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Dark Chambers to Gauntlet Conversion

Gauntlet Dark Chambers

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#1 CDS Games OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue May 12, 2015 9:21 PM

This project began as an effort to modify Dark Chambers for the Atari 2600 in the direction of the arcade game Gauntlet (Atari 1985). What started as a few graphics changes and minor modifications to game play slowly evolved into a full 32k conversion, thanks to a good disassembly and especially Adam Clayton’s phenomenal Dark Chambers engine for the VCS.

 

The game is now complete, with the following features:

 

* Play all 4 characters from the arcade, in a 1-player game or in any 2-player combination

* Each character starts with a special ability:

    Warrior: extra shot power

    Valkyrie: extra armor

    Wizard: extra magic power

    Elf: extra shot speed

* Fight 3 levels of ghosts, grunts, demons, and sorcerors; 2 levels of generators and bones; and death.

* collect food, treasure, keys, and magic potions

* increase your abilities with 4 different upgrade potions as well as invisibility amulets

* play 80 unique levels, including the first 7 modeled on the arcade intro levels

 

Final versions

NTSC: Attached File  Gauntlet (Atari 1985).bin   32KB   667 downloads

PAL: Attached File  Gauntlet (Atari 1985) PAL.bin   32KB   332 downloads

SECAM: Attached File  Gauntlet (Atari 1985) SECAM.bin   32KB   262 downloads

 

ColorTitleScreen.jpg finalscreenshot2.jpg finalscreenshot1.jpg

AttractMockup-characters.jpg AttractMockup-monsters.jpg AttractMockup-objects.jpg

 

 

_______________________________________

 

Earlier released builds:

Attached File  gauntlet512-WW.bin   16KB   312 downloads

Attached File  gauntlet512-EV.bin   16KB   299 downloads

Attached File  gauntlet810.bin   16KB   278 downloads

Attached File  gauntlet823.bin   16KB   283 downloads

Attached File  gauntlet1004.bin   16KB   272 downloads

Attached File  gauntlet1007.bin   16KB   280 downloads

 

Original post (May 12, 2015):

 

I recently introduced my kids to Gauntlet, and that got me thinking about hacking Dark Chambers so they could play on my VCS.

So here's a start on a conversion.

 

I started with the sprites naturally but quickly realized the animation tables needed reworking, as the sprites were shared in weird ways. Reducing the animation frames for players and enemies gave me enough room to shoehorn in a whole bunch of new sprite and color data.  All four characters are now coded in. However, I haven't figured out a way to switch between them within the game. So I've uploaded two versions, WW for the Warrior and Wizard and EV for the Elf and Valkyrie. As it stands, you'll have to do a bit of hacking to get the exact P1/P2 combination you want--I hope to post some instructions on that later. There are no special characteristics per character, so it's just visual.

Enemies have been changed to grunts, ghosts, demons, wizards, and death. They no longer mutate form, and instead of disappearing on contact they continue to melee attack as long as they are touching you (but you can't melee back). Ghosts, however, do disappear and take a chunk of health in the process. Wizards blink in and out, and death now can only be killed by magic. Making demons and wizards shoot is not likely to make it into this hack--just way too complicated.

One thing that makes Gauntlet really different from DC is how enemies mass up behind each other and beeline straight toward you if nothing is blocking them. DC is very different: enemies can overlap and tend to amble around. But after a couple of experiments I'm hesitant to change this. Overlapping sprites all beeline to the same spot and appear as a single enemy if there isn't some kind of coarse movement grid checked against. So this part of DC has been left as is.

Dark Chambers draws levels with a pretty remarkable economy of code. There are 16 playfields actually drawn out in pixels; each DC screen allows you to scroll up and down through a stack of 4 playfields, each represented by one nybble. So the original map for Level A was set in just two bytes: $40, $19. But the flip side of that economy is that it just isn't possible to reproduce intricate mazes. Instead I just redid some of the playfields to get a bit of a Gauntlet feel in here, with obstacles, diagonals, nested boxes, vertical lines, and generally narrower spaces. Levels 1 through 7 have been completed so far, and I tried to port the corresponding Gauntlet levels over in spirit. Levels 8 to 26 haven't been finished yet--these will be mostly new creations although drawing inspiration from various Gauntlet levels.

I know there are complaints about the pacing of Dark Chambers. I wonder if a lot of that can be mitigated by not having the player double back too much, and by increasing the number of enemies. Player speed and scrolling speed can be increased without too much trouble in DC, but the problem is, that introduces a number of glitches that would have to be fixed. For the moment, I just kept everything as is.

Overall, I know we're still a ways from Ed Logg's arcade masterpiece, but if you are craving a Gauntlet experience on your VCS, or just want a new take on Dark Chambers, here's hoping this can tide you over.

