New RPG for BBC model B

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PlunderBunny
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New RPG for BBC model B

Post by PlunderBunny » Tue Jul 28, 2020 9:39 pm

(Updated disk image to version 1.0.1 with disk title fix provided by user dv8)

Attached to this post is a computer role-playing game I wrote on my BBC Micro over the course of several years in the late 1980s. It requires a double-sided disk drive, and has only been tested on a 'stock' BBC Micro model B with Acorn DFS. To save your progress, you will need a separate formatted disk (the game disk can be run locked). There are some minor bugs, but the game is complete and winnable. Simply auto-boot (shift-break) to begin - full in-game instructions are included. Note that the name that appears on the first title screen is not mine.
The game is mostly textual, but drops into graphical mode for combat and in some special situations. I (humbly) think it was near commercial quality for the era, but it would never have been possible to sell it for reasons that will be obvious from the first title screen.
Some of the default keys may not make sense in an emulator - they can be redefined on the introductory screen.

I will write some (spoiler encoded) hints, technical details and commentary in additional posts. I look forward to discussion and answering any questions, although I have probably forgotten some of the details of the game. I have an additional disk of utilities, a map, and a disk of VIEW format documentation that I will post separately.

Like many other software developers that had microcomputers at home in their youth, I feel incredibly fortunate to have been born in a window of time when computers were becoming affordable and were still accessible enough that programming was encouraged. This game is therefore dedicated to my parents, whose purchase of a BBC micro proved the genesis of a lifelong hobby and career.


Gameplay Commentary
The game attempts to fuse a traditional CRPG with the extensive text and freedom of a text adventure. It is quite difficult to win for several reasons:
  1. Although the game looks like an RPG, progressing and successfully completing the game requires some text adventure style puzzle solving, with the associated text parser issues.
  2. The combat can be particularly unforgiving. The last battle is almost unfair in this respect - if you are lucky, it can be easy, but otherwise it is deadly. This is however true to the rules the game is based on.
Technical Details
The game runs in MODE 1, and is written almost entirely in BASIC, except for a small bit of assembly that is used to word-wrap text (this was the only bit of serious assembly language programming I have done - I recall the resulting code was just over 100 bytes). I designed the user interface having only seen a windowing GUI 'over the shoulder' and in magazine screen-shots, so it will seem familiar and yet disjointed. The game uses a lot of low-memory areas for game data (my original motivation for buying the Advanced Programming Guide was to get the memory map!) The disk drive is used extensively to swap code and data in and out of memory, in order to provide an experience that would not be possible otherwise. If your emulator allows it, you will find it beneficial to eliminate simulated disk access delay. I find the game interface to be more responsive at 1.5x or 2x emulator speed.

Known Bugs
  • The targeting reticle can be left on the screen (e.g. by targeting an empty tile with a spell).
  • The opponent in the final battle doesn't use its attacks properly after a few rounds of combat.
  • Some of the tiles on the edge of the final opponent's body are not considered part of the body for the purpose of determining if a player is offered the chance to attack after moving.
  • Attempting to save a game on a locked disk will display an error and then fall out to the BASIC prompt.
  • Some of the special actions don't respond properly to changes in the environment.
  • Players that resist fear in a combat round and then wait will be made to pass a fear test again in the same round.
Debug Mode
On the first title screen, press the 'R' key to enter debug mode. You will be prompted for the starting room number (by default, this is room number 2 - see the map attached to another post). In debug mode, the game behaves in exactly the same way except that the room number and the turn number are displayed in the title bar.

Incomplete Work
I would be delighted if anyone was to pursue further development on the game, or wanted to use the game engine to make a new game in a different setting. Some features I would have liked to add are:
  • A simplified combat interface - it should be possible to attack an enemy simply by walking into them.
  • An alternative (non-combat) interface that removes the menu bar and replaces it with a command-line text entry area, similar to a text adventure. This would also naturally incorporate the existing 'special' commands, and have a terminal-like auto-complete feature.
  • AMX mouse support.
  • Moving the menu bar to the top of the screen and making it look and behave like a 'proper' GUI menu bar. This would allow the text area to expand to the bottom of the screen. I suspect that sideways RAM would be required to act as a backing store to make the menus display over the text properly.
  • Sound and music. I have no ability in this area, and the game currently uses a lot of low-memory areas that are normally dedicated to sound buffers etc.
  • A custom font for the in-game text, and a slightly larger line height to ensure that there is always a gap between the descenders on one line and the ascenders on the next line.
  • ROT13 minor spoiler: Gur ACPf qb abguvat nsgre wbvavat gur cnegl. Vg fubhyq or cbffvoyr gb gnyx gb gurz, naq gurl fubhyq cebivqr pbagrkghny vasbezngvba.
  • There is a 'winning' screen, but no epilogue that ties the events of the game to the larger story. The game was intended to be just the first part in a series, but there is no character advancement like a traditional role-playing game because of the limited time-span that the game takes place in, and because I wanted to shift the game away from numbers and towards an adventure experience.
Attachments
DL1.dsd
Version 1.0.1 with disk title check fix
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New RPG for BBC model B - Map

Post by PlunderBunny » Tue Jul 28, 2020 9:51 pm

[Spoilers]
The game map. Note that this is intended for testing and for completionists/explorers - a typical role-playing game experience of the era would encourage the player to make his/her own maps.
Attachments
DL1 Map.gif
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New RPG for BBC model B - Testing Notes

Post by PlunderBunny » Tue Jul 28, 2020 9:53 pm

[Spoilers]
A file of testing notes that lists some (all?) of the special actions and encounters for each location in the game. It contains significant spoilers.
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Testing notes.txt
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New RPG for BBC model B - Utilities

Post by PlunderBunny » Tue Jul 28, 2020 9:56 pm

The utilities disk (attached), used to make the graphics and text for the game.
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DL-Utilities.dsd
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New RPG for BBC model B - Developer Documentation

Post by PlunderBunny » Tue Jul 28, 2020 9:58 pm

Attached is the developer-level documentation for the game, including a memory map. I believe the files are all Acornsoft VIEW format documents, but I don't currently have VIEW on my BBC emulator so I have been unable to check this.
Attachments
DL-Documents.ssd
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Naomasa298
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Re: New RPG for BBC model B

Post by Naomasa298 » Wed Jul 29, 2020 12:02 am

I tried running it and it gives an error complaining about the disc title ...

DL_Error.png

.. though the disc is titled correctly?

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Re: New RPG for BBC model B

Post by lurkio » Wed Jul 29, 2020 12:33 am

PlunderBunny wrote:
Tue Jul 28, 2020 9:39 pm
Attached to this post is a computer role-playing game I wrote on my BBC Micro over the course of several years in the late 1980s ...
First of all, bloody hell! :shock: :shock:

Secondly, thank you for uploading this. It looks immense and amazing.

=D> =D> =D>

Thirdly, [temporary link removed].

:idea:
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Re: New RPG for BBC model B

Post by PlunderBunny » Wed Jul 29, 2020 12:40 am

Naomasa298 wrote:
Wed Jul 29, 2020 12:02 am
I tried running it and it gives an error complaining about the disc title ...
Hi Naomasa.
I think this is a (possibly faulty) check to determine if the file system is ADFS. If you're using ADFS, you'll need to change to DFS - I'm not sure how to do this.
If you feel like short-cutting this logic to see whether the game will work, just delete lines 40 and 45 from the file "DL1" on drive 2.
Let me know how you get on.

Edit: Updated version 1.0.1 fixes this bug, but note that the game is still not compatible with anything other than a BBC B and DFS.
Last edited by PlunderBunny on Thu Jul 30, 2020 12:59 am, edited 1 time in total.

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New RPG for BBC model B - Hints

Post by PlunderBunny » Wed Jul 29, 2020 5:15 am

Some hints for playing the game. I will update this post as I think of new hints. Spoilers are ROT13 encoded.

Combat
- Use terrain to your advantage in combat - try to position your characters to block monsters in positions where they can't attack, and to allow many characters to attack one monster.
- If a character wants to move and another character is in the way, use the Wait command so that the second character can move first.
- A character can move and attack in the same round if he or she has half or more of their movement points remaining.
- Characters that are physically smaller can't move as far in a combat round, and therefore must move only a short distance if they want to move and attack in the same round.
- Get the weaker characters to use missile weapons, and have them wait in combat so that they act last in the round to finish off monsters that have been hurt by melee attacks.
- You don't have to fight every monster to win the game.
- If a weapon is dropped in combat, you must pick it up again afterwards using the Take command. It will then be automatically re-readied if it was previously readied.

