The Amiga CD32

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What if? The Amiga CD32

I love What if? scenarios. What could have been if things hadn’t gone a bit pear-shaped for a certain company. This particular scenario though surrounds the question, What if the Amiga CD32 had been a success… would we be seeing an Amiga console today? Equal to the PS3 or X-Box?

There’s plenty of debate on the interweb, schools of thought on the future of Commodore and Amiga. I’ve been dipping in and out of some forums recently and there is certainly a lot of passion surrounding this subject. However, my own personal opinion doesn’t seem to fit in with these particular debates. I’ve always dreamt of an Amiga console, a continuation of the CD32, with Commodore backed and developed hardware, chipsets and designs with the same Amiga enthusiasm for gaming, graphics and entertainment.

amiga-cd32

I look all bleary eyed as I imagine the release of the ‘Commodore Amiga *insert awesome console name here*’, the anticipation as to the specs of this new machine, the controllers, the online game play… I’ve pretty much invented this fantasy console already, it has everything that made the Amiga and its successors the gaming giants they were (and still are in my opinion).

I’ve imagined the specs, it rivals the PS3 and X-Box for graphics and online gaming, it has an entertainment centre for playing Blu-ray and downloadable movies, it has the retro back catalogue of Amiga games and software, all in a glorious online archive of classics from the past… sorry, drifted off for a bit there.

In short, I think an Amiga console would have easily fitted in amongst the latest gaming platforms, having an incredible legacy behind it and a gaming archive for it to include in its package, sitting alongside any of the latest games. Somehow (don’t ask me how) this latest Amiga console would also allow people to develop their own Amiga projects, the software played just as big a part in the history of Commodore and Amiga as the games did and it would be awesome to see that included, and of course backed by a genuine and passionate Commodore company.

amiga cd32_back

Now, lets not forget this is a What if? scenario, I like to dream of what could have been, and of course in an ideal world this is where I would have liked the direction of the company to have gone. The reality of course was a lot more complicated and depressing, and currently, at least for the brand we all know and love, it’s not looking much better.

Check out another blog post on the CD32 over at Last of Commodore: Amiga CD32, it’s a lot more informative and a lot less fantasy (see above). Thanks for indulging my imagination, until my dreams come true, I’ll be playing on my Amiga 500.

Thanks to Gamester81 for the video review.

The Lost Vikings

The Lost Vikings - Sega Genesis - Gameplay Screenshot

Lost Vikings, The (1992)
By: Silicon & Synapse / Interplay  Genre: Platform / Puzzle  Players: 1-2  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis
Also Available For: SNES, GameBoy Advance, Amiga, CD32, PC

Now that I think about it, the sub-genre of platform/puzzle games, on which I am rather keen, is a little obscure as genres go, but the combination of two older and exceedingly popular types of game has proved to be a fantastic partnership. Examples have taken many weird and wonderful forms over the years and one of the most interesting (though not necessarily best) is of the sort that includes multiple characters with differing abilities. This was of course made popular by the great Lemmings. Dozens of similar games soon appeared and most were average at best, but The Lost Vikings is a pretty rare example of another game taking that premise, putting a different slant on it, and actually succeeding.

The Lost Vikings - Sega Genesis - Gameplay Screenshot

Starring as the multiple characters in this game are the Vikings of the title who are indeed lost. Actually, ‘captives’ might be a more appropriate word as our three Nordic friends have apparently been abducted by the curiously-named Tomator, emperor of the alien Croutonian Empire, who has been collecting unique and interesting specimens for his intergalactic zoo. They obviously weren’t confined very effectively though as they immediately set out to escape their shackles. To do this you must guide them to the exit on each of the 41 levels (or 37 in the other versions) which are set over various themed worlds (through time, of course!). The first is apparently set within the Croutonian spaceship but others include an Egyptian one (obviously), Pre-Historic, and even toy/food-related ones (not sure what time-period it’s supposed to be though!).

