Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Game 265: The Kingdom of Krell (1987)

Developer Steven Screech might want to re-think his little personal logo.
    
The Kingdom of Krell
United Kingdom
Anco (developer and publisher)
Released in 1987 for ZX Spectrum
Date Started: 8 October 2017
Date Ended: 14 October 2017
Total Hours: 26
Difficulty: Moderate-Hard (3.5/5)
Final Rating: 16
Ranking at Time of Posting: 36/265 (14%)

British ZX Spectrum games occupy a weird little sub-genre that I'll have to fully analyze after I reach the last one in 1989. This is my eighth, after The Ring of Darkness (1982), Lone Wolf: Flight from the Dark (1984), Out of the Shadows (1984), City of Death (1985), Heavy on the Magick (1986), and The Wizard of Tallyron (1986). Five others--The Valley (1982), The Citadel of Chaos (1984), The Forest of Doom (1984), The Master of Magic (1985), and Seas of Blood (1985)--I played on Commodore 64 ports but were originally written for the Spectrum.

The Ring of Darkness is the odd-one-out, being mostly plagiarized from Ultima. The rest are highly original, lacking clear progenitors in their styles and conventions, not only avoiding American RPG tropes but almost consciously shunning them. More unexpected, however, is how oddly foreign they feel, coming from an English-speaking nation that manages to churn out perfectly comprehensible (from an American perspective) books, films, and television shows. In some ways, they're as bizarre as French RPGs.

As the popularity of the ZX Spectrum wanes in the late 1980s and the Amiga begins to dominate British RPG development, we see the same stark originality (with both good and bad consequences) in games like Galdregon's Domain (1989), Lords of Chaos (1990), Heimdall (1991), and Moonstone: A Hard Days Knight (1991), but the sense of the bizarre fades, which makes me wonder how much of it is due to the platform. With its extremely limited keyboard, stunted default memory, and cassettes as the primary distribution media, the platform was never going to support games with the same speed, complexity, and ease of play as U.S. players were getting on, say, the Commodore 64.

The Kingdom of Krell is the first ZX Spectrum RPG to require the 128 model (issued in 1985). With all this extra memory, the developer could have offered a more complex engine, more tactical combat, or better graphics, but instead what he did was to make the physical game world ridiculously large. The box boasts "more than 2,500 locations." I only mapped a little over 1,900, but either figure is far too large when the number of those locations with an item, NPC, or other plot-driven need to be there is around 60.

The backstory is amusing in its lack of epic ambition. The game is set in a "remote part of Britain" in the "misty past." The custom of these people is that when a young man reaches his 18th birthday, he has to spend a month in the wilderness alone before he's welcomed back to the tribe as a man. The tribe throws a party for the protagonist; he gets drunk; and he awakens the next day "alone in the vast wilderness."
    
Part of the vast wilderness.
     
Character creation is nothing more than a name, from which the game procedurally generates your six attributes: strength, wisdom, intelligence, dexterity, constitution, and charisma. This is the first game that I know of in which attributes are derived from the chosen name; Captive (1990) would later use the same method. Anyway, I lost patience trying different names and ended up adventuring with a sub-par character; I would recommend anyone else playing the game hold out for at least 15s in strength, dexterity, and intelligence and 10s in everything else, lest their reload counts hit the astronomically high levels that mine did.

As the game begins, you're on a "barren grassy plain" with a sling at your feet. The image shows a bridge, which is one of the game's oddities. As you turn different directions, the screen changes to show the terrain in the next square, not the one you're currently in.
         
Sure looks like notable features to me.
      
That bridge is probably the most complex graphic that you get in the game. Among the c. 2,000 "locations" in the game are about 12 different terrain types, including "barren, grassy plains," "dense, dark forests," and "long, dark tunnels." The author wastes precious descriptive text space saying things like "well, here you are" and "I don't know what else to tell you," with at least one misspelling on every screen. I didn't find a single "unique" location in the game.
      
A decent percentage of the game's many vaunted locations.
     
