Code Vigorous

Dustin J. Mitchell

Old, old code

06 Jan 2007

Once upon a time, I was a member of the Syzygy Cult, an active game-development group for the 680x0 macs. Among the many games we wrote was Mantra, an adventure game with a top-down view similar to Legend of Zelda. Recently, the source code has re-surfaced (one of the other members found it in his parents’ basement over the holidays). Judging by the dates in the source files, I was 16 at the time this was written, which means I had been programming for about 8 years. At a general level, I’m blown away by the level of organization we had:

  • Meeting minutes show we discusesd, agreed upon, and wrote down apolicy for organizing header files: one per source file, with a singleheader that included all of them as well as common system includes.

  • Several source files are annotated with e.g., “Reviewed DJM 6/23/94” – we were doing code review!
  • The graphics routines were written in hand-tuned assembly.

  • We used double-buffering to achieve smooth scrolling.

  • We “hired” a graphic designer (as in, went out and found a guywe didn’t know who would work for free) and gave him really explicit,detailed requests

My main contributions to the project were the graphics code (which also handled pixel-wise intercept detection) and the various in-game dialogs, like the items screen and the stores.

In a way, I feel like I’ve fallen off the trajectory I was on at that time. If I was writing code like this at 16, after eight years of programming, where am I now, after twenty years?