Healing
- Learning how to heal is crucial (progressively larger spoilers)
i. Gur Oyhr Pelfgny Fgnss pna urny n jbhaqrq punenpgre, naq rira envfr n qrnq punenpgre, ohg vg zhfg or erpunetrq svefg.
ii. Gur Oyhr Pelfgny Fgnss pna or erpunetrq hfvat gur fgnghr va gur prageny punzore arne gur fgneg bs gur tnzr.
iii. Gb erpunetr gur fgnss, hfr gur Fcrpvny pbzznaq gb cynpr vg va gur nezf bs gur fgnghr.
iv. Lbh pna erpunetr gur fgnss zhygvcyr gvzrf.

Special commands
The parser for the special commands is very limited - it will only understand input of the form <verb> <noun> or just <verb>. If necessary, the parser will prompt for more information. If the parser does not understand what has been entered, or it is not relevant in the current situation, nothing will be displayed.

The final encounter
- General combat advice (progressively larger spoilers)
i. Balk unf zhygvcyr nggnpxf, ohg vf yvzvgrq va ubj gurl pna or hfrq.
ii. Fbzr bs Balk'f nggnpxf ner bayl cbffvoyr jura gur punenpgref ner va pregnva cbfvgvbaf eryngvir gb Balk.
iii. Balk pna bayl ovgr punenpgref pybfr gb ure urnq. Fur pna bayl pynj punenpgref pybfr gb ure gbefb.
iv. Gur npvq oerngu nggnpx vf gur zbfg qnatrebhf, ohg pna bayl or qverpgrq sbejneqf.
v. Zbir gur fgebatrfg punenpgref sbejneq gb gur bhgfvqr rqtrf bs Balk'f jvatf jurer gurl ner bayl ihyarenoyr gb fcryyf naq gur jvat ohssrg nggnpx, naq zbir nyy zvffvyr jrncba-hfvat punenpgref sbejneq bs gur urnq ohg abg nqwnprag gb nal cneg bs Balk'f obql.
vi. Gur Oyhr Pelfgny Fgnss jvyy xvyy Balk, ohg gur punenpgre jvryqvat vg zhfg uvg. Gur fgebatre zryrr punenpgref unir n orggre punapr bs uvggvat Balk guna Tbyqzbba qbrf (fcrpvsvpnyyl, gur ybjre gur punenpgre'f 'GUNP0' fpber, gur terngre gur punapr gb uvg). Gur GUNP0 fpber vf bayl ivfvoyr ba gur pbzong fperra.
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Re: New RPG for BBC model B

Post by jms2 » Wed Jul 29, 2020 8:41 am

This is a very impressive piece of work! I'm not into RPGs so playing it is a bit beyond me, but I can contribute the following:

- The background files are indeed in VIEW format.
- The game doesn't run on a Master, even if DFS is selected (this leads to the "this disk title is not ..." message).

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Re: New RPG for BBC model B

Post by PlunderBunny » Wed Jul 29, 2020 10:52 am

jms2 wrote:
Wed Jul 29, 2020 8:41 am
This is a very impressive piece of work! I'm not into RPGs so playing it is a bit beyond me, but I can contribute the following:

- The background files are indeed in VIEW format.
- The game doesn't run on a Master, even if DFS is selected (this leads to the "this disk title is not ..." message).
Thanks. I'll see if I can emulate a master with DFS and do some testing.

Edit (2): Added and then removed a comment about Master compatibility.
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Re: New RPG for BBC model B

Post by Naomasa298 » Wed Jul 29, 2020 12:06 pm

PlunderBunny wrote:
Wed Jul 29, 2020 12:40 am
Hi Naomasa.
I think this is a (possibly faulty) check to determine if the file system is ADFS. If you're using ADFS, you'll need to change to DFS - I'm not sure how to do this.
If you feel like short-cutting this logic to see whether the game will work, just delete lines 40 and 45 from the file "DL1" on drive 2.
Let me know how you get on.
No, I'm on DFS. 1770 DFS though.

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Re: New RPG for BBC model B

Post by Naomasa298 » Wed Jul 29, 2020 12:06 pm

jms2 wrote:
Wed Jul 29, 2020 8:41 am
This is a very impressive piece of work! I'm not into RPGs so playing it is a bit beyond me, but I can contribute the following:

- The background files are indeed in VIEW format.
- The game doesn't run on a Master, even if DFS is selected (this leads to the "this disk title is not ..." message).
Aha. This will be why.

