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

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

Post by kiwimike » Fri Mar 11, 2011 9:22 pm

ivarf wrote:
kiwimike wrote:
the 464 did have some reasonable games, but the thought that it was 'up there' with the Apple and Atari is blinkered bias in the extreme IMO
IMO this is blinkered bias in the extreme.

I assume you mean Apple II and Atari 8-bits
Yep, and stand by it! :)

My vote for crown for eight bit gaming computer has to be C64 though. Machine for machine IMO this just has the best library of great games covering the genres of the time. Spectrum runner up, for a great value machine with plenty of terrific titles (and some great titles like Skool Daze and Ant Attack that are must plays). I'm open to debate on third place, but to me I think anyone would be hard pushed to argue against these two as THE definative gaming computers of the age. Atari eight bits have a special place in my heart (as does the Amstrad if I'm being honest-it may come across as if I don't like it!) but if you can only pick one, the C64 is the one. IMO of course! :)

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

Post by DreamcastRIP » Fri Mar 11, 2011 10:11 pm

Anyone here know why the Amstrad CPC was so popular in France? I think it may have been mentioned in the RG mag's Retroinspection feature on the machine/s but I'm damned if I can find that particular issue in my home right now!
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Re: Why the Amstrad was gaming's best 8-bit computer

Post by Freestyler » Sat Mar 12, 2011 4:16 am

DreamcastRIP wrote:Anyone here know why the Amstrad CPC was so popular in France? I think it may have been mentioned in the RG mag's Retroinspection feature on the machine/s but I'm damned if I can find that particular issue in my home right now!
I dunno, but Europe has always been MAD for the 8-Bit hardware. Look at the success of the Speccy in Soviet Russia. I guess there Spectrum plays YOU instead. (sorry. :oops: )

As for all this frames per second bollocks, during the Spectrum and Amiga years I hadn't a single clue what one was. It took owning a Megadrive (and all that nasty mine's better than yours bullshit) before I knew. Or at least thought I knew.

You know what? The Elitist in me is disgusted that the Speccy ran at only 15fps, but the Purist in me couldn't give a damn.
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Re: Why the Amstrad was gaming's best 8-bit computer

Post by ivarf » Sat Mar 12, 2011 5:00 am

DreamcastRIP wrote:Anyone here know why the Amstrad CPC was so popular in France? I think it may have been mentioned in the RG mag's Retroinspection feature on the machine/s but I'm damned if I can find that particular issue in my home right now!
Because it was a great machine sold as a complete package with a fast discdrive, 128 kB memory and colour monitor. France was not dominated by the C64 and Spectrum like in Britain and the Amstrad CPCs competed on equal terms from their launch.

The Amstrad CPC 6128 became the machine of choice in France. 1 million Amstrad CPCs was sold in UK, 2 million in the rest of the world. My guess is that a quite large part of those 2 millions went to France

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

Post by Antiriad2097 » Sat Mar 12, 2011 5:24 am

The Orics were also a big success in France.

Sales figures don't necessarily translate to being a better system.
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Re: Why the Amstrad was gaming's best 8-bit computer

Post by Pixiu » Sat Mar 12, 2011 5:41 am

Freestyler wrote:As for all this frames per second bollocks, during the Spectrum and Amiga years I hadn't a single clue what one was.
During the Amiga years, did you seriously not notice that some Amiga games moved noticeably more smoothly than others? You didn't happen to spot that games like Shadow of the Beast or Apidya played more smoothly than the various crappy ST ports that plagued the system?
Freestyler wrote: It took owning a Megadrive (and all that nasty mine's better than yours bullshit) before I knew. Or at least thought I knew.

You know what? The Elitist in me is disgusted that the Speccy ran at only 15fps, but the Purist in me couldn't give a damn.
I'm sure some speccy games ran at more than 15fps. Others probably ran at less. In slower moving games, you can often get away with a lowish framerate. However, take one of those reasonably fast 2d megadrive games such as Bio-hazard Battle and reduce the screen update to 15fps and you'd most likely start feeling it.
ivarf wrote:
DreamcastRIP wrote:Anyone here know why the Amstrad CPC was so popular in France? I think it may have been mentioned in the RG mag's Retroinspection feature on the machine/s but I'm damned if I can find that particular issue in my home right now!
Because it was a great machine sold as a complete package with a fast discdrive, 128 kB memory and colour monitor.
I suspect it had more to do with the way the computer+monitor approach side-stepped any issues regarding France using the SECAM tv standard instead of using PAL or NTSC.
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Re: Why the Amstrad was gaming's best 8-bit computer

Post by TMR » Sat Mar 12, 2011 6:28 am

Freestyler wrote:You know what? The Elitist in me is disgusted that the Speccy ran at only 15fps, but the Purist in me couldn't give a damn.
The Spectrum didn't run at 15FPS; some games ran that slowly because for one reason or another they had to but a lot were running 25 or 50FPS as well.

