THEC64 Winter Game Development Competition 2020
Game entries and news
The results are in!
It was a tough choice to decide upon the winner and runner up for THEC64 Winter Game Development Competition 2020. Our judges narrowed the list to four, two of which ended up as equal first place!
As we simply couldn’t decide the overall winner, so the developers of Cheesy Trials (by Hewco) and Oy Up! (by Arlasoft) will both receive a full size THEC64 and a micro switch joystick. You may download these two, and all other games, below.
We’d like to congratulate the authors for their winning entries, and thank all entrants for their hard work, amazing work in fact! We also hope that our game development competition has inspired others to learn C64 and VIC20 programming, whether it’s to make games or for any other purpose imaginable.
Judging has commenced
We have started the formal judging process for this, our first game development competition. We will continue our deliberations over the coming weeks and expect that the results will be announced around the middle of January 2021. What we think of these games is only a secondary concern; it’s what you think of them that matters the most. So please don’t forget to download and play all of the entries below.
Our thanks to all of our entrants
We at Retro Games Ltd would like to thank all of the entrants for their hard work during the past weeks. You have all contributed some great software and made our first game development competition a real success.
We hoped that the competition would be fun, but also provide some inspiration to encourage younger programmers, musicians and artists to get involved too, and we’re delighted that the team behind Space Planters mentioned below included a 12 year old in its ranks. We hope Vivi has a great future ahead of her in software development.
All games are now available to enjoy, and are archived including appropriate CJM files, credits and source code. Each download is below a short game description.
A late entry
Although the deadline has past, we have allowed Ernst Neubeck to submitted his puzzle game Fold’Em 2 as we have established that there was a fault with our submission process which we were unaware of until now, and that Ernst’s game was sent before the final deadline, and also that no unfair advantage was gained for this late entry.
Fold’Em 2 has title music by Richard Bayliss and is based on an game concept by Daniel Winther. It’s a 2D top-down traditional puzzle game with simplistic though nicely presented graphics. Each level presents numerous tiles, which must be removed one-by-one to progress. The catch is that once a tile is gone, there is no going back on it, so you must carefully plan the fastest and safest route. The game starts simple and slowly introduces more puzzle elements as you go, such as directional tiles or slowly decaying blocks.
Space Station under construction
Wilfred has entered a puzzle game for the C64 called Space Planters, which is a co-operative effort featuring graphics and audio by Martin and Vivi.
You are presented with a small void of deep Space segmented into a 6×6 grid. You have two items to choose from and pressing RETURN will switch them, with fire placing it in your chosen segment.
Placing three identical items next to each other horizontally or vertically will amalgamate and consolidate them into a single space and provide an upgrade, with exception to the alien life forms who move freely. In order to get the roaming extra-terrestrials to join, you must trap them in groups of three (again horizontally or vertically). Combining Asteroids will turn the rocky masses into planets. The objective to build and create as many high specification space stations as possible, along with highly evolved planets and united alien species.
A special mention is to Vivi, who is our youngest entrant to the competition at 12 years old.
Popular VIC20 game developer Hewco has entered Cheesy Trials for the VIC20 +35K, developed with Turbo Rascal.
You control a laboratory cloned Mouse called Echo who must partake in experiments for the reward of some Cheese.
Each of the experiments is played within a 2D platform styled game, and as you work out the safest route to the cheese, more of the level will appear, or will be altered. And each nibble of Cheese must be collected within a short time limit. Once all of the cheese bits are had, an exit appears so that Echo may go to the next experiment, or even retry an experiment to see if a safer or better route is to be found.
Underwater Basket Weaving is a new one on us, and is the idea behind a game of the same name submitted by Jeffrey Daniels for the unexpanded VIC20.
It’s a simple but frantic puzzle game staring Justin Weaver written in BASIC, which may be played with joystick or keyboard. Jeffrey has developed many VIC20 games and released them through his popular website Denial.
The task is to match the multi-coloured weave shown on the right by using the correct colour coded strands and placing them in the right order. Your attempt will appear on the left of the play area. Each weave must be solved before Justin’s oxygen runs out.
Rain won’t stop play
Javier Gonzalez has entered an interesting RPG-looking 2D game called Rainfall for the VIC20 requiring an additional 16K RAM or more.
