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intric8
Seattle, WA, USA
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Posted Sat Jan 07, 2023 12:18 pm

pic1-eotb.jpg
I thought I'd died and gone to Waterdeep. I mean Heaven.

As I've written about elsewhere, I've been playing Eye of the Beholder for C64/128 since it launched to the public in November of 2022.

I chose to play it on my C128D for multiple reasons.
  • 2Mhz "Turno Mode"
  • Dual monitor support, so the game is on one screen (1702) while an auto-map is displayed in hi-res 80-col mode (1902A)
  • Number pad support for movement - just like the Amiga
  • 1351 Mouse Support (works with the C64, too)
There are even more extra features added to this game than were in the original versions back in the day, including a Bestiary and Help section.

When I first started playing, I decided to use my 1541Ultimate II+ to load the game, and the C128D's internal 1571 to save games.


The problem with using the Ultimate II+ cartridge, however, is that if you try to enable Turbo Mode (F3) it will instantly crash the game. And trust me, this bug is real - I tried it. Poof!

But, it runs 1Mhz "C64 speed" just fine. The only time I'd really start to feel it was when I was in a battle against several foes. Right-clicking on character weapons during the fight would become sluggish. The truth is that the battles in EotB 1 are generally not that bad. So this kind of performance hit wasn't that big of a deal. It was there, but it wasn't causing any real problems.

What was causing problems for me, however, was my 1351 mouse. I needed to upgrade the microswitches to make it perform at a high-level. Fact is my Commodore 8-bits almost never need the service of the 1351 outside of GEOS, so I'd never really cared that the buttons were mushy like oatmeal. In the heat of battle now, though, I really did care. So I got that working nicely - better than when it shipped NOS from the factory.

What I soon discovered, however, is that once a Save Disk was full (after about only 6-7 saves) it would literally not take any further data! As a result, I created a 2nd Save Disk. Using JiffyDOS for easy formatting, I would use 1 Save Disk as the active disk and the 2nd as a blank formatted disk ready to go whenever Disk 1 told me it was full. As soon as I made the swap, I'd re-format the other.

I had to go back and forth like this with the Save Disks. Kind of a drag, but a small price to pay, honestly.

To format a disk in JiffyDOS, all you have to do is type:

Code: Select all

@N:[nameofdisk],8
Where "name of disk" is whatever you want (e.g. "EOTBSAVES1" or "EOTBSAVES2") and ",8" is the drive where the floppy is located you want to format. Boom! Easy peasy and way better than typing out a long OPEN/CLOSE command in BASIC.

This was my process in November - December. And it was glorious even with this work-around.

I was making excellent progress. By the end of December I was down to level 8. On December 31, 2022, my EasyFlash 3 cartridge arrived. Time to change my process!

pic2-eotb.jpg

When you investigate the EasyFlash 3 (EF3), you soon learn it is "not supported" by the inventor or his manufacturers - in this case Retro Innovations and Jim Brain. I wasn't sure what that meant, but decided to roll the dice anyway.

When I plugged the EF3 into the machine and flicked on the power, I knew something was definitely up. Most of the options on-screen were grayed out. Regardless, I decided to updated the cartridge using my trusty old Lenovo Thinkpad running Windows XP. The software you're told to use also states it has left XP behind, but in my experience the earlier software works just fine.

However, you can't program the EF3 when attached to a C128. I had to use a C64 to update the cartridge properly. Once I got EotB on the cartridge using the Windows machine and a C64, I moved the cart over to the C128 again. I can go into more detail around this process at another time if anyone is actually interested and wants to know the steps.

In any case, I popped the EF3 back into the C128D. Now I saw an option in the cartridge that I could select! I couldn't do anything else, but I didn't care - this was the reason I got the EF3 in the first place.

pic3-ef3.jpg
Note how when used with the C128 I can't change any of the kernals. Also none of the cartridge slots work. See that "P" EasyProg option? That's what you use when you program your EF3 and transfer CRT images over. It will instantly crash the EF3 if you use it with a C128. However, any CRT you move over (with a C64) works perfectly. See: "A EotB" on the right. Tapping A launches the program almost instantly.


When you launch and play the game, in the Game options you'll have choices to either Load/Save to Flash, or Load/Save to disk.

As I mentioned before, previously all of my Saves were sent to my internal 1571. Now I could save directly to the EF3 - and it only took 1-2 seconds instead of what felt like about a minute. I was cruising!

And loading games off the EF3 were equally fast.

In fact, if you look at the official game page they list the EasyFlash as a requirement. This really is their preferred hardware to use.

That being said, it's not clear to me that they have real C128/D hardware themselves.

