Cyningstan DOS Games

Games for Early PCs

Latest Updates

A Burst of Speed: Barren Planet Progress in May


1 Jun: After a couple of months of slow progress or no progress, May was a refreshing change, with progress on a number of fronts in Barren Planet . Play-by-mail games are now fully implemented, leaving me to get on with a number of other aspects of the game. I've begun planning of the computer player. The easy way would just be to adopt the computer player from The World at Strife, and port it to Barren Planet. But that ... (read more...)

Barren Planet: April Progress


7 May: April was another slow month for progress on Barren Planet . But at least, last month, nothing went backwards! Most of the work was done around play-by-mail play, which has been giving me a great deal of trouble. I reimplemented the play-by-mail functionality to the extent that it almost worked. A game would be correctly generated (without crashing) when the first turn file was received by a remote player. Then the two  players could play through a whole ... (read more...)

Drawing Graphics for Monochrome Compatibility


6 Apr: I'm no artist. That's one of the reasons why I target my games to a machine with a 4-colour screen. Give me 4 colours and a 16x16 pixel canvas, and I can just about manage to draw a decent sprite. Give me a modern resolution with 16 million colours, and I am quite lost. As I practice drawing mockups and assets, I am learning a few things, though. One of the lessons learned is what to do and ... (read more...)

Source Code Available for The Anarchic Kingdom


3 Apr: The source code for The Anarchic Kingdom  has been uploaded to Github . If you're curious about how the game works, you can browse the source code at its Github repository . If you want to tinker with the game mechanics or create your own variant, you're welcome to clone or fork the repository and have at it! The Github repository is at . The README file tells you how to build the project on your own ... (read more...)

A Slow Month for Barren Planet


2 Apr: Progress on Barren Planet was slow during March and nothing much was achieved. In fact, some aspects of development went backwards. I continued development on the play-by-mail functionality for a while, but it turns out there was a fundamental bug in the generation of turn files, resulting in random corruption of the game data. Since the OpenWatcom tools lack a debugger that works for DOS, I was unable to find where the actually was - it's really like ... (read more...)

A New Palette Chart


1 Apr: A new version of the CGA Palette Chart is available. This shows all of the full four-colour palettes available on a PC with a CGA card and an RGB monitor. Now in its third iteration, the CGA Palette Chart has become a project in itself. The original showed just the four colours of each palette. The second edition improved on this to show some of the extra colours and shades available through dithering. This third edition is expanded ... (read more...)

Performance Improvements, Bug Fixes, Play-by-Mail


4 Mar: During February there has been progress in a variety of areas in Barren Planet . The New Game screen was taking a long time to appear, unacceptably long on slower machines. Every campaign and every game was being loaded in full to gather information about the campaigns and saved games available. This was unnecessary, and the New Game screen just checks the summary details of campaigns and games to make up its display. Some bugs were introduced and ... (read more...)

Barren Planet Hot-seat Functionality is Complete!


5 Feb: There's been a lot of progress on Barren Planet in recent weeks, so I thought I'd give you a February update. Although there are probably lots of bugs and oversights left to fix, the functionality for a 2-player hot-seat game is now complete. The turn report I mentioned in the last update was completed. Now, at the start of your turn, you will be offered a chance to see a replay of your opponent's turn, including all unit ... (read more...)

New Year Progress on Barren Planet


22 Jan: After taking a break from the project in December, I'm back at work on Barren Planet . The game is coming along well, although there are few changes that could be detected in a screenshot. A minor feature that took an inordinate amount of time is the brief animation you see when one unit attacks another. It took quite a bit of effort but you can now you can clearly see the results of the attack, including any ... (read more...)

Refactoring Barren Planet


3 Oct: I've been doing some more work on Barren Planet lately. Reviewing the code after an absence of a few months, and after the release of The Anarchic Kingdom , I came to the conclusion that it's more complicated than it needs to be. This has made bug tracking somewhat complicated. To remedy this, I'll be going through the code, simplifying it and tidying it up (as programmers call it, "refactoring") so that it more resembles the standard I set in ... (read more...)

The Anarchic Kingdom: Release, Publicity and Lessons Learned


23 Jun: I released The Anarchic Kingdom on Saturday 22nd May. This was quite a bit of work, and required some preparation beforehand. Firstly I had to do some last minute development tweaks. The beta time limit was removed. I also developed a version that never quits, but simply restarts, which is necessary for the game to be played in an embedded web page where you don't want to see the DOS prompt. These were simple and relatively painless. Then ... (read more...)