You interface with the game not with a keyboard, which would make sense given that the game was developed for a PC, but with a joystick. You cycle through the various icons and use the button to execute an action or move to a sub-menu. This is true even of movement. Main actions include move, sleep, fight, cast a spell, take or drop an object, speak, handle various disk operations, and "other," the latter including eat and check the time. To move, you have to activate the "shoe" icon then the appropriate directional arrow. If you're not already facing a particular direction, your first move turns you in that direction and then your second and subsequent moves actually walk you in that direction.
  
A typical Krell location. A zombie is waiting as I arrive. The scene shows more icy wastes to my north. "Crevasses" is misspelled.
      
Krell is such a deadly place, I can't believe how irresponsible I was to get drunk and pass out here. You can't even sleep in a hut without getting interrupted by a monster 50% of the time. Foes are D&D standard--giant rats, hobgoblins, ogres, skeletons, trolls, orcs, and the like--and there's around a one-in-four chance that one will be waiting for you in every new square. If you managed to kill it, there's a decent chance another monster will be waiting just behind, sometimes two or three more.
     
I only encountered one dragon in the game. He wasn't significantly harder than the other monsters.
      
The game doesn't throw easy monsters at you early and harder ones late. You're just as likely to face a "cyclopse" in the opening area as a giant rat. There are some contextual encounters; the graveyard area produces almost exclusively undead, for instance, and the only dragon I encountered was deep in a cavern. For the most part, they don't have any special strengths or weaknesses except that some have more hit points than others.
 
For combat, you select your sword icon and then decide whether to aim it at the enemy's head, torso, or legs. I managed to hit the enemy's head maybe twice in my 15-hour game. Torso is almost always the best bet. After your attack, the enemy gets a swing at you. There is a variety of messages indicating damage--"sliced through your flesh," "took a chunk out of you," mercilessly rips into you"--but basically you just take either 1 or 2 hit points damage for each attack (if the enemy doesn't miss).
           
Exchanging blows with a dwarf.
     
A character might start with 10 hit points at maximum constitution, so as you can imagine, he doesn't last long in long battles. Fortunately, most enemies die within a couple of hits. Moreover, you can eat the corpse (or "carcus," as the game has it) of any slain enemy to regain one hit point. Unfortunately, you don't get any intrinsic attributes for doing so.
      
A skeleton appears right after I killed something else.
     
Your character gets experience from kills but doesn't gain anything from that experience. Despite promises made on the box, neither attributes nor hit points change as he levels up. Only his "rating" changes, which starts at "dung dweller" and progresses through at least 12 levels, including "scavenger," "dog-wrestler," "useful," and "dangerous." I spent so long at Level 10--"Schwarzenegger"--that I thought it was the highest level, but after a while the rating changed to "Psycho," as if it's my fault that monsters spawn practically every square, and finally to, nonsensically "Well Ard." Does that mean something in British?
       
My character at the 20th hour.
     
What does improve with leveling is access to spells. You start with only one: "Detect Magic," which as far as I can tell has no use anywhere in the game. But you soon acquire "Burning Hands," "Detect Evil" (also no use), and "Magic Missile," and both of the offensive spells in that list outperformed combat attacks for my character for the rest of the game. The last spell you acquire, "Disintegrate," reliably one-shots every single enemy, so there's no more reloading once you have it. I spent the entire second half of my playing time with that spell and didn't even bother to carry a weapon from the moment I acquired it.
       
Blasting an enemy with a "Magic Missile."
      
The list of spells includes "Cure Illness" and "Remove Curse," neither of which I experienced in the game. "Teleport" returns you to the starting area, which is handy because there's a one-way path that locks you out of the area. "Magic Mouth" warns you if an enemy approaches while you're sleeping.
      
The full list of spells at the end of the game.
   
There is absolutely no meter for spells. You can cast as many as you want as frequently as you want.

You don't have to fight every enemy that appears. You can try to just brush past them, which I did a lot of after I was already "well ard." Success seems to depend heavily on the enemy type. Sentient NPCs like dwarves and halflings almost always let you go; monsters like cyclopes and ogres catch you about half the time. Giant rats absolutely never let you pass. When it doesn't work, the enemy gets a free attack at you, so it's a bit of a risk.
      
Trust me, this absolutely is not going to work out for you.
      
