Jump to content
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...
Patrol1985

Scrolling in platformer games

Recommended Posts

I'm reading "Masters of Doom" right now and the book mentions how Keen Commander was revolutionary, because it brought scrolling to PC games (a feature previously reserved for consoles).

However, there was a 1989 platformer based on a Batman movie and it features smooth scrolling already. Why is Keen Commander considered so special then when it comes to scrolling?

Here is the Batman game, the video features Atari ST version, but I also played it on an IBM PC:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYNHiFltS3o

Share this post


Link to post

Probably because it was originally released on the Atari ST. It got ported to PC for sure, but it was initially coded and programmed for the Atari console/arcade, still making a console game at heart. Commander Keen was programed and released for DOS on the PC, not a console, making it a true PC game made-from-scratch as opposed to having been ported. I don't really know if that makes a difference, but that's my hunch.

EDIT: Then again, if this site is accurate (may very well not be) then the PC version was one of the first versions to come out, in which case my point is entirely invalidated.

EDIT 2: Found a video of it being played on PC here - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-a15TT8FBdg

Notice the major difference in smoothness. If you are asking about it being the first PC scrolling platformer then I can't argue there, but if it's about smooth scrolling then the PC version suffered quite a bit in comparison.

Share this post


Link to post

Also, how did it play on the 286/386? One thing people some times forget when looking back at games is the games run smoother on modern hardware (even if emulated).

Share this post


Link to post

Scrolling on the PC was a thorny issue, from what I recall. Smooth-scrolling games were few and far-between, and the PC had a notable disadvantage vs consoles and home computers, which all had dedicated hardware for smooth scrolling and sprites. The PC had neither, putting it on the same level as the Amstrad CPC and Spectrum (actually the CPC could do smooth scrolling, but that's another story).

In general, you got platformers with stationary screens or, at best, "fast" block scrolling on the PC, which however isn't the same as "smooth". Examples of games with "fast but not smooth" block scrolling: Ninja Rabbits, Blues Brothers, Bubble Bobble, Rick Dangerous etc. In all of those games, the screen only scrolls when you reach the edge.

In general, no matter how hard you tried, especially with CGA/EGA graphics, even "fast" scrolling looked choppy. In general, it was nearly impossible to quickly scroll in smaller increments than 4 or 8 pixels, so you could -at best- get fast but pretty choppy scrolling.

Only with the advent of VGA with its chunky display, special modes -and a lot spare CPU power by then, let's be honest- games got actual smooth scrolling, with the demoscene paving the way, of course.

Blzut3 said:

Also, how did it play on the 286/386? One thing people some times forget when looking back at games is the games run smoother on modern hardware (even if emulated).


All Keen games ran pretty well on either -actually, they were released precisely in the era where 286 and lowly 386s were the norm. Technically however, most of them would be pretty unimpressive if released on the Amiga, Atari ST or even the NES or Master System. They were at the level of a very plain 16-bit console game, or a very good 8-bit one.

Share this post


Link to post

Not strictly about PC, but I did want to share this. It's some South Korean developer's attempt at scrolling on the MSX, another platform with scrolling difficulties. This is footage of the SMS version, but they just did a straight port without introducing smooth scrolling. Probably because the game mechanics are all based on this 8 pixel scrolling puke.

Share this post


Link to post
Kirby said:

EDIT 2: Found a video of it being played on PC here - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-a15TT8FBdg

Notice the major difference in smoothness. If you are asking about it being the first PC scrolling platformer then I can't argue there, but if it's about smooth scrolling then the PC version suffered quite a bit in comparison.


Yes, now I remember that's how it looked like and scrolling is definitely inferior to Commander Keen. I had had no idea there was a diffence in smoothness between platforms but couldn't find a video of both to compare.

Blzut3 said:

Also, how did it play on the 286/386? One thing people some times forget when looking back at games is the games run smoother on modern hardware (even if emulated).


