... still the golden age of gaming in my book, I miss my Amiga...
Xenon marked the beginning of a distinguished career for The Bitmap Brothers, legendary developers of the Commodore Amiga and Atari ST era. Overhead, vertically scrolling shooters were doing great trade in arcades across the land, and with its exposure on Saturday morning kids’ show Get Fresh (you don’t remember Gaz Top and …
That's because those machines were from a time before Microsoft's monopoly damaged computing and set it back 5 - 10 yrs.
An Amiga 1200 (from 1991) compared to a windows PC from 1996
The Amiga ran at 14Mhz and had a 2MB RAM, the Windows PC I had ran at 166 Mhz and had 32MB RAM
- The Amiga booted up faster (seconds for a HDD boot into workbench)
- The Amiga was more responsive desktop
- The Amiga was more a more stable desktop (only games ever cause crashes...)
- The Amiga has sound that didn't stutter ALL THE GOD DAMN TIME
- The Amiga's graphics although lacked the 3D capabilities seems far faster - and didn't stutter ALL THE GOD DAMN TIME - at 1996 I saw nothing as impressive as 'state of the art' on a PC.
- Everything cost far more in Windows than the Amiga, there were loads of software on the Amiga that just didn't exist for Windows (i.e music production.) and equivalents that did cost often 2 - 10 X the amount (for less reliable software)
Going from the Amiga 1200 -> Win 95 was like a step into the Dark ages.
Thank god for Linux.
I think it was more to do with the different chip sets rather than the OS. Obviously Workbench was quite quick but again it was helped by the chip architecture, good ole Denise and Paula (I think there were others but I can't remember their names).
Commodore were in the process of developing a next gen RISC architecture for the new machines but I think that was around the time they went bankrupt (that may have been part of the reason they went bankrupt). I'm sure someone has time to Google that and correct or fill in the blanks.
Amiga that just didn't exist for Windows (i.e music production.)
Dear Amiga owner
By Music production you mean tracker rubbish?
Sheez you Amiga lot, Pro24 / Cubase / Creator / Nuendo? Proper tools not mickey mouse toys.
Lots of love
Atari ST / Falcon owner.
See nothings changed in 30 years of IT. People still willy wave and pretend their OS is the best.
Tracker programs did of course exist for the PC too. I even had software which could play Amiga .mod files through the internal speaker with no soundcard (quality was very dependent on the size of the internal speaker).
There were even trackers which extended the concept to PC specifics, such as Screamtracker which could track both adlib and soundblaster style sound in the same file.
Bars and Pipes was a lot more fun than any ST MIDI package.
I've still not found an application today that does things in a MIDI pipeline the way that did. I even wrote some tools for it myself.
It split the sequencer like this:
IN ---- (pipe line)--- [ SEQUENCER ] --- (pipeline)---OUT.
You could drop in a tool into the input pipeline and quantize or transpose before recording. Or drop it into the output pipeline and process the output. You could then choose to "toolize" the notes in the sequencer if you wanted.
But what was brilliant was being able to adjust things in real time, where as other sequencers required opening dialogs and applying things, then listening to the results, lame!
You could drop numerous tools in, MIDI echos, transpose, audio out tools (I wrote one for AHI, badly). It all worked brilliantly.
You could even join tracks together with pipeline branches.
It's a shame that Microsoft bought up Blue Ribbon and all the products were discontinued, they were light years ahead of the rest. I still consider running this software at times instead of Logic.
The OctaMED tracker was perfect for someone just starting out in music and having a fiddle. Not as good as the professional tools obviously but clever in the way they merged channels to bypass restrictions of the hardware.
Loved Xenon and and Xenon 2. I don't remember any other games before that including music in the same way they did it.
Still fire up an Amiga emulator every so often to look back at all the coding demo's, 4k boot sector intro's and such like. Talk about squeezing the most out of hardware using as little code as possible, something a lot of coders do not bother with these days.
Could not agree with more yossarianuk. I had an Acorn Archimedes and so many of your points applied to that as well, when compared to a Windows PC of the day.
