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LambdaCalculus
New Jersey, USA

Source Ports of Blake Stone on Amiga!

by LambdaCalculus Wed Feb 07, 2018 6:09 am

Why do I love seeing game engines having their source code released under free software licenses? Because it means that intrepid coders and passionate enthusiasts of the game can take that code and bring it to a platform it was never released on, or make massive improvements to the engine if they so wish!

In this case, the former has happened to two old DOS first person shooters from Apogee Software (now 3D Realms): Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold and its sequel, Planet Strike!

Blake_Stone_Aliens_of_Gold_cover.jpg
Cover of Aliens of Gold


Both games utilized id Software's Wolfenstein 3D engine, but with some minor enhancements like ceiling and floor textures and primitive variable lighting. The setting for both games is a somewhat pulp-like sci-fi future, with Blake Stone, a decorated veteran of the British Royal Navy turned intelligence agent, out to stop a mad scientist known as Dr. Goldfire from taking over the known universe with an army of genetically engineered mutants and monsters. Unlike Wolf 3D, where progress from floor to floor is linear and one-way, Blake Stone's 6 episodes in Aliens of Gold (and large science facility in Planet Strike) allow for some minor backtracking, meaning that Blake can go back to previously played areas to look for additional bonuses or treasures, or to find secret stages.

But getting back on track, both games had their engine source code finally released in 2013, after long being considered lost, and a few source ports started hitting the scene. In this case, since the original games were DOS only, it's nice that Amiga ports of both games were made!

The source ports for Aliens of Gold and Planet Strike are both available for download on Aminet. According to the READMEs for both games, the requirements are:

- AGA Amiga with a 68030 CPU (40+ MHz recommended)
- 4 MB Fast RAM (2 MB w/o music)
- AHI (v4.18 recommended)
- Game data files for each game (all .BS6 files for Aliens of Gold and .VSI files for Planet Strike, copied to each respective drawer)

I've run both engines on my emulated Amiga 4000 with a 68040 CPU and plenty of Fast RAM, and I've gotta say that the engines themselves run smoothly on this setup. My big quibble is that all of the game's AdLib sounds and music, as well as the digital Sound Blaster effects, have to be converted to work with this port (a tool included does this for you on first launch), but the resulting AdLib sounds and music sound quite off at times (moreso the sounds than the music). The digital sounds are unaffected and sound fine, but it does bother me a bit to hear off-kilter AdLib sounds. But other than that, everything's gravy with these ports, and they're well worth trying out for Amiga users who may have never played these games before!

Do note though that you need to get the data files for the game first, and Aliens of Gold's data files must be downgraded to v2.10R files (again, a tool is included to do this for you!). Both games are available on GOG.com or on 3D Realms' own site.

I've recorded a little runthrough of the first stage of Planet Strike on my setup to show off the engine as well, which is up on my YouTube channel.
Own: Amiga 500 (NTSC), Amiga 4000, Amiga 600 (PAL), Mac Mini G4 & iBook G4 (MorphOS), ThinkPad T40 (AROS), R.Pi3 (Amibian)
After: Amiga 1200

https://nostalgiaroadtrip.com
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intric8
Seattle, WA, USA

Re: Source Ports of Blake Stone on Amiga!

by intric8 Wed Feb 07, 2018 8:23 am

This sounds very cool. After looking at those specs more closely, I don't actually have a machine that can run it. I've got an AGA NTSC 1200 with a gazillion megs of RAM, but its processor I think only clocks to 23MHz. Probably would still work but might be a bit sluggish?

Cool, though. I bet the Vampire & emulator folks are stoked to finally have something to goof around with, though. Especially something that looks and plays this smooth.

From Wikipedia:
After the company folded, Maynard later worked for 7th Level...
Off-topic personal side note. When I first graduated art school in Dallas, I did a brief stint as a 2D artist for 7th Level. A few years earlier they had been riding high off of some CD-ROM "games" for Monty Python's Flying Circus. My gig was short, and only lasted about a month as a part-time 2D animator contractor. Anyway, they flew me and two other artists out to their Hollywood studio. Both it and the Dallas office were on life support and one product was being developed (which I worked on) to give the appearance of life. 7th Level was trying hard to get bought out before the lights went out.

