You can be nostalgic about something for a lot longer than that thing was current. So it is with the Commodore 64, the Speccy and early computers in general.
I had a rubber keyed Spectrum 48K for a couple of years followed by a C64 that I used every day for another 4 years or so and here we are in 2019 and I’m reading about those ancient computers. I’m not the only one. There are vibrant communities around both computers and it’s great to see!
Somehow I can’t see myself feeling the same way about Windows 3.1, but I have to admit I have maybe not so fond memories of tuning autoexec.bat to get a few KB more memory in the DOS days…
What are the books I’m reading and where can I get them?
If you had a Commodore 64 in your youth, or you’re simply curious about the games produced for the system then Gamebase64 is for you.
Gamebase64 is an effort to catalogue every single Commodore 64 game, along with associated media like music, tape or disk covers, adverts and magazine reviews
It’s huge! The latest version is V15 and was released in 2016 holding 25,700 games. The games themselves don’t take up too much data but the artwork, music, and associated material really take up a lot of room. The whole collection is available as 3 ISO files and an artwork zip file. You can find download links to all of those in this thread, but if you don’t want to download them you can browse the collection here (or here) too. You’ll need to download the GameBase frontend to view everything as well as the V15 database files. I use Vice to emulate the Commodore 64.
GameBase itself is a database frontend for Windows that supports multiple databases. Many systems from the Commodore Vic20 to the Amiga or the Speccy and Amstrad CPC range are covered. You can find links to them on the GameBase website as well as many other databases.
I mainly use a Mac so I use Gamebase64 Browser. It’s a very slick frontend but if you search around you’ll find frontends written in a variety of languages for various modern platforms.
Installation was as simple as copying everything out of the ISO files into a directory, installing GameBase64 Browser in the usual way and when first run, pointing it at the directory where I had copied everything else.
Single disk and tape games work perfectly fine but I’ve had trouble with multi-disk games. To play Retrograde I had to manually unzip both disks into a temporary directory and load them in Vice outside of GameBase64 Browser. Not difficult at all but worth remembering when your favourite game asks you to insert disk 2. 🙂
If you’re at all interested in retro computers then GameBase is definitely worth checking out!
Ah Retrograde, a Commodore 64 game released by Thalamus in 1989. The Rowland Brothers, of Creatures, Creatures 2 and Mayhem in Monsterland fame created this game and it shows. Presentation is top notch. Some would say that this is a repetitive shoot ’em up but I love it. Nice mix of flying around shooting aliens and then a bit of a break with the underground bits. I love the graphics and the sound is a delight.
The gameplay is very simplistic, especially underground but the flying weapons are super! Just make sure you have an autofire on your controller. My thumb was sore from two levels when I remember Vice can do the hard work for me. I’m also glad Vice can save a snapshot of the computer state to save my progress as this game takes some time to complete.
What game? No, that’s the title of a free game on Steam and on the Commodore 64!
The C64 version can be found here on CSDb while the Steam version is here. The Steam version works on Windows, Mac and 32 bit Linux! A comment on the original announcement post links to what could be a port to something called FreeBASIC which is available here.
The game is a very hard platform game where you have to collect all the items in the game to complete it 100%. The CSDb page has some spoiler comments so beware of those if you want to avoid them. Then again, this game came out in 2012 so you probably know about it already.
The game is great, but the the stand out thing for me is the flawless C64 port. It looks very much like the modern Steam version, with the same sounds and graphics which isn’t surprising as they’re fairly basic. The game plays the same, at least as far as I’ve got to!
Many people love this game for the CGA colour palette but it’s a reminder that the PC had humble beginnings comparable to the Commodore 64. The Commodore Amiga released in the mid-eighties blew away anything produced on the PC for many years.
Sometimes you accidentally dive down a rabbit hole of your own making. I came across the Retro Computer Scene search engine a few days ago and accidentally clicked on a link to a Commodore 64 disk image. Those files are small at 175KB so I decided to keep it and look at it later.
