Sunday, 26 May 2019

Ken Fujisawa's "In the Woods"

"In the Woods" from partially converted Sanyo PHC-25 version
I ran across an interesting article on Japanese programmers who contributed to the explosion of Japanese gaming in the early 80s. "Gamasutra" aka John Szczepaniak discusses some of the seminal games and most influential programmers of the industry. In his notes at the end he lists "[*7] Ken Fujisawa. Creator of... In the Woods (AX-2)." AX-2 was a multi-game distribution for the NEC PC6001 that I was familiar with because it also contained "Nostromo," which is a game I converted a while back. I decided to look into "In the Woods" and see if I could also convert it. I found some info on the Net, including the screenshot above, provided by someone trying to see if the game could be converted to run on the Sanyo PHC-25. The Sanyo was an 8-bit machine of a similar time period as the NEC PC, and which also used a Z-80 processor and the MC-6847 as its graphics chip.

I looked back into my files and I still had the files from the AX-2 distro.  This was good because when I searched on the Net again, I couldn't relocate the file. Maybe it has been taken down-- AX-2 was a commercial product.  Seems like things are heating up a bit when it comes to copyright issues.  The Cocotalk folks were discussing the ethics of porting and re-coding on their last podcast. Don't know if I am doing anything wrong.  I am reusing old code I find on the Net, but I feel a little better about the fact that I don't sell any of the programs which result from my efforts. I'm just using code as material for my own little retrocomputing coding projects.  I always try to leave references or even add references to the original authors.

NEC Trek Intro (Compare with above)
I was able to load the game into James the Animal Tamer's "Virtual NEC Trek" emulator.  However, since the NEC Trek is a North American version of the PC 6001, its doesn't have all the hardware additions for displaying Japanese characters.  This means the screen doesn't display like it should.  So I had to use the screen shots from the Sanyo and send them to my son, who can work with the Japanese characters. He was able to give me a rough translation of the Sanyo instruction screen, which was helpful for both coding the game and trying to play the hobbled Nec Trek version.

NekTrek Game Screen
One feature that would be impossible to recreate on the MC-10 version is the use of two different color palettes on the same screen. It is neat to see the Orange and Red palette and the Dark Green and Green palette being used on the same screen. But the MC-10 just doesn't have the circuitry for running the MC-6847 in such a complex way.  Still, I made the instruction screen use the Red and Orange palette to hint at the look of the original. I also took out all the commands referring to the "STICK", since there are no joysticks for the MC-10. It's really easy to convert BASIC games from the NEC PC-6001. LOCATE X,Y commands become PRINT@X+Y*32.  SCREEN and COLOR commands are just omitted, since multiple palettes are out. There was some graphic animation using LINE commands that had to be redone using simple semigraphics text characters.  At the end a village is displayed and its gate opens up to permit the successful adventurer in after she has successfully navigated "the woods."  I say "she" because the story is evocative of Little Red Riding Hood.

The following is a transcript of my son Charlie's attempt at translation (via text messaging). You can see the english instructions I was able to get out of his attempts in the video of my MC-10 version of the game:

  • "Before the clock strikes 12:00, you must get to the village, marked by the diamond(♦)"...
  • "However, if:"...
  • "You run into a big tree(?) marked by the ♠"
  • Something about eating five ♣
  • "Then you'll die"
  • I don't know if it's saying if you do or don't eat them
  • Oh they're mushrooms!
  • I think the last part says something about waiting for the mushrooms before you get to the village
  • Do you know the gameplay for this?
  • Also just so you know, I'm saying the clubs are mushrooms
  • No, my final verdict is that the mushrooms are poisonous and eating 5 kills you
  • And then the last part is warning you to hurry before too many appear

Thanks Charlie! Your input, as always, makes a vital contribution to my programming efforts.  I also have to thank Darren (Mechacoco) for the use of his TIMER USR routine to allow me to properly keep track of the seconds countdown like in the original.

