At the beginning of 2011, I hacked C64DTV that was gathering dust in my closet for years. After I flashed much better games from the fixed DTV games repository, I proudly presented the hack to my co-workers. We fell into the discussion about how the games were made in the old days and how their creators were the real programmers, using dirty tricks in assembly to overcome the restrictions of the early gaming hardware. Soon I made a bet with a junior co-worker to create a game in assembly.

I was free to choose any system and any kind of a game. Since I never programmed for the Commodore 64 and I felt it would be cool to have my game flashed on the joystick, I didn’t need to think twice about the system. However, choosing the game was a whole different story. I didn’t want to lose too much time coding a game and I didn’t want to pick up Pong or a similar game, which I thought was expected. I wanted something easy but fun. After a lot of thinking, I remembered laughing at a review of fake retro games at Ashen’s Tech Dump. I immediately chose Vinnie Vole’s Existential Nightmare, even though it has a distinctive ZX Spectrum look, but hey, conversions were done in the old days, too. 🙂

Being a newbie at C64 programming, I soon started learning from the resources found on C64 Codebase Wiki, then ripped graphics by making screenshots from the video. I thought this was a nightmare but the real nightmare was programming the MOS 6510. I was at the brink of giving up because of the lack of 16-bit arithmetic, next I struggled with the line-drawing. In the end, I admitted to myself I am no real programmer and cheated by using the pre-rendered room. I also didn’t include any sound. Still, I managed to complete the game on time, winning the bet, and co-workers had fun playing it.

You can download the game and its source code here. You need either a real C64 or emulator to run it, Kick Assembler to assemble the sources, and Exomizer to crunch the binary.

Update: A year later, the game was repacked as a witty crack by the C64 group Dinasours and released at the prestige X demo party. You can download it from the C64 scene database or here. Dinasours are famous for weird releases and Vinnie Vole really complements them well.

Below is the game recreated in Flash if you don’t like to bother with C64: