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Bad News Baseball


- A little historical information -

 The original name of the game was "Cavern Climber", but Tandy
Corporation didn't like the similarity to a game that was about
to be released, called "Canyon Climber" written by Steve Bjork.
I chose the name Downland to satisfy their requirements.

 I suppose I can live with the "Mario clone" crack, but I really
did not copy anything from any game that I know of. (Note from Curtis: This
is not quite what I meant, and I have changed the wording on the Downland page
to reflect this. I was simply referring to the character graphic itself).
My goal (while all my peers were doing "rips" of arcade games) was to come up with
a completely unique arcade style game that had a slight hint of an
adventure game (which is why you can go back to screens after you
have left them, and in fact have to go back and forth to solve the
puzzle of the keys).

 - About the game -

 Keep in mind that this game fits in an 8K ROM (Tandy Insisted).  I
Think I managed quite a lot in that little space.  The last month I
worked on the game was squeezing it down from a little over 9K into
the 8K ROM space.  Also, the original final game has several more
features than the "squished down" version.

 All the screens have names, but Tandy wouldn't publish them.  The
one that has the big "Y" shaped thing (it's been a while and all my
stuff is packed away but I think it's screen 8 or 9), is called the
Dr. Seuss screen; so named because it resembles some of the terrain
in some of my favorite childhood books (ranking fairly even with
Winnie The Pooh).

 Unfortunately, because of the size limitation, much of what would
happen when you completed the 10th screen had to be taken out.  In
the published game, you land back at the first screen again, but
this time it is much harder.

 You may notice that some of the ropes have acid drops that fall so
close to the rope that you have to "hang out" to the opposite side to
avoid them.  In the second time through the game, all the acid drops
near the ropes fall close to the ropes.  Also, I *think* I rearranged
which keys open which doors to confuse things.  Seems like there were
a couple other things I did to make it harder, maybe the "bat timer"
is shorter.

 Despite this, I met a young man who had made it all the way through
and half way through it again.  My best game was to make it to the
beginning again and being so worn out from playing over and over I
think I promptly did something stupid and was killed by an acid drop
running for the first rope.

 A funny thing about the game being two player.  When I wrote it, it
was a one player game.  One day, when the game was almost finished, I
was contemplating how much trouble it would be to make it a 2 player
game and I had a brain-storm.  I had used whole bytes (for speed) in
the computer to store all the bits of information about the character,
but no bit of information went over the number 15.  Since 4 bits (half
a byte) can hold 0 - 15, I just wrote a bit of extra code to use the
top half of the byte for the extra player.  I think I added the second
player in about two days.  If I had done things even slightly
differently it would have practically required a complete rewrite.

 - Why doesn't it work on the Coco 2? -

 The reason it has problems with the Coco 2 is because of the copy
protection in the code that back then we called "RAM Crashes".  They
are bits of code that write over the game itself.  Obviously if the
game is in a ROM, it won't hurt anything, but if the game is moved
into RAM, it will fairly quickly eat itself to death.  Unfortunately
some of the RAM Crashes in my game wrote too close to the memory
mapped I/O.  When the Coco 2 came out, they expanded that area and
the game ends up trashing some of the I/O ports even in ROM mode.

 As far as I know, I pioneered the technique.  Obviously with a
little effort they can be disabled.  A guy in Europe who made a
living pirating Coco software called me when he finally cracked all
of them.  I guess his intention was to claim victory over me.  Though
I thought his act of competitive machoism was somewhat humorous, I was
impressed at the way he went about it.  He actually built a bit of
hardware that stopped the computer and dumped the processor into a
debugger every time there was a write violation in the ROM address
space.  Rather ingenious.

 I did supply Tandy with a copy of Downland with all the RAM Crashes
removed and using a better graphic mode (better than the phantom color
mode that a lot of us independently discovered).  But because the Coco 2
didn't last very long, they never got it out the door.

 If you have any questions, please let me know.

Michael Aichlmayr