Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 15th Dec 2015 00:06 UTC
Games

Commander Keen is an episodic video game developed by id Software in the early 1990s. The series focuses on the adventures of Billy Blaze, an 8-year-old boy who travels through space and assumes the secret identity of "Commander Keen". The series was successful at replicating the side-scrolling action of the Nintendo Entertainment System Super Mario Bros. games in DOS. The cartoon-style platform games are notable for their pioneering use of EGA graphics and shareware distribution, and they were some of the first games by id Software (who went on to later develop Wolfenstein 3D, Doom and Quake). The games were also exciting to the PC gaming community of the time because of John D. Carmack's smooth-scrolling graphics game engine, which first allowed smooth side scrollers on PC by only redrawing the elements of the screen that actually changed frame to frame.

Today is Commander Keen's 25th birthday. Keen was one of the very first games I ever played, and everybody I knew at the time was into Keen as well. We swapped floppies around with Keen on them, and I must've finished many of the episodes countless times. Commander Keen is part of my childhood, and a landmark in (PC) gaming.

In honour of Keen's 25th birthday, John Romero published a video today, in which he shows id Software's "port" (reverse engineering is probably more accurate) of Super Mario Bros. 3 to the PC. It was created without Nintendo's consent, and then sent to Nintendo for evaluation. The company had no interest in it, but the knowledge gained would come to use for Keen.

Fascinating.

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Comment by Drumhellar
by Drumhellar on Tue 15th Dec 2015 01:28 UTC
Drumhellar
Member since:
2005-07-12

Probably not reverse engineering. They started with a single-level game called "Dangerous Dave in 'Copyright Infringement'", then made this demo and sent it to Nintendo in the hopes that they'd be licensed to do a PC port of the game.

Very little of the code would've been directly portable, too, because of all the specialized hardware in the NES, pretty much the only thing that would've been useful would've been porting the jump physics, which are clearly wrong...

But, Nintendo wasn't interested in ports to non-Nintendo systems, seeing as how the NES was a huge success.

Edited 2015-12-15 01:29 UTC

Reply Score: 4

RE: Comment by Drumhellar
by judgen on Tue 15th Dec 2015 22:57 UTC in reply to "Comment by Drumhellar"
judgen Member since:
2006-07-12

At 1993 the NES was losing badly to the SEGA consoles, so noone would have even considered another stilled shitty DOS game as a competition. Turbograpx, Sega, Nintendo, Atari and Commodore was the only viable competition in mind... oh how wrong they were.

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: Comment by Drumhellar
by feamatar on Wed 16th Dec 2015 09:28 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by Drumhellar"
feamatar Member since:
2014-02-25

in 1993 you had the SNES not the NES, Atari and Commodore was on the verge of bankruptcy, and DOS had games like Ultima Underworld, Doom, SimCity 2000, Syndicate, Sam and Max, Might and Magic V, XCom, Master of Orion, Prince of Persia II and Lost Vikings. The age of shitty DOS games was left behind long before that year.

Reply Score: 1

RE[3]: Comment by Drumhellar
by leech on Wed 16th Dec 2015 18:24 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by Drumhellar"
leech Member since:
2006-01-10

in 1993 you had the SNES not the NES, Atari and Commodore was on the verge of bankruptcy, and DOS had games like Ultima Underworld, Doom, SimCity 2000, Syndicate, Sam and Max, Might and Magic V, XCom, Master of Orion, Prince of Persia II and Lost Vikings. The age of shitty DOS games was left behind long before that year.


A good portion of those were on the Amiga/ST as well, I know I beat Dyndicate on an A500, and Lost Vikings was on it as well. But yes Doom was one harbingers of doom for the 16/32 bit computers.

Reply Score: 2

Keen's theme song
by dpJudas on Tue 15th Dec 2015 04:08 UTC
dpJudas
Member since:
2009-12-10

Thom, you might find this youtube link interesting:

https://youtu.be/Pek_JxmPonM?t=118

It's one of the id guys explaining the origin of one of the Keen songs. I found it quite funny. ;)

Reply Score: 3

played it, don't remember...
by bnolsen on Tue 15th Dec 2015 04:33 UTC
bnolsen
Member since:
2006-01-06

played this...all i can remember is the gun and that it's a side scroller. i think viewtiful joe probably is the best of that genre to date but what do i know?

Reply Score: 2

RE: played it, don't remember...
by Drumhellar on Tue 15th Dec 2015 05:13 UTC in reply to "played it, don't remember..."
Drumhellar Member since:
2005-07-12

The Pogostick is the main attraction, in my mind...