 

_______________________________________

 

UPDATE October 7, 2015

 

I've been able to make a great deal of progress since the above was posted. We're now close to a finished Gauntlet for the Atari 2600. The latest version is posted below, please see the rest of the thread for earlier versions and running commentary on what was changed.

 

A summary of the game so far:

* Play as all 4 characters from the arcade, either as 1 player or in any 2-player combination
* Each character starts with a special ability:
    Warrior: shot power
    Valkyrie: shield
    Wizard: extra magic power
    Elf: shot speed
* Fight ghosts, grunts, wizards, and death as well as generators and bones
* collect magic and upgrade potions
* 80 different levels
 


Edited by CDS Games, Sat Feb 20, 2016 2:49 PM.


#2 CDS Games OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat May 30, 2015 1:12 PM

Update!

 

Attached File  gauntlet530.bin   16KB   252 downloads

 

The extra Dark Chambers treasures have been replaced with Gauntlet items:
    * doors can now be horizontal as well as vertical
    * bones (ghost generators)

    * cider (increases health, looks almost the same as poison)
    * redid generator sprite

 

GauntletNewItems.png

And there are two major changes to game play:
 

* The side exits are now gone. I'd like to try making every level just one screen, but we'll have to see how that works out. This build is only partially playable until the level patterns and the item positions are redone. Oy. Big job.
 

* You now move twice as fast, and some of the enemies are sped up as well.  Finally was able to iron out the scrolling bugs, so here's your chance to see what a faster Dark Chambers is like. :)



#3 roryjr OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat May 30, 2015 4:55 PM

Posting so it will show up in my feed.  Looks great by the pictures.



#4 CDS Games OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Jun 3, 2015 5:49 AM

Thanks roryjr! I still have graphics work to do but for now I'm concentrating on mechanics and fixing bugs.

 

Here's a new update, now playable to level 8.  Also patched in some music between levels because it just didn't feel like Gauntlet without it.

 

Attached File  gauntlet602.bin   16KB   286 downloads

 

These single-screen levels seem to be working well, so I'll continue along the same lines. That could well give us 80 quick levels instead of 26 long ones.



#5 CDS Games OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Jun 3, 2015 5:55 AM

Oops..meant to fix the generator hit points before uploading. Some of them take a long time to destroy.



#6 Jinroh OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Jun 16, 2015 11:01 AM

Oh wow this looks sweet. :D I'll have to give it a try. Thanks for putting all the work into this.



#7 CDS Games OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Jun 17, 2015 4:59 PM

No problem, this has turned into a bit of a monomania. :)

Here's a sneak peek of some arcade color matching I've been doing.

 

VCS+ArcadeLevels1-4.png VCS+ArcadeLevels5-7.png


Edited by CDS Games, Wed Jun 17, 2015 5:05 PM.


#8 Nutsy Doodleheimer OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Jun 18, 2015 12:42 PM

You did an awesome job on this! Looks great! May have to give this a spin this weekend.

#9 Jaynz OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Jun 18, 2015 3:31 PM

CDS, there's a trick in programming Gauntlet. The monsters are NOT sprites.. they're part of the map tile set.

#10 TrekMD OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Jun 18, 2015 4:40 PM

Wow, this is looking very nice.



#11 CDS Games OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Jun 20, 2015 5:32 AM

CDS, there's a trick in programming Gauntlet. The monsters are NOT sprites.. they're part of the map tile set.

 

You mean in the arcade right? Makes sense. But since this is a hack and I'm no programmer, I'm stuck with the existing kernal, which uses sprites and does a very good job with them in terms of minimizing flicker, etc.

 

Anyone's free to try new tricks from scratch (and actually, I'd love to see that). I've wondered myself whether you could use NUSIZ to put more sprites on the screen.



#12 Jinroh OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Jun 22, 2015 10:38 AM

The source is complete and released so I'm sure someone could go in and do a bit deeper and collaborate with you. :)

 

http://atariage.com/...rs-source-code/



#13 CDS Games OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Jun 23, 2015 8:25 AM

I've been working from the source code actually...and it's the only reason I've gotten as far as I have. :) Didn't realize it was Curt though who released it, so thanks Curt!

 

I'm not one to turn down any help at all, but the whole idea behind this is to be a simple conversion. The easier the conversion, the more likely it is to get done.

 

And frankly I'm not sure how using the VCS's playfield would make a better Gauntlet, if that's the idea here. Omicron is a fantastic implementation of the hostile playfield concept...but it's all blocks.

 

Dark Chambers already has a pretty elegant way to put lots of sprites on the screen and minimizing flicker, so I'm quite happy working within those parameters.



#14 Jinroh OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Jun 23, 2015 12:26 PM

Ah sorry I must have had a dumb moment.

 

You're doing a great job though. :) I still need to find time to download it!~

 

I agree the engine itself is already pretty well capable, so I think what you have now is great. :D



#15 CDS Games OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Jun 24, 2015 6:55 AM

Not a problem! I'll have a new version up soon with a bunch of new changes.