I used my replacement for the PLAY command to translate some of the music from the original using only the SOUND command of the MC-10. Here is that subroutine:
0 DIMN(21)
1 CC=1:FORC1=1TO63STEP3:N(CC)=VAL(MID$("087103113129142149161171181185193200203209215219221223229231233",C1,3)):CC=CC+1
Because MC-10 Basic is usually faster than NEC Basic, I was able to add a little challenge. The delay loop on input gets shorter for each successfully completed screen. So controlling the player avatar, which I made an X (instead of an @) should get a little more challenging (faster) as you progress. I also added a cumulative score to tally your diamonds from each completed screen. The original didn't seem to keep track from screen to screen. I also added a high score routine. Not sure what characters were originally used, but I suspect that it was the card suit characters: the spade for trees, the diamond for your goal, and the club for mushrooms. I used the up arrow for trees, since they kind of look like pine trees, periods for "little" mushrooms and the astrix for the diamond.  I'll leave it to you to judge if they work.  Here's a vid of what I came up with:


Based on some input from Keiichi Shiga on the Japanese Vintage Computer Users group on Facebook, I fixed up the instructions. I also, changed the way that the score is displayed. Now it counts down from the 20 diamonds that you start with every screen followed by your total cumulative score.  Also, your lives countdown from 5 for mushroom hits.  When you hit zero... you're dead.

The game "In the Woods" can be found and played under "Our Classic Basic Games" menu item on our GameJolt Page: Just select "Play Game" then click "Play Our Classic Basic Games," select "In the Woods" from the cassette menu and finally type RUN and hit ENTER.  Then enjoy a classic Japanese 8-bit BASIC computer game from the early 1980s.

Monday, 13 May 2019

Telengard in 20K TRS-80 MC-10

I have ported Telengard from TRS-80 Model 1/3 to TRS-80 MC-10. Had to sacrifice fountains, misty grey cubes, jewel encrusted thrones and mysterious boxes with buttons, but it now fits in a 20K 8-bit computer. Still present are altars, teleports, stairways, pits and elevators. It has a procedurally generated dungeon map, which means it has 50 levels and millions of rooms! Here's a link to an neat interactive map.

To get it down to under 20K I used MCX hardware add-on and its extended BASIC as emulated in VMC10 to renumber the code. The nice thing about the MCX hardware is that it allows for over 30K of memory, which provides the initial space required to work on the code while also being able to run and debug one's edits. Eventually I got to a point, where it fit in the regular 20K and I simply turned off the MCX and extra memory.

Lots of little sacrifices were needed. No character name. Separate screen (hotkey-H) to display items carried.  No command help screen (the original use of the H key). I shortened and standardized many messages, which means that some of the unique and quixotic ones have disappeared. No title screen.

All the spells and magic are there, although I have yet to test the highest level spells (above 2).  All the monsters are there.  All the special items (scrolls, rings, etc.).  You can save your game progress when you make it to an Inn, but unlike the original game, you can also save your game at any point in the dungeon by hitting the * symbol. When you save the game while in the dungeon you will be returned to your save point.

I used the senior TRS-80 Model 1/3 BASIC source as the start because is was already setup to use only 16 rows. Its graphics were simple semigraphic block character-based. In many ways my version looks more like the Apple or PET versions because it uses text character graphics, such as dashes and exclamation marks for doors and an X for the player. It is a complicated game with "permadeath" being the main experience of players at the beginning. A good manual is a must for playing it properly.

New Easter Egg

I have hidden "The Orb of Charlie" (in honour of my son Charlie) at a specific location on level 3 as a goal for play. Once you retrieve the ORB it will be permanently displayed in the bottom right of the screen. This addition is meant to be some minor recompense for the loss of the major location items (fountains, thrones, etc).

I really enjoyed finding out some of the complex and somewhat contentious history of this program by Daniel Lawrence, which stretches all the way back to the mainframe and mini-computer network systems, before jumping to the first home-computers in the late 70s.

Now the MC-10 can be numbered among those computers that have a version of this classic program-- albeit a somewhat simplified version-- but with some unique features of its own.

