Feeds

back to article Xenon: Bitmap Brothers' (mega)blast from the past

Xenon marked the beginning of a distinguished career for The Bitmap Brothers, legendary developers of the Commodore Amiga and Atari ST era. Overhead, vertically scrolling shooters were doing great trade in arcades across the land, and with its exposure on Saturday morning kids’ show Get Fresh (you don’t remember Gaz Top and …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.

Page:

Rob
Bronze badge

Bitmap Bros...

... still the golden age of gaming in my book, I miss my Amiga...

17
0

Re: Bitmap Bros...

That's because those machines were from a time before Microsoft's monopoly damaged computing and set it back 5 - 10 yrs.

An Amiga 1200 (from 1991) compared to a windows PC from 1996

The Amiga ran at 14Mhz and had a 2MB RAM, the Windows PC I had ran at 166 Mhz and had 32MB RAM

- The Amiga booted up faster (seconds for a HDD boot into workbench)

- The Amiga was more responsive desktop

- The Amiga was more a more stable desktop (only games ever cause crashes...)

- The Amiga has sound that didn't stutter ALL THE GOD DAMN TIME

- The Amiga's graphics although lacked the 3D capabilities seems far faster - and didn't stutter ALL THE GOD DAMN TIME - at 1996 I saw nothing as impressive as 'state of the art' on a PC.

- Everything cost far more in Windows than the Amiga, there were loads of software on the Amiga that just didn't exist for Windows (i.e music production.) and equivalents that did cost often 2 - 10 X the amount (for less reliable software)

Going from the Amiga 1200 -> Win 95 was like a step into the Dark ages.

Thank god for Linux.

30
19
Silver badge

For Fucks Sake!

Could you be any more tedious?

19
16
Rob
Bronze badge

Re: Bitmap Bros...

I think it was more to do with the different chip sets rather than the OS. Obviously Workbench was quite quick but again it was helped by the chip architecture, good ole Denise and Paula (I think there were others but I can't remember their names).

Commodore were in the process of developing a next gen RISC architecture for the new machines but I think that was around the time they went bankrupt (that may have been part of the reason they went bankrupt). I'm sure someone has time to Google that and correct or fill in the blanks.

3
0
Silver badge
Happy

Re: Bitmap Bros...

Amiga that just didn't exist for Windows (i.e music production.)

Dear Amiga owner

By Music production you mean tracker rubbish?

Sheez you Amiga lot, Pro24 / Cubase / Creator / Nuendo? Proper tools not mickey mouse toys.

Lots of love

Atari ST / Falcon owner.

See nothings changed in 30 years of IT. People still willy wave and pretend their OS is the best.

13
7
Thumb Up

Re: Bitmap Bros...

Could not agree with more yossarianuk. I had an Acorn Archimedes and so many of your points applied to that as well, when compared to a Windows PC of the day.

OK at the time I was generally in a state of war with my Amiga ST owning friend as to which one of out computers was better.

Archimedes boot up to RISC OS desktop was super-super fast as it was all in ROM. Once there it was smooth and just so easy and intuitive to use. Sound was good, as well as graphics.

I remember getting an i386 DX4 100MHz add in co-processor card for my later RISC PC and being astounded at how big the heat sink was and how hot it got and still it was slower than the native ARM processor which had no heat sink at all.

What I really miss from those days was the ease in which you could just sit down and start programming and get a result. Just try doing that in five minutes on a modern PC!

7
2
Silver badge

Re: tracker rubbish

Tracker programs did of course exist for the PC too. I even had software which could play Amiga .mod files through the internal speaker with no soundcard (quality was very dependent on the size of the internal speaker).

There were even trackers which extended the concept to PC specifics, such as Screamtracker which could track both adlib and soundblaster style sound in the same file.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Bitmap Bros...

That's because those machines were from a time before Microsoft's monopoly damaged computing and set it back 5 - 10 yrs.

That is so true.

I had a PC when I was younger, and it was the laughing stock! The games on these smaller home computers used to run rings around the PC. You could just put in a disk, an away you go. DOS needed different boot disks, and pissing about with soundcards, etc.

Once the monopoly was gained, MS had no reason to improve. It certainly wasn't the hardware's fault, that kept improving.

The PC was 5/10 years behind, and only "caught up" by killing everything else.

Most that were <20 in the early 90s will feel the same way.

