Issue 62
Free to download magazine dedicated to Commodore computers
Available as PDF, ePUB, MOBI, HTML,
TXT, SEQ and D64 disk image

Nigel Parker
Spell Checking
Peter Badrick
Text, HTML & eBook Conversion
Paul Davis
D64 Disk Image
Al Jackson
PDF Design
Nigel Parker
Email Address
Articles are always wanted for the magazine. Contact us for details. We can’t pay you for your efforts but you are safe in the knowledge that you have passed on details that will interest other Commodore enthusiasts.
All materials in this magazine are the property of Commodore Free unless otherwise stated. All copyrights, trademarks, trade names, internet domain names or other similar rights are acknowledged. No part of this magazine may be reproduced without permission.
The appearance of an advert in the magazine does not necessarily mean that the goods/services advertised are associated with or endorsed by Commodore Free Magazine.
Copyright © 2012 Commodore Free Magazine
All Rights Reserved.



In this packed issue: we have 3 new Commodore 64 game release reviews, (well ok technically 2 of the games are updates if you want to be pedantic) anyhow one of the games involves sheep but isn’t programmed by the legend Jeff Minter so I am sure you are intrigued now!

We have the usual news and release details; and an interview with Paul Hughes CREATOR OF THE FREELOADER TAPE SYSTEM. The Freeload system for anyone who doesn’t know was not just another fast loading system for commodore tape files; but was used on a large number of Ocean games. The system was also copied (or you could say stolen) and used by other games manufacturers and distributors, so you get the idea it was good.

Paul still follows retro computing and has even decided to release the source code for the system so other people can use it and understand how it worked, or even just look at the code out of interest or curiosity.

I know many will be reading this and wondering why people are still using tapes with all the hardware devices we have available to our disposal. I know I have said this before “ but tapes really bring the nostalgia back to a game”, the suspense of the loading time and the animations or loading screens really add to the tension of wanting to play the game, the whole build up. (Well that’s my explanation of them) I don’t as I have said before like waiting for 20 minutes for a game to load; but the 2 minutes doesn’t really seem that long when the music kicks in and the screen slowly builds up a picture.

I have also tagged on some information about the loading system at the end of the interview for you to read, if you get chance I would visit Pauls website and have a read about his history and time with Ocean, especially how they tried to beat the disk and tape copiers, (insert you favourite system here) you know the cartridges you plugged into the back of the machine and presses a button to “Freeze the game” and then save it to disk or tape, purely for backup purposes, although some would claim that the copy protection systems were a pain and did nothing more than reduce the life of the disk drive . Paul shares some of the Ocean ideas they used how they tried to trick these devices and stop the copying of games.

Well the sun is shining and the day looks great so without further waffle from me I suggest you start reading this issue of Commodore Free and I welcome feedback and comments. (Good or bad)


Nigel (pretend editor)

Commodore Free


Adventures In Time 2 Preview

KiCHY has announced that there will be a sequel to his classic platform game from 2010, Adventures In Time.

You can follow the official preview announcement thread.

You can also follow the latest sequel developments (which looks like it will be another Psytronik release) you can read more on the blog:

For the curious there is a YouTube video to watch

Lord of the Rings - Plus/4 Slide Show

Zoltán and István have released a picture diskette for the Commodore Plus/4 (PAL). The pictures are in Interlaced HiRes. 12 pictures available and a fast loader system for the 1541 and 1551 disk drive is included on the diskette. The images as you can guess are from Lord of the rings, and because of the Plus4/16`s hardware look very good indeed.

Title: LOTR Hobbit Art
Category: Demo/Picture Show
Release Date: 2012-05-05
Language: English
Size: 64K
Device Req.: Disk Only (1 sides)
Machine: PAL Only
Code Type: Machine code
Distribution: Freeware
Created by: M., Zoltán (MMS)
Additional code: V., István (IstvanV)
Notes: Fast disk loading both for 1541 and 1551 drives. Pictures from movies’ scenes, Alan Lee's and John Howe's.

How To Build An 8 Bit Computer

Building an 8-bit TTL computer for more information click on the link

ERRRRRRRRRRm looking at the picture I may give this one a miss what a spigot wiring night mare this is, although I know many will love the challenge

For this project you will need:

Optional (but very useful):

Amiga Future #96

A new edition of the English and German Amiga (paper) magazine Amiga Future has been released. In the issue are:

Chocolate Doom, Aquakon, Fortress, Relics of Deldroneye, Cyber Blast 2, The Golden Medallion, Open Beats of Rage, Hollywood 5, Audio Evolution 4, Cinnamon Writer, RP9, Icaros Desktop. Network Printing, C-Workshop (13), AmigaOS 4.1 Workbench (8), D-LAN, Classic Reflection (4), Test AresOne XL, 2 MB RAM for all 68000 Amiga's, Interview Jens Henschel, Interview Mustafa Tufan, News and Letters to the editor


Stefan Noack has developed a hardware SID player with the help from an Atmel micro processor. The components he used are: 6581 SID, Atmel Atmega162 and a MAX 323.

