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Zapped to the Past podcast (C64)


Unofficial Who
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21 minutes ago, carleton said:

I need to catch up a bit but I'm intrigued what you'll say about Speed King. I really rated it back then and played it a lot. I've just checked out a YouTube video to see why and it doesn't look to have held up very well.

From memory I think the coder of Rocket Roger wrote it all out on paper as hex statements and his wife typed it in. Amazed he got a game out of that at all.

 

Speed King... We might be closer to your experience there than you may expect...

 

My brain can't get around that Rocket Roger fact. I think he may have miscalculated the exploding man variable somewhat...

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5 hours ago, squirtle said:

Speed King... We might be closer to your experience there than you may expect...

 

My brain can't get around that Rocket Roger fact. I think he may have miscalculated the exploding man variable somewhat...


Me either, but back then I worked with people who’d learnt programming with punch cards.

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5 minutes ago, carleton said:


Me either, but back then I worked with people who’d learnt programming with punch cards.

We got taught punch cards in computing class at school. 

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It's been a long week and what better way to get away from it all than by playing a game about getting away from it all? With Monty on the Run!

 

So this was the first game I bought for my C64. Or games rather as compilations had come out around the same time as I bought my C64 and this was a bargain.

 

202294-zzap-sizzlers-ii-star-games-commo

 

Not the best looking cover but I'd done my research! Sadly this was short lived. My datasette had a manufacturing flaw which led to a sharp bit of plastic sticking out which would shred the tape as it loaded. Both the compilation and datasette had to go back and for two long weeks I played a lot of the pack in cartridges International Soccer and HES's Le Mans. After a fortnight I was back on track.

 

300px-Montytitle.gif

 

I've completed this game many times. Also I'm not good enough to complete this game.

 

Without cheating that is.

 

But British magazines had given me the inside track to Monty. Tony Takoushi had a great news column where he talked about the game and revealed the cheat code and the freedom kit.

 

The infamous freedom kit, let's get that out of the way first.

 

Montyfreedomkit.png

 

This is what you need.

The rope spawns where it's most needed.

The passport is needed to leave the country.

The gas mask to get through the sewers.

The rum removes the sailor guarding the exit on the boat.

And the jet pac? That's for the ultimate experience.

 

The game is joyous. This ruined all Jet Set Willy clones for me. It's fast. it's solid with not a flicker. It's more linear than Jet Set Willy but it provides room to explore. And it's hard. Not impossible but hard with a couple of unfair traps. I can get as far as the sewers and that's my lot.

 

But then there's the infamous cheat code and I wish @squirtle that you and you co-host had used it because it opens the game up and allows you to see just how clever the designers and artists were.

 

All you need do is make it on the high score table and type in as your name I WANT TO CHEAT

 

Then collect the boat on the second screen and you are (mostly) invincible. Even by cheating you can get stuck, or not have collected enough 5p pieces for the fare or even die in some hidden traps.

 

But it's worth exploring this way to dig into what makes this game special. Because this game is a reaction to Jet Set Willy, and the games scene of the time. It's inventive and funny and a little bit cruel. It's a parody. It's almost post modern.

 

For a start that jump cycle is obviously a parody of impossible mission. Not only does this mole jump he can showboat like Agent 4125. 

 

Montyingame1.gif

 

But then you get to the Ultimate Experience. A dead end unless you've chosen the Jet Pac. All of a sudden the game becomes more vertical they combine Jet Set Willy and Ultimate's Jet Pac.

 

That cruel humour I was talking about? The first lift you come across does this.

 

Montyingame4.gif

 

And then you get to the C64 exclusive part, Drive Sir Clive's C5. Fuelling the platform war by making fun of Sir Clive's doomed electric car, and in further mockery making it faster than the real car.

 

Montyingame6.gif

 

The game finishes up by doing one of my favourite things in a flick screen game. Making the map into a shape of what it's trying to represent.

 

600px-Montymap4.png

 

And it's finished up by Rob Hubbard's reinterpretation of The Devil's Gallop.

 

Compare and contrast.

