Cyningstan DOS Games

Games for Early PCs

The Anarchic Kingdom: Making it Pretty

Starting with your barony in Anarchic Kingdom
Starting with your barony in Anarchic Kingdom

Wednesday, 9th June 2021

The original Demesne was to run on a computer that had a screen of 640x240 pixels in 16 greyscales. I had conceived a graphical art style that put most of the action on a tapestry hung on a castle wall. Menus would have buttons styled after scrolls of parchment, and player selection was by choosing a coat of arms hung on the castle wall. The eventual target platform for The Anarchic Kingdom, an 8088 PC with 320x200 pixels in 4 colours, suited a more simplistic art style but I kept many of the same elements: the tapestry and the coats of arms in particular.

I'd recently spent time looking at the Bayeux Tapestry, an embroidery that tells the story of the Norman conquest of England in 1066. I'd also been looking extensively at 4-colour CGA Palettes, and found that one would suit the tapestry art style very well. The darker green, red and brown palette is often used in games with a black background, but CGA allows the black to be replaced with any of its 16 colours. A white background looks very pleasing, and suits the tapestry art style very well. So I decided to go with that for the game.

As an occasional break from working on the scrolling text version of the game, I mocked up a few screens using the palette I'd chosen and eventually drew all the assets. The idea of a tapestry filled with castles, knights, footmen, farms, towns and markets came from the original Demesne game. The idea was that the tapestry for your barony would look more impressive as it grew, featuring more and larger elements. The idea for a large city on the horizon to depict your overall ranking also came from Demesne, and originally from the palace you build in Civilization.

Finally the time came to join the graphics to the game. This went pretty smoothly. I developed the CGALIB Graphics Library last year to make it easy to develop turn-based, tile-based games for CGA. In a fit of laziness I relied way too much of full-screen refreshes, but on finding that this made the game too sluggish on an (emulated) 8088 at 4.77 MHz I streamlined things a bit. Data entry can still be a little laggy and there are some awkward pauses, but the game is now very playable on such a machine.

With a fully graphical playable game, the time had come to give it a proper test. I'll describe how that went next week.


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