As for equipment, there's some. Among the game's 1,500+ squares, I found around 40 items: a sling, two swords, two bolas, two spears, two axes, a dagger, two suits of armor, four scrolls, six potions, a shield, a crown, four bags of gold, two precious gems, a torch, and about eight quest items. They seem to be in the same places for every game.
       
My inventory early in the game.
      
There are a lot of mysteries among the inventory items, some of which I'll cover below. Five of the six potions improved attributes--the only other source of character development in the game. None of the weapons markedly outperformed the others. I'm not sure what the torch does, since you can enter caves and tunnels without it. The bags of gold are treated like inventory items, not an actual pool of gold pieces, and as far as I can tell there's no place to spend them. There is no command to equip the shield. As I'll cover below, none of the quest items did anything for me at all.
      
This potion increased my constitution.
     
NPCs are a big part of the game, but I didn't understand their importance until late. At first, I tried to talk with generic sentient creatures like dwarves and halflings but just got rude replies. The "Tongues" spell lets you get rude replies from even non-sentient creatures like cobras and skeletons. When you choose to speak, you can be friendly, neutral, or rude, but I never noticed a difference in the replies I got except once when a friendly overture elicited "GO AWAY" and a rude overture prompted "GO AWAY AND DON'T COME BACK." My comparatively low charisma might have had something to do with it.
      
Krell must have borrowed Sword & Sorcery's random insult generator.
     
Later, I realized that there are a few named NPCs in the world. Almost all of them say the same thing: "DAMIENNE STOLE THE SCROLLS." That's it. No other explanation or assistance. Because of that, I didn't bother noting their locations as I mapped. This would later come back to haunt me.
      
An NPC waits in a temple.
      
So what of any kind of quest? At first, I hoped that the main quest was just to wait out your 30 days and see what kind of score you'd achieved. The clock ticks forward even if you're just standing still, so I tried jacking the CPU speed to maximum and standing in one place for 30 days. Unfortunately, nothing happened, not even when I returned to the starting square.
       
At least the game uses a 24-hour clock.
      
For no reason that I can possibly justify except that I've recorded a loss on two consecutive games, I spent over 20 hours mapping the entire thing, one lethargic square at a time. The sections of the game basically correspond with a map in the manual, from forests to the southwest to ice wastes in the northeast.
    
The map of the land in the game manual.
And my Excel map.
    
I ran into several problems while mapping. As you can see from the map above, the terrain is blocked off into several sections with single-square passages or bridges between them. It's very easy, when you've hit 20 consecutive "barren grassy plains" in a row offering exits only to the north, west, and east, to miss the one that suddenly had a southern exit. This means that there were entire areas, including most of the tunnels at the bottom-right, that I didn't discover until late in the game.

Second, a few NPCs become important later in the game even if all they say is "DAMIENNE STOLE THE SCROLLS" when you first encounter them. I should have been noting their locations. Most of them are in huts or other buildings, and I did go back and re-investigate those, but a few are just standing in the wilderness, and who knows how many of them I overlooked.

Missing NPCs is compounded by another problem: if there are enemies in the same square, the enemy portraits appear on top of the NPCs. You have to kill them before the NPC shows up. I could have just brushed past any number of NPC squares while trying to avoid enemies.

A few NPCs do offer quests. For instance, a man named Graxx stands at the mouth of the cave to the northwest. He says he has a "magical shape" and wants me to collect the four sacred scrolls, presumably the ones that Damienne stole. In the southeast, "Davilla" wants me to kill "Habgoog," who she says is evil. "Megog" asks me to kill "Questilla," who has cursed him with stone skin. Some of these NPCs drop rings after you talk to them; picking them up makes them disappear but adds permanently to one of our attributes.

Some of the NPCs are clearly lying. Once I killed Questilla and returned to Megog, he called me a "foolish man" and said that I'd managed to kill the "chief do-gooder of Krell" and attacked me. I also have suspicions about Davilla, who seems to be using sex to get what she wants and asked me to kill another NPC named "Caldrix" after I was done with Habgoog.
    
Betrayal!
    
