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Chance Or Danger?
by RRR/Oxyron

CROSS-DEVELOPMENT AND EMULATORS IN THE CBM64 SCENE

Some people praise their existence and don't want to miss them while other people share the opinion that they are satanic and coming directly from hell. In case you haven't noticed it yet, I am writing about emulators and tools supporting the so-called cross-development.

Of course this topic might have been discussed a couple of times already but it's never really out of fashion to complain about it. What's going on here and what's reason that people run crazy? Is it a chance or a danger for the CBM 64 scene?

With the various options of other computer systems emulators and cross-development has already been a topic in the scene since the middle eighties. Scenewise cross-development has made a breakthrough in the very late eighties and early nineties. And guess what? It was kinda cool and people were proud of their achievements.

The commercial sector using a popular development environment at the time. It was called PDS (Programmers Development System) and ran on a 12 MHz 286 PC! All the source code was written and compiled on the PC and then dumped to the CBM 64 via a cable to the expansion bus on the back. The CBM side of things was a cartridge running the upload/download code.

Already in the middle of the golden 80s the legendary Plutonium Crackers have crunched their releases using Apple technology. Genesis*Project did praise their logo work done in D-Paint and used in The Batcave 2 [1]. Digital Excess has released their Big VIC package [2] in 1990 which allowed to convert graphics. Quiss/Reflex has set up and used a development kit on PC to code and crunch his highly acclaimed CBM64 productions. Or the unforgotten Relax Magazine has been released using an Amiga/CBM 64 cross-development system starting in 1995 so that people could submit and edit their articles in plain ASCII format on the system of their choice (Amiga/PC/Mac/CBM64).

These are just a very few examples but if you take the time and dare to read some scrolltexts of demo productions released in the early 90s you'll often find phrases like raytracing precalculated on Amiga etc. Did people start complaining about spoiling the competition or using other technology? No, they were impressed regarding what can be done with the good old breadbox. Recently someone presented a new logo at CSDb which has been drawn using Amica Paint runned in Vice on a Wintel computer. And guess what? A quite entertaining discussion started. Let's have a look at the highlights since they reflect most arguments:

Murdock
"Nice one but lame that not painted on C64."

Deev
"Yes, because to paint something in Amica Paint on the C64, rather than the identical emulated version on a PC, takes so much more skill!"

Ninja
"Murdock: Could you also give arguments for your statement?"

Murdock
"The drummer doesn't use keyboard to play the drums, the picture painter doesn't paint on computer but paints real painting (and even sell), but yes PC is for cheating and cheating is really common today. No matter about skills. It's all about cheating. You want? Go ahead, I don't care. I do the things right because I have respect for what I'm doing."

Jailbird
"In my opinion, pixelling in emulator is quite like the same as pixelling on the C64. Technique-wise, I don't see any differences..."

The Dark Judge
"...Since I can't paint to save my life, could somebody please explain how I can cheat by using Amica Paint in an emu? Then I can finally get rid of those nasty graphicians in my group (Hein, Sander, Mirage, Compyx) and do it myself. That would ROCK!"

Deev
"TDJ, you obviously didn't try the latest version of Vice, huh? The coders recruited some wise old witch doctor who has managed to extract the souls of many great graphicians and incorporate them into the build. You simply go to the 'cheat' menu, select the graphician whose style you most admire, and your scribbles are turned into beautifully pixelled pieces of art before your eyes!"

Fabu
"Well, I don't have a C64. but I've used an original competition pro joytick on a 'real' C64 the result would be the same so I don't think it's lame. Converting is lame, yes."

Honesty
"...I think what Murdock wants to say is that more and more people use other machines to precalc or render something on other machine which isn't possible or only with lotsa time on 64. And when ppl don't have this option to do so the others had an advantage. So they can cheat with this features and raise their skills or better blend."

The Dark Judge
"We've had this discussion many many times before, and my stance stays the same: who cares? It's all about the final result, if that's good I don't give a flying fig if the creators used a C64, a PC or starving children in Asia. But that doesn't come even into play here, as he used the exact same program you would normally use on the C64, but in an emulator instead..."

Ninja
"Murdock: Both, drummer and painter, will use whatever they prefer to do their job. If a painter wants no computers, fine. If a drummer feels like experimenting with electronic devices, fine. If Fabu feels like doing C64-logos again and just has an emulator, fine too (and hooray from me!). You are free to dislike it but with what reason can you define it as 'lame'?"

