Critical Mass

The General

Mother Of All Battles
Real time WWII battle
Capture The Flag
Capture The Flag
A card game
Lead your tribe to safety
End Of Atlantis
Play in the Jurassic League

Kill all of the rats
Find all 35 words

The Games
Critical Mass
The General
Mother Of All Battles
Capture The Flag
End Of Atlantis

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About Sean O'Connor
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History of the games

I've been writing games since I was about 8 on my first computer, a Video Genie, which was a TRS80 compatible with fake wooden sides and a built in tape player. All the games were in Basic although I got hold of a compiler, "Accel", to speed things up a bit, and I played with some Z80 machine code but didn't get much further than making the screen scroll. This was because in those days I had to type in machine code by a long string of hexadecimal numbers and debugging that wasn't easy!

My next computer was an Acorn Electron, the 1Mhz baby brother of the BBC Micro. I started writing a lot of games for fun in the built in 6502 assembler, the best of which were a "Sea Wolf" type game where you dropped depth charges on submarines, a conversion of the Vic 20 game "Blue Meanies" and a conversion of the Spectrum game "Hall Of The Things".

The next computer I had was an Atari ST. 68000 assembly code was so much easier to use than any assembler I had used before and as a result the games grew better and more complex. I wrote a platform game called "Guy Fawkes" which was published on ST User magazine, as well as "Critical Mass" the forerunner of the Windows game of the same name, "Battle Hex" the forerunner of "Slay", and "Get The Fokker", which was completely written in 24 hours and got published on a magazine cover disk! (although the magazine insisted that the name be changed to just "Fokker")

I originally started writing Windows games as I was completely hooked on an Apple Mac game, "Strategic Conquest", and I wanted to have it running on the 386SX20 PC on my desk at work. My job on a College help desk involved long periods of waiting for a student to have a problem so I set to work learning Windows programming on a borrowed copy of Borland C 3.1 and Charles Petzold's excellent book. The game, called "Mother Of All Battles", was finished and ready to release at the beginning of 1994 and was particularly strong on the artificial intelligence of the enemy players controlled by the computer.

My next game, "Rats!" was an original idea rather than a port of an existing game. The idea just sort of came to me in an instant and the final game, ready about 4 months later, hardly changed on the original idea at all. It was a bit of a tongue in cheek game but it turned out to be very fun and addictive and had some great sound effects. It was released in the middle of 1994.

I was stuck for an idea for the next game so I decided to do a Windows version of my old game "Battle Hex" which had been fun on the Atari ST. Programming in C was a lot more easy than in 68000 assembly language so the game came along very quickly. However, once it was finished at the end of 1994 I delayed the release for a few months as I didn't think it would sell very well being a turn based thinking game based on hexagons. However, once it came out early in 1995 it sold so quickly that I was making more money from it than I was making from my new regular job! I quit the job a couple of months later to work on games full time.

I bought my first PC, a 486DX66, so I could work from home and it ran Windows 3.1 so quickly - in those days... I started a few projects which got aborted, including a "Frogger" type game with lots of frogs instead of just the one, a version of my old game "Get The Fokker", and a war game with hundreds of medieval figures which I'll probably come back to one day.

A friend of mine quit at the same time and we began to work on "Revolution", a circular Tetris game that he had thought of. I side-lined the main project I was working on, a turn based version of my old Atari game "Critical Mass", to work on the project. Revolution was released at the end of 1995.

I went back to work on "Critical Mass" but took another break from it to write a little utility called "Sound Effects Generator" which created simple .WAV files. I wrote it mainly to help with new games that I was writing but decided it could make some money too by itself. It was released at the beginning of 1996.

"Critical Mass" was finally finished soon afterwards and it had been my most ambitious and longest project to date. There was lots of AI in it and the game play was really exciting, although it didnít look that pretty because, lets face it, space is mostly just black. It was released at the same time as "Sound Effects Generator".

