Fireworks Celebration Kit (C64)

While both video game consoles and home computers allowed their owners to play videogames, home computers also gave people the ability to create their own. Through BASIC and other languages, home computer owners were able to create their own games. Unfortunately, many young programmers found out the hard way that creating a game from scratch was rather difficult.

From this need, a new genre was born — the “construction kit.” The first one I remember seeing was Electronic Arts’ “Pinball Construction Set,” a program that allowed budding programmers to place bumpers at will and create their own virtual pinball tables. Pinball Construction Set would soon be followed by Arcade Game Construction Kit, Adventure Construction Set, Shoot-Em-Up Contruction Kit and Wargame Construction Set. All of these programs greatly simplified the process of creating your own programs by managing the majority of the code, allowing young game makers to focus on things like graphics, sound and gameplay.

One of the weirder additions to the “construction kit” genre was Activision’s “Complete Computer Fireworks Celebration Kit.” Dubbed “the fireworks construction kit” by gamers, Activision’s 1985 release allowed users to create their own virtual firework displays. Seriously. The Complete Computer Fireworks Celebration Kit (CCFCK) was written by Jon van Ryzin, the same man that wrote H.E.R.O.

Like any other “construction kit” program, CCFCK offers a multitude of options that allows virtual fireworks maestros the ability to customize every part of their display. Users can choose one of six backdrops (a bridge, a city, a castle, etc) and from a list of twenty songs, from The Star Spangled Banner to Happy Birthday. The program is compatible with Music Studio, so custom songs can also be imported. The fireworks displays also include text messages displayed at the bottom of the screen which can be customized as well.

And then there are the fireworks. There are several different types of fireworks than can be used, and each one can be modified using sliders, giving users the ability to alter each fireworks size, color, speed, and so on. The sliders, like every other part of the program, are controlled using a standard joystick. CCFCK requires very little keyboard interaction (other than the custom display messages users can enter).

Each event is ultimately stored on a vertically-scrolling event list. Each entry can be changed, inserted or removed. With enough time and effort, a person could theoretically synch their fireworks display up with the background music.

Once your masterpiece has been completed it can be saved to disk, where it can be reloaded or traded amongst friends (assuming they also own the program — from what I can tell, the saved firework displays are not stand alone executables).

While many people apparently have fond memories of this program, I have to admit I found the whole thing pretty boring. I mean … seriously, virtual fireworks? For a fraction of this program’s original retail cost (about $50) I could have put on a real fireworks display on in my own backyard. After ten or so minutes of messing around with Activision’s Complete Computer Fireworks Celebration Kit, I actually wanted to to turn off the computer and go outside — and that’s really saying something. I suppose kids wanting to orchestrate their own grand-scale fireworks displays might get a kick out of this title, but everyone else would get more enjoyment from simply lighting the disk on fire and chunking it high into the air.