Framerate is important to your gaming experience even if you think that you don't care about it; slower refresh speeds mean less responsive controls for example, so whilst R-Type is lauded as an excellent game on the Spectrum the exact same code with a drop in framerate on the Amstrad isn't to the point where a team of homebrew coders are currently writing a new version.

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

Post by ivarf » Sat Mar 12, 2011 7:19 am

TMR wrote:
Freestyler wrote:You know what? The Elitist in me is disgusted that the Speccy ran at only 15fps, but the Purist in me couldn't give a damn.
The Spectrum didn't run at 15FPS; some games ran that slowly because for one reason or another they had to but a lot were running 25 or 50FPS as well.

Framerate is important to your gaming experience even if you think that you don't care about it; slower refresh speeds mean less responsive controls for example, so whilst R-Type is lauded as an excellent game on the Spectrum the exact same code with a drop in framerate on the Amstrad isn't to the point where a team of homebrew coders are currently writing a new version.
I see your point about framerate.

The game is excellent on the Spectrum, but is just a bad Spectrumport on the Amstrad with even less colour than the Spectrum. It is not the exact same code as on the Spectrum. The spectrumcode is run through a kind of emulator that emulates the Spectrumscreen on the Amstrad CPC and this makes the it run very slow. The game would have been faster doing its conversion as a bogstandard Spectrumport. Most CPCusers despised ported Spectrumgraphics.

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

Post by DreamcastRIP » Sat Mar 12, 2011 8:12 am

ivarf wrote:
DreamcastRIP wrote:Anyone here know why the Amstrad CPC was so popular in France? I think it may have been mentioned in the RG mag's Retroinspection feature on the machine/s but I'm damned if I can find that particular issue in my home right now!
Because it was a great machine sold as a complete package with a fast discdrive, 128 kB memory and colour monitor. France was not dominated by the C64 and Spectrum like in Britain and the Amstrad CPCs competed on equal terms from their launch.

The Amstrad CPC 6128 became the machine of choice in France. 1 million Amstrad CPCs was sold in UK, 2 million in the rest of the world. My guess is that a quite large part of those 2 millions went to France
So the Amstrad CPC was the Citroën 2CV of computers then! :lol:
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Re: Why the Amstrad was gaming's best 8-bit computer

Post by ivarf » Sat Mar 12, 2011 8:36 am

DreamcastRIP wrote:
ivarf wrote:
DreamcastRIP wrote:Anyone here know why the Amstrad CPC was so popular in France? I think it may have been mentioned in the RG mag's Retroinspection feature on the machine/s but I'm damned if I can find that particular issue in my home right now!
Because it was a great machine sold as a complete package with a fast discdrive, 128 kB memory and colour monitor. France was not dominated by the C64 and Spectrum like in Britain and the Amstrad CPCs competed on equal terms from their launch.

The Amstrad CPC 6128 became the machine of choice in France. 1 million Amstrad CPCs was sold in UK, 2 million in the rest of the world. My guess is that a quite large part of those 2 millions went to France
So the Amstrad CPC was the Citroën 2CV of computers then! :lol:
No, that must have been the Oric. But really, the ZX Spectrum would have been on par with Citroen 2CV.

Here is the Amstrad: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citroën_BX

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

Post by DreamcastRIP » Sat Mar 12, 2011 8:53 am

If computers were cars...

ZX Spectrum: BL/Rover Mini Cooper
Amstrad CPC: Citroën 2CV Dolly
Commodore 64: Ford Fiesta (Mk.I) in beige
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Re: Why the Amstrad was gaming's best 8-bit computer

Post by TMR » Sat Mar 12, 2011 9:15 am

ivarf wrote:It is not the exact same code as on the Spectrum. The spectrumcode is run through a kind of emulator that emulates the Spectrumscreen on the Amstrad CPC and this makes the it run very slow.
The bulk of the code, the bits that make the game what it is, are all from the Spectrum and the refresh cycle runs the same bar I/O, then lets an extra loop butt in to convert from the back buffer (which is the Spectrum's screen) to the front (the CPC's screen) and that process of extrapolating a second screen RAM each iteration is what slows it down so much. Calling it an emulation is greatly overstating what is actually happening internally.

But the original point still stands; the same game logic beats at the heart of both versions but there is an obstructed artery reducing the refresh speed on the CPC and a game that is well thought of on the Spectrum isn't on the CPC because of that speed difference.

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

Post by Havantgottaclue » Sat Mar 12, 2011 10:37 am

I do think that with 8-bit machines their properties are so different that you have to almost make a conscious effort to try to get used to another platform's strengths and weaknesses - and it's easier, I think, to over-emphasise the latter if you're used to another format.

The MSX seems like a case in point. If it's hard to do scrolling on the CPC, it must be nigh on impossible on the MSX judging by the few games that I've played. While the sprites move pixel by pixel, the backgrounds move like a sort of colourful Game 'n' Watch, lurching along in 8-pixel jumps. What's really odd is that there are so many shoot-'em-ups for the system, like Nemesis 2 and 3. You almost wonder why anyone bothered writing a shoot-'em-up for the system at all, or at least without trying to remedy the problem. Thing is, once you've decided that you're just going to ignore it and play the game, they're both pretty good;* and, not entirely unlike the CPC, there is at least plenty of colour.