Thank god for Linux.

Sometimes, I wish I had the guts to migrate.

12
1
Anonymous Coward

Re: Bitmap Bros...

Bars and Pipes was a lot more fun than any ST MIDI package.

I've still not found an application today that does things in a MIDI pipeline the way that did. I even wrote some tools for it myself.

It split the sequencer like this:

IN ---- (pipe line)--- [ SEQUENCER ] --- (pipeline)---OUT.

You could drop in a tool into the input pipeline and quantize or transpose before recording. Or drop it into the output pipeline and process the output. You could then choose to "toolize" the notes in the sequencer if you wanted.

But what was brilliant was being able to adjust things in real time, where as other sequencers required opening dialogs and applying things, then listening to the results, lame!

You could drop numerous tools in, MIDI echos, transpose, audio out tools (I wrote one for AHI, badly). It all worked brilliantly.

You could even join tracks together with pipeline branches.

It's a shame that Microsoft bought up Blue Ribbon and all the products were discontinued, they were light years ahead of the rest. I still consider running this software at times instead of Logic.

1
0

Re: Bitmap Bros...

The OctaMED tracker was perfect for someone just starting out in music and having a fiddle. Not as good as the professional tools obviously but clever in the way they merged channels to bypass restrictions of the hardware.

Loved Xenon and and Xenon 2. I don't remember any other games before that including music in the same way they did it.

Still fire up an Amiga emulator every so often to look back at all the coding demo's, 4k boot sector intro's and such like. Talk about squeezing the most out of hardware using as little code as possible, something a lot of coders do not bother with these days.

5
0
Bronze badge

Re: I miss my Amiga...

I still have four and they all still work.

Admittedly they don't get a lot of use these days.

0
0
Silver badge

Re: I miss my Amiga...

I had a 1200 with a 68030 trapdoor expansion, 400mb 3.5" drive (keyboard shielding cut away) and a 4mb RAM stick. Rendering would overheat the chip (they had no heatsinks on them) so I fabricated a small heatsink and fan.

I think sim city 2000 was the game that was most demanding at the time and that run happily on a PC. Stuff like wing commander played the same on amiga and DOS back in 1990. Earlier than that I remember dungeon master and that played and looked the same and played the same.

But 1996? im sure I had an orchid righteous 3D in 1996, that was the death knell really.

One thing amigas did have going for them, they were insanely modable for example you could toggle the master clock whilst it was running, instant cheat by slowing everything down.

0
0
Silver badge

Re: I miss my Amiga...

The problem with Workbench was that the way its nano kernel was architected — a product of its time — was basically dependent on message passing between processes being fast. When you don't have protected memory, as on the Amiga, it is fast because there's no work to do. If you have protected memory then it's usually slow as the kernel must either copy the message from one address space to another, must reassign ownership of regions of memory or must be not entire protected giving everyone access to shared messaging memory and still allowing one misbehaving application to mess up a bunch of others. Therefore Workbench as constituted had a definite expiry date.

(of course, I say this aware that e.g. the classic Mac OS was even worse with neither protected memory nor pre-emptive multitasking, yet managed to hobble on just about into the early 2000s before an overhaul was finally achieved)

As for PC vs Amiga? Yeah, it was already clear which way the wind was blowing once the PC became the machine with the super-fast CPU and the easy to address video memory. The 3dfx and its competitors just sealed the deal. The open market of commodity hardware from multiple vendors overwhelmingly based around a software platform eventually outdid the closed market of a single vendor overwhelmingly based around a hardware platform. I think it's telling that the only other computer platform to survive the '90s was also overwhelmingly a software platform, not a hardware platform (and, indeed, now largely just uses the same commodity hardware as everyone else).

2
0

Re: Bitmap Bros...

You can still get it here http://www.amigaos.net/software/123/bars-and-pipes

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Bitmap Bros...

Hey you realise Xenon 2 predates Linux by a few years?

I have fond memories of it for looking really sweet on a Hercules graphics card. Heck, it was about the only arcade game with Hercules support. Ahhh, Bomb the Bass though the internal speaker of an IBM AT. Takes me right back.

0
0
Silver badge

Re: Bitmap Bros...

This is probably the first time that I've seen Linux cited in a celebration of Gold Age British game development. What the living feck? Bitmap Bros, Team 17, Sensible Software, Psygnosis, Bullfrog, Codemasters... classic outfits. The PC did feel like the poor man at the gaming party back then, but like the ugly duckling it would mature into a swan that hatched a load of first-person shooters... cheers iD.

