Trials HD is Kickstart for the next generation

Fans of gaming in the 80’s will surely recognise the name Kickstart 2. It was a motorbike racing game, running over all sorts of obstacles. It was fiendishly difficult to control but very enjoyable. The tiny graphics animated well and even supported two players racing split screen. If you enjoyed that game you’ll love Trials HD.

I played the demo of Trials HD on the Xbox 360 last night and couldn’t leave it alone until I finished the (unfortunately) short demo. Playing it involved plenty of crashes though, and it can be frustrating, but it’s fun, it’s pretty and it’s well worth trying out!

Armalyte 2009

Armalyte This game should need no introduction to Commodore 64 fans, but for the rest, Armalyte is one of the best shoot ’em ups on that amazing home computer.
The great news is that it’s finally seeing an officially approved remake from Psytronik in the UK. It’s due out later this year. Check out the following video for a taste of what’s to come. I hate to use this word, but all I could think of was, “Awesome!” when I watched it.
Did you notice they fixed the 3D bug in the main menu?

There’s more! Last week Gabe McGrath got in touch and told me he interviewed the three guys behind the remake: Stuart Collier, Trevor ‘Smila’ Storey and Chris ‘Infamous’ Bailey. It’s an entertaining and interesting read. Nice screenshots of each version side by side.
I didn’t know Retro Gamer had published a “making of” article on the original game. Must go dig out the RG DVD to read it.

Fingers crossed they decide to do a Mac or Linux version. Please don’t make me reboot into Windows just to play a game!

Many years ago I mentioned Armalyte here when I rediscovered emulators and an active online C64 scene. Still active!

The new Commodore 64 laptop

sx-64_build This isn’t the first time a Commodore 64 laptop has been made but it’s probably the coolest one. Commodore’s original SX 64 was built in 1984 and featured a tiny 5 inch CRT screen with a hardly portable body weighing in at 10kg!
I actually saw an SX 64 years ago in Cork Micro, the small computer shop run by the late Sean Bossang in Cork.
A couple of years ago there was the Picodore, a tiny little laptop built from the innards of a C64 DTV joystick. The keyboard’s a little small for my tastes though!
c64_hero And finally, Benjamin has created a real, “normal sized” laptop from the motherboard of a C64C, the final version of the C64 built by Commodore.
It uses the original keyboard too, and “1541-III DTV” to emulate the original 1541 disk drive. This device takes FAT32 formatted SD cards so you can copy D64 images from your PC on to it, insert the card in the laptop and load them immediately. Judging by the movie below, he needs an Action Replay cartridge or something to speed up loading. The emulated drive emulates the slow loading of the original drive too well methinks.

Nice to see Thunderblade make an appearance. I’m sure I have the original C64 tape of that game around here somewhere..

More info on Ben’s post.

PRESS PLAY ON TAPE: Retro Action

Get your dose of retro action in this video! The Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC 464, 1541 disk drive, Sony Walkman, D&D, Sodastream and various other memories of the 80’s all make an appearance. Might not be safe for work though. You’ve been warned! 🙂

An introduction video used for a couple of our concerts as a kick starter. A tribute to C64 and the 80s – and Benni Benassi’s “Satisfaction”

VirtualC64 for Mac OS X

VirtualC64 is a new Commodore 64 emulator for Mac OS X. It’s a promising project, let down by the fact that it’s still in beta but by the looks of things development is moving at a steady pace.

When you first run the emulator it will ask you for C64 roms: basic, kernal, chargen and vc1541. Ironically, you can find all these roms inside Vice, another C64 emulator. Look in /Applications/VICE.app/Contents/Resources/ROM/. The 1541 ROM is DRIVES/dos1541.

Loading a game or demo is as easy as dragging the d64 or t64 image into VirtualC64. When you do you’ll see a dialog like this.

picture-6

“Flash file into memory” works great for single load programmes but multiload could be a problem. I tried Armalyte. Mounting the d64 as a disk didn’t work. I couldn’t type anything. Loading the first file on the disk by flashing it brought up the crack intro but failed to load. The neat integrated debugger (click “Inspect”) showed the emulator had died doing jsr $2020 and unfortunately at 2020 was another jsr … ($20 is the character code for a space if memory serves, and the machine code for jsr was $20, so memory was full of spaces!)

picture-3

Blue Max worked much better, as did a 3D Pool game I tried. the crack by Remember included the documentation and again using the debugger I watched as the programme checked for the various key presses. Geeky I know but it brought a smile of recognition to my lips. Here’s that debugger in all it’s glory. Anyone familiar with the C64 should recognise the code beginning at 1AA0. (I had to look up what D016 does. It’s the screen mode. I had completely forgotten. It’s only been 16 years.)

picture-10

One thing it has going for it over Vice, is a real fullscreen mode. The current version of Vice uses some dodgy resolution changing in Linux (that I rarely got to work properly without screwing up my desktop) and I couldn’t get to work in Mac OS X at all. Fire this baby up in fullscreen mode and you’ve got your very own C64 laptop! Cool or what eh?

