Midway's classic coin-op, Mortal Kombat, was a huge challenge to implement on the affordable Jakks TV Games hardware.
As lead and only programmer on the port team for Digital Eclipse, I rewrote the underlying game engine (an upgrade and port to new hardware of the engine used on Blue's Room), developed all of the data conversion tools, and hand-translated every line of the original coin-op Mortal Kombat source code into the language and operating environment of this new hardware platform.
I find that line-by-line translation is a must to preserve gameplay on low-cost platforms that would be swamped by the CPU demands of hardware emulation. It's difficult - like translating poetry!
I also reconstructed image assets - including every layer of the multi-layer paralax-scrolling backgrounds - missing from Midway's source code archive. This was done by overlaying and hand-masking hundreds of screen captures from the original game to produce each pixel-perfect panorama.
This title included several "firsts" for Jakks TV Games, but my favorite is the two-player action using a link cable. For this, I designed the communication protocol and link hardware, as well as writing the low-level link and synchronization code.
There are a lot of tricks under the hood of this title. To deal with memory constraints, the fighters are stored as a series of ZIP-compressed overlays. A sophisticated cache keeps the most-used frames of animation in memory and loads others on demand, minimizing decompression delays. Many backgrounds were simplified in order to take advantage of the hardware's multi-layer background scrolling.
This port of a beloved and closely-watched title received rave reviews where it matters most: "getting the playability right."
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