shadow of the beast ST (Mark mc cubbin here)

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shadow of the beast ST (Mark mc cubbin here)

Postby dlfrsilver » Mon Feb 02, 2009 8:22 am

I have mailed Mark Mc Cubbin about shadow of the beast ST and a game called tentacle. He has given some bits of what happened with beast ST version :

"Good questions, Shadow of the Beast did very well on the ST (it was no.1 two years in a row in the sales charts). As far as the details, happy to share them.
I know some ST demo scene guys thought it could have been done better and in reality there are areas where it could have been better, however, game development is about compromise and this was the case here. The first version of the game I did used all the same art as the Amiga running at 60/50fps, however, it required an ungodly amount of memory since the most obvious tricks were pre-computing the parallax scrolling ( for the underground section, which was only 2 layers ), then, simply movem.l the tiles to the screen as needed. The reality is thought that this wasn't reasonable ( it would have been a 1meg only game versus 512k ).

After several iterations/tickes, it was decided that this version would be launched either as 1 meg only or on the STE (and of course then we could use the HW scrolling too). In the end the version that was used for the underground sections used 1 bit plane for the background layer of parallax and 2 bit planes for the from layer, this allowed each layer to be independently drawn to the screen as fast as possible without having to have a huge pre-compute buffer. Although I still precomputed the shifted blocks, by carefully arranging the palette so that the odd and even colors were the same for the first 8 colors in the palette it meant that I could draw anything into the first bit-plane and it wouldn't affect the front layer. For sprites, due to memory constraints, again I couldn't pre-shift those for speed ( as always the fastest way draw was movem.l ), so I used another trick which was movep.l, which allowed you to write the graphics data on odd boundries across the ST interleaved screen. I had custom sprite routines for odd and even boundries for speed (versions that used movep and versions that were just straight movem).

There were similar compromises for the tree-sections ( the 11 layers of parallax sections ), I wrote a copper emulator on Timer B that heavily modified the palette to get all the colors needed, the large trees were all sprites pre-computed. Although of course, doing this reduced the overall CPU time available but was necessary to get the additional colors to get it looking half-way decent. The reality is, if I didn't actually have to have a game in there yeah, I could have had the nicely pre-computed scrolling doing it's thing, looking like the Amiga version ( I already had this for first prototype ). Psygnosis decided not to do a 1 meg only version or even the STE version, unfortunately. Around the same time frame we ended up doing the ST version of Flimbo's Quest, this was also a bit of a show-case on the Amiga. This time we could actually get two full color layers running because we could pre-compute the parallax.... Still, overall, I was fairly happy with it given the constraints, many of which you don't have for the demo-scene :)"

well what do you think of this :D ?
Last edited by dlfrsilver on Tue Feb 03, 2009 4:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: shadow of the beast ST (Mark mc cubbin here)

Postby Marakatti » Mon Feb 02, 2009 12:46 pm

Interesting article. Any possibility that the 1mb-version or some other development-versions still exists?
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Re: shadow of the beast ST (Mark mc cubbin here)

Postby alexh » Mon Feb 02, 2009 12:48 pm

I too wonder if the other versions still exist somewhere?

I bet they did not sell enough copies of ST Beast the way it was to justify the 512k version.

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Re: shadow of the beast ST (Mark mc cubbin here)

Postby dlfrsilver » Mon Feb 02, 2009 4:36 pm

if you read carefully, Beast ST only exist as 512kb version, and it has sold very well on atari ST as he said.

The 1mb version has been trashed as you can read in his answer.

it can be explained in many ways : the global number of guys having a 1 mb configuration was too low, as the STE number of owners.

The thing i have memorised in what he said, is that doing a game and doing a game is totally different, in a demo you code effects to be displayed on screen,
and that's all. There is no AI, nothing to interact with. He had to kill down things to make it run on a 512kb machine.

I will put here too his next answer to my questions as soon as Mark will reply.
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Re: shadow of the beast ST (Mark mc cubbin here)

Postby DarkLord » Mon Feb 02, 2009 6:43 pm

I know that marketing is marketing, and you have to go to where the sales are, but
how many times have we come to regret writing to the lowest common denominator!

:(
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Re: shadow of the beast ST (Mark mc cubbin here)

Postby dlfrsilver » Mon Feb 02, 2009 6:57 pm

You're right about the marketing point. Sad but true. And to add to the marketing point, the problem is that to make something equal to the amiga
version, he would have had to use pre-ccomputing which in turn required ungodly amount of memory.....
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Re: shadow of the beast ST (Mark mc cubbin here)

Postby punkrulesok » Mon Feb 02, 2009 8:32 pm

This is very interesting, as one of my all time fav games. To hear an explanation from the man himself is really amazing :D. I'd love to see the 1MB and STE versions though, even in demo form.
Let's face it, the Amiga Tree level has always been a benchmark for Demos, and I've seen nice attempts at it on the ST, but nothing that really 100% got there. It would be nice to see something that was close to it on the ST though :).