 

 

 

This game will always remain special for me for a lot of reasons. It was my first C64 platformer. The music was far above any game music I'd ever come across at the time. And thanks to the cheat mode I could either challenge myself against the devious platform arrangements, play though at leisure poking around the environment with little danger or even treating the cheat mode as a tool assisted speed run between my brother and I. @squirtle, if you have time it's well worth a quick revisit.

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@Unofficial Who Don't get me wrong, we did like it from a technical standpoint, but really, the fact that you need to use a cheat or bang your head against the unfair difficulty shows that this needed a little more leeway for the player. 

 

Also, your cover is wrong. Bounder got a gold medal. I know this because we covered it in our latest recording which we did last night, and similar to Monty on the Run, it's let down by its difficulty and punitive nature. 

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4 minutes ago, squirtle said:

@Unofficial Who Don't get me wrong, we did like it from a technical standpoint, but really, the fact that you need to use a cheat or bang your head against the unfair difficulty shows that this needed a little more leeway for the player. 

 

It's still a game I love even when I cheat, for me it felt like an early walking simulator. I wish more games had a tourist mode.

 

5 minutes ago, squirtle said:

Also, your cover is wrong. Bounder got a gold medal. I know this because we covered it in our latest recording which we did last night, and similar to Monty on the Run, it's let down by its difficulty and punitive nature. 

 

I didn't make the cover though, blame the publisher! Can't wait to talk about Bounder, I loved that game and actually completed it without resorting to cheats!

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8 minutes ago, Unofficial Who said:

 

It's still a game I love even when I cheat, for me it felt like an early walking simulator. I wish more games had a tourist mode.

 

 

I didn't make the cover though, blame the publisher! Can't wait to talk about Bounder, I loved that game and actually completed it without resorting to cheats!

The music is such a massive boon to Monty, that may be part of it. I'm glad you love it, though. 

 

I'm going to have words with the publisher. Z wasn't a sizzler either. 

 

Also, fair play on finishing Bounder. That's some mad skillz. 

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I used to think Bounder was massively overrated (great presentation; frustrating unfair gameplay) until it was selected for Lemon64's monthly high score competition. You kind of have to accept it for what it is - largely a memory test - but once you do and put substantial effort into it, it's a pretty good game.

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I'd never played Speed King before but that's understandable, I've never really taken to motorbike games.

 

My first impression (and you can't see it in the screenshots) was that the animation on your biker seems nice.

 

227844-speed-king-commodore-64-screensho

 

Of course I spent most of my time like this.

 

227845-speed-king-commodore-64-screensho

 

It doesn't hold up and it's mainly down to the weird thing mentioned in the podcast where the bikes seem to leap towards you in the last few feet, it's almost impossible to avoid a collision at speed. A miss in my books as far as I'm concerned.

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Super Zaxxon gives me a bit of a chance to talk about Zaxxon in general and it sort of shows how quickly the market was moving in 1985 that a game that was ground breaking when originally released could look so tired only a couple of years later.

 

Zaxxon was amazing when it first came out, I remember seeing it on a TV show (Jam Sandwhich which ran for two years from 82-83 on the ABC. Sadly I can't find any footage.)

 

In any case this looked like the future! 

 

657976-zaxxon-arcade-screenshot-lasers-a

 

Essentially it's a 3D version of Konami's Scramble. According to wikipedia

 

Quote

Zaxxon was the first game to employ axonometric projection, which lent its name to the game (AXXON from AXONometric projection). The type of axonometric projection is isometric projection: this effect simulates three dimensions from a third-person viewpoint. It was also the first arcade game to be advertised on television,[5] with a commercial produced by Paramount Pictures for $150,000.[6] The game was a critical and commercial success upon release. Sega followed it with the arcade sequel Super Zaxxon (1982) and the isometric platformer Congo Bongo (1983).

 

I played the arcade version once in an arcade but died quickly being unused to inverted pilot controls.

 

But my friends who had a Colecovision got the home version and as juddery as it was we deemed it to be arcade perfect.

 

44990-zaxxon-colecovision-screenshot-a-g

 

Desperate to play a home version I bought this for the sum of $10 on a close out sale.

 

38041-zaxxon-atari-2600-front-cover.jpg

 

It looked like this.