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Shoplifting Boy-- the First Stealth Game-- Reprogrammed on TRS-80 MC-10

I have made a BASIC program recreating the game Shoplifting Boy (万引き 少年) for the NEC PC-6001.

The original version of the game was created by Hiroshi Suzuki for the Commodore PET 2001 in 1979. It is credited with being one of the first "stealth" games. I made this version based on many viewings of a video which discusses the historical impact of Suzuki's game on the stealth video game genre:

The author of that video used a sequence of video showing what is apparently port of the original to the NEC-PC6001. It's possible that it is being played on one of the other MC6847-based PCs from Korea or Japan, but the appearance of the title "N60 Basic on the startup screen makes me pretty confident it's on the NEC. Here are some screenshots of the original Commodore PET version for comparison:

You can see a transliteration of the original game name as "Manbiki  Syonen." Not really sure if "shoplifting boy" is a direct translation or simply the closest approximation in English of some idiomatic Japanese term for young male toughs who practice the art of the 5 finger discount.

In the Commodore PET version it looks like the shoplifter is carrying a bag for his loot. The bigger screen of the PET (40 X 25 versus 32 X 16 on the NEC) allows for more items. Things are a little more cramped in the NEC version, and even a little more so in my MC-10 version. Since the MC-10 doesn't have the special line-draw characters, only semigraphics characters, I had to extend the height of the figures to 3 character rows, to get "feet" on the bottoms of each leg. This necessitated a special routine that refreshes the entire background so that shelves can be redrawn after the character passes overtop them, etc. Still, from what I can see from the video, I think my version is much faster than the NEC version. Most Basic games are pretty slow on the NEC. Its combination of the Z80 and MC6487 video chip wasn't conducive to the creation of a speedy 8-bit system. So I suspect that my version will be more enjoyable to play than the NEC version. Can't say how the Commodore PET version would have played. Based on comments made by the game historian, Stealth Docs, in the video, it would appear to be very difficult to find the game on the Net in any kind of working form.

So for those who might be curious, my version can be played in a Javascript emulator here: Just choose "Shiplifting Boy" from the cassette menu and then type RUN and hit Enter. Here's a video of my version in operation:

Since making that video I have added a musical refrain "Money Money" from Abba instead of the buzzer when you clear the screen. I have also better calibrated the timer and scoring with the help of my son Charlie. Thanks my good chum!

I now have quite a collection of classic Japanese Basic games ported to MC-10: Pitman, Fruit Panic, Space Mouse, Cavern 2160, Tacle Penguin, Arabian Rhapsody, Mt. Fuji Eruption, Space Freighter Nostromo, Binary Room, and Defense.  And a Nyan Cat animated graphic to boot.

I can add this collection to my other international collections:
"Romp in the Garden" (Bulgarian)
ZX81 game ports and remakes (England and Scotland)
VZ200/Laser games (Germany and Australia)
TRS-80 Model 1 and 3 games (U.S.A)
MC1000 games (Brazil)
Dragon 32 games (Wales)
Matra Hachette Alice 32 games (France)

I'm currently working on an empire building simulation called "World Governor," which I'm translating from a German program for the Laser 8-bit home computer. I added a nifty random "flag"generator routine for each country. The game has tactical nukes and you can enter your leader's name, so you can, like my son used to do in the modern game "Civilization," have Gandhi nuke an opposing country as he ruthlessly builds his empire.

I had to create a subroutine for putting commas in big numbers, since there are so many used in this game. The routine works pretty well. I will have WorldGov debugged soon. Also added the comma routine to my Wildcat game, since it also uses big numbers in simulating the finances of running a oil and gas wildcatting business.

Saturday, 30 March 2019

RetroChallenge 03/2019: Last Post

The time is ticking down. Don't think I'll be able to add much more to my activities this month for RetroChallenge, so I think I'll wrap things up. Since finishing "Manic Miner" I have been just fooling around with a few back burner type-in projects. The first was one from my list that I mentioned at the start of the Challenge, "Convoy."  This program was one of a number of listings I found in Dragon 32 programming books. Had to type it in from the PDF. Few tweaks and it was running.

