A blog about tabletop hobby and or strategy games, with a side order of electronic turn based goodness here and there. Now with tons of retro gaming content both electronic and tabletop. Also with 20% more self loathing douchebaggery!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Retro Computing: Why Bother? Special: Origin Hates My Atari.

As we saw in an earlier post:


Ultima 2 did not like my Atari 130 XE computer.

Well I got a loose set of Ultima 3 disks for the Atari (yet again with Commodore 64 on the other side) for a mere five dollars.  Since I already still have the manuals for Ultima 3 it is practically giving me a complete game for nothing.

I dutifully use Atari DOS 2.5 to format a blank disk and make a copy of the write protected character disk (whose 30 years old label started ripping off as I did the repeated swapping).

Much like Ultima 2 I need to hold down the OPTION key to load as it was a game designed around the original 400/800 series.  It loads to title screen.

 We even get the little animated demo with some nice music.  The graphics look the same as Ultima 2.  Same weird Composite palette.  Apparently the newer type of graphics chip in the XL and XE series did not do things the way the x00s did.  Some games even have an option to account for this.

 I make the Wu Tang Clan .  4 Male Humans.  2 Fighters.  A Cleric and a Wizard.  (ODB as the Fighter.  Masta Killa as the other Fighter.  RZA as the Cleric.  If I didn't want both ZAs in, I may have made Inspecta Deck the Cleric.  Cuz he be judging you.)

I form the party and JOURNEY ONWARD.  The screen starts showing the big frame bars Ultima 3 has and then.. BLACK SCREEN.  No sound no nothing.

So now I am 1 for 4 in Origin Systems Atari 8 bit games actually being PLAYABLE.  Autoduel had a character disk issue which may have been my fault.  (Due to saving it and then a power bit happened because I was fucking around with the power strip.)  But Ultima 2 and 3 have WRITE PROTECTED PLAYER DISKS.

I made copies of them.

Is it the games not liking the XE hardware?  Is it the disks are just old?  Is it because the drive is old?  Did it not like the DOS 2.5 disk copying?  Is it because the 810 disk drives of the time U2-3 were out held like 80K a side compared to the 1050's 120ish?

It is currently a mystery.  

Should I investigate further?

I mean I can use this patch and play the NES port of Ultima 3 with a superior level of play balance:  http://www.jeffludwig.com/ultima3/download.php

I have completed the C64 port back in the day (I have no Commodore 64 so no idea if those sides work fine.) and I have completed the OSX 10.4 remake port:

(I have an Ultima text font I self added to the game.  I also got the developer to put in the NES tileset!  This isn't that set of tiles.  This is the game's default.)

I decide to download the newest version of THE Atari 8 bit computer emulator:
, getting the newest test edition from Atari Age's forums thread on said emulator.

Since I own legit disks I also go grab the disk images from http://www.atarimania.com/index.html if available and also check their manual scans for any hints and tips since I don't have the Atari command cards.

While they don't have scans of the Ultima 3 cards they DO have the ones for Ultima 2.

And.. I may have created the player disk incorrectly.  So I follow the instructions on the card and I am hoping for the best, swapping disks back and forth since I only have one drive.

I do..  AND IT WORKS!!

You see the reference card I do not have told you the illogical and stupid way to make your play disk for Ultima 2.  You put the original disk in your drive and turn it on.  It will boot into a program with dialogues to make your player disk, swapping in and out off of one drive.  (I do not have a second drive so no idea if it would access it.  Doubtful.)

 I was able to move about the continents and timegates with ease.  And I finally made it to Dickie B himself.  Did a lot of unarmed and unarmored fighting so the extra gold was nice to up my HPs.

 The town works too!  And I got some food from Mc Donalls.  Didn't go to the Drive Thru window on the side though.

 I wander around the nearby towns and villages looking for a weapon or armor shop so I don't have to be as like Inquisitor Brady and purge a heretic with my bare hands.  Also I note LB's doofy humor at work.  And note how Wizardry never came to the Ataris.  Jerks.  Hell, they didn't even reach the C64 till like 88!

 FINALLY A TOWN WITH KILLY STUFF I CAN BUY.  Since it is Axecrash the Dwarf Thief he gets an axe!

 Sadly Squats cannot join the Adeptus Astartes so I cannot get Power Armor.  Also I only had 223 GP so I could only afford Chain Mail.

And as I keep running low on food it is good I have this gear and HPs.  We gonna chop some heads off for fun and profit.  So I can afford more food.  And sometimes afford to improve my stats.

Sadly Ultima 3 does not work the same way.  I mean I COULD try this version as well
but.. its NOT ON THE ATARI.

While I couldn't find an Atari scan of its' reference card I did find a C64 scan.  And it said to make a play disk you needed to hit C at the title or something like that.

Ok.  Fine.  No menu option or anything like that.  I will still give it a shot.

Text title comes on.  Not doing anything.  That screen with the dragon and the adventurers?  I keep pressing C and:

 With more swapping than a thing that editors of  Penthouse Letters write about I now have a disk.  Will it work?  Can I have Ultima 3 on my Atari 8 bit in all its' composite glory?

 If not, I know who to blame.  The same man behind the Ultima 2 port.  Chuckles.   

Is it not enough that your in game alter ego annoys us?  Do you have to do stupid user unfriendly things that require reading a manual and reference card?

Or is it Dick British's fault?  I mean he IS a geeky ubernerd and a computer geek with bad enough taste to love Apple 2s.  Maybe he thought it made sense to his programmer's mind?

The Wu Tang Clan will never reveal the secrets of the Thirty Six Chambers but maybe they will learn the secrets of Ambrosia and the Four Cards of Exodus.

But hell, maybe we should see what these two games look like on a (emulated) 800?

Well I did a check using Altirra.  Colors still seemed like the ones above.  But here are a few emulator shots of Ultima 3 with some of the options in the emulator on:

 This is basically what a sharp NTSC palette looks like without things like scanlines and such.  Pretty uggo.

 You will see a lot of game screenshots online looking like this.  Its emulators running in PAL mode with a couple things set here and there.  If you don't mind it looking like a low res 68000 Macintosh game without the benefits of point and click it IS very sharp.

With some tweaking of the artifacting colors and such I get a much more pleasant color scheme.  Kind of like messing around with a Super Game Boy on a SNES.

Note how in general though for games using artifacting for graphics the emulators are actually kind of.. BAD. Our modern displays just cannot do them properly and usually look worse for it.  This is the real life reason why many older PC CGA games look so bad.  They were really designed for composite screens and not the RGB-SVGA monitors of the sharpness.

I have seen some (bad) screenshots of the above games looking closer to the last picture online.  Perhaps they were the x00 series Ataris?  Or a poorly setup composite monitor?  PAL or SECAM palettes photographed?

For now this remains a bit of a mystery.  But I can rock out to Ultima 2 and 3 on the Atari 8 bit.  

I would like to at least get the disks for all four Ultimas released on this platform but Ultima fans tend to be less frugal with money.  (Whereas I spend a lot of money but on a bunch of things as opposed to a few expensive bits.)

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