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The comp.sys.acorn.games FAQ


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Archive-name: acorn/games
Posting-Frequency: monthly (approximately)
Last-modified: 3nd August 2006
Version: 2.10
Maintainer: Matthew Hambley (faq@aether.demon.co.uk)
Disclaimer: Approval for *.answers is based on form, not content.

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
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                       The comp.sys.acorn.games FAQ

                          2.10 - 3nd August 2006

This FAQ was written because the various posters to csa.games got fed up
answering the same questions over and over again with often as little as
two weeks separating each occurrence of a given question. Please read this
FAQ before you post any questions.

If you spot an error, inconsistency or spelling mistake you must do two
things: 1) Pat yourself on the back (that's the easy bit) and 2) (the hard
part) E-mail me so I can correct it. If you have a suggestion for a new
question or an improved answer to an old one please don't hesitate to
contact me.

Please note that due to the depressingly large amounts of spam which
afflict my FAQ e-mail address I automatically delete all mail which does
not have the word "FAQ" in the subject line. Simply replying to this post
is OK otherwise make sure you include "FAQ" somewhere in the subject.

Current maintainer: Matthew Hambley <faq@aether.demon.co.uk>
Web version: <http://www.aether.demon.co.uk/faqs/games.html>

Revision History
================

Only the 3 most recent releases are given here. Should you wish to view the
complete history, visit:
<http://www.aether.demon.co.uk/faqs/games-history.html>

    v2.10 (2nd August 2006)
        * Added "AcornGamez"
        * Weeded some dead links

Revision History
================

Only the 3 most recent releases are given here. Should you wish to view the
complete history, visit:
<http://www.aether.demon.co.uk/faqs/games-history.html>

    v2.09 (1st March 2005)
        * Spotted that the complete history URL was missing.

    v2.08 (1st Feb 2005)
        * Added the Brain Games site as a source of free games. This whole
          section is currently under review

Questions and Answers
=====================

1. General Questions

    1.1. Why are so few games released for Acorns?

        Acorn Games are usually written by university students who have
        some really great ideas and do some good coding but then graduate.
        They then tend to be offered proper jobs which they take and
        suddenly find they don't have the time (or their contract prevents
        them) to code. The other problem is the small market place which
        means that only a handful of small companies can be supported.

    1.2. What is the difference between a game, a game demo and a demo?

        A demo is intended to demonstrate some
        programming/graphical/musical flair and techniques - any "gameplay"
        is peripheral to the program. A game demo is either a cut-down or
        "crippled" version of a commercial or shareware game or a rolling
        demo. It is designed to demonstrate the gameplay aspect of a game
        and encourage you to buy it. A game is a program intended to have
        lots of gameplay...

    1.3. Superior Software were possibly the preeminent games company on
         the Beeb and they where one of the first to do anything for the
         Arch. Where have they gone?

        A very good question. For a long time everything seemed to point to
        them having wound up years ago. Every so often someone would pipe
        up with the claim that they where still trading but that was easily
        dismissed as duff gen. However recently it has become apparent that
        they /are/ still trading. They have re-launched themselves as
        Superior Interactive and seem to be looking to break into the
        Wintel games market.

        You can find out a little of what they are up to at their web
        site[1]. Their Acorn products may be purchased through APDL.

        [1] http://www.superiorinteractive.com/

    1.4. Where can I get free games from?

        You may like to try some of the following sites:

            * The Soup Kitchen[2]
            * Acorn Arcade's download zone[3]
            * Brain Games[4] are a commercial enterprise with a few free
            games and game demos

        [2] http://www.soup-kitchen.net/software/index.html
        [3] http://www.acornarcade.com/cgi-bin/gamelist
        [4] http://www.maceng.karoo.net/BG/

    1.5. What resources are available on the web for Acorn game players?

        These links may prove useful to you:

            * The Acorn Gaming pages[5]
            * AcornGamez news site[6]
            * Cheats prosper[7]
            * Acorn Arcade[8]

        [5] http://www.acorn-gaming.org.uk/
        [6] http://www.www.acorngamez.tk/
        [7] http://www.doggysoft.co.uk/cheat.html
        [8] http://www.acornarcade.com/

    1.6. What about game solutions?

            * Swallow's solutions[9]

        [9] http://www.swallows.demon.co.uk/arc/hints/hints.html

    1.7. I want to give my games some stick!

        A3010 owners will know it is possible as their machines come with
        joystick ports. If you own any of the other Acorn machines then you
        will require an interface. At the moment Stuart Tyrrell
        Developments[10] appear to be the only people manufacturing
        joystick interfaces. They also provide joypads for use with your
        Risc OS machine.

