Issue 57

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Copyright 2011 Commodore Free Magazine
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CONTENTS



Editorial

Happy Christmas

If all goes well you should be reading this sometime near Christmas, if it hasn’t gone well you are reading it in mid June and wondering what I am talking about Christmas for.

Either way

This issue is mainly devoted to the much under loved Commodore games system, (wow what’s that?) well after you have read the issue you should have a good idea about the system and why it all sadly went wrong and just how rare these are. (Mainly due to lack of sales back when the machine was first released) Hey I am giving it all away here, I have splashed in some loose notes cunningly labelled news, and for anyone interested this is the news section of the magazine.

Reviews

Also in the issue is a review of all the 4 games that came with the system bundled on a cartridge. Some good, some great.



NEWS


The Last VIC

Name: The Last VIC
Author: Orion70
Released (final): October 21, 2011
Requirements: VIC-20 + 8K RAM

Description: VIC version of R. Adling's Earth Defender game for C16. It makes use of hi-res 160x192 graphics handled via Mike's Minigrafik extension (and bootloader creation utility). Play the role of the last defender in your home planet, aiming at hostile alien bombs. With your Commodore VIC-20's expansion port (!), you control an adjustable cannon. You must hit 19 bombs each level (12 in the colour version), but they keep coming faster and faster... Don't let the aliens destroy your city, and beware of limited time!

(LOAD"BOOT",8 and RUN)

MONO version: https://sites.google.com/site/orionvicsite/files/last_VIC.zip?attredirects=0

Colour version: https://sites.google.com/site/orionvicsite/files/last_VIC_col.zip?attredirects=0

Discussion thread: http://www.sleepingelephant.com/ipw-web/bulletin/bb/viewtopic.php?p=62549#62549



DualSID For The C64

Information from the creators website says:

DualSID is a device which allows you to plug in two different SID models to your Commodore 64. You can set the second SID's address to five different memory locations. Both SIDs can be set to the same memory area which enables stereo sound to your favourite games. DualSID is compatible with most stereo SID software and demos

Features

Pricing

Payment methods

Postage + Packaging

http://koti.mbnet.fi/malinto/dualsid/index.shtml



Commodore OS Vision

A community driven Linux distribution for Commodore enthusiasts designed to unleash your creative potential and help you enjoy your computing experience to the fullest. providing a distinctive, attractive, advanced and fun operating system experience. Its look is inspired by the Commodore 64 and original Commodore Amiga Workbench user environments but with a modern spin, with effects.

The OS includes many other programs: Games (FPS, Racing, Retro etc.), Firefox, Chromium, LibreOffice, Scribus, GIMP, Blender, OpenShot, Cinellera, Ardour, Audacity and many more capabilities of our new

http://www.commodoreusa.net/CUSA_OS_Vision.aspx



ACE128TOS

There is a new video available of ACE128TOS. ACE128TOS is a project to make a new operating system for the Commodore C128. In this demonstration video you can see details of the control panel. You can configure the input devices (mouse, keyboard), the SuperCPU, drivers, screen-resolution and sound. Because the demo was done in the VICE emulator the movement of the cursor is not optimal, it is working correctly on the real Commodore C128.

http://www.youtube.com/user/CommodoreInfoPage#p/f/0/XrFj-cFMp5A



Beret - a 2D Puzzle-Platformer

Beret is a 2D puzzle-platformer game about a scientist, astonishingly named Beret, who has gained telekinetic abilities through his research at the Evil Corporation. He decides that the Evil Corporation is a tad too evil for his liking, and begins his solitary quest to overthrow the corporation and punish the evil deeds of his employers. Beret has 21 puzzle-filled levels, 120 collectable Medallions, over 20 hours of gameplay, and an unlockable level editor.

http://aminet.net/package/game/jump/beret



FCUG Meeting CBM Engineer Bill Herd

From: Robert Bernado
To: Commodore Free
Subject: FCUG Meeting with Bill Herd

> At this month's Nov. 20 FCUG meeting, CBM engineer Bil Herd will be
> our "virtual" guest as he comes on-line to video-chat with us.

Bil recorded the chat at his end of the feed. It is on line at

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/bilherd

Some audio problems with trying to hear our questions, but if I can combine his video and audio and overlay the audio from our recording of our side of the session, maybe we can have one whole production.

