Old School not so Old.
October 16, 2011 8:00 PM   Subscribe

Prince of Persia was released today for the Commodore 64/128.

Programming new games on old systems still continues, with some impressive results. Just a few samples:

Simon Quernhorst has developed a number of games for old systems, which he catalogs here.

Protovision distributes a number of recently developed C64/128 games.

A a link to a number of homebrew games for the Atari 2600 that were developed in the last 5-10 years.

Here's a fully functioning 3D first person shooter for the Tandy Color Computer that was developed in 2000.

Super Bat Puncher is a homebrew game that is being developed for the NES and currently has a playable two level demo. Also, Battle Kid 2, Mountain of Torment.

Bonus: how to create your own Atari 2600 homebrew games.
posted by SpacemanStix (22 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is cool, and it looks faithful to the original. It should be noted however that this is not a port of a "new" Prince of Persia game, but of the original Apple II game.
posted by JHarris at 8:05 PM on October 16, 2011


That's great news! I'm just now working on getting a couple of old C64's up and running!
posted by no relation at 8:12 PM on October 16, 2011


If you haven't read Jordan Mechner's journals and you're a fan of videogame history, you're missing out.
posted by empath at 8:13 PM on October 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


huge HG101 article on the whole series
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 8:18 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also don't overlook The Last Express, now available on GOG and other places. A classic adventure game. Discussed previously.
posted by kmz at 8:32 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nice! As one of the "porters" of POP (I did the PS2 version from the old mac version) I think it's pretty cool... but Ubi owns the copyright on that now I think... I hope they don't care too much...
posted by coust at 8:38 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jordan Mechner makes an appearance in the comments on the first link:

That's crazy! Back in 1989, when I was making POP on the Apple II, I couldn't get anyone interested in doing a C64 port... because it was too old a system :)
posted by addyct at 8:57 PM on October 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Jordan Mechner makes an appearance in the comments

..and to say he lost the source code!
posted by stbalbach at 9:04 PM on October 16, 2011


I died so much in the original Prince of Persia. No chance I'm going near this again or I'll lose a weekend.
posted by arcticseal at 10:23 PM on October 16, 2011


On my Commodore 64 I played Karateka, and when I saw this, I thought "Hey, that's not Prince of Persia, that's Karateka!" Looks like they're both made by the same guy.
posted by zardoz at 11:42 PM on October 16, 2011


You can download the C64 version here.
posted by Effigy2000 at 11:43 PM on October 16, 2011


On my 300 baud connection? No thanks.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 11:55 PM on October 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


The Last Express is excellent, by the way, probably the most atmospheric adventure game ever done. There's a LOT going on in that train -- at any given time, every single character (and there are many of them) is doing something. Only some of the conversations and actions are actually important, and figuring out which is which is very interesting.
posted by Malor at 12:27 AM on October 17, 2011


Imageine a beowulf cluster of these
posted by crayz at 1:07 AM on October 17, 2011


Another little bastard that stole months of my life. Run run run. Jump. Climb. Run run. Stab. Jump. Run run. SNIKKT!!! Start again. Run run run. Jump. Climb. Run run. Stab. Jump. Run run. SNIKKT!!! Start again...
posted by Grangousier at 1:11 AM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


homebrew games for the Atari 2600

This is kind of tangential, but a few years ago I went to a classic video gaming conference in Las Vegas, where one of the talks was given by one of the original Atari programmers. (He was responsible for the Combat cartridge, I think.)

Programming the 2600 was amazingly complicated. The part of the hardware that interfaced with the TV had no RAM (since RAM was hugely expensive in those days), so a 2600 program would have to assemble a single scan line to send to the TV, then send it and frantically assemble the next one, and so on.

Any actual game logic--rudimentary AI, counting up points, and so on--had to be done in the brief intervals where the TV wasn't actually drawing anything on the screen, and timing was crucial.