The Anarchic Kingdom: Trying it Out


16 Jun: The DOS Spring Game Jam is pretty relaxed about timing. It's not a competitive jam, so participants are welcome to start development early, or even submit things that they have been working on for a while. I took advantage of this leniency by implementing The Anarchic Kingdom in the month before the jam, and then reserving the month of the jam for testing. This went mainly to plan. Some testing of the text mode version was done during ... (read more...)

The Anarchic Kingdom: Making it Pretty


9 Jun: 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 ... (read more...)

The Anarchic Kingdom: a Simple Idea for a Game Jam


2 Jun: Last year I had hoped to develop a strategy game in a month, for the DOS Fall Game Jam 2020 . I chose a wargame project I'd implemented on the Psion, The World at Strife , thinking that reimplementing a game I'd already written wouldn't be too difficult a job. But I found in retrospect that it was hopelessly ambitious for a one-month game jam. That game is still in development and will eventually become Barren Planet. For ... (read more...)

The Anarchic Kingdom: from the Dev Diary


26 May: Now that The Anarchic Kingdom is out of the door, it's time to look back over the development process and share it with those who are interested. You'd think that such a simple game would have a short development life. But development of this game started in about 2006, on a different platform. Back then I was interested in developing for the Psion Series 5 , a once popular handheld computer that had become obsolete half a decade ... (read more...)

Anarchy Reigns! A New Game Release


22 May: After three weeks of beta testing, The Anarchic Kingdom has been released! This is a light strategy game in which eight baronies fight for dominance of the kingdom during the minority of a child king. The baronies have twelve months to vie for supremacy, and the largest barony at the end of the game will gain the ear of the young king. The game supports one to eight players. Any of the eight baronies that are not controlled ... (read more...)

The Anarchic Kingdom in Third Week of Testing


15 May: The forthcoming game The Anarchic Kingdom is going into a third week of beta testing. Playtesting of beta versions 1 and 2 eventually exposed a dominant strategy that would allow a single human player to achieve regular runaway victories over the computer player. By just buying and attacking with the maximum number of knights, challenge was eliminated early in the game and the player could easily take half of all the land by the end. Two gameplay changes ... (read more...)

The Anarchic Kingdom Enters Second Week of Beta Testing


8 May: The forthcoming game The Anarchic Kingdom is entering its second week of beta testing. The first week of beta testing highlighted a few bugs, which have been fixed in the latest test version. Gameplay has shown that the game is reasonably well balanced. More practice with the game increases the player's skill to a point where it is usually possible to come out on top against the computer players, though not guaranteed. So a luck element still provides ... (read more...)

The Anarchic Kingdom: a New Game Coming Soon


1 May: A new game from Cyningstan is on the way! The Anarchic Kingdom is a quick and simple strategy game for DOS PCs, and has entered its beta test phase today. Time-limited test versions are being distributed to members of our Discord server, which everyone is welcome to join. The game has been written for the DOS Games Spring Jam 2021 , and it should be ready for release some time in May. The premise of the game is ... (read more...)

Building a Dungeon Level


28 Apr: I've been building a dungeon generator library for use in future projects, called LevelMap. A further development of the dungeon generator used in Ossuary , this library will give more variation in dungeon shape and construction than we see in Ossuary. Ossuary's dungeon creator works on grids at two levels. At its most detailed, it has a strict 16x16 tile dungeon. That space is split up into nine cells on a 3x3 grid. Each cell of 4x4 tiles ... (read more...)

A Palette Selector


24 Apr: A recent thread on our Twitter account about CGA palettes resulted in a new graphic to show all the different 4-colour palettes available in the 320x200 graphics mode. It's an improvement on the simpler design I been using for the past six years, and shows what kind of dithering effects and background combinations each palette gives. I'll be using it to choose the best palette for each of my future games. It's presented here for you to save ... (read more...)

CGALIB Added to the Site


17 Apr: Eagle-eyed visitors will notice a new option on the top level menu,  Libraries . The games on this web site are all based on reusable libraries, and other developers are welcome to download those libraries and use them in their own code. The first library added to this page is the CGALIB Graphics Library . This is the graphics library used in all the Cyningstan games so far, and allows easy use of CGA 320x200 4-colour graphics in ... (read more...)

The Wargame Engine Behind Barren Planet


10 Apr: Barren Planet is based on two libraries. One is CGALIB, the graphics library used by my existing game, Ossuary . The other, CWG, provides the basic game rule mechanics behind Barren Planet and, hopefully, future games too. I want to talk about CWG in this post. CWG controls the battlefield. It defines the unit types that will be present in the battlefield, and the terrain types that will be present on the map. It holds the map itself, ... (read more...)