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Re: New RPG for BBC model B

Post by Lardo Boffin » Wed Jul 29, 2020 12:25 pm

Looking forward to giving this a go. Need to find a non-1770 beeb out of the loft then by the sounds of it.
Adventure Language on GitHub
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BBC Master, Datacentre + HDD, pi co-proc, econet, NULA

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Re: New RPG for BBC model B

Post by jms2 » Wed Jul 29, 2020 12:53 pm

I think it may work on a 1770 FDC, it’s just that you need a Beeb not a Master.

Just thinking about it, I reckon this is a contender for “Most impressive BBC game written in BASIC”. I can’t think of anything better.

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Re: New RPG for BBC model B

Post by dv8 » Wed Jul 29, 2020 3:13 pm

The game can be coerced into running on a Master (albeit with some graphical corruption) by loading it with these commands:

?&860=13
PAGE=&1900
CHAIN":2.DL1"

The ?&860=13 command is a work-around for a bug at line 20800 that causes the disc title error:

=LEFT$($&851,?&850)

should be:

?(&851+?&850)=13:=$&851

since the title returned from OSGBPB needs to be terminated with a CR before it is referenced with $&851.

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Re: New RPG for BBC model B

Post by PlunderBunny » Wed Jul 29, 2020 9:28 pm

dv8 wrote:
Wed Jul 29, 2020 3:13 pm
The game can be coerced into running on a Master (albeit with some graphical corruption) by loading it with these commands:

?&860=13
PAGE=&1900
CHAIN":2.DL1"

The ?&860=13 command is a work-around for a bug at line 20800 that causes the disc title error:

=LEFT$($&851,?&850)

should be:

?(&851+?&850)=13:=$&851

since the title returned from OSGBPB needs to be terminated with a CR before it is referenced with $&851.
That's an impressive bit of debugging! I'll merge in your fix in case I ever do another release.

I suspect that, even if the game appears to run on a Master, it won't run properly unless the layout of the Master's low memory map is compatible with a BBC B. As an example, the game uses the top 12 bytes of the 16 byte colour mapping table to store monster positions in combat, relying on the fact that they would be unused in MODE 1. Can anyone comment on the layout of the low memory area on a Master compared to a BBC B?

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Re: New RPG for BBC model B

Post by dv8 » Wed Jul 29, 2020 11:06 pm

PlunderBunny wrote:
Wed Jul 29, 2020 9:28 pm
I suspect that, even if the game appears to run on a Master, it won't run properly unless the layout of the Master's low memory map is compatible with a BBC B. As an example, the game uses the top 12 bytes of the 16 byte colour mapping table to store monster positions in combat, relying on the fact that they would be unused in MODE 1. Can anyone comment on the layout of the low memory area on a Master compared to a BBC B?
There are some differences between the B and Master usage of low memory.
See the New Advanced User Guide in section 6.6.2 (page 116) and section 13.2.2 (pages 185-186) for details.

Your example of the colour palette table is at the same location in both machines, so that should work okay.

The two main incompatibilities I saw when quickly testing it earlier were:

1. The use of PLOT 82 to invert an area of the screen. On the Master it leaves a line of pixels behind at the diagonal of the two triangles. It may be possible to adjust the PLOT commands to avoid this, I didn't look into it further.

2. The common problem of directly loading UDGs into memory at &0C00. The Master doesn't use this memory for character definitions, instead it has a permanently exploded font in high workspace (ANDY) at &8900-&8FFF.

The only options to get this to work would be (a) define the characters using VDU23, or (b) use a small machine code routine to copy the character definitions from &0C00 to the VDU workspace at &8C00.

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Re: New RPG for BBC model B

Post by PlunderBunny » Wed Jul 29, 2020 11:51 pm

dv8 wrote:
Wed Jul 29, 2020 11:06 pm
The two main incompatibilities I saw when quickly testing it earlier were:

1. The use of PLOT 82 to invert an area of the screen. On the Master it leaves a line of pixels behind at the diagonal of the two triangles. It may be possible to adjust the PLOT commands to avoid this, I didn't look into it further.

...
Thanks for the link and the testing. I might have a go at it, but my spare time is unfortunately very limited. If anyone else has the time and the inclination, they're welcome!

