Boulder Dash

Boulder Dash

"Boulder Dash", aka "Rockford", originally released in 1984, is a classic series of computer games for the Apple II, MSX, ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, and Atari 400/800 home computers, and later ported to the NES, Acorn Electron, PC, Amstrad CPC, Amiga and many other platforms. It was created by Peter Liepa and Chris Gray, and on October 28, 1983, acquired and later published by First Star Software, which still owns the rights to the game.

The hero of the game, whom the player controls, is the brave prospector "Rockford". He must dig through caves collecting gems and diamonds, while avoiding various types of dangerous creatures as well as obstacles like falling rocks and the constant danger of being crushed or trapped by an avalanche, or killed by an underground explosion.

"Boulder Dash" is one of the very few computer games ever to be ported from home computers to arcades (contrary to the other way around). At least four arcade versions of "Boulder Dash" have been released by various companies:
* Exidy (1984)
* Data East (once in 1985, and an updated version in 1990)
* Arcadia Systems (1988, under the name "Rockford")

Official game titles

The titles of the home computer versions.
* "Boulder Dash" (1984), the original, published by First Star
* "Boulder Dash 2 – Rockford's Revenge" (1986), published by Electronic Arts (EA)
* "Super Boulder Dash" (1986), EA (combo pack incl. the first two games)
* "Boulder Dash III" (1986), published by First Star (Europe only)
* "Boulder Dash Construction Kit" (1987), published by Epyx (also known as "Boulder Dash IV" due to the included game levels)
* "Rockford" (1988), published by Mastertronic ('MAD-X' and 'Arcadia' labels)
* "Boulder Dash - M.E.", published by First Star, developed by InstantCom [ [] "" Retrieved on 05-29-07 ]
* " [ Boulder Dash - M.E. 2] ", published by First Star, developed by InstantCom

"Rockford" is a home conversion of the officially-licensed arcade game.

This list is not exhaustive; in recent years First Star Software and their official licensees have produced a large number of variants on different platforms (including mobile devices). See First Star's [ "Boulder Dash" page] for more details.

Game objects

(commonly referred to as "entities")

* Rockford is the hero of the game, the character controlled by the player. His goal is to collect diamonds and avoid contact with monsters and falling rocks. (The game allows more than one entry point, thus allowing two people to take turns controlling Rockford.)
* Dirt and Space are the two basic components of the playfield. Dirt can serve for blocking and/or suspending objects, while space allows them to move freely. Rockford clears dirt as he moves, creating space.
* Walls are the delimiters of the level. Two basic types exist, destructible (which looks like brick, and can be removed with explosions) and indestructible (made of titanium and from which the edge of the level is usually made).
* The exit is the final goal Rockford must reach after collecting enough diamonds. The exit is normally hidden, disguising itself as an indestructible wall, but starts to blink after it is opened. It is, however, destructible by explosions. A level can have multiple exits.
* Rocks are probably the most commonly encountered elements of the game. Upon removing the dirt from beneath them, they fall until they reach solid ground again. A falling rock can not only crush enemies, but also Rockford as well. When a rock lands on the top of another rock or diamond, it rolls off sideways. Rocks also roll off the edges of destructible walls, but not indestructible walls. Rocks can be destroyed by explosions.
* Diamonds are the items Rockford must collect in order to open the exit of a level. They can be picked up by moving into them or by holding down the joystick button and pushing the joystick to pick up the diamond beside Rockford in the corresponding direction without him moving (which can buy him enough headstart to escape when e.g. a Firefly waits right behind it). This technique can also be used to push rocks one square away without moving Rockford. Otherwise diamonds act the same way as rocks do, including their ability to crush fireflies, butterflies, and Rockford.
* Fireflies are one of the common enemies in the game. When next to a wall, they follow it to their left (clockwise); otherwise they circle in a 2x2 area. When a rock or diamond is dropped on them, they explode in a 3x3 square, destroying anything in that area except indestructible walls and leaving empty space behind. They also explode when Rockford touches them, killing both themselves and Rockford. They are often used as either a danger to avoid or as a strategic tool, as their explosions can destroy walls or rocks, allowing Rockford to reach otherwise inaccessible areas.
* Butterflies are similar to fireflies, with two important differences. They follow the wall to their right (anti-clockwise) and when they explode, they leave behind nine diamonds arranged in a 3x3 square (unless one of these spaces happens to contain an indestructible wall).
* Amoeba is one of the most unpredictable elements of the game. It grows at a random rate, by expanding into adjacent space and dirt (the growth rate is not constant but can be defined in the level settings). The amoeba is not directly dangerous to Rockford, although it is capable of enclosing and trapping him, or blocking him from reaching the exit. When Rockford manages to enclose the amoeba into a confined space in which it can no longer grow, it "suffocates" and turns into diamonds. However, if it grows larger than 200 squares, it turns into rocks instead (some versions of the game may have this occur when the level clock ticks down to ten seconds). An amoeba enclosed on start of the level does not start to grow or turn into diamonds until it has been "let loose". Butterflies and fireflies explode into diamonds on contact with the amoeba, a feature which is used by several levels as a means to create diamonds or reach inaccessible diamonds. Whenever it is present in a level, the amoeba makes a distinctive music or bubbling sound, depending on game version.
* Slime looks similar to the amoeba (colored blue instead of green), but it works completely differently. Slime does not grow, and does not cause enemies to explode on contact. Its functionality is revealed when dropping a rock or a diamond on top of it; slime has a permeability rate which defines how long the item will remain sitting on top of it before falling through. This happens in quite a sudden and random manner, making the game rely on improvising even more.
* Expanding walls look and act just like destructible walls, with one difference: when possible, they expand horizontally, often trapping the player or enemies. Expanding walls are made out of themselves - blowing a hole in the middle of a row causes it to close in again almost immediately.
* Magic Walls look and act just like destructible walls except that when a boulder is dropped on a magic wall, it falls through and turns into a diamond. Conversely a diamond dropped on a magic wall turns into a boulder. These walls only work if the space beneath the wall is cleared so that there is space for the diamonds to land. They have a time limit during which they will create diamonds, which is signalled by a distinctive tinkling noise; after this time limit runs out, the wall will stop creating diamonds, but will still absorb any boulders dropped on top of it.

