Archive for the ‘Atari ST’ Category

ATARI EMULATION

February 4, 2011

 

Emulation of most, if not all Atari machines has now progressed to being something which is holding it’s own rather well. From the early, slightly stuttering, days of PacifiST back in the mid to late nineties to what is around today, with the likes of Steem and Hatari being the major forces for emulation of STe (in the case of Steem) and a partially emulated Falcon in the case of Hatari (though Hatari also emulates the ST and STe to just about 100%) / this makes both programs a force to be reckoned with.

Emulation of the ST is now not something to look down upon, unlike in earlier years. Even the kings of the Falcon demo scene, Dead Hackers Society, have been spotted using Hatari under emulation on the Mac to develop new stuff for the scene; this was considered by sceners such as themselves to be lame not so many years ago.

Those of us who travel to coding parties in Europe have always felt constrained by the inability to transport ageing hardware. Therefore, we have tended to be reduced to travelling with laptops amongst other gear required for coding parties, most notably a sleeping bag, pillow, enough underwear and socks so that ppl don’t start complaining about bad smells along with some nightwear also.

It is difficult to justify travelling with a laptop as your own means of computer hardware; particularly when having access to a car for transport means that you could, if you wish, bring older hardware with you. I personally have tried to do this certainly for visiting Outline parties in the past but whether this continues I have no clue.

Version 1.3.1, the latest release of Hatari that was released to the public at the time of writing this article, now features some rather intriguing emulation of the Falcon. Whilst I am of the belief that DSP emulation is still at the early stage,it is interesting to see what actually does run under Falcon emulation using Hatari.

For instance, whilst the classic Avena demo, Dementia, does in fact run, it does go out of synch and eventually crashes. This is in no way any fault of the demo or Avena; it runs perfectly well on a stock Falcon. I personally haven’t tested it with the CT60 though will at some point now I have one (yes, I have to fit it as well but there’s a glimmer of hope on the horizon that it will happen 😉 )

Through personal observation, possibly more so at the Alternative Party over the last couple of years, whilst it has been good to see the old hardware still being used for development work, I have noticed a general switch to laptop based crossdevelopment, along with emulation to ensure that what is developed works properly, before porting it to the target hardware. I think this is how a lot of the software houses used to operate back in the eighties with the Sinclair Spectrum and Amstrad computers, back in the day, using the now ancient Apple IIe machines for development, before porting the resulting code to the target home computer.

To the present day for a few moments and we have just arrived at Outline 2010. It is interesting, looking around, that while we still have a few stalwarts who insist (and indeed prefer) to bring the real kit with them, but they are few and far between compared to those of us using laptops, whether we have arrived by car or not.

I honestly don’t think that we need to worry about emulation. In a way, it makes us more creative, for example, being able to take a laptop to work & code on it during your own time, whether that be at lunch or while your workproject is compiling, like it is believed how Mr Pink/RG has been known to work at times. Whilst he was the first coder I noticed working in that way, I have noticed others, such as Evl and Baggio, working in what looks like a very similar way.

As this article was in the process of being written, the new version (v1.4) of Hatari was released. From early tests I have carried out just this afternoon, timing in demos seems to be quite a bit better than before. The slower CPU option seems to put paid to the compatibility though; turn that off and things should be OK. That option was already selected on my setup but may not be as standard; it might be something peculiar to my machine’s setup here.

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Outline 2010 Invitro by Checkpoint.

February 4, 2011

Picture by Havoc / Linout

 

One of our favourite pre-party traditions has been kept up in advance of the Outline 2010 edition [1] . Namely the more or less kick-arse party invitation expressed in demo coded form. We’ve had some memorable entries from people as diverse as Ephidrena, Lineout, Limp Ninja, tSCc, a nice ‘060 based one from Dead Hackers Society, and even an Atari VCS invite produced last year by Trilobit. Now it is the turn of top-notch code-botherers, Checkpoint, to take the pole position for this year [2] [3].

So with an air of barely suppressed excitement, I click to run the intro. The comments are already promising a brain-blaster. But I calm down by recalling that I’m about to watch an invitro, where any awesome factor is ultimately constrained by crow-barring in a load of party info text at the end. Will this be the case today?

We skip off to a stylish start, a singing muso-text kicks off. Apart from the pain and other stuff, we are left in no doubt we will have “100 percent reason to remember the name!”

We go all wobbly and oldschool, as if we’re at the start of a Lost Boys demo, with the opening growl of a Mad Max tune. In other words, a dark screen with a classic onrushing star-field, glimpsed in parts.

This is just to keep the senses occupied whilst the title is being built. This starts slowly with a series of flat single bitplane blobs a-merging. The iconic title screen slowly materializes out from this.

Nice effects

 

The title picture is nicely done, arresting, leaving you in no doubt which party this is shouting for. The regal Outline logo takes the centre of the screen, and it looks like one of our favourite party organisers is facing a mirror image of himself!

We do have some proper music by now, and this is nicely spiked up at regular intervals by the vocal intervention of another of our favourite party organisers, who also leaves us in no doubt about the identity of the party we are being asked to visit.

The informative remit bubbles up at this point with sparse and to the point infoscreen. This is done in the form of text scrolling from left and right.

There are some more effects, as Defjam shows off some more metablobs. These are multilayered, an effect in itself rather than helping to reveal something else.

More effects

 

The credits are next. We find out the following had something to do with the demo.

Defjam – Code (of course!)
Havoc – Graphics, good with faces as always.
Excellence in Art – Music, a rather nice tune actually.
Okkie for the sampled voice.

The brainblaster is fast approaching, with a batch of group greetings. It’s not just basic text, but text wrapped and blurred in a feedback melt-o-vision style effect, with some kind of light sourcing going on as well. This is where the intro is getting its brain-blasting reputation from. It isn’t the prettiest effect, opting for a moody grey colour scheme, but it sure gets the job done.

The greetings

Before we get too excited, we are finally reminded that this is an invitro after all, as the last part in the form of a crisp smart text reader, with the Outline logo in the background, appears. You read the party facts, as if you did not remember them from last year, and something similar for the year before.

The invitation

 

So is it a brain-blaster? Well maybe. It has a nice atmosphere, there are a couple of stunning bits in there, but at heart it is ultimately still an invitro. An appetite-whetter looking forward to some cool new Atari stuff at Outline 2010.


Links:

 

  1. Outline party
  2. Outline invitro at pouet
  3. Outline invitro video

Top 10 Atari ST indie games.

February 4, 2011

By ChrisTOS

The Atari ST had it’s large share of shareware, freeware and PD games. They were generally found in the PD pages of Atari ST magazines and were collectively known as public domain. Nowadays we call those indie games (from independent) and I prefer that term since it’s broader than all the other terms combined and pretty much explains them. One term to bind them…

So before I start the list, let’s set some ground rules. First of all the list didn’t come from any collective effort. It’s not even comprehensive since only a small fraction of the Indie  games available have been played by the authors of lowres.  Also the games included are the ones that appeal more to the author, which sadly means that you will not find any RPG’s.

So let’s start the countdown.

10. Sinister Developments Centipede. Centipede is a well known game from the arcades that made it to the ST thanks to the efforts of Sinister Developments. There is not much to say about the game other than that it’s nicely drawn, super smooth and with nice sound effects. Unfortunately there is a small logic flaw in the game that might spoil the fun but I had to know it was there to spot it. Still Sinister have given us some great arcade conversions and they are worth a place in the list. Even if it is the last.

9. Holocaust. Holocaust is a 2d vertical scrolling shoot’ em up game.  It features many levels, smooth scrolling, good looking graphics, nice music or samples as well as animations  and a little of voice narrative -with the use of a speech.tos the st speech trademark- to promote the story. Did I mention everything runs in 1 VBL?  The enemy waves don’t shoot at you, which is a good thing, but issues such as the high level of difficulty and the total lack of information such as  shield, score etc award it only the 9th place.  Still the game outshines most commercial efforts and is very polished for an indie game.

8.  Entombed. A Rick Dangerous clone. You are an Egyptian trapped in an Egyptian tomb and you need to escape. So pick up your bow and arrows and keys, avoid the pikes and the fires and the waters, solve the insiduous puzzles enjoy the beautiful graphics and the simplistic sound effects and whatever you do don’t forget to have someone call you after a few hours of gameplay to get you back to reality. There are five tombs, one worse than the one before.

7.  Frantick. In 1993 Atari released it’s ill fated Atari jaguar console. The best game for it was Tempest 2000 but the ST version of Tempest is better left in the bad memories of those who bought it. So why this introduction? Is Frantick a Tempest clone? No, not quite but I bet it was inspired from that. You see the gameplay is similar… only in 2d. The enemy waves come to you from up and down and are strikingly similar to those in Tempest. There are power ups, bombs and bonus stages, great samples and the music fits the frantick gameplay. Though it doesn’t induce Jeff Minter’s epileptical seizures, Dave Munsie comes close with one of the best arcade shooters on the ST. With 4 game modes and 50 waves there’s a lot of gameplay time.

6.  Grandad 2 – In search of Sandwitches. Grandad 2 is a beautiful graphic adventure. You are an old person who lost his sandwiches and is trying to find them. The humour is excellent, the main character is the stereotype of the grumpy smelly old man, the puzzles are interesting and the graphics are beautiful.. but using the joystick to control an adventure game kind of feels wrong. There is very little sound in the game but the game is one of  the best written adventures made for the ST. The game was well worth the shareware fee Mr Ian Scott demanded.

We are almost ready to move to the top 5.  Now things get difficult 😀

5. Crapman. Pacman has been one of the most remade games in the history of videogaming. It’s never been done so well in the Atari 16/32 platform at least. Crapman was part of the Synergy mega demo and it inherits all the achievements of the demoscene. Smooth 8-directional  scrolling, constant framerate and great level design make this excellent dot eating game.

4. Cybernetix: What happens when Defender meets Asteroids? A very smooth game (but with some drops in the framerate when a lot of sprites appear), beautiful graphics and lovely sound effects. Quite a few types of enemies, a lot of sectors to clear and a more than reasonable 5 quid asked by Mr Paul Andrews and Mr Rodney Smith.  The game is fast paced and of excellent quality. Plus you don’t lose your power ups when you lose a life. How cool is that?

3. Superfly: All games by Reservoir Gods deserve a place in the top 10, but this one is probably the most addictive one of them all. Simplistic graphics, beautiful music, great looking sprites and more modes to play in this one button avoid em up then you can count, make for an amazing gaming experience. Go save Kylie from Dr Evil, from water to air to space and open all the secrets.

2. Starball, a pinball game where you have to shoot monsters and ships using the ball.  It’s a game that combines the usual gameplay of a pinball game with forcefields, space stations and minigames. If you ever wanted to know how it is to play space invaders and arkanoid with pinball rackets then this is the game for you. Starball will run on all ataris and will make use of the extra hardware. Beautiful graphics and sounds, fast action and lots of hours will be spent on it. Only complaint is the ball physics. It feels like Newton’s first, second and third laws don’t work the same way in starball’s universe.

1. Llamatron: Once upon a time there was in the arcades a game called Robotron. Jeff Minter prefers Llamas so you get to go on a shooting rampage with your friendly neighborhood llama. So pick up the powerups and beasties, kill everything else, finish all the levels and get your epilepsy medicines. The game can be played with one or two joysticks just like the original Robotron. Llamatron was probably the most succesful shareware game ever released for the ST. Jeff Minter has said he received thousands of letters, and while not all the people payed the shareware fee a significant portion did. 5 pounds well spent.

Llamatron

A random level from llamatron

So, this is our list. What’s yours? Please send us your comments and your favourite indie ST games.

A forgotton classic reviewed: Dugger for Atari ST

May 15, 2010

On April the 3rd in 2010 we started to play a new title in the ST Offline Tournament [1]. The game is called Dugger [2] and as I have never seen or played that one before, I decided to write a little review.

