Cyningstan DOS Games

Games for Early PCs

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A CGALIB Update: Some New Utilities


26 Sep: There are some new additions to the CGALIB graphics library. The two major changes are a new bitmap editor and a new font editor, to replace the rudimentary bitmap and font makers originally supplied. The Bitmap Editor, called makebit.exe like its predecessor, is now a capable utility for editing tiles and sprites. It supports up to 24 bitmaps in a single file, each ranging in size from 4x2 pixels to 24x24. Bitmaps can be copied and pasted, flipped ... (read more...)

CGA: So Why All the Cyan and Magenta?


12 Aug: Part 5 of a blog series on CGA palettes. Originally posted on my personal web site in 2020. Since the 1990s I've known about some of the possibilities that the CGA graphics card offers, and looked with disappointment on the shades of cyan and magenta that grace what must be at least 50% of games on CGA. If an amateur game developer with little artistic talent such as me could see the possibilities, why were professional game companies ... (read more...)

Barren Planet: Out Into the World


8 Aug: I'd been posting often about Barren Planet since its first inception. This is not my usual practice. I tend to keep projects secret until they're at least ready for beta testing. This keeps off the pressure on what's supposed to be a hobby: if nobody knows a project exists, delays don't matter, and I can take a break or even cancel a project entirely. But because I've been posting about the game, it's gathered a lot of interest before ... (read more...)

Some Background on CGA


5 Aug: Part 4 of a blog series about CGA Palettes. Originally posted on my personal web site in 2020. Black is a very useful colour, and artists don't give it up lightly. But CGA can give you some great rewards if you're willing to sacrifice that default black background colour. Suddenly a lot of interesting choices open up.  Frogger II  is an early example that led the way: it used the red, cyan and white foreground palette I mentioned ... (read more...)

Barren Planet: Putting it to the Test


1 Aug: I've learned from previous projects how best to tackle testing, and I'm still learning now. I favour private beta testing over public. Public beta testing might get more volunteers, but I've found I get lots of downloads and next to no feedback that way. With a private beta test I know who the testers are, and I can contact them directly from time to time to get feedback. So when Barren Planet was ready, I contacted about a ... (read more...)

CGA Graphics: Not All Cyan and Magenta!


29 Jul: Part 3 of a blog series on CGA palettes. Originally posted on my personal web site in 2020. Reading the original BASIC manuals for my first PC, I found out what CGA claimed that it could do in 320x200 mode. Firstly, it allowed you to select one of the following two palettes for your three foreground colours: green, red, yellow, or cyan, magenta, white.  While this binary choice is limited, we already see possibilities. A game set ... (read more...)

Barren Planet: The Process


25 Jul: Bringing all the features together for Barren Planet ended up taking over two years. This included breaks due to burnout, ill health, and the occasional break for short jam projects - projects that actually did turn out to be short, unlike Barren Planet ! The project began with a library for the game mechanics. On the Psion these were integrated tightly into the game, and reusing the mechanics in successive games meant deconstructing and reconstructing a game around ... (read more...)

What Can CGA Do?


22 Jul: Part 2 of a blog series on CGA palettes. Originally posted on my personal web site in 2020. Today I want to give a broad outline of what the CGA card is capable of, particularly for gaming. Modern gamers who've been exposed to it might think that it's capable of black, cyan, magenta and white, but there's a bit more to it than that. Before talking about the graphical capabilities, it's worth discussing the text modes. There ... (read more...)

Barren Planet: The Features


18 Jul: Once I'd decided that Barren Planet was to be a full-scale project, I came up with a list of features that I wanted in the game. From The World at Strife I adopted the game mechanics in full. Battles are fought on a square grid map with up to eight terrain types. Anything up to 30 units are deployed, of up to 8 unit types. The battles are put together into a campaign, where the result of one ... (read more...)

My Journey into CGA Graphics


15 Jul: Part 1 of a blog series on CGA palettes. Originally posted on my personal web site in 2020. One aspect of computing that has been fading from the collective consciousness is that of CGA graphics. Gamers of the early 1990s will remember that many PC games had support for multiple graphics standards: often the list was CGA, EGA and VGA. CGA was the oldest of the three, having been launched with the original PC in 1981. In capability ... (read more...)

Barren Planet's First Expansion Released


12 Jul: Today an expansion to  Barren Planet has been released. Called  The Polar Expedition , the new Downloadable content takes the form of a new campaign for the game, containing new units and a change of scenery. Set in the icy polar regions of the planet Dapra,  The Polar Expedition tells the continuing story of the two interstellar mining corporations, Nuvutech and Avuscorp, who are battling over the resources of the planet. It forms a sequel to  First Landing ... (read more...)

