Atic Atac: dodgy version in STH archive?

reminisce about bbc micro & electron games like chuckie egg, repton, elite & exile

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Rich Talbot-Watkins
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Atic Atac: dodgy version in STH archive?

Postby Rich Talbot-Watkins » Tue Feb 07, 2006 8:27 pm

Unless this is some kind of weird bug in Model B, BeebEm and B-Em, the borders of rooms aren't drawing correctly when you move from screen to screen.

Can anyone confirm/deny whether this is a problem with the Atic Atac disc image?

Cheers,
Rich

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Postby Rich Talbot-Watkins » Tue Feb 07, 2006 9:20 pm

replying to myself... sad...

The tape image on the Acorn Preservation Project site works fine on BeebEm 3.1, so I deduce that the disc image is broken.

So, I thought I'd have a go at putting it onto disc from the tape image, and straight away I've encountered a type of protection I've never seen before... I've hardly ever investigated tape protection so this is all new to me. It looks like the block addresses have been tampered with so that *OPT1,2 reveals the wrong information. What's a good approach for getting at the truth here, tape hackers? Is it possible for a file to load in a fragmented way around memory by this block header mangling?

Cheers!

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Postby billcarr2005 » Wed Feb 08, 2006 4:39 pm

Seems to only occur on screens containing staircases! The cheat version seems to work fine.
I had a look at the tape last year, I think I used Enigma *TDISC (Tape to disc) to put the first file onto disc, and then just poked around the code and figured out a place that it could fit in memory. As far as putting it to disc went, I can't seem to find the final finished files, but I think it was Kevin Edwards on a forgiving day, with no timer related troubles.
As far as the header information goes, I think it can be faked, so the file is loaded normally, and then the header tells the user something different.

Looking at where the file resides in memory, &3B00 to &425A, it's possible that I changed to MODE1, so that I could check whether it was loading anywhere between &3000 to &8000

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Postby Fraser » Wed Feb 08, 2006 7:29 pm

'The Gold Collection' compilation would be a good place to get disk versions of Ultimate games. Are these the only commercial disk versions of the Ultimate games?

Theres a 4 game tape compilation by US Gold of Ultimate games I hadn't noticed until now. I wouldn't expect anything new there though.

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Postby Rich Talbot-Watkins » Wed Feb 08, 2006 10:17 pm

Was the Gold Collection on disc?? I never imagined it was. I don't think there's ever been a disc master of any of the Ultimate games - one of the things that makes them more 'special' in my opinion. They had their own custom loaders and everything - definitely out of the ordinary.

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Postby billcarr2005 » Wed Feb 08, 2006 10:28 pm

U.S. GOLD
PROUDLY PRESENTS
THE GOLD
COLLECTION 3

1 Jet-Pac
2 Sabre Wulf
3 Knight Lore
4 Nightshade
5 Temple of Terror
6 Pirate Adventure
7 Voodoo Castle
8 Strange Odyssey
9 Buckaroo Bonzai

So no Atic Atac :(
Don't know anything about the previous 2 either!

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Postby Rich Talbot-Watkins » Wed Feb 08, 2006 10:52 pm

re: the tape header.

It seems that the OS looks at the first block for the load address and the final block for the execution address.

So I got the first file off tape OK and decrypted it, and - you're right - it's definitely a forgiving Kevin Edwards moment, so it shouldn't be too big a deal extracting the rest of the data... sometime I'll do it and submit a better disc image.

I forgot how much I loved Atic Atac as a kid - much better than Sabre Wulf in my opinion. Never could *quite* get it working on my Master - used to border of the rooms white every now and then.

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Postby Fraser » Thu Feb 09, 2006 7:19 pm

The Gold Collections instructions cover the tape and disk versions and there is a cover scan of each version here. There must have been a mistake somewhere with the 3 on the menu screen and not on the cover. Theres 2 and 3 for the Spectrum and C64 but possibly not a 1 for them.

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Postby Rich Talbot-Watkins » Thu Feb 09, 2006 8:48 pm

Well bugger me, so there is.

I really didn't think there'd ever been a disc release for any of the Ultimate games.

I wonder how they were protected. Would almost seem a shame if there was no protection on the disc versions, after the Fort Knox type security of Kevin Edwards' tape protection.

We need to unearth an original disc copy and get an fdi image out there somewhere!

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Postby billcarr2005 » Thu Feb 09, 2006 9:09 pm

ISTR there being no protection on the disc. I was hoping there would be some kind of scheme, which is why I got it off eBay! I think the disc on this site is the two sides of a 40track flippy (or two individual 40track discs) put onto one single 80track.

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Postby Rich Talbot-Watkins » Thu Feb 09, 2006 11:52 pm

Shame.