Dugger was a rather early release for the Atari ST, the title screen states 1988. A German team did all the work and the game features some classic Madmax chipmusic on the YM2149 which probably was already used in Demos as well.

After booting the game shows a rastered intro screen and then a cute animated intro screen. Press the gaudy button on your joystick to enter the game.

Dugger title screen (Atari ST)

Dugger title screen (Atari ST)

Gameplay follows  the 1982 vintage arcade game Dig-Dug closely. The player controls a little stoneage creature and leads him in the underground. Here the task is to destroy the baddies which move in seperated caves. For the difference to other games this is done using an airpump. Hold the firebutton down to pump the baddies full of air and let them blow up afterwards.

Level 1 of Dugger (Atari ST)

Level 1 of Dugger (Atari ST)

This sounds easy at first but the baddies start to chase the player through the walls and some even spit fire on you. One can try to quash them by letting rocks drop on them but it’s not easy. The last baddie left will attempt to escape to the surface so the palyer has to chase them for extra points.

My conclusion is simple, great graphics and music for 1988 standards, a proven and nice gameplay – if you like Dig-Dug, you will love Dugger too. Giving this title a try should be worth it!


Links:

  1. STOT season 3 round 14: Dugger
  2. Dugger on Atarimania

Save the Earth by Defence Force

May 15, 2010

This witty and inspiring work for the STE came to us at the end of last year, courtesy of Dbug of Defence Force. People with very oldschool memories may feel the group name ‘Next‘ rising to attention right now. People with slightly shorter powers of recall may remember some of his feats of epic Oric-bothering at demo parties as diverse as STNICCC 2000, and the Alternative Party 2003, I certainly do!

After a longish Atari absence, broken by the odd Creators interlude, Dbug returns in full strength to commemorate, in his own way, the 20th Anniversary of the STE.

There is quite a major back-story contained within the info file given out with the demo. This was originally intended to be a screen for the 20th Anniversary STE Megademo. (Un)fortunately, this soon outgrew the specified 160 KB size limit, and Dbug made the decision to take it up to a full independent release which came forth (and indeed in 4th place) at the Kindergarten 2009 party.

As Dbug is sometimes as talkative as a diskmag editor given performance-enhancing drugs in his readme file, we also find out that a lot of the initial design and code was going to be very different from what we got. There was going to be some kind of time travel story where Atari became Microsoft, Apple, and a whole lot of other stuff in one. This would be due to a kindly Marty McFly type sending a cunningly pre-loaded EE-PC back to 1989 with a bunch of “racing tips” from the future. Oh, that and the bulk of this demo does not smash the STE’s limits, there is still plenty left in the old beast yet.

Another thing worthy of noting is that this demo is mostly the work of Dbug himself. The music comes from Excellence in Art, who appears to be getting around a lot of places with his stuff lately, but the code and most of the graphics are from Dbug’s own hand. He says that he hates ‘design by committee.’ With a singular work like this, he may have a point, as it really needs to flow properly from start to finish, rather than fail to convince as a series of disjointed and unrelated screens included to satisfy some petty group politics.

Well we’ve waffled around the edges long enough of actually describing what this demo does, time to take a closer look.

Starting with a quick fake static blast from your teevee screen, we kick off with a sharp and lemon-fresh parody of that horrible whiny anti-piracy advert “Would you steal a car?” that spawns itself onto the front of legally sold DVD’s. The original is actually an argument for piracy, if said pirates are considerate enough to remove those unwanted “features and benefits” from the illegitimate copy.

Random female, hardware, fine with me.

One of our favourite websites is referenced in the first part, as we are asked of the first picture “Does she count as a random girl with hardware?” The viewer is also asked if they would copy a car, to which Dbug responds in an environmentally friendly manner, “Yes, but only if it is energy efficient, not like that old one there.”

You wouldn't copy this car?

There is more in this vein, by the time we get to bag-touching appeals, then Dbug unveils a rather wicked STE-centric series of effects where he splits, wobbles and merges different sections of the movie in and out with each other. Rather hard to describe and doing something clever with STE hardware, but fortunately possible to show as a screen grab. This section is fast-paced, the music has been preselected, and this would represent the ‘modern’ part of this rather bi-polar production.

This is wicked, as in cool!

There is a little info screen with a page of links for those people inclined to follow up on the ‘message’ part of the demo.

Suddenly the music changes to some very old YM-tastic sound indeed. We are into the second main part of the demo now.

It’s cheese on toast and on your screen, with a very old and wobbly Cinemascope logo, and a revamped Defence Force logo up first.

Not seen this on Atari in a while, good to have you back.

It suddenly turns dark with the moon hanging in the night sky. We are in 1989, just another warm summer night in California.

Relaxing with hard drugs and wobbly rasters?

However, people at Sunnyvale are hard at work on their latest genius creation in grey plastic, the Atari STE!

They are quick workers as the scene rapidly switches to the assembly plant and the music takes a more ‘industrial’ beat where the STE’s are assembled, in an ‘ultra-modern factory’. There is some nice code on display with a multi-directionally moving large virtual screen and the bottom half is busy scrolling a production line of completed STE’s, from right to left. This appears to be a hardware scrolling and blitter-friendly screen.

Hurrah! We're in the ultramodern factory!

The scene evolves, we also move to the loading bay, whilst keeping the rest. We end up with about four or five different layers, or as the rabbits in Watership Down would term it, “Hrair” – meaning ‘many’, meaning they lost count after four.

This is just showing three of the layers, after that it gets fugly!

The scene changes as we leave the factory. There is a tribute to many racing games using rasters for skyline and perpective depth, a touch of Outrun as the truck speeds to the shops.

All together now, 'Da-da, dadada, dadadada!'

Okay, you’ve gone and bought one of these fancy STE’s. The scene now cuts to a close-up of the floppy disk, we hear the distinctive ‘ticking’ sound of a disk loading which plays over the tune and a wistful caption comment made “I wish I had a hard drive.” This demo does run off floppy or hard disk by the way.

Whirrr.. Tick-ticktickticktick...

The view pans out and switches to a camera looking behind the viewer at the screen. The music switches to the loader from the Union Demo and a miniature replica STE screen plays with all its oldschool rasters and scrollies in many many colours.

Impressive, yeah!

Then the camera shifts to the right, one of the most wry and funny moments of the demo where things are revealed not to be so colourful anymore.

Oh dear god no! - Moment number 1.

A close  up on the modern flat screen follows, where you are welcomed to the modern demoscene. An IRC session is in progress. This is an eerily accurate reproduction of an actual Channel Atariscne session. I wonder if Dbug can produce the original  log file it was taken from?

The IRC screen grab shown below sums it all up too well 😩

Oh dear god no! - Moment number 2.

Finally there are some functional end credits.

Dbug – Code and graphics
Excellence in Art
– Music
C-Rem
– Revamped logo

The music completes its final medley-tastic transformation to the Outrun tune.

Also there are some additional credits for the following.

Mircha – Moral support
Dad – 1040 STE
GGN – SIMMS
Gloky – New Keyboard
Jookie and Mikro – UltraSatan
Nerve – Transportation
Evl – Many small things
gwEm – MaxYMiser
Elitar – Pixel art trucks

And we even see some cheekily captioned ‘borrowed material credits’ from The Industry Trust for Intellectual Property Awareness,”

One final observation to wrap this review, I will copy and paste directly from the info file, in Dbug’s own words. I’m sure he won’t mind me using this bit.

“One last thing, the title, it of course (ok, possibly not obvious)
refers to the fact that we can still use these old machines 20 years
after they were made, a testament about the build quality of reliability.
Modern PC’s on the other hand have parts breaking all the time,
dying batteries, graphic cards got thrown out and replaced, not very
good from an ecological point of view to see all this perfectly usable
hardware just thrown in the junk hopping that some third world country
will have children desolder components in a mist of toxic fumes.”

Couldn’t have put it better myself mate, thank you.

And here is a final screengrab to remind us all of the reason why we’re here today.

Nothing more to say

And that is really the end now!


Links:

  1. Save the Earth at pouet.net
  2. Save the Earth video

20 Years Atari STE Megademo by Paradox and others

May 15, 2010

Once upon a while ago, the Atari demo scene pulled off a heartwarming display of rallying around and joyful celebration with an old style menu-driven megademo commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Atari ST.

In traditional oldschool megademo style, it pulled together a range of screens from many different groups, ranging from the inspiring to the toe-curling in quality. The end result was received very favourably and attracted surprised comments from other sceners on other machines who didn’t realise that the humble Atari ST was still so well regarded amongst its supporters.

Moving forward a few years, and another 20th anniversary for cherished old hardware is looming. Atari STE fans in the form of the demo group ‘Paradox’ decide that a revival of the 20 year megademo would be a very neat idea, and issue an invitation for all and sundry to join in.

There was a decent response. Some names from the ST 20th anniversary were missing, and would have been appreciated here. Reservoir Gods would have surely contributed something brain-blasting but are in the middle of a prolonged downtime. Defence Force started out making a screen, but this grew and grew until it became its own demo, “Save the Earth” which is reviewed elsewhere in this issue.

Still, let’s now see what we’ve got. There’s quite a bit still, so hang on..

Real hardware is recommended, some of the screens not being especially emulator friendly. There are separate hard and floppy drive versions of the demo, we click and go.

After a brief check on loading to make sure that you are running the correct hardware, we start with a festive intro screen. This consists of a Spectrum 512 picture, a digitized photo of a carnival or parade, so 512 colours on screen, with sprites over the top, and a sampled “happy birthday” song plays. This screen is removed in a chunky fashion for the next part.

The STE is Jarig!

The music changes, a big colourful bottom scroller does its thing, there is another multicoloured space-themed picture. It is bigger than a stock ST resolution, a virtual screen which rolls up and down. This is topped off by a distorting ‘megademo’ logo in midscreen. The intro and the follow-on are showcasing the possibility of combining highcolour (512 colours onscreen and up) with at least some demo effects.

Lots of colours for the intro.

The main menu is definitely something special and worthy of being the front-end of a megademo of the oldschool kind. The look and feel is of a fancy control panel on starship made in an alternative 16-bit steampunk Bitmap Brothers futuristic style. You control the crosshairs over the ‘starchart’ and press space when directly over the twinkling stars to get into the individual demoscreens. There is an awesome soundchip cover by gwEm of ‘Stardust memories’, or that tune which was on the ‘Terminal F*ck-up’ very early landmark Falcon 030 demo.

At the steampunk starship control panel!

So we go in, more or less at random, although careful readers may well note that this apparent ‘randomness’ is in the same order as Evil recording his video capture of the demo! Ah well…

Starting with the ‘Saluts’ Atari STe screen by Atari Legend & MJJ Prod. This is a very simple screen. A nicely done many-coloured picture of a large beer mug which is wobbled, with some sprites trailing around. An ‘Atari Legend’ logo sits at the base of the screen. I liked the bright and cheery pro-alcohol message!

The beer's are on these guys.

Next up is a ‘Tribute to Blitter and DMA‘ from Paradize. This is another “Hey we’re here” diskfiller. A basic GFA screen with some nice music, a couple of digitised screens, but not much action. Don’t worry, because Paradize pull a nicer screen out of the bag a bit later on.

The first attempt at a ‘proper’ screen comes with ‘Extravagance’ by No Extra. This scores strongly on the design, perhaps a bit less on using the STE’s features. We have a demo of many parts, a twinkling soundchip tune, small screens with 3-D filled vectors, some nice graphics, a rotozoomer. Some nice plasma gets in there too and some designy credits and greets. This would make a nice intro on its own, so it managed to pack a lot into 160 KB.

Twisted words and images.