You can use the ACID 64 software to play your SID's on the SIDboard. Because the project is open source you can download the schematics and firmware to build your own SIDboard



Tools for debugging and development:

RGCD: Fairy Well Cartridge Available

RGCD are proud to present Wide Pixel Games’ universally acclaimed Fairy Well on cartridge! The winning entry of 2011’s C64 16KB cartridge game development competition, Fairy Well is a unique and ambitious flick-screen collect-em-up arcade adventure of epic proportions squeezed into a tiny 16KB of ROM space.

With its multiple game modes (via a character selection at the beginning of your quest), huge randomly generated level maps, varied enemies and items, boss-battles and timeless adventure gameplay, Fairy Well is a modern C64 classic. Guide your fairy through the labyrinthine underworld on your quest to rescue the captured princess and restore peace to the forest!

Fairy Well is both NTSC and PAL compatible, and it’s joystick-only control means that it’s even playable on the Commodore 64 GS console. The box artwork was created by our resident artist Flemming Dupont, and the game comes in a purple cartridge shell complete with a printed manual and exclusive sticker.

Grab your copy today from our online shop (£20 Europe/£21 Rest of World, shipping included).

Woolly Jumper (Special Edition)

Laxity presents the PAL/NTSC fixed, megatrained and one-filed version with Hi-Saver of WOOLLY JUMPER (Special Edition) from TND Games

Download here:

(Also a megatrained version of the Woolly Jumper 16kB Cartridge Version was released along with it, which was already working PAL/NTSC. Download here:

LoView Suite 2.50 Released

Updates to the program Include

Any feedback was, as usual, REALLY appreciated!

ATM only OS4(you can found it in the OS4Depot upload queue)version was released, more to come strictly...

Authors Comments about the program

LoView Suite - the Easy Viewer & Thumber

* LoView was an easy to use viewer designed to let the user choose what to do in fast and comfortable way. Supports many file format(depending on DataTypes you have installed) and may save in JPG, PNG, IFF or BMP file format, so you can also delete/copy/move/ rename/save a rotated or flipped image for example or maybe only convert an image in another format you like... From version 2.50 you can also load movies in various formats (read the docs for more info).

* With the LoViewThumb program you can also look at your nice pics in Thumb mode :)

Download from

Commodore LCD Computer Internal Specification


Bob Russell brought this in a few years ago, it shows some of the early specifications for the not-released Commodore LCD computer.

Press Play On Tape

If you have been watching our webpage or Facebook profile lately you probably already heard! The moment we have been waiting for over the past 8 years has finally arrived, as our new CD "HOME COMPUTER" was release at a concert last Saturday. The double CD comes in a deluxe digipack packaging with a 32-page booklet and features 26 tracks of pure classic nostalgia! It includes classic tracks like Ghosts 'n Goblins, Commando, Monty on the Run, The Last Ninja, and One Man and His Droid. Don't hesitate - get your copy today from iTunes worldwide or one of our international resellers:

For Danish customers we are working on a solution, which will hopefully be operational within a few days.

See our website for more details:

In other news...

Have you heard about Chris Huelsbeck’s Kickstarter campaign for his new "Turrican Soundtrack Anthology" project already? This is going to be a limited edition box set of no less than 4 CDs, which will feature almost every melody from the "Turrican" games in newly arranged and recorded versions (incl. titles like "Concerto for Laser and Enemies" or "Metal Stars", as well as full length versions of all main titles and end-credits). While this box set is bound to please every synthesizer music fan out there, new orchestra recordings are also lined up for the project. Funding has already been secured for this ambitious game music project – however, only backers of the campaign who pledge at least $50 will receive the box set. If you want to get your hand on the "Turrican Soundtrack Anthology", be sure to make a pledge before the campaign ends on June 3rd, 2012 (it is possible to make payment via PayPal). Detailed information about the campaign can be found at:

Press Release:

New album “HOME COMPUTER” from Danish old-school computer retro rock band PRESS PLAY ON TAPE

For over a decade PRESS PLAY ON TAPE has brought back fond memories by playing rock covers of tunes from old 80’s computer games, primarily from the Commodore 64. The band was formed in 2000 and released their first album “LOADING READY RUN” in 2001, followed by “RUN/STOP RESTORE” in 2004. Since then the band has regularly been recording new material, but not until now, in the year that celebrates the 30th birthday of the Commodore 64, is their 3rd album finally available.