The disc image in the archive looks rather like it's been transferred from tape. At least in the Nightshade main code is the following message:

Code: Select all

THIS GAME WAS PUT ON DISK BY MICHAEL ARCHER AND WAS INFLUENCED BY NOONE AT ALL I HOPE THAT YOU ARE VERY VERY VERY APPRECIATIVE THAT I HAVE MANAGED TO PUT IT ON DISK BY BY FOR NOW MIKE.................................

Clever chap if he really did crack the Nightshade tape protection, as it really is nasty. The tape image of the Gold Collection seems to have the same protection schemes as the original releases.

Of course I guess it could be that US Gold employed Michael Archer to crack the protection so they could make a disc release... I'd almost not be surprised if US Gold didn't even have access to the plain unprotected object code when they released this.

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Postby billcarr2005 » Fri Feb 10, 2006 8:16 am

Looks like US Gold did an inhouse tape-to-disc transfer (or used an available cracked version), as I've found the same message .

I also had a look at the version from the TOSEC archives, and found the following message shortly after the previous one...

HELLO THER YOU INFERIOR PIRATE I HOPE THAT YOU ARE ONLY GAZING AT MY MAGIC CODEING .MIKE.PS.HELLO THERE KEVIN.E I MUST TELL YOU THAT THIS WAS PUT ON DISK UNDER SOFTWARE

so I had a look at the version on the gold collection disc, and the message is there also, but encrypted.

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Postby billcarr2005 » Sat Jun 23, 2007 2:03 pm

I just noticed that somebody called Michael Archer, who also uses the initials MJA, wrote W.A.R
I wonder if it's the same person :?:

Ahhh, lazy saturdays... :P

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Postby Rich Talbot-Watkins » Sat Jun 23, 2007 6:46 pm

Oh yes, I also spotted that a while back and forgot to mention it. I reckon it probably is the same guy.

Hello, by the way! I haven't been around for a while...

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Postby sorvad » Sat Jun 23, 2007 8:39 pm

Rich Talbot-Watkins wrote:Hello, by the way! I haven't been around for a while...

I noticed, nice to have to back :)

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Postby Arcadian » Tue Jun 26, 2007 11:24 am

I have a feeling we might get a definitive answer to the MJA issue shortly ...

(Guess who's just registered on the forum! ;) )

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Postby mikeybabes » Tue Jun 26, 2007 11:49 am

Hi Everyone

I am the Michael J Archer who actually did all the hard work, many moons ago, it's exceptionally funny now people are looking back, it's great this Emulators scene.

I do recall putting silly messages into my games, I do like to point out that I made no commercial gain on this, and that I purley done because I hated the BBC tape system so much.

The Ultimate tites at the time were intresting indeed.

I think Knightlore and Alien8 were the most tricky.

I'd answer any questions if people like to know anything.

And I'd like to say a big hello to Kevin Edwards. Althought I think I mentioned this in some of my achievments.

What shocks me the most is how spead the BBC Micro was, that I was many years ago shown titles with my own name on them, which come from all round the world!!

And even thought at the time it was fun I hand on heart hope I did not loose anyone any sleep.

Most games to disk could take less than one hour to do, some a lot less.

I wonder how many people out there have the BBC Micro Compendium, or the BBC Service Manual. I think maybe the only books I actually have kept on my shelf (dust including!)

Wish you all the best.

Michael Archer

PS. Yes I did write WAR it's actually was a conversion from a spectrum title, it took me one week, then my friend wrote the sound system, as I was use memory from $0200 and the OS of course nicks lots of RAM.
I moved onto programming onto the commodore C64 my final release game was Alien3 which I never got a copy off. I become a technical director of a software house which did many modern titles but I gave up programming directly, but acting as support for over 100developers.

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Postby ivor_the_injun » Thu Jun 28, 2007 8:56 am

I had yo-ho-ho pirate copies of both Alien-8 and Knightlore on disc - never realised they'd been so tricky to convert.

Thank christ someone managed it though, as the load times for all the isometric Ultimate games on tape were chronic. :lol:

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Postby Lorfarius » Thu Jun 28, 2007 10:23 am

ivor_the_injun wrote:I had yo-ho-ho pirate copies of both Alien-8 and Knightlore on disc - never realised they'd been so tricky to convert.


Do you still have them?
The North's answer to the Retro Scene:

www.retronorth.co.uk

Tickets Sold out

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Postby ivor_the_injun » Thu Jun 28, 2007 6:33 pm

Unfortunately they're 250 miles away at the moment. Ironically I meant to bring them home with me when I was up north last weekend at my parents', but I completely forgot. The 4th of 5th time that I've done so. :roll:

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Postby Kevin Edwards » Fri Jul 11, 2008 12:13 pm

Just like to say *hi* back to Michael Archer, although his post was over a year ago!

