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Old 01 June 2013, 03:02   #34
Retired 1337
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Join Date: Jan 2013
Location: Paris / France
Age: 45
Posts: 65
Sinclair ZX Spectrum was lame. I had a ZX-81 with Indescamp 64 Ko memory extension and this one was good enough to learn programming. The ZX-81 was the real pioneer in personal computing. Then ZX Spectrum was released but it wasn't enough an improvement, so I bought an Amstrad CPC 464, much much better with a lot of colors, plus I had a couple of friends who also bought this one.

Games on Amstrad were even better than those I had on my second computers, a portable Toshiba Papman then another Portable Toshiba, an AT-286 (but Bard's Tale was really good), although the latters were at least four times as expensive as the CPC.

---Why Amstrad were leader in France and why they finally lost the market to the Amiga---

I agree to some extent with dlfrsilver. In France at some point (maybe 1985-1986) there was something like 80% geeks owning Amstrad CPCs (good reason enough to have one), 19% owning a mix of Thomson TO7/MO5 (not so good), Oric Atmos (really bad) and MSX (good Japanese standard stuff). There was maybe 1% owning C64s and I just don't know where they managed to buy them.

This points to the true reason why C64 didn't sell very well in France. Of course it was not that French people have bad taste - hey, they bought so many Amigas that they can't be bad! It was just that Commodore at that time didn't consider France as one of their primary objectives and they didn't bother opening a subsidiary and/or finding a good distributor/reseller here.

Later they realized their mistake and gained a little more market share but it was just too late. Amstrad already ate the market, and Atari ST was already there. So Commodore didn't repeat the same mistake with the Amiga. They finally developed the appropriate sales channels and the Amiga nearly killed Amstrad (who was trying to upgrade its user base towards its new PC line of computers) and Atari in the same blow.

---Why some people say that Amstrad games were good and others say they were bad---

There were many localized games on Amstrad. In countries having a well established C64 customer base and little or no CPC, yes some video games producers didn't bother doing something else than porting ZX Spectrum games to Amstrad CPC. Except for a few good companies with international strategies, such as Ultimate, Elite, US Gold and Ocean (great ports of arcade games under the label Imagine-the name of the game), simple ports from Spectrum were a lot cheaper to do than full redevelopments for their home markets. That's just basic marketing strategy.

Ultimate released not only the great CPC recolorized version of Knight Lore isometric 3D game (which inspired Batman and Head Over Heels by Ocean), but also Sabre Wulf, and the way underrated Gunfright, really improved as compared to the ZX Spectrum version.

On the Japanese & American arcade side, let's quote great ports such as Space Harrier (Sega/Elite), Arkanoid (Taito/Imagine), Renegade (Taito/Imagine), Ghost'n'Goblins (Capcom/Elite), Ye'Ar Kung Fu (Konami/Imagine), Strider (Capcom/US Gold), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Sega/US Gold), Kung Fu Master (Data East/US Gold), Gauntlet (Atari Games/US Gold), Commando (Capcom/Elite), Bomb Jack (Tehkan-Tecmo/Elite), Ikari Warriors (SNK/Elite), Rygar (Tecmo/US Gold)

On the other hand and for the same reason, in countries where Amstrad was the market leader, software vendors did an excellent job releasing proprietary games for the CPC. In France for instance, most games by Ere Informatique (later Exxos then Cryo Software) were just brilliant. They included Macadam Bumper, Get Dexter 1 & 2, Eden Blues, then direct ports from Atari ST of Bubble Ghost, Teenage Queen and Captain Blood. Ubi Soft released Zombi, Fer & Flamme, B.A.T, Masque and other great games. There were also Titus, Infogrames, Loriciel, Cobra Soft, and more French vendors.

Oh, and get the facts here:

One more story - a case study about Double Dragon - illustrates that a good customer base deserves good games while a bad customer base only deserves bad games. Read it here:

---Was the C64 really better than Amstrad CPC? Why do some people say that Spectrum was better?---

Hahaha the old war resumes. C64 wins of course, but the only reason of this is sound and music. Let's figure out why.

Good sound and good music, combined with just ok graphics, gave birth to the demo scene, and there was no real demo scene on the other platforms. There's a popular misconception that old crack intros with static text or simple scrolltext were at the origin of the demo scene. That's just wrong. Demos are creativity, art, expression. Printing a "cracked by" text is only boasting. So, what gave people the desire to create demos? Music, of course. And what is the best in computing? Large communities sharing the same hobbies, as a good way to make friends.

Apart from this, comparing graphics gives a small lead to the CPC, with a slightly better palette. As for the number of good games. That's where my response to the second question comparing CPC with Spectrum is a laugh. With poor graphics, few colors, poor sound, the only reason why some people believed that the Sinclair machine was better was the number of games and the gameplay. People even say that they had 800 games, wow! Eight hundred! C'mon, I had more than 1,000 on my CPC. WTF!!!

Comparing the quality of the Arcade ports also gives a lead to the CPC as compared to the poor Spectrum (unexpensive for poor people), and even often as compared to the C64.

At last powerful programming even in Basic on the CPC was a real pleasure. The system was very stable and responsive.

Still, C64 was the best thanks to sound, networking, and the scene. Period.

---What's up with these undocumented video modes on the CPC?---

I personally used the fullscreen trick back in the mid-80s so there's nothing new here. A simple call command to a ROM subroutine, yes, that's all! This combined with some basic corrections of course, in order to redress the diagonal screen display.

Explanation of these modes here:

The article says "Too bad too few graphically-heavy Role-Playing Games were produced." - but in France we had plenty of them in French language, unavailable in other countries. That was another good reason to own a CPC here.

---And what about networking? Why was C64 better with a reasonable number of BBS's?---

Because the countries where the CPC 464 most succeeded were France, Italy and Spain. In the 80's the standard of living in Southern Europe countries was lower and good modems were expensive, so France was the only country where it could have started. But it failed. BBS's were extremely rare on the CPC scene, mostly crack-oriented, with very few groups and individual crackers relying on post trading.

Any clue why it happened at all? Was France bad with technology? No, exactly the opposite, in fact. The Minitel, of course, was the cause. Here anyone could have one in paying a very small bi-monthly borrowing fee to France Télécom. So millions of French people already had a modem with access to all kinds of services, information, messaging boards, and even chatrooms like on IRC. The Minitel was a precursor of Internet available to the masses. As France was the only one country to have it, it eventually forced the country to stay apart from the others for a while, curbed the need to jump into the BBS's wagon, and later became a burden for fast Internet adoption. On the other hand, it trained a generation of good hackers. Every progress has its advantages and drawbacks.

I hope this long post has not annoyed you too much. Smart reactions and constructive critics are of course welcomed.

Last edited by n00w; 01 June 2013 at 09:03. Reason: false friend/inappropriate word in English
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