The product I worked on was novel for its time. This would have been late 1990s. We drew and animated licensed characters like Jenny Jones, Ask Jeeves, and a few others. It was limited animation (like the Simpson's) where you had, for example, the torso would stay still and you'd draw cells for the limbs. Tons of cells for every mouth movement, eyes, etc. And they'd all get registered and mapped in a computer - a pixel coloring program not that different from Deluxe Paint Animation.

Anyway, the three of us painted all of these weird little characters, while "livin' large" in the hollywood (dying) studio scene. We were young and dumb and kind of just happy to be breathing that oxygen even though we all knew it wasn't going to last very long.

The animated cells then got taken into computers and mapped to sound and text files. The idea was this:

You would pick a character. You'd then record your own voice, and then type your exact same text into the program. You'd then EMAIL this crazy large thing to someone - via a dial-up modem, mind you. The recipient would double-click this massive file that took them ages to download, and out popped Ask Jeeves delivering your message fully animated to the phonemes found in the text you'd typed. Mad scientist stuff.

Anyhoo...

I also had previously applied to Apogee, where the guys who built these games you've mentioned above wound up. I didn't get the job, and I think Apogee folded soon after, too. It was a rough time to be in the games business in Dallas back then.
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LambdaCalculus
New Jersey, USA

Re: Source Ports of Blake Stone on Amiga!

by LambdaCalculus Wed Feb 07, 2018 8:34 am

intric8 wrote:I also had previously applied to Apogee, where the guys who build these games you've mentioned above wound up. I didn't get the job, and I think Apogee folded soon after, too. It was a rough time to be in the games business in Dallas back then.


Apogee didn't quite fold; they dropped the name and became 3D Realms full-time. They do still exist to this day, albeit no longer a game development studio (they merely publish and retain all rights to most of their back catalog).
Own: Amiga 500 (NTSC), Amiga 4000, Amiga 600 (PAL), Mac Mini G4 & iBook G4 (MorphOS), ThinkPad T40 (AROS), R.Pi3 (Amibian)
After: Amiga 1200

https://nostalgiaroadtrip.com
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intric8
Seattle, WA, USA

Re: Source Ports of Blake Stone on Amiga!

by intric8 Wed Feb 07, 2018 8:42 am

That's right. It's just to keep their copyrights alive I think. Those original founders moved on and worked for (or started) other businesses. At least according to LinkedIn, 2014 seems to be when things really shut down for one of the guys who had a minor stroke. :(
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LambdaCalculus
New Jersey, USA

Re: Source Ports of Blake Stone on Amiga!

by LambdaCalculus Mon Feb 12, 2018 5:06 pm

I found out the slightly hard way that this port doesn't seem to like AGA native screenmodes; the program crashes if I try using native modes for display. So this will need RTG modes in order to work (for now, I hope!)
Own: Amiga 500 (NTSC), Amiga 4000, Amiga 600 (PAL), Mac Mini G4 & iBook G4 (MorphOS), ThinkPad T40 (AROS), R.Pi3 (Amibian)
After: Amiga 1200

https://nostalgiaroadtrip.com
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LambdaCalculus
New Jersey, USA

Re: Source Ports of Blake Stone on Amiga!

by LambdaCalculus Wed Feb 28, 2018 6:23 am

Update on these source ports: the new 1.2 versions available on Aminet now work with native screenmodes, or at least PAL modes (haven't tested NTSC yet)!
Own: Amiga 500 (NTSC), Amiga 4000, Amiga 600 (PAL), Mac Mini G4 & iBook G4 (MorphOS), ThinkPad T40 (AROS), R.Pi3 (Amibian)
After: Amiga 1200

https://nostalgiaroadtrip.com

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