Truly,

Robert Bernardo



TAPClean Updated

TAPClean is a Commodore tape preservation / restoration tool. It will check, repair, and remaster Commodore 64 and VIC 20 TAP or DC2N DMP files (tape images).

Features

http://tapclean.sourceforge.net/



Hand BASIC Commodore Flavor Free App

Note This is not an emulator just a version of BASIC

Description

Learn and Program BASIC Language on your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad!

Hand BASIC - CBM Flavour is a compatible version of Commodore's version of Microsoft BASIC 6502 as found on the Commodore 64.

Released for Educational purposes.

BASIC (Beginner's All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) is a computer language designed so that it can be learned very easily.

Hand BASIC is basically useful for writing relatively small sized programs for repeatable calculations and/or logic. For instance it is better than using calculator and repeating same formula and logic for different numbers again and again to get results. Hand BASIC users could be students, scientists, or any productivity workers.

Features

Now available through In-App Purchase:

https://sites.google.com/site/hawwashsoft/hbasic



Commodore 64 GS (Games System)

Commodore now armed with the Success of the commodore 64 decided that they wanted to enter the console market; and so sometime in 1989 and perfectly of course placed for the lucrative Christmas market; the Commodore 64GS or C64 Games system (did you pick up the GS stood for Games System, see what they did there! Clever marketing that) was launched onto the public.

Originally sold in the UK. for the bargain basement price of 99 the machine slowly was reduced and within the space of a few months, the price had been slashed to 70. Soon the machine was on sale for 30 in some stores, where they were trying to offload the hardware and at least regain some funds to spend on other devices. Apparently Commodore recalled the units due to bad sales and rumour has it the machines were converted into Commodore 64 computers ready for resale.

So it seems then that rather sadly, Commodore had not judged the market well. Commodore had a history of not being good at console marketing and to my mind anyway, were late entering the market. I don’t think really commodore had thought the whole process through, and had tried to rush a console for the Christmas market, and of course the system flopped.

What Was It Then

The C64 Games system was basically a Commodore 64c without a keyboard or datasette port (tape point) and the cartridge slot was moved to the top of the machine, so cartridges would stick out of the top of the machine. The ROM was changed from the basic Commodore 64c to a customised version specifically for the system. The Commodore Games system was released only in Europe and came bundled with a cartridge containing four great games:

Some of the many problems with the system were:

- Lack of support from suppliers, with many of the usual Commodore suppliers thinking the machine could fail, they waited to see if the market was lucrative enough for them, before launching expensive cartridge games for the system.

- Companies were already releasing 16-bit consoles the 8-bit systems looked a little tired compared to these new wiz-bang machines. Of course current users wouldn’t change from the Commodore 64 as this would play all the C64GS games already, so enticing new uses to buy an 8-bit system was difficult.

- No keyboard and tape interface, with taped games costing considerably less than the cartridge versions and an abundant number of games for the Commodore 64 on tape especially in Europe, where people were still enjoyed loading from tape. With Many games now being discounted and a large supply of older games being re-released for pocket money prices, users were savvier about how to obtain games.

- Even Commodore themselves seemed to lack enthusiasm about the system, and didn’t release any titles for the machine except the bundled game pack; that the machine came with. Most of the software available for the system was just ported from the Commodore 64 versions, often even ported from the tape versions of the games and apart from the speed and convenience of loading didn’t offer anything new.

- By many people; the Commodore 64 was also classed by many as a “games system” so where did that leave the C64GS, it seemed to be yet another Commodore games system, and would lead to further parental confusion.

- Some of the many other problems were with the cartridges themselves, although they would fit in the C64 they wouldn’t actually fit in the C64gs due to manufacturing problems, of course this could be fixed by drilling parts of the cartridge out but didn’t help the machines reputation.

Press F1 To Play

I mentioned the lack of keyboard as a problem, now some of the cartridge games available for the c64 had options to press f1 for 1 player press f3 for 2 players etc., of course these cartridges although physically compatible IE they would fit into the cartridge port and would run, were unplayable as the machine didn’t have any option to press a key or enter a high score and hit return or even “press space to start”. (Maybe they could release an add-on keyboard and turn the machine into a commodore 64, but the cost would be more than actually buying a commodore 64 )

Maybe Commodore would have more success with the yet to be released Cd32 but that’s saved for another story…….

Although the machines cant be classed as rare, they do seem hard to find. With many Console and Computer collectors holding onto them, and of course due to the sales only in Europe, they seem to be finding their way into foreign or export collectors where the machines were unavailable namely the USA.

