A game is born

The year is 2020 and the world is facing the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced lockdowns around the globe. Brazil was no exception and families had to adapt to having schools closed and people working from home. After a couple of weeks of that new reality, my son Rafael, then nine years old, turned to me and said “Dad, this lockdown is so boring, there’s nothing interesting to do”. To which I promptly replied “Let’s make a video game then!”.

He stared at me wondering if we could really make a game. So I prompted him to come up with an idea for the game and I’d promised to try my best to make it a reality by learning game programming. Rafael had no trouble in quickly creating the basic concept for a video game staged in deep space. The game would have a lonely astronaut who was on a space mission when his spaceship breaks down and blows out. Having been able to escape from certain death, our hero finds himself without much resources beyond his jetpack to move through space and a force shield to protect himself from the perils ahead. So, he starts a desperate journey back to Earth, looking for supplies along the way while dodging meteors amongst other space objects and threatening aliens. I was amazed! My 9yr son created a game plot before my eyes!

Then I asked him to draw on paper what the game would look like, which he did in no time. The next move was to name our hero and the game itself. Thus, Peter S. Pace was named and the game Starman was conceived.

Gameplay as seen by Rafael

The ball was in my court then and so I decided to program the game for the ZX Spectrum Next, which would give an opportunity to learn NextBASIC and the new hardware features of this amazing machine. Being a kid in the 80’s and a ZX Spectrum user as well, I’d have a chance to prove myself I could make a game, which I thought I’d never be capable of back in the day.

Fast forward to April 2022, after some periods of inactivity, Starman is still in development and is due to be completed within a few months. I’ll try to write here about what I learnt in the process of making Starman and how some pieces got together, so others could benefit from my experience and also enjoy the game more once it is released.