Tag Archives: how-to

Code your own Artillery-style tank game | Wireframe #44

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Fire artillery shells to blow up the enemy with Mark Vanstone’s take on a classic two-player artillery game

Artillery Duel was an early example of the genre, and appeared on such systems as the Bally Astrocade and Commodore 64 (pictured).

To pick just one artillery game is difficult since it’s a genre in its own right. Artillery simulations and games have been around for almost as long as computers, and most commonly see two players take turns to adjust the trajectory of their tank’s turret and fire a projectile at their opponent. The earliest versions for microcomputers appeared in the mid-seventies, and the genre continued to develop; increasingly complex scenarios appeared involving historical settings or, as we saw from the mid-90s on, even offbeat ideas like battles between factions of worms.

To code the basics of an artillery game, we’ll need two tanks with turrets, a landscape, and some code to work out who shot what, in which direction, and where said shot landed. Let’s start with the landscape. If we create a landscape in two parts – a backdrop and foreground – we can make the foreground destructible so that when a missile explodes it damages part of the landscape. This is a common effect used in artillery games, and sometimes makes the gameplay more complicated as the battle progresses. In our example, we have a grass foreground overlaid on a mountain scene. We then need a cannon for each player. In this case, we’ve used a two-part image, one for the base and one for the turret, which means the latter can be rotated using the up and down keys.

Our homage to the artillery game genre. Fire away at your opponent, and hope they don’t hit back first.

For this code example, we can use the Python dictionary to store several bits of data about the game objects, including the Actor objects. This makes the data handling tidy and is quite similar to the way that JSON is used in JavaScript. We can use this method for the two cannons, the projectile, and an explosion object. As this is a two-player game, we’ll alternate between the two guns, allowing the arrow keys to change the angle of the cannon. When the SPACE bar is pressed, we call the firing sequence, which places the projectile at the same position as the gun firing it. We then move the missile through the air, reducing the speed as it goes and allowing the effects of gravity to pull it towards the ground.

We can work out whether the bullet has hit anything with two checks. The first is to do a pixel check with the foreground. If this comes back as not transparent, then it has hit the ground, and we can start an explosion. To create a hole in the foreground, we can write transparent pixels randomly around the point of contact and then set off an explosion animation. If we test for a collision with a gun, we may find that the bullet has hit the other player and after blowing up the tank, the game ends. If the impact only hit the landscape, though, we can switch control over to the other player and let them have a go.

So that’s your basic artillery game. But rest assured there are plenty of things to add – for example, wind direction, power of the shot, variable damage depending on proximity, or making the tanks fall into holes left by the explosions. You could even change the guns into little wiggly creatures and make your own homage to Worms.

Here’s Mark’s code for an artillery-style tank game. To get it working on your system, you’ll need to install Pygame Zero. And to download the full code and assets, head here.

Get your copy of Wireframe issue 44

You can read more features like this one in Wireframe issue 44, available directly from Raspberry Pi Press — we deliver worldwide.

And if you’d like a handy digital version of the magazine, you can also download issue 44 for free in PDF format.

Wireframe #44, bringing the past and future of Worms to the fore.

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Code a Rally-X-style mini-map | Wireframe #43

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Race around using a mini-map for navigation, just like the arcade classic, Rally-X. Mark Vanstone has the code

In Namco’s original arcade game, the red cars chased the player relentlessly around each level. Note the handy mini-map on the right.

The original Rally-X arcade game blasted onto the market in 1980, at the same time as Pac‑Man and Defender. This was the first year that developer Namco had exported its games outside Japan thanks to the deal it struck with Midway, an American game distributor. The aim of Rally-X is to race a car around a maze, avoiding enemy cars while collecting yellow flags – all before your fuel runs out.

The aspect of Rally-X that we’ll cover here is the mini-map. As the car moves around the maze, its position can be seen relative to the flags on the right of the screen. The main view of the maze only shows a section of the whole map, and scrolls as the car moves, whereas the mini-map shows the whole size of the map but without any of the maze walls – just dots where the car and flags are (and in the original, the enemy cars). In our example, the mini-map is five times smaller than the main map, so it’s easy to work out the calculation to translate large map co‑ordinates to mini-map co-ordinates.

