Under the Microscope: Wolfenstein 3D

posted in: Games | 0

A while back we took a look at R-Comp’s re-release of their Doom Trilogy game bundle that had been updated for modern RISC OS systems and made available for purchase through the Pling Store.

That pack saw Wolfenstein 3D bundled with it. Tt wasn’t compatible with modern machines at the time, with it only being compatible with older 26-bit RISC OS systems. R-Comp have been busy since then however, they teamed up with Jon Abbott of JASPP to get the game running on newer RISC OS systems – including the Raspberry Pi and Titanium.

In addition to improved compatibility, the game has received a number of enhancements that improve the gameplay experience, namely new sound effects for collecting food, ammo, treasure and so on. The original PC version had these features in place, but the RISC OS port did not.

The music has been adjusted to better match the PC edition too, and the damage indicator has now been upgraded so the screen flashes red to indicate that you’re taking damage. Another neat upgrade is Wolfenstein now runs at a high resolution mode for modern monitors.

If you’ve already bought the Doom Trilogy re-release through the Pling Store, you can upgrade through the !Store app for free, which will bring your copy of Wolfenstein 3D up-to-date.

What is Wolfenstein 3D?

Released in 1992 by iD Software, Wolfenstein 3D is generally regarded as the first first-person-shooter game, and it laid down the foundations for later shooters from iD such as Doom and Quake.

The player controls an American soldier named BJ Blazkowicz, who is attempting to get out of a building controlled by Nazis during World War II through avoiding or killing guards and dogs. Blazkowicz runs through admittedly repetitive mazes looking down the barrel of his gun, blasting Nazi soldiers, and munching on turkey legs that you’d hope had been cooked thoroughly before consumption.

It may be a little basic now, but the game was revolutionary back in 1992 and was quite popular on RISC OS when it was ported over in 1994.

The game itself

While the graphics and audio may be very dated now, and the maneuvering feels very robotic and unnatural (you can only look around horizontally) the nostalgia value of playing through Wolfenstein 3D is still great. Everything from the graphics to the music to the sound effects is a blast from the past, and the things that were satisfying back in 1992, such as nazi blood spurting up against walls and discovering secret corridors you can’t believe you missed the last ten times you walked past it, are still just as satisfying now.

Something that I’d forgotten was a big part of what made Wolfenstein such an addictive, yet infuriating game, was it’s lack of a map, making it incredibly easy to lose yourself in its endless corridors and prison cells.

When entering a new room a Nazi will likely be hiding to one side of the entrance, but Blazkowicz can’t turn around very quickly so if you choose to aim at the wrong side the enemy will be shooting you in the back. Your health does not regenerate in between levels, although when you die you just restart the level you were on when you perished.

Performance & Compatibility

Wolfenstein 3D is now fully compatible with Titanium and other systems that require RGB/BGR colour swapping, meaning that this release will run on anything from a battle-worn RiscPC to a an ARMini, TiMachine or Raspberry Pi. It also seems to run well under RPCEmu emulation.

In terms of performance, the game runs just as well as it did when I last played Wolfenstein 3D – which was some 15 years ago on an Acorn A5000.

If you’re looking for a trip down memory lane as well as a good Nazi-killing section, then look no further.

Wolfenstein 3D is available as part of the Doom Trilogy pack from R-Comp. It can be purchased from the Pling Store for £14.99.

Update (December 2018): The updated 32-bit version of Wolfenstein 3D is now available for free from here.


RISC OS Games Month 2018

August is Games Month on the RISC OS Blog, where we focus exclusively on gaming, be it reviewing new games or taking a trip down memory lane with a look at a classic title. Stay tuned for more games articles throughout August!

A look at the AMCOG Games Development Kit

posted in: Games, Software | 1

So a while back, AMCOG Games released their Games Development Kit to the public – allowing you to be able to make your own games written in BBC BASIC without having to worry too much about the not-so-fun aspect of game creation – libraries, sound samples, error handling etc.

Cyborg in action

The kit comes with libraries to cover core areas such as screen plotting, screen transitions, MP3 playback and audio as well as a selection of game sprites, music tracks and sound samples to get you started.

What’s included

The pack is available for £14.99 from the Pling Store, let’s take a look at what you get for your cash:

  • A core library to enable sprite plotting, error handling, screen transitions, MP3 playback and much more.
  • A tile library to provide a general game engine for games based on tiles.
  • A sound library and virtual sound chip: RDSP
  • Game sprites
  • Music tracks
  • Sound samples

Three complete games are also chucked into the kit for good balance too, so you can use them as case studies to see how they’re written and how everything comes together, or even just use them as a template for a new game.