The first seriously hardcore attempt to get to grips with the STE’s hardware comes with the cunningly redeployed ‘Ex-Reset Screen’ from our megademo sponsors Paradox. The grab from which the recording was taken is imperfect due to use of a funky 60 Hz screen mode. There is some major zooming and rotating stuff on top of a big scroller. A hard pounding chiptune sets the mood perfectly. It worked for me.

A partially grabbed very hardcore screen.

Paradize come back next with their more serious effort ‘Visual Unity’. This is stronger on design than hardcore stuff, but no worse off for this. A smooth virtual introduction screen debuts the demo with a light tune, The title is ‘handwritten’ in an etch-a-sketch style. The next part is a major raster attack with a 3D solid cube and an island sitting moodily in the background. There is a little interlude with some trailing patterns and a Paradize logo on the left. The music builds nicely and the next part moves into some funky wireframe greetings. A graphically pleasing set of stars moves around in a crystal ball takes place next, which is sort of the end of that part.

Cube in desert island space!

‘Mr Fourtyseven’ is BiTS contribution to this epic work. As usual there is minimal design and a huge division and conflict over the merits of this group. (Well not that much of a division, more a massive bloc of turned down thumbs.) To be fair, there does appear to be ample use of the STE’s hardware features, with smooth hardscroll, STE Palette and STE DMA sound. Whatever SoLo’s state of mind, his love of Atari did come across, so I’ll be kind on this occasion.

Another scene personality dear to my heart, GGN, gets busy with ‘Zero to Twenty: Sixty Seconds’. This has a certain lightness of touch with a mad birthday tribute picture at the start, and a mad version of the 1812 overture covered by that prolific remixer Yamaha. There is an Ascii swirling scroller which builds a scroller at the top of the screen and loads of oldschool graphics strutting around in the background. This gets in and out, not a heavyweight, but cheekily manages to win a place in the viewers affections. Nice work George!

George has spirals within spinny things!

An expected highlight looms large, with ‘Tuttugandi’ from DHS. To some extent we’re picking up themes explored in other recent DHS releases. So you will expect lots of good design, use of overscan and some great music to top this off. We are not disappointed, as the screenshot below shows. This part is complete for an intro but relatively short by DHS’s own admission, Well they had a ‘Cernit Trandafir’ to release as well and they apologise for using some leftovers from that demo.

Dead Hackers and the city..

Another major screen or mini-demo comes from the second Paradox contribution ‘Cubes, Ribbons and 3D Flybys.’ This is intended as a tribute or parody of the Peecee fashion for the effects named in the title. ‘Cubes’ is an amazing hardcore STE take with a virtual screen and several 3D gouraud shaded cubes at once. ‘Ribbons’ is a more lighthearted greetings and skywriting midsection, again with an unconfined virtual screen.

Cubes, but no ribbons or 3D flybys...

The ‘3D Flybys’ part takes further some of the work Paradox put into their 3D scaling sprites on their Outline 2008 demo ‘Again’. These are with perspective and set against a lovely background. All in all another strong part. And worthy of another screengrab.

3D Flybys without the cubes or ribbons.

‘Roxotro’ by RGCD is more of an advertisement by the makers of ‘rOx’ showing off some old graphics originally intended for their follow-up to rOx. This was supposed to be shown at Outline but appears that it may be delayed until later in the year. This had a very oldschool shades of 1990 feeling tile-based effects, but made me go “Yaay!” because of the promise of a sequel to rOx, preferably one which allows you to shoot back! Some glowing vector bobs at the end.

Could have been a game, might still be a game someday?

‘Zickdisk 2.5’ is made by Paradize & Elite. There are some cool tunes and minimal effects on a reasonably nice looking front end, which is sort of reminiscent of what Marcer did in the ST 20th Anniversary demo. Still, you can select the tunes, have a nice listen, and linger awhile. There is an end-part in a moody grey too.

Excellence in Art celebrates his return to the Atari scene and the STE in his own characteristic style. A screen called ‘$14′ has all the hallmarks of Excellence in Art style including some excellent music and synching to the minimal but smoothly done vector line effects. We are promised more to come at the Sommerhack 2010, so we’re looking out for this. Music is digisound with a mellow sound loop playing throughout.

Don't run this on emulators, we are told.

We’re on the final contribution from Paradox, the ‘Direct Color Zoomer‘. This is a full-on STE hardware attack, bottom scroller, music indicators, a zooming background picture and a single bitplane dot morpher. With digisound. So this feels fairly oldschool in some ways.

STE hardware attacked!

The Hidden screens appear to be using some forgotten early efforts from an early crew that a current Atari scene member was involved in. These are ‘do as they say on the tin’ screens. They are not advertised by twinkly stars on the main menu. You have to click around until you chance on one or other of these. Prepare for 1991 aesthetic sensibilities, sensual overload with coder colours and Mad Max chiptunes. Apart from the third one which ventures into digisound.

Hidden screen 1 – Cykelpump and Flensost (The X’Press Crew (1991))
Hidden screen 2 – Megalurk (The X’Press Crew (1991))
Hidden screen 3 – Circleblast (The X’Press Crew (1991))

Oldschool craziness part one.

And finally, yes really, the Reset screen from Paradox to conclude things. A very simple one-note screen at the end with an always relevant message. Thanks guys!

The last thing you will see...

So, was this a successful tribute to the twenty years of the STE? At least one external commentator annoying troll who specialises in personal abuse considered this as mainly a Paradox Show with some guest screens, and not really a full tribute. I would not be inclined to agree. Apart from the undoubtedly excellent Paradox screens, there were strong efforts from several of the other contributors. Apart from a couple of screens, I don’t feel there was an excessive baggage of making up the numbers minor screens, which were always an occupational hazard of any multi-crew menu style megademo, back in the olden days.

The only area where I might have wished for more perhaps, is with some of the screens featuring good effects and design, but not a lot to really tell it could only be done with the extra capabilities of the STE. This is the sort of area where the likes of Paradox and DHS pulled ahead of the rest.

Anyway, we are quietly content with what has been given to us. So when is the Falcon 030 twentieth birthday, 2012, or 2013? And what are we doing to celebrate that one?

Final thoughts. I spent long enough on this review and pulling the screenshots out of the movie footage, I’m not sure this makes sense even the third time of reading this review back, so apologies in advance for any incoherent remarks that crept in and stayed in!


Links:

  1. 20 Years Atari STE Megademo at pouet.net
  2. 20 Years Atari STE Megademo video

Sommarhack 2010 invitro by DHS

May 15, 2010

This was an invitro for the Sommarhack 2010 party in July. It was released at the Outline 2010 party. It was waving the Atari banner in a lonely fashion there, and was really the only release of significance on the Atari there. I don’t think we really want to count the BITS entry, and Baah’s short intro was too lightweight to stand up to scrutiny.

The good news is that although this is an invitro, it does weigh in with a decent amount of different screens, about a dentro’s worth, in oldschool money.

The other good news is, that it carries on with the mission to extend the possibilities of the extra hardware of the STE series. Indeed, the program file comes with some disturbingly specific caveats, 2 MB of memory or better is required. There is also a current problem with the Mega STE as it does not like the latter machine at all. (Which may be hopefully fixed soon.)

An attempt with Hatari revealed it is only partially happy with emulators as well. Emulator related dismay is most noticeable when the fullscreen effects are deployed. However, my original STE is happy with it, therefore so am I.

There are a fair number of creator credits, with code from Evil, Nerve, and Gizmo. Proteque donates a classic picture, and 505 appears to be channelling Jess of OVR in his soundalike soundchip tune.

We take the various screens as we find them, namely the effects that were shown. There are some info screens in there as well, but nothing that takes over this demo, which is nice.

The title screen comes first. We see a fancy font up top, some metallic effect text below. The latter is used for various info screens in the demo.

The very beginning part.

Followed swiftly by a fullscreen swirling vortex. Across the surface of this scary whirlpool effect, some little creator credit sprites scuttle across the screen. These are slightly transparent as you can still see the swirlyness underneath.

Who did this? Now revealed.

There is another full screen following on, with a classic oldschool bouncing dot hillocks filling the void, a greetings scroller runs up and down the screen with manic energy.

A bouncing dot-vector booby titty thing!

This next screen falls into the ‘not sure how this is done‘ category. A trail of what appear to be elaborate golden 3D shaded or mapped objects display themselves lazily in a spiral pattern around the screen, or they could be very well done sprites? They morph and change shape as they go around. Still it looks rather good.

Morph-o-blobs strike fast!

This upcoming part is definitely and uncompromisingly 3D though. A brown landscape against a blue sky (with a suggestion of cloud?) with a series of monolithic structures in flat shades, with at least one spinning cube in there. Sort of like trying to do a CT60 on an STE budget. It just about hangs in there, well done guys.

A brown man, in a blue world..

The static picture, a moment of art to cool the brain. A bleak blue filling the whole screen study by Proteque, almost like a watercolour, not the usual computer art at all. Very very good.

A blue man, in a bleak world..

Another favourite bit of mine comes up now, an exquisitely drawn DHS logo on the right, with a swirling plasma in a series of warm and well chosen colours. There is no cheap ‘colourshock’ in kindergarten colours here. This is a design perfect screen. I guess the STE enhanced palette was used here.

Design, or what!

The best does appear to have been saved to last. The end part was a fullscreen killer, and a suitable high note to end on. All borders are removed, cast away to a dark place never to return. We see a huge rippling distorting logo, tastefully coloured ginormous raster bars and an info scroller about the party heading  languidly up the page. This was an authentic trouser-exploding moment even for the harshest critic of DHS.

So fullscreen, it seems to bulge out the screen and come after you!

This was another superior DHS contribution to the Atari demo scene. Certainly without this, the Outline 2010 demo competitions would have been in a very poor state indeed.

I still like to think that we haven’t seen the STE demo to end all other STE demos, but this is a solid contribution to an impressive portfolio on that machine,

The next ‘thing’ from DHS? Apparently a CT60 demo, we hope so!


Links:

  1. Sommarhack 2010 invitro at pouet.net

The Snowman 2009 by Checkpoint

May 15, 2010

The beginning

Merry Christmas 2009, tickle those synapses into life and take yourself back to a time which had more than the average Atari demo gift bundle for that season. Apart from the 20 years Atari STE megademo, and the ‘sort of outgrew the original screen for the above’ ‘Save the Earth’ demo from Defence Force, we got this gorgeous little reworking  of The Snowman slideshow demo (1987).  It is a nicely wrapped little package nestling on top of the big presents under the tree. The one with the very shiny paper, tied up with a golden bow, silently pleading with you to open it first.

So you do…

Checkpoint have set about a major reworking of the iconic 1987 original demo ‘The Snowman’ from Modnoc. That consisted of a few pictures in a slideshow captured from the 1982 cartoon, and the soundtrack from the original ‘Walking in the Air’ tune. For those of you unenlightened beings who haven’t come across the original book by Raymond Briggs, or the 1982 animated movie, then a really obvious and limp-wristed search with your preferred search engine should fill those gaps in nicely.

A happy child

From such a bare and unpromising premise, this little slideshow was extremely well received and highly regarded for a long time. There have been PeeCee and more lately, Atari 8-bit reworkings of the original, so the time may have been ripe for a retrospective perhaps? So Checkpoint declared an interest and got stuck in to make a thoroughly nicely revamped update for this classic.

Unlike the bulk of 2009, which was an STE release orgy, The Snowman 2009 does run on just about anything, from a plain and very vanilla 1040 STFM upwards. You can run it on a Falcon if you desire.

Familiar faces such as Defjam and lsl for coding honours, along with 505 for the music are prominent. (Yes there is a nice original loader tune.) We also get a contribution from C-Rem for the font graphics in the lower scrolltext.

The snowman grows

To kick off then, there is a brief loading screen with a nice tune by 505 which might make you want to stay a bit longer. You can resist for only so long, and the ‘press space’ tempts you in eventually.