I wanted to network Critical Mass and the other games eventually, so I next set to work on a conversion of the old Mac game "Crystal Quest" as a simple game on which I could test out the networking. I used NetDDE for the networking but I didn't release the game until 2001 because the NetDDE code didn't work on 32 bit Windows and I had to wait until I had learnt Windows Sockets programming.

By now I'd upgraded to Windows 95 and I spent the summer of 1996 working on upgrades to all the old programs, along with a simple reminder utility program called "Oi!" that I'd written for myself to keep track of all my friends and relatives birthdays and other events.

The next project I decided to work on was a paint splat ball game called "Splat" which I had done some preliminary work on the previous summer. I'd been playing the DOS turn based game "Capture The Flag" a lot and I liked all the different sorts of terrain you could hide in and ambush people from. After a couple of months I decided to change the idea of the game to a World War II simulation as itís a period of warfare that I've always been interested in, and the name of the game changed to "Firefight". Microsoft brought out a similar game called "Close Combat" but I wasn't put off because their game was pants. I got side tracked by taking on some consultancy work but kept going at it in my spare time.

Firefight was finally released in September 1998. It was the largest and most complicated game that I had ever written and got some great reviews in magazines and on web sites, and went on to be a finalist in the 1999 Ziff Davis shareware awards

I hardly had a chance to write any games in 1999 as I set up a web company to run an intelligent people search site. Take a look (and join up!) at It's dead useful and over 10,000 people have joined the system!

New versions of Firefight (v 2.0) and Mother Of All Battles (v 3.1) were released. The changes to Mother Of All Battles were fairly minor, but Firefight now had much larger scenarios and up to twice as many troops per side. Matrix Games bought the rights to Firefight and are currently developing a new version which will have much better graphics and sounds.

I also created a guestbook and message board system for this web site, and a feature which allows you to email copies of the games to your friends.

I finished a new version of Critical Mass (version 3.0). It's a huge improvement over the older versions with 3D looking ships, great looking graphics and a ship and mission designer.

I wrote a conversion of Slay to run on hand held Windows CE devices called PocketSlay since the code for Windows and Windows CE is so similar. PocketSlay won the PocketPC Magazine Best Strategy Game award for 2001.

After PocketSlay sold so well I decided to write another boardgame for Windows CE devices.

I finally learnt how to use Windows Sockets so I could network the games. I dug out my old game UFOs which had used NetDDE for networking (which didn't work with Windows past 95) and rewrote it using Sockets. I used this knowledge to write new versions of Slay and Conquest which were networkable.

I wrote a new game which is a cross between 5-a-side football and American Football, except you play with dinosaurs and throw a rock to each other. The game is networkable so up to 10 people can play at once.

By now I was getting an enormous amount of junk email because I'd had the same email address for 8 years and I have to publish my email address on this site. The email client that I was using didn't block any of it and I was getting frustrated with it not having features that I really needed. So, I decided the only solution was to write my own email client!

I've always liked playing Table Football in pubs so I decided to write a version for Windows. You can play solo games against the computer in the League or World Cup or you can play network games of up to 8 people

I thought I'd have a go at writing a game which would be a real challenge to write the AI for next. It wasn't easy doing the AI for the computer player in this game as you can't see what the opponent's pieces are at the beginning of the game so there is a lot of bluffing involved, but I think it plays a pretty good game.

Major upgrades were made to most of the games. Slay, The General and Conquest can be translated into other languages. Conquest got a graphics overhaul and Critical Mass was almost completely re-written. The Pocket PC games now work properly on Windows CE 2003.

Slay was converted to run on Palm handheld computers in colour and black and white.

Firefight made a come back with better graphics and gameplay.

I wrote another boardgame where you must lead your people to safety on board rockets bound for distant galaxies.

I released a major new version of Firefight with masses of new features

A card game which my in-laws play every Christmas. Lots of tactical thinking where you try and make your bid and spoil everyone else's chances

I wrote a text editor with built-in spell checker, HTML checker, syntax highlighter and FTP