Archive for the 'Atari ST' Category

Blast from the past

Sunday, July 6th, 2008

My old Atari ST has been locked in a box for years. Today, out of the blue, I decided to open the box again and check the machine was still working. My first surprise was that its color changed. I don’t know what happened but the light grey disappeared and got replaced by a dirty, sick-looking, brownish yellow. I have no idea how it happened, but it looks nasty.

The second surprise is that everything works like a charm - machine and disks. I expected both to be dead by now. But no, more than 20 years after I bought it, the Atari ST still works flawlessly. I watched a few of our old demos and I now realize one thing: our taste sucked. Check out those beautiful RGB colors in “Inverted Landscapes”, one of our first screens…

The one VBL rule

Friday, May 2nd, 2008

When I was programming demos on ST, the most important (yet tacit) rule we had was the “one VBL rule”. All demos had to run in one VBL = Vertical BLank, i.e. in one frame, i.e. at 60 Hz (or 50 Hz on european machines). It was just unthinkable not to run in one frame, we’d have been the laughing stock of the whole ST scene.Games however, didn’t bother - partly because it was more complicated to create a full game than a demo, partly because demomakers at the time were kind of more talented / advanced / stubborn than their counterpart game programmers. The result anyway, is that most Atari ST games ran at very poor framerates. The only ST games I can remember running at 60 Hz were Goldrunner, Return to Genesis, Bio-Challenge, and the out-of-this-world Enchanted Lands. Needless to say, those programming pearls shone like stars compared to the mass of pale-looking ST games. Sometimes the game only worked because it was fast. Could you imagine Goldrunner running at 30 Hz? I can’t. They can’t either.

The main reason why I liked console games so much more at that time, was because they all felt better. Smoother. More polished. And, you guessed it, they all ran “in one VBL”, i.e. at 60 Hz. Alex Kidd? Gynoug? Shadow Dancer? Thunderforce III? Zillion? Power Stone? Soul Calibur? Etc, etc, they all ran at 60 Hz, because it was the norm. And for me it was a proof of quality, I could buy a console game my eyes closed and be sure it would fly on my machine.

Nowadays…. Sigh.

It makes me grin when some programmers tell me things like “Pierre, 60 Hz is for PC games! On consoles the hardware is not as powerful, so the typical target framerate is usually 30 Hz”. …… What a load of BS. “Typical” for PC programmers trying to port their stuff to consoles, certainly. Just drop your super heavy, super generic, super bloated, super dynamic deferred-lighting, reduce the useless post-processing effects, and maybe things would run better on your “less powerful” hardware.

Consoles = 60 Hz, else go back to the drawing board.

MCoder sources

Friday, February 15th, 2008

Woah! Jean-Charles Meyrignac (a.k.a. MCoder) recently released most of his old Atari ST sources:

http://euler.free.fr/AtariST/

Years ago I would have killed for that :) When I was programming demos on Atari he used to be one of my coding heroes - along with Niclas Thisell (”Nick of TCB”), God of War’s Tim Moss (”Manikin of TLB”), Steve Bak, and a few others.

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