The bigger problem is that the NPCs don't always acknowledge what you've done. After I collected the four scrolls, Graxx had nothing to say, not even when I dumped them in his square. NPCs never seem to acknowledge items, not when I returned the Crown of Hod to Hod or the Eye of Graxx to Graxx. There's no "use" or "give" command for items, just pick up and drop, but still it's hard not to feel like I'm missing something.
      
Graxx refuses to acknowledge the scrolls he asked me to bring him.
     
Meanwhile, Davilla acknowledged when I killed Habgoog but not Caldrix, so that quest is stuck in limbo.
       
But I killed Caldrix!
      
There are a lot of other mysteries. In an ancient sacred temple in the southwest, an Oracle. It sits on the ground like an object that you can pick up, although the game tells you it's too heavy. You can't speak to it or do anything useful with it. I never did find the Damienne who had stolen the scrolls. The most I ever got on something that sounded like a main quest was someone named Guntor, who said that I would need the "Staff of the Gods" to destroy "Vulcor," two things I'd otherwise never heard of.
     
Why is this here?
     
My lack of progress might also be related to a final issue: At the top of the map in the northeast, there's a square that says you can go north, but the game freezes every time I enter this area and go north. I'm not sure if this is an "exit" square for after you solve the quests or if it's a bug. If the latter, it would explain why the game manual counts 600 more squares than I do, and why I can't seem to find so many vital things.

Thus, after spending an absurd amount of time mapping such a limited game, I must unfortunately call a halt and declare it unwinnable unless someone comes forward with more information or the "hint sheet" that the manual promises.
      
In an odd innovation, the "B"-side of the cassette has a track of "ambient noises" to listen to while playing. It consists of chirping crickets, howling wind, animal noises, monstrous groans and snorts, the odd clanging of a church bell, distant thunder, screams, and the occasional hint offered by the developer in a Satanic voice. "Ancient Krellian proverbs say, 'Never let your heart rule your head,'" goes one. Another warns about bad potions. I listened to the whole half hour to see if it offered anything to assist with my predicament, but no luck. It's certainly an interesting approach to providing atmosphere to a game.
    
Something about that dragon behind the rock seems familiar.
     
Based on what I experienced, it earns a 16 on the GIMLET, with 1s and 2s for everything except "economy" (0) and "quests" (3); I'm going out on a limb with the latter and assuming that at least one of the encounters is an alternate or side-quest.

I was glad to find a compatible opinion in the only review I could find, from the May 1987 Sinclair User. "My God, is it tedious," Graham Taylor writes, after offering a little praise for the graphics. He's not just talking about the repetitive banality of the areas but also the loading time of those areas; I was running the game at 4x normal speed, so I didn't experience that particular issue. He also thought the icon system was needlessly cumbersome. One aspect I didn't cover above, which I guess was fairly innovative at the time, was the use of RAM for quick-saving and quick-loading the game. This and the large game world were responsible for the title's 128k requirement.

The Kingdom of Krell was written by Steve Screech, who became relatively famous in subsequent years for his soccer games. His portfolio, up to the present day, is almost all sports titles. Neither he nor Anco ever developed or published another RPG, which makes one wonder why they were particularly motivated to create this one.

"The Kingdom of Krell," as a bit of trivia, appears in the 1971 sci-fi novel A Time of Changes by Robert Silverberg. It is also the name of an audio systems manufacturer in Connecticut and a vampire in the Warhammer universe.

It looks like I only have one more ZX Spectrum game, in 1989. I'll miss the emulator--Spectaculator is fantastically easy to use--if not the platform.

****

There's a TI-99 game called Legends coming up, but I can't get it to run. I think I'm doing something wrong with the emulator (Classic99), but I don't know what. I've got the Extended Basic cartridge activated, and from what I understand, it's supposed to just pick things up automatically, but it doesn't. If I try to load it manually, it comes up with "Legends Loading, Please Wait" and then crashes with an "I/O ERROR 07 IN 10." If anyone has successfully gotten this game running, I would appreciate help with the configuration.




41 comments:

  1. I admire your tenacity That horrible red interface with cyan font is making me sick even with just a quick glance at the screenshots. If you haven't noticed it, consider yourself lucky. It can drive a human being mad in an hour.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Nice D&D Red Box-ripoff.
    https://speakeasyohiou.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/dd-09.jpg

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I knew I'd seen that somewhere. Thanks for the reminder.