In the past week of play I've discovered a few issues with the EF3.
  • Only 1 Save Slot. While this might not be an issue for most, it became one for me, which I'll explain in a minute.
  • Unresponsive KBD Commands. Beyond using flash memory with the EF3, the key reason to use it on a C128/D is to gain access to the 2Mhz "Turbo Mode." When you tap F3 (a clever choice) you enable 2Mhz mode. When I do this on real hardware, many of my other keyboard commands (e.g. "C" for camp) stop working. Thankfully, the numpad movements are still 100% solid, as are mouse clicks. But I can't tap "C" in turbo mode, and the menu's keystrokes for resting, etc. are also not functional 9 out of 10 times. Every so often 1 might trigger and work. But most of the time the keyboard if virtually dead. It's weird.
There are also rare times when in Turbo Mode where the program starts to get ... hitchy, for lack of a better word. In other words, it almost seems slower than 1Mhz and gets even confused on movement keys. If I tap "F3" to disable it, then re-enable it, this seems to clear the cobwebs. But it can be a tad unsettling and sometimes convinces me to just stay in 1Mhz mode during puzzle-solving and exploration. If a battle is eminent I'll re-enable for that encounter then turn it off again when it is over.

pic4-eotb.jpg
The pleasures of 2Mhz mode in EotB are felt the most fluidly during battles. It has issues, however.


The dangers of only 1 Save Slot

By January 6, I was on Level 10. I'd just found a Drow woman, and around another corner a Dwarf Prince that I needed to return to the Dwarves layer several levels above. I needed to do a TON of backtracking to get him home.

I readjusted my chair and very lightly bumped my desk.

I should mention that my EF3 is plugged into a cartridge passthrough in my RAMLink. I do this so the cart is vertical and very easy to reach and use should I ever need to do so. When I bumped the table, to my surprise and horror both screens lost their graphics and became noise. I'd saved recently, so I power-cycled and fired up the game again. Whew! It loaded.

I loaded the Flash Save, and there were my characters. Deep sigh of relief.

I right-clicked on one of my fighters to get a key from his inventory and ...

pic5-eotb.jpg
The most terrifying demon in all of Waterdeep: Corruption.


I couldn't believe it. All of my characters looked like this. Somehow the EF3's memory had become corrupted. And there was no going back. I just stared at the screen for a while.


I slowly put my last-used floppy Save Disk in the 1571 and loaded the last save I had from there. Thankfully, I'd actually saved to it about 3 days earlier. Why? Because 1 single save slot makes me a nervous wreck, and I was entering a new level filled with fear and anxiety. I thought at the time, "If I make a wrong choice, I could get trapped down here with no way to back-track. This will be insurance."

Little did I know how right I was! Turns out the Disk Save made me lose 2 whole levels I'd already finished. But at least I didn't have to restart the entire game!

To all the folks who have told me over the years to lose my floppies and go 100% modern storage: take that. ;)

Going forward I will be doing multiple saves at the end of each session: One save to the EF3, and an additional save to Floppy as insurance. Is it a PITA? A little bit. But it's worth it.


P.S.
My floppy disk doesn't care one tiny bit if I accidentally bump my desk with my knee, either.

And now: back to EotB!

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Solitaire01

Posted Sat Jan 07, 2023 7:36 pm

I'm playing through the game on (mostly) genuine C128 hardware thanks to Evie Solamon and her BackBit products. Specifically, my C128 has her PLAster/128 chip installed to provide compatibility with cartridges in 2MHz mode; then I'm running the EasyFlash image from the BackBit Pro. All works perfectly. You might consider replacing the EF3 with a BBPro, and - here's a thought - installing the PLAster/128 and seeing if it solves the Ultimate II compatibility issue first.

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intric8
Seattle, WA, USA
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Posted Sun Jan 08, 2023 10:50 am

@Solitaire01

I have an original BackBit, not the more recent Pro. And I have a brand new EF3.

It's hard for me to justify getting yet another device for just this one game (that's what the EF3 was supposed to for). And - the EF3 totally works. It's just got a couple of issues that aren't show stoppers.

The PLAster™/128 would be an interesting, much more affordable gamble, though. Hm...

(Update)
Out of stock :(

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intric8
Seattle, WA, USA
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Posted Tue Jan 17, 2023 10:03 pm

I finished the game last week.

FYI for those that make it to the end: be sure you are not in 2Mhz mode if you're playing it on a C128.

The reason being once you defeat Xanathar there will be an excellent end-sequence based on the Amiga version. However, Andreas forgot to disable 2Mhz mode before the movie plays. Thus the music comes through but the screen is reduced to glitchy static.

Dropping to 1Mhz before you battle Xanathar will make the battle more challenging (it will become less responsive and snappy and screw up your timings). But since there is no EotB 2 for C64/128, just know that some of your party will die and that's OK. Because once you hit Mr. X during your battle dance for the last time, you can sit back and watch the show. And it's great - honestly yet another demo just like the intro sequence.

I'm posting the end sequence here for those that want to watch it and have no intention of finishing the game themselves. If you do plan on finishing, it's up to you if you want to see this ahead of time.

Note: I did this in a bit of a rush and didn't set up perfect cameras or lighting. Thus the contrast is terrible and you lose a lot of the detail. Trust me when I say in-person, it'll raise the hairs on your arms and neck for the EotB veterans out there.

Enjoy.


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fxgogo
London, U.K.
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Posted Wed Jan 18, 2023 3:09 pm

So that was some great play testing feedback for multiple devices and a game. I have the game on GOG so not sure which version to play.





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