Just the other day, a website with .EXE Amiga games was drawn to my attention... downloaded Dune 2 'cos I read about it in PC Zone back in the day, then I realised that there was an Android port. I've wasted too much of my weekend on it!

2
0
Silver badge
Thumb Up

Re: Could you be any more tedious?

That was rhetorical. But thanks anyway!

1
0

Lost era

Maybe now I'm middle aged, I'm looking at this through rose tinted glasses but this was a great era for gaming. Huge leaps in graphics and gaming were made back then which gave gamers much more of a wow factor compared to today's turgid re releases and annual deluge of crap like COD and Fifa.

Great game and I would like to see it available on today's consoles.

15
0

This post has been deleted by its author

Silver badge

Re: Lost era

Again, yossarianuk, what the hell are you on about? How did you get from Amiga games to Linux?

Amiga and ST games were classics. PC games were different. The classic PC games ( X-Wing, for example) were for DOS, not for Windows.

Tosser.

I expect that you'll next claim that Nintendo or Sega have never made a good game, because they were on propriety platforms.

2
2
Bronze badge

Sector... One

Xenon 2 was absolutely outstanding both graphically and in terms of audio, but Xenon really did have the more interesting gameplay.

When I was about 14, me and a friend would play Xenon in co-op mode... one person did the space bar to swap between air and ground and the other did everything else. We played it so much that we could clock the game without dying.

Those were the days.

6
0

Hardware required

I remember that Xenon 2 made microswitched joysticks pretty much mandatory, as you couldn't maintain the rate of fire required without them. I think that was the first time I ever bought new hardware specifically for a game.

Xenon 2 is definitely in my top 5 games of all time.

5
0
Silver badge
Thumb Up

Re: you couldn't maintain the rate of fire required without them.

You could! You needed three fingers all bashing on the space bar in synchronisation. Used to drive my other half up the wall as I sat there hitting the space bar hundreds of times a minute!

Awesome game!

0
0
Happy

Re: you couldn't maintain the rate of fire required without them.

Ah, you could, with a little soldering (see my post below)... All you had to do then was steer.

I can still hear the soundtrack in my head, awesome for a game back then!

0
0
Bronze badge

Re: Hardware required

It was great. But I've still no idea what was going on, how to achieve anything, and why the powerups cost more than the entire play through I could manage. :P

0
0
Bronze badge

Konami inspiration

Looks like they got their inspiration from Konami games such as Nemesis and R-Type

0
0
Bronze badge
Headmaster

Re: Konami inspiration

R-Type was Irem, not Konami :)

/arcadepedant

2
0

Re: Konami inspiration

and the article kinds of said that as well...

1
0
Thumb Up

Early hardware modding for Xenon II on the ST

Reminds me that my brother did a mod on one of our joysticks to upgrade the auto-fire to 255 shots per second. You ended up with a hose-like continuous stream of shots up the screen and gave you awesome firepower. It did make it rather easier to finish the game and saved yet another busted joystick fire button - happy days!

Think it involved changing the resistor the auto-fire used and we'd seen it in one of the gaming mags IIRC.

There was a PC port of Xenon II I downloaded awhile back too - only 320x240 though. Could do with a full HD resolution version & multi-channel sound to bring it up to date..!

4
0
Bronze badge

Re: Early hardware modding for Xenon II on the ST

"Reminds me that my brother did a mod on one of our joysticks to upgrade the auto-fire to 255 shots per second"

... or you could just switch on the autofire switch that most sticks of the era seemed to have :)

1
3

@ RyokuMas

Err, we already did that; re-read the sentence, I said we upgraded it. Normal auto-fire rates were waaay slower, hence the mod. It basically maxed out the input and there were no gaps in the stream of fire at all!

1
0
Bronze badge
Facepalm

Re: @ RyokuMas

Whoops! My bad, misread it!

2
0
Silver badge

Re: @ RyokuMas

255 shots per second? I wouldn't put anything past them but if the Bitmap Brothers really were checking the input state more than five times per frame then hats off to them. I'll bet there are gamers that could tell the difference, too.

1
0

Xenon 2 was an awesome game, but I really get the feeling that old-school developers hated keyboards with a passion. Between this and Daley Thompson's Decathlon, my poor keyboard took such a beating.