Honesty
"TDJ: Hmm, the final result is what counts? Hey, when you wanna see only great and styled final effects go to resource mania machines like PC... Sure, it is equal from where the program comes if it is PC or real 64. But what is and that is the difference: people from 64 try to raise the best out from this little machine with this low resources mostly without the help of other machines! Why not then accept that people use converters and scan pictures and repaint'em a bit? They also look great and as you said the result counts, or not?"

Iopop
"Offtopic as always, but does anyone care that many games from the biggest software houses were coded on a PC? Like the stuff from the Rowlands brothers and Last Ninja 3... It's worth to mention, since I never ever heard anyone call them lame... :)"

Honesty
"Iopop: No one calls people lame using... Or is every coder doing cross development lame aswell? (ed. Well, this is definately wrong. The entire discussion started with Murdock expressing that it's lame because it was not completely developed on CBM64.) I don t think so. But there are unfair conditions using another system for rendering or converting. Nah, in end effect the same I wrote in the first post."

Sledge
"...Argh! What are you saying, Iopop? Buhuu... And here we are working like hell on the C64 to get things look cool, when our idols don't seems to care... :( No, really... It's no news that big companies used the PC for developement. And the convert-artists have always been here. Some are better than others. Ooh... Games like Street Figther II comes to my mind... Horrible. If you convert I think you can demand good results, otherwise it's no use to convert if it looks like hell..."

Honesty
"Mean it is not bad using cross development. I mean using a C64 with REU is even not the normal mode. ;) And to be honest every coder knows that the normal memory filled with 'tasm' and then with source code gives u less chances to create bigger projects aswell. So people start looking for posibilities to get more free memory to release their dreams in bit."

Well, as soon as you start upgrading your system, may it be with a simple cartridge, a REU (RAM expansion unit), a SuperCPU or you have a much more advanced version of a specific software you have an advantage in comparison with your competitions. This is given for sure. But that argument was much better back in the days when upgrading your hardware was definitely a cost factor and getting this special kind of software was almost impossible. Today good hardware has become rather cheap compared with the 80s and everybody can download all specific tools for cross-development in the WWW, may it be from homepages or FTP-sites. A good starting point is Bacchus' homepage [3] which offer links and downloads for almost all known computer systems. But this is already well known since many years.

My intention to pick up this topic was not to report about equal chances, it was merely the chances I see while using those technologies. These chances can benefit the scene. Disregarding all rumours and turning the cheer mode off let's face it the scene is not in the very best condition. The future is quite uncertain and the present partly rather grey. Fortunately there are once in a while a very few releases which add colours to the scenery. A few releases which let you smile and enlighten your day. Unfortunately those moments became rather rare.

If there's the chance that there are music composers from other systems who enter the scene and work with e.g. "GoatTracker" [4] to support the scene I'd like to invite them to participate. The very same invitation goes out to graphic artists who provide original work done with Oswald's "Project One" [5] or Oxidy's "WD Paint" [6], too, or any other graphic tool of their choice. Actually Mirage is working on a solution based on Paint.net, too. Furthermore I'd like to see coders from other systems looking for another challenge while using cross-development tools and emulators to perform their job, too. New releases bring new life into the scene. It's no secret that new releases make the entire scene more interesting.

Fact is that people using emulators are interested in the computer system, its releases and probably in the scene, too. People who can easily obtain and setup an emulator are potential candidates who can work on the CBM64 wherever and whenever they want, without the need to collect and buy some more hardware.

Emulators are a chance to raise the total number of active sceners. It's giving you the chance to perform some scene related work in your office or Internet cafes. Emulators aren't evil things only since they can support you and your work effectively. In fact emulators and cross-development tools are a real chance to add fresh blood and new talents into the CBM64 scene. Furthermore they can convince former sceners and heroes to become active again, too, even if it is on a limited activity level only. This is exactly what we need. A good balance of quality and quantity, a unique combination of past and present. Support them and don't segregate them with tools preventing that your CBM64 scene can be run on emulators!

Many thanks for your attention.

Best regards,
RRR/Oxyron.

Related links:
1) http://noname.c64.org/csdb/release/?id=689
2) http://noname.c64.org/csdb/release/?id=2860
3) http://www.fairlight.to
4) http://covertbitops.c64.org/
5) http://noname.c64.org/csdb/release/?id=17531
6) http://www.oxdsoftware.net/wdpaint/

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