When contemplating video game history, an important side of things that often gets overlooked or ignored is the public domain sector.
Here, programmers would put together often very good pieces of software, release them into the wild for free and be perfectly happy for people to distribute them as they saw fit. Such is the case with this week’s game XPoker, which was originally released via a bulletin board system, and subsequently found itself getting into the hands of all sorts of people.
Yep, yep, we’re definitely scraping the barrel a bit for “Y” games on Atari ST now. There are a lot of public domain adaptations of Yahtzee left to go… and not a lot else. So I hope you like dice.
As adaptations of the classic “poker dice” game go, the one we’re looking at today is perfectly competent, particularly when considering it was freely distributed. It would have been nice to see a multiplayer option and perhaps some more fancy bells and whistles, but as a means of enjoying Yahtzee solo on your computer, it does the job perfectly well!
The public domain and shareware sector of the 8- and 16-bit era was often a great place to find unofficial adaptations of popular board, card and TV game show formulae.
Today’s Atari ST game is a great example of this, providing a solid (if graphically unremarkable) adaptation of the classic game show Wheel of Fortune for two or three players — and including all the tools you need to build your own custom puzzles, too.
In this episode of our ongoing exploration of the Atari 8-bit’s library, it’s time to look at Omidor!
What’s that? You think it sounds a little familiar? No, you must be mistaken. This absolutely 100% original do-not-steal game originates from Compy-Shop Magazin, an on-disk magazine released regularly as an interactive catalogue for German retailer Compy-Shop. Each issue contained articles, software, games and an up to date price list for the retailer.
Check out this shameless but highly competent Amidar clone in the video below, and don’t forget to subscribe on YouTube for more!
Mandarin Software’s STOS marketed itself as “The Game Creator”, but really it was a lot more than that — it was a whole programming language based on the conventions of BASIC, meaning you could do a wide variety of things with it.
One of the showcase titles included with the STOS package was Zoltar, a simple shoot ’em up that tasked you with taking down pre-scripted waves of aliens as they swooped, bobbed and weaved around the screen. As a game, it’s not great, but it’s a good showcase of what STOS is capable of — particularly as it includes a fully functional built-in level editor!
Sometimes when you sit down in front of your 1980s microcomputer, you don’t really want to do anything particularly productive or meaningful.
If you’ve ever found yourself in this situation, you have long been well catered to, since both interactive and non-interactive demos and software toys have been part of the public domain software landscape pretty much since the earliest days of computing.
A great example of something that is fun to play with but has no real “meaning” to it is Jane’s Program, an addictive exploration of sound, colour and rudimentary physics that might be just the thing if you’ve had a hectic day!
Sometimes you feel nostalgia for something not because it was “good”, but because you associate it with happy times.
One such example of this from among the library of Atari ST games I’ve played over the years is Eidersoft’s public domain title Haunted House, a pretty terrible platform game that is essentially a take on the Jet Set Willy formula. Explore, collect things, try not to die.
Atrocious collision detection, the worst run cycle you’ll ever see and the fact it might not even be possible to actually finish the damn thing doesn’t stop me thinking quite fondly of it, however, because I will forever associate it with pleasant memories of childhood. Ahh, simpler times…