I played both games on a 286 and both played as well as they possibly could. So yeah, it seems Commander Keen truly was the first PC platform game with smooth scrolling.

Share this post


Link to post
Patrol1985 said:

I played both games on a 286...


A 286! I still have mine. It has a VGA monitor, four megabytes of RAM and a huge 30MB harddrive. Now that's a computer, eh?

Share this post


Link to post
Olroda said:

A 286! I still have mine. It has a VGA monitor, four megabytes of RAM and a huge 30MB harddrive. Now that's a computer, eh?


It's actually very powerful for a 286. I used to visit my friend who owned a 286 and he was the person who showed me Commander Keen and Batman (among other games). His computer had 1 MB of ram, a VGA card and a 25MB hard drive if I remember correctly. 4 MB of ram for a 286 sounds like an overkill :D Impressive!

Share this post


Link to post

I never had a 286. I had an Amstrad PC1512 with one (1) 5ΒΌ" single-side, single-density floppy disk drive, zero (0) hard drives, and 512 kb RAM total. The DOS' limit of 640kb was definitely enough for it!

Despite having only 512kb RAM, I generally used the ramdrive or memdrive or ramdisk or however it was called (I forgot the exact name) utility to get even less, so that I could create a virtual disk entirely in what little RAM there was, and then copy a game in that virtual disk and play it from there without it being slowed down by attempting to read from the floppy.

When I upgraded to a 386DX40 with VGA display, 4 megabytes of RAM, and a whopping 80 mb harddrive, it was like whoa. So whoa that even Keenu would have been impressed by just how whoa it was. Not only that, but it also had an Orchid GameWave32 soundcard! Wavetable General MIDI! Built-in MT-32 emulation! Soundblaster compatible! Most awesome (affordable) soundcard ever.

Share this post


Link to post

This article about EGA and VGA smooth scrolling is very revealing.

EGA and VGA has the ability to shift the view window a single pixel at a time, allowing for smooth scrolling. But not all was well: the programmers still had to get around the limitations of not having a tile-based sprite controller and blitter chip, especially in 16-color EGA and VGA modes, which were bit-planar. Even then, you needed to carefully program the EGA/VGA, in order to take advantage of this ability.

With CGA/MDA and Hercules cards, even this simple convenience was impossible. If you ask why that would be an issue, remember that most PC games until 1991 still had to support a wide array of graphics standards, including the ancient 4-color CGA.

So rather than optimizing each or at least one of the modes, most games ended up using a "minimum common denominator" type of display driver, which just accomodated for different bitplane depth, without taking advantage of special features.

I think this makes painfully obvious that the "IBM PC was not designed with video games in mind": it just brute-forced its way through them.

Share this post


Link to post

I think the bottom line here is Doom got PC famous. Ocean I don't think had any fame on the PC even if they did movie license games.

Wasn't the Japanese PC Engine a PC disguised as a console?

Share this post


Link to post
geo said:

Wasn't the Japanese PC Engine a PC disguised as a console?


Not at all. You could say it was a kind of souped-up NES, hardware wise (had a 65CS02 CPU, an enhanced 6502), with capabilities between those of an actual NES (think of the better NES games, like SMB3 and Kirby's Wonderland) and a Sega Genesis. It even had portable and CD-enhanced versions.

There were however the C64 Game System (a C64 disguised as a console) and the Amstrad GX4000 (an Amstrad CPC+ disguised as a console). Both pretty underwhelming, I must say.

Share this post


Link to post
Maes said:

There were however the C64 Game System (a C64 disguised as a console) and the Amstrad GX4000 (an Amstrad CPC+ disguised as a console). Both pretty underwhelming, I must say.

Yeah but the GX4000's packaging showed it and its controllers as spaceships, giving young children a good idea of how to make the console actually entertaining.

