I was 16 when I bought a stock Amiga 1200, in the fall of 1993, finally making the jump from my beloved Commodore 64. Back then, I was isolated in a little town, knew nobody who was into software development, owned no programming books and had no software, apart from a bunch of floppies containing 3 pirated games I got as a bonus from the shop I had bought the Amiga from. However, having heard I was interested in programming, some friends put me in touch with an older guy who had an Amiga 4000 loaded with several original productivity programs - among which AMOS Professional - and sitting on a desk in his shop, doing nothing. The guy (who eventually became a close friend) allowed me to go to his shop and use his Amiga at will (years later, he even let me take it with me to another town!) and provided me with a copy of AMOS (registered in his name).
I started learning AMOS and improving the little programming skills I had built with the Commodore 64 User Manual and some tapes that taught BASIC. I did not consider another language because I was totally unaware of other options and, anyway, AMOS felt like a natural step from Commodore 64's BASIC and gave me the feeling that I could finally satisfy my desire of making a whole, proper game.
Still, my skills and knowledge were limited, my unexpanded Amiga (which was the computer I did most of my programming on anyway) was not exactly a workstation and AMOS had its limits, so most of my ideas were doomed to remain just that - ideas. Yet, I was quite interested in puzzle games, which often have little hardware demands. And so the first game I ever created ended up being a puzzler. It was called Follia NBA¹, and the year was 1994.
The concept was stol... erm... heavily inspired by Thalion's Atomix², which I had seen on an MS-DOS computer of one of the aforementioned friends. It was a bit different from Follix: the tiles of a level were the pieces of a picture depicting the logo of an NBA team³; as a consequence, there was only one correct place for each tile; the player had to guess the area where the reconstucted picture fitted; for every 2 minutes left, the player was awared a bonus that, at his/her command, would automagically put a tile in the correct place.
That first version was really bad: some design choices were completely wrong; most of the graphics were ugly; the code was messy, inefficient and, in places, uselessly complicated; the sound effects were taken from various tracker modules. In all, it mirrored perfectly the fact that the development had been a learning process. Though, it did work (I am somewhat amazed by how the patches to the workarounds to the fixes to the bugs produced, in the end, the correct result); moreover, the puzzles were actually good and the game was indeed fun.
In those days, I could not imagine I was sowing a seed. Through the years, I reworked/remade the game 4 times (plus an additional attempt that brought a prototype to AmigaOS 4 and Windows, as a byproduct of an iOS version which somebody else was supposed to take care of), with Follix being the result of the last effort. The motivation behind it was not only to make the game better, but also to make it technically special through ALS (enhancing Follia NBA using CSS, the ALS predecessor, is something I had been wanting to do for ages), to put ALS to good use and to get rid of the basketball theme (which, at some point, no longer felt appropriate to me and certainly is not everybody's cup of tea). The code and the assets of Follix have been created from scratch, but the puzzles are still the original ones (except for Follix' first 4, which are new and purpose to introduce the player to the mechanics gently, and Follia NBA's last 2, which have been excluded because of their sheer difficulty).
¹ "Follia" is Italian for "madness".
² Follix = Follia NBA + Atomix
³ Such an odd choice is due to the fact that at that time I was a lot into (and played) basketball.
By the way, those logos resulted surprisingly good, despite:
· the wrong technical choices made at the beginning (i.e. HIRES resolution and very saturated palette of just 15 colors - color 0 was not usable for graphics as it was reserved for a background rainbow effect);
· those were my first real pixelling experiences;
· since I had no better tool, I was (painstakingly) pixelling the logos (some of which were downright huge), eyeballing them from a magazine, with the AMOS Object Editor, which was not suited at all for such a proposition.