I had thought I was a reasonably cool programmer for having been brought up on C and manually managing things like memory allocation. I was wrong. =P
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 1:18 AM on October 17, 2011


That's crazy! Back in 1989, when I was making POP on the Apple II, I couldn't get anyone interested in doing a C64 port... because it was too old a system :)

In point of fact, people were still doing Commodore a few years after the Apple II was dead. I can vouch personally for this, seeing as how I was one of them. But even among non-crazy people, in the UK, the C64 lasted quite some time past its supposed expiration date. CMD made hard drives for the darn thing.

On programming the 2600:
It wasn't really so complicated. After all, when your system has 128 bytes of memory, there's not a lot of room to get fancy. You did have to go through rather roundabout methods to make graphics though. I read somewhere that the system really wasn't designed to do much more than Pong.

Notably, the 2600 was able to do graphics that way because its system clock speed was tied to the video blanking signals. Many systems up into the 16-bit era can do something sort of what the 2600 did using something called raster interrupts. Basically, the graphics chip is linked to the processor's interrupt line, and can be set so that when it begins feeding a specific scan line to the display it triggers an interrupt. The CPU can then take specific measures. This can be used, depending on the precise details of the hardware, to change screen colors or screen modes or reset scrolling beyond certain portions of the screen. A basic use of this technique is to set up a status bar, such as the score area of Super Mario Bros. A more advanced use is for special effects, like "wavy" screen warping.

Internally, all CRT-based display chips do something much like this to create their graphics; screen resolution is just the detail with which they can change the signal that determines screen color as the raster beam shoots across the display. Effectively, what raster interrupt effects do is offload some of this work onto the processor, letting it adjust the display characteristics through the registers of the video chip.

The 2600 didn't need raster interrupts to do this. Instead, since its CPU's clock was directly tied to the timing of the displayed hardware, you figured out how long each instruction took, so you could change the graphics midway through a scanline. There were a couple of rudimentary sprites on the system, but for backgrounds and the like you had to take advantage of this. If other systems timed their processor hardware by the video chip's timing, then they could make graphics in a similar fashion. It's perhaps instructive that they don't, but it does make possible, on the 2600, some unusual graphics effects that you hardly ever see on other systems.

(BTW, just to put this out there, I am not the John Harris who programmed the 2600 game Jawbreaker; I was just a kid at that time. All my 2600 knowledge comes from reading around the internet. No one seems to know what happened to him, but people email me once in a while looking for him.)
posted by JHarris at 3:16 AM on October 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


That's no fun. Try "I used to go by that name, long ago...before the Grid, and the MCP...sorry, where was I?"
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:42 AM on October 17, 2011


That's so fantastic! I remember it was a version of Prince of Persia for the SAM Coupe that had the smaller version of me all hopped up for that crazy little computer until I got an ST instead.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 5:07 AM on October 17, 2011


On my Commodore 64 I played Karateka, and when I saw this, I thought "Hey, that's not Prince of Persia, that's Karateka!" Looks like they're both made by the same guy.

Yup. Jordan Mechner's only made a few games, but they're all gems in their own way.

Karateka though... that game was like the Dark Souls of its day. Especially for me, who didn't have a manual for it but it was on the Apple IIe mom borrowed from work. Painstakingly figuring out how to move, how to kick, how to punch. Moving forward slowly finally figuring out how to beat the guys coming at you. Finally seeing the entrance to the castle, running forward, and then... squish. Getting crushed by the castle gates and vowing never to play the fucking thing again. Considering the even bigger asshole twist at the end of the game, that's probably for the better.
posted by kmz at 9:05 AM on October 17, 2011


My younger self is amazed at the graphics. It's so much prettier than Jumpman.

You can download the C64 version here.

Transferring this to audio tape is going to take forever. Is a cartrige available?
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:12 AM on October 17, 2011


Oh, Karateka. That was the first game that made me actually pound my keyboard. Good times.
posted by Aquaman at 1:30 PM on October 17, 2011


« Older The AV Club interviews Kate Beaton,...  |  Jarvis Cocker interviewed in t... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments