Knight Orc (Level 9) ... yes, it actually exists!

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Knight Orc (Level 9) ... yes, it actually exists!

Post by Arcadian » Mon Sep 23, 2019 10:34 pm

In what may well be the find of the year (from a games perspective at least!), the BBC Micro/Master version of Level 9 Software's Knight Orc - which was alleged to have been in the possession of the Centre from Computing History - was successfully archived thanks to a collective effort from Stardot members at this weekend's ABug meetup in Cambridge.

KnightOrc_01_TitleScreen.png

Labelled 'BBC Playtest Version', it came supplied on a 5.25" 80 Track 'Flippy' disc as per other Level 9 graphical adventures (namely Gnome Ranger, Ingrid's Back & Scapeghost), hence the attached zip file contains two .ssd disc images ("Game Disk" and "Picture Disk").

Edit: The version archived contains copy protection in the form of a manual lookup, which doesn't kick in until the player has completed the first part of the adventure. The manual is available to download here courtesy of oldgames.sk.

KnightOrc-Floppy.jpg

The recommended platform is a BBC Master 128k which will enable full graphics, whilst the minimum requirement is a BBC B with 16k Sideways RAM (which will allow the game to run albeit in text-only mode).

Some more background on this fab discovery ... !

In the early 2000s, the Lost & Found section on the Stairway To Hell website contained a brief entry for Knight Orc (which deemed it to be 'lost') together with a scan of a Level 9 Pricelist circa summer 1988 featuring Knight Orc, which suggested it was available for the BBC/Master.

Level9PricePriceWithKnightOrc.png

Though Knight Orc was widely available for other platforms, the [multi-format] manual made no reference to a BBC version, hence it was assumed that any plans for a BBC Micro release were shelved; especially as there had been no sign of the game whatsoever since its supposed release in 1988.

A few years later, Mike Bryant (who was credited on the BBC versions of several late-period Level 9 releases) contacted the STH website to confirm that a version did actually exist ... which gave us hope that there might be a surviving copy out there somewhere.

> Received: 07:21 PM GMT, 01/29/2005
> From: "Mike Bryant"
> Subject: Knight Orc on the BBC
>
> Hi,
>
> Just a quick bit of information... Knight Orc on the BBC does
> (leastwise did) actually exist.
>
> Mike Bryant - (yes the guy on the BBC credits for Gnome
> Ranger, Lancelot ...)

Then in 2007, forum member melchett contacted one of the founders of Level 9, Mike Austin to enquire about Knight Orc. Mike also confirmed the existence of a BBC port...

> I have been in touch with Mike Austin and he has confirmed
> that Knight Orc for the BBC Micro did exist:
>
> > Yes, Knight Orc was released for the BBC Micro. We didn't
> > do any specific versions for the Master. Hope this helps!
>
> He has also promised to take a look to see if he has a copy
> in his loft / garage so am keeping my fingers crossed... this
> is a game I would love to see on the Beeb.

However, he didn't hear back from Mike after that and the game remained lost.

Fast-forward all the way to February 2019, and eagle-eyed forum member 8BitAG (Gareth Pitchford) noted that the Centre for Computing History's archive copy of the 8-bit Atari Cassette version supposedly contained a 'BBC Test disk' on 5.25" floppy.

Adrian from the CFCH kindly located the Knight Orc package in question at the September '19 Acorn & BBC User Group meetup and brought it down for inspection, much to the excitement of the Stardot members present.

As suspected, it contained the box, manual, map and cassettes for 8-bit Atari computers ... together with the elusive 5.25" floppy which was marked "BBC Playtest Version". It also contained a Hint Request sheet that had been hand-marked as being for the BBC Master 128. This leads us to believe it was a review copy, supplied inside a retail box/package that happened to be for Atari computers - as regular retail copies of Knight Orc for the Atari wouldn't have included the BBC version on floppy.

KnightOrc-Contents.jpg
KnightOrc-HintRequest.jpg

Prior to the weekend we still weren't convinced that the disc would contain the game (for example, might it have been mislabelled?) but upon seeing the floppy (or rather, 'flippy') complete with dual write-protect tabs and authentic label, it was immediately clear that the disc was the real deal. Now all that was left to do was archive the thing (would it still be readable after all these years?) and, if successful, determine whether the disc contained the full version or merely a playable demo.

After a few scares, with the help of Pernod, Prime, Kieranhj, scarybeasts and Tom Seddon we were able to create working images of both sides, which do appear to contain the full version of the game.

This discovery and subsequent archival shows what a valuable resource Jason and team have established at their Museum in Cambridge - allowing preservation groups such as ourselves access to their vast collection of software/hardware for archival purposes. Furthermore, they should be commended for painstakingly maintaining a public catalogue of their archives (via their website) which led to the discovery of the elusive Knight Orc disc, which may well have been the only surviving copy of the game on the planet!

