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PostPosted: Sat Feb 18, 2017 7:36 pm 
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It's an idea I've been playing around with for a while; I missed out on the 8-bit computing era because I'm too young (1988) and grew up in the US where console gaming and IBM compatibles dominated, but now more than ever, I'm interested in them, especially since I watch a bunch of European Youtube channels featuring people with English accents talking about their childhood games.

So anyway, I think it'd be pretty cool to pick up a ZX Spectrum. Ideally the 128k model if I can find a good deal on one, and there's a vast library of games to keep it busy, but I'd also be interested in brushing up on my Z80 with it. This is pretty crazy, and the feeling will probably pass in a week or so, but I'm feeling a spark of complete dweezoid delight when I think about picking one up.

My first introduction to the ZX Spectrum was when I was in elementary school, I was obsessed with Marble Madness and wanted a level editor (or a similar game with a level editor), and something that kept showing up was "Marble Madness Construction Set", and of course, I didn't know how to run it since I had no idea what a ZX Spectrum was at the time.

My later, better introduction to the ZX Spectrum came from a game called "Skool Daze Klass of '99", which ran in DOS at the time, and was a very fun game to mess around with, even if I couldn't complete it. Then I was introduced to its ancestor game on the ZX Spectrum, "Skool Daze" and "Back to Skool", and this time I was better versed with emulation outside of Nesticle and figured out I had to get a Speccy emulator to play it.

So I've had this machine in the back of my head since then, and the previously mentioned Youtube channels had renewed my interest in it. It also seems like the Speccy would have a stronger niche community of homebrewers behind it than the Gameboy would, but I don't actually know if that's true.

Anyway, does anyone else here have one and want to talk about experiences with it?


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 18, 2017 8:29 pm 
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Emulators save you from 5 minute tape loads, I'm not sure if the real thing is worth it.

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 18, 2017 10:36 pm 
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What puts me off about the Spectrum is the horrible color clash and horrendous palette... Very few games manage to look good despite these limitations. Astro Marine Corps is one of the few I consider to have good graphics. Invasion of the Zombie Monsters looks decent too, but the MSX and CPC versions look better and have an additional far background layer. One thing these games have in common is that they avoid the color clash by constructing everything out of 8x8-pixel blocks, even the characters, and they scroll the screen by that amount too. If that's the only way to get good graphics on the system, I frankly don't see the appeal.

If you don't yet have a personal history with the machine (besides the Marble Madness and Skool stuff you mentioned) and can pick anyone of the old 8-bit computers to get involved with, I personally think there are much better options. MSX is cool... getting nice graphics out of the TMS9918 is still somewhat of a challenge, but there are good examples out there. The Commodore 64 and the Amstrad CPC have that "colorful low-res" look that I personally find very appealing. AFAIK, all of those machines can also do graphics similar to those of the Spectrum, if you really need that look for whatever reason.


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 18, 2017 11:50 pm 
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The MSX was the other machine I was thinking of, and I had been playing around with its graphical limitations in the past with some degree of success. I don't know though, it's awfully close to just being the NES all over again; the Spectrum's different-ness is what drew me to it in the first place; the simplistic nature of the hardware and the machine's capabilities make it seem like it'd be fun to play with, without much pressure to make things look and sound amazing since you don't have much to work with (until the 128k, which got an AY3 PSG).


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2017 12:35 am 
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I was thinking that the Intellivision would be interestingly different, without going as far as the 2600's minimalism. It's got a nice diversity of greens in its otherwise very limited 15-color palette

The VIC-20 has the same lack of sprites and lack of hardware scrolling, but the low-resolution 4-color mode seems to make for it often (e.g. Pulse (edit: better link) (shmup), Dragonwing (canyon racer))


Last edited by lidnariq on Sun Feb 19, 2017 1:54 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2017 1:00 am 
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The VIC-20 does have a certain charm to it.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2017 6:13 am 
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I don't get the appeal of programming a system that has no sprites,my projectiles on a C64 project I code sporadically uses software sprites and it's a real pain.There's a forum for spectrum developers if you choose that route.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2017 9:42 am 
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Oh yeah, if there's an NesDev-level forum for the ZX Spectrum, I'd be interested in checking it out. :D


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2017 2:27 pm 
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lidnariq wrote:
I was thinking that the Intellivision would be interestingly different, without going as far as the 2600's minimalism. It's got a nice diversity of greens in its otherwise very limited 15-color palette

The VIC-20 has the same lack of sprites and lack of hardware scrolling, but the low-resolution 4-color mode seems to make for it often (e.g. Pulse (edit: better link) (shmup), Dragonwing (canyon racer))

Atari 2600 minimalism, what's so bad about that? :P
Image
(This is for a super-secret project, that I'm currently working on.)