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Re: shadow of the beast ST (Mark mc cubbin here)

Postby dlfrsilver » Mon Feb 02, 2009 11:26 pm

find here what Mark thinks of this amiga and ST :

"I loved the Amiga (and ST), the ST was good in that it was pure CPU, a bit like the Spectrum. Amiga was a hardware wonder and really the first demonstration of a truly well integrated multi-processor architecture with all the co-processors and the 68k, even the OS was awesome. I remember the first time I saw the Amiga, someone had Dpaint running, then pulled the window down and had Marble Madness running in the background, then pulled that down and had the juggler demo."
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Re: shadow of the beast ST (Mark mc cubbin here)

Postby Frank B » Tue Feb 03, 2009 7:36 am

It's a shame they didn't do an STE version. There's no need to pre shift anything with the blitter/hscroll. On the other hand although they used the Amiga hardware properly there isn't much game there. It's more of a tech demo on the Amiga IMHO.

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Re: shadow of the beast ST (Mark mc cubbin here)

Postby dlfrsilver » Tue Feb 03, 2009 11:00 am

there were too few STE users, but as we know, while the amiga coders have successfully translated the original demo they showed to the psygnosis directors to a game, Mark has found that it was
impossible to do the same on atari st. He made almost the same thing, getting a version like the amiga as a demo, but found that it was impossible to make a game of it.

He has been stopped by hardware limits :( while the STE has a limited blitter, it has no chip dedicated to sprite, and no copper :(

I guess now why the ST version needs to be powered at 20mhz instead of 8mhz to be smooth :angel:
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Re: shadow of the beast ST (Mark mc cubbin here)

Postby DarkLord » Tue Feb 03, 2009 6:29 pm

dlfrsilver wrote:there were too few STE users, but as we know, while the amiga coders have successfully translated the original demo they showed to the psygnosis directors to a game, Mark has found that it was
impossible to do the same on atari st. He made almost the same thing, getting a version like the amiga as a demo, but found that it was impossible to make a game of it.

He has been stopped by hardware limits :( while the STE has a limited blitter, it has no chip dedicated to sprite, and no copper :(

I guess now why the ST version needs to be powered at 20mhz instead of 8mhz to be smooth :angel:


I'm not so sure thats what Mark said, in his first post:

"The first version of the game I did used all the same art as the Amiga running at 60/50fps, however, it required an ungodly amount of memory since the most obvious tricks were pre-computing the parallax scrolling ( for the underground section, which was only 2 layers ), then, simply movem.l the tiles to the screen as needed. The reality is thought that this wasn't reasonable ( it would have been a 1meg only game versus 512k )."

So if Psygnosis would have released his 1 meg version, or the STe version, we would have seen a game much closer to the Amiga version.

and when you see a game that doesn't scroll smoothly on the Atari ST - you're seeing the limitations of the programmer, not the hardware. :)
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Re: shadow of the beast ST (Mark mc cubbin here)

Postby Frank B » Tue Feb 03, 2009 9:16 pm

dlfrsilver wrote:there were too few STE users, but as we know, while the amiga coders have successfully translated the original demo they showed to the psygnosis directors to a game, Mark has found that it was
impossible to do the same on atari st. He made almost the same thing, getting a version like the amiga as a demo, but found that it was impossible to make a game of it.

He has been stopped by hardware limits :( while the STE has a limited blitter, it has no chip dedicated to sprite, and no copper :(

I guess now why the ST version needs to be powered at 20mhz instead of 8mhz to be smooth :angel:


The Amiga copper and blitter are nice but the sprite engine is pretty anaemic. This is the third time you've mentioned the ST has a more limited blitter but you've never qualified that statement either here or on EAB. Have you finally read and understood the HRM yet? You have to explain why in order to be taken more seriously. :D As I told you before there are features present in the STE blitter which would be useful additions on the Amiga. Please elaborate and prove you understood the previous thread on this topic.

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Re: shadow of the beast ST (Mark mc cubbin here)

Postby dlfrsilver » Wed Feb 04, 2009 1:32 am

it seems, as far as i have seen until now, that some people says that if you can see it in a demo, it can also be done in a game, while professional coders like Mark, says that it can't be that way.