Finally, a couple of screenshots of the gameplay from the Master 128k version ...

KnightOrc_02_Gameplay.png
KnightOrc_03_Gameplay.png
KnightOrc_04_Gameplay.png
Attachments
KnightOrc.zip
(232.09 KiB) Downloaded 206 times
Last edited by Arcadian on Sat Sep 28, 2019 12:22 pm, edited 11 times in total.
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Re: Knight Orc (Level 9) ... yes, it actually exists!

Post by davidb » Tue Sep 24, 2019 12:53 am

Well done to everyone involved! :D =D>

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Re: Knight Orc (Level 9) ... yes, it actually exists!

Post by 8bitAG » Tue Sep 24, 2019 5:37 am

What a superb write-up. Wow... I had no idea. Like you said, it's only due to the Centre for Computing History sharing their archive of images/information online that this was spotted. Well done to all involved.

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Re: Knight Orc (Level 9) ... yes, it actually exists!

Post by daniel_gsp » Tue Sep 24, 2019 7:45 am

Yes, absolutely well done everyone! This is great news :D

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Re: Knight Orc (Level 9) ... yes, it actually exists!

Post by flaxcottage » Tue Sep 24, 2019 8:00 am

Well done, everyone involved. =D>
- John

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Re: Knight Orc (Level 9) ... yes, it actually exists!

Post by 0xC0DE » Tue Sep 24, 2019 8:12 am

=D> =D> =D>
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Re: Knight Orc (Level 9) ... yes, it actually exists!

Post by billcarr2005 » Tue Sep 24, 2019 8:32 am

Arcadian wrote:
Mon Sep 23, 2019 10:34 pm

KnightOrc-Contents.jpg
Surprised to see a mobile phone so close to delicate magnetic media! (I've had first hand experience of their destructive power - although it was then placed on top of a disc...)
Arcadian wrote:
Mon Sep 23, 2019 10:34 pm
After a few scares, with the help of Pernod, Prime, Kieranhj, scarybeasts and Tom Seddon we were able to create working images of both sides, which do appear to contain the full version of the game.
Was this line included for added jeopardy, or were there genuinely some "touch and go" moments? What method was used to extract the data from BBC to PC images?

It's fantastic to have the disc diskovered and saved! =D>
Last edited by billcarr2005 on Tue Sep 24, 2019 8:33 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Knight Orc (Level 9) ... yes, it actually exists!

Post by marcusjambler » Tue Sep 24, 2019 9:00 am

Magnificent effort fellas :shock: :D :lol: =D>


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Re: Knight Orc (Level 9) ... yes, it actually exists!

Post by rainbird rich » Tue Sep 24, 2019 10:45 am

As a former games tester at Rainbird, I was made aware of this find earlier today.

This is terrific news and a testament to the hard work and dedication made by the community in general, and the chaps here and at CHO in particular. Unfortunately, L9 and Rainbird had already parted ways when I joined TelecomSoft, so I have nothing anecdotal to add. However, I'm curious as to whom the test disk might have come from, as my colleagues have no recollection of testing that version back in the day so presumably this was via the developer's end of things, rather than the publisher's.

A great find, regardless. Well done all those involved!
Last edited by rainbird rich on Tue Sep 24, 2019 10:46 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Knight Orc (Level 9) ... yes, it actually exists!