Boulder Dash in the C64 scene

The Originals

Boulder Dash 1:It is powered by the BD1 engine and features the following entities: space, dirt, brick walls, magic walls, titanium walls, boulders, diamonds, amoebas, fireflies, butterflies and the exit. The game was merely 16 kB in size.

Boulder Dash 2:It is powered by the BD2 engine:Known bugs were fixed. Two new entities were introduced: slime and expanding walls. Unlike the BD1 engine, amoebas don't convert to diamonds upon a dropped boulder into a magic wall. This is due to a change in magic wall timing behavior. In order to keep bright brick walls while having green amoeba at the same time, the amoeba color was changed to the dirt color, which in turn has swapped its colors, so it appears with a common main color with the boulders and titanium walls in caves where amoeba is present. Most fans consider this BD2 dirt mod a bad idea, as it makes it impossible to have a reasonable contrast in amoeba caves.

Boulder Dash 3:This game was done by a different team. It has several bugs, in part due to the usage of the outdated BD1 engine. The new space theme isn't very popular among fans. However, the worse thing is the fact, that the levels 4 and 5 are unplayable due to bugs. In some caves, the monoliths (the name of the amoebas in BD3) are not animated due to wrongly set bits in the animation table.

Boulder Dash Construction Kit (aka. Boulder Dash 4):It is powered by the PLCK engine. New entities: hidden exits and Rockford-dolls (aka voodoo Rockfords. For the first time, this engine allows separate setups for magic wall and amoeba timer. The 5 Level concept was removed in favor for a map based cave format which allows more complex structures. A game can have up to 48 caves. Unfortunately, there are several bugs, which can result in crashing either the Construction Kit as well as the games made with it. With the Construction Kit, there comes Boulder Dash 4, a game with 15 caves. One drawback is that you need the executable which comes with the Construction Kit (and which cannot be freely distributed) in order to play games made with it. Thus, games made with the kit are only legally playable by those who also own the kit.

The fanmade games

Even before the Construction Kit was released, some fans reverse engineered the BD1 engine and made their own games. Dr. Watson made a Boulder Dash 4, Don Pedro continued the series with Boulder Dash 5-11. Meanwhile, No One and The Blockheads started their own series. All still powered by the BD1 engine. The 16 games Boulder and the two Finalboulder-compilations became quite popular even outside the Boulder Dash fandom. As there was no editor, all those games were made with a Machine code monitor.