There is a small map to explore, and your task is to break down various physical barriers so that you may collect the fruit and other items before the land becomes overly sodden as precipitation accumulates around you. To do this, you have a hammer-alike tool which may be used in one of eight directions by holding fire and moving your joystick appropriately. Your health will diminish if you stay in a waterlogged area for too long, so you will need to move quickly and demolish any barriers as rapidly as possible.
Taking a fall
Majikeyric has submitted his second game called Fall for the VIC20 +8K. It features the same smooth scrolling (this time vertically) as Jump mentioned below.
Fall is a single player game (though may be played with two humans on a single keyboard) which has a split play area. Two matchstick men are falling down a seemingly infinite well and are clinging to the slippery walls as best as they can. Chainsaws are below them on each side of the well. The task is to avoid these fatal chainsaws by switching to the opposing wall by using the keyboard or joystick which maps the left and right fire buttons to the left and right wells, which is something of a novel innovation for VIC20 software.
As THEC64 and THEVIC20 allows you to map two joysticks in VIC20 mode, you may turn this into a co-operative game using the CMJ file, and map the left player controlled with the Z key to the fire button of joystick 1 and the right player controlled with the N key to the fire button of joystick 2. The same may be done with Majikeyric’s other entry Jump. For details on how to do this, please consult our user manual which may be downloaded here.
Gurce Isikyildiz has submitted Cheeky Monkey for the unexpanded VIC20, a platform and ladders game in which you guide a coconut-throwing Primate to the top of the food chain.
Starting at the bottom, five Monkeys are above you, each attempting to stop your progression by hurling coconuts in your general direction. Whilst avoiding the projectiles you must retaliate with your own using your best throwing arm. To do this, use the joystick fire button and left or right as required, or up. If throwing your coconuts upwards, note that it may return and knock you out. Also, throwing a coconut at the side of the play area will mean that they rebound.
Cheeky Monkey has nice use of the VIC20 palette and a simple title tune and sound effects and is Gurce’s first attempt at a 100% machine code game.
Our second C64 entry is courtesy of Arlasoft, which is based upon a Japanese Sega MegaDrive game called
Oy up is derived from the ever popular Tetris. From the top of a well, two beans will steadily fall, the order of which may be swapped. The task is to match up these by colour linking them in a chain of four or more either horizontally or vertically or both.
Oy up may be played against a computer controlled opponent or a human player. The winner of each round is the first to clear their corresponding well.
Run and jump
We have a second entry for the VIC20 (which requires an additional 8K of RAM) called Jump submitted by Majikeyric.
Jump is a twist on the one button runner style games popular on mobile devices. But rather than just one player, you control two in a split-screen affair. And if you want to play it as a co-operative two-player game, you may do so by huddling around the keyboard.
Using the keyboard or THEC64 Joystick, you must time each leap for both players to navigate a randomly generated terrain ahead.
Jump has smooth pixel scrolling (not easy to do on a VIC20 by all accounts) along with nicely animated runners.
Jason Justian has submitted a game for the unexpanded VIC20 called Sub Med. You take control of a Submarine and you’re task is to deliver medical supplies to manned bases on the seabed. This task is complicated by an abundance of sea life; and whilst the Schools of fish are not instantly deadly, it will slow down your progress and deplete your oxygen supply more rapidly should they get in your way.
As you play, the bases requiring medical supplies are further away, meaning that you must quickly find the best route as your oxygen supply isn’t replenished until you have returned to base to collect the next lot of medical supplies.
Our first entry is in
Steveboy has entered an ambitious game which works in C64 mode and is written entirely in BASIC. As you may expect, Ghost Busters BASIC pays homage to the classic Ghostbusters game released in 1984 released by Activision.
Ghost Busters BASIC is a somewhat cut-down variant on Activision’s movie tie-in but with some additional gameplay elements. It requires well-timed reactions to beat it. Like the original, you are tasked with responding to Slimer attacks at various locations to make money for your creditors. During play the City PKE is increasing and once this is above a certain limit you must sneak two of your crew past the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man to then close the gates to Zuul and save the City from impending doom.