Reply Score: 2

avgalen Member since:
2010-09-23

Cross eyed fish and extreme tuning of config.sys and autoexec.bat to get the later versions running with sound and enough memory on my first 286 and later Pentium 60

Reply Score: 2

Drumhellar Member since:
2005-07-12

You needed that much tuning on a 286?

It ran on my old 8088 without much tuning - all the way up through Keen 4 (For the later versions, I had upgraded by then)

Though, I also had an 8-bit Sound Blaster, though and I think Keen4 only ran with the pc speaker with that setup. Not sure if it was ram related or not...

Of course, one of them (Keen 3, I think) had a pit that you couldn't jump out of on the 8088 for whatever weird reason - later chips (Well, the 386 for sure) it would work...

Reply Score: 2

avgalen Member since:
2010-09-23

It was mostly the later games, after the first 3, that required almost 630 out of 640 KB free whichs was very hard with DoubleSpace/DriveSpace/Stacker on the 286 and with CDROM and audio drivers on the P60. Basically QUEMM/Memmaker were left running to optimize a lot and after that manual tuning and specialized boot menus

Reply Score: 4

Doc Pain Member since:
2006-10-08

Though, I also had an 8-bit Sound Blaster, though and I think Keen4 only ran with the pc speaker with that setup. Not sure if it was ram related or not...


If I remember correctly, 1-3 had PC speaker sound only, and 3.5 as well as 4-6 supported sound blaster. I got this successfully running on a 386 with Logitech SoundMan 16 (and for experimental purposes on a 386 with an original and first Creative Labs Sound Blaster card).

SET BLASTER=A220 I5 D1 T4

I think I should now switch on my DOS machine (yes, it's a physical machine, not a VM, 100 MHz Pentium with Sound Blaster 16, if I remember correctly) and play those games for a nice shot of nostalgia. Such computers and games remember us to the fact that there actually were computers that booted within few seconds, games loaded within seconds, and you didn't need to shut anything down before switching of... :-)

Reply Score: 2

Drumhellar Member since:
2005-07-12

That is correct - 1-3 were PC Speaker only, 4 had much better sound, but required a SB16 or Ad Lib compatible card. I don't think it ran with the original Sound Blaster card (Lemmings did, though). I may be wrong about that.

When I eventually moved from my family's old 8088-based PC clone to a Pentium 75, though, we had a newer sound card, but sadly, DOS games with MIDI music were always soooo quiet, because changing the volume never worked for me within DOS. Eventually, after I moved to Windows 98, and could change the MIDI volume, exit to DOS, and it'd work. Weird.

I suppose that's the consequences of having a pre-production model Pro Audio Spectrum card. No idea where we picked that up. I lived in Silicon Valley at the time, though, so maybe Weird Stuff Warehouse?

Reply Score: 2

Comment by Kroc
by Kroc on Tue 15th Dec 2015 10:42 UTC
Kroc
Member since:
2005-11-10

Other interesting things:

Mario Bros. / Super Mario Bros. was ported to Japanese PCs of the time: http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/hudsonmario/hudsonmario.htm

SEGA had contracted 3rd parties to write Sonic 1 ports for Amiga, Atari ST, Amstrad CPC, C64 and Spectrum; when the game proved to be a huge seller for the Megadrive, they pulled the plug. http://info.sonicretro.org/Sonic_the_Hedgehog_%28Amiga%29

Reply Score: 2

The fish ...
by aurora on Tue 15th Dec 2015 12:22 UTC
aurora
Member since:
2006-01-13

... is called dopefish! Great game ... would be nice to have a remake of it ...

Reply Score: 1

RE: The fish ...
by avgalen on Tue 15th Dec 2015 13:58 UTC in reply to "The fish ..."
avgalen Member since:
2010-09-23

I heard Lenovo made a modern version but they called it Super- instead of Dopefish ;)

Reply Score: 3

Comment by drcouzelis
by drcouzelis on Tue 15th Dec 2015 13:47 UTC
drcouzelis
Member since:
2010-01-11

FYI, all of the Commander Keen games run flawlessly in DOSBox! ;)

Reply Score: 4

Sabon
Member since:
2005-07-06

It ran/runs great in a DOS box in OS/2. Most DOS games ran better is an OS/2 DOS box because I could get more RAM than any other way.

