FridayFlashFilter: Nostalgia with Gorillas and Nibbles
December 11, 2009 11:36 AM   Subscribe

Let's take a jaunt back, to the early days of DOS, from the early 1980s to early 1990s. Way back to IBM PC DOS 1.00 and 1.10. Back when Bill Gates wrote code. This was the time of avoiding donkeys on the road (gameplay), gorillas lobbing explosive bananas over skyscrapers (gameplay) and a hungry line named Nibbles [a variant of the older Snake game] (gameplay). So have at it! Gorillas recreated in Flash | Flash tribute to Gorillas, with updated graphics | Snake | two-player Nibbles | Radical Snake (now with curves) | Snake (like Radical Snake, but with landscape obstacles) | Nibblets (All 10 original levels from the QBasic game Nibbles, but with a new control system) | Snake/Nibbles for Vim (download) | Donkey (QBasic source code)
posted by filthy light thief (22 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Apparently no one has found the excitement of donkey-dodging an exciting enough game to re-create. It would even work on the Apple Wheel, as you only need to press one button.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:38 AM on December 11, 2009

I think I just found my weekend project.
posted by JeffK at 11:46 AM on December 11, 2009

My favorite version was for the NES, but it was called "Snake Rattle 'n' Roll."
posted by explosion at 11:55 AM on December 11, 2009

explosion - here it is (via)
posted by filthy light thief at 12:07 PM on December 11, 2009

Man, I played most of these. But my favorite from the era still has to be Castle Adventure. I'm pretty sure that this game is why I still play Roguelikes and Dwarf Fortress. And why I am rarely wooed by fancy graphics.
posted by ktrey at 12:25 PM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Can we talk about that awesome time that Microsoft put in code that added this bizarre set of instructions in memory, then would check for it and churn up a misleading error since that meant competitor's code was running? Because that was awesome.

Luckily, they shaped up and flew straight after that.
posted by jscott at 12:34 PM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

My favorite version was for the NES, but it was called "Snake Rattle 'n' Roll."

Even though it had the whole snake eats stuff and his tail grows game mechanic, that game was a lot more like Marble Madness than it was like Snake. With Snake the growing tail was the the key gameplay element, because the player had to plan for maneuvering around it, whereas in SRnR it was just a form of a life gauge and progress indicator.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:37 PM on December 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

People get nostalgic about pretty much anything.
posted by dobie at 1:03 PM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Which designer over there thought it was a good idea to put white text on a light gray background for that donkey game webpage in the "when Bill Gates wrote code" link? Unless perhaps it was to pay homage to the numerous other bad design decisions made years ago...
posted by sophist at 1:08 PM on December 11, 2009

The interesting thing to remember about DONKEY.BAS is that IBM BASIC was interpreted, not compiled. Because of this limitation, the typical approach to game programming (of creating a game loop and trapping control input via keyboard interrupts that change variables from the loop and then return to the loop where you left off) was not available.

So in DONKEY.BAS, like other interpreted BASIC games, you either have a very short loop that included an ONKEY or INKEY instruction (which forced a check for keyboard input at that point in the loop), or you only allow keyboard input at certain times (crude turn-based games). In an interpreted BASIC implementation of space invaders, the baddies would move, but if you pressed a button to move, they would stop moving while you moved. If you shot, your little laser would climb up the screen while the bad guys were stationary. Any attempt to make things appear to happen simultaneously would send the game to an unplayable crawl.

Of course, most games on the IBM PC were compiled executables, and didn't suffer from these limitations, but man was writing code in basic ever a royal bitch.
posted by Pastabagel at 1:18 PM on December 11, 2009

Alley Cat wasn't BASIC, but damn if it didn't rule.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:38 PM on December 11, 2009

A shibboleth for appreciating this post is if you ever had a computer with a turbo button.
posted by Rhomboid at 2:01 PM on December 11, 2009

Turbo button? Hah. Anyone here run Windows 1.0 on DOS 3.2?
I ran it off floppies on my CGA grayscale Tandy laptop. This was the late 1990s, my family was a bit behind the times.
posted by dunkadunc at 2:17 PM on December 11, 2009

The turbo button was for slowing down computers for backwards-compatibility with older games (this I did not know). The modern turbo button allows some MSI notebooks to overclock on the fly (also news to me).
posted by filthy light thief at 2:23 PM on December 11, 2009

For a time, I was the coolest kid on my block in 1985 since my 512K RAM PC clone supported RAMdisks that you could copy game executables into that would make them load faster than a harddrive (10 MB, 25 MB with compression, bitches!) or floppy. We got that thing slightly used and with a CGA color monitor for over $2k.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:25 PM on December 11, 2009

And who could forget the old school joysticks?
posted by Burhanistan at 2:28 PM on December 11, 2009

Oh those old analog joysticks had their fun little quirks. Because each one was a little different every (decent) game had a "calibrate your joystick now" function where you would push the stick to its full extent in each direction so that it could measure the reading. And they needed little mechanical trimmers/sliders to adjust the neutral mid-point, otherwise if the stick didn't return to exactly the middle of its travel (or it hadn't been calibrated) the game would register a slight wander even if you weren't touching the stick.

Also, back before d-pads were commonly available for the PC you sometimes had to use the analog sticks in awkward ways. I remember many hours of playing Commander Keen (a platformer) with one, which today you would view as quite unoptimal. But that's just how we rolled.

Don't get me started on the Adlib vs. Soundblaster debate of the early 90s... Adlib was much cheaper but it only had a synthesizer, not a DAC. The Soundblaster had both an Adlib-compatible synth as well as a primitive 8 bit DAC, so it could do a lot more but it also cost much more. And at the time most games really had to pander to the Adlib level of sophistication since even having any sound card at all was a luxury there for a while. But that didn't last too long before the SB came down in price and quickly became the de facto standard in audio hardware.
posted by Rhomboid at 3:00 PM on December 11, 2009

A turbo button sounds cool. Now I want one. It should probably look something like this. Don't know what it should do, though. Maybe kill firefox.
posted by Zed at 4:01 PM on December 11, 2009

It was more pedestrian.
posted by Burhanistan at 4:32 PM on December 11, 2009

If you were really fancy you had a case with a two-digit 7-segment LED that was wired up to indicate the clock speed of your processor so that it would read "33" (or whatever) for everyday use and "08" when you pressed the turbo button.

Of course by the time those fancy Pentiums finally reached 100 MHz in 1994, those displays were officially obsolete but the actual need for a turbo button was long gone by that point anyway so pretty much we all just sighed in relief of not having to connect up more vestigial junk when putting together a computer.
posted by Rhomboid at 5:03 PM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

My first computer was a Commodore PET 2001 with 40 x 24 monochrome CRT, built-in cassette drive, 6502 8-bit microprocessor and 8 kilobyte RAM upgrade.

I think I could play ASCII Centipede on it.

Now get off my lawn.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:47 PM on December 11, 2009

I had an Adlib for a while, and possibly later a driver of some sort that actually allowed my PC speaker to produce complex sound and appear to be a Soundblaster to games.
posted by sycophant at 3:20 PM on December 13, 2009

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