10
0

Super Mega Nawsome Power

Was the first game i saw on my friends amiga 500

I was very impressed.

Think i was about 11 then.

2 years later i saved me cash for a Amiga 1200 (Which i still have)

2
0

Re: Super Mega Nawsome Power

It was Super Nashwan Power.

Recently Bomb The Bass released a track called "Mega Dis", 25th anniversary release combining updated versions of "Beat Dis" and "Megablast". I think it is still on iTunes.

One of my proudest moments was putting "Megablast" onto the playlist for the local ice hockey team. Still fit in among all the usual stuff and had a few fans come up to me afterwards saying they recognised it.

1
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Super Mega Nawsome Power

Someone dropped Megablast at a NYE party a few years back... still disappointed it wasn't on the 'Best of Bomb The Bass' from c2000, though.

Since then, the most famous BtB track is probably the Kruder and Dorfmeister remix of Bug Powder Dust.

Bug Powder Dust and Mugwump Jism

Wideboys running around Interzone trippin'

Letter to control about Big Brother

Trying like hard to not blow my cover

1
0
Bronze badge

Re: Super Mega Nawsome Power

Didn't know that was BtheB. 'Tis a good 'un!

0
0
Silver badge

SuperFrog has problems with the onscreen controls and they changed them with an update to make the game playable. Perhaps a few tweaks would help here too.

1
0
MJI
Silver badge

Xenon 2 good game but I was rubbish

We had it on various servers.

Definately sat on out NW3.12 and 4.11 boxes for a while.

I remember using it unser Windows Work Groups and Dos 6.22, but it is too long ago to remember I it ran on REAL/32 or not.

0
0

Still waiting....

for the homage to Starglider on PC

3
0
Silver badge
Thumb Up

Re: Still waiting....

loving the name :)

0
0

Nice YouTube vid showing it's the trained/cracked one by BAmiga Sector One (bs1) :P

0
0
Thumb Up

Brill game

Played the original Xenon on my mates Atari at university. Then got the Xenon 2 sequel for my Acorn Archimedes. It was excellent on that.

1
0
Thumb Up

Classic games from a classy act

The Bitmap Brothers alongside a few other software houses like Thalion and Psygnosis were truly pushing the limits of what Atari and Amiga machines could produce. I have great memories of playing Xenon 2, Gods and Speedball 2 on my Atari 520 ST for hours. The attention to details and the quality of the end products were just amazing considering the limited capabilities of the hardware/software at their disposal. It wasn't just the graphics and the music, it was also the smart gameplay and sweet difficulty curve built in these games that made them so memorable.

The Chaos Engine came out just as Atari were fading away and PC games started taking over: it was the end of an era since it would take years (in my book) for PC hardware and software to truly match that golden age of gaming.

3
0
Bronze badge
Thumb Up

Before the Cult of Clean Code...

Only problems with Xenon 2 were that it was too easy with an autofire stick, and the ending sucked!

The ST/Amiga era was a very special time for me, and for coding in general - the days when processor power was measured in KHz, and coding was all about squeezing as much performance as humanly possible out of the machine.

Xenon, Speedball, Gods, Magic Pockets, The Chaos Engine, Cadaver... fond memories from a time before AAA games really existed.

Call me an aging code hack, but I still yearn for the days when games were fun, rather than formulaic.

4
0

Namco Xevious

First arcade vertical scroller I got hooked on, about 1983/4ish? It was responsible more than a few over-extended lunch breaks down the amusement arcades. Seem to recall one of the impressive bits was the tall screen compared with most other games at the time.

Never played Xenon, but reading the article I have a sneaking suspicion where some of the influences came from... :)

0
0
Silver badge

Re: Namco Xevious

Thank you - I know I played Zenon (or at least watched it on the telly!), but I never owned it. Thank you for reminding me what I did have a copy of!

0
0

Re: Namco Xevious

You're welcome. I did have the Xevious ROMs hanging around some time ago, worked nicely on MAME. Sadly I should have been paying more attention to backups *before* the disk failed, learnt that one the hard way.

0
0
Silver badge
Thumb Up

I'm all warm and fuzzy

Thanks El Reg, antique code show always makes me feel all chipper and squidgy inside.

3
0

Page:

This topic is closed for new posts.