The title “HOME COMPUTER” is a tribute to the time when a computer in the home was something special, where the computer was used in the living room in front of the TV, and the games were slowly loaded from tapes. HOME COMPUTER is now available featuring 2 CDs containing a whopping 26 tracks. The material is still primarily from the Commodore 64 even though a few tunes from the Commodore Amiga and the PlayStation 2 have found their way into the track list, which includes classics such as Ghosts ’n Goblins, Lightforce, Rambo, The Last Ninja, Commando, and Monty on the Run.

Some of the tracks are actually re-recorded versions of tracks found on their first album, which is no longer available. Additionally, the band has composed some of the tracks as well, including the homage to the true hero of computer games “The Man With The Gun” which can be seen on YouTube:

The cover tunes are from the following games: Formula 1 Simulator, Winter Games (Hot Dog), Parappa The Rapper 2 (Toasty Buns), Ghosts 'n Goblins, Gods (Into The Wonderful), Nonterraqueous, Future Knight, The Human Race, Knuckle Buster, Lightforce, One Man And His Droid, Rambo: First Blood Part II, The Last Ninja (The Wilderness), Master Of Magic, Aztec Challenge, Thrust, Commando, Sanxion, Shockway Rider, Monty On The Run, and Zoids.

The album is available from resellers as a luxury digipack double CD package with a 32-page booklet, and digitally from iTunes. Check out the bands website for details and distributors:



C64 Audio Update

After four years of silence from me, it's Commodore 64 music time again!

PRESS PLAY ON TAPE - Home Computer

PPOT make their difficult third album look easy with a brilliant mix of new remixes, some original tracks, and remakes of their older tracks, now out of print.

They're launching the CD on May 12th at their live concert, which is probably sold out by now :) We're not allowed to send out CDs until launch.

Did I mention that I was hoping to get the guys to sign the copies sells? I'm sure I did, oh yes.

Perfect SIDs on Double Vinyl LP

A double vinyl LP full of great SID, recorded by an expert and mastered to perfection? With a beautiful gatefold? It can be yours!

Track listing includes Trap and Parallax, as well other classics such as Comic Bakery, Last Ninja and Cybernoid 2.

The recordings were done by Jason "Kenz" Mackenzie of Binary Zone, and the product makes "Input64" look like the twisted sick joke that it was...

There's also a CD!

Binary Zone Rocks

Kenz, recorder of the SID, does some great C64-related stuff, and is even releasing new commercial C64 games lovingly created and packaged! Also, a great podcast of C64 music.

SID Remix Prog Rock - RAKBIT!

Welcome to the best C64 remix album you've never heard. RAKBIT is a guitar-led tour-de-force remix album by NecroPolo, and it deserves a listen, frankly. It's a digital album only, and comes with the first C64 executable album cover :)

Immortal 4 - we're now selling it

Thanks to a glitch, our website has been selling Immortal 4 since it launched, but it disappeared off the front page. So, if you haven't got it already...

Instant Remedy Amiga cover CD coming soon...

Instant Remedy is soon to be releasing his long-awaited Amiga covers album through Jan Zottmann (creator of the Immortal series of albums). Yum!

Chris Huelsbeck Turrican Kickstarter

I was going to tell you about Chris's Kickstarter campaign to do a Turrican remix album... so I will!

Zombie disappointment

Long story short: it looks as if David Whittaker will never recover any rights to "Stardust" (Lazy Jones sub tune 21) used by Zombie Nation in "Kernkraft 400". This is heartbreaking, and is mostly due to the fact that there's a huge difference between "the law" and "justice": and the little guy gets the shaft.

Nexus 1, 2 and Instant Remedy full FLAC albums now on the site

Thanks to Daniel Martinsson, there are now entire album ZIPs of FLACs for Nexus 1 and 2, and Instant Remedy available as the last track of Disk 1 on the product page.

Also, I have attached Nexus II to Nexus I, because I think it was getting overlooked.

Should we do a KickStarter for a Back in Time Live?

Just askin' :)

Cya :)

Chris Abbott

CBM 8 Bit Repair - VCF Workshop Sneak Peek


Rob Clark and Bil Herd team up to talk about repairing 8 Bit Computers and their peripherals on May 5th, 2012 at VCF East 8.0

Honestly we are uploading the day before in case the laptop doesn’t survive the trip to Wall NJ, we will just use a web browser.