To set up our Rally-X homage in Pygame Zero, we can stick with the default screen size of 800×600. If we use 200 pixels for the side panel, that leaves us with a 600×600 play area. Our player’s car will be drawn in the centre of this area at the co-ordinates 300,300. We can use the in-built rotation of the Actor object by setting the angle property of the car. The maze scrolls depending on which direction the car is pointing, and this can be done by having a lookup table in the form of a dictionary list (directionMap) where we define x and y increments for each angle the car can travel. When the cursor keys are pressed, the car stays central and the map moves.

A screenshot of our Rally-X homage running in Pygame Zero

Roam the maze and collect those flags in our Python homage to Rally-X.

To detect the car hitting a wall, we can use a collision map. This isn’t a particularly memory-efficient way of doing it, but it’s easy to code. We just use a bitmap the same size as the main map which has all the roads as black and all the walls as white. With this map, we can detect if there’s a wall in the direction in which the car’s moving by testing the pixels directly in front of it. If a wall is detected, we rotate the car rather than moving it. If we draw the side panel after the main map, we’ll then be able to see the full layout of the screen with the map scrolling as the car navigates through the maze.

We can add flags as a list of Actor objects. We could make these random, but for the sake of simplicity, our sample code has them defined in a list of x and y co-ordinates. We need to move the flags with the map, so in each update(), we loop through the list and add the same increments to the x and y co‑ordinates as the main map. If the car collides with any flags, we just take them off the list of items to draw by adding a collected variable. Having put all of this in place, we can draw the mini-map, which will show the car and the flags. All we need to do is divide the object co-ordinates by five and add an x and y offset so that the objects appear in the right place on the mini-map.

And those are the basics of Rally-X! All it needs now is a fuel gauge, some enemy cars, and obstacles – but we’ll leave those for you to sort out…

Here’s Mark’s code for a Rally-X-style driving game with mini-map. To get it running on your system, you’ll need to install Pygame Zero. And to download the full code and assets, head here.

Get your copy of Wireframe issue 43

You can read more features like this one in Wireframe issue 43, available directly from Raspberry Pi Press — we deliver worldwide.

And if you’d like a handy digital version of the magazine, you can also download issue 43 for free in PDF format.

Wireframe #43, with the gorgeous Sea of Stars on the cover.

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Recreate Q*bert’s cube-hopping action | Wireframe #42

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Code the mechanics of an eighties arcade hit in Python and Pygame Zero. Mark Vanstone shows you how

Players must change the colour of every cube to complete the level.

Late in 1982, a funny little orange character with a big nose landed in arcades. The titular Q*bert’s task was to jump around a network of cubes arranged in a pyramid formation, changing the colours of each as they went. Once the cubes were all the same colour, it was on to the next level; to make things more interesting, there were enemies like Coily the snake, and objects which helped Q*bert: some froze enemies in their tracks, while floating discs provided a lift back to the top of the stage.

Q*bert was designed by Warren Davis and Jeff Lee at the American company Gottlieb, and soon became such a smash hit that, the following year, it was already being ported to most of the home computer platforms available at the time. New versions and remakes continued to appear for years afterwards, with a mobile phone version appearing in 2003. Q*bert was by far Gottlieb’s most popular game, and after several changes in company ownership, the firm is now part of Sony’s catalogue – Q*bert’s main character even made its way into the 2015 film, Pixels.

Q*bert uses isometric-style graphics to draw a pseudo-3D display – something we can easily replicate in Pygame Zero by using a single cube graphic with which we make a pyramid of Actor objects. Starting with seven cubes on the bottom row, we can create a simple double loop to create the pile of cubes. Our Q*bert character will be another Actor object which we’ll position at the top of the pile to start. The game screen can then be displayed in the draw() function by looping through our 28 cube Actors and then drawing Q*bert.