#16 Goochman OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Jun 25, 2015 7:00 AM

Honestly if Atari had thought of this way back it could have been a pretty decent version from the 2600 perspective.  You have alot of the major game elements and it looks/sounds close enough!



#17 CDS Games OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Jun 25, 2015 9:08 AM

Thanks! Programmed from the ground up it could have been really something.

 

Likely Atari thought of it, but I'm guessing their settlement with John Palevich on Dandy had something to do with the decision to go with Dark Chambers instead. I wonder whether a Gauntlet port was ever discussed in house.

 

By the way, this November is the 30 year anniversary of Gauntlet's release.



#18 Retro Lord OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jun 26, 2015 10:09 AM

I love this game! This is really cool, I can't wait for the next version!



#19 CDS Games OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Jun 27, 2015 5:27 PM

This is a bit messy, sorry. Lots of things still need cleaning up but I haven't been able to devote much time to it lately.

 

Attached File  gauntlet627.bin   16KB   255 downloads

 

* New levels added--I think you can get to level 20 or so.
* Redrew title screen graphic
* Got rid of the room entry table and made levels progress in an increment.
* Replaced it with a table for playfield and background colors. Levels 1-7 as shown above, and then colors repeat every 8 levels.
* Scoring changes:
    Grunts, demons, sorcerors: 10 points shooting, 10 points magic.
    Ghosts: 20 points shooting, 10 points magic.
    Death: 0 points shooting, 1000+ points magic.
* Added or changed sounds for keys, treasure/food/potions, and exit
 

Oh, and an experiment--starting out with the shot power upgrade. That was my attempt to work character abilities into this..lame as it is. :)



#20 CDS Games OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Jun 27, 2015 5:35 PM

And thanks so much for all the encouragement everyone! It's great to know people are enjoying it.



#21 CDS Games OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Jul 13, 2015 7:18 PM

Latest version: Attached File  gauntlet710a.bin   16KB   272 downloads

 

Didn't like the old grunt sprite so that has been redesigned. Cleaned up the title screen also.

But the big news is that the 4 different character classes are almost implemented in game. Argghh....so close! On the title screen, pressing select will cycle you through each character (Warrior, Valkyrie, Wizard, Elf), first alone as 1 player and then as various 2 player combinations.

 

When you start the game, health bars and scores are then colored based on your selection. Three of the characters even start out with a power upgrade (no potion needed) as special abilities:

    Warrior (shot power);  Valkyrie (shield);  Elf (shot speed)

I'm hoping to give the wizard an extra power elsewhere (like the ability to take out generators with magic, which the other characters will then lose).
 

But the huge issue right now is that I don't have two extra animation tables for the wizard and elf, and because of the way the program works there isn't an easy way to shoehorn them in either. I'm trying to sort that all out, but in the meantime, the wizard just uses the enemy sorceror sprite (in only partially visible purple) and the elf uses the grunt sprite. More minor, but still annoying, is that the 2nd player doesn't appear in some of the variations.

 

If any of the programming/hacking gurus are reading this and have any suggestions, I'd love to hear 'em.


Edited by CDS Games, Mon Jul 13, 2015 7:20 PM.


#22 Jinroh OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Jul 15, 2015 8:05 AM

Oh nice, newest version is sweet, just got to poke around it quick, but can't wait until I can get a Harmony cart to properly play it. :)



#23 davidbrit2 OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Jul 27, 2015 6:48 PM

This is totally cool; I'd love to see a completed version. I just tried it out on my Harmony, and it's quite impressive for a WIP.

 

Truth be told, I'd be satisfied even with just a Dark Chambers hack that speeds up the players 20-50%, but this is even better!



#24 CDS Games OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Jul 28, 2015 5:37 AM


Ok! All 4 characters are now fully implemented and selectable in any combination. And the wizard now has his own special ability--he starts with a full load of potions. 

Attached File  gauntlet728.bin   16KB   332 downloads
 
I couldn't figure out a way to add extra animation tables, so I had to drop one enemy and share the player wizard and enemy wizard sprites. Small price to pay though for four working players, I think.

 

Other changes:

 

* Level counter now implemented with 2 number digits. Should be able to count to 99 now.

* All games now start on Level 1

* Bug fixed on 2-player games: all character combinations now work correctly

* Changed the potion use sound

* Potions no longer take out generators or bones (too easy!)

 

Any interest in having this on a cart? I'm thinking a silver label 30th Anniversary edition with the C64/Atari computer artwork:

GauntletC64cover.jpg


Edited by CDS Games, Tue Jul 28, 2015 5:37 AM.


#25 davidbrit2 OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Jul 28, 2015 6:01 AM

Nice! Can't wait to give it another go tonight.





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