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littleman jack

Shamus, two questions

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I recently acquired Shamus on cartridge, to replace the dead Shamus disk of mine from the original days. Playing it again brought to mind two questions:

 

1-Have any of you other Atari Agers ever completed the game? Back when I was a kid I reached the red level, but never finished the game. As an adult I have yet to reach the green level.

 

2-Is Shamus, on expert mode, the fastest Atari 8-bit game? It runs at a breathtaking speed on expert. I don't remember ever seeing another game go that fast on the Atari 800. However, there are a lot of games that I haven't seen.

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I agree, it's fast even on default and unplayably fast on higher settings.   another would be Jump Man and JJ Jr.  Faster settings on those are a bit ridiculous.

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Back in the day I looped through it fairly easily.  On the following black level the speed bumps up as if you'd increased the difficulty setting.  Not sure where it tops out.

 

The thing I want to know is the so-called Pod Rooms (as mentioned in the original instructions).  Did anyone find out about these?  Has Cathryn Mataga been interviewed in the modern day about it?

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Love Shamus, not so much II, never completed it but a truly solid game....Can't comment on the faster levels as I never got to them :)   Oddly enough a rare game I never cheated..

 

Jumpman, yeah, gets hairy on fast speeds...Love it...

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The other trap in Shamus is that once you clear a room you speed up.  Handy on lower settings but can be an easy and annoying way to die on higher ones.

 

I notice Savetz has interviewed Cathryn though it looks like the subject matter was Shamus II and Zeppelin.

Liked Zeppelin a lot.  Shamus II was OK but tedious to the point where I gave up on it.

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Exactly, I wanted to play II but it was damn annoying...

 

And yes, loved Zeppelin but never read the manual back then (er didn't have the manual at that point), figured most of it out but knowing certain things does help :)

 

Very engrossing game...

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I agree with you both McIaneinc and Rybags. Shamus II was nowhere near as good as Shamus. It got tedious with all those ladders.

 

I forgot about how fast Jumpman could be, erichenneke, if you choose the higher speeds. Really fast, like Shamus on expert, maybe faster.

 

I often ran into the walls after clearing a room in Shamus, when he sped up. I wonder if that was put in on purpose, speeding up after a room is cleared. Or was it the result of the processor having less going on? Like when Choplifter would slow down because there were so many enemies on the screen at once. I think Cathryn Mataga added that feature on purpose to make it more challenging. You had to really be careful not to run into a wall after clearing a room.

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The speedup is deliberate.  Handy on lower difficulties since the speed is a bit slow by default.

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On 7/25/2020 at 11:42 PM, littleman jack said:

 

1-Have any of you other Atari Agers ever completed the game? Back when I was a kid I reached the red level, but never finished the game. As an adult I have yet to reach the green level.

 

2-Is Shamus, on expert mode, the fastest Atari 8-bit game? It runs at a breathtaking speed on expert. I don't remember ever seeing another game go that fast on the Atari 800. However, there are a lot of games that I haven't seen.

Shamus was one of the first (and few) games I bought and my favorite single-player game and I still think it‘s brilliant. 
 

1) As a teenager I managed two complete mazes (killing the Shamus 2 times in room 127) but doubt I‘d be able to repeat that anytime soon. 
 

2) It certainly feels fast but if you start on expert a bug in the speed logic (which is actually a delay loop slowing the game down) will bring it to a crawl when reaching the blue level (or red level in advanced). (The C64 version BTW lacks that speedup). I found Expert uncomfortable to play, it‘s just too twitchy.

 

Shameless plug:

For more Shamus trivia and a version with that bug corrected plus the C64 mazes and a pause function check Shamus+.
 

 

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Shamus will always be a firm favourite amongst players, the very well known music (always reminds me of Alfred Hitchcock for obvious reasons) is a great draw but the game play is sublime, you just want to explore, the game looks great and there's the subtle managing of enjoyment and challenge.

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On 7/26/2020 at 2:50 PM, eegad said:

Only way I finished it was by using a cheat file.

Ok..I know this is stupid question..but what the hell is a cheat file, how do you use them, and where do you get them?!  Asking for a friend...

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Its something you can mostly use on emulators unless you have a hacked disk..

 

Basically its a code that alters the games play to stop you losing lives etc etc, doing it on real hardware requires a previously altered version of the game, normally a copied cracked disk (no one likes to hack a real original)

 

It all depends if you have things like SIO2USB or the like to get the file off the internet (if a cheated version exists) and either load it that way or make a real disk from the image.

 

If you only have real hardware ie disk drive and computer then a cheat file etc is no real use to you.