In a demo you have no compromise to do, while in a game you have to make some, or the game will never be good. No need to know HRM or even being a coder, it's pure logic.
You have a limited amount of processing power, you must define how much computing power you will use for each parts. That's also why Mark never agreed with demo-scene people.

Take it for a fact, beast AM use the CPU max 25% when Beast ST use 100% of the CPU.

I do agree that the sprite engine is anaemic, but hey it's a 512kb game :D, they would had made it for a 1mb version, it should have been enhanced. But the amiga was pushed up to the max. It also
has limitations on its side too, not the same, but some.

Maybe Mark's error was to try to get something that was impossible to achieve. Everything on Beast is done in hardware, the CPU is barely used..... We all know the ST is mainly relaying on its CPU...
it can't work !

Even if the STE had some useful additions, when a game is created, there are thing you want to do that can't be implemented nor added. Because there are other parts giving some strain on the machine. what's the point of having a plane capable to fly to mach 1 when the fuel-case is only 700 liters ?
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Re: shadow of the beast ST (Mark mc cubbin here)

Postby Xerus » Wed Feb 04, 2009 2:08 am

About the Blitter, i remember an interview with Paul Howarth, programmer of Shadow of Beast;
he said this chip was the most over-estimated in the Amiga and it was not so powerful.
In consequence, i'd like to know the impact of Blitter in SB on Amiga :)

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Re: shadow of the beast ST (Mark mc cubbin here)

Postby dlfrsilver » Wed Feb 04, 2009 2:23 am

a guy called Ahle 2 was saying that SB rely mainly on the amiga copper. What you say is stated in the game manual, if i'm not wrong.
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Re: shadow of the beast ST (Mark mc cubbin here)

Postby Marakatti » Wed Feb 04, 2009 6:10 am

dlfrsilver wrote:it seems, as far as i have seen until now, that some people says that if you can see it in a demo, it can also be done in a game, while professional coders like Mark, says that it can't be that way.


Well, games like Enchanted Lands really prove it can go very close. My guess is that if TCB had coded Beast, it would have been very close to the original.
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Re: shadow of the beast ST (Mark mc cubbin here)

Postby Frank B » Wed Feb 04, 2009 7:42 am

dlfrsilver wrote:it seems, as far as i have seen until now, that some people says that if you can see it in a demo, it can also be done in a game, while professional coders like Mark, says that it can't be that way.

In a demo you have no compromise to do, while in a game you have to make some, or the game will never be good. No need to know HRM or even being a coder, it's pure logic.
You have a limited amount of processing power, you must define how much computing power you will use for each parts. That's also why Mark never agreed with demo-scene people.

Take it for a fact, beast AM use the CPU max 25% when Beast ST use 100% of the CPU.

I do agree that the sprite engine is anaemic, but hey it's a 512kb game :D, they would had made it for a 1mb version, it should have been enhanced. But the amiga was pushed up to the max. It also
has limitations on its side too, not the same, but some.

Maybe Mark's error was to try to get something that was impossible to achieve. Everything on Beast is done in hardware, the CPU is barely used..... We all know the ST is mainly relaying on its CPU...
it can't work !

Even if the STE had some useful additions, when a game is created, there are thing you want to do that can't be implemented nor added. Because there are other parts giving some strain on the machine. what's the point of having a plane capable to fly to mach 1 when the fuel-case is only 700 liters ?


Well as an ex games developer I think the point he was getting at is games are a compromise. You don't have infinite time to do things in the best manner or you have to target a more low end machine. There are commercial concerns involved. That doesn't excuse the lack of a game being in there though.

BTW you're doing it again. You agree with me the sprite engine is weak on the Amiga whilst admitting you have neither read nor understood the HRM. You can improve your credibility by detailing the differences between demo or game logic. As for the amount of CPU time time left have you ever wondered why the playfield area is so small in that game? BTW the copper whilst nice doesn't do anything in that game that can't be done with timer b on the STe. I'm still waiting for a technical explanation of why the ST blitter is "weak" too. :)

Speaking of Atari HW the Jaguar blitter is far in advance of the Amiga one and the OP is *much* more powerful than the copper.
Does that make the blitter on the Amiga useless? :D

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Re: shadow of the beast ST (Mark mc cubbin here)

Postby jazz » Wed Feb 04, 2009 8:26 am

That's also why Mark never agreed with demo-scene people.


Only poor demo coders would say that everything they do in demos would translate perfectly and easily into a game. It seems to me that only people who pretend to know demo or game coding would say that. :wink:

One thing for sure is that Beast was nice looking game but the gameplay was just poo. And speaking of impossible conversions the same can be told of most arcade ones on either st or amiga, they were the perfect example of wasted time and it all appeared very clearly when 16 bits consoles came : both st and amiga arcade/action game suddenly looked lacklustre and poor games (and most of them were unfortunately).

