Nov 26, 2010

Being Creative with a Sinclair ZX Spectrum

The ZX Spectrum was, and gaily still is, a brilliant little computer and a working class gaming machine with a truly huge game library. But why should you care for such a relic of the 80s and why should you try to contribute one more game to the 20,000 already available for the thing? Well, nostalgic and historic reasons aside, the Spectrum does have a variety of advantages: a) it doesn't need to be upgraded/replaced every few years; the Spectrum *is* and Rilke would love it, b) it imposes a series of limitations that help artistic and programming skill thrive, c) it allows for small and focused games, and d) there's a huge and active community that will happily show its amazing spirit of camaraderie.

What's more for those of us that feel that assembly can be incredibly intimidating and Sinclair's BASIC ridiculously slow, there are more than a few game creation utilities that can help get things started. This post is a selection of four of the best and simpler to use utilities of the sort I'm aware of and have even actually tried. Mind you, searching around will definitely provide you with further options.

Professional Adventure Writer: This is probably the best text adventure creation system available on the Speccy that will let you pen pretty huge pieces of interactive fiction and -provided you are so inclined- add graphics to them. More than a few classic commercial adventures have been created with it and though I'd suggest you grab a used boxed copy of the thing (I do like my manuals printed, you see) you can download a copy of everything you need from the World of Spectrum. The PAW Reservoir might also come in handy.

SEUD (Shoot-em-up Designer): A Jonathan Cauldwell creation and an easy to use (really) program that will allow you to create fast scrolling shoot-em-ups on the Spectrum. Having already created a few tiny shmups and having already reviewed SEUD I can't help but suggest anyone interested should grab a copy from Cronosoft. And here is another review.

Arcade Game Designer: Another powerful utility, though this time one geared for the creation of simple arcade games. You can download it for free and thank the prolific Jonathan Cauldwell for it. Keep in mind though that this does require a bit of programming as -despite being much more powerful- it does feel a lot like BASIC.

Platform Game Designer: Shockingly, this is another Jonathan Cauldwell offering and another game creation utility you can buy from Cronosoft. It apparently is very easy to use and will allow for the creation of a variety of platform games provided they are in the style of Manic Miner or Jet Set Willy. Judging by what the community has come up with this, it is a platforming powerhouse and your one chance at creating Manic Miner II.

Related @ Gnome's Lair:


  1. Ah, Spectrum, my first computer. I always get nostalgic when I hear someone is still using it.

    And now for something completely different: the link to Cyber-Marx is misspelled.

  2. Happily it still is quite popular dear Barts. Oh, and misspelled? Where? Just can't see it...

  3. The link says: http://hthttp//
    Too many https in it. :)

  4. Ah right. Now I see. Thanks a ton Barts!