Ocamel

Ocamel title screen

Ocamel title screen

A mysterious alien entity drops off an Oatilla on Earth, an anthropomorphic organism used to bring total destruction upon the unsuspecting human race. With its exceptional breeding rate, it is capable of multiplying in numbers at an exponential rate, and if left uncontrolled, mankind would face an enormous force in a matter of days.

Luckily, Ostudio has recognised the threat before it’s too late. Scraping together all the high-tech equipment and heavy weaponry they can find, there should be enough to launch an attack against the Oatillas’ base of operations. Are you ready to lead the assault against the infected apartment block?

Fight through three finger-twitching episodes as the Oatillas are trying to gain foothold in different parts of the city in their desperate attempt to defend against the unexpected attack. Fight off hordes of Oatillas as they clone a dangerous math teacher to fill in their diminishing ranks. Do you have the skill to defeat the cunning Mrs Dragon, who uses all her terrible powers to make sure the Oatillas reach their goal?

3 mind-blowing episodes, 24 challenging levels and a final confrontation awaits you in this remarkable masterpiece of a game.

Development

Ocamel screenshot from Episode 1

Ocamel screenshot from Episode 1

Just for the record, memories have faded over the years, I’m reconstructing the events by looking at file dates and fragments in my development folder.

After the idea was conceived in early 1998, development advanced rapidly, and on 20th March 1998, Ostudio released the demo of its first video game. This version was more like a proof of concept though, and lacked many features that were added before the final release, such as sounds, proper graphics and animations. It was written in 100% Turbo Pascal, and used its famously buggy delay function, which relied on machine speed. To slow the game down, the game read the desired delay between the frames from a text file.

To add all the features we wanted in the full version, Kapa worked hard to draw all the animation frames, SepuLaci created lots of animations and meticulously added extra details, while I searched all my Pascal handbooks to write and copy-paste code to get the sound and animations working as intended. We also added a simple setup utility with an interface inspired by Windows 95, so there were no need to edit config files manually anymore.

At the end of November 1998, Ocamel was finally released.

Reception

Although we gave away a few copies as Christmas presents to our friends, we managed to sell 3 copies that I know of, netting us a profit which could buy us about 3 hamburgers at the time. One person decided to pay with a few bars of Túrórudi, a Hungarian delicacy, to which we cheerfully agreed. We kept supporting the game with patches, with the last official DOS release on 17th February 1999 (build 32).

10th Anniversary Edition

Although DOSBox was very stable and able to run most games by 2008, it soon became evident that Ocamel was so poorly written, that no emulator could run it without bugs. To resurrect the game, I decided to port it to C++. I wanted the port to be the authentic original experience, so I renamed the Pascal source file to ocamel.cpp and changed the syntax line by line. Even after taking great care to port it accurately, I had to fix a few buffer overflow bugs to run it without crashing. It was actually amazing that the game has ever worked.

The old Pascal code had a few bits which were copy-pasted from other libraries, notably the FLI animation player, so this time around, I had to write one myself. The only other change that I made was to port the graphics, sound and input code over to SDL. To make the secret cheats accessible and to pay tribute to the original setup utility, I created a very similar launcher screen as well.

Sound playback was tricky, as the number which set the pitch didn’t seem to make any sense, so I ended up writing a custom re-sampler full of magic numbers.

The Ocamel 10th Anniversary Edition was completed on 16th January 2009, and distributed free to the original developers and friends who were interested. The launcher interface was developed in Turbo C++ Explorer, a free product that has since been discontinued. To date, there is no cross-platform port of the game.

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