Sunday, 18 March 2018

Tower 57 on X1000

This week saw the release of a new AmigaOS4 game Tower 57 by Benitosub (Amiga port by Daytona, AKA Daniel Müßener), which I backed via kickstarter, and now I can try out on my AmigaOne X1000!

It is great to have a brand new original game for AmigaOS4 in 2018!

Hard to believe it is March already! I sincerely apologise for my tardiness in doing blog entries this year. A lot has been happening at work and in my personal and family health that has kept me from blogging this year.

Tower 57 is a run around, find keys and locate the exit game very much in the style of the Classic Amiga game The Chaos Engine (by the Bitmap Brothers), but updated with plenty of modern touches linked to a interesting story.

The good news is that you don't have to be a supporter to get it. It is available to purchase for AmigaOS4 (MorphOS/AROS versions included too) for 11.99USD on here.

AmigaOS4 System Requirements:

AmigaOS 4.1 Final Edition Update 1, >= 600 MHz, Gfx-card with Compositing support.

MorphOS System, Requirements:

MorphOS >= 3.9 + SDK >= 3.10, >= 600 MHz, Gfx-card with TinyGL support

AROS System Requirements:

x86 (e.g. Icaros Desktop >= 2.2), Gfx-card with Mesa3D support

You can also buy the game for Windows and Mac on Steam too, but of course my focus is on the AmigaOS 4 version!

Once downloaded and extracted, you get the drawer below.

There are versions for AmigaOS4, MorphOS and AROS inside the Tower57 drawer, with the Launch program detecting your system to run the right version, then checking for program updates from the internet and launching.

The Readme.txt explains important notes about the AmigaOS4 version, and includes how to set AmigaOS4 program icon tooltypes to automatically set the screen resolution of the game on launching, rather than having to select it each time, amongst other functions...don't do this on the Launch icon though - it needs to be done on the actual program icon in the Tower57 drawer.

It is a new year, so time for a new background for my X1000 AmigaOS 4.1 Final Edition Update 1 setup! 

I mentioned before about the auto update feature. In my case on first launch it found and installed a newer version straight away!

The game runs at a number of screen resolutions, but of course I used full screen 1920x1080 :-)

I wanted to do screenshots of the game using AmigaOS4 but I found lots of problems doing it with this game for some reason. I decided to resort to screen photos using my iPhone instead, which unfortunately means it doesn't look as good as I would like it to...sorry about that.

The main title screen and menu, navigated with the keyboard left/right and enter keys. There is an options section that allows you to customise the gameplay, sound, controls and the display in the game.

When you start a new game, you get to select three characters to play in the game:

Each character has different specialties and skills. With the characters selected we then get to choose the difficulty level - I choose easy to start with.

The game begins on a train, and this section explains the backstory to the game and the train takes you to the beginning section of the game proper. You can skip this section.

Arriving into the train station, you get your next instructions and mission goal:

First off we need to get into the Tower itself.

As mentioned, the game itself plays and looks very much like The Chaos Engine. If you played that game on Classic Amiga, you have a pretty good idea of what to expect in Tower 57!

This train station section explains how to get around, control and do things in Tower 57.

You collect money to upgrade your weaponry, restore your health, and plenty more too! Eventually you find your way into the canal:

The graphics, speed and gameplay are great. You use the ASWD keys to move around, and the mouse and button to control the scope for shooting things around you.

First main task in the Sewers is to get out of them! Quite hard, but fun level!

The sewers include secret rooms, tough enemies to beat, switches to press, keys to find to unlock doors, and plenty of other challenges along the way too.

You can pick up interesting weaponry along the way, and ammo for them too of course.

There are areas where you can repair yourself for a fee, as it is possible to damage sections of your body in fighting enemies and these need to be fixed up of course. In this case my legs needing repairing!

All fixed up now.

As mentioned, you find ammo along the way, but you also have the option from time to time to buy ammo, which is very useful when running can get medical repair packs and protective clothing too.

Yeah, the laser weapon is just cool:

By this stage of the sewers I was two characters down with one left. When you lose a character, you switch to the next one of your three. In the scene below you can see the arms shop where you can buy more ammo.

There are also save game points at certain points in the level.

The attention to detail with the graphics is awesome. I love the look and feel of the game. It just feels like an Amiga game should!

Exploring the sewers is a lot of fun too, with the difficulty quickly escalating.

I am pleased to say I got to the end of sewers finally and moved on to the next section of the game - Amor's Den. The classified report help below was useful information, but since I was down to my last player already, not so useful in my case!

So now I have to find General Steele:

There is also a map to help you find your way around - for this level in particular it is useful.

Here is the map display section:

The graphics detail in these levels is really incredible in my opinion:

In this level you can explore inside buildings and shops:

I soon find the weapon shop:

How can I say no to a rail gun upgrade? Can customise clip size and damage too for extra cash.

Who is scared? Heh.

To finish up this post, a quick visit to the pub I think!

There is so much more to explore in Tower 57 and I have just scratched the surface of this game.

The music and graphics are brilliant, and the game runs perfectly on my AmigaOne X1000. In short, this is a great game for AmigaOS 4 in 2018 - buy it!