 

40465-zaxxon-atari-2600-screenshot-a-gam

 

I was gutted at the time, although now years later I think it's amazing that someone took an isometric Sega coin-op and went "I can't do this on the 2600, instead I will try to do it like Turbo / Buck Rogers" and somehow emulated basic Sega scaling on late 70's tech.

 

Before I got my C64 I salivated over the cover art for Zaxxon on the C64

 

20515-zaxxon-commodore-64-front-cover.jp

 

But again by the time I got a C64 it was too late. I was tempted by the adverts for Super Zaxxon

 

epyvdcgbdyk.png

 

but I knew it wouldn't look that good. It was never sold here as far as I know but I did play it down the track from a friend's copy. It was a copy of the cassette / disk version which is probably the version played by the podcast. Like Zaxxon there are two versions of the game. Why? More later.

 

So Super Zaxxon starts in a fortress.

 

807281-super-zaxxon-commodore-64-screens

 

There's more room to move than Zaxxon but it's not as nice to look at. Also the 3D with the mapping of the missiles is well off with near misses killing me (and near misses with bullets destroying them.)

 

Then instead of the space transition of the original you get the tunnel.

 

807283-super-zaxxon-commodore-64-screens

 

This is an attempt to solve an issue with the original game, in space you can't work out your height compared to enemies. However they then make the weird decision to have all the enemies in the tunnel just float at a fixed height above the ground. Negating the need to judge height via a shadow.

 

Then you fight a dragon. 

 

It feels dated and slow. I played my friends copy for a while but it didn't hold my attention. It's very average. Part of it is the age. Part of it is that it just doesn't feel as good as the C64 version.

 

So the C64 version. I went back to it today and something was wrong....

 

Zaxxon(SEGA)1.png

 

This is a lot clunkier than I remember. And that's because it's not the version I remember.

 

It's this.

 

Zaxxon_Animation.gif

 

There's are two versions of Zaxxon on the C64, a rubbish version on cartridge and a great version on disk/cassette. The same with Super Zaxxon. Why? I did some digging and found this thread. It also explains the port of Super Zaxxon.

 

https://atariage.com/forums/topic/261292-zaxxon-the-legal-backstory/

 

Summary by one of the posters.

Quote

"I'll do my best, but first a bit of background on the American wing of Sega that's relevant to the chapter in this book. Even though Sega had some early success in the arcade market, their entry into the home market in North America was somewhat delayed. Initially, Sega licensed a few of their hit coin-ops (Carnival, Space Fury, Turbo, Zaxxon et al) to Coleco, who developed and sold home versions of these games not only on the ColecoVision but the Atari 2600 and Intellivision as well.

 

In early to mid 1982, Sega made the decision to form a consumer division that would develop and publish games for home consoles and computers in North America. They went on to hire nine programmers to work on ports of Sega arcade games for the Atari, Apple, and Commodore machines. This group of programmers worked at the same facility in San Diego where their peers in coin-op also worked, although they were kept separated - they were housed in a separate room and had their own software manager. Due to the volume of work in doing conversions for the various gaming machines of the day, Sega also hired several subcontractors (including Beck-Tech, McT and Syndein Systems) to work on these ports. This was not an unusual practice at that time.

 

It was also not an unusual practice at that time for the rights to a certain game, regardless of developer, to be held by different publishers on different formats (i.e. cartridge vs. magnetic media). This is where the book chapter you linked to becomes relevant. Apparently, when Sega initially made the decision to enter the consumer market they only intended to publish games on cartridge format, not believing that the magnetic media market (disk and tape) was something they wanted to pursue.

 

Sensing an opportunity there, a member of Sega's legal department named Robert Crane, who was in charge of licensing opportunities, formed a shell corporation called Universal Licensing with the intention of approaching Sega and offering to market a disk version of Zaxxon for the Commodore 64 through a licensing agreement. He then used his legal influence at Sega to negotiate a contract with Universal for the Zaxxon rights, without disclosing to anyone at Sega that he in fact was Universal (running the bogus company using the alias "Steve Kness"). He also didn't disclose that Universal had neither the cash to pay the $10,000 licensing fee, nor the ability to produce or distribute the intended product. But he had a plan...

