After having completed Warp 1.5 I felt I had to try something a little
more innovative. You don't become famous by playing it safe, and
Warp 1.5 had been a very safe game. It was just an elegant
mixture of old techniques. Now the time had come for a bigger and more
Urbanoids is a combination of two games originally appearing on the Commodore 64
(three if you count the music). Most veteran game players should recognize the
first -- Paradroid, written by Andrew Braybrook for Hewson, 1985.
The other is a lot more esoteric -- Siren City, by Ian Gray for
Interceptor Software, 1983.
The basic gameplay comes from Paradroid, but the scenery (at least above ground)
is inspired purely by Siren City. I found both games interesting for their time.
Of course, game standards completely skyrocketed during their two-year gap.
Paradroid is vastly superior in almost every sense, but somehow lacked the
eerie feeling of moving around in a (relatively) big city with no people.
I wanted both. You've seen the result.
Since Urbanoids would not take place on a spaceship hundreds of years
from now, but rather in a city only a few months into the next
millennium, the robots would have to look a bit more down-to-earth than
the space-age contraptions Andrew Braybrook had put into his game.
Thinking about it, I recalled a BASIC programming book I had read some
15 years ago. It had contained several illustrations of "robots" that
looked almost as if they could work.
The book was long out of print, in all languages, but fortunately
one of the city libraries keeps a copy of everything that's published
in this country. I couldn't take it home with me, but photocopying was allowed.
(The copy clerk seemed a bit confused when I told him which pages
|A bowler robot. One of many late '70s creations by
The illustrations were a great source of inspiration, except that
those robots looked a little too much like something that had been
put together in a lab by some geeky engineering students. I needed robots
that you'd guess had been bought in the nearest hardware store.
I think I managed that part reasonably well. (At the time of writing
I still have several more robots planned. Luckily the game is easily
In case you are wondering about the cartoony look of the game, with
black contours around just about everything, I decided very early during
the planning stage on a unified design that would make it clear that the
game didn't take itself too seriously. The graphics would have to
fit the somewhat ridiculous context.
|A few assorted robots from the original Paradroid,
designed by Andrew Braybrook himself.|
Quite a few of the special features in this game, like the little
statistics pages (or scorecards if you prefer), seemed a lot more convenient
to keep outside of the Java applet and leave them to the
browser itself. The game would simply be too big to fit snugly into
an applet. That's why I decided on a separate page with a combination
of frames for holding everything. The ideal solution would have been
dynamic HTML, but since Netscape and Explorer can't seem to agree on
a common standard and not everyone is using version 4 browsers anyway,
that wasn't an option.
|One of my own robots.|
I still wanted to contain the game in some sort of control panel. This
required finding a way of getting around some annoying Netscape bugs.
(See the Layout page for details.)