Part 17: FredMSloniker - SkydiverLet's Play Skydiver!
July 1983, Issue 1, Volume 1, Number 1
Compute!'s Gazette was, as Chokes McGee failed to mention (watch me take up your slack, Chokes!), a spinoff of the magazine Compute!, which was in turn a descendant of the PET Gazette, a magazine focused on the Commodore PET. In this regard, it was something of a full-circle return to their roots. Compute! continued running for several more years, covering different computers as they fell out of and into favor, though the type-in programs ended in 1988. In their July '83 issue, they had seven type-in games, four of which had versions for Commodore machines and two of which, 'Goblin' (a game about collecting sad faces and avoiding obstacles) and 'Rats!' (a first-person maze game), had versions for the Commodore 64.
Compute!'s Gazette also had two games in this issue. One of them, 'Snake Escape', is, naturally, a snake game. (The things are all over the place in the history of video games, from the humblest terminals to today's phones.) The other is 'Skydiver'.
The object of the game is simple. Choosing one of three targets of varying width, you jump from your plane and attempt to land on your chosen target, dealing with a crosswind of varying strength and direction. Succeed, and you get points, 150 for your first successful jump (multiplied by 2, 5, or 10, depending on the target you choose), increasing by 50 points for each further successful jump. Miss, land on the wrong target, or get blown off the side of the screen, and you lose one of your three men. The game doesn't actually get any more difficult as time goes on, so a good player could play until they get bored or unlucky.
Have a video (careful: loud, obnoxious noise):
What's Good: Uh... it's simple to play?
What's Bad: I'm not even going to get into the gameplay here, because in order to get to the gameplay, I had to deal with all the frustrations of a type-in program and more besides. First off, the Automatic Proofreader was introduced in Issue 4. That means that, when I made typos (and of course I made typos), I didn't get any sort of instant notification; I had to go back after the program crashed or did something wrong again and again and again and track them down. In addition, two lines in the program (10100 and 50028) were long enough they gave me issues typing them in. The Commodore 64 has a limit of 80 characters in a line of BASIC, and the first one hit this exactly, placing the cursor on the next line where pressing Enter didn't actually enter the line. The second one actually went over; many of the keywords in Commodore BASIC could be entered in an abbreviated form, but they'd be expanded when you listed the program, so I had to look up the abbreviations to enter the full line!
That's the sort of thing that comes with the territory. Then, however, I started running into issues that were not my fault. One issue, some missing spaces in a line, was called out in Issue 3's 'Bug-Swatter' section. Most of the others, however, came from the program having been ported from the VIC-20, a computer with a much narrower screen (22 characters instead of 40), and, as far as I can tell, not tested at all. Cursor locations for selecting a difficulty level were out of place, but that didn't matter, because you couldn't select a difficulty level anyway, since the test for the fire button was wrong. (You could still play because, if you don't choose a difficulty level in time, the computer selects one randomly.) A part of the code intended to have your skydiver fall straight down until his parachute deployed moved the character 22 places through video memory instead of 40, causing him to dance across the screen like video snow and making actually choosing your jumping point an exercise in futility. The coordinates for actually landing on targets were both too narrow (as the targets were made wider to compensate for the C64's narrower characters) and, in the case of what should have been the easiest target, nowhere close to the actual target! And that's just the game-breaking stuff. In the end, I realized I was spending too much time polishing this turd and got it to the point where you can, at least, play a complete game without mishap.
(Someone get the AGDQ/TAS folks on this.)