 

To get around this problem, Crane used his legal powers at Sega to amend the agreement between Sega and Universal, granting Universal the ability to sublicense Zaxxon. Acting as Universal, he then sold the Zaxxon rights to Synapse Software for $50,000, using a portion of that money paid to Universal by Synapse to pay the $10,000 fee for the initial licensing agreement made between Sega and Universal. He then helped Synapse obtain programming info from Sega so they could develop the Zaxxon port. Basically, he "robbed Peter to pay Paul". He made money without having to invest any of his own, and without having to actually produce a product. But he didn't stop there...

 

After learning that another company would have paid twice as much for the Zaxxon rights as Synapse had, Crane again used his legal authority at Sega to further alter the agreement between Sega and Universal, this time amending it to include Super Zaxxon as well. He did this even though Sega had deliberately denied a request to include Super Zaxxon in the original license, and despite the fact that as a lawyer for Sega he had previously prepared the copyright registration for the two games showing Super Zaxxon to be a derivative work of Zaxxon. Universal then sold the Super Zaxxon disk rights to HesWare, although both Sega and Synapse objected to this blatant "double-dipping" on the Zaxxon license for obvious reasons.

 

The rest of the chapter basically explains all the legal problems that resulted from Crane's blatantly unethical actions as Sega's counsel, which ended up getting him canned. I often wondered why the disk versions of Zaxxon and Super Zaxxon for the Commodore 64 were developed and sold by two different companies...now I know why."

 

One last foot note. While I loved the Synapse version of the game it's more accurate to say I liked the Amiga port of the Synapse version. Back in the 90's a group called Bignonia made amazing Amiga ports of C64 arcade ports. Zaxxon was one of their best and I lost hours to playing this in my impoverished unemployed days.

 

 

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Amazing write-up. I think the (copied) version of Zaxxon I have from way back in the day is the disk version. I'll have to dig it out. I've always found the game really impressive for its age.

 

Incidentally, Frogger II: Threedeep is excellent. 

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16 minutes ago, Camel said:

Amazing write-up. I think the (copied) version of Zaxxon I have from way back in the day is the disk version. I'll have to dig it out. I've always found the game really impressive for its age.

 

Incidentally, Frogger II: Threedeep is excellent. 

 

I'll have to try Frogger 2! It says a lot about Super Zaxxon that in amongst my mega post there's a small bit that's basically "yeah, Super Zaxxon is a bit ordinary isn't it."

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@squirtle, I'm going to be interested about what you and your co-host felt about Arc of Yesod because I suspect it's going to be similar to what I thought of Nodes of Yesod and this is down to which one I played first.

 

The Yesod games have always had this dream like atmosphere to them but I was completely bored by this in minutes, probably because back in the day I spent hours playing it's sequel The Arc of Yesod which has better graphics, some quality of life improvements....and slightly worse music than Nodes.

 

It's essentially a science fiction version of Ultimate's Underwurlde and just like that game your biggest threat is being knocked down a long shaft by monsters.

 

I like the moles though.

 

241901-nodes-of-yesod-commodore-64-scree

 

 

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Steve Evans made some fine games for the C64. Eagle Empire is an excellent version of the arcade game Phoenix and Guardian was the defender game to play on the C64 until Dropzone made it redundant.

 

Rocket Roger is...well...way too hard! Seriously, Dark Souls players looking for something challenging might meet their match here. There's no mercy, one wrong step and you're on fire and dead. For a game about jetpacking there is a serious lack of display space on the vertical plane. Play any one of his other C64 games. Not this.

 

300px-RocketRoger02.png

 

See this? You are already dead (or will be.)

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So the games I don't have much to say about  because I didn't play them back in the day and because the Zzap reviews and the podcast didn't really make me want to spend any time on them...

 

 

I had a devil of a time finding information on Shoot Em Up. Note to developers, never title your game after a genre. This isn't great.

 

 

Vortron looks like Gyrus on acid. I feel like someone was trying for the Llamasoft feel. 

 

 

Lastly Mad Doctor looks like a very crude prototype of future adventure games. A little bit clumsy and morbid for my taste.