A look at the included games

The kit comes bundled with three games. Mutant Penguin, which is also available for free download from Amcog’s website, Cyborg which would cost you £9,99 if you got it separately, and Sparky – a basic Pacman-style game.

Mutant Penguin in all its glory

Mutant Penguin – Retro platformer Mutant Penguin sees you in a universe where penguins have developed the ability to wear a stylish red bow tie. The aim of the game is to guide your penguiny friend around the screen, pushing ice blocks around to kill slug-like creatures called spods.

The game is available for download for free from Amcog’s website, although the version that comes bundled with the kit does include the source code, so you can inspect and dissect to your heart’s content.

Cyborg – The game sees you, a Cyborg treasure hunter, attempting to penetrate Castle CyberDroid on your quest to thieve ancient treasures from under the noses of hordes of security robots that are teleported into nearby rooms with a view to spoiling your fun.

The game is available seperately from Amcog, but unlike Mutant Penguin, it’s quite a complex game with multiple levels and a lot of game logic, so it’s available for purchase from the Pling Store for a tenner. Check out our review of Cyborg here.

Sparky – A much simpler game compared to the other two. Sparky was written in a very short space of time, which resulted in a couple of new methods being added to the tile library. The game is essentially a reverse-Pacman, you control your character and move him around the screen avoiding the ghosts, and drop dots rather than collect them.

Sparky is currently only available as part of the kit, and is presented both as a playable game, and as a five phase case study in using the kit to develop a game.

Sparky in action

Overall

The AMCOG Development Kit is compatible with RISC OS on modern hardware such as the Raspberry Pi, Beagleboard, Pandaboard and ARMx6. It will also run on RISC OS 4 and has been tested on RPCEmu running RISC OS 5.

It is available from !Store for £14.99, with updates for existing customers free of charge. If you’ve purchased it on CD at a show, there should be a code in the CD box that allows you to download the updated version from !Store.

In terms of whether it’s worth splashing the cash on this development kit. I’d say it’s definitely a hard offer to turn down if you’re also considering purchasing Cyborg, for a fiver more you’re getting a plethora of tools to help you create your own games in BBC BASIC. As the libraries, template sprites and sounds are already there for you – all you need to add is any additional logic or features you need – and obviously, implement your idea for your game.


RISC OS Games Month 2018

August is Games Month on the RISC OS Blog, where we focus exclusively on gaming, be it reviewing new games or taking a trip down memory lane with a look at a classic title. Stay tuned for more games articles throughout August!

Under the Microscope: Quake Resurrection

posted in: Games | 2

R-Comp Interactive have been giving their games range a bit of TLC in recent times, with Final Doom, the Doom Trilogy and Wolfenstein 3D all being spruced up to be compatible with modern RISC OS hardware.

The Quake Resurrection pack, originally ported for the StrongARM RiscPC many moons ago, is now compatible with modern hardware such as the ARMX6, Titanium and Rasberry Pi. The game comes with all the original Quake levels, plus the Malice ‘total conversion’, and the Q!Zone expansion CD as well as a load of extra levels.

What is Quake?

Developed by id Software and published by GT Interactive in 1996, Quake is a first-person shooter and the first in the now long-running Quake series of games. Players must find their way through various maze-like, medieval environments while battling a variety of monsters using an array of different weapons.

The successor to id Software’s Doom series, Quake built upon the technology and gameplay of its predecessor. Unlike the Doom engine before it, the Quake engine offered full real-time 3D rendering and had early support for 3D acceleration through OpenGL.

After Doom helped popularise multiplayer deathmatches, Quake added various multiplayer options. Online multiplayer became increasingly common, with the QuakeWorld update and software such as QuakeSpy making the process of finding and playing against others on the Internet easier and more reliable. Quake played a huge part in making online multiplayer gaming as popular as it is now.

The Plot

In the single-player campaign, you take the role of the protagonist known as Ranger who was sent into a portal in order to stop an enemy code-named Quake. The government had been experimenting with teleportation technology and developed a working prototype called a ‘Slipgate’.

Quake compromised the Slipgate by connecting it with its own teleportation system, using it to send death squads to the ‘human dimension’ with the sole objective of wreaking havoc. It’s down to you then to put up a fight over the 30 levels that makes up the main campaign.

What’s new in this re-release?