Post by Arcadian » Tue Sep 24, 2019 11:39 am

billcarr2005 wrote:
Tue Sep 24, 2019 8:32 am
Was this line included for added jeopardy, or were there genuinely some "touch and go" moments? What method was used to extract the data from BBC to PC images?
I believe this was the chain of events:
  • After visually inspecting the surfaces of the disc (which appeared to be in good condition), Phill performed an initial scan using Anadisk on his Shuttle PC w/ 5.25" floppy, which revealed the format as 80T as suspected. However, the scan flagged a data error on Track 7 of the 'Game Disk' side.
  • Phill attempted to dump the same side using Omniflop (selecting the 80T 200k preset as opposed to using the 'autodetect format' option, to reduce the amount of drive head activity on the disc surface) but it failed/stopped on Track 7 - again, reporting a read error.
  • The attempt was repeated, with the options for 'Skip data errors' and 'Pad bad sectors with FF' checked. There were no further read errors and we succeeded in creating a full 200k image albeit with some corruption around Track 7 - which IIRC appeared to affect one of the graphical data files. We then attempted to dump the reverse side of the flippy (which contained graphical data) and thankfully, that imaged perfectly without error.
  • We then moved on to Kieran's BBC Master that was equipped with dual 5.25" drives and DataCentre. A *VERIFY was performed on Side 0 and though it failed, it bombed out on Track 11 (as opposed to Track 7) hence it was suggested that trying further floppy drive(s) might result in a successful dump. Before moving onto another station, as a precaution we manually copied all of the files from Side 0, with the exception of the ReadMe2 file - which presumably was stored on Track 11 and produced a CRC error if accessed (by this stage we were now very confident of gaining a working copy of the game, as all game data had been recovered, it was merely a text file that we were lacking).
  • Next up was Tom Seddon's BBC Model B setup with Opus Challenger. We attempted a *BACKUP from Side 0 to Drive 4 (i.e. the Challenger's RAM Disk) and ... success! The backup counter went all the way from &00 to &4F without griefing. :D The contents of the RAM drive were then backed up to a new floppy. This was in turn exported to an .SSD image using Kieran's BBC Master Datacentre setup.
  • Performing the backup incremented the disc's write access count by one (increasing it from 87 to 88) so Nigel (Pernod) used a Hex editor to restore the counter back to 87 so it matched the original release. Nigel then performed a comparison with Phill's original dump (with 'bad' seventh track) and, other than the access count [88] and bad data [marked as 'FF'] around Track 7 - there were no other differences hence we were satisfied that the .ssd image was 100% representative of the original disc.
In relation to the above, I attach snapshots of the data on each side ...
KnightOrc_05_GameDisk-catalogue.png
Game Disk - catalogue
KnightOrc_06_GameDisk-info.png
Game Disk - *INFO
KnightOrc_07_PictureDisk-catalogue.png
Picture Disk - catalogue
KnightOrc_08_PictureDisk-info.png
Picture Disk - *INFO
Last edited by Arcadian on Tue Sep 24, 2019 12:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Knight Orc (Level 9) ... yes, it actually exists!

Post by leenew » Tue Sep 24, 2019 12:21 pm

Absolutely brilliant =D>

Lee

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Re: Knight Orc (Level 9) ... yes, it actually exists!

Post by billcarr2005 » Tue Sep 24, 2019 12:47 pm

Arcadian wrote:
Mon Sep 23, 2019 10:34 pm
Level9PricePriceWithKnightOrc.png
Also as an aside, interesting to see that Scapeghost (I presume) was once called "Spook" :o

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Re: Knight Orc (Level 9) ... yes, it actually exists!

Post by KenLowe » Tue Sep 24, 2019 1:00 pm

Well done to all. Great to see another iconic L9 graphic adventure archived.

Sector backup was definitely the way to go here, since some of the files share the same physical disk sectors (I found that out when trying to archive the Lancelot adventure by extracting individual files back in The BBC Lives days). Have a look a at the starting sector for the $.GData and $.Gdata! files, for example. Both share the Starting Sector 0x0BE, even though both are different file lengths. Don't think this was a copy protection thing, as you were actively encouraged to back up the disk and convert to double sided (if you had a double sided drive).

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Re: Knight Orc (Level 9) ... yes, it actually exists!

Post by daniel_gsp » Tue Sep 24, 2019 1:08 pm

Arcadian wrote:
Tue Sep 24, 2019 11:39 am
billcarr2005 wrote:
Tue Sep 24, 2019 8:32 am
Was this line included for added jeopardy, or were there genuinely some "touch and go" moments? What method was used to extract the data from BBC to PC images?
I believe this was the chain of events:...
Talk about an immersive reading, felt like I was going through an old mistery books as I did as a kid :D

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Re: Knight Orc (Level 9) ... yes, it actually exists!

Post by lurkio » Tue Sep 24, 2019 1:12 pm

Works in JSBeeb:

Screenshot 2019-09-24 at 14.08.39.jpg

Play online:

Press the Shift key to scroll the text. Type the command PICTURE to turn graphics on.

:idea:

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Re: Knight Orc (Level 9) ... yes, it actually exists!

Post by Arcadian » Tue Sep 24, 2019 7:43 pm

Thanks Chet, feel free to upload to bbcmicro.co.uk whenever you have time! :)

Also, if you (or anyone else) can confirm whether the image contains all three 'Chapters' (Loosed Orc, A Kind of Magic, Hordes of the Mountain King) I'd be very grateful!!
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Re: Knight Orc (Level 9) ... yes, it actually exists!

Post by DutchAcorn » Tue Sep 24, 2019 7:51 pm

Thanks for sharing the story, great achievement, I love a successful archive! =D>
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Re: Knight Orc (Level 9) ... yes, it actually exists!

Post by leenew » Tue Sep 24, 2019 7:58 pm

Yeah, I guess someone is gonna have to do a play through...
I am not volunteering for this one ha ha.
I am rammed with other things at the moment :wink:

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Re: Knight Orc (Level 9) ... yes, it actually exists!

Post by iamaran » Wed Sep 25, 2019 8:09 pm

Following the solution on CASA, I can get to the end of part 1 - THROW SPEAR - but then there is a manual lookup copy protection check. "What is the word at page 5, line 8, word 5?" See screenshot.
KnightOrc.png

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Re: Knight Orc (Level 9) ... yes, it actually exists!

