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Electronic Arts talks about 'enfant' CD-i

>> Tuesday, July 31, 2007

In April I posted a story about Electronic Arts and how they let go on any CD-i development in favor of their own baby the 3DO system. In 1988, Electronic Arts had their own CD-i developer, Greg Riker, and he was interviewed by "The Computer Chronicles" to talk about the vision of Electronic Arts about CD-i. They end with the line that EA planned to be a major developer for the CD-i system! Very nice video material, from, at that time, an influential source. Hosted by Stewart Cheifet, Computer Chronicles was the world's most popular television program on personal technology during the height of the personal computer revolution. It was broadcast for twenty years from 1983 - 2002. The program was seen on more than 300 television stations in the United States and in over 100 countries worldwide!

One of the reasons why CD-i never happened at Electronic Arts, may have been the fact that he moved to Microsoft in 1989: "Electronic Arts has lost a key programmer and creative talent to Microsoft. Greg Riker, formerly vice president of technology at Electronic Arts, a man who was spearheading EA's CD-I (compact-disk interactive) program, has joined Microsoft as director of development for the multimedia systems group."

By: The Computer Chronicles


'Le Monde du CD-i' loses french touch

Omegalfa about his website Le Monde du CD-i (roughly translated from french): "Many changes arrived lately at Le Monde du CD-i and I completely forgot to inform you. Le Monde du CD-i has always been open, but now at a different URL because we will change our name in a day or two (anytime soon) into "The World of CD-i". This is more or less the english version of what we were at 'Le Monde du CD-i'. This change follows the reputation of the site because english is the main language worldwide. Nobody understood the name and why the site had a french name. You don't have to re-register after our name changed. However, articles and posts will still be translated in french, and some in italian."

By: PM (both members of Yaronet CDI)


Escape from Cybercity: hard as nails

>> Monday, July 30, 2007

The Earth is under attack. "The evil Guardian's Forces are in control. Only a few continue to resist and only a you can help. Your mission is to survive the dangers of CyberCity. Fight you war to the train and destroy the Guardian's planet. Beware: Things are not what they seem... Escape From CyberCity is the first CD-interactive action adventure to utilize full-cel animation, giving the player the feel of starring in a fast action motion picture. This beautifully animated production features a dynamic, high impact soundtrack and complete interactive play." - According to Fathom Pictures, at least. But what do we think about Escape from Cybercity?

A very old title for the CD-i, Escape from CyberCity still impresses with its japanese cel-animation and fast action... even if you have to play it five times before you score a single point. It's the home version of a little seen arcade game -- I played it a few times at a Malibu Fun Center in Redwood City, California, and never got past the ''manholes'' sequence -- with just a one-time-only ''slow down'' button removed in the CD-i conversion.

CyberCity is a shooting game cobbled together from scenes from two japanese animated films, ''Galaxy Express 999'' and ''Aiedu Galaxy Express''. They've been made into a game by putting cross-hairs on the screen, allowing the player to shoot back at onscreen enemies. The game gets into a system of showing the player a street corner, waiting for a joystick move right or left to pick a path, and then shows robots, soldiers, tanks, etc., all of which the player has to quickly aim at and shoot to survive.

Where the animation doesn't have enough bad guys, the CD-i animates some characters on top of the cel-animation. Because of the choppiness of both kinds of animation, the effect works quite well -- you can tell the cars on the highway are computer-animated, but maybe not the jump-troopers.

This game is TOUGH. If you move right at the first corner, you look up to a building. One of two windows lights up and a sniper opens fire on you. If it's the left window, you've got a chance of aiming and shooting in time. If it's the right, you're in trouble.

Later on, there's an alley with a group of manholes that bad guys pop out of and throw bombs at you. It can take hours of play before you get through this sequence, even though the first one is always at the front- right or rear-left.

Once you start to get a quick trigger finger, you'll progress quickly through the game. After the manholes, the most difficult sequences in the game are a shootout in the passenger car of a train flying through space (don't ask) and the final escape sequence, which requires a lot of experimentation or help from a friend to figure out.

If you make a certain sequence of moves early on, you can actually get through the entire game in less than ten minutes. If you don't, you could end up in a loop and never get out of CyberCity. While I appreciate the fact that there are multiple paths through the game, the straight-forward path (tank, manholes, tank, highway) is too brief -- you should have to go through at least one more sequence to get out of the city. It's just too tempting to avoid near-impossible sequences like ''Skateboard City''.

The final sequence is also frustrating, and you'll probably need a hint to finish the game: the sequence of colors seen on the reactor you shoot out is the sequence of colored tunnels you need to drive the train through to escape.