Our homage to Q*bert. Try not to fall into the terrifying void.

We need to detect player input, and for this we use the built-in keyboard object and check the cursor keys in our update() function. We need to make Q*bert move from cube to cube so we can move the Actor 32 pixels on the x-axis and 48 pixels on the y-axis. If we do this in steps of 2 for x and 3 for y, we will have Q*bert on the next cube in 16 steps. We can also change his image to point in the right direction depending on the key pressed in our jump() function. If we use this linear movement in our move() function, we’ll see the Actor go in a straight line to the next block. To add a bit of bounce to Q*bert’s movement, we add or subtract (depending on the direction) the values in the bounce[] list. This will make a bit more of a curved movement to the animation.

Now that we have our long-nosed friend jumping around, we need to check where he’s landing. We can loop through the cube positions and check whether Q*bert is over each one. If he is, then we change the image of the cube to one with a yellow top. If we don’t detect a cube under Q*bert, then the critter’s jumped off the pyramid, and the game’s over. We can then do a quick loop through all the cube Actors, and if they’ve all been changed, then the player has completed the level. So those are the basic mechanics of jumping around on a pyramid of cubes. We just need some snakes and other baddies to annoy Q*bert – but we’ll leave those for you to add. Good luck!

Here’s Mark’s code for a Q*bert-style, cube-hopping platform game. To get it running on your system, you’ll need to install Pygame Zero. And to download the full code and assets, head here.

Get your copy of Wireframe issue 42

You can read more features like this one in Wireframe issue 42, available directly from Raspberry Pi Press — we deliver worldwide.

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Recreate Time Pilot’s free-scrolling action | Wireframe #41

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Fly through the clouds in our re-creation of Konami’s classic 1980s shooter. Mark Vanstone has the code

Arguably one of Konami’s most successful titles, Time Pilot burst into arcades in 1982. Yoshiki Okamoto worked on it secretly, and it proved so successful that a sequel soon followed. In the original, the player flew through five eras, from 1910, 1940, 1970, 1982, and then to the far future: 2001. Aircraft start as biplanes and progress to become UFOs, naturally, by the last level.

Players also rescue other pilots by picking them up as they parachute from their aircraft. The player’s plane stays in the centre of the screen while other game objects move around it. The clouds that give the impression of movement have a parallax style to them, some moving faster than others, offering an illusion of depth.

To make our own version with Pygame Zero, we need eight frames of player aircraft images – one for each direction it can fly. After we create a player Actor object, we can get input from the cursor keys and change the direction the aircraft is pointing with a variable which will be set from zero to 7, zero being the up direction. Before we draw the player to the screen, we set the image of the Actor to the stem image name, plus whatever that direction variable is at the time. That will give us a rotating aircraft.

To provide a sense of movement, we add clouds. We can make a set of random clouds on the screen and move them in the opposite direction to the player aircraft. As we only have eight directions, we can use a lookup table to change the x and y coordinates rather than calculating movement values. When they go off the screen, we can make them reappear on the other side so that we end up with an ‘infinite’ playing area. Add a level variable to the clouds, and we can move them at different speeds on each update() call, producing the parallax effect. Then we need enemies. They will need the same eight frames to move in all directions. For this sample, we will just make one biplane, but more could be made and added.

Our Python homage to Konami’s arcade classic.

To get the enemy plane to fly towards the player, we need a little maths. We use the math.atan2() function to work out the angle between the enemy and the player. We convert that to a direction which we set in the enemy Actor object, and set its image and movement according to that direction variable. We should now have the enemy swooping around the player, but we will also need some bullets. When we create bullets, we need to put them in a list so that we can update each one individually in our update(). When the player hits the fire button, we just need to make a new bullet Actor and append it to the bullets list. We give it a direction (the same as the player Actor) and send it on its way, updating its position in the same way as we have done with the other game objects.