Commodore Diagnostics

New articles on Obligement

Articles added to the website of the French Amiga/MorphOS magazine Obligement ( recently include :

TMPx v1.0/Style


TMPx (pronounced "TMP cross")

is Available for FreeBSD, Linux, Mac OS X, Win32

is the first and only cross assembler that is 100% compatible with the full syntax of styles C64-based Turbo Macro Pro. TMPx was thoroughly tested against nearly 100 source files with hundreds of test cases and almost 60,000 lines of code that assemble byte for byte identical with Turbo Macro Pro running on the native C64. TMPview, which outputs the de facto standard for ASCII-ised Turbo Assembler code, is used for the translation step in the test suite


TMPview v1.3/Style

Available for FreeBSD, Linux, Mac OS X, Win32

TMPview is a command line tool that converts binary source code files saved from Turbo Assembler, Turbo Assembler Macro, and many variants including Turbo Macro Pro into an ASCII version of the code which can be fully assembled by our new cross assembler, TMPx.

v1.3 adds several features to manipulate output styles and display code statistics, and corrects a couple more minor bugs.

Both are available here

Plus/4 memory map v1.7

SVS has improved the memory map for the Commodore C16, C116 and the Plus/4. This Microsoft Excel file is a very comprehensive description of the 264 models. Changes in this version: RAM usage. IRQ specifications. Keyboard routines. TED registers can be compared with VIC-II registers. Improvement to the PET-ASCII codes

You can download the file from here :

SketchBlock v1.3 - Amiga

SketchBlock is a drawing program for AmigaOS. The aim of this project is to create a sophisticated application for digital painting. Changes in this version: Bitmap brushes with small previews. Tool presets with the help of a AREXX scripts. Custom Start-up and exit scripts can be made and used. Many bug fixes, tweaks and new commands.

Major Changes In SketchBlock 1.3

Micromys V4

Micromys V4 is a PS/2 mouse adapter for the Amiga, Atari ST and the Commodore 64/128. The Micromys V4 is made by Individual Computers and is an improved version of the Micromys V3. The most important improvement is that the adapter now can recognise the computer. This version does not have the dip switches for the configuration.

PS/2 Mouse Interface for Amiga, Atari ST and Commodore 64/128

The new version of the Micromys interface comes without Dip switches for its configuration, the adapter figures out most computer environments automatically (you may need to press a mouse button in certain cases, though).

Here are the available modes of operation:

Amiga wheel mode:

Just plug in and switch on. Device will auto-detect that it's connected to an Amiga and switch to 2-button mode with wheel support. Wheel and middle-mouse button can be activated with the driver from

Amiga 3-button mode without drivers:

User keeps middle mouse button (or wheel) pressed while switching the Amiga on. This mode stays active until the next power cycle. A machine reset does not alter the mode of operation - only a power-cycle does.

Atari ST/STe/Falcon:

Just plug in and switch on. Micromys will auto-detect that it's connected to an Atari and switch to that mode. The Atari mode supports two mouse buttons, additional buttons or a mouse wheel are ignored.

The following models could not be tested, but should work flawlessly with the Micromys adapter anyway: Atari Stacy, Atari TT 030, C-LAB Falcon, ATW (Atari Transputer Workstation 800 - ABAQ).

C64 or C128 in joystick port 1:

This is the usual port for a 1351 mouse. Most programs use it for the proportional mouse, because the GEOS operating system expects the mouse there. If Micromys V4 is plugged into port 1, it detects the machine and switches to 1351 mode. Should the user hold down the right mouse button during power-up, the unit goes to joystick emulation mode, just like the real 1351 mouse would do.

C64 or C128 in joystick port 2:

This is a rather unusual port for a proportional mouse. However, the popular music programs MSSIAH and Prophet64 use the mouse in that port, so it must be covered. If the user wants to use joystick port 2, then Micromys must be attached to port 2 after power-up and after the program has been started. The program must be set to use the mouse, and then the adapter can be attached to port 2. Since auto-detect in port 2 is highly depending on software (thus may not always work), Micromys V4 can be configured to be C64-only by removing the auto-detect jumper inside the case. Once the jumper is removed, the auto-detect sequence is bypassed and the unit will work in C64-only mode on any port of any computer. This will also let you use the joystick emulation mode on other computers than the C64.

Micromys V4 of course retains the high compatibility of its predecessor, the Micromys V3 adapter. USB mice supporting the PS/2 protocol also work with the Micromys adapter.

In order to deal with space constraints on every desk, the Micromys V4 comes with a long cable. This design allows installation on every narrow desk, even when a bulky USB-PS/2 adapter is being used. Please note that due to the space constraints around the Amiga 600 mouse port and port 1 of the Commodore 128, an additional adapter with a smaller plug or modification of the Micromys plug is required.

