"Everything but the kicker"
by Paul Chinn loomer@1000klub.com

[visit my homepage for other cool stuff]


Warren Davis Quote

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The Plot Thickens...

In the spring of 2000 I released a freeware Gameboy Color ROM, that was an identical clone of the old Q*bert arcade game.  You can read the story behind its creation and obtain the game below.  Shortly after I put the ROM on my website something amazing happened...someone in the Gameboy developer community came across my version of the game and passed it on to Majesco Sales.  Majesco had the rights to do the Gameboy Color version of Q*bert, and they contacted me to see if I'd be interested in enhancing what I'd done and making it a commercial product.

 I write embedded systems software for a living, so creating an actual commercial video game would be the fulfillment of many childhood dreams of mine.  Of course I jumped right on the chance.  The game underwent a fairly significant rewrite and enhancement and in September 2000, the game was released.


Q*Bert Manual Cover

  • new characters and enemies
  • power-ups
  • dozens of different levels in all sorts of shapes and sizes
  • arbitrarily located disks and warp cubes that take the player to different boards and create a sort of maze that needs to be followed
  • new graphics and animation
  • other stuff that makes a game complete, like sound, title screens (hicolor!), hiscore, password, control settings, etc...


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The game received positive  reviews and is great fun, so feel free to buy a copy from Amazon :^).   Actually, as I write this in the fall of 2001, it seems like Amazon may not actually have it in stock anymore.  I guess the shelf-life of video games isn't too long. As Q*bert would say, "@!#?@!"

At any rate the whole thing was a blast.  One of the coolest aspects of the experience was meeting several video game industry insiders and veterans.  I met several guys who worked on the old Atari 2600- some of them the authors of games I had loved and played as a kid.  One weird aspect is that some of these guys are only a handful of years older than myself- they got their starts in the industry as teenagers in the golden age of the '80s.

I eventually learned the name of the individual whose  discovery of my freeware ROM sent me on my wild adventure: Eric Kinkead at Game Titan. I owe Eric a huge debt, if for no other reason than he also put me in touch with Warren Davis- the original developer of the Q*bert arcade game.  The whole experience was brought full circle as I exchanged emails with the programmer whose work had inspired almost  20 years earlier...


Freeware Q*bert for Gameboy Color

The story: In the fall of 1999 I stumbled into the realm of hobbyist Gameboy programming.  To help me learn how to program on the color Gameboy I decided to port the classic arcade game Q*bert.  Q*bert has always held a strange allure for me.   I actually never played it too much nor was I very good at it, but as a young programmer (I was about 13 in '82) I was intrigued by its simple and unique gameplay and amazing graphics.  I think even by today's standards the characters in the game are incredibly effective.  Jeff Lee, the artist who created them, did it with tiny 16x16 graphics and only about 5 colors per character, yet they evoke quite a bit of personality.

 I was constantly working on my own versions of the game- very crude stuff in TI99/4a extended basic and later on the Atari ST.  Mostly I spent my time drawing new little characters and designing in my head new enemy types.  I never did write much more than primitive prototypes.  So now, years later, I had another chance.   Childhood obsession aside, I figured Q*bert would make a nice Gameboy Color game because it's all about....color.


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Initially I used MAME arcade emulator to observe the original game and then write code based on what I'd observed.  I got a decent way along doing this, then for some reason I completely switched my approach.  I decided that I didn't just want some interpretation of Q*bert- I wanted  THE Q*bert.  Maybe it was to silence the little voice that had rung in my ears since childhood.  Maybe it was to quell the fires that had burned in my soul for so long.  Maybe it was to answer a call that had beckoned from deep within for nearly two decades...er, maybe I just had too much time on my hands... whatever... I decided I would disassemble the original Q*bert arcade ROMs and rewrite an exact copy of the game


The result is Q*bert for the Gameboy Color that is an exact functional duplicate of the original arcade game.  Plus, it's totally free, sort of a labor of love, a tribute to the original classic arcade game.  If you are interested in some of the technical details of how I did this you can read this description.  Otherwise simply download and enjoy.

Current Version v1.00

Known Issues in v1.00
- no sound.  Hey GBDEVers- anyone want to help me with this?

You will need a Gameboy emulator like NoCash to play this cartridge image or even better, get the GBXChanger which lets you create your own Gameboy cartridge (it appears they may not sell this device any more).