It takes a little knack to figure out the ranging. Each level adds more ships. I think it might be possible to add an animated shot flying from your cannon to the target, rather than simply have a numeric countdown and then "splash."  Maybe some speed ups could be done too, to make it a little more challenging.

The second project I completed since Miner was a program called "Geography." This one I got from a German VZ200/Laser Fan Club software repository on the Net: It has been a really valuable resource in the past and I thought I would take another look. There are so many programs listed and all the descriptions are German, so it is hard to guess what's there. Some program descriptions mentioned "Englisch" so I took a look and found "Geography". The remarks in the program seem to indicate that it might have originally been from a Coco book and then migrated to VZ by way of a PET stage.


Added my name to the list. 2018 seems like quite a jump! But the program had already travelled from the Rocky Mountains to Germany in space, so a little leap by time is perhaps not that unusual.

It has quite a list of names stored in its DATA statements. I added a little graphic partial world map that I found in a Sinclair Spectrum program listing. Not sure if I translated the Speccy semigraphic characters completely correctly, but from the description of the graphics I found on the net, it seemed the best I could do. Here is the original listing:


Each letter represents a semigraphic character from the following list

From various experiments it seemed like the order of the top 2 lines went like this


But the resulting picture seems a little odd/fuzzier than it should. I tried some add hoc substitutions but it didn't seem to make much improvement so I left it pretty much as is.

Well that is the end of my RetroChallenge activities for this month. All the best to the other contestants. I've enjoyed popping into a few projects that looked interesting (mostly ones with programming aspects looking for ideas) and reading John's mid contest update. Thanks again to John for organizing and to all the other contestants for their efforts.  Keep on retrocomputing!


Thanks to Solar Penguin (Pippa) I learned that the Speccy and the ZX81 don't use the same block character set.  Since my map data was from the Speccy, my map didn't look right.  Now it does.

Friday, 22 March 2019

RetroChallenge 03/2019: Some Updates to a former Retrochallenge Program

I have made some edits to a program I did for a RetroChallenge a few years back. It was a port of a text adventure coded by "Floyd" (aka Joshua Bell) in Applesoft Basic for Javascript. Since Floyd had lots of power to work with, speed was not a problem. He coded a clever encoding system to hide the game's text data from snooping eyes peeking at the source. However, on an MC-10 with plain old interpreted Basic, the setup time to decode all this data was way too long. So when Floyd contacted me about an error I had made in my Walkthrough map of his game, I decided to revisit his encoding routine and apply some of the Basic speedup techniques I've picked up over the last few years. I also decided to add a little reverse video to provide some visual distinction between room descriptions. I have also fixed up my standard word-wrap routine since then, so I updated that as well. If you click on the link to my original post you will be taken to an updated map of the game with hints about how to complete it, so beware if you don't want the game spoiled. It can be played online at Game Jolt and also find a link below to Github with the latest source code:

Friday, 15 March 2019

RetroChallenge 03/2019: Responding to Charlie's Input

Made the changes to my game "Manic Miner" that my son Charlie recommended. There is now a (kinda) timer. If you finish collecting all the gold on a screen quickly enough, you get a 500 point bonus. Also, the snake starts higher when on the lowest ladder. So you have to finish quickly or it will make it to the bottom of the ladder blocking the exit. Then you are stuck waiting until it moves up again.

Now the instructions explain the numbers at the bottom of the screen. Also fixed some other minor errors on the instruction screen. Changed the program so now you have to clear every gold on the level prior to the 5th to earn the bonus life. This also happens every subsequent 5th screen, so you have to make sure to clear on levels 4, 9, 14 and so on. Don't know how to explain this exactly.

Also added true flapping to the bat's wings. Used the counter (ZZ) for the level timer that I added for the bonus calculation and then just (1ANDZZ) and add the result to the array pointer for the bat graphic.