The Softkiller Editor

1987:The Construction Set+ by The Softkillers is a so called levelpacker, a tool to make a standalone games with. Unfortunately the bugs in the engine remained. With this tool, you could design new graphics for the first time, and you also can import fonts. The slightly modified engine is commonly called Soft engine.

New Rules: The Effects

1987:Lord Diego came up with special effects. He enhanced the Construction Kit and called the result Effect Kit. He patched the Soft engine so those games could use the effects. Examples for effects are fireflies exploding into boulders, falling diamonds dissolving into thin air etc.. In addition, the Effect Kit allows placement of multiple Rockfords and exits, slime and amoeba in the same cave and entities on the border.

Fan Clubs

1987ff:Several Boulder Dash fan clubs were founded. Among them are the Boulder Dash Club Freudenberg and POSOCOPI Waldkirch . At those, the work for better levelpackers began. No One, Lord Diego und The Blockheads were well known to that time in the scene. They teamed up in order to improve the game. The first result was the No One Packer, which however was not available to the public due to quality insurance reasons. If asked by fans, they simply stated that only those three have them and nobody else are allowed so. The slightly modified engine is commonly called No1 engine. It supports an intro text screen, custom graphics and fonts, for which there are separate editors, specially made for the No One Packer, thus many fans made their own graphics and font sets. And to the dislike to some fans, No One decided to include the BD2 dirt mod, which has the side effect, that you can not use custom dirt graphics, even though, the editor let you design one.As No One assumed the dissolve effect at the end of a cave to be the cause for those random crashes, he simply removed it. Even though, it looks a bit dull, it finally didn't crash at least.Another new feature was the top 10 high score saver.

More Levelpackers

1988:As the No One Packer wasn't available, Prof. Knibble coded his own, The Knibble Packer. At first, he used No One's high score saver. This is commonly known as the Knib engine.

In the meantime, No One still developed his levelpacker and finally made it available for all fans. New was the ability to load up to 48 caves, whereas the early version were hardcoded for 20 caves. The intro is now animated and is displayed together with the music. The final widely spread version was v5.3.

Lord Diego made the last version of the Effect Kit. The only new effect was the setup for the maximum amoeba size. Also new was the ability to save the effect setup with the cave, so there can be individual effects for each cave. There is a patched No One Packer v5.3 with full Diego Effects support.

1989:Prof. Knibble developed version 3 of his Knib engine. New was a top 20 high score saver. In contrast to No One's high score saver, you'll enter your name when you made a new entry, rather than at the beginning. Since, No One made his packer available, Prof. Knibble had no motivation to develop a levelpacker for this new engine, so the top 20 high score saver was not used much at that time.

New Boulder Dash

1990:Prof. Knibble teamed up with POSOCOPI and fans were asked for new entity ideas. After collecting ideas and a lot of coding, the new engine was there, the NewB engine aka. 1stB-Engine. POSOCOPI made the caves for the First Boulder games. The announced levelpacker for this engine was not done. Prof. Knibble was busy with the Gianna Sisters Construction Kit (which never got a levelpacker). The First three games were the only ones for some time.The 1stB engine has these new entities: sweets, keys, trapped diamonds, biter, walls which look like boulders or diamonds, clocks, Mrs. Rockfords, bombs, T's, chasing boulders, ghosts, bladders and switches for firefly and butterfly direction, expanding wall direction and biter delay. The cave format was changed to accommodate those new features.

Prof. Knibble left the C64 scene and intended to give Lord Diego his notes for the 1stB engine. Though the announced Construction Kit did not appear, neither by Prof. Knibble nor by Lord Diego.

In the meantime LogicDeLuxe made a Levelpacker v2, allowing diagonal walking. There is a patched Construction Kit for designing those caves. This engine uses the No One high scorer saver.

No One went over to the Emerald Mine scene and disappeared from the c64 scene.

1991:Since the No One Packer was no longer in development, it was overtaken by LogicDeLuxe. This resulted in the De Luxe Packer 1.3. The dissolve effect was back in and the actual crash cause was fixed. The cave selection can be done backwards. The magic wall ringing was fixed.