Finding a machine in pristine condition and still boxed does seem to be the wholly grail for many game system collectors. When you do get to see a “boxed as new” system in the Flesh especially one that is genuinely unopened; it’s a funny sort of feeling you get like a glow inside, It’s a bit like being a child on Christmas day and opening a new present even though it doesn’t belong to you. Imagine how surprised I was when someone from work; came to me and said you like old Commodore machines don’t you do you want this? And gave me a plastic storage box with a complete Commodore Games system! Complete with, Cartridge, power supply and even the cheap joystick that broke after about 5 seconds of use.

Recently there has been a surge of interest in the machine, a few sales on a recent well know auction sites saw the machine reaching very high prices, and a recent boxed version sold for the rather large sum of 420 with a number of unboxed machines raising over 200

Almost But Not Quite

So how near to the Commodore 64c was the machine

Well I opened up said workmates donation to me and was quite surprised at what I found

The machine does have a tape port and expansion ports, You can also see how the cartridge port has been changed so instead of poking out of the back it is now on the top of the machine, by means of a small modification, the board even has the headers in place for a disk drive to be added.

The thoughts I suppose were; as we already have a machine in production we could utilise this, changing just the cartridge port with an adaptor to have it on the top of the machine instead of the rear, remove the keyboard and have a custom ROM to boot the machine up. It does seem to make sense as it would mean a retooling to create the machine, and as the machine was to be rushed out for Christmas, I suppose the modifications were small enough to make this worthwhile workaround, indeed take apart many so called cut down units of FULL systems today and you usually find the same motherboards or circuit board with just the ports or some chips not installed.

Would the machine have made it in the market if Commodore released the machine earlier on in the Commodore 64`s lifetime, Personally I don’t think so, many people although scared of computers were still capable of loading a tape game.

There we have it then the Commodore 64 Games system another piece of Commodore computing history.

Hmm it’s also quite ugly looking as well.

(The final nail in its coffin)

It’s always on a collects wish list, so if you see one at a car boot sale it’s definitely worth a small investment.



C64GS Bundled Cartridge Games Review

One thing that stood out for the Commodore games system was the initial cartridge with 4 quality titles (well OK some were better than others) these games were ready for instant play, here we see the initial menu system where you navigate with the joystick and press fire to select a game, and then we have a review of each game.


Fiendish Freddy's Big Top O' Fun

Grey Matter/Mindscape, 1990

Fiendish Freddy's Big Top O' Fun video game was developed by Gray Matter by Chris Gray and published in 1990 by Mindscape.

Plot

The circus owns a corrupt business man $10,000 if they don’t find the money he will demolish the circus and build hotels on the land. The circus organises six events to raise money to pay off the business man they are diving, juggling, trapeze, knife throwing, tightrope and human cannonball.

Each event is judged by five clown judges, the clowns offer money depending on the quality of the show. However The businessman doesn’t want the circus to raise any money though, and so sets his man, the evil Fiendish Freddy, loose to sabotage the show.

I can’t ever remember playing this game and revisiting it hasn’t done anything to really help me, the graphics are functional as is the sound, the idea on paper seems good , you will I am sure get frustrated with the game, its nice to run through a couple of times but doesn’t seem to have any sort of pull factor. The humour is very dark, and quite graphic for such a fun kids game.

You start by selecting the number of players, or even a practice option where you can select one of the events to train up in. After selecting the number of players you then selecting a beast

Some music lays over the credits and the “circus theme tune” plays on the menu. Its competent but wont win many SID fans over.

Menu option

The ring master appears and with some simple animation his pants fall down, a sure sign of the humour to come.

Diving

We are shown our hero climbing up a ladder with the idea to jump off and land in the water below, apart from pressing fire to start then moving the joystick left and right to keep our man in the centre of the water there doesn’t seem to be a lot going on ion the game, we are then taken higher with a smaller bucket to land in, then higher etc. and finally judged on our performance we then move on to the next session. You are of curse up against Freddy who tries to blow you off course with an enormous hair dryer, extra money is earned by performing stunts

Juggling

Moving left and right and pressing fire to collect various juggling items, and keep them in the air

There are four juggling sessions of increasing difficulty. With more and more things to juggle Freddie also sabotages this by throwing bombs at you or even missiles you then have to juggle of course dropping these will cause them to explode and kill you.

