New Hardware

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Just realised i put this under the wrong title!

After following the developement of the Mayhem (Hoping to buy one later in the year,skint at the moment) i was wondering what next piece of hardware would the SAM community benefit from.

We have memory expansions, Sound processors, Hard drive and now the Mayhem which is great as it brings our beloved 8bit slightly more up to date but what would people like to see, i would like to see something done on the graphic output with some emphasis on scrolling and hardware sprites although this could be hard for backwards compatibility and possibly expensive but could be great.

I understand that with the Mayhem running at 20mhz scrolling would be fine but were still limited to 16 colours and also with the limitations of the Z80 only allowing us 64k at a time could make this difficult.

What do you think ?

The problem is...

I’m not quite sure what else would benefit the Sam after the Mayhem. It’s something I do think about a fair bit, but i’ve not decided on another hardware project yet for the Sam when the Mayhem is released.

There’s several reasons:

Firstly cost for new hardware. To really develop hardware it costs an arm and a leg, and the market just isn’t there to support it. I know all to well with the development costs i’ve racked up for the Mayhem Accelerator - which has gone way beyond what I intended, and really all from my own pocket. Hundreds and hundreds on parts, and not to mention expanding my collection of test equipment and development tools! But as i’ve a great passion for the Sam i’ve continued on with it.

There’s also the fact that ‘too much’ hardware would make the Sam become something that’s not Sam! Changing CPU for example, or a new graphic addon say, would break compatiblity and it would become compulsory to have the expansion for new software that uses it, instead of being optional like say a soundcard (ie a game would still run on a Sam but without extra funky sound!)

And that leads straight onto another key point: Software support. A lot of old hardware had next to no software support. Just look at all the past hardware that had none… a lot of people are left with an expensive paperweight! Picking a few bits at random: Blue Alpha Sampler had a few demos thats all, i’ve seen no software with support for the Voicebox, 1MB memory units - not much uses them except for MasterDOS RAMdisk functions, and the EDDAC had a MOD player and a WAV player and that’s about it.

I had to make sure that didn’t happen back with the Quazar Surround soundcard when I launched that in 1995, I had to make sure the software support was there and with Soundbyte continuing up to 2004 with a lot of original content, and support in other companies games I made sure it didn’t become yet another piece of hardware destined to site idle.

The Mayhem Accelerator should hopefully not fall into the ‘paperweight’ catagory, it retains full compatiblity and is useful straight away with all past software - giving games extra ooomph with the variable speed settings (very useful with a lot of the slower games, and the likes of GamesMaster / SCADs stuff) and already there’s a couple of enhanced pieces of software to make use of it (such as Simon Owen’s Pac-Man emulator which does full screen refresh each frame instead of over 4 frames) and there’s a few things in the pipeline.

Really, what is needed most just now I think is support for what there already is. Trying to get more people programming on the Sam is the key! I’m always happy to help out where I can with anything to do with the Sam and programming, and I am in touch with other people who are willing to do graphics and music etc to get more software out there!

I’m looking to feature more programming articles in Sam Revival, get more people onboard and the whole community aspect of things buzzing. The next issue is already filling up with news on quite a few new software developments and developer diaries. The magazine also has the coverdisk to showcase new software and the more original new content the better.

Colin
=====
Quazar : Hardware, Software, Spares and Repairs for the Sam Coupe
1995-2007 - Celebrating 12 Years of developing for the Sam Coupe
Website: http://www.samcoupe.com/

One more thing

I meant to say that with the Mayhem as it has its own shadow of what is in main memory ( if I read an article correctly ) surely it doesn’t suffer from as much contention as the 6MHz internal CPU and therefore could change far more colours and may be able to produce a game that uses all 128 colours on screen at once .. for once!

Even control panels and title bars in different colours from the main game screen would release the 16 colour pallette a lot for games with atmosphere. For example, if you were to do an alien breed type game you’d need a top 8 lines in one set of 16 colours to best show scores ( perhaps antialiased ). Then you’d have the next 128 lines in game colours that could be dark, bright or whatever suited the current scene. The remaining 56 lines of screen can be in bright “control panel” colours.

If the Mayhem facilitates this trick, and we can still get acceptable sprite/scroll performance in the game section, it will be able to improve graphical appearance considerably. Or I could just be talking drivel.

Re: One more thing

Nope, you’re not talking drivel. The Mayhem does shadow memory so there is no contention with memory reads, which gives a very nice speed boost regardless of clock speed.

You’re spot on too with regards to changing palette. A very simple routine to change the palette at parts of the screen carries next to no overhead (even without the Mayhem). It’s used in games like Lemmings.

It’s just down to the programmer and graphics artists working to make the most of the graphics to suit what they are doing.

16 colours may sound very limiting, but there’s been some truely stunning graphics on the Sam in both games and demos, but there has also been a lot of games with just simple coloured sprites on a black background - which i’m guilty of myself! (Although it’s easier cpu time wise to have blank backgrounds to save masking and redrawing… especially when there was a sampled soundtrack playing!)

Quick graphical anecdote, years ago one publisher who had secured a license had a programmer using SCADs and recoloured ZX Spectrum graphics to make the game, instead of machine code and using the Atari ST / Amiga gfx and backgrounds - which I offered to do - but as the other chap had already started in SCADs it was left to him. Would have been a waste of the license I think if it didn’t get the best out of the Sam. But hey ho that’s life, and it was never finished anyway…

Even 15+ years into the Sam’s life there’s still plenty of scope with what we’ve got. Invasion II by Warren Lee on Sam Revival 10, although written in GamesMaster it’s bloody impressive, backgrounds, the detail, well animated sprites - especially the giant sprites for the end of game baddie. And demo wise what really stood out recently for me is the rotating texture mapped planet in one of Andrew Collier’s demos - that was amazing! (How’s that going Andrew - did you ever change it from bytes to pixels which you were thinking about?)

I’m still in the process of revamping Conquest’s graphics for it’s re-release, the gameplay was sound but I really think the graphics needed updating, and there’s also a brand new soundtrack written for it to go in too. I just need to sort out some good time to sit down in front of Paint Shop Pro and SamPaint to finish that!

Colin
=====
Quazar : Hardware, Software, Spares and Repairs for the Sam Coupe
1995-2007 - Celebrating 12 Years of developing for the Sam Coupe
Website: http://www.samcoupe.com/

Stop the press...

You can change the palette at any line … and the screenmode!

This seems a very Amiga thing to do.

Re: Stop the press...

Yes, you can… we’ve all been doing it for years and years :)

Don’t compare it with the Amiga’s Copper lists though, that’s a much more versatile and complex way in their hardware to do it.

On the Sam, you have to make use of setting line interrupts to trigger an interrupt at given scan lines (OUT 249,value) and have your interrupt routine change what you want … e.g. screen mode, palette colours, screen memory page…

(If you are into assembly language, I put a piece of code in the letters page in Sam Revival 13 showing how to do it quite simply, in reply to someone’s question.)

Colin
=====
Quazar : Hardware, Software, Spares and Repairs for the Sam Coupe
1995-2007 - Celebrating 12 Years of developing for the Sam Coupe
Website: http://www.samcoupe.com/

Re: Stop the press...

MNEMOdemo does this sort of thing all the time…

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