Vecalabeth – Final Version

Some years back, I decided to have a go at converting Akalabeth to the Vectrex. I didn’t much fancy learning the intricacies of Vectrex programming so instead did this using a Vectrex32 cartridge. This is an ingenious gadget that is essentially a little computer in a cartridge that takes over from the Vectrex CPU and allowed me to program in a BASIC variant. I got that working and released it on here although I doubt many people ever played it. The Vectrex32 itself never really took off as a technology. I did struggle with it’s limitations when doing the port, not something I’d expected with such a simple game, and it was quite expensive to say the least.

A year or two after that, we had the idea of doing a very small run of these cartridges as a Kickstarter reward to go with Andrea Contato’s second book about Origin – Through The Moongate Part 2. We got approval from Richard Garriott, I improved the code and after numerous covid related delays it was shipped several months ago along with the book to all the backers. I highly recommend picking up a copy of Andrea’s book if you are at all interested in the history of Origin. As for the game, the plan was always to release the final version on here at some point and it’s now available to download here + on the downloads page. The code is all in BASIC so you are free to fiddle with it and make tweaks/improvements as you see fit. Apart from the graphics routines, it’s based off the original Apple II source code and a close match to the original game. I did make some changes to the dungeon generation which would throw out unsolvable levels in it’s original form. I think Richard just picked some numbers which happened to work reasonably well with the Apple’s random number generator – there was certainly nothing in the code to ensure the levels were actually playable.

The changes to the previous Vecalabeth release include :-

All mazes are now solvable
Your lucky number is actually being used to generate the mazes and stats
Mazes are consistent, i.e. you will get the same level every time you return to it rather than a new random one
Improvements to the control responsiveness
Splash screen at the start
Monsters aren’t mirror images of the originals any more
Numerous bug fixes that were found during playtesting

It’s not something I’ve tried myself but I understand that the new PiTrex cartridges will allow Vectrex32 games to be run. This is a much cheaper alternative with many additional capabilities and should mean that more people than I expected actually get the chance to play this. I’d love to hear back from anyone that does. Getting a physical release presumably means I’m officially a game developer now, although I have to say I prefer playing games to writing them so it’s not something I’ll be making a habit of.

PC Zone Wanted List

I’ve just finished adding in all the cover disks from the recent donation. It’s plugged most of the gaps but there are still a good number of cover disks missing. I’ve drawn up a list of all the issues with missing disks which below. This list isn’t exhaustive as there was overlap between floppy/CD issues and CD/DVD issues where they were released in both formats. I’ll consider my work done if I ever get a set of one or the other for every issue but if you have any of the early CD’s/DVD’s that are missing but not on the list, please let me know and I’ll add them as well.

So for now missing disks are for issues 1,3, 7 (Disk 2), 8, 10, 11, 16, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 26, 27, 30, 33, 45, 126, 189, 217, 218, 222, 223, 224

PC Zone – New Cover Disks

It must have been over a year since I last updated the PC Zone archive on here but that’s all changing. Last week, I received the single biggest donation since I started this whole endeavour in the shape of a big box full of what must be hundreds of cover disks. Thanks very much Stewart!. I’ve started going through all these, figuring out which I’ve already done and which are missing. I’ve also been given two of the magazines that currently have only been photographed which will be getting proper scans in due course.

So far, there were a handful of floppies from the first 25 issues which have all been done and I’ve added the DVD’s for 8 or 9 of the later issues over the weekend (including the very last issue). I’ll be chipping away at the other disks in the coming weeks. The main hindrance is the lengthy upload time for these DVD’s.

I’ve previously avoided drawing up a list of exactly what I’m still missing given just how much of it there was. This is going to plug most of the gaps I expect so I’ll be putting a full list together once I’ve gone through uploading everything new. That will probably be a month or two but in the meanwhile, if you happen to have a big pile of cover disks sat around (especially anything from the very early issues), I’d still very much like to hear from you.

Ultima Patcher 1.68

As you may see in the recent comments on here, I’ve been informed that there was a virus in the last version of the Ultima Patcher. I’ve run it through an online virus checker and only 8 out of 75 algorithms were predicting a virus in the Savage Empire 2.1 upgrade added in that last version. It’s almost certainly a false positive but in the interests of not spreading anything malicious (a popular theme these days), I’ve deleted that particular patch and replace it with my own equivalent created from scratch. Everything else is unchanged and you can get the new version here.

Ultima Patcher 1.67

I was approached by “Death Strike” about adding a patch for Savage Empire to the Ultima Patcher. Apparently, the GOG version of the game contains a bug which disables the alternate ending but a later fixed version was released on the compilation CD with 7 Cities Of Gold (anyone who has ever spent time hunting for Ultimas on Ebay should be familiar with this particular CD). They created a patch to update the GOG version which I’ve added to the Ultima Patcher.

Other than that, I’ve added in the latest default installation directories which appear to have changed every time I look, updated some links and changed the Beautiful Britannia download URL. You can download the new version from here.