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Alive 14
To 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
Duke Nukem!

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  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
interesting material?

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.
Alive 14