OK at the time I was generally in a state of war with my Amiga ST owning friend as to which one of out computers was better.
Archimedes boot up to RISC OS desktop was super-super fast as it was all in ROM. Once there it was smooth and just so easy and intuitive to use. Sound was good, as well as graphics.
I remember getting an i386 DX4 100MHz add in co-processor card for my later RISC PC and being astounded at how big the heat sink was and how hot it got and still it was slower than the native ARM processor which had no heat sink at all.
What I really miss from those days was the ease in which you could just sit down and start programming and get a result. Just try doing that in five minutes on a modern PC!
That's because those machines were from a time before Microsoft's monopoly damaged computing and set it back 5 - 10 yrs.
That is so true.
I had a PC when I was younger, and it was the laughing stock! The games on these smaller home computers used to run rings around the PC. You could just put in a disk, an away you go. DOS needed different boot disks, and pissing about with soundcards, etc.
Once the monopoly was gained, MS had no reason to improve. It certainly wasn't the hardware's fault, that kept improving.
The PC was 5/10 years behind, and only "caught up" by killing everything else.
Most that were <20 in the early 90s will feel the same way.
Thank god for Linux.
Sometimes, I wish I had the guts to migrate.
Hey you realise Xenon 2 predates Linux by a few years?
I have fond memories of it for looking really sweet on a Hercules graphics card. Heck, it was about the only arcade game with Hercules support. Ahhh, Bomb the Bass though the internal speaker of an IBM AT. Takes me right back.
This is probably the first time that I've seen Linux cited in a celebration of Gold Age British game development. What the living feck? Bitmap Bros, Team 17, Sensible Software, Psygnosis, Bullfrog, Codemasters... classic outfits. The PC did feel like the poor man at the gaming party back then, but like the ugly duckling it would mature into a swan that hatched a load of first-person shooters... cheers iD.
Just the other day, a website with .EXE Amiga games was drawn to my attention... downloaded Dune 2 'cos I read about it in PC Zone back in the day, then I realised that there was an Android port. I've wasted too much of my weekend on it!
I had a 1200 with a 68030 trapdoor expansion, 400mb 3.5" drive (keyboard shielding cut away) and a 4mb RAM stick. Rendering would overheat the chip (they had no heatsinks on them) so I fabricated a small heatsink and fan.
I think sim city 2000 was the game that was most demanding at the time and that run happily on a PC. Stuff like wing commander played the same on amiga and DOS back in 1990. Earlier than that I remember dungeon master and that played and looked the same and played the same.
But 1996? im sure I had an orchid righteous 3D in 1996, that was the death knell really.
One thing amigas did have going for them, they were insanely modable for example you could toggle the master clock whilst it was running, instant cheat by slowing everything down.
The problem with Workbench was that the way its nano kernel was architected — a product of its time — was basically dependent on message passing between processes being fast. When you don't have protected memory, as on the Amiga, it is fast because there's no work to do. If you have protected memory then it's usually slow as the kernel must either copy the message from one address space to another, must reassign ownership of regions of memory or must be not entire protected giving everyone access to shared messaging memory and still allowing one misbehaving application to mess up a bunch of others. Therefore Workbench as constituted had a definite expiry date.
(of course, I say this aware that e.g. the classic Mac OS was even worse with neither protected memory nor pre-emptive multitasking, yet managed to hobble on just about into the early 2000s before an overhaul was finally achieved)
As for PC vs Amiga? Yeah, it was already clear which way the wind was blowing once the PC became the machine with the super-fast CPU and the easy to address video memory. The 3dfx and its competitors just sealed the deal. The open market of commodity hardware from multiple vendors overwhelmingly based around a software platform eventually outdid the closed market of a single vendor overwhelmingly based around a hardware platform. I think it's telling that the only other computer platform to survive the '90s was also overwhelmingly a software platform, not a hardware platform (and, indeed, now largely just uses the same commodity hardware as everyone else).
