Flag Day

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Flag Day
Flag Day
Author: Richard Hallas (UK)
Initial release: 2.54 (1992-08-06)
Latest release: 5.05 (2003-07-02)
OS: RISC OS
Language(s): English
Genre: Minesweeper Versions
Status: Freeware
Website: Homepage

Flag Day is a minesweeper game for RISC OS written by Richard Hallas (UK). It has been included in RISC OS releases since 2002.

Contents

[edit] History

The inspiration for Flag Day came from a minesweeper game written for Macintosh computers, possibly called 'Mine Detector'. Richard Hallas obtained some floppy disks with public domain software, and one of the programs was a minesweeper game. Macintosh computer mice had only one button, so the game had icons at the top of the screen you clicked to change between flagging and clicking mode. He remembers the game being in black and white, and that it spoke its name when launched. This was his first experience playing minesweeper, although he also had a copy of Mined-Out.

In 1992 he decided to program a RISC OS version of minesweeper and copied many features of the Macintosh game. The mode icons were kept but also added to the bottom of the screen, and since RISC OS mice had 3 buttons he programmed the right 'Adjust' button so it also changed modes. In 'Search' mode the cursor was a magnifying glass with a green handle, and in 'Flag' mode it was a three-coloured flag. In early versions the game tiles were created as OS-drawn button icons, but starting with Version 2.00 a custom-written drawing routine replaced this approach for greater speed and flexibility. A few months later he submitted Version 2.54 to RISC User magazine, and they advertised it for sale in the October 1992 edition. The advert contained a screenshot and described the game as "Highly addictive, and extremely well implemented, with many selectable features such as difficulty levels and a high score table." The game was sold as part of the 'RISC User Volume 5 Special Disc'. It is unclear when exactly, but at one point the magazine stated it to be "the original and, we like to think, best RISC OS desktop implementation" of Minesweeper.

Version 3.00 was finished in January 1994 and included a new Hint feature and support for RISC OS 3. It was again submitted to RISC User and published in the July 1994 edition, on an optional disc readers could pay to receive with the magazine. Without permission, someone at the magazine decided to improve the game before its release: they replaced the game icon, changed the appearance of some game windows and altered the !Run file. This resulted in a bug that caused the game to crash and give an error message while launching.

In a related development, Acorn Computers released RISC OS 3.50 in April 1994, and it included a minesweeper game by Paul LeBeau called Mine Hunt. This game remained on official releases of the OS until the release of RISC OS 4 in July 1999.

There were many updates of Flag Day during 1994. Version 3.10 saw the introduction of an optional two-button system where cells were opened with the Left ('Select') button and flagged with the Right ('Adjust') button. In this style of playing the mouse cursor was a standard white pointer, although the Hint feature continued using its Questionmark cursor. This new style became default gameplay in Version 3.21, but the old modal interface remains an option in all later releases. Version 3.71 somehow found its way into a Public Domain software collection despite the copyright notices included in the program.

Having been a regular contributor, Hallas was invited to become editor of RISC User in late 1995, a position he held for 3 years. Version 4.00 had been finished in October 1994, but due to workload and a desire not be seen as pushing his own products the game was not published in the magazine until November 1996. The main improvements were better graphics and the introduction of two skins. The Bandits skin is rectangular and uses footprints instead of numbers, and puts criminals behind bars instead of using flags. The Mine Hunt skin uses graphics from the previously mentioned Mine Hunt game.

In 1998, Acorn Computers stopped work on RISC OS and soon afterwards RISC User magazine stopped publication. The following year, Hallas bought the rights to the magazine and in doing so acquired back the rights to his Flag Day game. He decided to release Flag Day to a wider audience. In 1999, Richard released "RISC User...in a Nutshell" which doubled as the Special Disc for Volume 12 and contained all previous discs and additional material (including Flag Day). That year he also founded 'Foundation RISC User' magazine, a CD publication which included a current version of Flag Day among the software in each edition.

Initially there were only minor bug fixes, culminating in Version 4.02 on 28 Aug 2001. Flag Day saw a resurgence in 2002 with the release of Version 5. The main enhancements included higher colour resolution, improved option menus, more detailed Highscore lists and the introduction of new skins. Two new developments brought the game to a wider audience. RISCOS Ltd decided to release future updates to subscribers via the 'RISC OS Select' scheme. 'Select 1' was released in May and included a copy of Flag Day 5.00 in the Diversions directory. As a result, the game has been included in all RISC OS 4 and 6 releases by the company. Later that year, Castle Technology released RISC OS 5, a seperate branch of the operating system for the Iyonix computer. Included was a copy of Flag Day 5.03, and all future releases by the company also include the game.

Richard was a beta-tester for RISCOS Ltd and its Select releases. He wrote style and programming guides, edited software components and updated graphics. He was also paid by Castle Technology to design the icon set for their version of the OS. As he recalls, both companies requested software from developers. In the case of Castle he submitted several items, with Flag Day being selected. A possible reason for Castle replacing Mine Hunt with Flag Day was that the Iyonix computer required software written for its 32-bit processor. As for RISCOS Ltd, Richard vaguely recalls a specific request for a new minesweeper game. The end result is that Flag Day has become the de facto minesweeper game for the RISC OS community.

[edit] Features

Flag Day is the only minesweeper game that places mines by percentage. The default density is 20% mines, and Custom games using this density are eligible for the Highscore list. The Highscore list saves the 5 best scores for all levels. There are 4 standard levels, ranging from Easy (8x8) to Expert (27x27). Custom grids range from 3x8 to 99x99 in size and from 5% to 50% in density. It is possible to have game sizes larger than the screen display size, as the game has scrollbars.