Trapeeze

We are now in control of a female circus artist who starts at the far right of the screen, the aim is to get to the left (although the screen scroll) jumping from rope to rope, fire rings and targets add to the problems of swinging and Freddy comes in with a jet pack and scissors to cut your ropes and send you falling down the big top to the floor, make sure you act fast enough . pressing fire sets her off swinging on a trapeze or is it a rope? You need to time it so you catch the next swinging rope just in front of you. So Fires to start your artist swinging then

Knife Throwing

Don’t think the idea is to knife your assistant as this will not work and result in her being killed, you must instead throw knives at the balloons pinned on the rotating wheel with a female assistant strapped to it. Of course you only have a limited number of knives available, and if you don’t burst all the balloons before the timer or your knifes run out then the game is over. Of course Freddy tries to hinder you by throwing smoke bombs so you cant see anything.

Tight Rope Walking

You must walk across a tightrope suspended high in the circus tent, you have a balance pole that flashes red when you are about to topple over and so need to move it to the other side in an effort to stay upright. Freddy will sometime fly across in a jet pack trying to knock you off the rope or send razor blades that will cut you in half, you will need to use your pole to deflect the blades.

Cannon Ball

This is the final event, and sees you trying to launch yourself from a cannon and hit a target at the far end of the circus tent. The cannon is pre armed and ready to go so all the player need do is judge the angle and launch then pray you hit the target or fall on the circus floor. Freddy is awaiting and will blow up the canon if you take to long before launch.

Various animations occur showing the death from these events with varying degrees of blood and guts, this leads me to wonder who the game was aimed at, young children would love the events but the animations could scare them and they shouldn’t really be sing such graphic deaths. However to an older player the game would seem lame.

Sound: 4/10
Graphics: 6/10
Lastability: 5/10

Overall: 5/10

Some of the animations are good but the overall feeling is of a rushed release, it’s nothing like the epic multi load games, (winter games, summer games etc.).


Flimbos Quest

System 3, 1990

Flimbo's quest is a game of love, however this love is shattered as Flimbo's wife to be “pearly” is kidnapped by the evil Franz Dandruff. So begins Flimbo's quest which involves our hero battling out 7 levels trying to collect 7 codes , the codes will be entered into Franz Dandruff main computer system and the experiments on “Pearly” will stop. The codes are letters hidden by all sorts of nasties and this is your task to find the creatures with the codes and destroy them . Help is on hand though as a wizard has a shop and he will help you put the letters together to form the code, he has some items that can also be purchased to help you on your way, but! Of course you need to collect money to give the greedy wizard. If you find the secret rooms they will be filled with gold coins and can be collected to pay for items in the shop.

The wizard has the following items for you on offer:

Starting the game

One thing is clear from the start this is a quality piece of work with some of the best music the Commodore has produced, the bouncy sonics of this are just to die for. The tune is superb and after a few minutes will filter into your brain and subconscious and you will “NEVER” be able to see the words Flimbo or the picture without hearing the tune. The selection of instruments clicks and drum beats are truly perfection, how can I score this other than a 10. Heck we haven’t moved from the title screen yet, you just feel like sitting here watching the screen and listening to the sounds, very cool.

Press the Button

OK then some hours later after I finally press the button,

Dum de dum de tar de dum de dum (supposed to represent the tune)

We are now on a control screen here we can set the sound effects or music on or off and a new tune is playing, man will I ever make it to the game, again the tune fits the game perfectly and is superb, if left we see the scrolling background and the high scores, then back to some brief instructions about the game, what to collect etc.

In Game

Graphically the game is very strong however you do sometimes feel lost, by that I mean our character can easily blend into the parallax scrolling background and its difficult to pick things out sometimes, there are holes in the floor on the first level and I am sure you will fall into one not knowing its there, although the whole thing is drawn incredibly well. The control method is perfect with just a little light amount of gravity to feel it’s a non real person, maybe someone a little floaty.

Very bouncy with lots going on. The backgrounds parallax scrolling really adds to the games appeal and you just have to keep going back for one more go. Moving around is easy and you need to shoot everything to find out what secret it holds, remember doors are entered by going over the entrance and pressing UP and you have the frustration of the timer ticking away in the bottom right corner of the screen. Again the in game music doesn’t disappoint, perfectly matching the game with its bouncy tune and effects. Even death is treated by a short tune, slightly removing the feeling of the actual death that has just happened to our hero.