      Delete
    2. I was going to remark that sometimes you guys are quick to judge, but yeah, that one was pretty blatant.

      Delete
    3. Darn... was planning to post this!

      As for the dragon behind a rock... reminds me of a scene from Mazes and Monsters I think?? It has been decades since I've seen the movie though...

      Delete
  3. Regarding Legends, I've gotten it to run in Classic99. I'll e-mail you the files.

    There's a small issue with the file system; the original game had files with a forward slash in them which gets changed moving to a PC files system and breaking the game.

    I also fixed a small bug in the game itself with a particular enemy spell persisting without end (and with no way to dispel it) when in dungeons.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Technically, this is your ninth because "Lone Wolf: Fire on the Water" (1984) was another game in that series but you didn't finish it because it was essentially the mechanics of the first game over again. I played them both on the Spectrum emulator and failed to win any combats, making the whole thing somewhat pointless.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I really didn't do anything with that past the title screen, I don't think.

      Delete
    2. SSH! You don't have to admit that!

      Delete
  5. >> "The rest are highly original, lacking no clear progenitors in their styles and conventions"

    I think you mean "lacking ANY clear progenitors" there.

    ReplyDelete
  6. "well ard" should have an apostrophe and is "well hard", which means, more or less, "very tough". Your local low-level criminal type would probably be described as a "hard man", for example.

    ReplyDelete
  7. 'Ard is hard in some british slang or dialect.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Saw the first caption and at thought "what's the big deal with the diamond "Steven" design?" Then I saw the little initials below his name.. yikes.

    ReplyDelete
  9. The name Zardoz should have given you awesome stats.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Another weird little game. This one was written in BASIC, so it wasn't too hard to dissect. It's definitely British, as the temporary variable is called BUGGER.

    The ratings are determined using a hidden experience point system. There's one last rating above Psycho (which is 20,000 experience points), 30,000 gets you "THE GOD SLAYER!"

    Well, anyway, the first objective of the game seems to be the acquisition of five "magical shapes" from the various NPCs. I've uploaded a raw text dump of NPC conversations, maybe it offers something new. https://pastebin.com/N7v1HsZA

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Weird. Only one person mentioned a "shape" to me, and he wouldn't acknowledge when I brought him what he was looking for. I think maybe I was hurt by a low charisma, and a lot of the NPCs didn't say things to me that they were supposed to say.

      Delete
    2. Or maybe that bit about "DAMIENNE STOLE THE SCROLLS" was a bug and only one NPC was supposed to have that line. The rest were supposed to give me all the information in this file.

      Delete
    3. Charisma definitely plays a role. If I'm reading the code right, you'll need at least 11 to be able to speak with everyone. Apparently there's a potion that gives +3 and one of the magical rings grants +4, so you're probably not doomed if you start with a low value.

      Well anyway, I'm not sure if you even want to waste any more time on this clearly amateur effort, especially if it's bugged. I'm tempted to just spoil the ending and be done with it.

      Delete
    4. spoil the ending in ROT13

      Delete
    5. Ending:

      Bapr lbh unir gur svir zntvpny funcrf, lbh'yy unir gb tb gb gur Benpyr, juvpu tenagf lbh gur Fgnss bs gur Tbqf:

      "Nyy bs n fhqqra gur tebhaq orarngu lbhe srrg ortvaf gb dhnxr naq yvtugravat synfurf cnfg lbhe urnq, gura va sebag bs lbh n infg vzntr bs na byq zna nccrnef. Lbh ybbx hc ng vg naq gur vzntr ortvaf gb fcrnx.

      'Jryy qbar, oenir jneevbe, lbh unir erghearq gb zr zl fnperq negvsnpgf. Abj xvyy Ihypbe naq lbhe dhrfg jvyy or pbzcyrgr, ohg uheel, sbe rirel frpbaq lbh jnfgr ur tebjf rire zber cbjreshy.'"