* A C64 conversion of them would've been nice though ... not to mention better! :twisted:
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Re: Why the Amstrad was gaming's best 8-bit computer

Post by storm_maker » Sat Mar 12, 2011 12:15 pm

TMR wrote:As for recommendations, off the top of my head have a look at Elektraglide, Mercenary, Dropzone or Rescue on Fractalus for starters, all four originated on the Atari and are better there than any other 8-bit. For scrolling shoot 'em ups, Tiger Attack does the Flying Shark thing pretty well (although it's got a quirk that, as a programmer, bugs me endlessly), the A8 version of Warhawk is better than the Amstrad one (but not the C64), Zybex and Draconus are pretty decent games and i've got a strange fondness for Ninja Commando that i've never fully explained...
Yeah, I played all those years ago, all except Tiger Attack which nobody ever recommended to me, which is actually fairly good and now added to my list of decent A8 games.

I don't see that Zybex particularly stands up against something like X-Out, in fact I think I'd prefer to play the R-Type port over that too, and Ninja Commando is a bit of a joke in comparison to stuff like Shinobi and Gryzor

There's also Cavernia and Blinky's Scary School, which were both mid-late 80s-esque.

But really, when you look at lists of best ever A8 games voted for by gamers, you find a very high percentage of old arcade games (Pacman, Donkey Kong, Frogger, QBert) which are all represented on Amstrad, a high percentage of multi-format games (Lode Runner, Starquake, Jet Boot Jack, Boulder Dash, Arkanoid), which were also on Amstrad (some of which aren't even thought of as being notable amongst CPC fans), and a high percentage of homebrew games from the last few years (which I think is always a bad sign for any system's library, and I don't really even count any of those as real games anyway). A lot of the best A8 games, whilst marginally better on the native platform, are available on loads of different systems too.
TMR wrote:Generally speaking, A8 games tend to rattle along at a smooth 50 frames a second for the 2D stuff whilst the Amstrad ones... erm, usually don't so, although there might be some graphical concessions on the Atari, it's more often than not the more responsive to play and for action games at least that can make a significant difference.
Generally speaking A8 games contain very few colours, and are flick screen with no scrolling at all, because most of them came out before 1985, the Amstrad has no problems with that sort of environment.

Also, what I don't understand is why A8 games are so inconsistent, the fans keep going on about how the system was as good as, if not better than C64, and yet even late on you get very few colours onscreen (sometimes shades of one colour), and terrible looking sprites, but others arriving years previously, such as Capture the Flag, or homebrew games such as Crownland look much better.

Did making A8 games look as good as C64 games require every trick in the book with expert level coding? with most average developers of the 80s not actually having the know-how to get decent results?
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Re: Why the Amstrad was gaming's best 8-bit computer

Post by TMR » Sat Mar 12, 2011 1:37 pm

storm_maker wrote:I don't see that Zybex particularly stands up against something like X-Out, in fact I think I'd prefer to play the R-Type port over that too, and Ninja Commando is a bit of a joke in comparison to stuff like Shinobi and Gryzor
But you do have to remember that they're all cheap and relatively cheerful budget games and, along with Blinky's Scary School and Draconus, are ports rather than original titles. For what they do and what you'd have paid for them at the time, they offer good value.
storm_maker wrote:A lot of the best A8 games, whilst marginally better on the native platform, are available on loads of different systems too.
Well yeah, but that's just evidence of a solid software library; having titles that are on everything else (especially some that are even only slightly superior like Boulder Dash or Dropzone compared to the C64 versions) doesn't negate them on the Atari any more than it does the Amstrad. The emphasis on early 1980s games is because, really, it's a late 1970s/early 1980s machine, but one that holds it's own rather well for games even if not the cosmetics.

And as a homebrew developer myself i'm contractually obliged to violently disagree with your comment about them not being real games of course; what we call homebrew now was freelance coding then, a significant percentage of the games people played and remember fondly were knocked up by one or two people in a back bedroom - all that's changed is that our toolchains are better.
storm_maker wrote:Did making A8 games look as good as C64 games require every trick in the book with expert level coding? with most average developers of the 80s not actually having the know-how to get decent results?
The hardware is interesting and has some excellent features, but it does take concessions, raw talent and clever work-arounds to reproduce what any backroom coder could knock out over a weekend for the C64 and even moving hardware sprites vertically takes more CPU power than the Breadbin needs. Games like the ones we've just talked about demonstrate the kinds of workaround needed, Ninja Commando uses single colour enemies and a player sprite that shares the playfield colours (fall off, your ninja will change colour as he passes over the split for the lower area of the screen) whilst Zybex, Draconus and Blinky's Scary School drop down to 50% of the resolution to get the speed up for their software sprites.

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