Re: PLOT 82, I distinctly remember being so frustrated with trying to line up the two triangles in a way that they didn't leave a diagonal line that I wrote a little program: It drew two triangles on the screen, and allowed one to be moved with the cursor keys, so that I could see if and how it was possible to fit the two triangles together. So it might be possible to do a conditional test in the code that tweaks the position values so that the triangles are correct for either a BBC B or a Master.
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New RPG for BBC model B - version 1.0.1 with disk title check fix

Post by PlunderBunny » Thu Jul 30, 2020 12:02 am

I have replaced the disk image attached to the original posting with an updated version 1.0.1 that contains the disk title fix kindly provided by user dv8. This does not fix any of the problem with a BBC Master.

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Re: New RPG for BBC model B

Post by ChrisB » Thu Jul 30, 2020 7:26 am

Firstly - fantastic effort. This is a huge amount of effort - especially given it was written BITD.

Another potential Master issue. Some of the program names on the disk start with a minus sign. If you CHAIN them from the command line you get "bad filing system name".

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Re: New RPG for BBC model B

Post by PlunderBunny » Thu Jul 30, 2020 9:49 pm

ChrisB wrote:
Thu Jul 30, 2020 7:26 am
Firstly - fantastic effort. This is a huge amount of effort - especially given it was written BITD.

Another potential Master issue. Some of the program names on the disk start with a minus sign. If you CHAIN them from the command line you get "bad filing system name".
Thanks Chris. I'll add the filename issue to my Master compatibility to-do list.

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Re: New RPG for BBC model B

Post by tricky » Fri Jul 31, 2020 10:46 am

This looks amazing, I've only had time to go two rooms in, but it looks very polished.

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Re: New RPG for BBC model B

Post by drfloyd » Fri Aug 07, 2020 6:46 am

need to try tonight !!!

Question : does is work on Master 128 ROM 3.5 ?

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Re: New RPG for BBC model B

Post by PlunderBunny » Fri Aug 07, 2020 6:52 am

drfloyd wrote:
Fri Aug 07, 2020 6:46 am
Question : does is work on Master 128 ROM 3.5 ?
Not yet - it will display corrupted graphics and crash out to the command prompt in combat. I've fixed some of the known Master compatibility issues in an unpublished version, but I recommend you run it on a BBC B for now, as I don't know when I will finish.

Thanks.

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Re: New RPG for BBC model B

Post by drfloyd » Fri Aug 07, 2020 8:36 am

i will try with the Master and rom Model B, perhaps it will work.

it is 100% basic or with some assembler routines ????

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Re: New RPG for BBC model B

Post by PlunderBunny » Fri Aug 07, 2020 9:24 am

drfloyd wrote:
Fri Aug 07, 2020 8:36 am
i will try with the Master and rom Model B, perhaps it will work.

it is 100% basic or with some assembler routines ????
It’s 99.9% BASIC - there’s just a small assembly routine to display text. That bit seems to work ok on the Master.

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Re: New RPG for BBC model B

Post by drfloyd » Fri Aug 07, 2020 11:23 pm

i realize how stupid i am, how novice i am with BBC computers :(

I tried to run the game with my gotek... but it is not a .SSD game... So I am lost (in space ?)

ok, how can i do to launch the game ? (I have an internal CF Card)...

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Re: New RPG for BBC model B

Post by PlunderBunny » Sat Aug 08, 2020 8:34 am

drfloyd wrote:
Fri Aug 07, 2020 11:23 pm
i realize how stupid i am, how novice i am with BBC computers :(

I tried to run the game with my gotek... but it is not a .SSD game... So I am lost (in space ?)

ok, how can i do to launch the game ? (I have an internal CF Card)...
I don’t know anything about gotek - is it an emulator or a piece of hardware? You would normally run the game by pressing shift and then tapping the break key, or just by typing
*EXEC !BOOT
but If you’re using something that can only work with a ssd and not a dsd, then you are stuck - the game puts all its data files on the second side of the disk and is constantly swapping from one side of the disk to the other.

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Re: New RPG for BBC model B

Post by tricky » Sat Aug 08, 2020 9:18 am

GOTEK is a hardware floppy drive emulator, it goes through the usual disc interface, so the beeb doesn't know any difference between it and a "real" floppy.

FlashFloppy is the opensource firmware that most beeb people use and it supports .DSD as well as .SSD.

If you have a .DSD that doesn't work, but is fine in software emulators, I'm sure Kier would be happy to take a look.
Just make sure you have set your FF.CFG up correctly first. https://github.com/keirf/FlashFloppy/issues

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