      Rdhvccrq jvgu gur fgnss, lbh'yy svaq Ihypbe va gur "sebmra abegu." Xvyyvat uvz nccneragyl vzzrqvngryl cebqhprf gur raqvat:

      "Nf lbh fgnaq nobir gur znatyrq znff gung jnf bapr Ihypbe, n fjveyvat zvfg rathysf lbh naq lbh svaq vg vzcbffvoyr gb zbir. Gura lbh ybfr pbafpvbhfarff.

      Lbh ertnva pbafpvbhfarff fybjyl naq nf lbhe rlrf ortva gb trg hfrq gb gur oevtug fhayvtug oynmvat qbja hcba lbh, lbh svaq gung lbh ner va gur snzvyvne fheebhaqvatf bs lbhe ubzr gbja bapr ntnva. Lbh dhvpxyl znxr lbhe jnl gb lbhe ubzr sbe gur wblshy erhavba gung njnvgf lbh.

      Lbh ohefg guebhtu gur sebag qbbe bs lbhe ubhfr rkcrpgvat gb svaq lbhe snzvyl ohg gurer vf abobql urer. Nf lbh ybbx nebhaq lbh pna frr fznfurq pebpxrel naq jbbq fgerja npebff gur pbooyrq sybbe. Gura lbh fcbg n abgr fpenjyrq hcba n oebxra gnoyr naq lbh gerzoyr nf lbh ortva gb ernq...

      'Lbhe snzvyl vf nyvir. Whfg vg'f rvgure lbh be gurz. Pbzr naq trg gurz, obl. Gur Qvfpvcyrf bs Ihypbe jvyy niratr.' Gur zrffntr raqf."

      Naq gung'f vg.

      Delete
    6. Wow, that is quite an effective and gutsy ending, given the limitations of the game.

      Delete
  11. The splash screen seems really familiar to me. Probably stolen from a D&D-themed book that I can't place right now.

    The game, while underwhelming in execution, seems to have a nice enough conceptual structure. This is one of many where I think, with a free weekend to myself, it would be fun to build it out and try to make an improved version. It wouldn't take all that much: work in some level-based development, create a more sensible monster distribution, fix all the broken quests including some choices to intentionally be good or evil, add some equipment and make the quest items useful, and put some limits on the spell selection (probably a combination of spell points and monster resistances), put markers on the maps for huts you want to revisit, and of course give the game a proper ending, and I'd bet you could double the gimlet pretty easily.

    Of course, to do it right it probably wouldn't be a weekend, it would turn into six months, and at the end I don't know if more than a few dozen curious souls from this blog would try it, so it's probably not really worth the trouble.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, yes. That splash screen is the D&D Basic Set box cover. Can't believe it took me so long to remember.

      Delete
    2. First commenters beat you to it. You guys are weirdly good at that. I don't think I'd instinctively recognize a ripoff even if it was my own driver's license photo.

      Delete
    3. Yeah I agree, this seems like (yet another) games you could drastically improve with a bit of bug squashing, a balance pass and a few QoL improvements.

      Delete
    4. D&D was an important part of many of our lives, I suspect.

      Delete
    5. If you played D&D basic set that was the cover of the famous red box and it's manual and the startdd with a introductory line about a pile of treasures and red dragon making an appearance.

      In other words any one who has ever played pen&paper in the 80's instinctively regocnizes that cover and Elmores classic "titty elf" art style.

      Delete
    6. Yeah, somehow on first pass I didn't understand Anonymous's comment, so I was late to the artwork critique party. I will say that I've probably spent orders of magnitude more time looking at D&D artwork than my own driver's license. Plus I started D&D at least 5 years before I even had a license.

      Delete
  12. "For no reason that I can possibly justify except that I've recorded a loss on two consecutive games"

    Looking at the obscure and/or foreign games on your upcoming list I recon you might pick up quite a few losses in a short space of time. Even Google isn't helping me much with what exactly "Maze Quest" is. Good luck with them all!

    ReplyDelete
  13. I love reading about old 8bit computer games. The spectrum was superior to the C64 in terms of raw CPU power, as could be seen in the Freescape 3d games (Castle Master and the like), but lacked the fancy dedicated video and audio hardware of the C64 (the AY-3-8912 was no slouch, but it only came integrated with the 128k models).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Even in raw CPU the Spectrum was iffy. While the Z80 in the Spectrum was clocked 3 times faster than the 6502 derivative in the C64, the Z80 was a much more basic design than the 6502, and thus the 6502 gave more performance on a per-cycle basis.

