18
Jan
16

Xerix for DOS

The past week here the temperature has been hot, very hot. When it’s over 40 degrees every day it’s difficult to do much more than rest under a fan, unless of course you have air conditioning. Not even playing a computer game is on the books when it’s that hot, but luckily a cool change came through recently providing relief, so today I took the opportunity to play a game which is called Xerix.

XerixXerix was made in 1992 by Brenden Reville who at the time was 15 years old. It is probably one of the better examples of a teenage-made home-brew game. Whilst not being up to the same standards of commercial or professional shareware from the era, it does have some decent features, partly due to the libraries used in its development.

The Xerix Story

The Xerix Story

The graphics support is VGA in both colour and monochrome (64 level grey-scale). Obviously the colour graphics are better, the grey scale graphics suffer from objects being difficult to differentiate. I’d say it simply uses a graphics filter rather than having a separate graphic set. In terms of artistry the graphics are quite good, with nicely drawn sprites and animations, although within each level there isn’t a whole heap of variety.

The sound system supports PC Speaker, Ad Lib, and Sound Blaster devices. Sound effects are fairly basic, but the music is much more developed. It’s not amazing, but reasonably good, it is played during the title and story sequences but not during levels oddly.

The first Boss

The first Boss

The game-play is probably the part that could have used the most work. The controls work quite well, but the enemies are quite simplistic. There are two basic enemies, a ball that bounces up and down the screen towards you (sometimes at speed) and stationary turrets that shoot along the diagonals.

Yet more story...

Yet more story…

The bouncy balls move exceptionally quick and seem to have a random initial speed and angle. They move so fast that it is often a matter of luck whether you’ll be able to dodge them or not. The turrets behave much more reasonably, being much easier to avoid shots. However the graphic for the turret isn’t obviously one and is used in places where no turret is programmed into the level.

Balls!

Balls!

There are only two levels, each ending with a boss, which are both essentially balls that move extremely quickly in a pattern. The only danger they offer is collision with them, so once you work out the pattern they aren’t terribly hard.

The Second Boss.

The Second Boss.

Unfortunately this is another game where one hit results in your death, and it will happen frequently. Enemies that are destroyed remain on screen for a moment whilst they explode and remain dangerous whilst they do. If you play in the expert difficulty level you only get a few lives (with no feedback about how many) so you don’t last long, but luckily there is a Novice difficulty level with unlimited lives.

I know it sounds like I don’t think the author did a good job, but I’m holding the game to standards of game-play that we’d expect from a professional developer, as most people playing it would. The truth is it’s really quite a good effort for a 15 year old high school student, some-one who would be new to making games.

Victory!

Victory!

Something that does shine as quite exceptional is the technical aspects of this game. The graphics animate and scroll smoothly and the sound system performs quite well. Normally it would take quite some time to write the code needed to drive the graphics and sound, but the author has opted to use some external libraries, in this case Fastgraph and the Creative Labs developer kit. I think that this was a good idea, as it must have saved development time and allowed more effort to be put into the art for the game. This is generally the norm for games developed with modern tools.

Death!

Death!

Whilst this isn’t a game you’d play and enjoy on the same level as a commercial or shareware release, it is exceptionally good for a home-brew game made by a student. You have to remember that little information about game programming was readily available and making this would have taken considerable effort.

 

 

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