Review: Huntress of Midgard

By Commodore Free

The Story Continues …

Just as the war to defend the new provinces draws to a successful close, a new disaster arises: a surprise attack upon your home nation by the vile creatures of Morrigan, last of the evil lords of Midgard. Long believed dead or in exile, she has in reality been mustering a force to attack the three most sacred sites in your domain, so that by assassinating the High Priestesses and stealing the Holy Talismans protected there she can deprive your realms of spiritual protection and conquer them with ease.

With the army still abroad, Queen Malexia is forced to turn to outside help: the fearless but highly-priced mercenary Eris is immediately hired to venture into the holy sites, ensure the safety of the Priestesses, and recover the Talismans before the minions of Morrigan can extract them for their own evil ends.


Eris runs forward at a continuous pace, can move right and left across the field of battle, and can throw an axe either forwards, backwards, or at an upward angle. For enemies on the ground, she must rely upon kicking them at close range. Both the axe and the kick are activated with the fire button. In most cases, you should attack quickly and indiscriminately, but keep your eyes peeled

Commodore Free

The evil creatures of Morrigan are in search of the missing holy talisman hunt them down and retrieve it before Midgard is in their own power.

help me obi wan you're my only hope

Darn wrong game

Right then game reviews ...........

The game has an extensive instruction guide with the story and instructions I have lifted some of it and printed it above, so you get a feel for the story.

Loadem up then

The tape version of the game features a loading game to play while the main game loads

You have to move your block (the bottom one) to a space avoiding the 3 blocks or you will die that’s about it!

On the bottom right you see a countdown timer showing the remaining time for the main game to load

Starting the game gives us a useful splash screen with credits

And some pumping music From Richard, I suppose this style of music you either love it or hate it; personally I am on the fence about it (ha)

Then after the nice intros we start the main game

The main credits of the game have some very subtle music, sounding like some harps being plucked (although rather electronic ones!)

It’s obvious this is a SEUCK game, but that could be a good or bad thing depending on your like/dislike of the SEUCK system and its limitations, sometimes limitations need more thought to break a game out of the mediocre; and this seems to have been done here. The animation and graphics really stand out on this release! The whole thing is almost entirely in monochrome graphics, and I for one don’t see this as a negative, because it lifts the game out of the crowd for using something different and personally I feel it’s more fitting with the game, but hey what do I know !

Notice in the picture I have killed the top half but the legs keep on running

I haven’t managed to work out how to kill a spear yet that’s being thrown at my back!

The main game intro starts with a familiar tune then ends up as a rather racy pumping track, sadly I feel it didn’t really match the game at all; and although it’s not unpleasant in its own right, it doesn’t really fit the game

At the end of the first level you are greeted with a flying creature, skill wise that’s about my limit here so we need to do some scoring

Graphics 8/10
Sounds 5/10
Decent music but doesn’t fit the theme
Playability 6/10
Longevity 5/10

Interview With Paul Hughes

Creator of the Freeloader Tape System

By Commodore Free

Q. Please introduce yourself to our readers

Howdy, my name is Paul Hughes and I worked in-house as a programmer at Ocean in the late 80's early 90's. My claims to fame, I guess, are, "The Ocean Loader" and the post Galway music drivers.

Q. Do you still own a Commodore machine and do you still follow the retro scene ?

Oh yes, I'm a bit of a hoarder when it comes to gadgets, I've still got a couple of C64s, 1541 drives and C2Ns up in the attic. I do indeed follow the retro scene, its great fun talking to the people that played our games back in the day.

Q. Did you share techniques and tricks with the other programmers or was it better to be secretive?

In house we shared tricks and tips - snippets of code for scrolling, multiplexing and the like - back in the day there wasn't really any shared code libraries as such - we just talked a lot and swapped print-outs and disks!

Q. Was it fun having access to the arcade machines Ocean were converting?

It was an odd one - on one hand you had free-play access to modern arcade cabs, but at the same time, as you were doing a visual port of the game you ended up revisiting the same bits of gameplay (or videos of the gameplay) over and over again, so it could get a bit dull - that said it was great fun playing the games that you weren't working on :o)

Q. The Ocean Experience website has a lot of photos - was it a fun place to work, and any memorable incidents? (Editor comments after the interview The website seems to be down but I did find a YouTube link

Indeed! I took a lot of those photos as I was a keen photographer back then. It was a crazy, stressful yet fun place to be - certainly during the late 80's when Ocean was the place to be - we had an incredibly talented bunch of programmers, artists and musicians all in house. There were many, many memorable incidents during my tenure - most of them are out there on the Internet, the juicy stuff, however, is probably best kept as a distant memory!