The slideshow element of the original is essentially intact. It is based on the ‘short’ version of the original movie, which does mean the essential elements are intact. The difference lies in the flat screenshots being brought to life with a progression of animated scenes. These are usually slow and blurry and perfectly in keeping with the original work.

The screens are slightly coarsely pixelled but this works to the viewers advantage where blurring is used. The languid dream-like quality of the original work has been enhanced by this remake.

The ‘Walking in the Air’ sampling is taken from the movie of course. This does not appear to end and like the demo, loops indefinitely.

He's so cute

You may end up running through the demo several times in order to read the scrolltext at the bottom anyway. This contains a lot of thoughts and reflections from the creators, especially about the high number and quality of releases for the ST and especially the STE during 2009.

This Xmas treat was just right for the season, it will be got out and played again and again, like the original movie.


Links:

  1. Snowman 2009 at pouet
  2. Snowman original from 87 at pouet

Another Kid Story – MJJ Productions

May 15, 2010

Released at the VIP Party 2009.

Design and code by Tobe.
Code by HerrV.
Graphics by C-Rem.
Music by TomChi.

This was one of the more surprising and influential ‘small’ demos made last year for the Atari STE. It is a tribute demo to the ‘Kid’s Story‘ episode of the Animatrix series, a body of work to which I confess having no familiarity with whatsoever. So I’m taking the demo at its face value. Yes I know I’m an anime-avoiding dinosaur, so you’ll just have to put up with it. Or write your own better informed review taken from that wider perspective perhaps?

The demo is short and sweet, starting with a functional intro screen styled white font on a black screen. This leads to a moody blue-themed still screen to further introduce the demo.

The title screen.

I could go the Herman Samso route and give some very brief descriptions to wrap this article up, or else I could try to write a bit more. Which is it to be?

We meet our protagonist by zooming close in to a picture of a lonely hacker, hunched over a computer screen in a dark room. I guess this is the ‘Kid’ of the demo and the movie.

Zooming in, part one.

We move even closer to the action, about two inches away from a green cursor spewing words of concern and questioning. In conventional demo describing terms, this is a reinterpretation of a classic scrolltext, flowing incredibly smoothly and a complete subversion of an oldschool warhorse effect. There are key-clicks mixed in with the main soundtrack at this point. I guess these are sampled and using the ‘STE’ part of generating sound?

Tap-tappity-tap-tap scrolltext!

There are only a handful of core effects deployed and the pixel zoomer, seen introducing the hacker is redeployed by closing up into an intense eyeball view.

Another green scroller, not a harsh computer font, but more of a smoothly flowing sineous series of green dots tells you to “Believe in your dreams.”

More green textual madness!

The zoomer returns to give you a faceful, then the final ‘real’ effect is shown. A texture mapped spiral vortex or flat tunnel effect.

Spinny stuff, tunnel or seashell?

“Escape from their truth”. “The choice is yours.” More good advice is given, so our hero decides to end the demo by zooming to the light at the end of the tunnel. And it is really the end.

Zooming in, part two, don't go towards the light!

This demo is small and perfectly formed. A brief poem or haiku to set against the messy sprawl of bigger works, a compelling guitar solo to set against a whole Ring Cycle performance, you get the idea?

I ought to credit the efforts of C-Rem for providing perfectly moody and scene-setting graphics for this demo. And to TomChi for providing a soundtrack which was musically all his own style and again fitting in perfectly with the darker mood of the demo.

The advice is given not to bother with emulators, but I found this was perfectly fine running under Hatari. Of course it made the UltraSatan trip to my real STE as soon as possible.

If you haven’t already tried this one, then enjoy, but I don’t think that will be many people left out there now?


Links:

  1. Another Kid Story at pouet

Random Images – A spamfomercial!

May 15, 2010

The title picture.

Ok, I’m going to use these hallowed pages, (Hallowing concept (C) Richard Karsmakers 1989-ish,) for some self-promotion of ‘product’.

At least the product in question is new, intended to be Atari related and meant to be enjoyed on any TOS-based computer close to hand.

Whirly shiny bubbles.

Quite simply, if everything has gone to plan for Outline 2010, then the ‘Random Images’ CD-ROM image file [1] will be available for downloading. In nerdy numbers, that means around 500 MB of stuff to play with, including 675 painstakingly converted Targa pictures. Also there are 399 animated GIF’s in the image too. Finally there is a smallish selection of handy tools to view these goodies too.

When I say ‘CD-ROM’, this was the most convenient method of gathering up the collection. It would be easy enough to transfer this to one of the new generation of SD-card based storage devices. Did I say UltraSatan, oops, guess I did!

As to the point of the whole exercise, you might be aware that the STE can fake a lot more colours onscreen than the official and rather measly sixteen that Atari were content with. How about 19200 colours onscreen from 32768 available? Well Photochrome can do it, and here are the pictures to show this to the world! Even the veteran STFM can manage 4096 colours onscreen, which is still pretty damn respectable.

Felice and Earx are coke addicts!

The animated GIF’s are sorted by size category. To be honest if you get anything much bigger than ‘titchy’, then you will start to need more powerful hardware than a base model ST. A Falcon can reach across some of the gap. An accelerated Falcon or emulated super-clone even more so. Again take the time to check these out.

There’s more to say within the collection itself. Each individual image has been catalogued and listed, and there are some nice documentation files to read as well.

So don’t delay, grab today!


Links:

  1. Download CiH’s random images CD

“Realtime” – Movie player by MJJ Productions

May 15, 2010

This fascinating scrap of an intro is based on a chunky pixel STE-based video player being developed by Tobe of MJJ Productions. We have been treated to some amusing previews of the player, with movie clips grabbed from one of the most cultish of cult movies of all-time, The Big Lebowski. Well there is *one* movie clip in particular that Tobe keeps on returning to, namely the bowling alley scene where we find out that “Nobody fucks with the Jesus!”

This player has gone through several version upgrades and now has the capability of streaming a movie file directly from disk. Therefore upper memory limits on hardware do not feature anymore. There have been some requests made for this chunky video goodness to be made available to anyone who might want to do their own low-tech STE versions of popular movies. One day, we might get our wishes answered. I think it needs something at the other end, IE, a PeeCee to compress and convert the movie first though.

At a slightly earlier stage of development, a production using this system was  released at the Alchimie 2009 demo party. This demo, or more accurately, a fake demo movie-show is called (ironically) ‘Realtime‘.

For its ‘inspiration’, sections of a couple of famous Falcon demos, and one more obscure CT60 intro are taken. The demos and authors are credited in the info file, so there would no hard feelings at all. It was apparently good enough to fool a lot of people for a time, when it was first shown at the Alchimie party last year.

The effects are taken from the following Falcon and CT6xx demos.

For a suitable opener, we get the famous flying bumblebee from the Underscore demo by Escape.

Original and demo versions of the bumblebee.

Next up are a couple of brightly coloured objects including the famous Spiny Phong shaded ball from the Entracte demo. A nice drop of mid-nineties goodness here.

Same again, original screenshot on the left, demo on the right.

Finally to round things off, there is a flyby of some 3D objects from the Deeztort intro by Evolution. As I recall this was one of the goodies handed out with the Chosneck diskmag.

Deeztort flyby, you know the drill by now!

The material has been chosen well, the idea of ‘object show against a dark background’ is probably the best way to use a limited resolution and number of colours. If you are using this system for playing back more conventional movies, then choose your material very carefully to avoid possible disappointment with the end result.

The demo is set off nicely by some moody and cool music from 505, which complements the show nicely. It is replayed via the STE’s DMA sound which is the other cool feature of the video player.

This little demo ends abruptly. That sort of suggests “in-party production, ran out of time, sorry!” One comment in a forum near you suggested that with a little bit more thought, this could have been a good serious demo, rather than just a quick fun experiment.

I certainly hope that this video system is seen again in a bigger production. Not necessarily a whole demo made this way, but certainly it can be used in places where careful use and pre-selection of material would enhance or cut neatly between more traditionally coded effects perhaps?

—————————————————————————————————–

Link:

1.  Realtime at Pouet

(German) Zeitzeugnis Realtime Artikel – Inter Meeting 1994

May 15, 2010

Hello guys, this is a realtime article we did at a Inter meeting at Lucky’s place. Iit should give the readers, a short insight what they have missed in the nineties 🙂 The meeting took place at the 22th and 23th of Mai 1994, so exact 16 years ago.

Sonntag 22. Mai 1994

15:42

Ankunft bei Luckys Bude. Nachdem wir erst einmal eine Stunde gebraucht haben um unsere Böcke aufzubauen, haben wir uns erst einmal die ganzen Demos angetan (34 Megabyte, es lebe die 105SyQuest).

17:12

PC-ler im Anmarsch. Nach Cycedelic Knockout, Weltschmerz (Scheiß  Zeitabfrage) und Autowaschen verboten angeschaut haben, wollte er die Demos mitnehmen. Leider, leider, leider hat er aber nur ein PC. Tja so ist das Leben (des Brian).

18:44

Pizza Time.     Mjamph, jam, jam, jam, Grumpf, schlörf, Gromfph, jam ,jam,

Mjamph, rulps, Grompf, …………….

21:46

Hallo Leute, Samurai auf den Tasten, ich will euch mal ein GefĂŒhl von mir erklĂ€ren. Ein GefĂŒhl von ungeahnter, abgrĂŒndiger, verabscheuender Wut. Es ist einfach herrlich. Da sitz man nun, hat ein paar Stunden lang an einem Bild rumgepaintet, sich wirklich mĂŒhe gegeben,….. und dann, ja dannnn, ist der Saft, dieser unheimlich tolle Saft des Lebens fĂŒr dein Compi, Brutal und ohne Vorahnung aus der Wand gerissen.

SCHEEEEEEEIIIIIßßßßßEEEEEEEEE

(Lucky hier. Sorry, war echt keine Absicht!!! Aber warum ist es bei dir so beschissen dunkel, dass man die Steckdose nicht sieht???)

23:24

Oh Mann, die Drei Dosen Red Bull waren mal wieder dringend nötig. Wenn es ganz schlimm wird haben wir ja noch Flying Horse. Das Zeug soll 4x mehr Taurin als RedBull haben.

23:35

Die neue Version unseres Hellplasmas ist fast Fertig. Texte können nun eingestanzt werden und werden auch richtig ausgeblendet.

Montag 23. Mai 1994

0:48

YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAH, unsere Hellplasma Routine ist endgĂŒltig fertig geworden. Es mĂŒssen jetzt nur noch die Greetings eingegeben werden.

2:59

Hunger!!! Shit, ĂŒber Pfingsten sind alle GeschĂ€fte geschlossen. Naja, zum GlĂŒck hat Lucky ja noch 3 Scheiben LÀÀberkÀÀze. Bislle fettisch wars scho aber mapfe geht hald vor.

Ach ja unseres Hellplasma lĂ€uft ĂŒbrigens auch Perfekt mit unserer Harddisk-Recording Routine zusammen.

3:31

MĂŒdigkeit?!?!?!?!?      NNNEEEEEEIIIIINNNNNN       wofĂŒr gibt es den Flying Horse. Wenn einer von euch gedacht hat das Red Bull dich Wach macht, Hahahahaha   Flyighorse ist der totale ĂŒberflieger. Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeehaaaaa.

3:51

FÀngt grade an zu Regnen. Nur der Regen wÀre ja nett schlimm, aber die Blitze?

Nein mein kleiner Falke Du brauchst keine Angst zuhaben das Du Stirbst, Nein brauchst Du WIRKLICH nicht zuhaben. (Schwitz, Schwitz).

3:58

Hat da jemand Schlafen gesagt?

