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News round up

By Chris Williams. Published: 23rd Dec 2003, 23:40:32 | Permalink | Printable

Old skool Beeb fun and more last minute news

Round up motif Quite possibly the last news article of 2003, we present a round up of last minute news that's been building up in our inbox. With Christmas day and the New Year climax fast approaching, the festivities are underway, the beer and wine are flowing and the worry of finding thrilling RISC OS news should be, for a change, the least of our troubles. And I better make this quick because, as the rest of the drobe.co.uk staff and friends will more than happily attest, it doesn't take much alcoholic refreshment to render this editor recklessly inebriated.

Justin 'one man software house' Fletcher has released his "christmas present to the RISC OS world", specifically a retro-adventure game called Feud. Feud is a game of magic, heroics and 4 colour MODE 1 BASIC and 6502 machine code action, originally written for the BBC B when Justin was a mere 10 years old. In time for Christmas, Justin, now 27, tells us he decided to tidy up and port the game to RISC OS whilst preserving the classic, tender Beeb gaming spirit, despite explaining that it's "primarily released for a laugh".

"I would like to thank Julian Fletcher, Simon Fletcher, Victoria Buckley and Suzanne Brill (ne Buckley) for their relevant contributions to this game. And to my parents for putting up with my continued and relentless ramblings about the game", Justin added in his email. You can download Feud from one of Justin's websites and you'll need a RISC OS computer capable of MODE 1 and MODE 7 'graphics'.

screenshot of Feudscreenshot of Feud
Solve mazes and mix herbs to discover and cast magic




Next, a Christmas pressie for puzzle people. Paul 'Paranoid about paranoia' Vigay has open sourced and 32 bitted his WordSearch software that can be used to create puzzle grids. An educational app called Foods, which teaches you nutritional analysis of the food we eat, is also now Iyonix happy. Finally, another 32 bit safe application re-released from Paul that'll go down a storm in our New Year drobe.co.uk internal training sessions, is NewsRoom, a newspaper news desk simulator. Grab Paul's software, as well as his updated desktop sillies, before the aliens do, only from here. On a more serious, honestly less Bilderberg sponsored note, version 1.56 of Paul's ANTUtils package of useful bits and pieces for Ant Internet Suite users, is now available from the aforementioned URL and primarily features a new email filtering system.
screenshot of Newsroom
NewsRoom: Never again will we be the last to know!




Maarten Bezemer has rolled out a new release of his RISC OS CVS port. TapirMail, David Llewellyn-Jones' much welcomed zero-fuss email client is now Iyonix compatible. Finally, Dave Stratford has updated his WebGen2 software with a good dose of bug fixes and minor tidying up.



Finally, as highlighted by the Bar, the WROCC show organiser Chris Hughes has confirmed publically that MicroDigital sadly won't be at the Wakefield show next year as they've made other arrangements, apparently. Chris shrugged off the revelation, commenting that it was MicroDigital's "loss" - but certainly not ours as we can only look forward to yet more motorbike photos being posted online.

Also, Gavin Wraith of RISC OS Lua fame, has written in to tell us that Roberto Ierusalimschy's "long awaited book" entitled "Programming in Lua" is now in print and the publication, we're told, even gives RISC OS a mention. Hooray.

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Discussion

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Ha! Defeated the evil Leoric with the Clone spell. That's made me feel better ;-)

Kinda reminds me of certain bits of IronLord, for some reason. Ah, nostalgia... IronLord is one of the few games that I actually finished. Okay, off to try another level of Feud!

Ta, Justin, for your kindness on releasing that bit of fun ;-)

 is a RISC OS UserStewy on 25/12/03 9:48PM
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No "genuine" UEF release, then, Justin?

 is a RISC OS Userguestx on 26/12/03 11:56PM
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"UEF" ?

 is a RISC OS UserGerph on 27/12/03 12:10AM
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The problem with Feud is that you need somebody else to play it with!

I'm interested in how much 6502code he used for the game as much of it could have been done in BASIC I suspect and the way he went about learning assembler for the Beeb at sucha young age. I could never get hold of / afford the manuals although I'm not sure I'd have had the patience either.

 is a RISC OS UserAW on 27/12/03 1:55PM
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I can't provide you with someone to play with I'm afraid. The original design of the game called for an computer player, as with the original, but I very quickly ditched that idea as I had no idea how to perform the route search from 'here' to 'herb', the route search for 'here' to 'other player' and the 'run away' method.