Q. Did you ever have problems mastering a game to meet a deadline?

Not with internal games - though there was one "seat of the pants" incident where all the Freeload mastering source had been sent out to an external developer, who very kindly, "optimised and vastly improved" the code (at least that's what the comments in the code said!) Anyway, alas, they didn't really understand how the Turbo loader worked, and the fine tuning it required, so their wonderful optimisations made the game incredibly unreliable, and caused no end of problems for Ablex (our duplicator). I had to hot-foot it down to Birmingham and put together a new master maker and patched in a proper multi-loader so that the game could be run off and assembled that night - we drove back at 4am with a van full of games for WH Smiths!

Q. Were you employed at ocean to code games or utilities or both?

I was hired as a games programmer, however just as I started the chap that used to do all the C64 tape mastering left and they had no one to do the tape protection - rather than go back to Novaload, some kind soul mentioned to Gary and Jon that I had done turbo loaders and tape protection for Hewson, Mastertronic and a few others… the rest is history!

Q. Ocean had their own development system for cartridge games, based on your Freeload code. Do you think there was a lot more potential for the machine with the fast access of cartridge memory?

It wasn't strictly based on Freeload - I used compression and encryption routines from the actual loader, but it was all new code based around Dave Collier's cartridge system design - I just wrote software that tapped into the game's loading routines and did all the ROM bank switching, decrypting, decompression and moving into main memory - it worked really well. It's a shame it didn't take off as the almost instant load times were a joy to behold after waiting two to three minutes for a multi load.

Q. Do you still remember how to code in 6502/6510 machine code?

Oh yes. I recently dug out the source code for Freeload and a couple of music drivers which I put out in the public domain, so I had to get it all working again with modern assemblers and emulators.

Q Steve Day created a new loading picture for Wizball. How do you feel about someone remastering the game with the new loader picture for Nostalgia's sake (not commercial).

I saw that screen - it was gorgeous! Well, all my source code is out there to make a new master (a couple of modern C64 games have used it for a touch of nostalgia) - however the legality of actually doing something with the Wizball code is a bit beyond my realm of expertise - I would imagine all the rights went to Infogrammes/Atari after the takeover so the actual copyright more than likely still resides with them.

Q Which C64 game made you want to swear a lot when you were tape mastering for Ocean at the time and why?

Nothing in house really bothered me - we had an incredibly talented group of developers and so the code was always as clean as a whistle - the game compilations on the other hand were hell on Earth! Most of the time I didn't get raw assets or mastering programs I just got a cassette of the game to be put on the compilation and had to break their protection in order to re-protect it with Freeload and/or compress it to within an inch of its life to fit it on the smallest number of disks possible!

Q Did you write the intelligent noisy tape loader for the games "Run the Gauntlet" and "Night Breed".

No, they were the only two games that I didn't master - they were done by Mark Rogers from Painting by Numbers who also programmed the aforementioned games. They were very smart people - the only thing Ocean provided was the music IIRC.

Q. What do you think about people still developing new hardware and games for the C64 today?

I find it fascinating (if a little mad) what people are managing to get a C64 to do nowadays - there's some remarkable 3D being pushed around - lots of thinking way outside of the box!

Q. What drove you to write Freeloader? Was it a personal goal of yours or was this more a business need?

It was a bit of a challenge at first - the first time I saw a turbo loader was Kingsoft's loader that Jeff Minter used on Revenge of the Mutant Camels - that just blew me away and so I had to figure out how to do one! That combined with a fascination for protection, encryption and compression meant I was destined to write something commercial that I could sell.

Q. In a basic way how do fast loaders work, and how do you play music display a picture but still continue to load game data

Blimey - OK, in layman's terms,

Freeload was completely interrupt driven (thus it was "Free" to do stuff whilst the loading was done in the background) - basically under interrupt it would set a timer going and then start listening to the tone on the tape, when the tone stopped an interrupt would come along and you could determine how long the tone lasted via the timer - depending on how long the timer counted you marked the pulse as a 1 or a 0 and racked up 8 bits at a time. Basically the flashing bars on Freeload showed a colour switch for each bit that was read, with the pair of colours changing every 256 bytes read.

The key to keeping the screen on and processing other stuff (music, scrollers, games) in the background was simply down to a very efficient data format and very tight interrupt driven decoding loops - the only reason the standard C64 loader turned the screen off was because with the screen off processing ran faster - but as their tape format was so, well, clunky they needed all the cycles they could get.

The actual loading and saving is really the easy bit - the hard bit is striking a balance between something that can load as fast as possible - reliably - but also be within the high-speed tolerances that were required by the duplicators. That's why there weren't many different loaders back then - there were only a few that were reliable enough to get through the duplication process and protect the game for the few days and weeks required to get some sales in…

Q. The code is available to download why have you given the code away? And how did you find the original code?

I mentioned I was a bit of a hoarder! I've kept pretty much every disk, tape and listing I've ever had since I wrote my first game in 1981 - one day I tried loading some old Atari ST source disks into an emulator and found it could read them (Ocean's dev system was ST based) - so all I needed to do was write a little tool to de-tokenise the source code back into raw ASCII.