As well as a lower price point (£15 down from £23), this new version takes advantage of the hardware-accelerated ‘VFP’ floating point capabilities of modern CPUs. This effectively doubles performance on modern systems, meaning stability and gameplay on systems like the Raspberry Pi, Titanium, ARMX6 etc. should be pretty slick.

R-Comp’s Andrew Rawnsley has commented that, while other programs have benefited from VFP enhancement in the past (LAME MP3 encoder is one example), this is by far the biggest improvement he’s seen with a piece of RISC OS software.

When this re-release was initially launched back in February, the Malice ‘total conversion’ pack was not compatible with newer RISC OS machines – this has now been upgraded so it will run on newer hardware too. An update has also been released recently to make the game compatible with the Raspberry Pi 3.

What’s the advantage when compared to free RISC OS ports of Quake?

Many moons ago, ArcQuake was released for RISC OS which allows you to play Quake for free providing you’ve sourced the Quake levels from somewhere. While it was pretty stable, it was never upgraded to work on 32-bit RISC OS sytems, and because Quake is a pretty demanding game, this limits you really to only being able to play it on something like a StrongARM RiscPC – while I’ve not tried it myself, it has been reported that ArcQuake will not run under Aemulor on a newer RISC OS machine.

DarkPlaces Quake was ported to RISC OS more recently, and while being free it still comes with the same caveat that you need to source the Quake level files before you can play the game. Also, the port can throw up some stability issues from time to time, a number of users have reported that the game will crash after 10-15 minutes of gameplay.

For the £15 price you can’t really complain if you take into account that all the level files are included – as opposed to having to source them yourself (legally!) in the case of the free ports.

There’s no setup like you have with the free options, which require sourcing level files and placing them in a location the game is expecting the file to be in – plus the game does appear to be a lot smoother and far less buggy than other versions out there.

Quake Resurrection can be purchased as a £15 download from R-Comp’s Pling Store.


RISC OS Games Month 2018

August is Games Month on the RISC OS Blog, where we focus exclusively on gaming, be it reviewing new games or taking a trip down memory lane with a look at a classic title. Stay tuned for more games articles throughout August!

A Beginner’s Guide to retro gaming on RISC OS

posted in: Games | 0

The Acorn Archimedes is hugely under-appreciated as a retro gaming platform. While it never had the largest catalogue, many of the games available for it are the best in their class.

And for titles that were released on the Amiga and the consoles as well, the massive hardware advantages of Acorn hardware at the time meant that the Archimedes version was often the best: it’s not a whole world away, but the graphics and gameplay are noticeably smoother.

And now, with the widespread popularity of the Raspberry Pi, it’s become much easier for casual retro gamers to dabble in some old school RISC OS gaming.

But even though we’re running these games on the operating system and CPU architecture they were written for, 30 years of computing is long enough that a few things inevitably change. I mean, where on earth’s the floppy drive? And 64MB stopped being a massive amount of RAM some time ago, so bye bye 26-bit memory addressing.

There are plenty of free tools you can download to fix these issues. But putting this all together has been complicated by the fact that the bits and pieces you need are somewhat strewn across the internet, with no real instructions to guide you through the whole process.

It’s even trickier if you haven’t touched a RISC OS machine in 25 years – or perhaps ever.

That’s where this comes in: A complete, step-by-step guide to getting old Acorn Archimedes games running on a Raspberry Pi.

It presumes no prior knowledge of RISC OS, and is a nice gentle introduction to a very interesting and idiosyncratic branch of computing. If you’re a Raspberry Pi tinkerer who is interested in playing these games – many of which have held up very well over the years, then check it out.


RISC OS Games Month 2018

August is Games Month on the RISC OS Blog, where we focus exclusively on gaming, be it reviewing new games or taking a trip down memory lane with a look at a classic title. Stay tuned for more games articles throughout August!

August is RISC OS Games Month!

posted in: Games | 2

The RISC OS games scene has enjoyed quite a rejuvenation over the last few years, with Amcog Games hitting the market with their debut title Overlord in 2015 and R-Comp re-releasing a number of their titles for newer RISC OS machines.

Since then, the flow of new games to play through has been so quick and fast that this blog has fallen woefully behind on covering them.

Now is time to change that, for the entirety of August the blog is going to be focusing exclusively on gaming on RISC OS. With multiple game reviews as well as other gaming related articles going up on the site throughout the month.

We’ll also be exploring the numerous gaming possibilities available to us through emulating gaming systems or other operating systems on RISC OS.

The first article of this month of gaming coverage goes live on August 1st. In the meantime, you could check out the various titles we’ve already reviewed in our Games Corner section.

Happy RISC OS Games Month!