The Lost Vikings - Sega Genesis - Gameplay Screenshot

Before I get carried away though, I’ve just realised how rude I’ve been by failing to introduce the stars of the show – the Vikings themselves! So, say hello to Erik the Swift, Baleog the Fierce, and Olaf the Stout! As you may have guessed, they each have unique abilities so you must use them all as a team to successfully finish each level. Erik can run and jump around the platforms and can also smash down certain walls by headbutting them, Baleog is equipped with a sword and bow (with infinite arrows) with which to battle the various enemies, and Olaf has a large shield which protects him (and indeed the others if they’re behind him) from enemies and hazards, and he can also raise it above his head and glide down from high places.

The Lost Vikings - Sega Genesis - Gameplay Screenshot

To complete a level you must succeed in guiding all three Vikings to its exit. On the first level this takes about one minute but as you go through the game the levels get larger and more complicated as you might expect. They are multi-tiered and most feature ladders, colour-coded keys/locks, switches, and various monstrous and not-so-monstrous enemies. As you progress you’ll encounter more and more obstacles and features such as spring-pads, moving platforms, and even a device that inflates our heroes allowing them to float! The enemies take many forms usually related to the environment you’re in. The pre-historic world, for example, features vicious cavemen, small dragons, and… umm… snails. There’s also numerous guns and other projectile-firing devices around, and a touch from any of these things, or indeed falling too far, will cost the unfortunate Viking one of his three health points.

The Lost Vikings - Sega Genesis - Gameplay Screenshot

Contact with some of the hazards found in the levels, such as spikes or electric forcefields, can cause instant death too, so careful planning is required for the most part, rather than charging around recklessly. Fortunately, hit points are replenished each stage and there are also a few items that can help you such as various foods to replenish your energy and smart bombs to clear the screen of enemies. These items can be transferred from one Viking to another too, depending on who’s most in need, which further emphasises the teamwork aspect of the game which is so prevalent. In fact, in some versions of the game (including this one) it’s possible for you and a friend to control more than one Viking at once.

The Lost Vikings - Sega Genesis - Gameplay Screenshot
As I mentioned earlier, after the success of Lemmings there was a good few games released that tried their own take on the ‘multiple characters with differing abilities’ formula, but in most cases it either seemed unnecessarily tacked-on or that the developers put too much emphasis on it, forgetting to create decent stages for them to explore in the process! Luckily, Silicon & Synapse (who would later become Blizzard Entertainment of Warcraft fame) got the balance just right with this amusing adventure. The levels are well designed for the most part and before each one there’s some humorous banter between the three Vikings (via speech bubbles). They all have unique abilities but they are simple too, and all vital for successful progress through the game’s ever-tougher levels.

The Lost Vikings - Sega Genesis - Gameplay Screenshot
Aesthetically, The Lost Vikings is pretty average. It doesn’t really need flashy graphics and, whilst there is a lot of colour and some nice backgrounds and foregrounds, it’s certainly not ground-breaking either. It’s the same with the sound – effects are kept to a minimum and the music suits the game well enough but isn’t particularly memorable. As with all games of this type though, it’s other aspects of the game’s design that counts, such as level and character design. Happily, near enough every aspect of the gameplay is spot-on. The Vikings themselves are appealing (helped by their entertaining chatter) and are easy to control, and the difficulty curve is reasonably well-balanced too. The only problem is that there’s something of a ‘trial and error’ aspect to some sections of the game, and if you make a mistake and kill a Viking it’s all the way back to the start of the level, and they can get pretty big and complicated later on! Still, each level has a password and it is addictive, with the unique abilities of each Viking making for an interesting and fairly originally-designed game that’s well worth a look.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-1wmfle9-8[/youtube]

Retro King Simon is a 36 year old guy from England, and likes lots of stuff, including retro videogames, movies, and anime. You can check out his blog here – Red Parsley.

RKS Score: 8/10

Glen VanDenBiggelaar: The Amiga Lounge

Amiga 500
Amiga 500

The Amiga Lounge

Many of us at Obsolete Gamer are fans of and owners of the Amiga computer so any chance to talk about the culture and community is a joy for us. In addition we are profiling stories on the Amiga in an effort to assist the Viva Amiga team with their upcoming documentary.

Glen VanDenBiggelaar is the owner of The Amiga Lounge where he shares his love of all things Amiga including his own experiences, collecting, and building of the commodore Amiga. We were able to get a great look into his corner of the Amiga world.

