Aeon Emulator Blog

May 1, 2011

Quest for Glory

Filed under: Aeon, Fun & Games — Greg Divis @ 8:30 pm

I’ve mentioned before how I used to love point & click adventure games. The series that really stood out the most for me was Quest for Glory.

Quest for Glory IQuest for Glory III

I like them, but these games are really pretty strange – part adventure game, part RPG, part parody, and they somehow managed to be both epic and farcical. Not too many games could pull off the sheer number of puns they used. That being said, they aren’t without their problems – the combat ranges from clunky at best to aggravating at worst, although due to the game design fortunately most of it could be avoided.

Quest for Glory IVCharacter Screen

One of the cool things about these games was how the solutions to most of the puzzles were completely different depending on whether you played the game as a fighter, mage, or thief, and the fact that you could import your character from one game to the next, so your character stats would follow you through every game. Five Quest for Glory games were made, the first four work in Aeon, but the fifth one was made for Windows 95 – there is no DOS version. Unfortunately, it pretty much only runs on Windows 95 too, so you’d have trouble running it outside of a virtual machine or an old PC. The final game is generally considered the weakest in the series, so it’s not that big of a deal, but I still like it as a nice epilogue to the first four adventures.

If you’ve never played these before, I’d still recommend them (if you can find them): simple, goofy fun, with some really great music. I should also mention, however, that Quest for Glory II was the only game in the series to never receive an official VGA makeover – instead, some very dedicated and talented fans created one a few years ago. They made a huge number of improvements over the original, but kept all the charm – and you can download it for free. Best of all, you don’t even need an emulator to run it :)

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April 20, 2011

Daggerfall

Filed under: Aeon, Fun & Games — Greg Divis @ 10:46 pm

I’ve always been a fan of computer RPG’s, and usually the bigger the better. I first heard about the game Daggerfall years after its release and had a lot of trouble tracking it down, but had tons of fun with it once I did.

DaggerfallDaggerfall

To be honest, I didn’t play the game so much as I played with it. The scope is huge, and the dungeons were randomly generated and extremely annoying (in my opinion). Also, it was a pretty buggy game – I remember an odd glitch that seemed to be unique to my computer at the time where my character was utterly incapable of falling; I would just glide in the air if I walked off an edge. Regardless of its problems, it’s still a fun sandbox to play in for a little while.

DaggerfallDaggerfall

Bethesda (the company that made Daggerfall), released the game as freeware. You can download it from here. It runs pretty well in Aeon, provided you have a pretty fast machine.

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.]

December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

Filed under: Aeon, Fun & Games — Greg Divis @ 8:00 am

By 1990, the PC was becoming a viable platform for home gaming able to compete with the likes of Nintendo and Sega. To play to the PC’s strengths of a common mouse and keyboard input, some different genres of game took off in the PC market compared to the consoles, one such genre was the adventure game. Something of an evolution of the older text-parser adventure games, the point & click graphical adventure game was huge for several years. If you were into those games, one of the companies you paid attention to was Sierra On-Line. Now defunct, with most of their IP’s owned by EA, Sierra was a big deal. They made King’s Quest, Quest for Glory, Police Quest, Space Quest – and it seemed like they added a sequel to each of those series almost every year.

In the late 80’s and early 90’s, Sierra distributed electronic “Christmas cards.”  For some reason, I still have a copy of this one goofy Christmas cartoon they made using their SCI adventure game engine.

Title Screen

In The Seasoned Professional, an inept actor gets dressed up in all of the wrong holiday costumes, all the while being scolded by the director for screwing it up.

Groundhog Day No

I thought this was pretty funny when I was 9 years old or so – the kind of humor they were going for was definitely aimed at that younger age group, but looking at it again now the nostalgia is hard to beat on something like this.

Seasons Greetings

Hope everyone reading this has a happy new year. See you in 2010.

December 12, 2009

Master of Magic

Filed under: Aeon, Fun & Games — Greg Divis @ 10:00 am

It’s been a while since I’ve posted about a specific game, and I’ve had this post written for quite a while so this seems like a good time for it. I’ve always been terrible at strategy games, but for some reason I’ve also always had a soft spot for them. The first turn-based strategy game I really got into was Master of Orion II – which came bundled with Master of Magic when I bought it back in 1996.

Title Screen

Master of Magic had a lot going for it – cool premise of conquering a randomly-generated fantasy realm, nice graphics, fairly intuitive control (for the time). The game also had its share of flaws – the AI opponents could show some odd behavior, and on a technical side, the game ran pretty slow. That being said, it’s still fun to play for a while, and I kind of like being able to mash that giant “Next Turn” button on my tablet PC.

