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Subject: The comp.sys.acorn.games FAQ
This article was archived around: Tue, 03 Oct 2006 08:27:19 +0100
Posting-Frequency: monthly (approximately)
Last-modified: 3nd August 2006
Maintainer: Matthew Hambley (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Disclaimer: Approval for *.answers is based on form, not content.
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The comp.sys.acorn.games FAQ
2.10 - 3nd August 2006
This FAQ was written because the various posters to csa.games got fed up
answering the same questions over and over again with often as little as
two weeks separating each occurrence of a given question. Please read this
FAQ before you post any questions.
If you spot an error, inconsistency or spelling mistake you must do two
things: 1) Pat yourself on the back (that's the easy bit) and 2) (the hard
part) E-mail me so I can correct it. If you have a suggestion for a new
question or an improved answer to an old one please don't hesitate to
Please note that due to the depressingly large amounts of spam which
afflict my FAQ e-mail address I automatically delete all mail which does
not have the word "FAQ" in the subject line. Simply replying to this post
is OK otherwise make sure you include "FAQ" somewhere in the subject.
Current maintainer: Matthew Hambley <email@example.com>
Web version: <http://www.aether.demon.co.uk/faqs/games.html>
Only the 3 most recent releases are given here. Should you wish to view the
complete history, visit:
v2.10 (2nd August 2006)
* Added "AcornGamez"
* Weeded some dead links
Only the 3 most recent releases are given here. Should you wish to view the
complete history, visit:
v2.09 (1st March 2005)
* Spotted that the complete history URL was missing.
v2.08 (1st Feb 2005)
* Added the Brain Games site as a source of free games. This whole
section is currently under review
Questions and Answers
1. General Questions
1.1. Why are so few games released for Acorns?
Acorn Games are usually written by university students who have
some really great ideas and do some good coding but then graduate.
They then tend to be offered proper jobs which they take and
suddenly find they don't have the time (or their contract prevents
them) to code. The other problem is the small market place which
means that only a handful of small companies can be supported.
1.2. What is the difference between a game, a game demo and a demo?
A demo is intended to demonstrate some
programming/graphical/musical flair and techniques - any "gameplay"
is peripheral to the program. A game demo is either a cut-down or
"crippled" version of a commercial or shareware game or a rolling
demo. It is designed to demonstrate the gameplay aspect of a game
and encourage you to buy it. A game is a program intended to have
lots of gameplay...
1.3. Superior Software were possibly the preeminent games company on
the Beeb and they where one of the first to do anything for the
Arch. Where have they gone?
A very good question. For a long time everything seemed to point to
them having wound up years ago. Every so often someone would pipe
up with the claim that they where still trading but that was easily
dismissed as duff gen. However recently it has become apparent that
they /are/ still trading. They have re-launched themselves as
Superior Interactive and seem to be looking to break into the
Wintel games market.
You can find out a little of what they are up to at their web
site. Their Acorn products may be purchased through APDL.
1.4. Where can I get free games from?
You may like to try some of the following sites:
* The Soup Kitchen
* Acorn Arcade's download zone
* Brain Games are a commercial enterprise with a few free
games and game demos
1.5. What resources are available on the web for Acorn game players?
These links may prove useful to you:
* The Acorn Gaming pages
* AcornGamez news site
* Cheats prosper
* Acorn Arcade
1.6. What about game solutions?
* Swallow's solutions
1.7. I want to give my games some stick!
A3010 owners will know it is possible as their machines come with
joystick ports. If you own any of the other Acorn machines then you
will require an interface. At the moment Stuart Tyrrell
Developments appear to be the only people manufacturing
joystick interfaces. They also provide joypads for use with your
Risc OS machine.
1.8. How easy is it to write a game for Acorn computers?
Too much deep techie talk is off topic in this group
(csa.programmer is the place for that) however discussion of
general principles and game concepts is perfectly acceptable.
If (presumably) you've never written a game, you'll want some idea
of how video games tick and the usual sorts of routines you'll need
to program them. For a first game, I'd suggest using one of these
Development was halted by Andy Southgate a while ago when He
stopped working on it. In it's current state (3.00), it's still
pretty good if you feel the environment suits you. It's best
suited to people who like BASIC and assembly language
programming since the core routines are in two modules with
numerous SWI calls. The documentation is pretty thorough, and
all the source is provided, though most of it is pretty cryptic
By Matthew Bloch, Popcorn is a games library still in
development. It comes as a series of linkable AOF libraries
written mostly in C, with all the source provided. No support
is provided for BASIC programmers, though it could be added. In
terms of features, it is slightly better specified and flexible
than Gamesuite, but at the expense of speed. In addition, there
were some articles published on using it in Acorn User (Dec
'96, Xmas '96, Jan '97) and an example game.