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On 7/26/2020 at 4:34 AM, Rybags said:

Back in the day I looped through it fairly easily.  On the following black level the speed bumps up as if you'd increased the difficulty setting.  Not sure where it tops out.

 

The thing I want to know is the so-called Pod Rooms (as mentioned in the original instructions).  Did anyone find out about these?  Has Cathryn Mataga been interviewed in the modern day about it?

Iirc the speed bump is fixed, so it should max out once you hit “no delay”. In the real game this is buggy and will result in the delay loop counter rolling over to $FF, slowing the game to a crawl. Should take a few loops, however.

 

Pod rooms are those otherwise empty rooms with vertical barriers with a slot moving top to bottom that will disappear when you shoot the object in the middle of the room through the moving slot, revealing the baddies. (e.g. room 18, shown on page 17 of the New Mazes for Shamus pdf). You must have seen and mastered them if you finished the game.

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This thread is so wanting me to go and have another crack at Shamus...Don't think I ever got near finishing it back then, more because I had so much to play with...Being spoilt for choice spoilt the games.. :(

 

 

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21 hours ago, Mclaneinc said:

This thread is so wanting me to go and have another crack at Shamus...Don't think I ever got near finishing it back then, more because I had so much to play with...Being spoilt for choice spoilt the games.. :(

 

 

So hook up a TAC-2 and give it a go...! (IMHO the best joystick for Shamus as the short throw allows for ultra-quick firing while standing still.)

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On 7/28/2020 at 9:08 AM, slx said:

Shamus was one of the first (and few) games I bought and my favorite single-player game and I still think it‘s brilliant. 

Same here, it's my all time favourite.  I called into my local computer shop shortly after it was released.  The two boys behind the counter (the owner's sons I guess) were falling over themselves to show me this new game, and they sold it to me within minutes.

 

On 7/25/2020 at 10:42 PM, littleman jack said:

Back when I was a kid I reached the red level, but never finished the game.

Me too.  I remember reaching the red level with 8 or so spare lives a few times, then losing them all, one after the other, in a pod room that exploded full of enemies as soon as I shot through the gap.

 

With no pause button and no published map it was very challenging.  I got to know my way around the black and blue levels well, green not so well, and red I had to explore pretty much at random.  I think a game typically took around 20 or 30 minutes, and the increasingly frenetic attacks made it quite exhausting.

 

The Antic interview with Cathryn Mataga is great.  She says a lot about how the game was written, with artwork sketched by hand on graph paper, and lots of experimentation to find out what worked well on the Atari hardware.

 

I still enjoy playing Shamus.  These days I usually make the blue level, and sometimes green.  The only way I ever finished was by running the later levels at half speed on Altirra.

 

Edited by hatchcliff
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9 hours ago, hatchcliff said:

The Antic interview with Cathryn Mataga is great.  

Hi hatchcliff

 

What Antic issue is that? I have just searched on atarimagazines.com and couldn't find it.

 

Kind regards

 

Luis

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2 hours ago, lbaeza said:

Hi hatchcliff

 

What Antic issue is that? I have just searched on atarimagazines.com and couldn't find it.

 

Kind regards

 

Luis

I'm guessing he means this

 

 

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Yes, the podcast - that's the one.

The interview was full of surprises for me.

The program was written in assembly code with very little (if any) reliance on special software development tools, and it was pretty much a solo effort - a very impressive achievement.

Also, Cathryn claims to have no talent for art.  I'm not qualified to judge, but the best 8-bit games look like an art form to me, and I would put Shamus in the top league.

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On 8/23/2020 at 9:00 PM, hatchcliff said:

I still enjoy playing Shamus.  These days I usually make the blue level, and sometimes green.  The only way I ever finished was by running the later levels at half speed on Altirra.

I have not been to red for a long time, too. But you can give it a try in Shamus+ which has a pause function.

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On 8/24/2020 at 2:22 PM, hatchcliff said:

The program was written in assembly code with very little (if any) reliance on special software development tools, and it was pretty much a solo effort - a very impressive achievement.

It is interesting that it does not use vertical blank interrupts at all, just display list interrupts. 

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I didn't realize that, though the only analysis I did of the program in the day was stuff like XL problems and why the tape version didn't like disk etc.

 

Moving the VB processing to the last DLI can bring benefits.  The VB normally occurs after the normal 240 scanlines but in many cases that's 20, 30 or more scanlines wasted.  If the processing is fast enough to finish before the next playfield start then potentially you can avoid needing to page flip in some games that might otherwise need it.

Though by the looks, Shamus does all the game logic and movment in mainline code with those delay loops.  So the game could becomes unplayable fairly easily with an accelerated CPU.

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