Flipper in the Snow

Screenshot from development version of Flipper in the Snow.It was Ostudio’s attempt to enter the market of fighting games on the PC featuring its well-known characters in hand-to-hand combat. It was inspired by a C64 game called Snowball Sunday, fighting took place at a snowy location. Players could pick up snowballs, tossing it towards their opponent as an extra ranged attack.

The title of the game has nothing to do with a certain dolphin from the 60s. Flipper is Hungarian for pinball, but it has nothing to with that either. Certain naughty kids in our high school class used the word for a game, where 2 or more people stood in a circle, pushing around one in the middle, making him bounce around like the ball in pinball. Anyways, the game has nothing to do with that either.

Development

Development started on 31st August 1998, and we were experiencing all sorts of difficulties pretty soon. The project was cancelled in March 1999.

As all our early games, it was developed for DOS in Turbo Pascal with a hint of Assembly to handle concurrent keypresses on a single keyboard. The first difficulty was to come up with all the characters and draw all the animation frames for them, 23 frames each. All characters had to have two different versions to make them distinguishable if both players pick the same. This put our “art department” under heavy pressure. Graphics were progressing slowly, all the frames for Oatilla and Killman were completed, as well as a single initial frame for Mrs Dragon.

If it was only for the graphics, we would have finished sooner or later though, the second difficulty was a technical one. Back then all Ostudio games used only the conventional memory, using the framebuffer in clever ways to minimise redraw: i.e. most animations were over a solid background, just look at any Ocamel gameplay screenshot to see a good example. For this game however, as the characters were fairly large moving freely over the background, all graphics assets had to be stored in memory. At 320×200 resolution, with each character taking up two full pages, plus the background and rendering buffers, we used up a whopping 375k before starting to add sounds or any other features.

Still, it would have been possible to finish the game if the code was good quality. Well, it wasn’t. Back then I was lacking discipline and structured programming knowledge; global variables and copy-pasted spaghetti code poisoned all Ostudio games. Except that this one was impossible to maintain in the end, as the two players’ actions depended on each other. What if I’m on the second frame of my kick animation and a snowball lands in my face? How far do I have to jump up so that my opponent’s punch doesn’t reach me? These were all questions that I though would be best answered by loads of nested if statements… twice… once for each player, as they had all differently named global variables. There was no way we could make tweaks and custom features to the characters to make them play differently, they would have been just skins on dead simple game mechanics.

So in the end we had a “kind of” playable version with no menu, no sounds, no character choice. After playing a few entertaining rounds, we decided to cancel the game and focus on something else.

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