        [10] http://www.stdevel.demon.co.uk/

    1.8. How easy is it to write a game for Acorn computers?

        Too much deep techie talk is off topic in this group
        (csa.programmer is the place for that) however discussion of
        general principles and game concepts is perfectly acceptable.

        If (presumably) you've never written a game, you'll want some idea
        of how video games tick and the usual sorts of routines you'll need
        to program them. For a first game, I'd suggest using one of these
        libraries:

        GameSuite
<ftp://ftp.uni-stuttgart.de/pub/systems/acorn/acornet/long/info/www/s/i_43.html>

            Development was halted by Andy Southgate a while ago when He
            stopped working on it. In it's current state (3.00), it's still
            pretty good if you feel the environment suits you. It's best
            suited to people who like BASIC and assembly language
            programming since the core routines are in two modules with
            numerous SWI calls. The documentation is pretty thorough, and
            all the source is provided, though most of it is pretty cryptic
            and uncommented.

        Popcorn <http://www.soup-kitchen.net/software/popcorn.html>

            By Matthew Bloch, Popcorn is a games library still in
            development. It comes as a series of linkable AOF libraries
            written mostly in C, with all the source provided. No support
            is provided for BASIC programmers, though it could be added. In
            terms of features, it is slightly better specified and flexible
            than Gamesuite, but at the expense of speed. In addition, there
            were some articles published on using it in Acorn User (Dec
            '96, Xmas '96, Jan '97) and an example game.

        These libraries will do a lot of the hard work for you such as
        object processing and sprite plotting; be warned that you won't
        find either of these perfect, and will probably want to hack a lot
        of the code around. Both contain some useful hints on game coding
        and a certain amount of tutorial material.

        These libraries only handle 2D (flat) games programming; if you
        want to write something in three dimensions, there are huge tomes
        available on the subject. The comp.graphics.algorithms FAQ is a
        good place to start.

        TAG is a 3D graphics library written by TBA Software which has been
        successfully used in some of their games. TBA is no more so both
        the engine and its source code have been made available on the TBA
        CD-ROM from R-Comp. Source for BHP and Cobalt Seed are also
        included on this disc.

        Be warned that knowing how to code a game is only half the battle:
        If you want to release something commercially, slick presentation
        and careful design are essential. Get other people to draw graphics
        or compose music if you don't feel your skills are up to a
        commercial standard. Spend a while planning rather than just diving
        headlong into the coding. Finally, hold your game up to the light
        of a similar offering running under DOS or Windows and ask whether
        /you/ would pay the money you're asking for your game. A lot of
        people have PCs and prefer playing games (and spending money) on
        those.

        Finally there are a number of commercial games for which the source
        has been released. At the time of writing only one of these has not
        been ported already: Golgotha.

    1.9. How can I write multi-platform games on my Risc OS machine?

        At first this may seem like an impossibility. Games written for a
        Risc OS machine only have a hope of working on other ARM based
        computers (which are a little thin on the ground) and then only if
        they have a similar architecture. It is however possible through
        the plethora of Gameboy emulators. A UNIX package for creating
        Gameboy games has been ported to RISC OS. Its libraries are a
        little primitive but they should be useable. It may even be a
        useful introduction to games programing (see the previous question)

        Find the package on the porters web site[11].

        The most common text adventure formats used on Acorn machines are
        also ports of very well supported formats. Inform for instance can
        be used on everything from C64's to Linux boxes. See the section on
        text adventures for more information.

        [11] http://www.plasma.demon.co.uk/gameboy/

2. Foreign Games

    2.1. I have seen Spectrum and BBC Micro emulators. What about other
         platforms? What emulators are available?

        There is a nigh on comprehensive list of emulators held at the
        Acorn Gaming[12] site.

        [12] http://www.acorn-gaming.org.uk/index.php3?p=Emulation/index

    2.2. Some IBM compatible games look a bit crumby when run on the x86
         card. What can I do about this?

        If it is the actual rendition of the game on screen which is not
        right then you may find that adding these to your momitor
        definition file helps.