These libraries will do a lot of the hard work for you such as
object processing and sprite plotting; be warned that you won't
find either of these perfect, and will probably want to hack a lot
of the code around. Both contain some useful hints on game coding
and a certain amount of tutorial material.
These libraries only handle 2D (flat) games programming; if you
want to write something in three dimensions, there are huge tomes
available on the subject. The comp.graphics.algorithms FAQ is a
good place to start.
TAG is a 3D graphics library written by TBA Software which has been
successfully used in some of their games. TBA is no more so both
the engine and its source code have been made available on the TBA
CD-ROM from R-Comp. Source for BHP and Cobalt Seed are also
included on this disc.
Be warned that knowing how to code a game is only half the battle:
If you want to release something commercially, slick presentation
and careful design are essential. Get other people to draw graphics
or compose music if you don't feel your skills are up to a
commercial standard. Spend a while planning rather than just diving
headlong into the coding. Finally, hold your game up to the light
of a similar offering running under DOS or Windows and ask whether
/you/ would pay the money you're asking for your game. A lot of
people have PCs and prefer playing games (and spending money) on
Finally there are a number of commercial games for which the source
has been released. At the time of writing only one of these has not
been ported already: Golgotha.
1.9. How can I write multi-platform games on my Risc OS machine?
At first this may seem like an impossibility. Games written for a
Risc OS machine only have a hope of working on other ARM based
computers (which are a little thin on the ground) and then only if
they have a similar architecture. It is however possible through
the plethora of Gameboy emulators. A UNIX package for creating
Gameboy games has been ported to RISC OS. Its libraries are a
little primitive but they should be useable. It may even be a
useful introduction to games programing (see the previous question)
Find the package on the porters web site.
The most common text adventure formats used on Acorn machines are
also ports of very well supported formats. Inform for instance can
be used on everything from C64's to Linux boxes. See the section on
text adventures for more information.
2. Foreign Games
2.1. I have seen Spectrum and BBC Micro emulators. What about other
platforms? What emulators are available?
There is a nigh on comprehensive list of emulators held at the
Acorn Gaming site.
2.2. Some IBM compatible games look a bit crumby when run on the x86
card. What can I do about this?
If it is the actual rendition of the game on screen which is not
right then you may find that adding these to your momitor
definition file helps.
# 320 x 200 (112Hz)
# 384 x 200 (111Hz)
2.3. Why am I having trouble with x86 sound?
A common solution to this problem is to investigate PCSound from
R-Comp Interactive. This bit of trickery will, with the aid of
a MIDI synthesiser be it hardware or software, improve PC sound for
a number of games.
2.4. So how do I complete Quake then?
Unless you are absolutely positively stuck then stop reading now.
I don't want to spoil the fun for you...
Still here? OK, to complete Quake look for the floating ball. This
is the target for the teleporter. When you teleport you will end up
where this thing is. So, just wait for the ball to be inside Shub
Niggrath (The big tenticular end of game gardian) and then
teleport. You will telefrag Shub and win the game. It might be
possible to win by whacking the Cthuhloid one enough times with the
2.5. What the hack is Angband anyway?
To answer this question I'll quote this brief introduction by the
author of the RISC OS versions:
Angband is a dungeon adventure game, similar to Dungeons & Dragons
in some ways, but with the emphasis on strategic use of equipment,
magic and skills rather than role-playing and problem solving.
It is (loosely) set in Tolkien's Middle Earth, although some
variants of the game draw on quite different sources.
Angband is the single most addictive computer game I have ever
played... I barely even look at Tetris these days ;)
Possibly the first port of call for finding out more should be
Musus Umbra's RISC OS angband site. For general Angband
information including links to the Acorn port why not try
Thangorodrim. Alternatively Acorn Arcade has some Acorn
spacific links in its Game Support pages.
3. Text Adventures
3.1. What is interactive fiction?
Interactive fiction (IF), or text adventures, are games in which
the player and the computer interact through a textual interface:
the player enters commands and the computer responds by printing
text to the screen, generally what the player can see and what
effects the previous command had.
The player's input can be a simple command in the format <verb>
<noun>, such as "take sword" or "open door". Modern games will also
be able to parse quite complex sentences like "take the gold coin
out of the treasure chest and bite it. Then close the chest".
Playing interactive fiction, then, is like reading a novel in which
you are the main character.