This morning I did and found Noice Driver v3.0a, a music disk for the Commodore 64 released in 1993. There are some great tunes on there but the name JEDININJA leapt out at me. It’s a good tune too!
The filename of the disk image is sb130978-1fbef9.d64 so I guessed it might have something to do with Scene Base. I downloaded their metadata list and found it there in the c64disk set!
Listening to it in a Youtube video doesn’t have quite the same impact. It cuts off a bit too early as well. Perhaps rose tinted glasses and all that? It does bring back memories of typing “left arrow” L to load games from a tape and “Turbo Tape by Jeff”, the tape loader used to pack more games on to one cassette. Piracy was rife on the C64, but I still have a box of (original) game cassettes and disks in the attic.
Vice, the Commodore 64 emulator is a cross platform emulator that works on Windows, Linux, MacOS and other operating systems. It also allows you to emulate the Vic 20, C128 and other early Commodore machines.
Double clicking on a Commodore d64 disk image file will load x64, the Commodore 64 emulator and load the first programme on the disk image.
Quite often I want to look at a D64 image directory listing instead of running the first programme on the disk.
You can do this by unchecking the “autostart” box on the file open box of course but it’s not as convenient.
So, last Friday I asked on Twitter if it was possible to drag and drop a D64 image onto Vice to display the disk contents. Logiker replied and helped me by DM to handle double clicking on a C64 disk image.
#c64 fans. Is there any way to drag/drop a d64 image onto Vice so it does NOT autostart with LOAD "*",8,1 ? I'd much rather a directory listing most of the time. I know about the autostart checkbox in the file dialog.
What I needed to do was load the disk image and then feed the directory listing command to the C64.
Getting MacOS to accept the command line was harder to achieve. In Windows you can change the start up parameters for a programme. In MacOS it should be possible to modify the emulator “package” with a script that calls the real executable but I couldn’t get that working. In Linux I would have just created a shell script that called the emulator. 🙂
What did work in MacOS was using Automator. I created a “Run Shell Script” action and filled it in with the following. If you want to follow along at home you’ll have to change the path to x64.
I saved that as a new app in ~/bin/ called “Vice64”, and associated all D64 images with that application. Now double clicking on a disk image shows me a directory listing!
It doesn’t work unfortunately when I have an Action Replay cartridge loaded. Maybe I need to add F3 or F7 to the keyboard buffer?
One of the advantages of looking at the directory structure is the directory art some demos have. Here’s one from Pearls for Pigs, a D64 I happened to use while testing this but there are loads of them. I saw that Logiker has a page dedicated to directory art!
Look what the postman delivered last week! I entered a competition held by Freeze64 author/publisher Vinny for C64 game Maze of the Mummy and a rare misprint of the Freeze64 fanzine and I won! You should watch the live video of Vinny picking the winner, if only to wonder at everything he has plugged into his C64 and a preview of issue 18 of Freeze64. He pronounced my name wrong too, but that’s to be expected. 🙂
I have yet to play Maze of the Mummy as it’s been a hectic few days here but I’m going to get my 1541-II down out of the attic and make a backup d64 image to play in Vice this week.
I think the last boxed C64 game I ever bought was Creatures 2 which was a long time ago so handling a physical copy of a new game sets off a mix of nostalgia for the old and eagerness to try something new. I’m looking forward to trying this game!
Thalamus was a game developer based in the UK in the mid 80s to early 90s. They had a reputation for flashy games and and pounding soundtracks. Most of their games were highly rated and their first compilation, The Hits, had some amazing games.
Sanxion and Armalyte were among my favourite shoot ’em ups while Hawkeye had great looking parallax scrolling. I thought the Delta theme music was great but the game didn’t grab me like Armalyte did. I’m going to get that game out again later..
Still have the receipt from Turbosoft in the box too!
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