Chase HQ – Revisited

One thing to come out of the fact that everyone is locked down in their homes is that it gives you lots of time to mull over old ideas.

During a time of dwindling work opportunites I thought about doing some customizations to Chase HQ by changing the criminal portraits that appear at the end of each level. I had tried selling some of my work before but interest for this was below average, which is fair enough. Now that there was a global crisis I thought that I could donate the proceeds to charity to help fight the spread of Covid-19, so I set to Twitter to see how the land laid.

Orders were slow but steady so I started looking at how I could streamline the art process. One major advantage was having Photoshop which as you would imagine we didn’t have back in 1988/89. I found it quite easy to take a photo supplied by a generous donor and change it into a ZX Spectrum graphic. One drawback was that the portrait size was only 32×40 pixels, not a lot of space in which to add detail.

Once I had a process to get a rough outline of the face I would start to add detail to the picture, that’s when I realised I had another massive advantage that I didn’t have back then, a mouse! I couldn’t believe that back in the beginning of my career I would be adding pixels manually using the keyboard, the usual QAOPM setup I used for playing games. No wonder games took so long to produce back then, it was probably 1990 before I got my hands on an Atari ST and a couple of years later, a PC for creating graphics with a mouse.

Once I had a monochrome, black and white version of the portrait it was time to add the color. With Photoshop I could add the character colour as an extra layer above the black and white image and if I wanted to add a different ink color I could do that on another layer aboce that. I also discovered that by adding a layer of black on top and reducing the opacity to 50% I would then have the ‘Bright 0’ setting for the graphics, this way I could cut holes in the black layer where I wanted the ‘Bright 1’ to show through.

Going back to Chase HQ was quite sobering, I had no idea I had the patience to draw graphics on the ZX Spectrum just using a keyboard, if I had today’s tools available I’m sure we could have developed twice as many games.

Interest for these screens increased as I began to post the completed ones on Twitter and as of today I’ve managed to complete 50 screens and collect almost $540 for Covid-19 charities. Thanks to everyone who contributed to this project and here’s a look at some of my favourites.

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