        
        # 320 x 200 (112Hz)
        startmode
        mode_name:
        x_res:320
        y_res:200
        pixel_rate:12587
        h_timings:42,14,12,320,12,0
        v_timings:2,50,0,200,0,30
        sync_pol:2
        endmode
        
        # 384 x 200 (111Hz)
        startmode
        mode_name:
        x_res:384
        y_res:200
        pixel_rate:18881
        h_timings:68,0,66,384,66,0
        v_timings:2,16,32,200,32,8
        sync_pol:2
        endmode

    2.3. Why am I having trouble with x86 sound?

        A common solution to this problem is to investigate PCSound from
        R-Comp Interactive[13]. This bit of trickery will, with the aid of
        a MIDI synthesiser be it hardware or software, improve PC sound for
        a number of games.

        [13] http://www.rcomp.co.uk

    2.4. So how do I complete Quake then?

        Unless you are absolutely positively stuck then stop reading now.

        I don't want to spoil the fun for you...

        Still here? OK, to complete Quake look for the floating ball. This
        is the target for the teleporter. When you teleport you will end up
        where this thing is. So, just wait for the ball to be inside Shub
        Niggrath (The big tenticular end of game gardian) and then
        teleport. You will telefrag Shub and win the game. It might be
        possible to win by whacking the Cthuhloid one enough times with the
        axe too.

    2.5. What the hack is Angband anyway?

        To answer this question I'll quote this brief introduction by the
        author of the RISC OS versions:

          Angband is a dungeon adventure game, similar to Dungeons & Dragons
          in some ways, but with the emphasis on strategic use of equipment,
          magic and skills rather than role-playing and problem solving.

          It is (loosely) set in Tolkien's Middle Earth, although some
          variants of the game draw on quite different sources.

          Angband is the single most addictive computer game I have ever
          played... I barely even look at Tetris these days ;)

        Possibly the first port of call for finding out more should be
        Musus Umbra's RISC OS angband site[14]. For general Angband
        information including links to the Acorn port why not try
        Thangorodrim[15]. Alternatively Acorn Arcade has some Acorn
        spacific links in its Game Support pages.

        [14] http://www.verelanthe.ukgateway.net/musus/angband/
        [15] http://thangorodrim.net/

3. Text Adventures

    3.1. What is interactive fiction?

        Interactive fiction (IF), or text adventures, are games in which
        the player and the computer interact through a textual interface:
        the player enters commands and the computer responds by printing
        text to the screen, generally what the player can see and what
        effects the previous command had.

        The player's input can be a simple command in the format <verb>
        <noun>, such as "take sword" or "open door". Modern games will also
        be able to parse quite complex sentences like "take the gold coin
        out of the treasure chest and bite it. Then close the chest".

        Playing interactive fiction, then, is like reading a novel in which
        you are the main character.

    3.2. How do I play interactive fiction on a RPC/Archimedes?

        Many interactive fictions are available as platform-independent
        storyfiles, which are played on an interpreter. There are at least
        half a dozen rival formats and, unfortunately, there aren't Acorn
        ports of interpreters for every format.

        One of the most popular interactive fiction storyfile formats is
        the "Z-machine" format, as used by Infocom and, more recently, the
        Inform compiler (see below). An excellent interpreter for games in
        this format is Zip 2000. This is a multi-tasking application with
        many features. Zip 2000 is shareware (ukp10 registration), but a
        freeware distribution is available via anonymous FTP from the IF
        archives[16]

        If you prefer there is another z-machine interpreter called Frotz.
        The big difference between this and Zip 2000 is its front end which
        some people prefer. It can be found at the authors web site[17]

        The Hugo engine, HE, is an interpreter of storyfiles generated by
        the Hugo compiler (see below). It is currently a single-tasking
        application, invoked from the command-line. HE (archived with the
        Hugo compiler) is available via anonymous FTP from the IF
        archives[18]

        The TADS interpreter allows you to play games in the TADS run-time
        format. This is also a single-tasking application, identical in
        appearance to the DOS version. TADS is available via anonymous FTP
        from the IF archives[19]

        A Level9 interpreter has also been ported to the RPC/Archimedes.
        This is used to play games published by Level 9 Computing, such as
        "Lords of Time" and "Snowball." It currently runs in a taskwindow
        on the desktop. L9 is available via anonymous FTP from the IF
        archives[20]