4:26

Nachdem Lucky mir freundlicherweise mein Logo gekillt hat, bin ich nun mit der zweiten Version fertig geworden. Wartet auf den Line-Vector Part in unserer Demo. Nicht nur das das Logo, wie ich finde, ganz gut geworden ist, sondern die Objekte selber sind tierisch Fett.

4:30

Es hat wieder aufgehört zu Regnen.

4:44

Pater Michaels Falcon ist soeben ins Nirivana entschwunden.

Aaaaaaaaaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah

4:46

Luckys preemptives Demo Betriebssystem ist fast fertig. Wieso fast? Nun, die Harddisk-Recording Routine lÀuft nun zwar im VBL aber die anderen Teile wollen nicht.

4:50

Fehler entdeckt.

4:55

Zum X-ten mal hören wir uns die VERY CD von den Pet Shop Boys an.

Noch ein Schluck Flying Horse und schon geht’s mir widder guuuud. HoHoHoHo

5:46

Die zweite “Flying Horse” Dose wurde soeben von LUCKY geköpft! Die eiskalte FlĂŒssigkeit rinnt ihm die Kehle hinunter und versucht ihn am Leben zu erhalten.

5:49

Zweiter Schluck – mal sehen wie lange es wirkt! :-}

6:04

Samurai is back. Mann, wir haben noch nicht einmal bemerkt wie die Sonne auf ging. Oh shit mir fÀllt gerade auf das mein Falcon schon seit 4 Stunden lÀuft ohne etwas zu tun. Ciao bis nachher.

6:33

Samurai ist im Reich der TrÀume.

6:34

Pater Michael bereitet sich auch vor ein wenig zu relaxen.

6:45

(Lucky) GESCHAFFT!!!!! Meine Multitasking-HD-Replay-Routine lÀuft! ENDLICH können wir HD-Musik im Hintergrund von Demos laufen lassen!!!!

8.32

(Lucky) Snief. Der Player lĂ€uft doch noch nicht so 100%. Wieder viel Arbeit. Die Zeitscheiben mĂŒssen einfach noch zu groß sein und beim Laden von anderen Programmen stört er auch noch!

So eine SCHEISSE!                 😩

Michael will jetzt auch noch einen Konverter von Stereo- in Mono-Samples schreiben. Nur damit er nicht Musicom 2 laden muß!!!! Das ist doch WAHHHHNSINNN!!! Aber bitte, wenn er meint…

8.36

Michael schreibt immer noch an seinem Konverter. (Neu aufnehmen ist doch schneller!)

8.37

Das dauert!

8.38

Michael ist immer noch nicht fertig. Und ich habe derweil nichts zu tun. Und was macht man da als gestresster, arbeitssĂŒchtiger Coder? Falsch! Nicht einen neuen Effekt! Nicht so lange man nicht weiß, ob der aktuelle lĂ€uft! Aber man kann sich ja im Texte schreiben ĂŒben. (Fingertraining…)

8.52

Ich glaub’ jetzt schreib’ ich den Konverter selber…

9:11

Ohhhhh, Dröhnung. Samurai back. Bin grade aufgestanden. Ich habe zwar nicht lange Geschlafen aber dafĂŒr tief. Ich sehe jetzt grade dem Lucky seine Multitasking-Routine mit unserem Wolfenstein3D und Hellplasma laufen. Jetzt mĂŒssen wir noch mit dem Typ vom Tonstudio reden das er uns ein Tecnotrack auflegt, und dann geht’s los.

9:27

Lucky hat gewonnen. Pater Michael Sampled seine Platte doch noch voll bis zum umfallen. Nix Converter, hehehehe.

9:36

Delirium. Lucky hat grade die letzte Flying Horse auf EX gekippt.

9:39

Lucky dreht durch. Jetzt will er schon unser Demo als Prozess im Hintergrund von TOS/GEM laufen lassen.

9:42

Nachdem unser Multi-Demo-System lĂ€uft wollten wir das natĂŒrlich Norman Kowalewski nicht vorenthalten. Die Telefonauskunft in den Staaten sind alle viel Freundlicher als hier in Germany. Das hat sich aber geĂ€ndert als wir ihr gesagt haben wen und vor allem wo wir ihn suchen.

Hehehehe. Norman war ehrlich gesagt nicht sonderlich begeistert als wir ihn um ca. 1 Uhr Morgens aus dem Bett geschmissen haben. Aber als er schon Wach war hat er uns auch ANGEDEUTET, nichts gesagt, das der neue Atari wohl ende dieses Jahres auf dem Markt erscheinen wird. Und das Geile daran ist das die Kiste mit JaguarChips, nein nicht CioChips, arbeitet und knapp unter der Leistung einer SGI Indy mit 120Mhz liegen wird zu einem Preis von ca. $2499. Die Architektur beruht auf den ABAQ von Atari. So, jetzt aber noch ein öffentlicher Aufruf an alle. Die Telecom hat sich ĂŒber unseren Anruf nach Kalifornien gefreut. Wir sind auf ca. 75 DM gekommen. Also wer will darf und sollte uns zumindest mal 5 DM zukommen lassen. Briefmarken reichen uns vollkommen. Danke.

10:27

No Carrier

10:34

Pater Michaels Headake Effekt ist so gut wie fertig.

10:37

Mist ich bekommen Tierischen Hunger. Aber in diesem Kaff gibt es ja keinen McDoof oder WĂŒrger King.

11:14

Geil, MTos & MinT sind gar nicht so schlecht wie ich immer dachte. Unsere Demo lĂ€uft auch in einem GEM Fester das man frei positionieren kann und das alles im Mint Kernel. Wir mĂŒssten zwar den VSync() Aufruf patchen, aber es lĂ€uft.

11:23

Der PMMU Speicherschutz lÀuft endlich!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

11:41

Einen neuen Fehler entdeckt und beseitigt. Wir mĂŒssen uns mal mit Eric Smith unterhalten.

12:10

Yeah, enddlich gibbes was zu Mampfe. Wir fahren jetzt nÀmlich zu McMurder.

13:13

Meine Fresse nach dem uns der Notarzt die MĂ€gen leer gepumpt hat geht’s mir wieder gut. Gott sei Dank lebe ich noch.

13:29

Jo, wir ziehen uns grade die ganzen alten Videos von der 680XX Convention und der Fried Bits 2 rein. Boa Eh, sind das alles Geile Demos. (WARUM, hallo Agent T).

14:50

Der Wind_Update() wird nun von Mint richtig ausgefĂŒhrt. Die Demo mach schon ein echt tollen Eindruck. Filled-Vectors mit 3Vbl’s in einem GEM Fenster muss man erst einmal machen.

14:53

Bei 3 Tasks geht er in 4Vbls.

16:05

Unsere Deltapack-Routine macht Riesen fortschritte. Lucky und Pater Michael streiten sich welche Methode besser zum Packen ist.

16:11

Lucky ist auf’m Klo.

16:30

Keiner sagt was.

16:31

Immer noch nichts.

16:32

Nö

16:33

Nein, nein.

16:34

Immer noch schweigen.

16:35

16:36

16:37

Pater Michael Summt vor sich her.

16:38

Schweigen.

16:39

Pater Singt!!!

16:40

Er ist soeben ganzzzzzzz aus versehen aus dem Fenster gefallen.

17:40

wir sind einfach zu erschöpft um noch irgendetwas zu tun. Halt doch, Schlafen können wir noch hervorragend.

18:33

Lucky on the keys: Ich bin am Ende. Tödlich aber Ă€ußerst produktiv dieses Wochenende. Tja, was Norman jetzt von uns denkt?

Ich bin ja jetzt schon gespannt, was als Antwort zu unserer Mail an Eric herauskommt. Ob er unser neues gepachte Mint Kernel-Version, die endlich auch Demotauglich ist, ĂŒbernehmen wird? WĂ€hre doch der totale Wahnsinn! Wo wir doch vorhin noch “Autowaschen Verboten” bis zum Morphing zum Laufen bekommen haben. (Photon: Wieso hast du da den Blitter so exzessiv benutzt? Der hat den Timer A durcheinander gebracht und den braucht Mint doch unbedingt fĂŒr sein Multitasking!!!)

Tipp an alle Multi TOS Freaks: “Warum” und “Omega Grotesque” vertragen sich ĂŒberhaupt nicht unter Mint (Auch nicht mit Inters’ PepperMint-Kernel)! Schade…

Signing off



Pater Michael


Lucky of ST


Samurai

IMPORTANT: THE INDEPENDENT RULES!

EXTREMELY IMPORTANT: THE INDEPENDENT SILL RULES!

THE MOST IMPORTANT: THE INDEPENDENT WILL RULE FOREVER!!!!!!

…The CrapTalkers…

The future of ST web collections: Atarimania

December 28, 2009

Since years ATARIMANIA[1] is a well known source for all Atari 8 Bit fans. Now since some time, it extend it’s collections to also cover the ST computers. Not long ago, there was a relaunch of the site. So it was a good opportunity to have some words with one of the main responsible for the ST part of the site: Marakatti.

The new design

The new game screen

LR: Please introduce yourself.
Marakatti: My name is Marko, I live in southern part of Finland (the promised land of C64, Amiga and Windows) with my wife, 2 kids, 2 dogs and lots of Atari-machines and software. I’ve been active ST user since 1990 and own Atari machines from 2600 to Jaguar and from 400 to Falcon030. In the earlier days I was a gfx-man of Alien Nation and Depression crews. I also used to collect computers and videogames from 1997 to 2005 or something and have total of 135 machines and around 1500 original software titles for different systems.

LR: What is your function in Atarimania ?
Marakatti: My main job is to build the ST / TT / Falcon030 database (games, utils, demos), make Pasti-images from the originals we get or own, do a lot of scanning (disks, box, magazines, and whatever are related to ST software) and the most important part, to add the stuff our contributors send for us.
As every member of Atarimania I also participate to design, bug hunting and suggesting new features for the website and the special program we use to update the Atarimania. I try to work at least 1-2 hours every day for the site so you could say that there’s every day something new to see. I think 11 hours a day is my current record ;)

LR: How did you start participating in Atarimania?
Marakatti: In April 2008 things were very silent at the Guardians of the PaST. Team had lost the coder, founders needed to take a break for their hard work and the database engine wasn’t working 100%. It was a bit of uncertainty what comes next and when. So I was looking for a another project to keep the flame burning while the Guardians was on hold.
I noticed a site called Atarimania which was listed on RetroGamer magazine. It looked cool and I saw that the ST database wasn’t yet published. So I sent mail to the team, told a bit about myself and asked if I can help building the ST section. I got accepted to enter Atarimania. Later I worked for the both sites but as things got more and more silent on the Guardians side so I chose to concentrate my energy for Atarimania which is now my main Atari-project.

LR: What are the highlights of the relaunch of Atarimania? When did the relaunch was planed, and how long did it took?
Marakatti: It was amazing how fast our coder did the whole site from scratch concerning he has a fulltime job. I think the first concepts were done in late January. The new design really took off in May or so and we already had a new version running in early September. We’re still fixing bugs, cleaning the site and adjusting some minor things. This is pretty much done and we can concentrate to build the ST database again which still needs very much work to be equal to other areas of Atarimania.

About highlights I think the best thing is “My Atarimania”. It’s a totally new concept in Atari world where you can keep easy list of your Atari software online no matter where you are. It has already been very popular feature amongst the game collectors.
Generally speaking the whole site is now much faster and easier to navigate thanks to the fact that it’s fully recoded with Webdev instead of PHP. This also allows easier and more flexible expansion for future features.
We tried to make it more user friendly experience for our visitors and also have the latest web technology under the hood for the future.

LR: How many people are involved in Atarimania and how are they organized?
Marakatti: At the moment we have 10 active members from France, Germany, Spain, Sweden and Finland.
Six members are working on 8bit Atari-machines and four for ST / TT / Falcon030. It’s a funny coincidence that most of the ST team are from Scandinavia.