Links for DOS was WAY better in a DOS box on OS/2. It was.a great game until Microsoft bought it and bleeped it up. I'm waiting for them to do that with Minecraft too like they did with most games they bought and then ruined and then shelved.

Reply Score: 4

Fun - but dated - even when new
by filmamigo on Tue 15th Dec 2015 18:39 UTC
filmamigo
Member since:
2010-01-12

OK, so Commander Keen was kind of fun. I spent a few days playing it. Hands down, it was the best game I ever bought off the spinning rack of $5 shareware from the office supply store...

But it SO DATED and clunky, even when it was brand new. Once you've played a game like Shadow of the Beast (1989 - Psygnosis - Amiga) games like Keen seemed as quaint as pinball or jacks. Even Lemmings featured better graphics and sound.

I never understood why people even bothered to play games on DOS machines.

Reply Score: 1

RE: Fun - but dated - even when new
by rain on Tue 15th Dec 2015 19:09 UTC in reply to "Fun - but dated - even when new"
rain Member since:
2005-07-09

Because that's the machine they had. But I agree, PCs were so behind back then. I often wonder what would have happened if things like the Amiga or BeOS had taken over the world.

Reply Score: 3

Kochise Member since:
2006-03-03

I remember the first time I played on a PC with a MCGA card, the sound was still terrible before AdLib or SoundBlaster, but dudes, Loom, Fate of Atlantis or Day of the Tentacle in 256 colors...

And then, Myst and The 7th guest blasted them all when the CD-ROM became affordable. 256 colors and CD-ROM on Atari ? Hmmm, let me guess... You have you answer, unexpandable platforms that stalled for too long or required you to buy a whole new computer to get just a few improvements.

Reply Score: 3

leech Member since:
2006-01-10

Sadly, even with VGA, CD-ROMs, etc, DOS was still a pain to work with. Atari ST/Amiga mostly allowed you to pop in a floppy and turn it on. Ha, I still remember when we were doing something on a friend's A1200 and my other friend who only had an Windows 3.1 machine would close all the windows before turning off the computer, and the friend who owned the A1200 and myself (at the time a Mega STe) asked him why he did that... his response was awesome. "Because in Windows if you don't, it will occasionally delete files" never knew if that was true or not.

Reply Score: 2

Kochise Member since:
2006-03-03

Yeah, I remembered have heard a similar story, something about when the file was read from the disk it was deleted from there, because in memory, then it had to be written back on disk before closing the file. Sure it looks completely insane now, but I guess it was mostly fud.

On the other hand, Windows 3.1 had multitasking and virtual memory, what Atari and Amiga had not at that time (or to a lesser extent on the Amiga) so I guess it was the safest way to ensure the caches were flushed to disk before shuting down the computer.

And I bet also it had something to see with parking the hard disks' heads, that again Atari and Amiga had hardly any. Myself, when I was shutting my Atari off, I kept the reset button pressed to send the reset signal to all chips and peripherals, putting them on hold.

Reply Score: 2

Konservenknilch Member since:
2015-05-23

I first encountered gaming at around that time on my mum's new 286 with a monochrome screen. First game was Prince of Persia that my dad copied from a workmate. So that was that, just making use of the work machine.

Bonus for the parents: No taking up living room space and hogging the TV ;)

And if we're being honest, piracy at that time was quite a sexy argument for home computers back then.

Reply Score: 2

filmamigo Member since:
2010-01-12

I understand, kids play on the machine their parents own. Likely a work machine doing double duty.

Don't underestimate the expansion capacity of the Amiga, or it's ability to surprise and delight with new experiences. The first time I experienced *cinematic* game play was on the Amiga. Stereo soundtracks, digital audio, photorealistic imagery. I would say it was a good ten years before I saw similar results from my Dad's PCs. As for expansion - my Amigas ran hard disks from day one. Extra memory was easy. The CPU was swapped for an accelerator. I added a CD-ROM drive to my Amiga years before my Dad's PC had one. Genlocks and video interfaces, frame grabbers, scanners, my Amiga had them all. As for multitasking -- it would comfortably multitask in 256K of RAM.

Reply Score: 1

Kochise Member since:
2006-03-03

Not everybody had the bucks to buy all these extensions when then came out on the shelves. Even though Atari and Amiga were cheaper than Mac and more capable than PC, they were still sold at quite a heavy price for a moderate income.

Even 20 MB hard drives were kinda expensive, CD-ROM reader were also, not even talking about CD-ROM writer when they were first introduced.

Reply Score: 2