Graphics: 8/10 — Colourful and well designed with some ultra-smooth scrolling. There is quite a lot of variety and there are heaps of enemy-creatures for you to blast away.

Sound: 10/10 — Supper cool music by Reyn Ouwehand and amazing sounds effects

Playability: 8/10 — Playability is very high, you do get the felling of doing the same thing over and over again.

Overall: 8/10

An almost perfect product for the Commodore 64


Klax

Domark, 1990

It’s the nineties. And its time for KLAX!

Klax was a 1989 computer game created by Dave Akers and Mark Stephen Pierce. The aim of the game is to line up coloured blocks into rows of similar colours, doing so will make them disappear, The game was originally released by Atari Games as a coin-op and of course follow up to the very successful Tetris.

Released on the Commodore 64 in 1990 under the arm of Domark, although graphically the game looks simple there are many hours of game play to be had. (although quite repetitive) If you are a Tetris or Columns fan then this is a game to look out for.

The games name apparently comes from the sounds the tiles make as they move along a conveyor belt towards the player.

You score by collecting like coloured Klax tiles and stacking them on top of each other, although you can also gain points for having diagonals as well.

The game has a conveyor belt where the tiles move to the player and can be caught on the arm, they can be tossed back up the conveyor belt or kept on the arm. Should you decide you want to start a stack you can drop the just below the arm and then start stacking the tiles to form a column or for the more adventurous points scorer you could start a diagonal. You need at least 3 Klax bricks for any score after which they disappear. The arm can hold a maximum of 5 Klax tiles after which they fall off Also to aid the player there are flashing block which can be used as a wildcard on any colour. Ported to all number of Computer systems some would warrant the game a coveted “classic” title.

The game soon becomes very fast and frantic as the levels increase in speed and the number of Klax blocks being deposited on the conveyor belt, sometimes you don’t have time to think and throw blocks at random in the hope of some magical luck making them add into a diagonal and at least clear some space at the bottom of the screen. As the levels advance so does the score needed to move on to the next level, although there is no time limit as such, you still cant let the bottom of the screen fill up. Points are also removed for each block left in isolation at the end of the level so if you have a few odd colour left these will be detrimental to your final score.

The original game had over 100 levels, although I am unsure how many are on the Commodore 64 version. Also as each level progresses in difficulty so it does in complexities, you need to perform more and more complex Klaxes such as a certain number of four in a row diagonals as well as vertical and horizontal Klaxes

Sound: 3/10
Graphics: 3/10
Gameplay: 7/10
Lastability: 6/10

Overall: 6/10

If you are a Tetris or columns fan you will find this game very frustratingly addictive


International Soccer

Commodore, 1983

Football it’s a funny old game of two halves isn’t it, goal posts for jumpers, endless fun. Well at least is on a dry day with soft-ish but not to damp grass to play on.

Now enter “International soccer”, you never need to leave the comfort of your chair and can still play this great game, or is it a sport.

On loading the screen we are presented with the credits on a sparse white screen, pressing the fire button takes us straight to the team colours selection process, although our players are stood in what some may say is a compromising pose for a man.

Selecting a shirt is just a matter of moving the joystick to select the player, you are on the left if you are playing against the computer. Moving the stick left and right will cycle through the shirt colours, if you then move the joystick up or down you can select the computers AI intelligence from 1 to 9, and left and right on this will select the computer shirt colour. The computer makes it impossible to pick the same colour shirts on both sides (pity as this would have been mind-blowing to play)

Once selected pressing the fire button brings the players out onto the field, the run out in a line and filter to their positions on the pitch, followed finally by two lines men. My granddad used to say he used to play “left outside” it was years before I found out this meant “left outside the pitch” IE not playing or on the bench.

You have the ability to move players in eight directions with the player pointing towards the direction of travel. The players also turn rather than just straight cuts from left to right etc. Other players you are not controlling at the time follow some sort of set pattern and run around within these said patterns. This means that the whole control system is intuitive, although sometimes a quick run off the screen will switch players that you are controlling and getting the ball back will lose time.

Once all the players are out a whistle will blow signifying the start of the game. To then start the game (you a have the kick off against the Computer) just press the fire button, and your shirt will turn a different colour to show you are controlling the ball, for example a white shirt will turn the active player a light blue and a yellow shirt will turn the active player green, I won’t list them all as you get the general idea.

International Soccer was also released as “Cup Final” and released in tape format.

Offside

For the people who don’t know what it is, or how it works there is no offside rule and also its impossible to cause a foul an opponent. So purists of the game may look away in disgust, what it does have is a fun knockabout harking back to school; when you really did toss down you jumpers for the goals and kick about a ball for a few minutes.

The game has 2 short half’s lasting just over 3 minutes each with no shootouts and really strips the game back to the fun element, although Corner kicks and throw-ins still exist.

You only see about a quarter of the playground on screen at any time and this automatically scrolls to the left or right depending on where the player with the ball is. If the ball comes to your own goalie, you get automatically control over your keeper, and he can leap more in he air than realistically to create a save.

Time Gentlemen Please

At the end of time The winning team is presented a gold trophy by a girl dressed in blue and the winning team are lined up with one member moving to accept the trophy and lift it high above his head, HA “llooooooooosers”.

With very blocky graphics and a very square ball, you do have the magic playability of this game still left intact. There seems little in the way of ball control, and you can’t seem to slide in for a rough tackle, it s not about skill more speed of reactions.

Graphics: 6/10
Sounds: 3/10
Gameplay: 8/10
Longevity: 8/10

Overall: 8/10

It may look blocky and the sounds are sparse but sit with some friends and this is a very enjoyable game with the complexities of the sport removed



Slide Review

By Commodore Free

Its............

Time I think for some puzzle action, this while obviously not an original game can be very addictive, the download from the website has the source code and both a d64 and Tap file, the tape file uses a speed loader, but doesn’t have any fancy music or loading screens.

Once the game starts we see the title screen with just an option to press a joystick button plugged into port 2, once we manage to do this we are in the play screen.

Title Screen

While the title screen is functional it does give some limited information, but not any instructions on how to actually play the game, thankfully the game play is simple.

The game is just to rearrange the tiles so they run from 1 through to 34, we see there is a tile missing and this is where we have to slide another tile into the space to make room to slide the others.

The game has no time limit and just runs until you have finished the game.

The graphics are a little strange and with no in game music or sounds of any sorts it could soon become a boring task of sliding things to a fro. The movement and speed are both smooth and fast and the cursor flashes multi colours so is easy to find. Maybe a game for a boring Sunday afternoon. Released as PD. At the end of the game you are given a message that you solved the puzzle and the number of moves it took you.

Comments from the Author

I have released a small PD game named Slide.

My goal when writing this mini game was to get it done in 3 days. Mission accomplished! 'Slide' might be used as a tape bonus game in future releases of mine. For this game, I also included the ASM source. You need to use the ACME assembler if you want to compile it. The object of this game is to arrange the tiles in numerical order, starting from number 1. Have you got what it takes? Find out with 'Slide'!

Download link http://noname.c64.org/csdb/getinternalfile.php/100325/Slide.zip

Have fun, puzzle fans

Graphics: 3/10
Sounds: 0/10
Gameplay: 4/10 some people love these games
Lastability: 4/10

Overall: 4/10

Once finished try to do it again but in less moves



The Golden Age of Video Games

Opening with a foreword by Ted Dabney from Atari, You know this book isn’t just about Commodore, and you maybe have guessed from the title. The book does however contain a concise history of games and machines from the first conception of what could be called a video game; right up to the Nintendo 3ds hand-held computer. At the risk of being a nerd I read the book cover to cover and then re-read it before I started writing a review, anyway lets obtain our time machine ticket and prepare for transportation to the past and what some would call a better time.

Don’t think with the title containing the words “video games” that this is just about home consoles; many home computers are also covered. Of note to Commodore readers; they include the Commodore 64, commodore plus4 commodore 128 and Amiga and Atari range of machines

The book covers nearly all video game, consoles and home computers from the very beginning to the mid nineties, with information about pioneers and development teams. And the amendments cover hand-held devices.

You may be curios; as indeed I was about how games started, who created the first video game, and when and what hardware has come and gone, What systems were successful and what systems failed a spectacular death. Although this book doesn’t list every piece of hardware and software ever created, it does list what most could consider the main contenders. I was however surprised however that the Oric and Dragon 32 computers didn’t seem to be mentioned, unless I missed this in the vast amount of text.