The use of the 6502 is mostly because doing the same VDU sequences in BASIC proved to be too slow. I had hoped at some later date to replace it with a direct plotting routine, but it wasn't until I started working on Civ that I got to grips with direct screen plotting.

One thing you have to remember is that plotting to the screen directly on the BBC is a lot less fun than it is on RISC OS. The screen is arranged in strips of 8 rows which are arranged in column-major format.

This means that the addresses on screen run something like this (hopefully this'll come out ok!)

0 8 10 ... etc 1 9 11 2 a 12 3 b 13 4 c 14 5 d 15 6 e 16 7 f 17

Which isn't /too/ hard to work with in general, but once you've worked out which byte you're going to access you then have to deal with the byte format. In 1bpp (2 colours) the format is thus :

76543210

(each number being the pixel as an offset from the base x position).

In 2bpp (4 colours) you have this :

32103210

And in 4bpp (16 colours you have this :

10101010

Which makes manipulating a single pixel amusing. This means that generally you end up with all sprites being handled in multiples of byte sizes because to do otherwise is to invoke lots of pain for little gain.

In the MODE1 loader which I wrote specially for this port, you can see how fun this becomes when you're expecting a linear frame buffer. I'm not going to go so far as to say the bitplanes might be easier, but they would have a small advantage :-)

Anyhow, the nasty screen format and the lack of much experience with 6502 meant that I was not overly enthusiastic to do direct screen access at that time.

If anyone wants the 'ROM' version of the game, they're quite welcome to a copy (ROM image by email) to see how speedily it runs on a native BBC, or emulated BBC on 100%. It's shocking how slow it was really :-(

 is a RISC OS UserGerph on 27/12/03 11:00PM
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Dave Moore (of 'The Stairway to Hell' website) would be only too pleased to have it. www.stairwaytohell.com

Cheers!

 is a RISC OS UserThe Doctor on 27/12/03 11:16PM
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Good point actually; I'll drop them a line. Thanks ;-)

 is a RISC OS UserGerph on 27/12/03 11:43PM
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All the cleverer that you did it at 10 years old then!

 is a RISC OS UserAW on 28/12/03 1:01PM
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UEF =Unified Emulator Format, mainly used for BBC tape images.

 is a RISC OS UserIvanDobski on 29/12/03 12:58PM
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It's unlikely that the recovered bits of the sources are particularly useful to anyone. They require the Watford DDFS and Speech synthesiser, as well as a joystick. Whilst the emulators are pretty good, I'm reasonably certain that nobody wants to go to the trouble of making the above all work.

Plus the sources are incomplete - hence the extra work on the loaders and the mixing of the ROM and disc versions.

I don't know where the 'working' version went to. It may be on some 5 1/4 disc somewhere and I'm positive I can't be bothered to find it. I've lost a reasonable amount of stuff since I moved to RISC OS but fortunately I have a bad memory so I don't know what it is that I've lost.

Although, that said, I do miss Repton Infinity. But now you're getting me all nostalgic :-)

 is a RISC OS UserGerph on 29/12/03 3:29PM
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Ah, Repton Infinity... never did get the hang of REPTOL, mind you. I messed around with it but just succeeded in making RI do strange things like running far far too fast ;)

 is a RISC OS Usermoss on 29/12/03 6:11PM
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I did have a number of games which I wrote with it, the best of which was (yes, this is related to the Feud thing!) a version of the C64 game 'Icicle works' - the other game that I played when I was visiting Victoria and Suzanne.

Basically you take Repton, change the diamonds to parcels and set an upper limit on the number that need to be collected, and you make two forms of monsters - penguins that travel clockwise, bears that travel anticlockwise, both tracing the edges of the map - and when they're killed by a falling rock or parcel (parcels can fall like rocks) they turn into a flurry of snow in the 9 squares that surround the monster. After a moment, those flurrys become parcels. You don't want to be standing in their way when the monster is killed, but it does destroy the landscape - an effect that you have to use on some maps to reach other sections. Makes for an interesting variant on the normal Repton-like game.

 is a RISC OS UserGerph on 29/12/03 9:13PM
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