Share this post


Link to post

Perhaps they meant between smooth and blocky scrolling. Only rendering can be "tile based", as it refers just to a technique of rendering large platform game levels (by tiles, precisely). About 99% of traditional 2D platform games out there use tile-based rendering. And a platformer using tile-based rendering can still be smooth or blocky when it comes to scrolling[/pedantry]

Share this post


Link to post
Sodaholic said:


The music in this game is amazing, best I've ever heard.

I'm surprised no one has mentioned Dangerous Dave:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cj4HJkeQSg0

"In 1990, in the offices of Softdisk: John Carmack found out a way to get smooth-scrolling computer graphics on the PC. To demonstrate this, he and Tom Hall stayed up late into the night to copy the first level of Super Mario Bros. 3 and use John Romero's Dangerous Dave character as Mario. And Romero was supposed to be the first person who saw the demo. In the next morning, Romero found a disk labeled "Run me" on his desk and he realized that this could mean fame and fortune. That was the beginning of id Software."

Very interesting stuff. To add, apparently Nintendo rejected their offer at porting Mario games to the home PC. I feel this video proved that with some TLC, Mario 3 would have ran well on oldschool computers. It's probably a good thing this never ended up happening in retrospect, ID ended up just fine with their own works.

Share this post


Link to post

I didn't mention "Dangerous Dave in Copyright Infringement" because it was never officially released. It was more of an "engine test" than a game. Commander Keen was the first commercial game to utilize this technology.

Share this post


Link to post
GeckoYamori said:

There's a platformer out on Steam that actually lets you choose between smooth and tile-based scrolling

http://store.steampowered.com/app/267360/


I just bought it. I'd much rather play old school tile based. Sadly I think I'm one of the only people that bought it >> http://steamcharts.com/app/267360#All

I miss old graphics and not just new stuff trying to emulate old.

Share this post


Link to post
geo said:

I just bought it. I'd much rather play old school tile based. Sadly I think I'm one of the only people that bought it >> http://steamcharts.com/app/267360#All

I miss old graphics and not just new stuff trying to emulate old.




One of my favorite YouTubers did a video on this game. Looked very similar to the original Duke Nukem, which isn't necessarily a bad thing! I used to love games like Duke Nukem, Secret Agent, and Crystal Caves back in the day.

Share this post


Link to post
Olroda said:

A 286! I still have mine. It has a VGA monitor, four megabytes of RAM and a huge 30MB harddrive. Now that's a computer, eh?

My 286 had 3MB of RAM and a 12MB HD - and most people thought it was a powerhouse machine. In particular, no-one could understand why I needed that much RAM clearly I was "never going to use it".

There was this funny menu system called Windows 3.0 that I sometimes ran on it but that was really just an interface for running other programs as far as I could tell and I didn't see much point in it. All the important stuff was run under DOS. :)

Share this post


Link to post

But did you guys use "plain" dos command line? The friend I mentioned had Norton Commander installed, which was also cool back in the day :D

Share this post


Link to post

I had MS DOS (I think it was MS DOS 4), DR-DOS, and while I didn't have Windows I had GEM!

GEM was pretty cool, it came with utilities like GEM Paint which had advanced features like pattern flood fill. (You could draw a pattern in a small canvas, and then when using flood fill it'd fill it with the pattern. Much cooler than solid color flood fill.) However, it lacked the ability to save pictures to disk, the only way to save them was to print them. (And I had, of course, no printer.)

Share this post


Link to post

I remember before we got Windows (3.11 at the time) we used some version of OS/2 and dos 5. Good times. Spent a lot of time using DCK to make doom maps when I was a kid. :D

Share this post


Link to post

I played a little with dosshell, but it seemed very similar to windows 3.11 to me. To be honest I don't know how windows 3.11 was superior. Probably due to some windows specific applications.

Share this post


Link to post
AgentSpork said:

One of my favorite YouTubers did a video on this game. Looked very similar to the original Duke Nukem, which isn't necessarily a bad thing! I used to love games like Duke Nukem, Secret Agent, and Crystal Caves back in the day.

Ah yes, I love Lazy game reviews!

Share this post


Link to post

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×