Amstrad, Spectrum or C64. What is the worst and best hardware for gaming?

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Re: Amstrad, Spectrum or C64. What is the worst and best hardware for gaming?

Post by Matt_B » Mon Jun 24, 2019 12:15 am

English Invader wrote:
Sun Jun 23, 2019 10:13 pm
One of the things I most admire about the C64 is that the bog standard model held its own from around 1984 to 1993 and there was no need for any major hardware revisions or memory/processor upgrades. You bought a C64 and that was it. The C64 you bought for Impossible Mission was just as good for Mayhem in Monsterland; the C64 that taught you to program in BASIC was just as good for the SID tunes and the demos that showed your friends what you could make your computer do; it was just you, the blue screen and 38k of memory. You bought a C64 and you didn't have to miss out on anything.
That's almost making a virtue out of the fact that the C128 - which had more ram and a better processor - saw hardly any support though. At least if you got a Spectrum or a CPC with extra RAM - there were never any models with a processor upgrade - you'd at least be able to get a few games that made use of it. That said, even they were pretty thin on the ground for the most part.

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Re: Amstrad, Spectrum or C64. What is the worst and best hardware for gaming?

Post by English Invader » Mon Jun 24, 2019 7:32 am

Matt_B wrote:
Mon Jun 24, 2019 12:15 am
English Invader wrote:
Sun Jun 23, 2019 10:13 pm
One of the things I most admire about the C64 is that the bog standard model held its own from around 1984 to 1993 and there was no need for any major hardware revisions or memory/processor upgrades. You bought a C64 and that was it. The C64 you bought for Impossible Mission was just as good for Mayhem in Monsterland; the C64 that taught you to program in BASIC was just as good for the SID tunes and the demos that showed your friends what you could make your computer do; it was just you, the blue screen and 38k of memory. You bought a C64 and you didn't have to miss out on anything.
That's almost making a virtue out of the fact that the C128 - which had more ram and a better processor - saw hardly any support though. At least if you got a Spectrum or a CPC with extra RAM - there were never any models with a processor upgrade - you'd at least be able to get a few games that made use of it. That said, even they were pretty thin on the ground for the most part.
It is a virtue because it meant C64 users were happy enough with their existing hardware to not want upgrades (Commodore even had trouble getting C64 users over to the Amiga). I'm not convinced that the C128 was even capable of running a killer app that would have blown the standard C64 away. As Stewart Cheifet once said: "I'm not buying a 486 just to have the little man run faster!"

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Re: Amstrad, Spectrum or C64. What is the worst and best hardware for gaming?

Post by learnedrobb » Mon Jun 24, 2019 9:52 am

In theory, the Speccy was the worst hardware for making, and playing, games on. In reality, talented coders transcended the machines limitations, and produced games as good as, if not occasionally better, than those on rival systems.
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Re: Amstrad, Spectrum or C64. What is the worst and best hardware for gaming?

Post by Matt_B » Mon Jun 24, 2019 11:38 am

English Invader wrote:
Mon Jun 24, 2019 7:32 am
It is a virtue because it meant C64 users were happy enough with their existing hardware to not want upgrades (Commodore even had trouble getting C64 users over to the Amiga). I'm not convinced that the C128 was even capable of running a killer app that would have blown the standard C64 away. As Stewart Cheifet once said: "I'm not buying a 486 just to have the little man run faster!"
Commodore sold 4 million C128s, so that's still rather a lot of people wanting an upgrade. Against the 12.5 million C64s it's obviously a minority, but the 48K Spectrum and CPC464 were far and away the most popular machines of their respective platforms too.

Also, while there aren't any C128 games that'll blow away the best the C64 can offer, much the same goes for CPC6128 and 128K Spectrum games against their base models. Ultimately, the main thing they've got going for them is a bit more RAM - which is handy when it comes to reducing the need for loading extra data mid-game - but doesn't exactly open up new possibilities in terms of graphics.

The CPC+ machines (GX4000, etc.) did offer some genuinely new capabilities I suppose, but there are even less good games for them than the C128 and those really were something that next to nobody felt the need to upgrade to.

Realistically, you could have bought any of the three computers in 1984 and still got the better part of a decade's worth of quality games without needing to upgrade. It's just that with the Spectrum and the CPC you were far more likely to see games that use the extra RAM if you did, although even then they weren't very common.

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Re: Amstrad, Spectrum or C64. What is the worst and best hardware for gaming?

Post by Antiriad2097 » Mon Jul 01, 2019 11:28 am

English Invader wrote:
Sun Jun 23, 2019 10:13 pm
the C64 that taught you to program in BASIC ...
C64 BASIC was barely useable, you really needed to learn machine code/assembly to get anything decent from it. Compared to pretty much any other system it was by far the weakest, which is a shame considering the quality keyboard. I knew BASIC from TI99/4A, Oric and Speccy, but the C64 just didn't get used for that as it was so bad, all cryptic control codes.
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Re: Amstrad, Spectrum or C64. What is the worst and best hardware for gaming?