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1 hour ago, Unofficial Who said:

@squirtle, I'm going to be interested about what you and your co-host felt about Arc of Yesod because I suspect it's going to be similar to what I thought of Nodes of Yesod and this is down to which one I played first.

 

The Yesod games have always had this dream like atmosphere to them but I was completely bored by this in minutes, probably because back in the day I spent hours playing it's sequel The Arc of Yesod which has better graphics, some quality of life improvements....and slightly worse music than Nodes.

 

It's essentially a science fiction version of Ultimate's Underwurlde and just like that game your biggest threat is being knocked down a long shaft by monsters.

 

I like the moles though.

 

241901-nodes-of-yesod-commodore-64-scree

 

 

Nice looking but frustrating. Proto Metroid with the mole being able to dig through walls a la morph ball bombs. Dream like is a good call and I think we allude to in the cast. 

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48 minutes ago, Unofficial Who said:

Steve Evans made some fine games for the C64. Eagle Empire is an excellent version of the arcade game Phoenix and Guardian was the defender game to play on the C64 until Dropzone made it redundant.

 

Rocket Roger is...well...way too hard! Seriously, Dark Souls players looking for something challenging might meet their match here. There's no mercy, one wrong step and you're on fire and dead. For a game about jetpacking there is a serious lack of display space on the vertical plane. Play any one of his other C64 games. Not this.

 

300px-RocketRoger02.png

 

See this? You are already dead (or will be.)

The most explosive man in games? Quite possibly. Allergic to slopes and inclines... 

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15 minutes ago, Unofficial Who said:

So the games I don't have much to say about  because I didn't play them back in the day and because the Zzap reviews and the podcast didn't really make me want to spend any time on them...

 

 

I had a devil of a time finding information on Shoot Em Up. Note to developers, never title your game after a genre. This isn't great.

 

 

Vortron looks like Gyrus on acid. I feel like someone was trying for the Llamasoft feel. 

 

 

Lastly Mad Doctor looks like a very crude prototype of future adventure games. A little bit clumsy and morbid for my taste.

None of those are worth your time. Mad Doctor is possibly worth a look as there is ambition there, but it far outstrips ability. 

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1 hour ago, Unofficial Who said:

 

I'll have to try Frogger 2! It says a lot about Super Zaxxon that in amongst my mega post there's a small bit that's basically "yeah, Super Zaxxon is a bit ordinary isn't it."

Super Zax-off as we said in the cast. 

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Dug out my old copy of Zaxxon. As suspected it's the Synapse release. Still super impressive and plays really nicely. As mentioned, the space bits are stupid without shadows. Throughout the game perspective is sadly quite often the enemy. I find that with a lot of these isometric games and even back in the day I found that a bit annoying. I think it's often seen as part of the challenge though. Guess it depends on your perspective. Ho ho.

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And I've now played the other version, the one released on cartridge. It looks big and bright in comparison but it moves terribly.

 

I'm confused about Super Zaxxon. The Hesware version (which I recognise and must have too) seems very similar to the Synapse version of Zaxxon. Is it the same engine? How did that come about?

 

Thanks for the excellent Zaxxon info @Unofficial Who. I love reading that sort of stuff and wish there were books with reams of it in. Most retro game-related books seem to be coffee table affairs amounting to, "hey guys, remember Zaxxon?! There were some home versions too!"

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11 hours ago, Unofficial Who said:

Guardian was the defender game to play on the C64 until Dropzone made it redundant.

 

 

I think I'm alone when it comes to this, but I tend not to think of games as redundant when something else comes along that does the same thing (in this case, a similar thing) better. Guardian is different enough to Dropzone and is such a great Defender clone that it's still totally worth playing. You can even play it like the original (as in, there's a flip button and a thrust button) if you use the keyboard controls. The only thing missing is a redefine keys option as I'm not mad on the default layout.

 

I've just been playing Stop the Express. We covered this already but it boggles my little brain that anybody wouldn't love this game. Its gameplay is so solid and tight, it's like a G&W title.

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1 hour ago, Camel said:

Everyone has their own opinions. Some are just more wrong than others :P

 

i could never get into the Yesod games, like soooo many games of that type.

Did you play Stop the Express back in the eighties? 

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