Obsolete Gamer: How did you come to create the Amiga lounge?

Glen: The Amiga lounge came from a need to research the Amiga when I decided to jump into the hobby. Before the Amiga, I was collecting and restoring the TRS-80 Color Computer and built www.thecocolounge.com website . Like the Amiga lounge, I had an on-line store and such, and during that time I was getting frustrated with the limits of the Co Co. One day, I was having breakfast with my best friend and his father, I knew that he had been a veteran at Xerox for over 30 years and he always had some fascinating story about Xerox and computers, and he suggested I look at the Amiga. I then found out he was one of the first people to have a Commodore PET in Canada, and later one of the First Amiga’s in Canada, going right to Commodore to get them. He passed away a few years back and left me all his Amiga’s in his will. Tons of books and software and such. The blog started out as a “Blogger” site, but when Google decide to take away FTP transferring to the blog, I then decided to expand the site to try to make it a “one stop” site with all the information I could find in one place instead of surfing all over the net and book making hundreds of sites.

The “Commodore” pages came after I read the book “ON THE EDGE- The Spectacular rise and fall of Commodore”-by Brian Bagnal. I instantly fell in love with the history of the company and started collecting the other Commodore Computers. I started with the “Ugly Stepchild” of the Commodore line- the TED Series and also fell in love with it. People tend to jump on the Plus /4 as a pile of crap and never really gave that computer its rightful due; they just compare it to the C64. It was never meant to compete or replace the C64, but nobody cared and it died a quick and horrible death because of that. I then got a PET in and so forth, so the website just grew and grew. I still have a ton of work to do on the Non – Amiga pages, just time is not there.

Obsolete Gamer: Can you tell us about your personal experience with Amiga computers?

Glen: My experience with Amiga’s has been great. Back when I was doing the CoCo, everyone had heard or seen a CoCo or new someone who had one, so it wasn’t very awe inspiring. The Amiga on the other hand is a completely different story. If I am talking to a person who used the Amiga, a flood of stories come out at the wonderful things they could do with it. It sounds corny, but these days, a computer is just looked at as a tool, like a hammer for example. No one is truly fascinated at what the box can do for them, or the joy they had discovered making Music Demos or such. The users have such fond memories of the machine, that it is almost legendary. For those people that have never heard of the Amiga, they are usually fascinated to hear that some  of their favorite movies or TV shows (computer animation) was done on the Amiga, and always say why didn’t we know about this back then. The best part is showing of the CDTV or the CD32, for even the diehard video game collectors, usually never seen or heard of them. Everybody seems to agree though, that the story of both the Amiga and Commodore is fascinating and sad that certain “forces” are doing their best to re-write history and erase Commodore and the Amiga from it.

Amiga 1000
Amiga 1000

Obsolete Gamer: Besides your own blog how active have you been in the Amiga community?

Glen: Besides belonging to a Few Amiga Forums (just no time to Cover them all), I belong to the local user group AMICUE. AMICUE doesn’t really focus on Amiga’s anymore; it’s more of a small social club that its members have been going to for years. I am trying to bring back life to the club, by bringing Videos of new Amiga’s, interviews with the creators and trying to get companies like AMITRIX to make new hardware again for the Amiga. So far, it’s a slow, hard battle, as most members got rid of their Amiga’s years ago. I always feel I can do more though. If work and money were not a driving factor in my life, I would push Amitrix to make more hardware, or create a company and make it myself. It was always my goal for the online store, to put the stuff I can’t use back to the Community, and the (small) profits that I make, all go back into the community, by buying more stuff from the Amiga Vendors. I COULD make tons more money on EBay, but I feel that the greed on EBay actually hurts the Amiga Community then helps it.

Obsolete Gamer: What is it like to be an Amiga collector?

Glen: I consider myself a “Computer Historian” as I am fascinated and could actually teach some computer history. Being an Amiga Collector is a perfect “spring board” for that, as EVERY Amiga or collection I have obtained has a long and detailed story. Most people that used Amiga’s back in the day have gone on to be brilliant computer programmers, famous artists and musicians and what not. I am really kicking myself for not keeping better records of the history of the machines I get in, because most people have no time to talk about them when they bring them in to me.
I usually wear an Amiga shirt about once a week, and I get a lot of people asking about it-sort of remembering it, so being a collector, and letting people know it, you become an unofficial ambassador of the Amiga

Obsolete Gamer: Do you have a collecting story you’d like to share?