Yet Another Fan Club

1992:Since all the early fan clubs had disappeared, Alex Zop founded a new one, the Boulder-Dash-Forever-Fan-Club and he called for a coder for a new Construction Kit. LogicDeLuxe took that opportunity and wrote Marek's de Luxe Construction Kit which was powered by the 1stB-Engine. The diagonal walking was implemented as a per cave option. And Prof. Knibble's top 20 high score saver was finally available in a levelpacker.

1993:Alex Zop founded the disk mag Rockford FD (written in German) featuring a lot of Freeware, Shareware all the Boulder-Dash-Forever-Fan-Club stuff. Among them, several versions of Marek's de Luxe Construction Kit, in which you could name the cave with up to 14 characters for the first time.

1996:The last Rockford FD issue appears.

Boulder Dash On The Internet

1998:When the internet became mainstream, several fan pages appeared, featuring a huge number of fan made games and clones.

2001:Some fans were annoyed by the changing of the walking sound in the No One Packer and Deluxe Packer, so version 1.31 was released, restoring the original walking noise.

And with v1.41, yet another version was released making the BD2 dirt mod optional.

The Crazy Light Tools

2002ff:Crazy Dream 8 appeared powered by the new CrLi engine. With the Crazy Light Tools, you'll get all you need to make a complete standalone game. While this is already possible, there are still plans for some minor features before the package is declared final, mostly full bilingualism. Anyway, it is the most stable and comfortable Boulder Dash editor ever on the C64.New features in comparison to the 1stB engine: The ghosts proved to be of little use and were replaced with boxes, falling walls and acid. There are some enhancements here and there. The tools are heavily enhanced in comparison to the v2.x predecessors.


Several clones have been made of "Boulder Dash". Many clones which have copied the name or appearance of the original game have been shut down by cease and desist orders from First Star over the years (such as "Boulderoid"); only a few video game companies have shown this level of diligence towards their intellectual property, and despite these efforts, the basic gameplay has been reused many times.
* "Boulder Smash" for the Atari ST/E + Atari Falcon030, German-made clones.Fact|date=March 2008
* "Emerald Mine" on the Amiga, a German-made clone actually became more popular than the original game.Fact|date=February 2007
* "Supaplex", an MS-DOS game with a visual theme based on computers and circuit boards, is also widely regarded as being a clone of "Boulder Dash".
* "Bluppo", a PC clone with a fish theme.
* "Rockfall " on the ZX Spectrum and the PC.
* "Wop Gamma" on the SAM Coupé.
* " [ Natto-Cat] ", a Microsoft Windows game with Japanese elements.
* " [ Icicle Works] ", a Commodore 64 clone with an icy theme (penguins, polar bears, etc.)
* " [ Epiphany] ", an open-source multi-platform computer game, released under the GPL
* "Gnome-Stones", a true GNOME clone .
* " [ Sapphire-Yours] " PC clone with high quality graphics and over 360 levels.
* "Rocks'n'Diamonds", an open-source combination of various Boulder Dash clones. Includes a featureful level editor.
* Doom Dash, an open-source MS-DOS clone written in Turbo Pascal, with a visual theme based on "Doom". It was released in Hungary in the '90s on a computer game magazine's CD.
* "Safrosoft RoX"In the rocks-and-diamonds genre, the "Repton" series originating on the BBC Micro and Acorn Electron, offers superficially similar gameplay arrived at independently.
* Also bearing superficial resemblance, "Miner Disturbance", a Jagex Funorb game featuring various grades of ore, a wide variety of tools, pooling water, and seismic-volcanic reaction.
* Boulders an MS-DOS game with 30 Levels. With objects like hamburgers, cherries, a green "lava flow", boulders, diamonds, and so on.
* "Diamond Luis" on the MSX.
* "Rock Man" and "Rock Man 2" on the Commodore 16 and Commodore VIC-20.


External links

* [ First Star Software: "Boulder Dash"]
*moby game|id=/boulder-dash|name="Boulder Dash"
* [ "Boulder Dash"'s game mechanics]
* [ Rhod's "Boulder Dash" Collection] — photos of game's various commercial packaging
* [ Martijn's "Boulder Dash" Fan Site] — resource for "Boulder Dash" remakes
* [ Arno's "Boulder Dash" Fansite] — "Boulder Dash" history, including an interview with Peter Liepa, and forums
* [ Complete video from the C64 version] on

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