LR: Are there dependencies between the different systems, or are systems like the VCS and ST independent in Atarimania?
Marakatti: The ST section is most independent from the others. With an exception of our coder, we don’t do maintenance work for 8bit systems. Atarimania has originally been built around 8-bit machines so it’s natural that the founders work for console and 8-bit computers.
In fact 8 and 16+bit machines don’t share that much similarities apart from Atari name and the case design of XE. So both require special kind of expertise and most importantly years of experience. I have to admit I don’t even have enough knowledge to use 8-bit Atari computers properly apart from loading some games or watching the absolutely fantastic demos this “babyamiga” has to offer. These guys are best for the job so ST section can concentrate doing our own thing. Having said that I will ofcourse be here to help if things like scanning or taking screenshots is needed.

LR: Why is there an own forum with topics like “programming”, why not reuse “Atari-Forum” or “Atari Age” or whatever?
Marakatti: I think our forum main purpose is to allow interaction between visitors and Atarimania. The other areas like utils and demos are also expanding so it’s natural to have our own little forum for that. It is true that Atari-Forum and Atari Age are the most active places for community. We don’t try to compete against them.

LR: What number of games do you expect to be listed in AM in the end?
Marakatti: For single ST/TT/Falcon titles we try to reach the magical 5000 games limit. I still think there might be some PD or personal archives to be explored. But it will take a lot of time to go this far as we now need to concentrate to fill up the gaps in the current database.
For the total number when you count different releases like budget-versions and country specific releases + the utils and demos for that, no one can’t even imagine the total number! I think we are going to see well over 10000 entries in couple of years.

LR: Is there a chance, that the Atarimania project will die (the ST part) as Guardians of the PaST died?
Marakatti: First of all I think it’s too early to say if the Guardians have died or not. It had a habit of having big breaks, and then suddenly something moves a bit again. As I spent hundreds of hours working for that project I still have a soft spot for the site in my heart and would be sad to see it vanished completely.

I’m sure that Atarimania will survive as long as we have a coder to supports us and there’s nothing dramatically in our families lives. We spent our childhood with different Atari systems, we love to play with our machines now when we are adults and we want to preserve the good old days for the future generations when we’re gone. Three very important things that keeps us together.

LR: The strange thing on GotpST was, that it was only interested in “Commercial” games, what’s the opinion on PD and Shareware games on AM?
Marakatti: It was this way because Guardians goal is to preserve everything including complete game boxes. It was something that most people didn’t realize.

In Atarimania our ultimate goal is to save every software title released no matter under what license, where or who published them. As far as the commercial stuff goes we prefer to use Pasti-images for protected games to have as fresh copy as possible, that’s why we decided not to use any cracks. We have nothing against crackers though, without them the ST history wouldn’t be complete and no one could enjoy as large software base as we can today.
But the thing is that there are already mighty CD or DVD compilations available from DBug, our newest member Marcer and from many other people in the past. But no one hasn’t succeeded making the ultimate Atari ST / TT / Falcon030 software archive yet with as unmodified software as possible. So PD, demo and shareware stuff is most welcome, it would be a real loss to miss such classics like, let’s say Llamatron.

LR: I saw on a C64 Forum, that they have videos of each level of a game, do you think that will come as a future feature in AM as well?
Marakatti: Very tempting idea. It would be possible with the games that have trainers or by hiring Xerus to play everything for us :D

Couple of ST videos are already uploaded with much more to come. Time will tell if we manage to go this far. I have to admit I really enjoy watching the Amiga speed runs from YouTube and would love to see such thing on Atarimania someday.

LR: What are the next steps in the project?
Marakatti: Main priority on ST is now to take screenshots for the current entries and to make as much Pasti dumps available as possible. In total we have well over 1000 boxed originals waiting to be pastified and/or scanned + the new contributions we get every week.
We will also do our best to find lots of previews, reviews, work in progress etc. documents to be added as well as videos and otherwise unreleased material not found from other Atari websites.
I’m also a huge fan of Falcon030 so thanks to the already very good Falcon emulation on Hatari we are finally able to build decent Falcon database as well. I think we also start soon working on Jaguar section when we have figured out how to get decent screenshots.

LR: What are your dream features of Atarimania?
Marakatti: In the future when the database is ready I would like to see Guardians style things in Atarimania like the expanded background information of games, ability to play ST-game music files, wider selection of screenshots etc..
It would be great to be able to play ST games directly from the website like on VCS section. Also the idea of having rotating 3D software boxes sounds very cool to me.

But my ultimate dream is that I would like to see the members of Guardians of the PaST, Atari Legend, Atarimania and other ST sites to work together for one big project that would challenge the big sites like Hall of Light on Amiga or World of Spectrum instead of trying to do things on our own. ST scene is just too small for that.
Just look at the VCS and 8bit databases. They are real flagships of Atarimania. It just shows what is possible when you have motivation and dedication to give your best shot and get people to support the project. We have the technology and motivation so it can be done on ST as well. So far the support has been great but there’s always space for more stuff and people.

LR: What are your favorite ST games?
Marakatti: I’m a big fan of racing games on any platform, so almost anything from that genre goes. I think the best ones on ST are games from Magnetic Fields (Lotus and Super Cars series), Vroom, Microprose GP, Toyota Celica GT Rally and Stunt Car Racer. From other than racing games I enjoy very much playing Kick Off and all the classics like Gauntlet II, Ikari Warriors, Xenon, Arkanoid II, Fighter Bomber, Llamatron and Obsession just to name a few. I bet there are still dozens of great games I’ve never even played. That’s what makes ST gaming so fascinating :)

LR: Many thanks for this great interview, and our best wishes for the future of the project

Links


1. Atarimania website

The future of the patches

December 28, 2009

Maybe the most important breakthrough in atari gaming in the past years was the invention of the ULS by d-bug. Thanks to this technology, Atari gamer are able to play old ST classics on a Falcon direct from the hard disk.
This year d-bug announced on their webpage [1], that they will stop patching games, so I like to do this interview with GGN of d-bug to ask him some questions about what could we expect in the future.

LR: Could you please introduce yourself

GGN: George Nakos, originating and living in Greece, 32 years old (I think :P), coder (and rarely crap artist) of the groups KÜA software productions, D-Bug and Paradize. I hang around at #atariscne a lot, tormenting people with my crap humor and sometimes I even help.

LR: As a lot of our readers aren’t familiar with the Falcon, could you please explain in some words, what you do to patch a game.

GGN: Well, that’s a pretty big subject on its own and would take a couple of articles on its own to answer fully ;). I’ll keep it short, simple and non technical though: Most ST games are only meant to run from a floppy, so we have used lots of techniques (including ULS) which basically change the disk routines so that they load from hard drive instead. This is not limited to the Falcon only (indeed the first ULS version was for STs). Falcon fixing includes changing 68000 code that doesn’t work on 68030, and generally running the game, see if it works or not, fix any apparent or possible crashes, and release.

LR: What is the current status of the d-bug activities concerning Falcon patches?

GGN: Well, we aren’t exactly busting a nut fixing stuff. We mostly do it at our leisure time. A couple years ago it was almost our only Atari activity. Now we just patch something if we get bored or would like to see it running on Falcon. This years December-full-of-releases came into being just because Cyrano Jones patched 5 games in a couple of hours, and then the next day I did the same, then we added some other stuff we had lying around, et voila!

LR: What could we expect in the future?

GGN: Being lax doesn’t mean we don’t have ideas 🙂

Recently we had an idea that (we hope) will spark some new interest in ST gaming. If all goes well, we’ll announce it in January 1st!

Otherwise, there are always things we can do to improve ULS. Don’t know if there’ll ever be a v4 of it though, again it depends on our moods.

LR: On the Amiga the WHD Load system exist for years, and it looks like there is still a lot of activity, is this project comparable to your patches?

GGN: Yes, it is comparable. Cyrano Jones told me that it originated from a Showaddywaddy quote on irc which was something along the lines of: “I wish we could switch off TOS!”. At that moment a small light bulb appeared on top of CJ’s head, and soon “TOSOff” (renamed to Universal Loading System for marketing reasons :P) was created. Of course it was influenced by WHDLoad, but it shares 0% code with it. Actually, with ULSv3 we have even one-upped them by introducing save states on the games (similar to emulator save states).

LR: How could people participate in the project?

GGN: ULSv3 is open source, so people simply need to download it, read the online documentation on our website and start patching! All they need is some 68000 knowledge, a copy of the compendium and the hardware address listing really.

LR: What are your personal 3 favorite games on the ST?

GGN: Very very very very very very very tough question! Interphase is surely one of them, a brilliant mix of 3D and real time strategy. Wings of death, no comments really. Turrican 2, again no comments. And since I just put a trainer on this interview, I’m free to give you 3 more :P. Another World, Prince of Persia and Vroom!

LR: Many thanks GGN for this interview, will be interesting of what kind your January Announcement will be.

Links


1. d-bug website

Sodium by Rave Noise Overscan.

December 28, 2009

An intro for the ST..

The 2009 edition of the Alternative party had quite a healthy presence of Atarian life-forms there. Apart from the usual UK visiting team, we were graced by the arrival of some hackers of a deceased persuasion, but I will tell more of what they got up to in another textfile. We also saw another ST set up nearby, with a  brand new UltraSatan hanging off it in an umbilical fashion. This machine belonged to Britelite, the coder working for long time Commodore botherers, Rave Noise Overscan, or RNO for short.

It turned out that they had written a short production for it, with the intention of showing it off at the Alternative party, good for them!

It is a tightly packed proggy, hovering nervously around the 26 kilobyte mark. So you expect a quick no-frills blast into the main action. The viewer is not disappointed as a harsh buzzy soundchip tune blasts in with a stark ‘porno’ logo in a barren font distorting up and down the screen.

A battering of snare-drums announces the first halfway designed effect part, the left hand side of the screen being occupied by a grey ‘RNO’ logo, complete with staring eye. The right hand side of the screen has a pink wavy distorting pattern, upon which some information about the demo appears.

So far, so average, but the next part, where the music picks up a warbling treble voice is much better. The pink thing on the right hand side is replaced by a huge texture-mapped greenish-hued cube. This only rotates on one axis, so may not be a full cube, however, there is some suggestion of depth given by a misty fading at the more distant end of things.

The pink thing seen earlier reappears, it is taking the everyman role of an info-screen, we are updated with some credits to describe Britelite as the coder, Xia making the music, and Zeroic and Fragment creating the graphics.

But this is not the end, the moneyshot effect is waiting impatiently to do its thing. This turns out to be a absolutely awesome solid twister, probably the best of its kind seen on an ST, and even rivalling some Falcon 030 versions of that effect for sure. If there are only sixteen colours on that screen, then there is some damn effective shading or anti-aliasing going on here!

But the end is following hard on its heels, as the pink distorter returns with the dismal news that this is pretty much all they have to show you this time. A final return of the stark distorting ‘porno’ logo, seen at the start is the only thing left before the demo abruptly ends.

Well, this was a compact effort, an interesting showcase for what we can hope to see in a bigger demo. Indeed there was some talk of a bigger RNO production for the ST at a future summer, quite large Helsinki-based demo party, but let’s not get carried away just yet, eh!

As it is, a nice little intro with a couple of truly stand-out moments. May all their future productions have more of these.

CiH, for Low-Res Mag, November 2009.

Cernit Trandafir by Dead Hackers Society.

December 28, 2009

A demo by Dead Hackers Society for the Atari STe...

I was aware that a demo was going to be released at the 2009 Alternative Party by the Dead Hackers Society (DHS) before we arrived at the event. They turned up in strength, and I had the pleasure of many a fireside(*) chat with Nerve, who had set up his STe next door to my laptop. He had a fully completed and ready to run demo on his STe, but he just about manfully restrained himself from clicking on the fateful .prg file before the competitions had been run. He was twitching quite a bit towards the end, and was visibly relieved when he was finally able to treat me to the first small screen showing of this demo.