Glen: I have so many, but I guess the best I can share with you, is not really a collecting story, but the fact that a few of the original designers, engineers, and programmers, the people that were actually there, have contacted me and taken the time to share stories and corrections about my site. This may sound crazy, but a nobody like me, getting a phone call from these guys really kind of justifies what I am doing, because at times, I just feel like a mad man ranting and raving and collecting stuff that everyone moved on from 20 years ago.

Amiga 3000
Amiga 3000

Obsolete Gamer: Which Amiga is your favorite?

Glen: Oooh! Tough question. Owning EVERY Amiga model except an A4000 tower system at one time or another, I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt, my LEAST favorite is the A500. Die hards will scream at me for this, but as one of the highest selling models of the Amiga, by itself, it is a rather useless machine. You can pick up A500’s all day long for next to nothing. To make them useful, you need some sort of expansion. Be it a hard drive or an accelerator, and those or worth their weight in gold. The same can be argued for the A1000, but the A1000 looks at least like a real desktop and has cool features like the way you can side the keyboard under it. The least popular I can see in the community is the A2000, but the expansion cards are cheap and easy to get.
My personal favorite at this time, is my A3000 tower. The tower is huge and lots of room to work on inside. it weighs a ton though. One of the best things about it, is right out of the box, you can hook up a VGA monitor to it. No paying an arm and a leg for a VGA adapter.

Obsolete Gamer: Can you tell us about your Amiga store?

Glen: Sure! The store came out of the need to clear some Amiga stuff out to the Community. I did not want to part take in the greed fest that eBay provides. My goal is to someday open a museum where everyone can come for free to use and play with the Amiga, and the store was a way to get rid the excess (who needs 9 A500’s). any money raised in sales and donations to the website go right back into the Amiga community. The PayPal Account is NOT linked to any bank account, and I use that money to buy more Amiga stuff that I need and don’t have, from other Amiga manufactures, distributors, re-sellers and hardware makers. You would be surprised, but there are tons of small time hardware makers, making new stuff to make the Amiga more modern. One of the biggest is Amigakit from the UK.

Obsolete Gamer: Did you have a favorite game on the Amiga?

Glen: I try a new game every week (I literally have thousands of floppy disks to go through), but “Lemmings” is still fun, and frustrating. My biggest problem is the controller. Most Amiga joysticks are (please forgive me) pure and utter crap! Trying to play “Golden Axe” with an Epyx 500XJ stick is horrible. The closest that I can find tolerable is the Amiga CD32 pad. I have yet to pick up a Sega Genesis pad, I hear those work well.

Amiga 4000 in box
Amiga 4000 in box

Obsolete Gamer: Can you tell us about the Amiga RV Tour?

Glen: Not too much yet. I have been planning a RV trip across the USA and Canada for about 4 years now, to tour the Silicon Valley and visit all the major Computer HQ’s. But the technology to broadcast it live, steaming video feed over the net did not (and probably still doesn’t) exist yet. Coupled with the fact that nobody cares about a lone computer geek’s trek. It did not seem a feasible or sane thing to do.
But, with my love of the Amiga, and wanting to do something to raise awareness of the retro- computing hobby, the Idea evolved into one, that could not only promote the Amiga Community, Give me a chance to “save” Amiga’s and Commodores from the dump.


It also give the opportunity to promote (or create) a whole new untapped technology field. Soon, a lot of baby boomers and such will be retiring and want to hook up their RV, camper and such to the internet, so they will not have to rely on “hot spots” and such to keep up to date. This is a chance to for some company (like Cisco for example) to showcase a new technology that hooks the internet up “anywhere”, not relying on the cell phone companies (as this will be traveling both in the US and Canada) through Satellite or such. Some very smart Company could use this as a test. Also, Looking at the big picture and expanding on the above Idea, a computer company could create a “modular” computer system -let’s say in a shock proof case that could just “plug-In” to the RV. One would only need a TV or Monitor, keyboard and mouse actually on board and the camper could have a full computer system “on-board” and easily upgradeable. The possibilities from this trip are truly endless from a Corporate, or technology point of view.