A Progress Update on Barren Planet


3 Apr: A while has passed since I made any visible progress on Barren Planet , so I thought I'd write a post to update everyone on what's happening with the project, and to assure you that it hasn't been forgotten. Barren Planet was naïvely intended to be a quick project for the 2020 Fall Dos Game Jam . It was based on a series of games I'd written before, which made me think that I'd easily get the project ... (read more...)

Ossuary: The End Game


20 Mar: As you appropach  Ossuary 's end game, things become a lot more difficult, and the ways of dealing with them depend upon the type of character you are playing. As a melee character with your blade and shield, you'll have had a relatively easy ride until the spectres appear. But now you have to make a choice: if your intelligence is above average, you can switch to using the wand and amulet to take on the new enemies ... (read more...)

Ossuary: Becoming a Bad-Ass Dual-Wielding Barbarian


13 Mar: One of the most fun combinations of stats in  Ossuary  is an average attack strength and a high defence skill. This will always be offset by a lack of intelligence, but it has a real benefit in the mid-game: dual wielding becomes viable. When you wield dual blades, the bonuses are added together. So if you have a high enough defence skill to forego a shield, you can keep hold of that +2 dagger when you find the ... (read more...)

Ossuary: the Role of Magic


6 Mar: As an intelligent hero trying to make a living using magic, it's easy to feel hard done by down in the Ossuary . After the dagger, you see swords and battleaxes giving +4 and +6 bonuses to brainless fighter characters, where your wand stays stubbornly at +2. While the iron shield gives the figher a +4 bonus, your amulet again is stuck at +2. But there is a more subtle bonus offered by magic, and being an intelligent ... (read more...)

Ossuary: Your First Descent


27 Feb: Some games encourage you to go into them with an attitude like "I wanna be a  WIZARD !" and let you choose what you are.  Ossuary  isn't like that. In real life we have to make sensible choices, and Ossuary is a bit like that. Your player starts out the game with a set of statistics, or natural abilities, and you probably want to look at those to decide how you'll play. There are no formal "character classes", ... (read more...)

Ossuary Development Retrospective: a Post-mortem


20 Feb: It's fair to say that the PC port of Ossuary hasn't been as successful in its early months as the Spectrum version was in 2013. The Spectrum version got a few videos in its first few months not solicited by me. So far one video has covered the PC version, but only after I made the content creator aware of the release. I did make some promotion efforts. Contrary to my previous practice, I discussed development on twitter ... (read more...)

New Twitter Account!


19 Feb: This week saw the launch of a Twitter account for Cyningstan DOS Games. Intended to promote our DOS game developments to a wider audience, this account will be bringing these games to a wider audience. There are many people developing, playing and generally enjoying retrogames on Twitter, and the new account will make it easier to engage with them, to share news, receive feedback and maybe to help put our players in touch with one another. Go ... (read more...)

Ossuary Development Retrospective: Testing and Release


13 Feb: During development I was constantly playing the game myself. But there came a time to let other people try to break the game. I tend to prefer closed beta testing, where I know who is plaing the game and can keep in touch with them to get their impressions. I did advertise publicly though, as I knew few people willing to put time into testing an early DOS game. I set up the Discord server initially as a ... (read more...)

Ossuary Development Retrospective: the Coding


6 Feb: The ZX Spectrum original was written in Z80 assembly language. That's the only way to fit a decent game into the memory of the 16Kb model. I'm not fluent in 8088 assembly language, but I am confident in C, so it made sense to use C as the development language. The 8088 is quick enough to write a turn-based game without resorting to assembly language. I started out using OpenWatcom C's own graphics library to draw the graphics. ... (read more...)

Ossuary: a Development Retrospective


30 Jan: With the launch of the DOS games web site I thought it was a good time to look back at the development process for Ossuary, my first full game for DOS since my early freeware/shareware attempts of the 1990s. Ossuary wasn't originally developed for the PC. It was one of a trio of games for the 16Kb ZX Spectrum, a somewhat more limited system than the early PC. I chose it as my first DOS project because I ... (read more...)

New Website for Cyningstan DOS Games


24 Jan: With two DOS games released in 2020 and a third in development for 2021, the time has come for a new web site dedicated to the DOS games of Damian Gareth Walker. This is the place to come for information and downloads about games already released, as well as some news of forthcoming games. Currently you can download the CGA Droids game as part of the CGALIB graphics library, and also the roguelike RPG Ossuary . There is ... (read more...)


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