As luck would have it VirtualC64 has blown a fuse just as I finish this post. If you have a usb joystick plugged in and activated in port 2 it does strange things. First the keyboard wouldn’t work, and flashing a file didn’t run it automatically. Then the keyboard sort of worked but the left arrow character appeared for most key presses. Odd stuff. Unplugging the joystick and restarting the emulator fixed that problem.
Even my Bits ‘n’ Bobs demo worked in it! (Bah, all my screenshots failed. They only show white. I wonder if the emulator does strange things to the Mac while emulating mixed video modes? I mixed character and video modes in the screens I tried to capture, ah well.)

VirtualC64 is a very promising C64 emulator, and it’s GPL too! I’ll certainly be keeping an interested eye on it, and I wish Dirk and the other project members the best of luck with it.

Wizball live at the church

This blew me away the first time I heard it. The title tune of classic C64 game Wizball recreated by Reyn Ouwehand. You could watch the embedded movie, but for the full stereo HD experience take a look at the high quality version on Youtube. Reyn explains why he did it:

I also play this track in my C64 live-set but then I got some beats and the arpeggios coming out of Ableton Live. During the live show I couldn’t get Ableton to work and it kept on crashing on me and then Leoni challenged me to do it acoustically without the computer. And so I did….

Truth be told I never got too far in Wizball. It’s a strange shoot-em-up that has many fans and I’m strangely intrigued by it.

There’s even a remake of Wizball for the Mac and Windows. I’ve played it on the Mac and it’s brilliant. The title tune (by Infamous is spot on, graphics are stunning, and gameplay is as I remember it. Very odd and just a bit frustrating and hard.

You can read more about Wizball here or even download the original game on the Commodore 64 too.

Edge of Disgrace

You know there’s something special waiting for you when all around you people are clambering for the download link of Booze Design‘s new C64 demo, Edge of Disgrace.

The demo won first prize at X-2008 in the Netherlands last weekend. Most entries to the demo competition were uploaded quickly but Booze Design wanted to fix a few last minute bugs and caused no end of hype and hysteria. Just check out some of the comments:

Oxidy: I normally don’t comment on demos anymore, but I can’t help myself this time. Edge of Disgrace tops everything I’ve ever seen on the Commodore 64. It’s absolutely breathtaking and I wet myself numerous times during the bigscreen presentation. So much coder pron, so much fantastic graphics, so well polished. Fantastic work HCL/Dane/Jailbird! 10+

Medicus: All demos available for downloading except for the nr. 1? Is this a cruel joke? 🙁

Alias Medron: I would like to know how many people press F5 on this page every 10 seconds .. 🙂
cmooooonn!!!! upload that bloody D64!!!!!

Steppe: As Stainless Steel said, there was a clearly noticable dent in the space-time-continuum while this demo was playing. Caused nausea and wild screaming all over the place. Virtually every goddamn screen was accompanied by cheering and applauding of the crowd. Simply amazing having seen this on the big screen live at the party!

Stainless Steel: I felt a disturbance in the force when this was played at the compo.

A few days ago a teaser video was uploaded to Youtube but it doesn’t do the demo justice. It’s only 2 minutes of the 15 minute experience.

So, is it that good? Yes, it most certainly is. If you ever owned a C64, or any other 8 bit or 16 bit computer or console you should grab a C64 emulator, download Edge of Disgrace and be impressed. I’m amazed at what a 25 year old computer system can do, and even more impressed that the C64 demo scene is still alive and kicking in 2008!

Now to download Natural Wonders 2 and the other entries in the demo compo.

Shredz64 – Guitar Gero on the Commodore 64

C64 fans, get that guitar out and play along to your favourite SID tunes with Shredz64. It uses a small circuit called the PSX64 interface to connect Playstation controllers to the old Atari or DB9 joystick interface on old computers like the C64, Amiga, Atari ST, Speccy (with the right interface itself!)..