Personally, despite living in Canada, I grew up playing a lot of Spectrum games, the Dizzy series in particular, was a favorite.
But programming for the console? Eh... The intellivision may be the better choice, with it's far lessened color-clash.

I had actually mocked up some Intellivision sprites/tiles a while back. This only got as far as a 1-dungeon tech demo, with a somewhat buggy boss fight. (It was a Knightmare 2: Maze of Galious clone.)

Here's a few screens, showing off the game's style:
Image
...and, all the sprites, why not?
Image


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2017 2:44 pm 
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I like your pixel style


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2017 5:08 pm 
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Alp wrote:
Atari 2600 minimalism, what's so bad about that? :P
Image
(This is for a super-secret project, that I'm currently working on.)

I'm interested! :P

I think the Atari 2600 has a lot of charisma too. It was often badly underused back in the day, but its limitations can be really fun to get around, and the results can look very impressive if you know what you're doing.

Quote:
But programming for the console? Eh...

I think the Spectrum just looks boring to code for, since the video hardware is so straightforward (no sprites, no scroll, no palettes, just a plain 1bpp bitmap with 2 colors per 8x8-pixel block) that there isn't much you can do to get around the limitations. The only techniques I'm aware of to avoid the color clash are building everything out of 8x8-pixel blocks, even the "sprites", and move everything in 8-pixel increments, or avoid overlaps altogether, having "sprites" only move in front of blank backgrounds. The audio hardware also leaves a lot to be desired, so my final impression is that it's a very simplistic and uninteresting machine, because it isn't versatile at all, there's barely any room to be creative.

Without versatility, games end up looking all too similar to each other. With the 2600, for example, you have to code your own display kernel and choose how to distribute the processing power, resulting in games that look very different from one another.

Quote:
Here's a few screens, showing off the game's style:
Image
...and, all the sprites, why not?
Image

Best looking Intellivision game ever.

Sorry if I'm sounding a little negative when talking about the Spectrum. It's not my intention to bash it or dissuade anyone from coding for it. I just think that there are way more interesting designs out there. But hey, people fall in love with consoles and computers for different reasons, so if you really feel a connection with the Spectrum for whatever reason, go for it. I mean, most people in the real world think that all of these machines are worthless, but that doesn't stop us from working with them.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2017 6:55 pm 
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Nah, I actually need dissenting opinions as a way to test how badly I want to do this, since just naively getting a 128k Spectrum on ebay is like $400, plus any extra stuff I'd need in order to use it, like some storage mechanism, and a monitor that can accept whatever signal it gives off, which I'm assuming is PAL.

As far as 2600 programming goes, it's a little too limited for my tastes, I'd instead go with one of the Atari computers, since they feature a similar idea behind the video generator, except the computer actually has dedicated logic to drive it, so you're still building a video "kernel", except you're then handing it off to a separate circuit. You also have the famous POKEY to play with. :P

Also, while we're talking about the MSX, I shared this screenshot a long time ago, but there's something I did that nobody noticed (probably because nobody had any reason to look for it):
Attachment:
MOTOMODO-3.png
MOTOMODO-3.png [ 3.6 KiB | Viewed 328 times ]
The background is MSX compatible, it just needs colors from the MSX palette.

Attachment:
motomodo_tiles.png
motomodo_tiles.png [ 3.04 KiB | Viewed 328 times ]
It was a fun exercise, and I did it because I wanted to eventually test out if these "1bpp" graphics would compress better than the same graphics done in proper 2bpp, but I never got that far.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2017 7:18 pm 
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Drag wrote:
It was a fun exercise, and I did it because I wanted to eventually test out if these "1bpp" graphics would compress better than the same graphics done in proper 2bpp, but I never got that far.

I guess that'd ultimately depend on the compression algorithm, but to me it does look like in many cases the color bytes would remain the same for multiple scanlines, more often than the pattern would remain the same. But don't forget the fact that MSX graphics don't need attributes and palettes, while the 2bpp graphics do, so you have to take that extra data into account.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2017 9:39 pm 
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There are six combinations of two colors. This means each tile can be compressed into 11 bytes without any run-length or Huffman techniques: 8 bytes for the bits and 3 bytes for each 8x1 pixel sliver's colors.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 20, 2017 6:55 am 
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Not trying to derail this thread but Alp do you have anymore screen/mockups for intellivision?


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