Also did a bunch of speedups. Can always seem to find untold ways to make the code more efficient. For example, when printing the rock it is just one graphic that never changes, so instead of using the array A$(15) I just print the two characters in a string "**" that's a saving of two characters that don't have to be interpreted and also the removal of some string variable manipulation. Also noticed that if you stood on the edge of the screen as a monster headed towards you, it wouldn't kill you because the end of its run would be triggered and it would be plucked from the screen and assigned a new location before it got to the regular collision detect in the main loop. Needed a special collision detect just for checking at the end of a monster's run.

Not sure now if the game is too fast again on the first levels. I felt it was a bit too slow at the point of my last posting, but now I'm not sure if I have made it too fast again because of the speedups. Can't stay alive too long to test whether I have the amount of time allocated for the bonus on levels other than the lowest. I changed the program so now as you progress, every 5 levels another gold is added to the screen up 7. So the speed bonus has to also allocate more time as you have to deal with more gold. Hard to know if I have it "tuned" right. I'm just using a straight counter and not an internal clock timer. I'm hoping my son Charlie might be able to find some more time to help test these features. He's a much better game player than me.

Chad Edward on the MC-10 facebook group recommended shortening the musical refrain. It does get a bit tedious. So after the first two levels, you only get a much shortened version before you must be ready to face the monsters.


Charlie has tested the game and helped me with fine tuning the speed timer for level completion. He has declared it "tight." So, unless any brainstorms strike, or bugs appear, I think I am calling this project complete. "MINER" can be played under our "Original Micro Color Basic Games" category on Game Jolt:

Thursday, 14 March 2019

RetroChallenge 03/2019: Miner Working

I got the enemies working. Some interesting compromises had to be made to maintain speed. The bat basically patrols the top 3 levels. The boulder bounces on the bottom level. And the snake lurks on a random ladder. It climbs up and down at random intervals adding a little complexity to the player's navigation decision-making. The other two appear randomly from either side. The snake will eventually speed up as you proceed through levels. The other two monsters will also speed up as you go.

Some other surprising features emerged spontaneously as I worked out player movement. You can't move through enemies (a mistake), but then I realized that this allowed for some quirky player dynamics. If you jump up just before getting hit by the boulder you can end up jumping on top of it and possibly running over it.  Just don't fall in front of it or it will roll over you.  You can rest by standing on ladders between platforms and use these refuges to plan your strategy.

Solved the problem with the platforms not always providing a complete path to all the gold. You can plant a few ladders of your own, 3 per level, to make a path. Had to finesse the gold planting routine. It prioritizes planting on upper levels, but will sometimes plant one on the lowest level so that you have to play footsies with the boulder. After every 5 levels you get an extra gold up to a max of five.  Each gold is worth a 100 more than the last one retrieved, so there is some incentive for cleaning a level of its gold.  If you don't collect at least 2 before each fifth level, you don't earn an extra life.

My son Charlie composed a nice SOUND command routine to play "Hall of the Mountain King" from Edvard Grieg. This was the in-game refrain from the original Manic Miner. It gives the player a chance at the beginning of the level to plan initial strategy. I also added a variation of the original game's loading screen.

Not sure what is left to do. Asked Charlie to give me some suggestions for some refinements. Here is what he said:
  • anyway I played it for a bit and got a score of 5200
  • the jumping is the best mechanic
  • the animation is smooth so it's very usable
  • I also like how the arms move for it
  • at one point I was a bit annoyed since I couldn't place a ladder down while I was on a ladder, but that's minor
  • or should I say miner 😉
  • also a couple times a snake sat on the exit for a while, which was annoying, but on second thought it sort of made things interesting since I just ended up jumping over boulders for a bit
  • map generation is good
  • only recommendations I can think of for now would be to add labels for the numbers on the bottom, and to maybe add a time bonus for each level (there's a timer and you get extra points for any time left when you finish the level)

Tried labels, but they created a conflict with my key polling and peeking routines, which both use an array K(255), to store codes for using with ON/GOTO commands. Don't want to declare a separate array because each variable brings speed down.  People will just have to figure out the arrangement of numbers: SCORE, LEVEL, BRIDGES,LIVES.  Also don't think a timer is really worth it, as most screens can be completed fairly quickly.

Source can be found on Github: