Sunday, October 30, 2022

AquAbyss on Amiga 3000

 This week saw the release of a new commercial Adventure game for the Classic Amiga called AquAbyss by developers Aged Code, which is delivered over the network your Amiga and utilises network game functionality as well!

First of all, I am sorry that I haven't been able to post any blog entries for a while. I was overseas for most of September for work, and this month has been crazy busy also with a number of global projects I am currently focused on for work.

You can purchase AquAbyss from the Aged Code website. You will need to create a login profile on the website in order to purchase the game. When you purchase it, you will receive an ID and key in your profile, along with a minimal stub installer on an ADF floppy disk image.  

The game can (in theory) run on a 68000 ECS Amiga with 2MB chip, 8MB fast memory and 15MB hard disk space. But the authors recommend 68020 28Mhz cpu minimum, and ideally an 68030 50Mhz accelerated system for the submarine journey sections.

Addressing the elephant in the room first, it seems the choice of delivering the game installation itself over the internet has caused a lot of feedback from the Amiga community on social media, with many pointing out most Classic Amiga systems don't have internet access (unless people bought these upgrades for their systems).

As someone who upgraded my Amiga 1200 (and other systems later) to be internet connected in the mid to late 1990's and all of them by the 2000's, the hardware and software has long been available to do this, even from Commodore themselves via the A2065 Ethernet Zorro card. 

From my perspective, this online requirement is no different to buying modern games or applications online via Steam, PlayStation Store, Nintendo eShop, Microsoft Store, AmiStore (AmigaOS 4 systems), etc. 

Like it or not, internet is the method of directly distributing and installing applications and games (and updates) in 2022, and which means that full sized boxed new game releases are getting very rare now, and why local game shops like EB Games are mainly selling gaming related soft toys, t-shirts and collectables nowadays...try to find a boxed PC game anywhere in 2022.

That said, I love getting new boxed games for my Amigas, C64, Intellivision, Mega 65 and other systems as well, as you would know if you follow my blog regularly. I am a huge supporter of new software, delivered as boxed products or electronic versions. There is room for both kinds of product releases on the Amiga.

Ultimately it is up to the developer how they choose to make their game available for sale.  

I think it is a bold move to encourage more Amiga owners to upgrade their computers to be connected to the internet. It opens up more opportunities for us all to play games together online using our Amigas - how awesome is that future! 

As a small detour, in 2022 there are multiple solutions to get all real Classic Amiga models online. For example, my Amiga 3000, Amiga 2000, and Amiga 4000 systems use a X-Surf 100 Zorro card, available from Individual computers, along with the latest version of the Roadshow TCP Stack. 

Most Amiga systems can use inexpensive Plipbox solutions using the parallel port, like the nicely designed GuruNet I setup previously

This can work with the A1000 too, but needs a modification before you connect it due to the port pin out being different to every other Amiga. I have not tried it on the A1000, so please proceed with caution and follow the instructions!

Amiga 500/1000 owners can also use solutions like the X-Surf 500 network add-on for the ACA500 Plus or ACA500 from Individual Computers. 

I show this on my blog connected to my ACA500 with a 030 accelerator board fitted, that was fitted to my Amiga 1000 a while ago.

Amiga 1200/600 systems can use some PCMCIA wireless cards and wired cards using drivers from AmiNet along with Roadshow (or AmiTCP if you prefer a non-commercial option).

Classic Amigas able to run with a PiStorm added to them already have wireless internet access bridged via the Pi. 

Vampire accelerated Amigas like my A1200 can also implement network solutions via the (optional) Ethernet module. Vampire 1200's are available from here with the optional ethernet module.

Even though I have shown above it can be done in 2022 for any Classic Amiga system, I understand some people choose not to do it, don't have the real Amiga systems, or can't afford to get the upgrades. 

Note: I also realise that FPGA Amiga systems like Minimig, Mister and A500 Mini don't currently have the ability to go online, but who knows - that might change!

If you don't want/can't afford to upgrade to have your Amiga system online but still want to try out this game, you could always run Amiga emulation on a modern PC/Mac/Pi 400 system to download the software, and then transfer it to your Classic Amiga hardware later on via USB, CF card, ZIP disk, serial cable transfer or some other method. Doing this means missing out on any updates or online features of course.

With the move of new games towards always connected functionality, it is clear AmigaOS is playing huge catchup in this area. We shouldn't just be reliant on platform obscurity and our internet router firewall rules protecting our Amigas...

Hopefully AmigaOS 3.2 can be further developed to include some firewall functionality, and include Amiga virus scanning (old ones) and new viruses scanning functionality (eg. scanning web based scripts, samba vulnerabilities, and realtime scanning). Also, hopefully incorporate a licensed Roadshow/AmiTCP stack, AmiSSL, licensed iBrowse (lower spec Amigas), Netsurf (high spec), and ethernet driver support with the OS to make it easier and safer in this modern world. 

Given much of this stuff already exists (except the firewall and virus scanner) anything is possible right? While I am dreaming please include default WHDLoad handling, licensed Poseidon USB stack, IMP3 mod streaming, mod and mp3 handling via Hippoplayer, AmigaAmp too :-)

Now that is an AmigaOS 3.3 version update I would love to buy! 

Ok, let's move on from the network stuff and back to the game! 

Having bought the AquAbyss software, got my ID and key and downloaded the ADF installer disk and manual, I mounted the ADF using the very excellent GoADF software on my Amiga 3000. (which runs AmigaOS v3.1.4.1)

If you use AmigaOS 3.2, you can of course mount ADF files directly. However, Superkickstart Amiga 3000 computers like mine are not supported with AmigaOS 3.2.1 at this time, so I have to remain a version behind for now.

There is a readme that explains the system requirements and network functionality - well worth a quick read.

The network functionality of the game itself is also explained, with the ability to chat with other people playing the game in real time, downloading updates directly, saving hi scores to a global high score hosted online, and even saving your game remotely, which can then be loaded onto another Amiga with the game running on it!

I think there is a lot more scope of what could be done for true multiplayer gaming using the internet connection available, and perhaps this will come in future updates?

Running the installer program from the ADF provided, you can choose German or English.

You then input your ID and key provided to you when you purchased the game

You can then choose the destination drive and folder - you can also tell the installer to ignore the disk size, which is helpful if you are running an older AmigaOS that doesn't read the partition sizes correctly.

Having chosen the path to download and install the files too, the installer then verifies that the ID and key are authorised from the internet before proceeding. All good.

At this point I couldn't help noticing the message that the internet server configuration is a Commodore 64 running GEOS!!! Seriously? 

If true, (emulated or real), I think that is awesome! My Amiga getting new release software from a C64 over the internet in 2022. Heh.

The authorisation is completed successfully and the download starts. Time for a coffee.

Download is completed and the files are also installed:

I close out the installer and launch the AquAbyss program on my Amiga 3000:

Here is the AquAbyss main menu screen:

I first drop into the options to enable the network functionality. This is in the Network sub menu.

I click on Connect to get the program to connect to the internet when it is run.

It then confirms connectivity and checks for new versions:

It now updates as Connected. You can also set it to only be used for updating the software, and not for high scores, internet save games or chatting functions.

Under the Game settings, you can also adjust the AutoSave function, language settings, etc.

Anyway, enough menus, let's get into the game!

You can choose to play in Sandbox mode where you can explore freely with no specific tasks or story to follow, or play the story mode.

To start with, I recommend the story mode, as it gives you the introduction to the game screen and how to play the game. There is also an English manual released this week. For a game like this, the manual is really needed, and it is very helpful:

Stepping into the story mode game itself, we are in 1821, in an underwater human world where we navigate to different cities by submarine! We are first introduced to Albert, who explains the situation you find yourself in.

Albert explains the game screen and how to navigate it:

Reflecting on it, the story mode explains the game world and how to navigate things well enough, so perhaps the manual is not so important.

The main areas of the Market, Shipyard, Police Station, Bar and Dock have icons on the game screen that you can select to move between them. As the game starts we are in Paris.

It quickly becomes clear that your father has not come to meet you and Albert as planned. So, Albert takes us around the town to unlock clues as to what might have happened to him. 

You can interact with the characters with a number of different sentence options which get additional clues and/or information needed to progress.

We then move to the bar based on hunches from Albert to see if we can find out some more about where the player's father has gone.

After some more conversations, Albert goes to find some more clues and asks you to stick around the bar. You can speed up time as needed. For example, if a meet up is planned for a particular time.

I won't spoil the story line too much, but a conspiracy regarding the player's father is uncovered, and Albert and yourself become targets and have to flee the city.

We board a submarine to head off from Paris towards another city.

The submarine has to be kept at a certain depth, depending on the depth of the destination city we are travelling to. Submarines have limited depth, which means not all cities are accessible until upgrades are done, or additional deeper range submarines secured.

I was initially confused about the controls for the submarine, as I am not familiar with ship coordinates to know which way I was supposed to be going!

Needless to say, I stuffed it up and guessed the wrong way. I think using coordinates is a difficult way to control the submarine. I used to suck at ship navigating games on the Amiga (Ports of call springs to mind), so it doesn't surprise me too much!

I quickly failed by going the wrong way, and I was quickly caught by the police we were fleeing from.

The graphics are excellent, with a lot of attention to detail. Considering the game works on on-AGA Amiga systems, they are very good indeed. Music is nice too, and doesn't get annoying.

I had another go, and this time managed to get to Hamburg without a problem.

You just have to get close to the coordinates and the map will tell you you are nearby. As long as your submarine can go to the depth of the city, you can enter it, as Albert explains. 

You can then get permission from the dock master to enter the city.

You get some experience points rewards for finding a new city.

You also get charged parking fees...

Albert then deserts you to go into hiding in Old York, and leaves you to it, and you are left to find your father on your own...

You can get drilling equipment for getting resources when on the move between cities, follow other traders and get contracts to deliver goods. You can also buy/sell goods based on which resources a city produces to make profit.

Always buy cheap and sell higher...just like in real life too :-)

There are upgrades at the Shipyards, but the first submarine you get can't fit them, and anyway, you need more money...upgrades vary in each city.

You also need to get licenses to trade in certain types of goods, which require experience and reputation points that you build over time. There is a lot of depth to this game.

I decided to leave the story mode at this point, and saved the game. On my return a few days later, the game was updated again with multiple new updated versions deployed! This game is very actively updated right now.

If you choose to play in the Sandbox (non-story mode) game, you start with some money (10000 Verns - the in game currency) to get going, and not much else.

Not being in story mode means we can navigate to all sections of the city whenever we want. 

You start with one submarine. You can upgrade it or trade up for other ones, but you can only have one submarine at a time:

I think the Submarine matches the one initially in the story mode, with a depth of 120 metres.

I talked to the Policeman at the Police station, but initially I had nothing much to talk about! The graphics are certainly pretty though.

I then moved to the Bar, where I can talk to everyone there, learning their names, roles, and getting information that can help me. 

Initially everyone is "Guest", but as I talk to them more, buy them food/drinks, or help them with information they want, it unlocks more information that helps you progress.

Also, offering drinks/food affects the trust level to you, and their willingness to help you with other questions.

Some people at the bar are stubborn and it takes a while to stumble across the right combination of questions and gifting to get the information you need.

Some people require me to have more experience before they will tell me anything...

But I know most of the people at the Bar in Paris now!

Moving to the map, you can arrange a voyage to travel to another city. You have to ensure you have enough fuel for that, and I suspect you need to have some cargo contracts in place to earn money to progress further.

I still need to work out how to get some contracts!

Clicking on the city name gives you some status information about how you are travelling in the game:

You can mouse up to the top of the screen to save your game - Note that the game auto saves anyway, and can do a cloud (remote) save, meaning you can continue the game from AquAbyss installed on another Amiga!

I set to work upgrading my submarine with additional cargo capacity, so I can carry more items for trading, which is an important part of this game.

I then look through the items I can buy, and try to focus on the items that the city is producing itself, since that is the way to make profits selling to other cities you visit.

I bought some fruit, and now my cargo capacity of 15 is full:

If you move the mouse to the bottom of the screen, a menu comes up allowing you to see tasks you need to complete from other characters in the game, your current items, and network chat.

This menu is very helpful, as it is easy to see at a glance what items you have, and to read/respond to network chat messages from other players that are online.

Here is the task list I have to complete - just one for the bartender in Paris:

The network chat is a great feature of the game, and allows players to talk to each other while playing the game.

I could even talk to the server admin and other online players to get some answers to some questions to get me a little further in the game.

There is more network interaction planned for player trading etc in the future. So the game will continue to evolve!

You can see which players are currently online at the same time, and also switch the view to the online global leaderboard to see how you are ranked compared to the other players who are playing the game.

It is clear I have a long way still to go to reach the level of some of the players - 33 cities to discover just to catch up to Sordan! 

I set off from Paris and travel to Hamburg, as I learnt where it was from playing the storyboard mode previously.

Once there, I sell my goods I bought in Paris, and buy up some of the local specialities in Hamburg.

The prices are shown for the cities you have discovered, which helps you to make a decision when buying/selling items.

Nipping back to the online network chat, I asked some more guidance and was told about another town called Old Danzig.

I quickly went on a voyage and found it.

More cities discovered of course opens up more trading opportunities and people to meet, more tasks and more progression in the game.

Don't forget to refuel your submarine before setting off though - you don't want to run out of fuel on the way!

The trading is involved and you do need to learn how to do it well to make progress.

I look wistfully at the submarine upgrades, which I have to earn a lot more currency before I can buy. When I want to do that, I have to sell my old one, as you can only have one submarine.

With the upgraded submarine, you can get a grabber and drilling devices to allow you to get resources from the seabed when travelling:

If you run out of fuel while moving around, if you have enough money, you can call an SOS service to get you out of trouble and supply some fuel where you are stranded.

There is a lot to AquAbyss. To be honest I have barely scratched the surface. Hopefully though you get the general idea of the flow of the game and what to expect.

AquAbyss is a detailed game, with an interesting storyline, a great sandbox mode and a network functionality that is being expended. Graphics and sound are excellent. It will be exciting to see how this game develops it's network functionality! 

That said, the game already has a lot of depth and challenge to it, and a very in-depth trading and progression system to master. It is a recommended game - yet another great new original game in 2022 for our Classic Amigas!

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