Why the Amstrad was gaming's best 8-bit computer

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pantal00ns
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Re: Why the Amstrad was gaming's best 8-bit computer

Post by pantal00ns » Thu Mar 10, 2011 6:48 am

joefish wrote:
pantal00ns wrote:Buy an Atari Case closed.....
Atari? The choice of someone with brains equivalent to RAT A.I., presumably?
No, clearly the Amstrad is superior. With its much larger screen memory the program has to take much more time and care over updating the screen. You don't get that sort of quality and attention to detail on other machines with their rush-job 25 and 50Hz update rates.
I cannot comprehend the last two sentences, but a you succeded in a decent anagram for Atari, so hats off to you.

Compared to what the wife calls me I see RAT AI as a complement. :wink:

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Re: Why the Amstrad was gaming's best 8-bit computer

Post by chewy » Thu Mar 10, 2011 7:05 am

Because I owned one. And I am awesome. The end.

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Re: Why the Amstrad was gaming's best 8-bit computer

Post by merman » Thu Mar 10, 2011 11:47 am

The Amstrad is a good 8-bit computer, it does some things well. The Plus range could have been a hit... released two to three years earlier. But it's not the best in terms of the range of software and hardware available.
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Re: Why the Amstrad was gaming's best 8-bit computer

Post by joefish » Thu Mar 10, 2011 12:34 pm

Pixiu wrote:Ha! I know what you mean. You spend the first 5 minutes trying to figure out how to turn off the frame-skipping before realising that 12.5fps is just business as usual on planet Amstrad.
Frame skipping? Not to worry - there'll be another one along in a minute... :D

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Re: Why the Amstrad was gaming's best 8-bit computer

Post by TMR » Thu Mar 10, 2011 12:37 pm

pantal00ns wrote:
joefish wrote:With its much larger screen memory the program has to take much more time and care over updating the screen. You don't get that sort of quality and attention to detail on other machines with their rush-job 25 and 50Hz update rates.
I cannot comprehend the last two sentences
The CPC's screen takes 16K of memory - that's a quarter of the available RAM on a 464, over double what the Spectrum needs, eight times what the C64 or C16/Plus/4 usually has to deal with and a whopping sixteen or even thirty two times the Atari 8-bit depending on mode selected. It's a bit faster than the others, but having to deal with such a large screen means that the majority of scrolling games suffer from slow refresh speeds because they're either moving everything with a CPU that isn't more than a couple of percent faster than most of the machines i just listed or using a feature of the video hardware and having to drop frames because the subsequent shifting of screen is too coarse and players wouldn't be able to keep up if it moved that fast at 50FPS!

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Re: Why the Amstrad was gaming's best 8-bit computer

Post by Havantgottaclue » Thu Mar 10, 2011 1:32 pm

TMR wrote:The CPC's screen takes 16K of memory - that's a quarter of the available RAM on a 464, over double what the Spectrum needs, eight times what the C64 or C16/Plus/4 usually has to deal with and a whopping sixteen or even thirty two times the Atari 8-bit depending on mode selected. It's a bit faster than the others, but having to deal with such a large screen means that the majority of scrolling games suffer from slow refresh speeds because they're either moving everything with a CPU that isn't more than a couple of percent faster than most of the machines i just listed or using a feature of the video hardware and having to drop frames because the subsequent shifting of screen is too coarse and players wouldn't be able to keep up if it moved that fast at 50FPS!
Does it also make a difference that on machines like the C64 in which fine scrolling is controlled by a simple register, that you only have to update the screen RAM every 4th or 8th frame anyway, because you're only actually moving the character graphics then?
Soon you will have forgotten all things: soon all things will have forgotten you. (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book 7)

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Re: Why the Amstrad was gaming's best 8-bit computer

Post by storm_maker » Thu Mar 10, 2011 1:53 pm

Whilst I find this thread infinitely full of win, I don't understand what the preference for A8 over Amstrad really is, A8 seems to have jack all games from the mid 80s onwards and its earlier stuff is a mixture of cookie cutter arcade ports, and sub Manic Miner and Chuckie Egg style games :?

I'd like to learn more about the system -

What's the best A8 platform action game to compete with Gryzor?
What's the best A8 game to compete with Shinobi?
What's the best A8 top down shooter to compete with Ikari Warriors?
What's the best A8 game to compete with Chase HQ?
What's the best A8 beat-em-up to compete with Target Renegade?
What's the best A8 racing game to compete with Continental Circus?
What's the best A8 racing game to compete with Power Drift?
What's the best A8 game to compete with Prince of Persia?
What's the best A8 scrolling shooter to compete with Flying Shark?
What's the best A8 game to compete with Rainbow Islands?
What's the best A8 game to compete with Rick Dangerous?
What's the best A8 game to compete with Castle Master?
What footy games does the A8 have in comparison to Emlyn Hughes?

They've both got the best adventure game of the 80s, Head over Heels, but the Amstrad version looks better, and Amstrad has Batman too, and Alien 8, and Get Dexter.

I'm going to need some help here, as instead of the A8 seeming like the equal to the C64/Spectrum that its made out to be, it seems like it loses out even to the Amstrad in virtually all gaming genre's, outside of gaming i'm not sure myself, but i'm fairly certain that i've heard that the Amstrad was better for work based applications, and learning BASIC programming skills than the A8, that just leaves, what? aesthetic qualities? impact on the industry from the time?
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Re: Why the Amstrad was gaming's best 8-bit computer

Post by TMR » Thu Mar 10, 2011 2:24 pm

Havantgottaclue wrote:Does it also make a difference that on machines like the C64 in which fine scrolling is controlled by a simple register, that you only have to update the screen RAM every 4th or 8th frame anyway, because you're only actually moving the character graphics then?
In slower moving cases it's possible to just spread the shifting of screen RAM out over those four or eight frames using double buffering, only the colour RAM needs to be moved "live" because it's hardwired to one place in memory so the back buffer can be copied or redrawn in four or whatever smaller chunks; something like Turrican 2 draws the back buffer on one frame and shifts the colour when it swaps the buffers on the next. The Plus/4 is similar but can double buffer screen and colour RAM so doesn't require the "crash dump" when the hardware scroll resets.