The last thing is to detect bullet hits. We do a quick point collision check and if there’s a match, we create an explosion Actor and respawn the enemy somewhere else. For this sample, we haven’t got any housekeeping code to remove old bullet Actors, which ought to be done if you don’t want the list to get really long, but that’s about all you need: you have yourself a Time Pilot clone!

Here’s Mark’s code for a Time Pilot-style free-scrolling shooter. To get it running on your system, you’ll need to install Pygame Zero. And to download the full code and assets, head here.

Get your copy of Wireframe issue 41

You can read more features like this one in Wireframe issue 41, available directly from Raspberry Pi Press — we deliver worldwide.

And if you’d like a handy digital version of the magazine, you can also download issue 41 for free in PDF format.

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Code Jetpac’s rocket building action | Wireframe #40

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Pick up parts of a spaceship, fuel it up, and take off in Mark Vanstone’s Python and Pygame Zero rendition of a ZX Spectrum classic

The original Jetpac, in all its 8-bit ZX Spectrum glory

For ZX Spectrum owners, there was something special about waiting for a game to load, with the sound of zeros and ones screeching from the cassette tape player next to the computer. When the loading screen – an image of an astronaut and Ultimate Play the Game’s logo – appeared, you knew the wait was going to be worthwhile. Created by brothers Chris and Tim Stamper in 1983, Jetpac was one of the first hits for their studio, Ultimate Play the Game. The game features the hapless astronaut Jetman, who must build and fuel a rocket from the parts dotted around the screen, all the while avoiding or shooting swarms of deadly aliens.

This month’s code snippet will provide the mechanics of collecting the ship parts and fuel to get Jetman’s spaceship to take off.  We can use the in-built Pygame Zero Actor objects for all the screen elements and the Actor collision routines to deal with gravity and picking up items. To start, we need to initialise our Actors. We’ll need our Jetman, the ground, some platforms, the three parts of the rocket, some fire for the rocket engines, and a fuel container. The way each Actor behaves will be determined by a set of lists. We have a list for objects with gravity, objects that are drawn each frame, a list of platforms, a list of collision objects, and the list of items that can be picked up.

Jetman jumps inside the rocket and is away. Hurrah!

Our draw() function is straightforward as it loops through the list of items in the draw list and then has a couple of conditional elements being drawn after. The update() function is where all the action happens: we check for keyboard input to move Jetman around, apply gravity to all the items on the gravity list, check for collisions with the platform list, pick up the next item if Jetman is touching it, apply any thrust to Jetman, and move any items that Jetman is holding to move with him. When that’s all done, we can check if refuelling levels have reached the point where Jetman can enter the rocket and blast off.

If you look at the helper functions checkCollisions() and checkTouching(), you’ll see that they use different methods of collision detection, the first being checking for a collision with a specified point so we can detect collisions with the top or bottom of an actor, and the touching collision is a rectangle or bounding box collision, so that if the bounding box of two Actors intersect, a collision is registered. The other helper function applyGravity() makes everything on the gravity list fall downward until the base of the Actor hits something on the collide list.

So that’s about it: assemble a rocket, fill it with fuel, and lift off. The only thing that needs adding is a load of pesky aliens and a way to zap them with a laser gun.

Here’s Mark’s Jetpac code. To get it running on your system, you’ll need to install Pygame Zero. And to download the full code and assets, head here.

Get your copy of Wireframe issue 40

You can read more features like this one in Wireframe issue 40, available directly from Raspberry Pi Press — we deliver worldwide.

And if you’d like a handy digital version of the magazine, you can also download issue 40 for free in PDF format.

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How to correctly set the motor current limit on an A4988 stepper motor driver

via Dangerous Prototypes

Michael posted detailed instructions of how to set up your A4988 stepper motor driver’s motor current limit:

One important thing to set up when using these drivers is the motor current limit. This is especially important when you’re using a higher input voltage than what the motor is rated for. Using a higher voltage generally enables you to get more torque and a faster step speed, but you’ll need to actively limit the amount of current flowing through the motor coils so that you don’t burn your motor out.

See the full post at the-diy-life.com.

Check out the video after the break.