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Wrathchild

AR: City FlashCart - the next stage

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Thought you'd all like to know that, after further investigations, I'm now poised to start re-coding the part of the game that swaps out data to the disk when you go into buildings etc, in order for it to write to flash memory instead for later restoring. With any luck, this will mean that the temporary character will behave properly and the map won't corrupt.

 

I'll release a version when that's done and then the following phase would then be to look at the 'save/load character' routines to get those to work from Flash too...

 

Disclaimer - I've recently got EA's "Tiger Woods 2005" for the PC which distracts me on occasion ;)

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Any chance the cart can be programmed to run on Atari 800?

 

Guess I should ask if we can do anything to help. Can we? I'm not much of a programmer alas, just a little BASIC.

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The aim is to run on all machines as the game itself is written to do so. The additional memory in a 64K or 128K machine is more or less a disk cache. As the bank switching used simulates the loading of sectors from a disk this cache isn't really necessary.

 

So yes it should run on the 800 and 400 (with 48K).

 

Sadly I did buy a 48K expansion for a 400 from Ebay a while back only

to discover the box (which said 48K) only had a 16K board in it!

I don't have an 800 yet, but do keep an eye out on Ebay for them :)

 

Regards,

Mark

Edited by Wrathchild

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So yes it should run on the 800 and 400 (with 48K).

 

That's great, thank you for not overlooking the 800. I hope that in all the modern development that occurs the 800 doesn't get overlooked. The 800 with 48K is really the baseline, although mine happens to have 64k. It would be nice to support the 400 or 600XL pr whatever machines with less than even 48k, but that would seem to be really unworkable for all but the simplest games.

 

In the case of the Ultima IV cart, my understanding is that it requires an XL/XE w. at least 64k. So I was disappointed because I can run the disk version on my 64k 800 and I recall that I could also run it on a 48k 800. Oh well. I have an XE Game System with keyboard, but my preferred machine is the 800.

 

Good luck with finishing the project!

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So yes it should run on the 800 and 400 (with 48K).

 

That's great, thank you for not overlooking the 800.

 

The way I understand it, is that not only will the Alternate Reality cartridge run on an Atari 800 with only 48k, just like the original game, but that it will run just as fast on the 800 as it would on a 130XE because the disk images will be bank switched on the cartridge. Saving your character and loading the game, the biggest con with the original, will be a snap too!

 

Something I see this project doing is turning every Atari 8-bit with 48k into an Alternate Reality gaming machine when packaged together, a way for many to re-visit Alternate Reality: The City quickly and easily with very little skill or knowledge and without having to deal with disks, drives or finding a good copy of the game.

 

Have a bunch of extra 8-bit machines with no drives? Buy Alternate Reality: The City cartridges and sell them as a package on eBay. The more you get out there the stronger the community grows.

 

;)

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Not given up - just a lot going on in my life at the moment to give it the focus it deserves.

 

I've been looking at forcing a 48K version to run and to then remap the routines that swap out/in the data to disk to instead copy this to/from the area under the O/S (so this experiment will only work on 64K machines which is fine under emulation). If this fixes the issues with the entering/leaving buildings then I can then replace this with routines to erase and flash the data to the cart instead, making it 48K compatible again.

 

Best wishes,

Mark

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If it was well presented, I expect nearly every old Atari fan that played AR, many that do not even know the project exists or have not used an Atari in decades, would be excited about an AR cartridge and want one. Its a non-technical piece of hardware, a game, so anyone that enjoyed Atari would be amazed by and appreciate it, not just the hardcore Atari fans. I know I come across as highly bias, but even if I had never heard of the project or visited Atariage before, I can only imagine how excited I would be if I was doing a google or eBay search and stumbled across an AR cartridge! I would buy it and an Atari to run it if necessary- they go for only $10-$20!

 

I don't think there could be very many Atari and AR fans that could pass up getting a copy of AR on cartridge with instant loading, no disk swaps, no drive necessary and the ability to store their characters on cartridge. It's one of the games that revolutionized the industry and is highly respected. Its also open-ended, so you can play the game forever, especially if its on a quick and easy durable cartridge. Other games that you can solve, like Ultima IV kind of lose their appeal once you solve them.