The Atari 8-bit has it better in some respects, character-based scrolling can be done by using the hardware scroll to travel one character (it's not as fine as the C64 horizontally, moving in multicolour pixel steps instead of half pixel steps) and then changing the start address of the screen RAM to handle the coarse scroll rather than copying any data - all it actually has to do is work out where exactly in the screen buffer the new column or row of data should be and write it in.

The CPC's horizontal scrolling is either brute force or handled using a feature of the CTRC that can only move in 4 pixel steps; Killer Cobra uses this and scrolls like it's bum is on fire (it's a fun game but... erm, challenging over time at that speed) whilst Star Sabre uses two buffers with one offset a couple of pixels to the other ito get that speed down to two pixels per refresh, then it drops every other frame so the movement speed is equivalent to one multicolour pixel a frame.

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Re: Why the Amstrad was gaming's best 8-bit computer

Post by TMR » Thu Mar 10, 2011 2:47 pm

storm_maker wrote:Whilst I find this thread infinitely full of win, I don't understand what the preference for A8 over Amstrad really is, A8 seems to have jack all games from the mid 80s onwards and its earlier stuff is a mixture of cookie cutter arcade ports, and sub Manic Miner and Chuckie Egg style games :?
i've never really got an answer to why it happened (and i was sort of "there" at the time as an 800XL owner) but i think around 1984/5 the bottom fell out of the A8 games market and it was pretty much the case that only budget houses, a couple of firms that specialised in the hardware and public domain bunnies were left. Some Atarians blame the C64 for being more popular commercially and stealing away all the 6502 coders but that doesn't explain where all the hobbyists went...

As a result, the generation of games you asked about mostly didn't happen on the A8 so the closest thing are either homebrew projects like the Contra conversion that might get finished at some point or Space Harrier which will appear but possibly after Duke Nukem Forever and the occasional cancelled commercial project that surfaced decades later like the conversion of Commando, which isn't particularly colourful but is a playable game.


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Re: Why the Amstrad was gaming's best 8-bit computer

Post by Havantgottaclue » Thu Mar 10, 2011 2:56 pm

Cheers TMR, an interesting and informative read as ever ...

I think storm_maker does make a very valid point about some of the deficiencies of the A8, which perhaps made it ill-equipped to deal with games from the type of games that were emerging from the mid 80s onwards. From what I can make out there's a general problem with getting lots of colours on one line with the A8. Something like Target Renegade would surely be very difficult indeed as you'd need lots of characters; there aren't enough sprites on the Atari to cope with more than a couple of fairly splodgy characters with their own colours, and any characters drawn in UDGs would inherit colours from the background. Green Beret is a good example of how badly suited the A8 is to scrolling games with lots of characters needed on one horizontal line - although perhaps the quality of the conversion is partly to blame for that.

That Contra video looks quite decent though. Perhaps all it takes is a bit of creativity to get around the problems.
Soon you will have forgotten all things: soon all things will have forgotten you. (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book 7)

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Re: Why the Amstrad was gaming's best 8-bit computer

Post by TMR » Thu Mar 10, 2011 3:22 pm

Havantgottaclue wrote:I think storm_maker does make a very valid point about some of the deficiencies of the A8, which perhaps made it ill-equipped to deal with games from the type of games that were emerging from the mid 80s onwards. From what I can make out there's a general problem with getting lots of colours on one line with the A8.
For backgrounds alone it maxes out at five colours a line for the modes normally utilised for games. Those colours can theoretically be split on a scanline by scanline basis, although trying to do all five on a character-based screen doesn't work because the DMA gets in the way (i think i got two at a push). There's a software-generated way to get 64 colours per "line" displays at 160x96 pixel res but it places limitations on hardware scrolling and needs a loop hammering the visible display area (although the more optimal system that Project M uses could be employed in theory) so running a lot of software sprites is going to become an issue.
Havantgottaclue wrote:Something like Target Renegade would surely be very difficult indeed as you'd need lots of characters; there aren't enough sprites on the Atari to cope with more than a couple of fairly splodgy characters with their own colours, and any characters drawn in UDGs would inherit colours from the background.
Or play mix and match, each character generated from a combination of software sprite for definition and hardware sprite to add some unique colour to it - that ups the amount of processing going on obviously, but adding one extra colour does at least make objects stand out. In the case of Green Beret, it's a jobbing coder who didn't want to think "outside the box" and used the hardware in the simplest way possible.

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Re: Why the Amstrad was gaming's best 8-bit computer

Post by Bub&Bob » Thu Mar 10, 2011 3:33 pm

Outrun looks pants but am really impressed with Space Harrier - it zips along at a fair old rate and with the floor markings may be better (although I hate to say it) than the C64 version
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Re: Why the Amstrad was gaming's best 8-bit computer

Post by PanzerGeneral » Thu Mar 10, 2011 4:38 pm

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha - Amstrad, best 8bit, oh ah eh ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha - and they let this man run a magazine - ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Re: Why the Amstrad was gaming's best 8-bit computer

Post by Seadog74 » Thu Mar 10, 2011 4:40 pm

gmintyfresh wrote:Programmers that pushed the CPC rather than creating lazy ports from their 8bit brethren produced some astounding games. Laziness and an unwillingness to explore the capabilities of the machine consigned Arnold to histories bronze medal
Couldn't agree more.

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