Maybe now I'm middle aged, I'm looking at this through rose tinted glasses but this was a great era for gaming. Huge leaps in graphics and gaming were made back then which gave gamers much more of a wow factor compared to today's turgid re releases and annual deluge of crap like COD and Fifa.
Great game and I would like to see it available on today's consoles.
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Again, yossarianuk, what the hell are you on about? How did you get from Amiga games to Linux?
Amiga and ST games were classics. PC games were different. The classic PC games ( X-Wing, for example) were for DOS, not for Windows.
I expect that you'll next claim that Nintendo or Sega have never made a good game, because they were on propriety platforms.
Xenon 2 was absolutely outstanding both graphically and in terms of audio, but Xenon really did have the more interesting gameplay.
When I was about 14, me and a friend would play Xenon in co-op mode... one person did the space bar to swap between air and ground and the other did everything else. We played it so much that we could clock the game without dying.
Those were the days.
Reminds me that my brother did a mod on one of our joysticks to upgrade the auto-fire to 255 shots per second. You ended up with a hose-like continuous stream of shots up the screen and gave you awesome firepower. It did make it rather easier to finish the game and saved yet another busted joystick fire button - happy days!
Think it involved changing the resistor the auto-fire used and we'd seen it in one of the gaming mags IIRC.
There was a PC port of Xenon II I downloaded awhile back too - only 320x240 though. Could do with a full HD resolution version & multi-channel sound to bring it up to date..!
It was Super Nashwan Power.
Recently Bomb The Bass released a track called "Mega Dis", 25th anniversary release combining updated versions of "Beat Dis" and "Megablast". I think it is still on iTunes.
One of my proudest moments was putting "Megablast" onto the playlist for the local ice hockey team. Still fit in among all the usual stuff and had a few fans come up to me afterwards saying they recognised it.
Someone dropped Megablast at a NYE party a few years back... still disappointed it wasn't on the 'Best of Bomb The Bass' from c2000, though.
Since then, the most famous BtB track is probably the Kruder and Dorfmeister remix of Bug Powder Dust.
Bug Powder Dust and Mugwump Jism
Wideboys running around Interzone trippin'
Letter to control about Big Brother
Trying like hard to not blow my cover
The Bitmap Brothers alongside a few other software houses like Thalion and Psygnosis were truly pushing the limits of what Atari and Amiga machines could produce. I have great memories of playing Xenon 2, Gods and Speedball 2 on my Atari 520 ST for hours. The attention to details and the quality of the end products were just amazing considering the limited capabilities of the hardware/software at their disposal. It wasn't just the graphics and the music, it was also the smart gameplay and sweet difficulty curve built in these games that made them so memorable.
The Chaos Engine came out just as Atari were fading away and PC games started taking over: it was the end of an era since it would take years (in my book) for PC hardware and software to truly match that golden age of gaming.
Only problems with Xenon 2 were that it was too easy with an autofire stick, and the ending sucked!
The ST/Amiga era was a very special time for me, and for coding in general - the days when processor power was measured in KHz, and coding was all about squeezing as much performance as humanly possible out of the machine.
Xenon, Speedball, Gods, Magic Pockets, The Chaos Engine, Cadaver... fond memories from a time before AAA games really existed.
Call me an aging code hack, but I still yearn for the days when games were fun, rather than formulaic.
First arcade vertical scroller I got hooked on, about 1983/4ish? It was responsible more than a few over-extended lunch breaks down the amusement arcades. Seem to recall one of the impressive bits was the tall screen compared with most other games at the time.
Never played Xenon, but reading the article I have a sneaking suspicion where some of the influences came from... :)
Had Xenon on the ol' speccy (128k +2, not for the purists, but that's the one I grew up with and it was MINE rather than a family machine or hand-me-down).
Xenon 2 on the Amiga 500 after I finally managed to deliver enough papers (IRL, not the arcade :) ) to afford one.
