A Deliberately Crappy Game

Shortly after I had ported my mobile phone game Iceblox Plus to the retro platform Commodore 64, I got curious about its contemporary competitor, the ZX Spectrum. Both computers were originally released in 1982, after which I ended up creating a few C64 games in my teens. But I never got around to programming the ZX Spectrum and that computer remained a mystery to me.

So I started looking into its technical specifications. If you talk to its fans, many will claim it is superior to the C64. And while it does have a slightly more advanced processor and is faster at moving chunks of pixels around, there are some shortcomings that make it unsuitable for game development, unless you happen to be a masochist. The ZX Spectrum excels at certain isometric 3D games and multiple-room platform adventures, but unfortunately little else.


I wanted to port one of my own games to the ZX Spectrum, but every one of them seemed to be a dead end, due to the way colors are managed and the lack of hardware support for screen scrolling or sprites. It was either unworkable or it would look incredibly ugly. Eventually I thought, "Fine, Spectrum! If you only support crappy games, then that's exactly what I will build."

It would have to be an entirely new idea, with a game screen that had a minimum of colors. So I made this initial black-and-white layout sketch (the ZX Spectrum drawable screen area is 256x192 pixels).

The game concept was that a giant hairy butt moved around at the top of the screen, dropping feces into a guy's livingroom. He would have to catch the excrement in a bucket, to keep it from getting on the floor. And the bucket would gradually fill up, so it would need to be emptied every now and then in a toilet on one of the sides. The difficulty would come from having to switch focus between those two tasks.

If this sounds familiar to people who played computer games in the early 1980s, it's because I had unknowingly ripped off the old Game & Watch title "Oil Panic." But I didn't realize it until the game was already finished.

And this is what the final result looked like. I chose the name "Scuttlebutt" as a kind of half-assed pun. It felt appropriate, somehow. Because I had built the game just for my personal enjoyment, I didn't expect other people to give it much attention. This was just another hardware platform to cross off my bucket list. But it did get some publicity and even garnered a few YouTube playthrough videos.


Below is a download link in case you want to try it in an emulator. The game is built to run on a 48K ZX Spectrum machine, but the music and sound effects make use of non-standard hardware that didn't come with the computer out-of-the-box until the 128K model, so make sure you set the emulator preferences accordingly.


Was this the end of the project? Regrettably, no.

A couple of pals who are avid Commodore 64 enthusiasts felt that there wouldn't be balance in the universe until I had ported the game to that platform. Preferably with extended gameplay and a few other bells and whistles. Eventually I gave in and got started. Since this would effectively be a different game, I decided to call it "Scuttlebutt 64", subtitled ... well, you can read it for yourselves.

I'm sad to say that what came out of it all is by far the most tasteless and disgusting game I have ever built. It features four different types of gameplay, on 30 levels with three different backgrounds, and it contains more butt and poop jokes than you can shake a stick at. There are also guest appearances by a famous painting and a controversial (butt-)head of state.

Again, if you want to try it in an emulator (at your own risk), below is a download link. Use a joystick in either port, or alternatively the A, D and SPACE keys. Those who are interested in the source and the structure of the program can download the zip archive. (It also contains a cheat code.)