A few people in the retro scene had asked about how Freeload and the music drivers worked, so I figured I might as well put them out there for posterity (I owned the copyright on them as I had written them pre-Ocean)

Q. If you had or were asked to redo the code what would you change and why?

Hindsight is a wonderful thing… There's stuff I could've done to make the mastering system more like a standalone tool (like John Twiddy's Cyberload) - but as it wasn't a tool that people could buy, I just changed the tables in the code for each game that we did, without worrying about making a system that anyone could use "out of the box".

Q. It appears the Freeload system was used by other commercial companies, I presume this code was how should we say "used without consent"

I was quite shocked when I first found out, many, many years after the fact - I mean, the borrowing and/or reverse engineering of code was quite rife back then, but bloody hell, I didn't realise just how many people had "borrowed" the loader and saver code byte for byte. I guess it was a pretty robust system, so people wanted to use it, shame they didn't want to actually pay for it!

Q. Do you have any comments to close with or feel I have left anything out?

It was an awesome time to be in the industry, and I'm still blown away that people are remotely interested in the stuff that we cobbled together back then, so, thanks for your interest.

The Ocean In House Development Team, 1988

Back Row

Paul Hughes, Colin Porch, Steve Lavache, Martin MacDonald, Paul Owens, Mark K. Jones, Darren Dunn, Roger Fenton, Andrew Deakin

Second Row

Kane Valentine, Mike Lamb, John Brandwood, Mark R. Jones, Andy Sleigh, Lorraine Broxton, Martin Galway, Shaun Riddings

Front Row

David Blake, Ivan Horn, Lee Cowley, Nick Sheard, Jane Lowe, Zach Townsend, Allan Shortt

Snip from the website about the Freeload history

I wrote the first version of the Freeload Mastering System in 1985 after tearing my hair out waiting for code to load off tape, or even worse waiting for a game to slowly trudge into the C64's memory. Back in 1985 a game for the 64 could take anything up to 30 minutes to load with nothing but a completely blank screen to stare at. At the end of the load, the screen would switch back on... and... in many cases the C64 would just reset! Aaaarrrgh!

I wasn't by any means the first person to write a "turbo loader", I remember the day I first saw one, I was stood in a local computer shop when the assistant popped Jeff Minter's "Revenge of the Mutant Camels" into the cassette deck. About five minutes later up pops the game! Turns out that Jeff had licensed a new fangled fast loader from a German company called Kingsoft.

I've gotta do one of these! To cut a long story short, I took a look at the ROM load and save routines and was just flabbergasted at just how poor they were; No wonder loading was slow; it effectively stored more than four times the data it needed to! Every byte stored required 20 pulses (two for each bit sent, plus a couple of parity bits and a couple of bits to mark that this byte was the last byte (!). This data was then stored again to verify to load!

I took a different approach to the IO timings; everything in Freeload was done with Non-Maskable Interrupts, which meant that the timings could be really tight so I could seriously shorten the pulse lengths and more importantly I could free up the main processing loop to do other things whilst the load was going on in the background.

Review: Quod Init Exit v1.2

By Commodore Free
Programming: Simone Bevilacqua
Graphics: Simone Bevilacqua
Music: Richard Bayliss
Genre: Arcade - Platform
Tape loader: Thunderload V3

This is indeed a strange concept the idea of the game is to guide a very greedy pig around a platform area grabbing food like fruit burgers and cakes and avoid nasty poison these come in bottles, so you leap around the platform getting fatter and fatter (by eating food) until a toilet appears! you must then jump on the toilet to advance to the next level! If you miss the toilet as it scrolls off screen you die and turn into a pile of poo!

Apparently the title is Latin and supposed to translate to "whatever gets in, gets out"

So let’s load up and see what happens with the game

The game loads and the text appears it reads as follows

Every morning
When you wake up
A thought crosses your mind...

Down the bottom shows the loading progress in the form of text like loading sprites... etc

When loading is finished we end with the text amended to the precious lines


And of course this complete the above sentence

Now we see the high scores screen and some scrolling messages about the creator and musician etc

The music plays a tune that seems to fit the theme of the game, the music is nice and bouncy and quite listenable to.

Anyway after pressing start or pressing the joystick button we are in the game

In the game as the music plays and you start to loos energy the music changes to a more frantic pace; then as you start collecting energy the pace goes back to its more sedate pace, so the music is interacting with the player (or vice versa) to some extent, it seems to work well for the game.