Post by Arcadian » Wed Sep 25, 2019 8:24 pm

Ah, hadn't even dawned on me that it might feature manual-lookup copy protection - can any master crackers reading take a look at the files?

As for the docs, there was one generic manual to cover all formats ... hopefully this will do the trick:
http://www.starehry.eu/download/adventu ... Manual.pdf

(In this instance, 'do' appears to be the word in question)

Anyway, thanks for playtesting the playtest! :)
Last edited by Arcadian on Wed Sep 25, 2019 8:28 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Knight Orc (Level 9) ... yes, it actually exists!

Post by RobC » Wed Sep 25, 2019 8:32 pm

Is this of any use?

EDIT: Oops - didn't see Dave's post...
Last edited by RobC on Wed Sep 25, 2019 8:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Knight Orc (Level 9) ... yes, it actually exists!

Post by iamaran » Wed Sep 25, 2019 8:56 pm

Arcadian wrote:
Wed Sep 25, 2019 8:24 pm
As for the docs, there was one generic manual to cover all formats ... hopefully this will do the trick:
http://www.starehry.eu/download/adventu ... Manual.pdf

(In this instance, 'do' appears to be the word in question)
That works.

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Re: Knight Orc (Level 9) ... yes, it actually exists!

Post by Arcadian » Wed Sep 25, 2019 9:05 pm

Great! I don't suppose you have a save-state from shortly before the copy protection question kicked in? If so, could you replay it up to the same point, as it'd be useful to establish if the questions vary or whether the same question is repeated ... ?
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Re: Knight Orc (Level 9) ... yes, it actually exists!

Post by iamaran » Wed Sep 25, 2019 9:40 pm

Arcadian wrote:
Wed Sep 25, 2019 9:05 pm
Great! I don't suppose you have a save-state from shortly before the copy protection question kicked in? If so, could you replay it up to the same point, as it'd be useful to establish if the questions vary or whether the same question is repeated ... ?
I absolutely do, 11 moves prior. When I reply from this save-state it's the same question. Though I guess it may be determined way before this, so starting again from the beginning is the only way to find out...

A good test as this time the barman was there so the random elements are different to last time...

It's different when playing again from the start. Asking for page 13, line 9, word 2.
Last edited by iamaran on Thu Sep 26, 2019 6:21 am, edited 4 times in total.

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Re: Knight Orc (Level 9) ... yes, it actually exists!

Post by billcarr2005 » Sat Sep 28, 2019 8:31 am

Working with the BBC Master version on BeebEM and b-Em, i found that page/line/word numbers which are displayed are stored in &11DF/E0/E1
The counter for the number of attempts is at &11E6, so this can be reset to 0 in the debugger to give infinite stabs in the dark :D
Changing the display numbers obviously doesn't alter the word which is being expected, which i presume is stored as a single byte checksum type thing similar to the Exile password protection.
As far as I could tell, the password is processed using the standard game parser, so there didn't appear to be any obvious LDA input, CMP password to disable :(
My best guess would be trying to make the password the same every time. It's easy to change it by WAITing before THROW SPEAR to produce a different variable to influence it.
I tried the same memory locations on the BBC with SWRAM version and the same details weren't there :roll:

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Re: Knight Orc (Level 9) ... yes, it actually exists!

Post by 1024MAK » Sat Sep 28, 2019 9:42 am

leenew wrote:
Tue Sep 24, 2019 7:58 pm
I am rammed with other things at the moment :wink:
That sounds painful Lee :shock:

Mark

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Re: Knight Orc (Level 9) ... yes, it actually exists!

Post by Arcadian » Sat Sep 28, 2019 12:26 pm

iamaran wrote:
Wed Sep 25, 2019 8:56 pm
Arcadian wrote:
Wed Sep 25, 2019 8:24 pm
(In this instance, 'do' appears to be the word in question)
That works.
Super, let us know if you're able to complete the game and if so, whether there are any further checks along the way. Thanks Aran!
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Re: Knight Orc (Level 9) ... yes, it actually exists!

Post by Arcadian » Sat Sep 28, 2019 12:28 pm

billcarr2005 wrote:
Sat Sep 28, 2019 8:31 am
As far as I could tell, the password is processed using the standard game parser, so there didn't appear to be any obvious LDA input, CMP password to disable :(
My best guess would be trying to make the password the same every time. It's easy to change it by WAITing before THROW SPEAR to produce a different variable to influence it.
I tried the same memory locations on the BBC with SWRAM version and the same details weren't there :roll:
Thanks for having a 'crack' at it Bill, hacking it doesn't sound straight-forward at all. At least the game is still evidently fully playable provided you have a copy of the manual to hand.
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