A trainer is included in the game, so that you may learn each of its different elements, and/or start with extra credit.
VIC Snake released
VIC Snake is an example VIC20 game which requires +8K or more of additional RAM. It’s a conversion from a C64 game called PET Snake which was developed in 2019 using THEC64 Mini and CBM PRG Studio for Microsoft Windows.
Whilst VIC Snake is unlikely to set the gaming world on fire, it shows that in a short time you can create perfectly playable BASIC games (note that it is not an entry into the competition). The version here is unprotected, and so you may use RUN/STOP and RESTORE to break into the program and list it. It is mostly optimised and may give you some ideas of how to save memory and/or create fast games using only the BASIC interpreter.
If you would like the source code for VIC Snake, please email us and we will provide it for you.
Please note that the competition is now closed for entries
The following sections are left here for historical purposes.
We’re inviting all C64 and VIC20 developers to compete in our first Winter Game Development Competition. First prize is a new THEC64 with an additional boxed THEC64 Microswitch Joystick, and the runner up will receive a THEC64 Mini with an additional boxed THEC64 Microswitch Joystick.
The competition is open to all, but we’re keen to encourage under-18s to enter. Should we receive a sufficient number of entries from under-18s then we will open two categories: 14-17 years and 13 and under which will be judged separately. Remember that Matthew Smith developed Manic Miner when he was 16, and our very own Chris Smith (no relation) developed Cybex when he was just 15! So if you have children, get them involved and encourage them to create their own 8-bit masterpiece.
You may begin to submit your entries from Friday 6th November 2020. All entries must be received by Friday 11th December 2020 before 23:59 GMT. To enter, notify us by email using firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line Entry: (name) where (name) is the name of your game. You may share your work with us using storage solutions such as Google Drive, or other file sharing tools like WeTransfer. If you have a question or would like further clarification, please email with the subject line Support request.
Please note that whilst the competition is not intended to be a commercial venture, we would like to include the winning entry (or entries should we have multiple age groups) and the 2nd place entry on a future firmware update. By entering, you agree and consent to your game being considered for a future firmware update, which we provide at no additional charge to owners of THEC64, THEC64 Mini and THEVIC20. The prizes offered are not meant as a financial inducement, but to show our appreciation to the winning entrants. All copyright and intellectual properties will be retained by the entrants.
Rules and criteria document
Tutorials and resources
There is a wealth of information available online regarding Commodore C64 and VIC20 programming and games development. For our competition, you may use Commodore BASIC, use 6502 assembly language, or use a high-level language which will compile to C64 or VIC20 executables, such as Turbo Rascal.
How to display a score with 6502 assembly
For those interested in 6502 assembly, we think that the YouTube channel 8-Bit Show and Tell has some excellent tutorial examples; the channel covers BASIC programming as well.
Have a look for yourself as channel host Robin Harbron explains how to create a visual scoring routine in 6502 assembly using the assembler Turbo Macro Pro:
Other useful online resources include CodeBase 64 for C64 programming, or the TechTinkering blog has a quick overview to beginning 6502 assembly for the VIC20, written by Lawrence Woodman available here.
Planning your game
When it comes to making a game, or pretty much anything that you want to develop for a computer system, it’s always a good idea to get some ideas onto paper of what you want to achieve before you start the process of developing it, and that’s a useful starting point whether you intend to use low-level languages such as assembly, or high level language such Tubro Rascal or BASIC. Sketching out your ideas will give you a clearer idea of how the game mechanics will work, such as what objects will be in your final production and how the player interacts with them and the game world that you have created. But beyond this, when you get to the nitty gritty of coding, here are some top tips that for you:
- Break your development down into small and manageable segments that you can easily test to prove that each chunk is working.
- Make sure those chunks are fit for purpose, and when you’re happy, move onto the next segment of work.
- Use version control so you may both track the changes to your production, and also roll back to the last working iteration should that be necessary.
- Try to stick to what you what to achieve only, so that you don’t spend time developing unnecessary features.
- Take a break if you are struggling with a bug. Make a hot drink or take a 15 minute walk or something else to get away from the screen.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help via the various C64 and VIC20 groups online, or discuss any bugs that you’re struggling to solve. Often talking about bugs helps you to fix them easier.