The animation is great on our little pig, the food just scrolls (but then how do you animate a banana) everything is very colourful and incredibly fast paced; this could be a 16bit release easily, sometimes it’s not easy to forget this is a commodore 64 and not an Amiga or Atari ST.

Moving is via a joystick in port 2 and pressing fire button to jump up platforms, you have to move down by walking through gaps and this can cause frustration; especially when the toilet appears as you have to find the gaps to move down quickly should the toilet appear below you. Don’t wait around as the toilet will wiz of screen and you will be turned to a pile of poo!

Nice game I just found it a little too difficult, but then that’s just me.

Graphics 7/10
Music 7/10
Playability 6/10

Tape /Disk Version

Review: Woolly Jumper (Sheepoid 2)

By Commodore Free
Programming: Richard Bayliss
Exomizer decruncher source: Magnus Lind
Graphics: Richard Bayliss, Steve Day, Shaun Pearson
Music: Richard Bayliss
Genre: Arcade (Platform)
Tape Loader: Thunderload (Martin Piper)

The Story

Pepito the sheep was grazing the fields along with his sheepy friends until the mischievous sheep had a little accident. Little did the farmer know was that he left the gate to his mushroom farm open. The farmer was fast asleep, after drinking a bit of his beer on a hot summer's day. Pepito visited the mushroom farm, ate a couple of mushrooms. Then he drunk the farmer's beer. Pepito felt weird and went into his pen and crashed into the barrel. (Ouch). When he falls asleep he finds him trapped in a strange psychedelic universe called Mind Space. Your task is to help Pepito run and jump through all 16 levels of Mind Space, and get the heck out of there. Locate the whistle to call for the rocket to take off to the next level. Try to complete all 16 levels to see how the story ends.

It seems there are a number of versions of this game available, one was released for the RCD 16k Cartridge competition and a number of fixed versions and revisions of the game exist.

Having said that Richard Bayliss has only 2 versions listed on his website

they are the 16k version and what he calls the “Full version”. Here I will review the Full version. Downloading the game and unzipping the contents, Richard has given us not only the Tape and Disk version but also included the Art to make a disk or tape Jacket or if you prefer inlay cards.

Heck just for good measure we also have a d64 of the Tape mastering system. And finally the Game documentation in a Doc formatted document.

Loading the tape version (with tension building sound track) we start off with a loading screen

Then we are into a scrolling credit list, and instructions about the game.

I can’t seem to find a way to quit out of this, so each time I play I have to again look at all the credits and view the story and instructions again and again, I find this frustrating as all I want is to play. Music is playing with a pumping pace although it’s not a techno mindblower it’s a more subtle tuneful affair.

I find it difficult to describe music in these reviews, think of a fast arpeggio style rippling pulse sound track with warbling chords backing up a tuneful melody. (hmm that really didn’t do the track any justice)

As the instructions fade out the music stops and we are on the main credits screen

Now the music changes again and starts off with fairly convincing bounding sheep music (erm am I losing it) complete with BAAAAHHH sounds, with more tuneful popular beaty music complete with jingly warbles and it does seem to fit nicely with the game pictures and credits, especially the baaaaaahh sounds. Quite tuneful and something you could sing. Well should you feel like singing a sheep sound track.

So armed with the facts we need to move a joystick left and right and up to jump and confirming that pressing the fire button will erm well fire stuff!

We start the game

Pressing the Fire button on our joystick plugged into port 2 of our machine starts the game

Now it’s here I have some really problems,

the first is the physics on the sheep is all wrong, let’s try and explain; so pressing up makes the sheep jump up and come down but doesn’t seem to work as you would think. I can’t quite explain but it’s wrong the gravity isn’t right and detracts from the game.

Also the game starts at a quite hard pace and I can hardly progress further than seeing the first batch of aliens then falling to my death in the sea! However after a few attempts the strange sheep movements and physics of the game start to get to your fingers and brain. Finally after some quick deaths you begin to get a feel for the control system (baaaaaahhhh). I still feel it’s a little hard on the first level though. At the end of level 1 you are given a couple of bonuses that you need to collect and are transported to the next level by a descending spaceship! (well what else were you expecting a tractor.....?)

End of level 1

Start of level 2

Level 2 seems to be more of the same, it’s all about timed jumping and firing. The games graphics look good the scenery is space but well drawn; even the sheep looks cute and well animated, along with the aliens and various other creatures that appear in the game.

Scoring is as follows

Music 7/10
Graphics 7/10
Gameplay 5/10
Longevity 5/10

Sadly I think the game is let down by the difficulty curve and the in game physics, maybe we will see a version 3 with these problems fixed! Who knows?