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C64 - A reappraisal 2017


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#1 Steve Mynott OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Feb 11, 2018 6:35 AM

 
I have a confession to make fellow Atarians I was tempted away from the Atari
8-bit by some games only available on the C64 -- The Hobbit and Elite and fired
up the Vice emulator. 
 
I nearly bought a C64 in the 80s but the drive speed and the awful heavy
keyboard feel of the breadbox put me off.  Not a bad system even if it was
heavily copied off the Atari of several years earlier. But my mates were Atari
pirates and I was more familiar with that system and the Atari DOSes looked
more professional and even had command line ones like CP/M. Also the C64 Basic
seemed identical to the (shit) PET BASIC I used in 1979 whereas the Atari Basic
had graphical stupport.
 
I  was horrified that the emulation was so good as to include that awful slow
1541 drive loading.   I remember back in the day claims the Commodore drives
were slower than their tape loading and laughing at allthat LOAD 8,1 business.
 
Installing C64 JiffyDOS ROMs did noticeably increase the emulator disk speed but it
was still nothing like a US Doubler/sector skew type setup speed. I had to
snapshot the game to be able to reload at any reasonable speed.  It also took
me ages to realise half the C64 games used port 2 for the joystick rather than
port 1.  To be honest it has to be said that the SID sound is probably better
than POKEY.  The Hobbit looked pretty good (probably the best of the ports and
of course better than the CGA PC one) and showed off the C64 hi res nicely. But
most games seemed pretty much the same as the Atari ones.
 
So overall I think I made the right choice in 1980s to go the Atari way. And I
still prefer Altirra as an emulator to Vice.  It's still a pity some games
aren't available. I suppose its probably possible to run both Elite and The
Hobbit on the Apple II emulator on the 130XE but these aren't the best
versions! And I wonder if the Atari spectrum emulator at 10% native speed might
still load The Hobbit faster than the C64 ;-)


#2 Rybags OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Feb 11, 2018 7:20 AM

There's easier ways to speed up drive access in Vice like turn off True Drive Emulation and use the warp key to speed up load sections.



#3 Steve Mynott OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Feb 11, 2018 7:36 AM

There's easier ways to speed up drive access in Vice like turn off True Drive Emulation and use the warp key to speed up load sections.

 

I was running Warp mode already which made some difference but its still very slow.

 

And when I turned off True Drive Emulation (using both JiffyDOS ROMs and the standard ones) the Hobbit disk didn't load.



#4 Philsan OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Feb 11, 2018 8:01 AM

I think The Hobbit (Spectrum 48K and C64 tape versions) could be converted.

Images are drawn in real time and have 4 colours only (Spectrum 128K and C64 disk versions have better graphics and more work would be necessary).

Coordinates only need to be converted from Spectrum/C64 high resolution to A8 graphics 15.

Source code is available: http://www.icemark.c...oads/index.html



#5 Stefan Both OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Feb 11, 2018 8:32 AM

So overall I think I made the right choice in 1980s to go the Atari way.

Yes you did.

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#6 Bryan ONLINE  

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Posted Sun Feb 11, 2018 9:42 AM

It's a tough choice. I think the Atari has a better overall system architecture, but the C64 has features that allow for better looking games. And, of course, the Atari was available from the beginning of 1980.



#7 DracIsBack OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Feb 11, 2018 9:59 AM

It's a tough choice. I think the Atari has a better overall system architecture, but the C64 has features that allow for better looking games. And, of course, the Atari was available from the beginning of 1980.

 

For my own information, what are the C64's advantages from your perspective? Never had the system ... honest question.



#8 _The Doctor__ OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Feb 11, 2018 10:06 AM

The Atari is a venerable computer. The Commodore 64 had some fun things done with it. Each had it's place at the table.

I've been a part of it, as have others. He made the right choice. I've had to repair far more 64's (some more than once) than all the Atari line combined. The fact is the better design was with Jay's work, Commodore knew this and jumped at the chance to get the Amiga. It's just that simple. Endless who's better wars are about non tangible feelings and rationalizations for whatever and a needs to justify things.