        Actual games are available from a number of sources. As mentioned
        above, the Infocom games ("Zork,""Hitchhiker's Guide to the
        Galaxy," etc.) can be played with Zip 2000. These games are
        commercial software, and are often repackaged by the
        copyright-holders, Activision. The most recent collection,
        "Masterpieces of Infocom," contains all but two of the games. This
        may not yet be available in Europe, so the previous collections,
        "Lost Treasures of Infocom," (vols. I & II) may be a better bet.
        "Zork I" has recently become freeware, and is available from
        Activision's Web site[21]

        A growing number of very high quality freeware and shareware games
        produced with the Inform authoring system, and playable on Zip
        2000, are available via anonymous FTP from the IF archives[22]

        Hugo games are, currently, less prevalent, but a handful are
        available via anonymous FTP from the IF archives[23]

        A number of TADS games are available via anonymous FTP from the IF
        archives[24]

        The Level 9 games are probably no longer available to buy anywhere,
        but are available from a number of FTP sites. L9 can handle these
        games in any format (except not Spectrum Z80 files, these must be
        converted to SnapShots). An archive of several Spectrum games (Z80
        format, so convert) is available via anonymous FTP from would you
        credit it?[25]

        Lastly, there are one or two games available as RISC OS
        applications. Some of these are available via anonymous FTP from
        that funky IF archives site again[26]

        [16] ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/infocom/interpreters/zip/
        [17] http://www.argonet.co.uk/users/musus/frotz/index.htm
        [18] ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/programming/hugo/executables/
        [19] ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/programming/tads/executables/
        [20] ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/level9/interpreters/level9/
        [21] http://www.activision.com/
        [22] ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/games/inform/
        [23] ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/games/hugo/
        [24] ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/games/tads/
        [25] ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/games/spectrum/
        [26] ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/games/archimedes/

    3.3. How do I write interactive fiction on a RPC/Archimedes?

        There are a number of publicly available authoring systems for
        creating interactive fiction in one of the storyfile formats
        mentioned above.

        Inform is undoubtedly currently the most popular and ported
        authoring system available. It compiles source, written in it's own
        language (fully OO and reminiscent of C), to a "Z-machine"-format
        storyfile. Inform is available via anonymous FTP from the IF
        archives[27]

        It has recently come to my attention that there is a very good site
        concerning the technicalities of writing adventure games with extra
        links at this site[28]

        Hugo is much newer than Inform. The language bears comparison to
        Inform, C and BASIC, but much of the (sometimes confusing)
        punctuation has been removed, and the whole language optimised for
        clarity and ease-of-use. Hugo source compiles to its own format
        storyfile, which removes many of the more limiting restrictions of
        the "Z-machine" format. Hugo is available via anonymous FTP from
        the IF archives[29]

        [27] ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/infocom/compilers/inform6/
        [28] http://www.gnelson.demon.co.uk/inform.html
        [29] ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/programming/hugo/

    3.4. Ooo, interactive fiction sounds like fun! Where can I find out
         more?

        There are two newsgroups devoted to interactive fiction. If you are
        interested in /playing/ these games, you should subscribe to
        rec.games.int-fiction[30]

        If you want to /write/ interactive fiction you should subscribe to
        rec.arts.int-fiction[31]

        The Interactive Fiction Archive is a huge repository of interactive
        fiction games, authoring systems, utilities, documentation and
        other related material. It is found at the IF archives[32]

        Both the rec.arts.int-fiction FAQ[33] and the rec.games.int-fiction
        FAQ[34] are available from the IF archives.

        [30] news:rec.games.int-fiction
        [31] news:rec.arts.int-fiction
        [32] ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/
        [33] ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/rec.arts.int-fiction/
        [34] ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/rec.games.int-fiction/

    3.5. That's all very well but I like pictures!

        Well now you can have some. Recently a port of Sarien has been
        completed. Sarien is an AGI interpreter. It will allow you to play
        old (generally pre 1989) Sierra adventures. For instance, Leisure
        Suit Larry and the various Quest games. (King's, Space and Police)

        All you need is the original game and a copy of Sarien, available
        from the authors web site[35].

        Apparently there is work underway to produce an interpreter which
        will play more modern Sierra games. Possibly even more exciting is
        the SCUMMVM. SCUMM is the system used by Lucas Arts for, among
        other things, Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle. It can also be
        found at David McEwens web site[36].

        [35] http://www.acornemus.freeserve.co.uk/
        [36] http://www.acornemus.freeserve.co.uk/

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E-mail : faq@aether.demon.co.uk                    Public key ID : C991137B
                   http://www.aether.demon.co.uk/faqs/

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