(*) Apart from the stage-area pyrotechnics, an open roaring flame wasn’t really encouraged as a concept anywhere within the party due to it being 1. Illegal, and 2. Dangerous. My lungs do however still recoil at the recollection of the sheer amount of artificial smoke that was generated from the live-act performances!

But the wait was worth it, as DHS’s new demo, ‘Cernit Trafadir’ was presented without the bothersome “issues” that plagued last year’s competitions on the big screen. It was rated highly enough to get the third prize. The story of the demo follows in the rest of this text.

This time around, memory restrictions have been given the finger, as the demo comes in two versions, firstly a 2 MB version for oldskool hardcore, party like it’s 1991 styled sceners using floppy disks (or emulators). For less memory and storage challenged sceners like me, there is the fulsome luxury of a version needing the full 4 MB of STe RAM, but giving hard drive loading, and a deeply intimate massage with aromatic oils from a scarcely dressed but devastatingly gorgeous lady. Actually, I’m lying about the massage bit but I’ll do anything to keep your attention on this textfile, eh! A look at the folder containing the demo reveals a humongous chunk of soundtrack. The other advantage of hard disk loading allows  a 25 khz version of the soundtrack, rather than the 12 khz for the floppy drive version.

I’ll get the credits out of the way now. The coding is a three-way partnership of Gizmo, Evil, and Nerve. The graphics honours are shared between Evil and Proteque, an Amiga scene veteran who got fed up with the endless talk and inaction there, so he joined forces with DHS to do some new work. Musically, 505 has been asked to contribute an excellent soundtrack, no doubt he is celebrating the easing of memory restrictions as he heard the news.

Time to go and see the demo, there is lots to do, so pay attention!

A loading logo briefly appears on screen and gives way to a moody blue rolling background. A closer look appears to reveal different layers and a semi-transparent effect going on. Over the top, some credits in a very fancy font go over. The other impression on your eyes is the fact that this is fullscreen, occupying every last centimetre of the STe’s display. There are no clunky chunky boarders, and that remains the case for around 75 percent of the rest of the demo too.

The soundtrack builds into the next section of the demo, a pair of pulsing rastered distorting ‘things’ vibrate up the screen. This effect is pure oldskool and will get Amiga copper fans falling off their chairs faintly applauding (one hopes..)

Then bang! We’re into one of the talking point screens, an evening-toned rastered skyline taking up most of the screen, apart from the distant horizon,  and there’s these huge dark spinning skyscrapers getting in the way! They are spinning so freely, that the edges have all gone purple and blurry! This is one of the stand out moments of this demo for sure.

A pause and moments dark reflection, then we are into the next part. This starts deceptively quietly, an ornately bent and twisted wire frame cube, but with more solid lines than normal. It could be a 3-D effect, or it could be a very cunningly drawn sprite. This expands to fill the whole screen, in a Defjam-friendly blocky pixel chunk-o-vision mode. Then the full-screened glory is finally revealed as a whole differently coloured host of the original small version swamps the screen. You can’t see it in this screengrab, but there are some dark raster bars which squeeze in behind as well.

A ‘designy’ bit is next, almost lyrical in content, as a half-drawn standing figure stands to the left of the screen, whilst a flurry of rose flower sprites swirl on screen. Presumably this is an overt reference to the demo title which translates to ‘dark rose’ in Romanian.

There is a bit more STe hardware bashing next, as Proteque intervenes with a gorgeous high color picture, an anorexic blindfolded angel is the centrepiece of a metal-bending video mode, with something like 29,000 colours involved in its construction. I’m not sure what resolution that is, at least a fullscreen mode going over the standard issue 320 x 200 screen, I guess? Maybe Evil can get around to writing up some of the tricks and cunning code he used in this demo sometime?

We appear to return to some oldskool roots as the music changes mood into something more cosmic sounding. A starfield is met smartly by patterns of deep blue 3D bobs. This is one screen which is conspicuously not fullscreen, it is as smartly presented as the rest of the demo, but it could have been completely at home in a production two decades ago. In the mid-part, the obligatory greets are led onscreen. Always nice to get a mention of course 🙂

There follows a return to moody newschool, with a pair of spinning light-shaded blocks. My brain fails me in describing the precise technique, or mixture of techniques used. Yet another screen pleading piteously for some words of enlightenment from its creators.

Things are building towards a finale, as Gizmo gets to show off his superior 3-D object making skills. A grey-washed female nasally enjoys a black rose to the left of the screen, whilst a spinning enviro-mapped spiny thing, does its uncanny best to represent an open rose flower. Are we spotting a central theme yet?

Finally, the end is breathing hard down our tense and sweaty necks, as a series of fullscreen ripples, waves and good old tunnels lounge languidly in a semi-transparent fashion across a picture of a rose.  Then, the last effect is concluded, the music fades and dies and the screen turns to darkness for the last time.

So what do we think then?

‘Cernit Trandafir’ is most definitely a sequel to last year’s hit ‘More or Less Zero’. It continues the Dead Hackers progression with abusing the Atari STe’s hardware to give a production look and feel which would resemble the Amiga ECS at its peak, rather than the majority of Atari ST demos. (Not that I’m writing off a whole twenty years worth of Atari demo heritage of course, but these two demos are making fullscreen overscan almost look routine now. I guess the coding side would not be necessarily so taken for granted though!)

I like the continued hard disk support. The UltraSatan was conspicuously seen in some numbers at the Alt Party, so more demos that support this are always appreciated. Needless to say, I am looking forward strongly to the 20th Anniversary STe demo, hopefully with a contribution from DHS there too.

It is with absolutely no sense of regret that I can say that Cernit Tranfadir is another magnificent addition to the DHS portfolio of totally cool stuff. I sort of got some inside information they are shifting platform focus for their next production, so I’m looking forward to that sometime in the future.

I have one other observation of a personal and inward looking kind to garnish the end of this text with. I have enjoyed writing for this new magazine format, I am able to supply a comprehensive set of screen grabs for the first time on a demo review, which is liberating somehow!

See you next time.

CiH, for Low-Res Magazine, November 2009.

UltraSatan in use, some quirks and workarounds.

December 28, 2009

Many of you lucky readers will have recently taken delivery of a brand new UltraSatan SD-card drive for your ST. Quite a lot of people will have also had the pleasure of owning the predecessor SatanDisk for some time before. Both of these devices were the modern answer to a lot of people’s ST bulk storage prayers. Of course the path to storage heaven was not a completely smooth one. It’s not really debris-strewn but there might be the odd pebble of discontent that you may stub your toe on. Here are a few of mine, but fortunately there are workarounds for these as I’ll explain.

It is worth noting at this point that I am using a very specific configuration for my UltraSatan enjoyment. This is an early series STe, Tos 1.06 (the version with the low res booting bug), I also have Tos 2.06 and MagiC as bootable options to give me enhanced functionality on the desktop too. It is expanded to the full amount of 4mb RAM. There are no other modifications that have been done to the machine. The experiences I’m describing may be unique to my set-up. Other people’s mileage may well vary. A preliminary run with Felice’s Mega STe with his UltraSatan didn’t generate these issues at all, for example.

Okay, so let’s tell you a bit more about these sinners!

For utility software in general,  where there were hassles, these tended to be with programs with some kind of custom  non-GEM  file selector. The elderly TCB Tracker comes to mind as being a  pig, sometimes  co-operating,   sometimes  not. Most people won’t care too much but I did actually (de)compose some stuff with it, so it’s of interest to me to listen to some very old tunes occasionally.  MusicMon,  in  its  early  1.0 incarnation  did  not want to talk to the SatanDisk or UltraSatan at all. Again this is not the first choice of a lot of people, but this old version has served some very specific purposes for me and has been used as a composing tool (or should that read “composting tool”?)

I also fancied  some real C64 SID-sounds on my STe, so Cream’s Playsid V2 was the logical choice. This  worked up to the point where it locked up on the file selector after the first tune was played, sometimes even before that.  There is an easy workaround for this though,  where you can install .PSD files to the application and run it just fine by clicking on the soundfile. But what about the rest of these things that are bugging me? Patience, all will be revealed soon enough.

For something different, I ventured into the world of using cunning programming tricks to display high-colour pictures in a fair resemblance of their  high-coloured glory.  For this, we have Douglas Little to thank. My first attempt was with the  Targa (TGA) viewer provided with Apex Media,  which has been shown to work just fine  on  an STe/floppy combination before.  With both the SatanDisk and UltraSatan, it appeared to hang without trying to convert and display a targeted picture. There was no difference between using drag and drop Tos 2.06, and the more laborious command-line to .ttp for Tos 1.06.  This is possibly another casualty  of  the  non-gem file  handling?   However,   my  second  attempt  with  the  more specifically written for the ST family picture viewer ‘Photochrome’ worked fine, but then  again, this program  did  revert  to a recognizable GEM  menu  when  loading  in something.

There was a conclusive workaround which sorted out all the issues described above. Very simply, having the full 4mb allows you to indulge in setting up a ramdisk. The Hybris reset-proof version did the job for me. Once this is installed on the desktop, you copy the difficult program or picture files into the ramdisk and run as normal, job done! Remembering of course if you are doing any work you would like to keep, to copy the files across to the more permanent storage before you switch the machine off!

We’re moving onto games and demos now. There were some issues raised which I’ll go into now. For example, some  of the D-Bug conversations tended to be happier and not produce a row of bombs if  a large chunk of memory was not occupied with a Tos  2.06  image file  to  start  with.  So  I tended to run these under the  plain  Tos  1.06 environment.  From reading around,  I discovered this may be a bigger memory issue,  as the Falcon 030 aimed portovers apparently need as much of the 4mb they  can get their hands on?  I hadn’t got around to tweaking the HD-Driver memory useage to minimum as yet as that hasn’t come up as a major problem so far.

I did have issues with a handful of demos. The most prominent was with ‘Breath’, the Mystic  Bytes Error in Line 1999 entry. this freezes or stops after the first static picture, although the music plays on. The other demo which behaved in an inconclusive manner was ‘Hallucination’ by the Reservoir Gods. This drifted to a stop prematurely. Once again, Hybris ramdisk came to the rescue, enabling both of these demos to run through perfectly once they were copied there.

Having a Tos 2.06 Rom image in memory can cause problems of its own. The Pacemaker demo by Paradox was found to really   need to run in Tos 1.06 mode,  otherwise it lost the blue part of the palette!

Most other things that I tried seem to be just fine with SatanDisk and UltraSatan. Having a SDHC card in the latter case seems to make no difference. I was unable to reproduce these issues on the sole other machine that I’ve tried so far, which was Felice’s Mega STe.

As always, this is an open format publication with comments enabled, so let’s hear about any experiences you might have had with the UltraSatan and your solutions to any issues.

CiH, for Low Res Mag, October 2009, written live from the Alt Party!

JayMSA – multifeatured disk image handling for Atari ST

December 28, 2009

Even if you are not deep into emulation, sooner or later you will stumble upon disk images in .MSA or .ST format. Basically those files are similar to ZIP archives or ISO images. they do not only hold files and there directory structure, but the exact layout of tracks on the original floppy disk is preserved.

JayMSA

JayMSA

JayMSA by Jaysoft [1] is free to download and use. The utility runs on all Atari STs and compatibles and fully utilizes the GEM desktop and is multitasking friendly.

With JayMSA one cannot only read disk images and save their contents as .MSA or .ST disk images ready for use with known ST emulators, but it also can write those images back onto disk. It also allows to extract files from a disk image. This feature is particular handy for hard drive users who do not want to run software from a floppy. Basically this saves the need to fully write the disk image onto a floppy disk.