 

Who cares, let's just enjoy them each for what they are.

 

_Commander Adama__



#9 Bryan ONLINE  

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Posted Sun Feb 11, 2018 10:13 AM

For my own information, what are the C64's advantages from your perspective? Never had the system ... honest question.

 

Well, the sprites beat anything the Atari has. There's eight of them and they're multi-color. The screen has a color attribute per character cell so you can put all 16 colors on the screen without tricks. Those are the main advantages. You can get really colorful stuff on the Atari if you throw the CPU at the screen, but then you lose the freedom of movement the C64 has.

 

To me, the C64 feels like a klunky budget machine in every other way, but the VIC II chip is impressive. SID is impressive too, but I think a lot of the game effects were better on Pokey.



#10 Mclaneinc OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Feb 11, 2018 10:15 AM

For me the C64 was a natural progression, as less software was coming for the Atari and the C64 was riding high I went out and got one, yes loading was slow but I got myself DolphinDos which used a parallel cable and custom roms which made it much quicker than normal but like the happy it wasn't much use with protected software as a loader, it did have a 15 second copier which was great. Gfx wise the C64 always looked washed out compared to the Atari but its sprites made up for that loss. Sound was a mixed bunch, effects noises like explosions all sounded the same and were normally very muted while the music was something I did like but it took a while before the tunes were well thought out and not just using the on board  chip filters just for the sake of it.

 

I enjoyed owning both and still play stuff on both as I do for my Amiga and numerous others machines , emulated or real.

 

As regarding the Atari vs the C64, I never really got in to the "mines better than yours" type arguments, I just got the C64 because the games were on it and the Atari was coming to the end of its active sales life, developers here in the UK just were not interested in it, preferring to just bring in US licenses of what were old games to the community.



#11 Steve Mynott OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Feb 11, 2018 10:51 AM

Both systems seem to have their own advantages but many of the games looked pretty similar to me. Typically a C64 game seemed to use a higher resolution with fewer colours than the more colourful lower res A8. But in practice this made less difference. I played Boulderdash which was virtually the same. I guess this was a fairly typical direct port from the A8 to C64 (as many of the games were). As said above the colours do look different maybe less bright and more washed out.  

 

I think the main reason the C64 had more games was that it was more aggressively sold (at least in the UK) at a lower price.  A lot of the great gameplay Spectrum games had good ports to the C64 which left out the A8. The C64 user manual was a lot better (more technical) than the crappy leaflet I got with my Atari 800XL but I thought the Ataris up to the XL looked better physically. The later C64c and XEs both looked like cost reduction exercises only to me.

 

I'd be interested to learn if the C64 was easier to program than the A8 (which seemed very complex). 

 

is a great C64.

 

I wasn't trying to cause any flame wars with the C64 v A8 and the bottom line is really that the systems were very similar indeed.

 

Atari of course was the original and first and its clear the C64 was heavily influenced by it!



#12 SS OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Feb 11, 2018 11:40 AM

The Atari is a venerable computer. The Commodore 64 had some fun things done with it. 

 

 

100% this.  

 

I was briefly enticed by a used C64 in the late 1980s by some newer games that weren't available on the A8, mostly Dungeons And Dragons.  I played around with the C64 for a few years but I never saw it as anything other than a game console with a keyboard.  Eventually the C64 got boxed up, never to be seen again until I sold it all off around 2005.  



#13 flashjazzcat OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Feb 11, 2018 11:44 AM

In before the lock.

#14 Mclaneinc OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Feb 11, 2018 1:04 PM

Quick, lynch that traitor TMR ;)

 

Seriously, if there's one person who could make sense of what is better about either machine, its him.

 

Odd thing, on all the ports of games from Atari to C64 I never once found one I thought was as good or better than the Atari version.


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#15 jmccorm ONLINE  

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Posted Sun Feb 11, 2018 1:05 PM

In my world, the one Commodore 64 feature that caused me the most jealousy turned out to be a very simple one, and it is a shame because I don't think Jay's team would have had any problem pulling it off: a full-colored graphics 0 text mode.