The authors research must have taken some considerable time and it is clear that the author is very passionate about the subject. This is especially true because we know from the last issue of Commodore Free that he teaches this sort of information for a living. The author writes in the book that no training material was available, so he decided to put pen to paper or fingers to the keys and create a book that can be used both for education and for the casual reader interested in history. The books could easily be used as a reference manual of encyclopaedia.

Lets look at some of the highlights without spoiling the book for someone who is willing to purchase it, hopefully after reading this review

A Book of 2 Parts, Written Over 5 Parts!

The book is mainly split into 3 sections and they are:

Then we have

I can remember very clearly being told that “commodore has gone into liquidation as of today...” the feeling we all had that day was so sad especially as we were working for a large importer of Commodore hardware, in the UK obviously we knew the company was in trouble but liquidation! We were all shocked and speechless. I wouldn’t say it was the worst day of my life but it is up there with the death of a friend.

Commodore how could this have happened?

Section1

Obviously we have to start at the beginning “a very good place to start”

Although it doesn’t begin with the letters Do Ray Me; it does tell us “who created the first video game” possibly! (you need to read the book to find out why but basically) this all depends on the terminology used. Also we learn how the concept was created and then the movement to the “pong” style machines in cabinets, that people could pay to play! Nothing of the like had seen before. I read with amazement about the test machines placed in a “PUB”, the landlord rang up to say the machine was faulty and an engineer sent to look at the problem. “the cause”;

The machine had filled the bucket used to catch coins and wouldn’t accept any more. Apparently a queue of people would stand waiting their turn in front of the machine, some often not even ordering a drink! (now that’s dedication”

These guys decided on the name Atari (again all explained in the book why the name was chosen) and started selling pong machines, although they had a hard time convincing a pinball manufacturer “bally” that the machine was viable. Soon pong machines were available for the home, with some confusion if they would actually work on certain TV sets. How mind blowing would this have been for parents! We kind of take it for granted now when a console is plugged in to the TV, but the book makes you think about all the advances and the problems these engineers must have faced.

Of course I could just list the milestones from the book as a taster, and I was going to do this as a review but, I don’t think it would be a fair review of the book. It would also stop some people buying the book so I decided against the idea.

Easter Comes to Gaming

We are however told how the first Easter egg appeared and why; what motivated programmers to code something like this and of course, the most important part of the book: just how Commodore began to pull together with Jack Tramiel; and Commodores inward integration. The purchasing of Mos technologies and Jacks famous business quotes “Business is war” and “Sell to the masses not the classes”.

From the book you can see exactly how Commodore set out to be the best. Often looking through these history style books you get the feeling that people want to dismiss or cut the importance of Commodore. However the author is clear that Commodore were a major part of the gaming industry at the time and we can confirm that now with full documentation.

Section2

When something is going well, (as the saying goes) then something is bound to go wrong, and this is where the computer games industry crashed, the book lists some of the main reasons

The games are evil section is interesting, with more and more violence entering the computer games, some parts of the world were actually banning computer games from whole towns. Many people felt they were evil and could actually corrupt and cause violence. I remember this very clearly on the news, although I am not sure how I convinced my mum and Dad to buy me a Vic 20 after such scaremongers were killing off machines as evil, but of course we all know that without a computer your child could be missing out on an important part of his education. Or something along those lines, we all know the slant we used for the purchase of a Computer for Christmas.

Section3

We have a section now about the rise of the 16 bit machines with the Atari and of course Commodore machines. Jacks movement from Commodore over to Atari, (again the reasons are listed in the book) and of course Commodore famous acquisition of the Amiga brand from Jay miner.

The book lists some games in various sections through the book called “games that pushed the boundaries” and these are games that stood out for graphical content or the high game play; or the fact that nothing had ever been created like this before. Therefore these were games that stood out for some form of exceptional merits. I will not list any games here, and you can make you own assumptions as to what some of the games mite or could have been, of course you may disagree with the book, but again the listings are very balanced with games from multiple platforms represented.

Commodore

Commodore seems to get a very fair mention in the book as well as some of the internal politics that took place, as I stated the author and indeed the book recognise that Commodore; and it has to be said Atari played a major role early on in the industry. This is something most books leave out. So how refreshing it is for a book to confirm this.

The book is far from just an encyclopaedia and is a riveting read (it was hard to pull myself away from reading), you feel the author is detached from any really machine and trying to give as fair and thorough an account of history as possible, something that clearly many authors miss as they are promoters of certain machines or do not go into enough research, or maybe are paid to write the book by someone.