:lol:

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Postby Rich Talbot-Watkins » Fri Jul 11, 2008 12:47 pm

Dunno if Michael's still around here - not quite sure how I missed his post originally...

If you are, then "hello" :)... I was wondering if you could remember how on earth you went about cracking the Nightshade protection - short of writing an entire 6502+VIA emulator (including all the interrupt timings and everything), I can't imagine how you could've done it.

Did you know anything of your cracked disc version being used on the US Gold compilation?

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Postby ivor_the_injun » Sat Jul 19, 2008 9:46 pm

I've now got these disks - haven't set up my Beeb yet to test all is still well, but will do so in the next week or two.

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Postby ivor_the_injun » Mon Jul 21, 2008 12:44 am

By "these disks" I mean the yo-ho-ho pirate versions of Alien 8 and Knightlore. Can see how that wouldn't be clear from the thread.

I can't actually remember what I was supposed to be doing with them when I got hold of them though - I see that there are disk images of both games in the archive here. I'm sure I had an email conversation with someone about my disks, but those mails are on a dead PC and I can't remember for the life of me what the discussion was about.

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Re: Atic Atac: dodgy version in STH archive?

Postby mikeybabes » Sat Oct 07, 2017 9:21 am

I like reply hi back to Kevin Edwards,
Even if his post was almost a decade ago, I felt it more stylish to wait some time! I see has posted his source on GitHub that's interesting.
I in fact kept all my old source code, but I don't think I have the source data for sprites.

Sometimes things bring you back to websites and forums for no reason but just looking for something else.

Great to see even after so long the Beeb has still something in peoples hearts.

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Re: Atic Atac: dodgy version in STH archive?

Postby Rich Talbot-Watkins » Sat Oct 07, 2017 3:31 pm

Hey Michael, good to see you here again! :D

I refer you to my post above :)

Since you seem to be the only human being on the planet who cracked the Nightshade protection back in the day without a sophisticated hardware hack, I was wondering if you can still remember anything about how you did it? I got nowhere with Kevin's protection systems back then, so much respect from me!

Were you ever aware that US Gold used your Nightshade disk hack for their official disk release of Nightshade on The Gold Collection? It still has your original message embedded in the binary!

Hope you can find some time to stick around!

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Re: Atic Atac: dodgy version in STH archive?

Postby mikeybabes » Sun Oct 08, 2017 12:24 pm

Hi,

Thanks for your message, it's like being a teenager all over again when I think of the Beeb.
I must take a look at Nightshade from US Gold! always makes me smile when I see things like this.

Indeed a long time ago, I remember I had to wait for the original version, as I had one friend who was kind of ok with protection, but in fact in the end he got nowhere fast, and left it to my hands. Luck had it that he worked for a shop which stocked all Beeb stuff so was always in with a great deal of new releases quickly.

I recall one weekend at a friends with some beer and chips, and at the end of the day I had transferred to disk.
now I did have to write some test decoding, and also I had a modified OS which I did to dump memory to SWR.
I think I read someone else also set screen to mode 0, and the memory pointers to 0 you can see the decoder in action, from this you kind of see a pattern, and if you had nothing in the pattern from 0 or 255 you in fact can calculate the simple xor

I believe I may have some disks with a few of my BBC stuff on it, but I am not in UK currently, all my old stuff is back at home! I go home Christmas I might need to look in my cupboard of old goodies!

It's fair to say it was a tuff one to do, but I kind of got good at it, and the logic for the decoder is also the encoder I had used as a friend you keep secret love notes to his girlfriend in encoded format! (don't ask!)

The fx200 was indeed a giveaway, after reading the threads it brings back a little memories. I think also there was a check for several things along the way.

now I re-discovered the site I kind of gone and got some stuff on the emulators to take a look. I wish I had my floppy of ROMs! seems can't find even exmon!
Oddly I still can remember all the 6502.

One thing I'm not sure is if I modified the game code, sometimes people would modify my name and take credit! so what I would do is swap around a few instructions on the game code, which would never have any ill effect.

I remember seeing Repton I think which if memory serves didn't work with the speech chip, so I in fact fixed this, removed the protection just for the one reason. Scattered on the disk version was Go Away Mike A. At the time I was then getting into programming games, so was less inclined that feeling part of the industry it was not a good thing to keep up. but then frankly it was at the decline of the BBC days, and after a few titles, I had to move to the C64 at least still a 6502 device. I never left my BBC I used it to cross develop using ADE (I think was called) and a Solidisk ram disk, which was very fast.

I think I'm now off topic!