Barren Planet: the Inspiration


16 May: There are several sources of inspiration that went into Barren Planet . It's not an original game. It's my attempt to bring together ideas from different games that I've enjoyed. In doing that I hope to create something distinctively my own. The biggest inspiration for Barren Planet and its predecessors is the Blue Byte game Battle Isle II (known as Battle Isle 2200 in North America). Battle Isle II has a more varied setting, not just a barren ... (read more...)

Barren Planet: From the Dev Diary


9 May: Barren Planet was naïvely conceived as a straightforward 1-month jam game back in 2020. I had other projects in progress, but a DOS game jam popped up and those other projects were nowhere near ready. So I thought, why not revive an old game I had written for another platform and implement it for DOS? I'd managed to do just that with Ossuary , my 2013 ZX Spectrum roguelike, which I ported to DOS within a month. Barren ... (read more...)

Source Code Available for Team Droid


30 Apr: The source code for Team Droid  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 system. ... (read more...)

Barren Planet is Released!


23 Apr: Today Cyningstan released Barren Planet , a turn-based strategy game for the IBM PC. Available for download from the Cyningstan web site and from Itch , the game is a battle over a mineral-rich mining planet between two profit-hungry interstellar corporations, each with its own private military. This latest game in Cyningstan's series of new games for old hardware is designed to run on the original IBM PC from 1981. It supports the original 4.77 MHz 8088 processor, ... (read more...)

Barren Planet: A Third Week of Beta Testing


16 Apr: Some issues have been found in beta version 2 of Barren Planet . These have been fixed, and a third beta test version released to the beta test team. Time will tell whether this is the last beta test version necessary. Beta version 2 introduced difficulty levels for the computer player. But this broke another feature: dedicated single-player campaigns, which allow one side or other to be designated as the computer player. Dedicated single-player campaigns are good for ... (read more...)

Barren Planet: First Week Beta Testing Progress


9 Apr: Thanks to the efforts of the beta test team, more progress has been made on making Barren Planet fit for release. Some bugs were identified, and some oversights. The AI managed to build a unit some distance from its Mining Base. This isn't supposed to happen, and uncovered two bugs. The first, that the wargame engine was letting the AI (and the player) break the rules. The second, that the AI was trying to break the rules. Both ... (read more...)

Barren Planet Enters Beta Testing


2 Apr: After two and a half years of development, Barren Planet has entered its beta test phase. The beta test team will be doing its best to pull the program apart, and find the game's weaknesses. Over the coming weeks, bugs will be found an fixed, and any game imbalances will be redressed. Also during the beta test period, we'll be preparing to upload the game to our own web site, and to popular game download platforms like Itch. ... (read more...)

Double Trouble: New DLC for Team Droid


22 Jan: The puzzle game Team Droid has its first downloadable content: a new level pack called  Double Trouble . Players who enjoyed the original  Jam Levels included in the game can now control the cute robots over another twelve levels of game play. The name comes from the fact that everything is doubled in this level pack. There are two data cards per level, and two card readers ready to receive them. And each level is designed to be ... (read more...)

KEYLIB: A Simple Keyboard Library


6 Sep: Another library used in the development of Team Droid has been released. The KEYLIB Keyboard Library is a simple C library for reading the keyboard in DOS. Now that it has had a thorough test as part of Team Droid , it is ready for release. The KEYLIB Keyboard Library allows you to read the keyboard in two different ways. Firstly, you can wait or poll of ASCII codes, like the built-in C library routines. Secondly, you can ... (read more...)

CGALIB Library Updated


5 Sep: In the wake of the release of Team Droid comes an update to the CGALIB Graphics Library . Some extra functionality was added to the library for Team Droid (and for Barren Planet ). The testing and release of Team Droid last month satisfies the testing requirements of the updated CGALIB Graphics Library . The improvements to the library comprise the scr_putpart() and bit_putpart() functions. These will take just part of a bitmap, and put it on the ... (read more...)

Team Droid: A New Game for DOS


31 Aug: Today sees the release of Team Droid , a new game for old computers running DOS. Also playable on new computers running DOSBox , this new puzzle game puts you in control of a team of cute little robots trying to clean up after a catastrophe at an automated facility. Developed in a month for the 2022 DOS Games August Jam on Itch , Team Droid features twelve levels of turn-based fun. On each level you have to ... (read more...)

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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