I'd have trouble thinking of a more impressive port on the old speccy, apart from the lack of colour it was perfection, and that hardly ever happened for speccy ports. I reckon Xenon 2 was probably the first time I didn't have to feel a bit embarrassed about my love of computer game music...a love that died with the birth of the .mp3 soundtrack.
I feel really very sorry for the gamers of today, where are their Bitmap Brother/Bullfrog/Psygnosis? Not that the Bitmaps went anywhere, they just mysteriously stopped, I've always wondered what the story was there.
I found where the costs of each upgrade was stored in the executable and lowered them (all the way to zero I think). However it seems that what was available at each shop was determined by a price-check, not an explictly coded set of options - so the result was I'd also made everything available half-way through level 1.
It was however great when you just wanted to mess around with some of the less practical options without having to get through half the game just to try something.
(I actually first played this in CGA on an 8086. Even that was far from unplayable, though it was much nicer when I got a new machine with VGA. Even the title music through the internal speaker was recognisable.)
was literally blown away by the music. I used to leave it running for hours just to listen to it too!
I wish we could see how computing would be without the evil Microsoft killing everybody/innovation off for the sake of their bottom line.
Computers used to be fun until Microsoft stagnated tech
I played Xenon 1 too death on the ST (though it killed me it wrapped back to level 1 upon 'finishing').
But Xenon 2 just didn't connect with me. It was just another horizontal shooter (with the same digital intro music on ST by the way) without the ground based action. Wings of Death blew it away on the ST in that genre ;)
The appeal of the sequel was mainly that awesome theme tune, the game itself was a bit slow and clunky and that end 'sequence' just pissed you off!
I think 'Gods' was the BMB's finest effort however - 'Into, the wonderful!'.
The Amiga was impossibly cool when it first appeared, it did make PC's and whatnot look silly, but for only a moment, all other platforms were able to catch up and massively overtake it, Commodore were able to introduce some modest improvements to it but it still had a lot of the limitations from the original machine that they were never able to improve upon, the Video Toaster was cool though.
Take away the flash graphics and sound and Xenon and Xenon 2 aren't actually much cop as shooters.
Whereas shooters like Gradius, R-Type and even Apidya are worth a blast today, Xenon hasn't really aged that well and as someone who spends his gaming time mainly playing old games, Xenon isn't a game I really find tolerable any more.
I was forced into an upgrade from my Amiga 1200 at the end of 1994 due to an A-level computing course. The first thing that struck me that 3D games aside, how crap PC games were.
Graphics were blockier (games running at 320x200 rather than 320x256) and the sound was god awful even on the high end cards. Doom and the 3D stuff was way ahead of the Amiga, but all the 2D stuff seemed inferior.
I went to see someone who claimed he had one of the best sound cards money could buy. He was playing X-Wing and had it hooked up to a hi-fi. God the sound was diabolical. Plinky tunes that sounded like a Casio keyboard from 1986. Every game was the same. Then I got my own card (a Soundblaster 16) and it was just as bad.
Then there was Windows. Precisely Windows for Workgroups 3.11. You soon hit the limitations when you realised it couldn't multitask in the same way the Amiga could. Indeed to do a lot of things you'd take for granted on an Amiga you'd end up in MSDOS.
Still have my A1200 which now has an 030 and 64 meg of RAM, A compact flash card in the hard drive bay effectively gives an Amiga an SSD. Super speedy, fast and great fun.
And as for that 486 PC with Windows 3 and Soundblaster 16? Rotting in a landfill somewhere.
Long live the Amiga!
Agree - and disagree on your points.
Graphics were blockier - partly because of the resolution - but I remember playing a lot of Amiga games on a composite monitor which softened the edges more than VGA on those resolutions. SVGA (640x480x256) looked really awesome when PC games started to support it around that 1994 timeframe you mention.
Regarding the "plinky tunes", you're probably describing games with MIDI music played with Adlib FM emulation (Soundblaster and all the rest did it too), which was plinky as you put it. If he'd had a real MIDI card (Roland SC and MT32 were the most popular I think), you'd have listened to music played with real instruments. You can compare the Speedball 2 intros with PC vs. Amiga
There were of course games that played digital music (MODs or CD tracks), which would have at least equaled the A1200.
