E.T. Digital Companion

Let E.T. help organize get togethers with your friends, setup to do lists for school projects, and create an address book of all your important names and phone numbers. Or just play some mini-games and try your hand at some E.T. trivia. This Game Boy Color game was my very first commercial video game project.

E.T. Digital Companion
Platform Game Boy Color
Publisher NewKidCo
Released 2001
Language Z80 assembly
Credited Role Programmer

My first commercial game! I was just finishing up my degree when I got a job at Powerhead Games. They were working on an update to their Mary-Kate and Ashley's Pocket Planner Game Boy game, this one with the E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial license. The lead programmer would be working on the PDA aspects, and I would be creating the minigames.

Writing code on the Game Boy Color was really exciting. I had used assembly language before in college (and in high school, thanks Mike!) but had never worked on an entire project written in it. Luckily, Z80 assembly language was simpler than the x86 I had previously used, and with some guidance and help I was able to keep things organized and functional.

There were two minigames I wrote for this game that I was really proud of. One was Flopglopple, a virtual pet basaed on E.T.'s pet from the storybooks. Flopglopple was a huge onscreen character for the Game Boy days: 80x48 pixels (or ten 8x16 sprites wide by three sprites tall), though we a had to make sure that we didn't actually use all 10 sprites across, as the GBC had a strict sprites-per-line limit that required us to keep some empty spots in the character. He would play, eat, sleep, explore, and even talk to you via scrolling text marquee. We even got some cool effects in there, like a screen shake when Flopglopple knocks some fruit from a tree, and a subtle palette transition between day and night (in real time). It was extremely advanced for its time, and looking at it now I can't help but be impressed that I was able to pull it off in assembly language of all things.

The other minigame I thought was cool was a bicycle chase. This was an Excitebike-style side scrolling bike game, with a variety of obstacles, ramps, pickups, and more. The levels were randomly generated by putting together "prefabs" of varying difficulty, and you could do flips and somersaults to power up E.T. so he could fly you to the end. It was awesome, and for a 21-year-old kid who grew up watching E.T. and wishing he could fly on his own bike, it was just about the coolest thing I could have imagined.