Tony Oakden: Charlie Dog Games

Charlie Dog Games

Name: Tony Oakden

Company: Charlie Dog Games

Profession: Programmer, Game Designer, Teacher, Producer 

Favorite Classic Game: Exile

Quote: Exile first appeared on the BBC Micro in 1988 and later on the Amiga. It’s one of only a handful of games to score 10/10 in Edge magazine.  Years ahead of it’s time it uses physics, emergent AI and procedurally generated environments to create a massive world in which an adventure takes place.  I loved playing it back in the 80s and still enjoyed it a few years ago when I replayed it on an emulator.  Just brilliant.  I think the author is working on a mobile version.

Bio: Tony became interested in computer programming and games as a hobby in the early 1980’s but that soon became an obsession and a career.  His experiences began with the first home computers and continued as hardware matured through 6 generations to the super consoles of today.  He has worked on a huge range of projects from one man indie games up to very large AAA titles.  His best know credits are for producer on the PC version of Bioshock and programmer on the Playstation version of Driver 1.  Tony has developed games for many different platforms including: PC, Playstation 1, Xbox360 and Android.  He continues to develop games for mobile devices and currently has three games available for download from the Android store published by his own company “Charlie Dog Games”.  His Android games will soon be available on IOS.

He has developed serious games for applications such as marketing, resource management in the mining sector training and mental health nursing.  His clients include: BHP Billiton and Fuso trucks.

From a technological stand point Tony stays abreast of modern trends and uses a variety of tools and middleware for his work.  He is interested in all aspect of virtual world and game development but he is deeply interested in the procedural generation of large complex worlds and AI ecosystems.  He hopes to release a game based on these ideas sometime in the future.

Tony also teaches programming to second year Advance Diploma and degree students at the AIE.  Through teaching he hopes to pass his knowledge and enthusiasm onto the next generation of game developers so that they will get as much pleasure from the industry as he has.

tilt & swipe banner

Project: Tilt and Swipe

Project Info: Can you Tilt? Can you swipe?  If yes then you can play this amazing new puzzle game!  It combines physics, skill and puzzle solving. You’ll need manual dexterity, quick wits and puzzle solving skills to get through the 40 levels.  The game, and the first three sets of levels, are free for the first twenty minutes, then if you like it you might want to buy it.

Controls are simplicity itself.  Twist and turn the phone/tablet to roll the balls about in the box.  Once you have two or more balls touching you can remove them by swiping over them with your finger.  Remove three or more for a score bonus!  But watch out, if you accidentally leave a lone ball behind then the level can’t be completed and it’s game over!  It’s simple, novel and completely addictive.  Anyone can do it.

Exile

 

Exile title
Exile title

 

Exile is probably the best game most people have never heard of. It was first released on the Acorn Electron and BBC Micro in 1988. The game was designed and programmed by Peter Irvin and Jeremy Smith (the author of Thrust, another ground breaking game that was converted to all the computers know to man).

Like Thrust, Exile is a game based on cave exploration with a physics mode. But unlike Thrust instead of just having Gravity Physics, Exile also has features such as inertia, mass, explosions, shock waves, Water, Wind, Fire, Intelligent Animals (Frogs, Wasps, Frogman, Snail, Fish, Spiders, Birds and Imps), Automated Turrents, Serveral different types of Robots all with Artificial Intelligence, Teleportation, Gravity, Weighted objects, and different weapons. It was the most complex game available for the BBC Micro, and possibly all 8bit machines.

 

Exile Amiga Title Screen
Exile Amiga Title Screen

 

The game also offered an enormous and detailed world, which was perfect for exploration. This large map was inhabited by many different creatures, robots, and puzles. All this was explained in the plot as the crew of the Pericles having set up a base in a natural cave system, with Triax having his own base in caves deep below.

Exile’s AI programming featured innovative routines like creature strategy code that knew about noises nearby, line-of-sight vision through the divaricate caves and tunnels, and enemy’s memory of where the target was last seen.

The main game is an character astronaut with a jet pack. He cannot die, if he is attacked or injures himself when he reaches a point near death he is automatically teleported to safe locations previously reached and designated by the player, until he these locations run out and he is ultimately back to his orbiting spaceship. Despite this, the game was still very difficult to complete and could take hours to play through.

The story of game starts as follows;

The player takes control of a space-adventurer Mike Finn who is ordered by his superiors on Earth to divert his spacecraft to the planet Phoebus to investigate the distress calls broadcast by the members of a previous mission. Finn’s mission is to rescue any survivors of the mission from a psychotic scientist, Triax, exiled there many years before.

 

Exile Amiga Gameplay
Exile Amiga Gameplay

 

Exile was supplied with a novella setting the full background story to the game and the game objective. It also provides limited clues regarding the scenery, objects and lifeforms that are encountered in the game.

The game came out for the Commodore C64’s dying days in 1991, and it the last game I bought for my c64 before I sold it. I pre-ordered the game after being blown away by a covertape demo (given away with Commodore Format, I think). When I upgraded to the Commodore Amiga shortly after, Exile was my first purchase.

The Commodore 64 offered better graphics and sound than the BBC and Acorn versions, and the Amiga version which was also released in 1991, had even better graphics and sound including a an atmospheric theme tune containing a deep voiced Exile sample and some eerie strings.

Allthough most gamers have never heard of most people have never heard of Exile, those you have played it will never forget it. Amiga Power magazine voted the  Exile to be the best game of 1991. The multi-format magazine Edge retrospectively awarded it 10 out of 10, together with only 2 other games.