Think I cheated a little?

Technically, the game is also pretty interesting. Despite its expansive, colorful look, it’s a regular 16-bit real-mode DOS program. It does, however, make extensive use of Expanded Memory, and so far it’s the only program I’ve run in Aeon that created multiple named expanded memory handles. If you aren’t familiar with expanded memory, basically a program would ask the memory manager for a handle, then allocate chunks of memory using that handle – the memory could then be mapped into real-mode conventional memory 16k at a time. Mainly for diagnostic purposes, a handle could be assigned a name. Master of Magic not only created a named handle, it created 22 of them.

YO MOMA

You can tell from this that they kind of divided up what they were storing in expanded memory using different handles. I’m not sure what the deal is with the “YO MOMA” handle, but I at least got a chuckle out of that when I first saw it. I’m sure the programmers didn’t expect anyone to see that, but being a developer myself I have an appreciation for that kind of thing :)

If you’re looking to play Master of Magic, it works fine in Aeon and DOSBox (though in either case I recommend turning the sound effects off, or your tactical battles will take forever). If you’re looking for a sequel or a more modern version of this game, you’re mostly out of luck, at least until Elemental: War of Magic is released.

Update:
This is what I get for publishing an old post like this. The setup program for Master of Magic has been broken for a few versions, and I never noticed this since it wasn’t part of my normal testing. It should be working again in 0.52. For reference, here’s the settings I used to run the game:

Music: General Midi (port 330)
Sound: No sound

October 16, 2009

Wolfenstein 3D

Filed under: Aeon, Fun & Games — Greg Divis @ 10:41 am

Wolfenstein 3D is another classic. It was basically the first FPS game, and has since been ported to pretty much every platform in existence.

Title Screen

I’ve wasted many hours of my life playing this game, and to this day I still remember the layout and secret passages from all of the levels of the first episode.

Because the game is visually so striking compared to most other games of the time, I was expecting it to be difficult to get it to run in Aeon, but once I had the basics in place it turned out to be one of the easiest. Most of the early problems I ran into were from incorrect corner case behavior in some of the more complicated x86 instructions, but Wolfenstein 3D didn’t really do anything crazy at the machine code level. Maybe that’s due to it being largely written in portable C.

Wolfenstein 3D

So having it work so well in Aeon was pretty exciting for me and all, but the best thing to come out of playing it again was that it gave me the idea to rip this:

BJ Blazkowicz

Just look at that and try to say it isn’t awesome. It’s B.J. Blazkowicz!

October 8, 2009

Zork I: The Great Underground Empire

Filed under: Aeon, Fun & Games — Greg Divis @ 8:49 pm

I probably should have started with this one, as it was the first game I got working in Aeon, but starting things off with a screenshot of an interactive fiction game just seemed too boring. Oh well, here it is:

Zork

There isn’t too much I can say about Zork that hasn’t already been said. It’s a classic, particularly in the realm of text-parser based adventure games. Also, take a look at the copyright date in the screenshot above: it’s been around for almost 30 years, but thanks to the Infocom Z-machine, you can still play it today.

Getting Zork to work was a big deal to me, since the only programs I had tested before were simple assembly or C “hello world” programs. Zork was the real deal, and I encountered a lot of issues on the way. I was practically ecstatic when I finally got it to run, right up until I tried to read any of the text on the screen:

NMUU

It was really weird. The numbers, whitespace, and casing were all correct, but the letters were completely scrambled. I don’t remember the exact cause of this, but I think it involved my incorrect implementation of the ROR instruction.

Anyway, if you’d like to play Zork, you can find the first three episodes free for download here. If you want to play Zork 1 using Aeon, just open _zork1.com and you’re all set.

Alternatively, since Infocom games essentially run inside their own virtual machines, you can elect to use a more modern interpreter instead. No emulator required!

The Z-machine standard is itself a pretty interesting subject; if you’re interested in what it takes to build a compliant interpreter from the ground up, here’s a blog to follow.

September 27, 2009

Commander Keen 1

Filed under: Aeon, Fun & Games — Greg Divis @ 7:27 pm

One of the nice things about a project like Aeon is that it let me use old games I’d played as a kid as milestones. The first graphical game I got working in Aeon was Commander Keen: Invasion of the Vorticons.

Keen 1 Title

The graphics are pretty primitive, and the only sound effects you get are from the PC speaker, but it boasts smooth scrolling large levels and a nice variety of hazards and enemies. For a shareware game released in 1990, it’s really quite impressive, and it was followed by five episodes.

Keen 1

This was one of id Software’s first games, and you can still download the shareware episode from 3D realms.

I’ll be back to that performance series next time I post.

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