There are two videos, the first is an explanation of the whole thing, showing the C64 connected to the Guitar Hero guitar and the game loading SID files off a disk. The second video, after the jump, is a demo of Shredz64 itself. Not quite as fancy as Guitar Hero or it’s ilk, but impressive enough!

Continue reading “Shredz64 – Guitar Gero on the Commodore 64”

The Commodore 64 Book – 1982 to 199x

Several months ago my old C64 buddy, Andrew Fisher, emailed me to tell me about his new book, The Commodore 64 Book – 1982 to 199x. At the time his email fell through the cracks in the Thunderbird inbox and was destined to remain unanswered until I received a reply from another friend, Iain Black, curator of The Def Guide to Zzap!64 to a recent email I sent him. He asked if I had heard from Andrew so I went digging and found Andrew’s correspondence.

I’m glad I did. I just visited his site and ordered my copy of his book. I’m looking forward to getting my hands on it and poring over all the reviews and little nuggets of retro goodness. If you were ever a fan of the C64, I think you owe it to yourself to splash out the couple of quid this books costs so you can bore the pants off your significant other, your work colleagues or friends with hopelessly antiquated nonsense from 20-30 years ago!

For the Speccy fans, there was The ZX Spectrum Book – 1982 to 199x but unfortunately only 1000 were ever printed and it’s sold out.

c64 golden years

In 1982, the Commodore computer company launched its new machine – the Commodore 64.

Twenty five years later, that machine is still going strong with new games and thousands of users worldwide.
To tell the story of the best-selling home computer of the 1980’s, writer and Commodore 64 fan Andrew Fisher looks back at around two hundred of the top games and how the industry has changed. From the pioneering third party companies like Electronic Arts and Melbourne House, to the homebrew software of the new millennium, the story of an 8-bit computer (and its remarkable sound chip) is a nostalgia trip for games fans.

Yes, difficult as it may seem, but people are still coding on the C64. I presume most of them work on emulators and I remember reading a forum post from a young guy who had never owned the machine but wanted to learn 6502 assembler. The C64 Scene Database lists almost every single demo produced and new ones are being added all the time. Not bad for such an old machine eh?

Introduction to C64 demo coding

ozone
.C:2101   A9 3A      LDA #$3A
.C:2103   CD 12 D0   CMP $D012
.C:2106   D0 FB      BNE $2103
.C:2108   A2 09      LDX #$09
.C:210a   CA         DEX
.C:210b   D0 FD      BNE $210A
.C:210d   A2 00      LDX #$00
.C:210f   BD 00 09   LDA $0900,X
.C:2112   8D 21 D0   STA $D021
.C:2115   8D 20 D0   STA $D020
.C:2118   BC 00 0A   LDY $0A00,X
.C:211b   88         DEY
.C:211c   10 FD      BPL $211B
.C:211e   E8         INX
.C:211f   E0 65      CPX #$65
.C:2121   D0 EC      BNE $210F
.C:2123   A2 01      LDX #$01
.C:2125   CA         DEX
.C:2126   D0 FD      BNE $2125
.C:2128   A9 00      LDA #$00
.C:212a   8D 20 D0   STA $D020
.C:212d   AD 21 D0   LDA $D021

So, who knows what’s happening above? Come on, it’ll come back to you if you look at the screenshot! I found a great tutorial on C64 demo coding. Unfortunately it’s a 404 now, but Google cached it and I downloaded it here for safe keeping: intro-to-programming-c64-demos.html
Look for the part on $d012

$d012 might be the most important address of them all, when it comes to demo programming on the C-64. $d012 has two different functions:

* When read, it returns the number of the current raster line.
* When written, it is used to set the number of the line where the next raster interrupt will occur.

We’ll get back to raster interrupts later. You need to know about $d012 to understand them, so pay attention to the stuff in this section! The first item above is interesting, but it may not be obvious why it is interesting.

The current raster line is the line that is currently being redrawn on your screen. The whole screen is redrawn 50 times per second. Each time it is redrawn from top to bottom, from the left to the right. So, if you want something to happen 50 times per second, all you have to do is to check the current value of $d012, and when it reaches a certain value, call the routine that performs the desired task. When finished, go back to checking $d012.

That blew me away when I found out about that. You could literally change the background colour of the screen halfway down the screen, have multiple text and graphics modes, use more than the default 8 hardware sprites. The PC was disappointing in comparison.

That code above is for Justin who reminded me that Vice has an ASM monitor!