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Alive 2

A short preview and some screenshots described..

Even in these quiet times, it appears that some people are still
interesting in pushing the boundaries of the Atari gaming experience
onwards. One such person is the anonymous(?) author of the Milan-based
3-D fantasy spell-em-up 'Legends of Espen'.

I don't know who the person or people concerned are at this point. A
preview, with some screengrabs turned up on the Dead Hackers BBS
recently, with an invitation to try it out. The preview is really
intended for the Milan, but happily runs on some Falcons at least, more
comfortably on those Falcons with a Centurbo 2 or similar. It seems that
a lot of memory is desirable too, and quite possibly some fastRAM,
whilst we are about it.

Having downloaded and tried it, my particular set-up does manage to take
to running this. One or two things to learn on the way though. The game
needs the 'correct' screen mode to run, which is some flavour of the
Falcon truecolor mode. The preview is incomplete enough not to be able
to find that screenmode by itself, so you have to change it yourself to
help out. Sort of reminds you of that 1993-era Falcon demo software,
doesn't it? You can run from either a standard 320 x 240 (VGA), or an
extended truecolor screen mode, but in the latter case, you get a
smaller game window.

There aren't any instructions, so it is up to you to go figure what to
do next. You start by staring at a timber-textured ceiling, which
confusingly, looks a lot like the floor. Seizing control of your mouse,
you jerkily point your first-perspective character view at a more level
headed viewpoint in the rest of the room. There, you take in a detailed
looking brick-walled room. The odd burning torch flickers on the wall,
and various objects lie scattered around, awaiting your closer

The right hand mouse button lends you the necessary animation to move
around this closed environment. You are able to go up close to the
objects, books, keys, weapons, potions, and even a treasure chest, to
take a closer look. The left hand mouse button produces the other major
character interaction, as bright flaming bolts of magical? energy flow
from their fingers, to explode against the floor or whatever. Apart from
that, there is little else to do. Going too close to the walls, or into
one of the little cubbyholes seems to prove too much for the limits of
the crude state of this preview, as the walls go into weird fanciful
wobble-vision, at which point, a reset is advisable!

The speed of movement is not the fastest, something like 'Lasers and Men'
in one of its faster moments on a standard Falcon. Graphically, it is
relatively 'early' looking and unpolished, although the textures are
higher resolution than we've been used to, on previous Falcon games.
There doesn't seem to be any sound there.

The preview is reminiscent of those early 'Wolfenstein' demo engines,
that we saw in the mid-nineties for the Falcon, which never quite came
to anything (apart from the honourable and brilliant exception of
'Running', of course!) It is open to debate whether anything more
complete will turn up, as there is surely a huge amount still to do?

There are a selection of fascinating screen shots, which seem to imply
that a lot more HAS been done from this early game-engine preview. These
seem to show things like a status or control panel, a variety of views,
including a couple of outdoor scenes, and even what looks like a spot of
character interaction on one of these screen shots?

If there is going to be a completed game called 'Legends of Espen'
coming out at any point. It may well be worth checking out, if you like
a game with elements of 'Heretic', the Ishar series, and probably Towers
II all in there. A Milan or, hopefully, one of the new generation of
Falcon accelerators would be strongly recommended to run it. At the
moment, based on the evidence of the (unoptimised?) crude preview
engine, it could be beautiful, but just too slow for an action game?

Anyway, wait and see....


The very day that I wrote this preview, a new version of the demo
engine turns up! This is much more closely corresponding with the
images in the screenshots. The demo has gained a status/control panel,
and the quality of the textures is a lot more like a finished game
ought to look. There are also a couple of control or option panels
'hidden' away in the game, accessible via an uncertain or sluggish
keyboard response.

One of these allows you to configure the game in certain ways. I
managed to turn off the 3-D texturing entirely, so the game world was
entirely in line-vector 3-D, for all the world like a fantasy
adventure game based on the old arcade game 'Battlezone'!

It didn't speed things up too much, and the game, even running on a
fastRAM CT2, still chugs a lot. There still isn't much interactivity
or intelligence in there as yet either.

Still, a clear improvement on what went before, and a sign of the
author's active interest in this project?

CiH for Alive! Mag - March '01

Alive 2