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Acer LCD screen that supports Amiga native 15khz modes

Today I wanted to show an interesting LCD screen from Acer that is a current model, available brand new in 2017.

What is so special about it you ask?

Well, it supports Amiga video modes that run at 15khz! So with a RGB to VGA converter you can get native Amiga display on a modern LCD screen, without the need for a scan doubler! Exciting right?

The model I got is a V226HQL model, with the exact information taken from the screen for your reference if you want to get one yourself. Even though I bought this new in it's original box, it is a few years old. I have seen others on Facebook using ones made in early 2017 that work also:

Of course, the Amiga uses a non-standard 23 pin RGB connector, intended for connection to Commodore CRT 1084(S) / 1940 or 1960 monitors. These take up a lot of room and the non-flat displays are very small in this day and age.

To connect the Acer screen to the Amiga, I needed a RGB to VGA converter. This is not a scandoubler - it just converts the existing 15khz signal from RGB to VGA.

These are easy enough to come by on Ebay, but check carefully to get ones that have a REAL 23pin connector, rather than a DIY hacked 25 pin connector on them. Generally sellers try to hide the fact they hack the connectors to make them fit a standard Amiga RGB connection since 23pin connectors are not exactly easy to come by these days. Check the photos carefully and read the seller feedback.

I found a seller on Ebay who makes these converters (from Canada actually), using the right 23 pin RGB connector. I ordered 3 of them!

Here is the converter I received last week:

As you can see it looks well made and the connectors are perfect - here is the RGB connector side:

And here is the VGA connector side:

Since I happened to have the Amiga 1200 out at the time, I decided to try it on that system first. Technically I don't need it since I have an Indivision AGA installed in it already, but hey, why not check it anyway! Here it is connected to the A1200:

On power on I held down both mouse buttons to get the early boot screen, which appeared on the Acer screen straight away! I then brought up the screen mode info screen to confirm it is indeed running at 15khz!!

The screen does promote the screen to this slightly odd 1440x288 screen mode, but it looks fine and the aspect seems ok too. I tried modifying the usual fill screen/aspect control to adjust it to 4:3, but it doesn't change the screen. So the resolution is what it is, but as I said, it displays fine from what I could see.

I moved the screen to a better place since it seemed to be working fine:

I then decided to try a different Amiga. I hooked up the Amiga 600 next. As with the A1200, I already have a Indivision ECS installed in the A600, so technically it doesn't need this screen either.

You can see it installed here, with the MAS player hardware (for MP3 playback) also installed in the back of the A600:

As you can see, the output from the RGB port at 15khz to the Acer screen works fine on the A600 also:

Something to remember though is that because it is native 15khz output that is not scan doubled or flicker fixed, any interlace modes will flicker the screen, the same as all Amigas do on the 1084S monitor or tv output.

Running Bomb's E255 demo on the A600 looked great on the Acer screen:

Next up I hooked up the Amiga 1000, one of the systems I wanted to get this screen for. Unlike the other Amigas I don't have a Indivision ECS installed or a scandoubler connected to it. It needs this screen, and so I was very excited to try it out. As you can see the Kickstart screen came up fine on the Acer:

I did hit some trouble here with the Amiga 1000 though. For some reason when I booted any kickstart disk, the system wouldn't display the Insert Workbench disk screen and instead hung on a black screen. The screen was displaying something, but the system wasn't responsive.

As a test I removed the converter from the RGB port so there was no display. I then booted from the kickstart disk and the machine was clicking the drives so I knew it was at the Workbench boot screen. I connected the RGB to VGA converter at this point and the display appeared and worked perfectly!

Strange behaviour though. It only seems to happen on the Amiga 1000. I tried 1.0, 1.1, 1.2 and 1.3 kickstarts and also all three converters I bought and they all do the same thing. Having plugged in the RGB to VGA converter after the Insert Workbench disk screen appeared, it did work perfectly on the A1000 though - here is Digital Innovation demo running nicely through the Acer on the A1000 at 16khz? Strange huh?

I guess the 16khz is what causes the problems but really don't understand that one. If anyone knows what is happening here please let me know.

Maybe it is just my Amiga 1000 - dunno.

Last, but not least, I connected my CDTV to the Acer screen. It also doesn't have a Indivision ECS scandoubler installed, and until now I use the AV out to connect it to a TV, or my HDMI upscaler to convert the signal to display on my HDMI LCD screens. Now though, I can connect the CDTV directly from the RGB port to this new Acer screen since it can accept the 15khz output. As expected, once powered on it worked great:

I fired up the rather excellent Rink A Pink demo, booting via floppy and it worked great on the Acer too:

Close up photo shows the output is 15khz:

Since I can use it great on the CDTV, I decided to leave it setup for now and played some tunes from the Immortal 4 CD while preparing this blog post.

There is a useful wiki that lists all the 15khz compatible models that people have tried out, which includes the one I covered here today. You can read it here.

It is great that we have options in 2017 to output our ~30 year old Amiga systems to modern screens, still supporting the 15khz output required! If I had more room I would buy more screens now that I know they work, but things are tight in here these days space wise. I might get one more though as a backup...