Skip to main content

Bug Hunter in Space

In 1987, Acorn launched the Archimedes home computer. At the time, it was the fastest desktop computer in the world, and at the time, I was fortunate enough to have one to experiment with.

The Archimedes was great, but it never really took off commercially. However, it was built around the ARM processor, which Acorn had designed itself when it could not find any existing processors suitable for its 32-bit ambitions. The ARM processor was a masterpiece of simple and intuitive design, and its still around today, with most of the instruction set pretty much unchanged. In fact, you've probably got one in your pocket right now. Its design makes it process very efficiently on low energy intake, and hence it is estimated that about 98% of all mobile phones contain an ARM chip. Over 10 billion ARM chips have been shipped, and they outnumber Intel's long running x86 series of chips by a factor of about 5 to 10.

I had learned programming on the BBC Model B, and when we got the Archimedes it was a massive upgrade and I spent a lot of time devising computer games. At first these were in BBC Basic V, an interpreted language, but even with a fast processor, optimisation is very important in games, so I obtained a compiler for BBC Basic and also started learning some ARM Assembler to speed up the graphics routines. Although the Archimedes had built-in sprite routines for plotting bitmaps to the screen, bitmap plotting with ARM Assembler was much faster because you could write bitmap data straight into the video memory area with just a handful of instuction cycles.

I spent quite a lot of time sending demo floppy disks to the companies that published games for the Archimedes at that time (Clares Micro, Superior Software, Minerva) and after many rejection letters, Minerva software agreed to publish a game of mine, 'Bug Hunter' in May 1990. The sequel, 'Bug Hunter In Space', followed soon after that, in November of the same year.



There weren't that many Archimedes users around to actually buy the game, but it was still great to have something published. I still have the reviews that appeared in Acorn User and other magazines in a scrapbook. And developing games was great fun, a mixture of coding (everything had to be fast), graphic design (everything had to look nice) and psychology (the puzzles had to have the right level of difficulty). Writing the games also gave me some real world experience of the end-to-end development of a project, at around the same time that I sat my GCSEs.

The Archimedes is long gone now (production ceased in 1992) but there is still a 'Risc-OS Community' (named after the Archimedes OS) in existence on the internet, with emulators such as Virtual Acorn and Acorn clone machines such as the Iyonix PC and the A9Home.

Bug Hunter in Space is one of those games people seem to remember, so it still gets mentioned here and there. A lot of old games have become freeware now, so a couple of years ago I got back in touch with the people from Minerva who had originally published the game, and they were happy to let Bug Hunter in Space go freeware (as long as it is distributed intact with the original attributions etc).

So if you happen to have an Archimedes/RISC-OS emulator, you can download the games for free here:

Bug Hunter In Space (Original 'adf' Disc Image)
Bug Hunter In Space (Extracted and modified for later Risc-OS versions)
Bug Hunter (Original 'adf' Disc Image)
Bug Hunter (Extracted and modified for later Risc-OS versions)

Also, in the unlikely event that you want the original boxed version, RetroGames currently have a copy on sale for £35 : )

Comments

ReturnOfNights said…
Hello Ian, I think it's time that someone (me) makes a remake of your Bug Hunter, I plan on keeping it with the same graphics but available to play on Windows, Linux, PSP, Wii etc etc. I had seen this game when I was little and forgotten the name of it until earlier tonight I discovered it after another attempt at googling after it. Anyway please contact me at nightwolf_glc@hotmail.com so I can discuss a few things with you.
Unknown said…
Hi There,

I was looking to try and find a copy of Bug Hunter in Space to show the kids what real gaming pleasure was!

I saw your comment and wondered if you ever made a new version of this awesome game!!!

Regards,
Jon
Ian said…
Hi Jon, thanks for the compliment! Plans are afoot for a mobile version but it might be another year or so. In the meantime I have a puzzle game called Numplussed out - see http://numplussed.com or @codeulikegames on twitter.
David G said…
Hi Ian,

Just want to say thanks for making Bug Hunter In Space. I feel really old by saying that I played this in primary school (some 25 years ago) on the Archimedes. Why we had the game I have no idea but it was there on the desktop.

Not played it since then but I'll be trying to find a way to do so soon enough. Be nice if we can get the mobile version soon though :)
tallpaul45 said…
Hi

Have you got a copy of the BBC Acorn User review you can post?
Ian said…
Hi Tallpaul45, I think I have, in the attic somewhere, will try and get it down and scan it one day.
Unknown said…
Still hoping that Bug Hunter 3 makes an appearance one day. :)

Popular posts from this blog

Copying data to Salesforce Sandboxes using TalenD

A common problem with Salesforce Developer Sandboxes is that they are blank. Really you're going to want some data in there, so there are various strategies for copying data from your live instance to the Sandbox. There are some paid-for solutions - SFXOrgData , Salesforce Partial Data Sandboxes - but if you've got a decent ETL tool you can build your own. There are a bunch of free ETL tools for Salesforce: JitterBit Data Loader is good for quick ad-hoc tasks but the free version makes it difficult to manage specific ETL projects or share projects with other users Pentaho Community Edition - an open source edition of the enterprise version Apatar was a free open source Salesforce ETL which still works but development seems to have stopped since 2011 TalenD Open Studio is an open source ETL tool For the task of copying data from live to a Sandbox, either Pentaho or TalenD Open Studio could be used, depending on preference. Here's a good comparison of the dif

SSRS multi-value parameters with less fail

SSRS supports multi-value parameters, which is nice, but there are a few issues with them. This is how I deal with them. Two of the problems with SSRS multi-value parameters are: You have to jump through a few hoops to get them to work with stored procedures The (Select All) option, as shown above The reason the (Select All) option is a problem is that it is a really inelegant way of saying 'this parameter does not matter to me'. If you have a list with hundreds of values, passing all of them as a default option just seems wrong. Also, if your report shows the user which items they selected, printing the whole list when they choose (Select All) is excessive. So in this post I'm going to show my particular way of: Jumping through the hoops to get Multi-Value params in a stored procedure Adding a single '--All--' value that the report interprets as meaning all the options. Getting Multi-Value params to work with Stored Procedures This is

Remote Desktop on High DPI screens

Scott Hanselman wrote a nice blog post back in January about some of the issues you might face running Windows on a High DPI screen like that of a Surface Pro or Lenova Yoga. I'm kindof mystified that he didn't mention Remote Desktop though because thats been the number one problem for me on High DPI screens. That said, if you remote into very recent Server OS's like Windows Server 2012 R2, then apparently Remote Desktop will sort out the DPI scaling automatically. Perhaps Scott hadn't noticed the Remote Desktop issue because he only remotes into Server 2012 R2. Certainly if I was Scott, I wouldn't remote into anything less than that. But, in practice, I regularly have to remote into Server 2008 machines and yes even Server 2003. If you do that from a high DPI screen, the remote desktop is rendered at regular pixel size, which makes everything tiny. Its hard to show screenshots of High DPI screens that correctly convey the pixel size, so I've photoshoppe