Post by English Invader » Wed Jul 03, 2019 6:27 am

Antiriad2097 wrote:
Mon Jul 01, 2019 11:28 am
English Invader wrote:
Sun Jun 23, 2019 10:13 pm
the C64 that taught you to program in BASIC ...
C64 BASIC was barely useable, you really needed to learn machine code/assembly to get anything decent from it. Compared to pretty much any other system it was by far the weakest, which is a shame considering the quality keyboard. I knew BASIC from TI99/4A, Oric and Speccy, but the C64 just didn't get used for that as it was so bad, all cryptic control codes.
I have noticed over the years that the BASIC on the C64 isn't anywhere near as highly regarded as the BASIC on the VIC-20. I always assumed this was because of the quality and range of commercial software rather than any deficiencies in the BASIC language. The general vibe I get is that it isn't worth programming for the C64 unless you're making state-of-the-art games and demos. I'm a member of Denial and the vast majority of forum members are as into coding as they are into the games whether it's just BASIC on the unexpanded VIC or assembly on a fully maxed-out system - games and demos still happen but it's cool to just do your own thing as well.

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Re: Amstrad, Spectrum or C64. What is the worst and best hardware for gaming?

Post by Antiriad2097 » Wed Jul 03, 2019 7:35 am

I just found CBM BASIC, on both Vic and C64, to be unfriendly and lacking in functionality that was common in other BASICs. It isn't as easy to read and understand, and thus not as easy to learn.

With my Oric, I could attempt to port something from another BASIC with relative ease, the exception being the CBM BASICs. Too many odd characters and codes that didn't translate.

I don't doubt you can get half decent results from it, but I could never get my head around the listings in mags and not once did I ever get anything to run properly on my C64 (not that I put a huge amount of effort into that by then - my C64 came fairly late and was a gaming machine, I had my Oric and Spectrum for coding).
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Re: Amstrad, Spectrum or C64. What is the worst and best hardware for gaming?

Post by ivarf » Tue Jul 30, 2019 7:47 pm

Are the C64 and Vic 20 Basics made by Microsoft? I have understood that Simon's Basic on the C64 is very good. Was it cartridge-based? How much free Ram did it have?

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Re: Amstrad, Spectrum or C64. What is the worst and best hardware for gaming?

Post by Matt_B » Tue Jul 30, 2019 9:33 pm

ivarf wrote:
Tue Jul 30, 2019 7:47 pm
Are the C64 and Vic 20 Basics made by Microsoft? I have understood that Simon's Basic on the C64 is very good. Was it cartridge-based? How much free Ram did it have?
Yes, to the former. Legend has it that Bill Gates wanted to license it so that a royalty was paid for every unit sold, but Tramiel was able to talk him into a much smaller flat fee. Those were the days.

Simons' BASIC (note the position of the apostrophe because the person who wrote it was called David Simons) was good in that it added commands to access the hardware features (music, sprites, etc.) of the machine as well as a few to assist structured programming. It was indeed cartridge based, although there was a later extension released on disc. You had a mere 30719 bytes to play with because the cartridge ROM displaced 8K of internal RAM.

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Re: Amstrad, Spectrum or C64. What is the worst and best hardware for gaming?

Post by Havantgottaclue » Wed Jul 31, 2019 7:57 am

I look back on my C64 days as a missed opportunity to learn coding. I was reasonably conversant with BASIC but the fact is that so many things, from displaying sprites to programming the SID chip and sensing joystick inputs, was no harder in assembly than in BASIC. Furthermore, by using assembly you were learning about the machine at a deeper level, you’d be delving into interrupts and the likes.

On the games front, I tend to think that my own gaming habits were formed by the machine I grew up with, the C64. So even now I gravitate to shooters, having been weaned on the likes of Wizball, Armalyte, Turrican etc. Had I been an Amstrad owner, maybe I would have become accustomed to a different style of gaming dominated by Get Dexter, Head over Heels, etc.
Soon you will have forgotten all things: soon all things will have forgotten you. (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book 7)

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Re: Amstrad, Spectrum or C64. What is the worst and best hardware for gaming?

Post by Antiriad2097 » Wed Jul 31, 2019 11:17 am

The problem back then was that there were no easy to follow guides for learning machine code, most of the texts were quite academic. The user manuals would list the opcodes and memory map, but not explain what they actually were or how they worked. Knowing what I know now thanks to the internet, it would have been pretty simple to pick up, but I just didn't have access to the required reference material and tools to make use of the info I had then.
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Re: Amstrad, Spectrum or C64. What is the worst and best hardware for gaming?

Post by Matt_B » Thu Aug 01, 2019 3:43 am

I managed to pick up a bit of assembly programming on the Spectrum. However, when a single bug was usually going to crash the computer and mean re-loading the assembler and my program from tape, assuming that I'd remembered to save it, it was very difficult to write anything complex.

Having an assembler in ROM or on disk made things so much easier, and I learned a whole lot more about it on the Amstrad and also the BBC Micros at school.

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Re: Amstrad, Spectrum or C64. What is the worst and best hardware for gaming?

Post by Havantgottaclue » Thu Aug 01, 2019 7:36 am

Yes, I sort of forgot that the best thing available at the time was the C64 programmer's reference guide, which was pretty dry. There was also a fairly heavy tome for the BBC that gave you an explanation of every single mnemonic. The problem was that none of these guides had any sample routines - nowadays you can find bits of code for programming - so much so that even complex things such as sprite multiplexing is something a novice wannabe coder can try it out.

All the more remarkable that these programmers back in the 80s worked these things out for themselves. It must have taken a lot of experimentation and trial and error.
Soon you will have forgotten all things: soon all things will have forgotten you. (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book 7)

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