 

I'm thinking along the lines of a fixed palette of 16 foreground and 16 background colors per character. So you have 2 bytes per character (one byte for ATASCII value and two nibbles for foreground/background color) in a 40x24 layout. I still say that even if it turned out to be totally incompatible with existing OS screen-editor routines.

 

Colored text was very useful for communicating information. Color-mixing opportunities are obvious. The colored PETASCII art of the day was such incredible fun. It also lends itself well to simple games (and its usefulness is amplified through the use of custom character sets). Even as a cheap way of creating an environmental background. If the Inverse attribute was then considered redundant, it could have been repurposed into a blink attribute (which has fallen out of favor in modern times but was still a big deal back then).

 

I regret that we didn't see any new modes follow-up the original CTIA to GTIA update. Second on my list would have been some of those graphical modes with halfbright pixels. I think that's what Graphics Mode 10 should have been.

 

I can't deny that more sprites (and mixed-color sprites) would have been awesome, but I think that this was one simple investment (from Atari) that would have yielded such incredible results. A programmer's overhead in managing additonal complexity would have been minimal. The increased video footprint (2k of screen memory) would have been nothing. The returns would have been rich.



#16 Stefan Both OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Feb 11, 2018 1:15 PM

I am surprised , there is not more
'pro commodore' on an atari fan forum...

Stefan

#17 Bryan ONLINE  

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Posted Sun Feb 11, 2018 1:20 PM

In my world, the one Commodore 64 feature that caused me the most jealousy turned out to be a very simple one, and it is a shame because I don't think Jay's team would have had any problem pulling it off: a full-colored graphics 0 text mode.

 

The Atari chipset was designed to bridge the gap between a game console and a computer terminal. For games, it would use 160x hardware based on the video generation methods used in the 2600, but with a dedicated DMA engine (Antic). For applications, it would also have a basic 320 mode with minimal features. This was considered sufficient in the late '70s. The real crime is that Atari spent millions on various projects that never saw the light of day, but the development of their graphics capabilities ended with GTIA (and the subsequent chasing off of their best engineers). That was the beginning of the end.



#18 H.E.R.O. OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Feb 11, 2018 1:47 PM

Slow 1541 disk drive loading times? I've no idea what you mean? I had the Fast Load cart!  :lol:

 

 

Epyx_FastLoad_cover_front.jpg



#19 GlowingGhoul OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Feb 11, 2018 1:47 PM

In my world, the one Commodore 64 feature that caused me the most jealousy turned out to be a very simple one, and it is a shame because I don't think Jay's team would have had any problem pulling it off: a full-colored graphics 0 text mode.

 

I'm thinking along the lines of a fixed palette of 16 foreground and 16 background colors per character. So you have 2 bytes per character (one byte for ATASCII value and two nibbles for foreground/background color) in a 40x24 layout. I still say that even if it turned out to be totally incompatible with existing OS screen-editor routines.

 

Colored text was very useful for communicating information. Color-mixing opportunities are obvious. The colored PETASCII art of the day was such incredible fun. It also lends itself well to simple games (and its usefulness is amplified through the use of custom character sets). Even as a cheap way of creating an environmental background. If the Inverse attribute was then considered redundant, it could have been repurposed into a blink attribute (which has fallen out of favor in modern times but was still a big deal back then).

 

I regret that we didn't see any new modes follow-up the original CTIA to GTIA update. Second on my list would have been some of those graphical modes with halfbright pixels. I think that's what Graphics Mode 10 should have been.

 

I can't deny that more sprites (and mixed-color sprites) would have been awesome, but I think that this was one simple investment (from Atari) that would have yielded such incredible results. A programmer's overhead in managing additonal complexity would have been minimal. The increased video footprint (2k of screen memory) would have been nothing. The returns would have been rich.

 

My favorite genres, RPGs and strategy games often looked better than on my beloved A8, and in many cases weren't feasible on the A8 because of it's graphical limitations. 

 

My experience with Atari 8-bit (and later the ST), as new releases took longer and longer, often never arriving, was that regardless of the superiority of the platform, going with the market "winner" with the most support from publishers was the way to go. I now have and Apple II and C64 so I can enjoy the releases and sequels I never got to on the A8.