Flag Day is possibly the first minesweeper version to allow custom skins, introduced in 1994. The game officially has 9 skins with many having two versions. (Many distributions have 8 skins as the 'OS-Logos skin was withheld due to copyright concerns). Another interesting feature is that number colours in the default skin get 'stronger' as they increase from 1 to 8. The game display has always worked in all available colour depths, and currently supports Monochrome to Full-Colour.

The 'Choices' windows has several options. For example, you can play in 'Search and Flag' mode, use 'Uncertainty Markers' (similar in usage to Questionmarks but with a different graphic), show mines at the end of the game, magnify the tiles, make edges or corners always safe, use alternative skins, or turn on sound effects. The 'Hint' feature shows you a safe square but can only be used once for every 50 mines on the level. New games can be started from the menu, by clicking the game icon on the icon bar, or by clicking the top strip of the game window. Some options are considered cheats, thus using a Hint or making edges safe will prevent entry into the best times list.

Despite all these features, Flag Day does not have a method to clear squares by chording.

[edit] Screenshots

The following pictures are all of Version 5.05:

Flag Day allows you to create custom skins. Many of the 9 official skins have alternative designs. For example, the OS-Logos and OS-Hazard skins have optional numbers, the Crossword skin can use numbers or letters, while the FlagDay, WindowsMS and MineHunt skins have grey-scale versions.

The Acorn symbols on the OS-Logos and OS-Hazard skins may be unfamiliar to users of other operating systems: 1 is a BBC Owl, 2 is an Archimedes (using RISC OS 2), 3 is an Acorn (using RISC OS 3), 4 is a cube graphic (from RISC OS 4), 5 is a cogwheel (from RISC OS Select, RISC OS 5 and later), 6 is an ARM logo (from the ARM6 used in the Risc PC), 7 is a Risc PC (vague reference to the ARM7-based Risc PC700) and 8 is an 8-bit styled Acorn logo. The Windows symbol is used for mines in both skins, while in the OS-Logos graphics set an Apple logo is used instead of the 'Hint' warning triangle.

[edit] Easter Eggs

If you enter '?' as your name after making a best time, you are instead given the name of a classical composer from a preset list. Richard added this feature as a result of his music degree.

There was another Easter Egg until version 5 was released. If you clicked on the name 'Richard Hallas' in the information window, a picture of him would move around the screen, bouncing off the edges until you closed it. He removed this feature after deciding it was self-indulgent.

[edit] References

Richard Hallas kindly supplied a detailed history of Flag Day and RISC OS by email on 3 Sep 2011 and again on 9 Sep 2011 to AMS. He also corrected several mistakes in the RISC OS section on the Versions page, as well as supplying the Screenshots in this article. Further information was taken from the version history provided with Flag Day 4.02 in the 'Help' and 'UpdateInfo' files.

Further references as follows:

[edit] Versions

For full version details refer to the 'UpdateInfo' and 'Help' files supplied with each version. This list includes only the most important versions and modifications.

5.05 2003-07-02 - Minor bug fixes.
5.04 2003-03-09 - Minor bug fixes.
5.03 2002-09-05 - Released with RISC OS 5.00 and the Iyonix computer by Castle Technology. Only difference from 5.02 was being compiled for the 32-bit XScale processor instead of 26-bit processors used by older RISC OS versions.
5.02 2002-09-05 - Released with 'Select 2i1' on 2002-10-06 by RISCOS Ltd and incorporated into RISC OS 4.23.
5.01 2002-08-10 - Minor bug fixes.
Version 5 (5.00) 2002-05-02 - Highscore list now saves 5 best scores for each level and for Custom
- Choices window completely re-written
- Graphics now support any colour depth up to 16M
- Created new default skin and renamed original skin FlagDay1.
- Added Crossword, OS-Logos, OS-Hazard, WindowsMS, MineSweep and their alternative skins.
NOTE: Released with 'Select 1i5' on 2002-04-08 by RISCOS Ltd.
4.02 2001-08-28 - Some bug fixes
4.01 - Changed icon size and, small bug fix
Version 4 (4.00) 1994-10-17 - New icon, added Bandits and Mine Hunt skins
- Support for a range of graphics sets
NOTE: Version 4 runs natively only on 26-bit processors (eg., will not work on 32-bit Iyonix)
NOTE: Published with RISC User Volume 10 Issue 1 (November 1996).
3.71 1994 - This version ended up in a Public Domain software library
3.50 1994 - Option to highlight the exploded mine in lost games
- Redesigned the Preferences Windows
- Made game more compatible with Acorn Style Guide
- Added hourglass percentages during board creation
- Many changes to menus
3.21 1994 - Added option for "uncertainty markers" (similar to Questionmarks)
- Improved code efficiency, improved graphics
- Made 2-button mode (introduced in 3.10) the default mode.
3.15 1994 - Various bug fixes for sound, game messages and display
3.10 1994 - Added option to open squares with Left ('Select') button and to flag with Right ('Adjust') button. Default mode was previously using only Select and using game buttons to toggle between opening cells or flagging.
Version 3 (3.00) 1994-01-31 - Hacked version with several bugs!
- Official improvements were a Hints feature and support for RISC OS 3.
NOTE: Published with RISC User Volume 7 Issue 8 (July 1994).
2.73 - New Hint mode added (allows 1 Hint per 50 mines)
- Fixed bugs (eg., flagging before opening tiles caused error messages).
Version 2 (2.54) 1992-08-06 - First published version.
NOTE: Published with RISC User Volume 5 Issue 10 (Oct 1992).
Version 1 1992 - This version was not made public.
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