Imaging a disk is simple with JayMSA. Just put the floppy you want to image into your drive, use the “Disk” menu to select the destination drive and click “Compress”. In the next dialogue select the options you want to employ for imaging

. If you are using TOS, the CRC feature seems to be buggy. It crashed for me in the past. But if you disable it, everything will work nicely.

You can select different target formats with MSA and ST being the most reasonable. Disk images in .ST format are not packed by default so I don’t recommend using them. After selecting where you want the fresh disk image to be stored, the program asks for confirmation and begins the imaging process.

JayMSA imaging a disk

JayMSA imaging a disk

When the imaging process has finished, JayMSA will list the contents of the new disk image in its main window. This will work as long as there is a FAT filesystem on the image. Software that loads from raw tracks will most likely only display some garbage here.

In this dialogue files can be selected, viewed with a configured text viewer from within the active disk image and ofcourse, extracted on their own to disk. Handy if you want to copy a single file from an entire disk image to your hard disk. Just click “Extract” in the “File” menu.

JayMSA - extracting files from a disk image

JayMSA - extracting files from a disk image

To write a disk image back to disk, select “Open” in the “File” menu to display the contents of your file. Now go to the “Disk” menu and select “Extract” to write the disk image back to a floppy. The process is similar to imaging a disk and ofcourse, JayMSA can write the same disk images back to disk that it created, e.q. you can write .ST files to disk with this.

Pro JayMSA

  • compatible with all previous MSA disk imagers
  • handles multiple disk image formats including .ST
  • has its own MSA file format with LZH compression
  • can clean bootsectors if desired (handy for those Ghost virus infested disk boxes)
  • shows contents of a disk image and allows to extract individual files
  • nice GUI
  • as a clean application, it works on all Ataris

Contra JayMSA

  • as most other disk imagers, JayMSA cannot image floppy disks with copy protection
  • uses “clean” disk access only so may not image everything no retry upon disk errors
  • the LZH compressed image formats can only be read and written by JayMSA itself
  • CRC option seems not to be compatible with TOS
  • window font display is buggy in ST-LOW and ST-MEDIUM if no NVDI is installed

Conclusion

All in all, I like JayMSA a lot and I use it regularly to write .MSA and .ST files to disk – and for the odd disk I need to image. Definitly a valuable tool for your Atari ST!


Links:

  1. JaySoft website

A brief history of the ST.

December 28, 2009

The Atari ST was unveiled to the public In January 1985 at the CES in Las Vegas. To see what the ST was though, we need to go one year back, to the ousting of Jack Tramiel from the company he founded, Commodore. We’ll skip the intrigue that surrounds that event and we’ll just say that Jack didn’t go alone, but also brought with him the engineer behind the 64, Shiraj Shivji.

When Jack lost his position at Commodore, he founded a company called Tramiel Technologies and Shiraj Shivji started working on a new 16-bit machine. How far the development had gone is at this moment unknown. What we know for a fact was that, as per the Atari Historical Society’s documents [1] and as dadhacker describes in his blog [2], he bought Atari with the dream to make this new computer that would bring the 16-bit revolution in power but without the price. That computer would eventually become the ST, we all know and love, but since the details are sketchy to say the least, Low Res decided to boldly go to the one person that knows more about Atari than Atari ever knew for itself.


The original 520 ST*

Curt Vendel is the man that created the Atari museum, founded Legacy engineering [3] and got the new Atari reinterested in their legacy with the Flashback 1 and 2 consoles. If there is one person respected and admired by all Atari fans, regardless of their favourite poison that would be him. We are therefore honoured that he agreed to answer a few questions.

Low Res: We’ve read the descriptions of dadhacker, who worked in TOS development but from those we can’t tell if the Tramiels had come to Atari with just an idea of a computer or if its development had already reached a good level. Rumour has it that it was the Amiga deal and Lorraine that actually forced Atari’s hand in both the ST’s design and the rush to the market. Are those two rumours true and if so to which extend?

Curt Vendel: Those rumors are completely false. Tramiel setup shop in May of 1984 in some office space in California where Shiraz went to work on his design for a new low cost computer (Codenamed – “RBP” for Rock Bottom Price). The Tramiels knew nothing about the existing contract between Warner owned Atari Inc and Amiga Corp, this relationship had been on going since late 1983 and Atari and Amiga went into contract in late Feb 1984 and paid Amiga an upfront advance of $500,000 towards the development of the Amiga chipset. Amiga would then receive $3mill from a stock buy by Atari when Amiga delivered the chipset to Atari at the end of June 1984.

Low Res: When was the Atari ST sent to the production lines?

Curt Vendel: “RBP” was in design and development within Atari from July 1984 through its showing at the 1985 Winter CES were it was shown to the public. Through the spring of 1985 the custom chips were being finalized and initial runs of the chips were made in May & June. Atari User Groups and Developers received small quantities of sample units in June 1985. Full production began in July through August 1985 and Retailers began to see shipments in late September 1985.

To speed up time to market, the “TOS” (The Operating System, or Tramiel Operating System) was initially delivered on diskettes as the new OS rom chips were not masked and ready in time for production release.

Low Res: You’ve written in the Atari Age forum that the ST was to be fitted with the AMY chip but instead it got the YM 2149. Were there any other corners cut in a bid to rush to the market? Was the ST supposed to have more such as hardware scrolling, sprites etc?

Curt Vendel: I wouldn’t called them “cutting corners” it was more of a strategic decision. AMY was and even today, still is a very remarkable audio chip design. However it still had bugs in its designs and time was running out to get it ironed out and then integrated into the ST design, so it was moved to be put into an XE series computer – however it would never make it into that computer design either. “SHIFTER” and “GLUE” were pretty much unchanged in their features and designs from what Shiraz envisioned them to what came out, so with that and from engineering notes and internal emails, it doesn’t appear that graphics features were cut back on in the initial design.

Low Res: The ST was marketed as a rival to the Macintosh, and truth be told it was a better machine. The result proved the Tramiels right since only the “business machines” survived, but what was the rationale behind it?

C.V. : Everything became a casualty of the X86 Win/PC machines. Once Windows 3.1 came out, it began to spell the doom for most computer platforms that were not X86/Windows. Even Apple in the 1990’s nearly went under and came close to stepping out of the PC business. The ST’s however had a simple design with intelligent features like a PC compatible disk drive design, color graphics, decent sound and built in ports for all basic needs from a computer user. Its ASCI port was actually SCSI done slightly better as devices self-assigned ID’s to themselves. Overall the ST was a good machine.

LR:The ST case design is.. interesting. Somebody thought to put the joystick ports underneath the keyboard. What were they thinking?

C.V.: I was never a fan of the Gray cased ST/XE look. It was so foreign to what Atari products looked like and should look like. Cost wise- doing an all in one case may be good, but visually I found it ugly. These are my own personal opinions of course. Yes the positioning of the joystick/mouse ports was a poor/clumsy choice, but given that most space around the sides was already occupied, there wasn’t much choice. I gained a lot more respect for the ST’s when the Mega ST line of “pizza box” styled systems and hard drives. It was an attractive look. Most importantly – a detachable keyboard that everyone wanted and expected in a computer by that time. Of course then the design went back to the 1040ST styled case again. The Mega Ste and TT030 were unusual looking systems, they had a unique look to them. I did like the fact that the TT030 came in an off-white appearance, it was much more pleasant looking then the dull gray color.

LR: Any other interesting insight we forgot to ask?

C.V: I think you asked some good questions.

TOS, The Operating System or Tramiel Operating System as it has been nicknamed was developed in a very short time on an Apple Lisa and in the offices of Digital Research. Anyone with any OS experience from Atari was sent there, they were given the x86 source code and the giant hack that is TOS became a reality. The descriptions of working there are an interesting read. Go to dadhacker’s blog and read them.

Atari actively marketed the Atari ST as a Mac beater and an IBM undertaker but unfortunately that didn’t really take off. The war would be with the Amiga. Atari had the fame of a home computer maker, at least in the United States and so had Commodore.

Ads like this:

would do little to change the climate and the first battle with the Amiga would be on the TV set of a show called computer chronicles[5]. The war that included various schoolyard battles, angry magazine writing campaigns and other favourite childhood memories was started then and ended… well it pretty much goes oon various internet forums where grown men (and women) can be kids again and behave like such ;).

Links


1. Atari Museum
2. Dad hacker blog
3. Legacy engineering
4. Atari ST vs Amiga

*ST image compliments of the Atari museum.

That is STOT ( ST Offline Tournament)

August 30, 2009

This article was written some time ago, and was intended to be published in the Alive diskmag.

STOT – SEASON 1 REVIEW AND PROSPECTS IN THE 21ST CENTURY

In this review article the author will examine the patterns displayed during the first season of the somewhat popular ST Offline Tournament gaming contest and will attempt to predict the future behaviour of the system while providing ideas and thoughts on future improvements.

1. Introduction.

The ST Offline Tournament [1] is based on similar contests that are being held on and for other systems such as the ATARI 2600 [2] and the ATARI 8-bit computer systems [3]. It is a contest in tournament form, where Atari ST(e) gamers can compete with others on their favourite game and thus get a measure of who is better at a particular game. One could say that it was born during a discussion in the Atari ST channel, #atariscne on IRCnet when the two STOT organisers discussed the concept and agreed that those contests can provide a lot of fun. The STOT organisers, namely ChrisTOS and ThorN, have since then laid out the terms of the contest, the point awarding system and the game selection scheme. The contest was decided to be held in the site http://www.atari-forum.com [4] due to the large number of Atari ST gamers that are present in this forum. During the contest, sh3-rg created a logo that has been first unveiled in STOTRO by ChrisTOS [5].

The STOT logo

The STOT logo by sh3-rg as used in STOTRO

2. The ST Offline Tournament process.

As described in the rules, the ST Offline Tournament is generally held in the following manner:

  1. The contest is bi-weekly. The selected game is being played for two weeks.
  2. In the second week of the contest, a game for the next round is selected
  3. The points are awarded after the contest is closed in the following scheme: 8 points for the player with the highest score, 6 for the second and 4, 3, 2, 1 for the players that score less.
  4. Newly released games take precedent in the tournament. From the above it should be clear that only games that provide a scoring system can be selected for the tournament.

3. To be discussed

There can be made little connection between the games played and the amount of players, with the exceptions of very bad games (f.e. Enchanted land) and games not suited for STOT (f.e. Sudokuniverse) that all displayed a negative impact. No positive relationship could be found.
Graph 1
Another factor that might have contributed to the falling participants trend may be the constant high level performance of Xerus. However the hete dans actie known to have been performed by at least one of the three people who managed to defeat Xerus may be a factor that should be taken into account when examining the aforementioned suggestion. Examining the trends found in other offline tournaments [2,3] one can see similar patterns.
Another observation that can be made is that the polls attracted much more attention than the amount of players in the contests. This could be attributed to Atari community’ s desire for the right to expression without actually deciding to exercise that right by acting upon it, or to sheer boredom.

4. Conclusions and Prospects

The Atari ST game database consists of more than 4000 games. It is reasonable to assume that at least 2500 of them are suitable for the needs of STOT. With 24 rounds per season a simple calculation shows that there are enough games for at least 100y. Therefore the only two reasons that the author can see for an end to STOT – excluding major catastrophies or death- are the lack of interest by the organisers or by the players. The death of the Atari ST and the slow decline of the community are the key elements in the lack of interest, together with an equally negative to STOT thing called “real life”. However, as demonstrated by this paper, STOT has become a known name in the Atari world and the ST gaming experience is still strong in many atarians. With people working on new games and with authors finding nice the fact that people play the games, the future of STOT seems NOT gloomy, though one would have a hard time to call it bright. Still website is up [1].


Links

  1. STOT web site
  2. Atariage VCS HSC
  3. Atariage ATARI 8 Bit HSC.
  4. STOT on Atari-forum
  5. STOTRO on Pouet