Windows 3.x was crap in multitasking, that's a fact. Transferring files with modem was touchy at best and even if one's COM ports didn't have the 16550 FIFO's you were pretty much limited to watching the download progress when ZModeming the latest educational GIFs from local BBS...
OS/2 2.1 and Warp 3 did multitasking properly - as did Desqview for DOS to some degree as well. OS/2 was great unless you wanted to play games or use Windows software, but it did eg. Autodesk Animator rendering in the background while I was being frustrated by Nethack.
He didn't have a Gravis Ultrasound, evidently. The first PC soundcard with wavetable synthesis instead of FM - ie it loaded 8 or 16bit sample from HDD to its own RAM upon request.
It also did 3D surround... one of the first games to support it natively was Doom... on level 5 I heard some weird grunting and felt nervous, then I saw my first ever pink gorilla and panicked - Rocket Launcher at point blank range not good.
Nice that it's showing 'trained by Bamiga sector 1'! Maybe only way to do a decent capture on an emulated machine, as if I recall, the real version was notorious for being fickle to load on the disc drive.
Worked for a tiny computer shop at the time, and it was this game that got people buying Amigas as fast as we could get them. Ok, later gameplay probably put them off, but cranking up the loading screen with this music blaring out, then the first couple of minutes that had you with the full power ups, looked uber impressive.
But we really did have so many problems with that game, think it used some odd format to get as much data as possible, and probably all the viruses going around at the time would knock it out, so we often had to get a dodgy copy for people who'd trashed their original.
And the music apps... Even basic trackers, so easy to get on with, basic samplers. And cross-over cables to get some multiplayer games going!
When later getting into PC's, really annoyed me how long it took for them to catch up basic stuff, like clicking an icon to launch and the machine not freezing up. Better multiscreen handling, sound of course. Ok, the 3D hardware took some time to hit the PC, was only then the PC started to LOOK like it was better. Agnes chip really could crank out some impressive gfx.
Wasn't that long ago a neighbour asked me to give their machine a quick look over as her brother had donated it to her. Turned out he was a gfx artist for a certain well known god game creating company, and it had DPaint installed. Ah, memories.
But yeah, having a machine at home that did what it did, as well as it did it, when we had Mac time in the lab, these 'advanced' machines made me laugh (black and white? tiny screen? ugh!). And the uber fast 486 with high end matrox card? Yup, Amiga hardware really was ahead of the curve for a long time. Shame Commodore mismanaged it; Amiga did well despite Commodore, not because of them.
I'd like to see The Reg do a retro article on the Demo scene.
Something really started with Amigas, and bringing truly amazing programming.
Jesus on Es
sound of silents
state of the art
they are all still available on the net and play great on the emulators, and still sound awesome too.
In fact the demo scene is still active and new amiga demos are still being made.
Back in 1988 when I got my A500 getting the latest swaps of demo disks from swap mates around the country was the highlight of the week - 'this is the ameeega speaking'!
Then with the A1200 in 1990, I remember watching Jesus on Es with it's awesome music, and state of the art with its rotroscoping and just being bowled over with the awesomeness of it.
Main problem with Megablast was is wasn't very fast for a shoot em up. The Megadrive might have been in it's infancy but shooters like Thunderforce II, Forgotten Worlds and even HerzogZwei were so much faster.
Yes, it looked pretty but there was plenty of stuff about that looked a little bit less tasty but was a lot quicker, even on the C64. I bought Megablast (ST) of course, everyone did and it reviewed pretty well (lots of 90%+ marks) but it wasn't as good as all that.
Somewhere at home I have the CDTV version of this knocking around, I had the A500 with A570 CD-ROM drive :) The CDTV version had a better soundtrack and has extras on the CD with pictures of the artists etc.
My last Amiga was a CD32 with an SX1 expansion that allowed me to use a floppy disk drive and keyboard and mouse effectively turning it into an A1200 with CDROM.
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