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Re: shadow of the beast ST (Mark mc cubbin here)

Postby unseenmenace » Wed Feb 04, 2009 8:54 am

A lot of the arguments given for why its harder to do a game than a demo are true in principle but could Beast really be called a "game"? The AI is basic at best as is the level of control over the main sprite. Frankly I've "played" many a scrolling demo menu that has nearly as much playability as Beast does. That in itself isn't Mark McCubbins fault as he didn't design the game but looking at what has been achieved in other games on the ST (someone already mentioned Enchanted Land) its seems to me that it could have been done better by someone with a better grasp of coding on the ST (and I don't mean with lots of RAM or on an STE), I mean the rasters aren't even slightly stable for starters.
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Re: shadow of the beast ST (Mark mc cubbin here)

Postby dlfrsilver » Wed Feb 04, 2009 2:07 pm

i own enchanted lands on my ST. The fact is the parallax is only shown on the intro, and in the game the sprites are small, which is here the compromise.
Enchanted lands is well coded, hey, there is no parallax inside the game. Just a raster background, and 50 frames per sec. But no huge effects like
you have on Beast or other games.

To compare with beast, beast has sprites hardware, but they are limited in colors, here again it's a compromise. The more you push, the more it needs.
It's right that Beast playability could have been done softer, and not that hard.

Considering a 68000 @ 8 mhz is 1MIPS, and regarding the amount of data to throw in, the 68000 alone can't do the trick :(

And yes in some cases the blitter is useless, like on the amiga 1200, where the 68020/68030 is more faster than the blitter itself :( They should made it
more faster. Some guys like Codetapper or galahad told it on eab, it's really an annoying thing.
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Re: shadow of the beast ST (Mark mc cubbin here)

Postby Shredder11 » Wed Feb 04, 2009 5:44 pm

jazz wrote:
Speaking of impossible conversions the same can be told of most arcade ones on either st or amiga, they were the perfect example of wasted time and it all appeared very clearly when 16 bits consoles came : both st and amiga arcade/action game suddenly looked lacklustre and poor games (and most of them were unfortunately).


Ouch! I do appreciate what you mean though but I am also wondering what you thought of the 8 bit arcade conversions, if the 16 bit ones were so bad? 8O

I quite enjoyed a few of the 8 bit conversions such as the Amstrad CPC464 versions of Operation Wolf, WEC Le Mans, Metro Cross, Gryzor and others. Sometimes the 8 bit ones were better than the 16 bit versions, usually because a different person was responsible for each computer platform.

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Re: shadow of the beast ST (Mark mc cubbin here)

Postby punkrulesok » Wed Feb 04, 2009 9:00 pm

I think at this point it could be good to compile a list of all "beast" style Intros, Demos or Games. This topic could forever lay to rest the ST / Amiga SOTB debate :).

What's also on my mind is a Leonard style coding competition for the Beast first level. Now that would be very nice indeed :).

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Re: shadow of the beast ST (Mark mc cubbin here)

Postby Xerus » Wed Feb 04, 2009 9:29 pm

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Re: shadow of the beast ST (Mark mc cubbin here)

Postby unseenmenace » Thu Feb 05, 2009 12:44 am

punkrulesok wrote:What's also on my mind is a Leonard style coding competition for the Beast first level. Now that would be very nice indeed :).

I'm no coding genius but I'd be willing to give it a try! I've already toyed with the idea and done some of my own graphics converting from the Amiga version.
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Re: shadow of the beast ST (Mark mc cubbin here)

Postby Stefan jL » Sat Feb 07, 2009 2:17 pm

punkrulesok wrote:What's also on my mind is a Leonard style coding competition for the Beast first level. Now that would be very nice indeed :).


It would only be intersting if done on a "standard" ST (i mean non-STE) but with 1mb.

I'm sure it can be done better but never in Amiga graphics quality, as Mark said he had not too much time to make the ST SotB.
Also the ST version has no music during gameplay, and doing an SotB with todays SID-Voice and syncbuzzer effects would not work... maybe not even with digidrums.

And why make it identical to the original Amiga version... i mean some versions actually enhanced the gameplay, i think Lynx version is one.

Regardless from what some people say so are the Amiga much superior to Atari ST when it comes to games. So doing an identical SotB version like on Amiga would be stupid, it need redesign, othervise it's like all those awful arcade conversions that use the same large sprites the original arcade does but at way too much slowness/jerky scrolling on the ST.
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