 

The AR cartridge could be an instant hit on eBay and really stimulate the Atari community with fresh blood and excitement.

 

Aside from the PC Atari emulators, which actually can still be a little tricky for casual Atari and PC users, obviously, if I knew anything about Flash carts and Atari coding, this would be the one project that I would select as being most worthwhile to the general community of past and present Atari 800 owners; one of the most advanced and complex games for the Atari 800, an industry ground breaker that was specifically designed for the Atari 800, on an easily collectible and accessible cartridge.

 

:)

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So, you can't overwrite or change specific memory on a Flash cart? It has to be erased and completely replaced?

You can write anywhere, but the data bits can only go from high to low (1->0).

A chip is made up of sectors, for a 512KB (29F040) chip, these are 64K each.

For a 128KB (29F010) chip, the sectors are 16K each. So a chip has 8 sectors.

 

The chip can be erased as a whole or a specific sector can be erased.

 

The idea with the AR cart would be to use a sector as the swap area,

but keep moving the save position each time. Then as it reaches the

end of the sector, erase it and start again from the beginning. This way

you're not erasing and writing to the same bits all the time, extending

the life of the chip (the do have a recommended max number of writes).

 

Another sector would be used at the character save area.

 

The City maybe better done with one 29F040 for the code and a 29F010

for the rewriteable areas. This should fit OK. The Dungeon looks like it

will need two 29F040s due to the extra disk sides, but that shouldn't be

an issue because the game doesn't use the same swap method that

The City does (according to Dan Pinal) and so it only needs one (64K)

sector for the character save states.

 

Hope that explains things.

 

Regards,

Mark

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I like what I'm reading! Not only are you programming the game to fit and function on the flash chips, but also you're taking care of extra details like rotating the bits that are used, in order to extend the life of the chips. And, I figured all you were trying to do was figure out how to fit five game disks onto the cartridge and get it loading and saving properly. :D It appears that you are just the guy to get it done right, which is probably more important than getting it done quickly; we're on the 21st Anniversary edition now.

 

Wrathchild, Are you knowledgeable enough to modify the game code or are you only working on splitting the code up and writing and modifying routines to access the the fragmented code? For example, would it be feasable or simple for you to modify the code that loaded and saved characters so as to allow more than four character slots, maybe 8 or 16? Or do you know if there is code on the disks for the establishments that are Closed by Order of The Palace, which you could edit to load? I am sure opening up the blocked off section of the city for access to the extra guilds would be a simple map edit of a byte or two, but do you have any other ideas that would further increase interest in the cartridge and not be too complicated or time consuming for you? There is an error with the banking code that nearly always causes all bank accounts to fail when the game reaches year one as a result of the code calculating failures for an entire year all at once, it also causes a player to think the game has frozen while in the bank while the calculations take place, that would probably be very hard to fix without source code? Is there a possibility that the establishments that are supposed to load when entering the "Death Traps," which are merely establishment locations, could be fixed to actually load and work? If any establishments have code already on the disk, these bugged ones should.

 

In summary:

 

1. Feasable to have more character slots than 4?

2. Does code exist for establishments Closed by Order of The Palace, such as the Casino, Fitness Academy and House of Ill Repute? And if so would it be difficult to modify them to load?

3. The inaccessible section and guilds of the City seems like a no-brainer, will you include that modification?

4. Feasable to fix the year end banking calculation and subsequent failure?

5. "Death Trap" establishments, does the code exist for them and if so can they be fixed? If not I would leave them as they have become a part of the character of the game - dangerous.

Edited by Xebec's Demise

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I like what I'm reading! Not only are you programming the game to fit and function on the flash chips, but also you're taking care of extra details like rotating the bits that are used, in order to extend the life of the chips. And, I figured all you were trying to do was figure out how to fit five game disks onto the cartridge and get it loading and saving properly. :D It appears that you are just the guy to get it done right, which is probably more important than getting it done quickly; we're on the 21st Anniversary edition now.