3.2. How do I play interactive fiction on a RPC/Archimedes?
Many interactive fictions are available as platform-independent
storyfiles, which are played on an interpreter. There are at least
half a dozen rival formats and, unfortunately, there aren't Acorn
ports of interpreters for every format.
One of the most popular interactive fiction storyfile formats is
the "Z-machine" format, as used by Infocom and, more recently, the
Inform compiler (see below). An excellent interpreter for games in
this format is Zip 2000. This is a multi-tasking application with
many features. Zip 2000 is shareware (ukp10 registration), but a
freeware distribution is available via anonymous FTP from the IF
If you prefer there is another z-machine interpreter called Frotz.
The big difference between this and Zip 2000 is its front end which
some people prefer. It can be found at the authors web site
The Hugo engine, HE, is an interpreter of storyfiles generated by
the Hugo compiler (see below). It is currently a single-tasking
application, invoked from the command-line. HE (archived with the
Hugo compiler) is available via anonymous FTP from the IF
The TADS interpreter allows you to play games in the TADS run-time
format. This is also a single-tasking application, identical in
appearance to the DOS version. TADS is available via anonymous FTP
from the IF archives
A Level9 interpreter has also been ported to the RPC/Archimedes.
This is used to play games published by Level 9 Computing, such as
"Lords of Time" and "Snowball." It currently runs in a taskwindow
on the desktop. L9 is available via anonymous FTP from the IF
Actual games are available from a number of sources. As mentioned
above, the Infocom games ("Zork,""Hitchhiker's Guide to the
Galaxy," etc.) can be played with Zip 2000. These games are
commercial software, and are often repackaged by the
copyright-holders, Activision. The most recent collection,
"Masterpieces of Infocom," contains all but two of the games. This
may not yet be available in Europe, so the previous collections,
"Lost Treasures of Infocom," (vols. I & II) may be a better bet.
"Zork I" has recently become freeware, and is available from
Activision's Web site
A growing number of very high quality freeware and shareware games
produced with the Inform authoring system, and playable on Zip
2000, are available via anonymous FTP from the IF archives
Hugo games are, currently, less prevalent, but a handful are
available via anonymous FTP from the IF archives
A number of TADS games are available via anonymous FTP from the IF
The Level 9 games are probably no longer available to buy anywhere,
but are available from a number of FTP sites. L9 can handle these
games in any format (except not Spectrum Z80 files, these must be
converted to SnapShots). An archive of several Spectrum games (Z80
format, so convert) is available via anonymous FTP from would you
Lastly, there are one or two games available as RISC OS
applications. Some of these are available via anonymous FTP from
that funky IF archives site again
3.3. How do I write interactive fiction on a RPC/Archimedes?
There are a number of publicly available authoring systems for
creating interactive fiction in one of the storyfile formats
Inform is undoubtedly currently the most popular and ported
authoring system available. It compiles source, written in it's own
language (fully OO and reminiscent of C), to a "Z-machine"-format
storyfile. Inform is available via anonymous FTP from the IF
It has recently come to my attention that there is a very good site
concerning the technicalities of writing adventure games with extra
links at this site
Hugo is much newer than Inform. The language bears comparison to
Inform, C and BASIC, but much of the (sometimes confusing)
punctuation has been removed, and the whole language optimised for
clarity and ease-of-use. Hugo source compiles to its own format
storyfile, which removes many of the more limiting restrictions of
the "Z-machine" format. Hugo is available via anonymous FTP from
the IF archives
3.4. Ooo, interactive fiction sounds like fun! Where can I find out
There are two newsgroups devoted to interactive fiction. If you are
interested in /playing/ these games, you should subscribe to
If you want to /write/ interactive fiction you should subscribe to
The Interactive Fiction Archive is a huge repository of interactive
fiction games, authoring systems, utilities, documentation and
other related material. It is found at the IF archives
Both the rec.arts.int-fiction FAQ and the rec.games.int-fiction
FAQ are available from the IF archives.
3.5. That's all very well but I like pictures!
Well now you can have some. Recently a port of Sarien has been
completed. Sarien is an AGI interpreter. It will allow you to play
old (generally pre 1989) Sierra adventures. For instance, Leisure
Suit Larry and the various Quest games. (King's, Space and Police)
All you need is the original game and a copy of Sarien, available
from the authors web site.
Apparently there is work underway to produce an interpreter which
will play more modern Sierra games. Possibly even more exciting is
the SCUMMVM. SCUMM is the system used by Lucas Arts for, among
other things, Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle. It can also be
found at David McEwens web site.
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