We found that most of the time was spent drawing the sprites, largely because the screen RAM layout on the BBC was so complex. Our challenge was to speed this up yet still fit it within the space the previous code occupied. The solution was to read the screen RAM locations from a recalculated look-up table. A little bit like the log-books we used at school. Amazingly when we ran the code it was about five times faster! We had add code to slow it down to make it playable!
Finally we had an arcade game that could be published and even though Acornsoft didn't take it in the end. We sent it to lots of other publishers, but most were not interested, because it was on the BBC Micro. which had a limited market.
We did eventually manage to get it published by Players a year later.
Since publishers were reluctant to release Cavey on the BBC Micro, we decided it was time to move onto a different computer. Amstrad had released the Amstrad CPC 464 with a build-in monitor and cassette deck and it was gaining a lot of attention and they announced their next computer, the CPC 664 that had a disc drive built in. We felt this would be our opportunity, since there were very few games available for them. The first challenge was to learn how to program it, first in Basic and then quickly onto Assembler – Z80 this time. The Amstrad did not have built in Assembler so we purchased an add-on board called Maxam to perform this function and it worked really well. Our first project was the conversion of Easy Art to give us the ability to draw great graphics and this was half written in basic and half in Assembler as we learnt how to program this new computer.
During the process of writing Easy Art we'd found that the main problem of writing a game was the ability to move sprites around the screen quickly. So our next project was to create a package that people could use to draw, file and then display ultra-fast sprites from their own BASIC program – which we named Panda Sprites. (P and A being our initials). We managed to get publishing deals for both of these with Interceptor, run by Richard Paul Jones, and his father Julian.
Educational software had starting appearing by this time and we realised that by using Panda Sprites we could produce some quick games that would be the best in their field. Our first, Magic Maths, took about a week and it asked lots of simple maths questions while monitoring the response times to give a score.
For novelty we added some basic digitised speech that read the questions a little like a "Speak and Spell".
Since Magic Maths was so quick and easy to make, we decided to follow it up with a game to help teach children to tell the time. For Magic Clock we drew a picture of a Cuckoo Clock and had various games based on the skill of being able to tell the time. It even had a novel digital time clock, for all those fans of the still relatively new digital watch age! Interceptor started up a budget label called players and were happy to publish both of these under that label.