Port or Not
This is my three euro's worth in response to a recent DHS bbs thread on the
value of porting games and other software from other systems, typically
commercial adbandonware to the Falcon, especially higher-end upgrades like the
The discussion was raised by Mikro, who has recently brought us a greatly
optimised version of Quake, and also for the first time Duke Nukem for the
Falcon '060. However, he says that he finds this process boring, and would much
rather work on original stuff instead.
To some extent, I sympathise and agree with him, as the last thing we need is
boredom as yet another corrosive factor for a loss of fragile motivation
amongst the Atariscene's more active members. Mikro has been one of the most
active people in the last year, and his contributions have been greatly
enjoyed. I would not be sad if his porting career took a back seat to making
the follow-up to the Menace demo for example!
However, I would also like to take a look at the porting issue, in the manner
of the People's Front of Judea from the 'Life of Brian', and possibly ask "What
has porting ever done for us?"
As it is very pertinent to this argument, I'll turn to the list of available
software made for the CT60 since its launch, over three years ago. This won't
take too long!
The first port of call would be Patrice Mandin, who has maintained his ongoing
ports, starting with Doom, and adding Heretic, Hexen, and Quake. These all
predated the CT60 by a decent margin, and aren't solely intended for '060
platforms, being aimed at any Atari or TOS compatible with a decently powerful
cpu. He also hosts the widely ported 'ScummVM' Lucas Arts game engine in its
Mint/Atari version. Patrice also has the Gnuboy Gameboy emulator port, and the
Xmame port, which might be a bit beyond the present generation of Atari
hardware. Furthermore, he is working on newer builds of the SDL library, which
in theory should give access to a very wide range of portable software using
We also got 'Doug-Quake', Douglas Little's Afterburner '040 optimized Quake
engine, resurrected for CT60 at quite an early stage. This was pronounced good,
as it was faster than PM-Quake, but it was a sod to get hold of the right game
data files for it. Still, the key here was perserverance and it worked quite
Going for a totally different genre, were the 'Another World' and 'Flashback'
'Reminiscence' game engines ported by Adam K. The missing 'Flashback' was
finally restored to the Atari platform, if not the intended ST version. These
are not specifically made for the CT60, but work a lot better on something in
the 040 or 060 class. Adam says that a 'fast Atari' like the TT or CT2 Falcon
are acceptable here.
We had a spate of activity from Gildor with a series of ports made in quick
succession. He started with the Yeti 3D Quake engine, which was a simple walk-
around demo, but a good taster of what the CT60 could do. Then we got a full
version of Castle Wolfenstein, which sort of duplicated Ray's ongoing rewrite
for the ST. There was also a Wolfenstein sequel, Spear of Destiny, and a couple
of other games like Ltris, and Moonlander. These were based on SDL and were
needing Mint to run decently. It is interesting to note that after that spate
of summer activity, we've not heard from him since?
And of course, to bring us up to date, there are the recent Mikro ports of
Quake, based on Amiga sources and faster than any of the others, and the mighty
As a related issue, we might consider the emulator ports coming from PeP. In
the latter part of 2005 and first half of 2006, he cranked out working versions
of 'Frodo'(C64 emulation), an excellent Sega emulator, 'SMS Plus'. Then the
Lynx emulator 'Handy' was ported, followed by an experimental and buggy VCS
emulation 'V2600', and he even made an early version of an ST emulator
'CaSTaway'. We could argue that only way to get any new emulators for the Atari
would be by porting (see also Xmame). It is not too hard to work out that
coders are even less inclined to spend their precious limited time on coding an
emulator from scratch. The last hope for that died when the RG's Nintendo
conversions faded away in the late nineties.
Of the CT60 stuff which is not related to porting in some way and originally
made, the list is even shorter. There have been some demo's of course, which
makes me happy. I recall Earx's CT60 virtual light machine beta, and ermm,
that's it! There is the category of pre-existing software that benefits greatly
from the increased power, such as Didier Mequignon's Aniplayer multimedia
player, and Zorro's picture gallery software 'zView'. This is not such a great
record for the CT60/63 in particular. Apart from the demos, where things have
happened, if a year slower than expected, there hasn't been such a lot that you
could class as original software. Without the porting activity that we have
had, the picture over the last three years would have been very bleak indeed.
So to answer my original self-posed question, the porting of software from
other systems has carried the burden of expectation for the majority of
releases on the '060 class of Atari in particular. There haven't been so many
of these either, we're not really drowning in ported stuff to the detriment of
new and original material just yet! I'd love to see more original releases, in
fact any original releases at all, but we're still waiting....
There are still other porting possibilities to be found on www.libsdl.org- In
fact, it is interesting that there haven't actually been more ports attempted.
but I guess there is only so much boredom a coder can take! Something I thought
might happen, the porting of demos from other platforms, Amiga especially,
hasn't taken place in spite of odd rumours being dangled in the air. Also it
might be worth asking will something like the CTPCI with a decent graphics
card, provide an added focus of interest for would-be porters who might have
found the Falcon Videl performance too limiting for some of the more
Well what do you think of the future of porting software onto the Atari? Should
there be more activity directed to original software, or do you have any
favourite things on other systems that you want on your Atari too? Drop us a
line, or alternatively, add-on another thread to the DHS BBS!
CiH, for Alive Mag, Jan '07.