 

Wrathchild, Are you knowledgeable enough to modify the game code or are you only working on splitting the code up and writing and modifying routines to access the the fragmented code? For example, would it be feasable or simple for you to modify the code that loaded and saved characters so as to allow more than four character slots, maybe 8 or 16? Or do you know if there is code on the disks for the establishments that are Closed by Order of The Palace, which you could edit to load? I am sure opening up the blocked off section of the city for access to the extra guilds would be a simple map edit of a byte or two, but do you have any other ideas that would further increase interest in the cartridge and not be too complicated or time consuming for you? There is an error with the banking code that nearly always causes all bank accounts to fail when the game reaches year one as a result of the code calculating failures for an entire year all at once, it also causes a player to think the game has frozen while in the bank while the calculations take place, that would probably be very hard to fix without source code? Is there a possibility that the establishments that are supposed to load when entering the "Death Traps," which are merely establishment locations, could be fixed to actually load and work? If any establishments have code already on the disk, these bugged ones should.

 

In summary:

 

1. Feasable to have more character slots than 4?

2. Does code exist for establishments Closed by Order of The Palace, such as the Casino, Fitness Academy and House of Ill Repute? And if so would it be difficult to modify them to load?

3. The inaccessible section and guilds of the City seems like a no-brainer, will you include that modification?

4. Feasable to fix the year end banking calculation and subsequent failure?

5. "Death Trap" establishments, does the code exist for them and if so can they be fixed? If not I would leave them as they have become a part of the character of the game - dangerous.

 

I had always assumed that the establishments "closed by order of the Palace" were just locations that the code was never finished for in the game (as well as guilds and the use of spells, etc.) and Philip just did the closed by palace thing to tie up the loose ends and release the game. Why do you think that there was code for these locations that was just blocked?

 

What are these "death trap" establishments you are talking about?!? I know about a couple locations that have one-way secret doors and you can get permanently stuck there; are these what you are calling "establishments?"

Edited by Gunstar

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The closed establishments seem to load all the way, the screen flickers for a moment and you can make out an establishement before the Leaving message appears. I made a movie of this once and was able to capture a brief couple of frames of the graphics. It should be in the AR thread. If they did not exist, why go through all the loading when entering and leaving, why not display a closed message to begin with and then kick you back out?

 

The Death Traps were actually supposed to be establishments, that is why they have a door on the outside, so you can enter the establishment, but because nothing loads, you get stuck inside the square rather than entering the establishement and then being able to leave.

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Here is a link to one of the frames I captured while recording a movie of entering the House of Ill Repute. It takes just as long to load as any other establishment and then for a split second, only a couple of frames, you get graphics on the screen before you are kicked back out, automatically forced to Leave:

 

http://www.atariage.com/forums/index.php?s...st&p=906629

Edited by Xebec's Demise

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The closed establishments seem to load all the way, the screen flickers for a moment and you can make out an establishement before the Leaving message appears. I made a movie of this once and was able to capture a brief couple of frames of the graphics. It should be in the AR thread. If they did not exist, why go through all the loading when entering and leaving, why not display a closed message to begin with and then kick you back out?

 

The Death Traps were actually supposed to be establishments, that is why they have a door on the outside, so you can enter the establishment, but because nothing loads, you get stuck inside the square rather than entering the establishement and then being able to leave.

 

 

I see. Well, since that is the case (with the establishments closed by the palace), why do you think Philip Price decided to make them closed?

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Probably Datasoft wanted to market the game to a younger audience, thus things like the House of Ill-Repute and the Casino had to go. There was a campaign against video games at the time that rivaled the influence of the companies producing them. Philip probably made a joke of it by inferring that Datasoft was like the Palace in telling the people what to do. At one time Philip made some comments about The Palace; time to dig those up...

Edited by Xebec's Demise

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Also, I just recalled something about there being two extra shops or guilds found on the disks that do not have locations. Those are probably the ones that are supposed to load in "Death Trap" squares. More things to look up!

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