#20 Bryan ONLINE  

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Posted Sun Feb 11, 2018 2:23 PM

Slow 1541 disk drive loading times? I've no idea what you mean? I had the Fast Load cart!  :lol:

 

 

How you remember the C64 depends on when you got into it. I had an 800 in 1981 and some of my friends had C64's starting in late 1982 or early 1983. At that time, the 1541 was miserable. You'd start a game loading and walk away for a while. If you didn't hear any activity for a while, you'd pop the door open to see if the drive went nuts meaning it was still loading. If you didn't have good ventilation around the drive (like shoved onto a desk shelf with other stuff around it), it would get incredibly hot and and stop working. I didn't know anyone with a Fast Load until a couple years later (it was released in 1984), and even then it didn't work with everything. At least a software solution was possible, though.



#21 _The Doctor__ OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Feb 11, 2018 2:34 PM

well in 79, many limits were due to memory being $100.00 in build out cost... for the meager amount that could be offered..

let's not talk what retail would be.


Edited by _The Doctor__, Sun Feb 11, 2018 2:35 PM.


#22 H.E.R.O. OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Feb 11, 2018 2:34 PM

 

How you remember the C64 depends on when you got into it. I had an 800 in 1981 and some of my friends had C64's starting in late 1982 or early 1983. At that time, the 1541 was miserable. You'd start a game loading and walk away for a while. If you didn't hear any activity for a while, you'd pop the door open to see if the drive went nuts meaning it was still loading. If you didn't have good ventilation around the drive (like shoved onto a desk shelf with other stuff around it), it would get incredibly hot and and stop working. I didn't know anyone with a Fast Load until a couple years later (it was released in 1984), and even then it didn't work with everything. At least a software solution was possible, though.

 

Oh I know. Raid On Bungeling Bay & Castle Wolfenstein were particularly painful to wait on.



#23 TMR OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Feb 11, 2018 5:15 PM

Quick, lynch that traitor TMR ;)


Oh come on... i've only just got here today, what did i do now?!

Odd thing, on all the ports of games from Atari to C64 I never once found one I thought was as good or better than the Atari version.


Any game that's designed around the strengths of Platform A will require at least some concessions when porting to Platform B even if those concessions aren't necessarily obvious, that's always been the case regardless of source and target platform. Or sometimes it's just down to the programmers taking the porting process a little too literally, Bruce Lee didn't have to use two colours per object and just one for the ninja on the C64 but the original did so...
 

I'd be interested to learn if the C64 was easier to program than the A8 (which seemed very complex).


i tried the A8 first and struggled with it so the C64 seemed easier to me personally, and for the kind of things i prefer coding the C64 is easier overall. But mileage varies depending on what y'want to write, really.

#24 Bryan ONLINE  

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Posted Sun Feb 11, 2018 5:35 PM

i tried the A8 first and struggled with it so the C64 seemed easier to me personally, and for the kind of things i prefer coding the C64 is easier overall. But mileage varies depending on what y'want to write, really.

 

IMO both these machines are very easy to program for as long as you're painting by numbers. A program that draws a simple background and has a few moving objects and sound effects probably won't take much time at all. They become difficult when you want to write something more than a magazine game and you have to start doing things on the fly instead of once per frame.



#25 Heaven/TQA OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Feb 12, 2018 12:11 AM

Being now around 1 year in commodore land (yes... sometimes you need to break out) I have to say that C64 is very easy to code for once you get used to the VIC bank issue...

But having color ram, 8 sprites, 256 chars fixed screen layout pays off to get easily started (when you already know 6502 coding).

Slower CPU? Is relative compared to a8 as a8 suffers from badlines. But moving objects etc outperforms all soft sprites easily.

Having 64,5 k ram compared to the standard 48k (800) is not fair either.

16 fixed colors you can live with them... (yeah my PICO-8 experience showed me that ;)).

Complex dlist constructs.... how often used games or applications them?

And one honest question:

Out of the 15 gfx modes Atari offers. How many are actually useful?




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