I know from a recent weekend camping trip, that people were amazed when we had just hooked up an IPhone and networked a few laptops together, and had Wi-Fi out at the camp ground, and we were checking e-mail from fireside.

What I can tell you is we are at least a year away, and depending on actually outfitting the RV, it might be 2 years. The plan is to leave here (Edmonton, Alberta, and Canada) in October 2011 or October 2012 (to avoid the Canadian winter here). Besides the 4 or 5 Cameras on the RV, I will have a hand held, and I have already started making the documentary of the whole thing. Once the tour is complete, that Documentary will be put together and edited on an Amiga Video Toaster unit and the sales (about $10 each) will go to help recoup some of the cost of the Tour.

Obsolete Gamer: What would you like to see covered/talked about in an Amiga documentary?

Glen: I would love to see a “where are they now?” feature of all the people behind the Amiga. Dave Haynie and Bill Herd pop up every so often, but what about everyone else?

We’d like to thank Glen for the interview and if you have a story or website that profile the Amiga sent us an e-mail and let us know.

Exile

 

Exile title
Exile title

 

Exile is probably the best game most people have never heard of. It was first released on the Acorn Electron and BBC Micro in 1988. The game was designed and programmed by Peter Irvin and Jeremy Smith (the author of Thrust, another ground breaking game that was converted to all the computers know to man).

Like Thrust, Exile is a game based on cave exploration with a physics mode. But unlike Thrust instead of just having Gravity Physics, Exile also has features such as inertia, mass, explosions, shock waves, Water, Wind, Fire, Intelligent Animals (Frogs, Wasps, Frogman, Snail, Fish, Spiders, Birds and Imps), Automated Turrents, Serveral different types of Robots all with Artificial Intelligence, Teleportation, Gravity, Weighted objects, and different weapons. It was the most complex game available for the BBC Micro, and possibly all 8bit machines.

 

Exile Amiga Title Screen
Exile Amiga Title Screen

 

The game also offered an enormous and detailed world, which was perfect for exploration. This large map was inhabited by many different creatures, robots, and puzles. All this was explained in the plot as the crew of the Pericles having set up a base in a natural cave system, with Triax having his own base in caves deep below.

Exile’s AI programming featured innovative routines like creature strategy code that knew about noises nearby, line-of-sight vision through the divaricate caves and tunnels, and enemy’s memory of where the target was last seen.

The main game is an character astronaut with a jet pack. He cannot die, if he is attacked or injures himself when he reaches a point near death he is automatically teleported to safe locations previously reached and designated by the player, until he these locations run out and he is ultimately back to his orbiting spaceship. Despite this, the game was still very difficult to complete and could take hours to play through.

The story of game starts as follows;

The player takes control of a space-adventurer Mike Finn who is ordered by his superiors on Earth to divert his spacecraft to the planet Phoebus to investigate the distress calls broadcast by the members of a previous mission. Finn’s mission is to rescue any survivors of the mission from a psychotic scientist, Triax, exiled there many years before.

 

Exile Amiga Gameplay
Exile Amiga Gameplay

 

Exile was supplied with a novella setting the full background story to the game and the game objective. It also provides limited clues regarding the scenery, objects and lifeforms that are encountered in the game.

The game came out for the Commodore C64’s dying days in 1991, and it the last game I bought for my c64 before I sold it. I pre-ordered the game after being blown away by a covertape demo (given away with Commodore Format, I think). When I upgraded to the Commodore Amiga shortly after, Exile was my first purchase.

The Commodore 64 offered better graphics and sound than the BBC and Acorn versions, and the Amiga version which was also released in 1991, had even better graphics and sound including a an atmospheric theme tune containing a deep voiced Exile sample and some eerie strings.

Allthough most gamers have never heard of most people have never heard of Exile, those you have played it will never forget it. Amiga Power magazine voted the  Exile to be the best game of 1991. The multi-format magazine Edge retrospectively awarded it 10 out of 10, together with only 2 other games.