      The Z80 (released in 1976) was a derivative of the Intel 8080 (released in 1974). The primary market for the Z80 was as a low-cost replacement for the 8080 that Intel was phasing out in favor of the superior 8085 (1976) and the in-development 8086/8088 family (1978).

      The 6502 began as a clean-sheet design in 1975 (meaning that the basic technology was a year newer), and was able to use external RAM for register commands. The internal instruction set was also shorter and more efficient. Most hobbyists working with the hardware today consider the Z80 to require between 200% and 220% clock speed to equal a 6502 in most applications, which suggests that the Spectrum had a 3:2.2 advantage in performance rather than the 3:1 that it appears to have at first glance.

      Add in the way that most C64 peripherals had a processor built in instead of relying on the 64's processor (a move made possible by Commodore's vertical integration with MOS technologies), and the Spectrum's processing advantage drops to almost nothing. Which is why the Freescape games (which debuted on the Amstrad CPC (using a 4Mhz Z80), not the ZX specturm) could be ported to the C64 quite well. There was no significant performance difference among the 8-bit versions of Driller/Space Station Oblivion, with the primary difference being that the Spectum version was by far the ugliest.

      Delete
    2. Heh, 8-bit microcomputer wars 30+ years later, now we just need someone who had an msx :).

      Sure, I agree with most of your points (although the extra 6502 in the c64 disk drive didn't work out so well :P, and I wouldn't call a 36% extra CPU horsepower "iffy", going by your own numbers), but I have to disagree with your comments about the performance of the Freescape games (which I'm well aware began development on the CPC, never claimed otherwise); the spectrum is noticeably faster than the C64 even though the latter is rendering at a lower resolution, and there's no need to take my word for it, as it's something easy enough to test empirically on your emulator of choice.

      Delete
    3. Thanks for the exposition!

      Delete
  14. Exclamation marks for the letter "I" are driving me crazy. Is that a weird spectrum programming issue, or did this game's author think it was a good idea?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's just how the font is designed. The fact that it's twice as thick as other characters bothers me a lot more.

      Delete
  15. Chester, would you like me to ask Steve Screech if he'd come here and talk a bit about this game?

    We still stay in touch - as you said, he made quite the name for himself in soccer games, and there's a yearly meeting of people coming from all corners of the world with their Amiga 500s and decide who's the best player of Kick Off 2 (probably Anco's biggest selling game?)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Are you kidding me? Everyone, including Chester, loves it when authors are dragged back to their old games. By all means, do it!

      Delete
    2. Yeah, it would be great. I love reading about how these games were made. Especially those that were low bidget projects or made by then teenagers.

      Delete
    3. It's always nice to have a developer stop by, but perhaps warn him that I didn't exactly give a glowing review.

      Delete

I welcome all comments about the material in this blog, and I generally do not censor them. However, please follow these rules:

1. Do not link to any commercial entities, including Kickstarter campaigns, unless they're directly relevant to the material in the associated blog posting. (For instance, that GOG is selling the particular game I'm playing is relevant; that Steam is having a sale this week on other games is not.) THIS ALSO INCLUDES USER NAMES THAT LINK TO ADVERTISING.

2. Please avoid profanity and vulgar language. I don't want my blog flagged by too many filters.

3. Please don't comment anonymously. It makes it impossible to tell who's who in a thread. Choose the "Name/URL" option, pick a name for yourself, and just leave the URL blank.

4. I appreciate if you use ROT13 for explicit spoilers for the current game and upcoming games. Please at least mention "ROT13" in the comment so we don't get a lot of replies saying "what is that gibberish?"

Also, Blogger has a way of "eating" comments, so I highly recommend that you copy your words to the clipboard before submitting, just in case.

NOTE: I'm sorry for any difficulty commenting. I turn moderation on and off and "word verification" on and off frequently depending on the volume of spam I'm receiving. I only use either when spam gets out of control, so I appreciate your patience with both moderation tools.