Tomorrow I will take look at my source code on my PC in office, and I have some BBC stuff there I might just post it somewhere.

regards
Michael.

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Re: Atic Atac: dodgy version in STH archive?

Postby Kevin Edwards » Tue Oct 17, 2017 12:45 pm

Hi,

Just out of interest, does anyone know if there is more than one disk version of Nightshade out there. ie was the game only hacked to disk by Michael?

I still have the original source code and tape/disk binaries for Nightshade, but a disk version was never released or let out into the wild ( AFAIK ) so any disk versions will be hacked ones from the original tape release.

I know a few people who hacked my protection by saving out all of the beeb's memory once it had reached a certain point after loading or when running the game. However, it was a bit messy restoring the snapshot image and resuming will all of the hardware state as it should be. This is kind of the way the hardware device 'Replay' worked, but had the advantage of its own 'zero memory' DFS. Michael used this technique, with the aid of a modified OS, to avoid having to deal with those terriflying 6522 decoders.

I guess nobody has actually hacked the Nightshader protection code properly, piece by piece, decoder by decoder to reveal all of the nasty things that I put in there ( using original hardware). This would be trivial today now that the emulators can handle the 6522 emulation correctly. A fun project for someone with a bit of spare time. Sadly, I think i lost the decoder source code for Nightshade, along with a load of other protection code when i had a clear out 15+ years ago. All I do remember is some anti-hacking code that would trash the contents of the disk in drive 0 if it detected that a previous decoder had been tampered with or some memory was corrupt. I wrote some custom 8271 FDC driver / NMI code to do this which would continue even when BREAK was pressed. Sorry, that was quite bad of me!

Cheers,
Kevin.

ps. The FX200 'backdoor' was only of use when encoding the obfuscated code block. If the obfuscated data/code was correct it would be executed, bypassing the call to FX200 so it wasn't really a backdoor for hacking purposes. My modified OS 1.2 ROM ignored the claring of RAM for FX 200,3 so that i could get my encoded data back.

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Re: Atic Atac: dodgy version in STH archive?

Postby mikeybabes » Wed Oct 18, 2017 2:48 am

I think it's safe to say Kevin, a lot of stuff is now lost in time. I never come across another decoded version.
I didn't like those action reply type devices snapshot of memory kind of a cheat and no fun in that. :-)

I did once only come across a Hacked Elite with someone else name on it.

I know there was some nasty disk code poke you did on the 8271 (if memory serves)
I just remember the last part of protection was a two bytes pulled from stack, and then do a decode in a loop and jump to the game start, might of been a rts which previously prior has pushed the execute address also.

Not much time now to look at the beebem might be fun to see.

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Re: Atic Atac: dodgy version in STH archive?

Postby duikkie » Wed Oct 18, 2017 9:59 am

if you like cracking/protecting things with 8271 you can read my things in item -- today i protected -- and -- are there virus software for bbc .

a few like cracking , call for billcarr2005. i try still today protecting discs ( but the 1770 , do not have all protecting stuff like 8271 chip ,)


Kevin Edwards wrote:Hi,

Just out of interest, does anyone know if there is more than one disk version of Nightshade out there. ie was the game only hacked to disk by Michael?

I still have the original source code and tape/disk binaries for Nightshade, but a disk version was never released or let out into the wild ( AFAIK ) so any disk versions will be hacked ones from the original tape release.

I know a few people who hacked my protection by saving out all of the beeb's memory once it had reached a certain point after loading or when running the game. However, it was a bit messy restoring the snapshot image and resuming will all of the hardware state as it should be. This is kind of the way the hardware device 'Replay' worked, but had the advantage of its own 'zero memory' DFS. Michael used this technique, with the aid of a modified OS, to avoid having to deal with those terriflying 6522 decoders.

I guess nobody has actually hacked the Nightshader protection code properly, piece by piece, decoder by decoder to reveal all of the nasty things that I put in there ( using original hardware). This would be trivial today now that the emulators can handle the 6522 emulation correctly. A fun project for someone with a bit of spare time. Sadly, I think i lost the decoder source code for Nightshade, along with a load of other protection code when i had a clear out 15+ years ago. All I do remember is some anti-hacking code that would trash the contents of the disk in drive 0 if it detected that a previous decoder had been tampered with or some memory was corrupt. I wrote some custom 8271 FDC driver / NMI code to do this which would continue even when BREAK was pressed. Sorry, that was quite bad of me!

Cheers,
Kevin.

ps. The FX200 'backdoor' was only of use when encoding the obfuscated code block. If the obfuscated data/code was correct it would be executed, bypassing the call to FX200 so it wasn't really a backdoor for hacking purposes. My modified OS 1.2 ROM ignored the claring of RAM for FX 200,3 so that i could get my encoded data back.


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