Aeon Emulator Blog

April 13, 2010

MegaZeux

Filed under: Aeon, Fun & Games — Greg Divis @ 7:00 pm

I’ve covered both ZZT and Super ZZT, but I really can’t leave it at that. Something of a community formed around ZZT, making games and exchanging them through BBS’s and some of the online services that came before the web. At least one of these folks decided that it was time for a proper update. In 1994, a software company (which so far as I can tell consisted of one guy), released MegaZeux as shareware. When you start it up, it runs the intro to its included game, Caverns of Zeux.

MegaZeux Title Screen

Like ZZT, MegaZeux displays all of its graphics in 80×25 text mode – but it pushes this “genre” of game about as far as it can go. Many of the characters used to make the image above aren’t part of any 256-character code page – MegaZeux actually changes them on the fly.

Caverns Title Screen

In addition to custom fonts, the game features a vastly more powerful game creation tool where you could customize nearly every aspect of the game both in the editor and using the game’s scripting language. The sample game alone did crazy stuff like create animated tiles by constantly reprogramming the character set, all from the game’s scripting language.  Oh, and it plays .MOD files as background music. WIN.

For a fan of ZZT like me, this game was pretty much the best thing ever, and while I made some stuff with it, other fans got a little more hardcore.  To see what you could pull off with a text-mode game, check out some of the screenshots below from a few other MegaZeux games which were made over the years.

Honor Quest Image 1 Honor Quest Image 2 

Weirdness Title Weirdness Image 2

I had so much fun with this game that I had a short-lived project where I tried to remake it back in 2003. I had something I built from scratch that could import MegaZeux games (not perfectly), and with a few of the limitations removed. I lost interest in working on it eventually, but I understand others had more patience after I left the scene.

April 12, 2010

Super ZZT

Filed under: Aeon, Fun & Games — Greg Divis @ 9:46 pm

In my last post, I wrote a little about ZZT. Its success led to something of a sequel released in 1991 called Super ZZT.

Super ZZT Title Screen

Its gameplay is nearly identical to ZZT, but with a few technical changes and enhancements. Most noticeably, the game itself now uses the lower-resolution 40×25 text mode, but the boards are much larger and scroll with the player.

Super ZZT Gameplay

Like ZZT, it includes an editor for making your own games, but you had to run the game with a special command line argument to enable it; also, the editor runs in the higher-res 80×25 mode, which could make it tough to figure out when something visible in the editor would be visible in the game. In all, it’s a fun enough game for a little while, but in my opinion it lacks the novelty value of the original ZZT and doesn’t really deliver that many improvements. Still, it came out only a year after ZZT, so you can’t really expect that much to be different.  I may have made one or two little Super ZZT games years ago, but I never really got into it. Judging from the relative lack of Super ZZT content on the Internet today, I wasn’t the only one.

This was the first and only actual sequel to ZZT, but certainly not the last game to follow in its footsteps. Next time I’ll conclude this little series with a look back at ZZT’s spiritual successor.

I’ll get back to some technical posts again after that, I promise :)

April 9, 2010

ZZT

Filed under: Aeon, Fun & Games — Greg Divis @ 4:41 pm

Ever play anything powered by the Unreal Engine? You know, a game like Gears of War or Mass Effect to name just a couple? Impressive games with impressive, nearly lifelike visuals. If you’re familiar with the Unreal Engine, you probably already know that it’s a product of Epic Games, a company that’s been around since the early nineties. In this post, I’m going to take a look at their very first published game. If you think Gears of War was striking, you’ve never seen ZZT!

ZZT Title Screen

Yes, those are ASCII graphics you’re looking at. Well, let’s start playing!

Gems give you health!

You control the little happy face as you travel between boards collecting gems, ammo, torches and shooting enemies, solving puzzles, etc. It’s actually quite an entertaining game, and before long you’ll adjust to its graphical style.  If this were all there was to the game, it would be a fun little diversion for a little while, but ZZT had a killer feature I haven’t mentioned yet: the built-in editor.

ZZT Editor

Turns out that entire built-in “Town of ZZT” game was built with the ZZT Editor. Using this, you can create some surprisingly sophisticated games.  The super-simplified ASCII “graphics” are actually a benefit here, as the aim is to have a very simple, but powerful, game creation system that anybody can use.  It should be mentioned that in addition to basic stuff like drawing terrain, items, creatures, and obstacles, you could place objects and program them in a simple interpreted language.  Over the years ZZT was out, people used the ZZT editor to create some pretty amazing stuff given the limitations.

If I sound like I’m talking from experience, it’s because I made quite a few games with ZZT back in the early nineties, and I have a lot of fond memories of it. It works in Aeon well enough, though it relies on keyboard auto-repeat behavior which I haven’t emulated yet, so if you want to play it for any length of time you’ll be better served by something else. (Unless you don’t mind tapping the arrow keys for every single step)

As you might expect, the inclusion of the editor gave the game something of a fanbase, as there was really nothing else like it at the time. It wasn’t long before the sequel, Super ZZT was released, and I’m going to talk about that next.

[Note: Sorry about the funny-looking fonts in the screenshots and Aeon 0.6’s 8×14 character set. I haven’t had a chance to fix it up yet.]

Aeon Version 0.60

Filed under: Aeon, New Version — Greg Divis @ 2:27 pm

I’ve fixed a couple long-standing bugs and added support for some features I’ve been wanting to get in here for a long time – SVGA and the PC speaker. Also new to this version is the ability to mount CD ISO files and virtual floppy disk image files directly thanks to the excellent DiscUtils library. This is also the last version of Aeon that will target .NET 3.5; with .NET 4 scheduled for release on April 12, all future builds will require that version.

  • Internal code refactoring
  • Fixed expanded memory page aliasing bug (Star Trek: 25th Anniversary)
  • Added PC speaker emulation (tones only, sampled playback won’t work)
  • Added support for changing the character set
  • Added support for 8×14 character resolutions in text modes
  • Support for mounting disk image files (vfd, iso)
  • Fixed a nasty bug in the PIT which caused random timing-related crashes
  • Partial VESA VBE 1.2 implementation – some SVGA games will work (Master of Orion II, Lords of the Realm II both tested)
  • Fixed a Sound Blaster detection bug

Download here.

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