-op and the movie ‘Escape from New York’). So Undead was to be a mix of all these things.

We planned this to be a cartridge/1541 release, and few collaborators for the project were Sami Louko/Proton, who did the original disk loader routine which loaded more backgrounds while progressing, and Petri Reimann/Anvil, who did a great title tune. AMJ also collaborated with a fantastic tune.

It took us a year to come up with a playable level, once we had that we sent it to Jukka Tapanimäki and asked if he could share some publisher contacts. Answer never came, but I think he was already retired at the time. I didn’t yet know Stavros at the time, but when I showed him this demo years later, he just commented: ‘Well. Someone have clearly had to code lot of animation there.’ (he was never particularly flattering when it came to c64 products from other developers)

I got very fond memories on working on this game. What was great about Pekka that he was always able to somehow figure a way on how to do a feature I requested. I “did” have some idea on the basics what c-64 can do (8 sprites for horizontal maximum, etc) but I didn’t really know how hard it was to code it all in. But he was like a miracle man; I asked something, he did it! I don’t think I ever had a collaborator like that ever since!

Anyway, it was certainly way too ambitious and it would have been a nightmare to complete, so it was just left to, eh, rot, until now when Triad contacted us and said they wanted to rescue it. This made us excited enough to dig through all the old archives again. What’s maybe the best thing is that we still got all the workable source code, so if someone feels brave (or maybe mad) enough, they can try to develop this further. I can still make additional graphics and I still got all the original tools and equipment left, plus the design ideas and notes.”

Miha Rinne.
May, 2006

“Undead was a game project that I participated in some 16 years ago. With great graphics and some nice technical tricks to it, the game had great potential. I still admire the graphics, especially the backgrounds, and some details like the hearts indicating player energy level. Technically it would have been impressive too, I’m not sure if anyone has ever done a C64 game with scrolling bitmaps as background graphics. At least I had not heard of such game way back then.

Programming the thing was challenging, with endless timing issues and the like. At some point I had to migrate programming work to Amiga, as compiling was just too slow on C64 due to large amount of source code that was involved. Actually one of the biggest problems was that the source was growing too big, it would not fit into the memory. Apparently I hadn’t yet discovered that projects can have multiple source files, or maybe I just needed some excuse to buy more hardware ;)

Unfortunately the project was way too ambitious for two teenagers to complete, and the project was abandoned. But now after being buried for 15 years it seems that the Undead will live up to it’s name. The dead walk!”

Pekka.

Then Miha shared further thoughts on Lemon64 in 2019:

I made a youtubevideo of my old unfinished c64 game, Undead from 1990-1992. This is from the 2011 rerelease with intro by Triad.

https://youtu.be/Z9Xuxn4ulGQ

[After a request to finish the game]

Thanks, I would love to. But I didn’t program it and the original programmer is not available any more.

It would take a long time, I would need to find a competent c64 programmer with experience and nerves of steel to go through the original source code, which is a mess, clean it up, and make it work with Easyflash (where it would be better suited), not to mention to be able to finish the thing.

Making also all the graphics for all the levels and cutscenes would definitely take long time, even with today’s tools.

[Then further on]

Thank you for your comments.

It is true that this has Splatterhouse vibes since I was, and still am, a huge fan of the coin op, and was almost certain it could be converted for c64. But of course, since me and Pekka were just two teenagers from finland, there was no way we could approach Namco, so we just decided to make “heavily inspired game” instead.

We also did the infamous “worm room” from splatterhouse (lvl 1.5 intermission where you are locked in a room and worms burrow out of corpse piles), beat from beat, even added the final worm coming out from hanged corpse. But unfortunately I lost the runnable file for that scene. Graphics I still got and maybe even the source code is somewhere.

If I had, at that time, understood the concept “feature lock”, which means knowing when to stop adding features and just get on with it and make the levels, we could have been able to finish the game… Maybe. But no, I wanted to have 1st level boss room be similar to the end boss of narc, which is a giant head exploding into skull that chases you, supported by its vertabrae. And next level I wanted to play like Narc, with completely new game mechanics. I think it was at that point when my long-suffering programmer decided “I am outta here!!”. I can understand him very well.

I would love to finish this, some day. At least now I know how I could keep the design together, as I’ve already worked 25 years in game industry.
But as I said, I’d need a really patient programmer to pull it off. Just to clean up those source code files would probably take year’s worth of spare time. Graphics and all assets are indexed and stored for what it’s worth.

Thank you very much for those comments.. feels great to finally see someone appreciating our hard work. At the time, back in 1990, our friends, family members, schoolmates etc.. they had absolutely no clue what we were doing.

Update history

  • 31/98/21 – Design scans from Miha added.
  • 07/08/21 – Additional notes added from Miha Rinne via Lemon64.

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