This is an uncompleted project from the 16-bit era of the early 90’s, where I set about attempting to make the 3rd part of the trilogy. It was the mid ground between my very early work on the ZX Spectrum midnight map editor in the mid 80’s, and the current WOTS development work on the PC platform in the 00’s and 10’s.
Whilst tidying up the loft recently, I came across the 20 year old 3.5″ disks from my Amiga A500+, and thought it would be good to get some details of what I had got up to onto the site along with the more recent developments. You can read below for some of the difficulties I had in getting the details onto here !
Background and scope
As my Midnight inspired development work continued into the early 90’s, the appearance of 16-bit hardware tempted me onto the Atari-ST and Amiga A500+ platforms. The prospect of full colour landscaping without the colour clash was very inviting!
EOTM was to be produced as a Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay scenario, which would add much more intricate gameplay mechanics compared to the originals. The frontend however would look very familiar to those who played the first two installments, with turn based gameplay and full colour landscaping graphics. The map was to be 128×128 locations, allowing for a much bigger playing environment than both LOM and DDR. The intention was to have a combination of the terrain types from LOM and DDR available, together with a few new terrain types for EOTM.
The initial focus was on getting a working game engine together, and then I had planned to work on fleshing out the scenario and other details. Having said that, in the interests of approaching it in some kind of structured manner, I had written a basic specification also containing a background to the story, but it still needed a lot more work…
Whilst the project originally started with some tool development on my first 16-bit computer (an Atari-520ST FM), after a few months I had ditched the ST for an Amiga A500+. Luckily I could retain quite a bit of what I had done, and only had to adapt the graphical parts of the project for the new capabilities of the Amiga over the ST (mainly higher resolution and colour depth graphics)
Both machines were based around the Motorola 68000 CPU, running at between 7 and 8MHz (roughly double the speed of the 3.5MHz Z80 CPU of the ZX Spectrum).
The Amiga A500+’s graphics capabilities were jaw-dropping in it’s time, with a mainly 640×256 resolution display @ 32-colours per pixel (compared with the 256×192 resolution of the ZX Spectrum @ 2-colours per 8×8 pixel block!)
All-in-all, a good platform for full colour landscaping graphics !
Coding Language and Tool
On the ZX Spectrum, I had become accustomed to programming in assembly language (or machine code as it was known). I was still a firm believer that it was the most powerful way to program computers in order to gain access to the full capabilities of the hardware. It was not a hard decision at the time then to stay with assembly language for the project development, although when I look back on it today, I can’t believe I didn’t look into other options.
The project was developed using Devpac 3, a commercial assembler/debugger as opposed to bits of paper and a list of Z80 instructions in the ZX Spectrum days. Take a look at a typical page of source code for the landscaping routine… I don’t know how I had the patience !
Graphics were created using Deluxe Paint III; from memory I had converted the graphics routines from the Z80 original to 68000, so was able to recreate the pixel makeup of the DDR graphics in full. They were then hand shaded within DPaint.
Challenges recovering the project data (take a deep breath!)
Well armed with the WinUAE Amiga Emulator for Windows XP, I thought it would only be a matter of reading the data from my 20-year old disks and somehow getting it onto the PC. Sounds easy right ?
My first approach was to somehow connect my Amiga with my PC via serial cable or some such means. However this was quickly halted when I tried to power on the Amiga and was presented by complete silence. Probably a dead power supply I suspect…
So my next approach was to try and read the Amiga disks directly on the PC. However I quickly learnt that the two formats are absolutely incompatible. There is no chance to read 880Kb DD disks on a 1.44Mb HD disk drive…
Further searching on the net yielded some “adapters” that would perform the conversion between the two formats, however the websites seemed as if they hadn’t been updated recently and the production of said “adapters” had been discontinued…
Then I stumbled across the utility “Disk2FDI” which does a low level read of the DD disk using a standard 1.44Mb drive, and creates an .ADF image file on a 2nd floppy drive, which can then be read by the WinUAE emulator. Seemed like a great little idea! Except that my modern day (ish) PC had a motherboard that no longer supports a 2nd floppy drive…
Luckily, the Disk2FDI utility also supports the use of a special cable that intercepts the floppy drive signals on the ribbon cable, and feeds them to the PC’s parallel port, where they are read. This eliminates the need for a 2nd floppy drive. So, I ordered the registered version of the utility that is required to support the cable, and the cable itself. It arrived within a few days…
Keen to get imaging my 20 year old disks, I set about getting it all to work. It fell over at the first hurdle, since it didn’t like my modern day (ish) processor which seemed to be too fast for the DOS based program. So next I had to hunt for an old Pentium or Pentium II based computer (as luck would have it, I had just junked one a few months earlier!)
Luckily I got my hands on one at work and then set about trying again. With some trial and error and great support from the program creator, eventually I got it working and managed to image all my project disks from the early 90’s to .ADF files on my PC. Over about 25 disks, only 1 had 3 bad sectors (and luckily this was not a critical disk with project data on it). I was a bit surprised actually that they had survived several hot spells and many very cold spells up in my loft, just stored in a cardboard box!
So, finally got the .ADF images working in WinUAE, and was able to take some screenshots as you see here. Well worth the effort.
Status and next steps
Development status as of 1993:
- Graphics encoder tool completed (able to convert bitmaps of terrain type to data format required by the engine)
- Some terrain types converted from DDR to test the landscaping engine
- Map analyser tool part-completed (able to edit the map terrain of the 128×128 map)
- Main landscaping view part-completed (able to wander around the terrain only)
Clearly there was a huge amount of work still to be done at the point where work was abandoned in favour of moving to the 3D platform of the PC.
Unfortunately there are no plans to resurrect this at the moment.
Visit the image gallery to see higher resolution images…