Shooting with a joystick-style controller is adequate, if somewhat inaccurate and uncompelling. The game is actually better played with a trackball or even the kiddies' roller-controller. I don't know if it works with a light gun (such as the one supplied with Mad Dog McCree).

In all, "Escape from CyberCity" is an amusing laser-disc shooter, if you can hang with it long enough to get past the "manholes" sequence. It's more fluid and interesting than the static "Mad Dog McCree" series, and the variability of the game makes it less predictable than Space Ace and "Dragon's Lair". Frustrating... but somewhat fun.

Credits: Chris Adamson and Push-Start


CD-i prototype hardware from Philips HQ

>> Sunday, July 29, 2007

Finally, the story I hinted to a while back is published and that means we can dig a little deeper to the details. Because this is something special; I think it's the first time around we meet with an unreleased hardware peripheral (if we don't count the mystery around the Tele CD-i Assistant!). If you remember the picture from this post you know what to expect: This is like a combination of the trackball and the Commander/thumbstick. One innovative extra is the ability to recharge the device, so there's no need for batteries anymore. The Black Moon Project interviewed Peer Custers, working in Product Management at Philips, a "linking pin" between market and industry of Philips CD-i.

Ofcourse, Interactive Dreams jumps on the wagon to post our favourite bits in a compilation. Peer: "CD-i wasn’t only a new format, it combined other formats as well. It appeared that this confused the consumer and it was quite difficult, to say the least, to bring the message across.

In the early days of Video CD films it clearly could be noticed that the encoding technology had to be sophisticated as the compression rate was too high. This resulted in visible “blocks”. A good example for this phenomenon was the first release of the “Hunt for Red October”.

A gaming module that would fit in the DVC slot has never been seriously planned. There was this generic policy that CD-i should remain a multi-standard product, e.g. CD-Audio, Photo CD, Video CD and CD-i applications capable. At that time our IMS (Interactive Media Systems) organisation had no experience at all in games. Yes, there were games, but as I stated in an earlier interview: no interest in the design and development of real games related devices. To introduce a successful games platform one needs a dedicated organisation with staff that is hooked up to games. You should understand gamers to be able to make games.

That prototype you see on these pictures actually would have come into production were it not that at that time the decision already had been taken to stop future developments in CD-i. The prototype Steph has actually is a sample of the second Trial Run. In parallel with the controller a docking station was developed to charge the batteries. This controller was designed on one hand to better meet gamers’ requirements whilst at the same time it also could be used for generic CD-i purposes, like with the first set of CD-i controllers. The device also has been designed symmetrically in view of persons that are left handed.

The Commander might look a bit awkward, as its tip containing the IR transmitter points down. As this is unusual in the world of remote control, it needs a bit of elucidation. During various tests over time with consumer behaviour I always noticed that people tend to bend their hand down in which they hold a remote control and "shoot" at the set. CD-i however, because of its interactive nature, requires bending your hand in that position for quite a long time. And that is inconvenient as you tend to overstrain. In the designing stage I requested our design people to modify the shape of the Commander and put the nose under an angle of approx, 30° downwards.

The multitude of CD-i players was greatly a necessary evil, as we say in Dutch. First of all there was an enormous pressure on cost price as well a need to extend the product range offering the consumer a choice. Cost price reduction were obtained by developing new generations of “mother boards” as we would call them now. Integration of CD-i in TV and in audio stacks was envisaged and realised in the later phase of CD-i. Secondly there was the fact that we had to cater for a professional market as well. The professional market started to discover the benefits of a CD-i player attached to a TV in comparison of a PC with a monitor.

The CD-i player was positioned as a very versatile product: you could play your Audio CD's, you could show your photo's, you could play games, you could watch movies. All kinds of interactive applications both for the consumer as for the professional market were developed. A dedicated product (a CD player, a Photo CD player, a games machine): that was understood, but a CD-i player with all its possibilities? Interactivity: what is that? The beginning of the fall of CD-i was the fact that the consumer did not understand "interactivity". Marketing communications did not succeed in bringing the message across. Exit CD-i."

More? Click here to read the full interview!

Peer Custers was interviewed by Devin. With many thanks to Peer for answering our questions, and a debt of gratitude to Steph for his help and persistance! (c)2007 The Black Moon Project


The Making of Lucky Luke on CD-i

>> Friday, July 27, 2007

The multi-layer background of Lucky Luke was also something I never thought it would be possible on CD-i. How did SPC Vision do this rain and snow effect on CD-i? Which parts were not possible without the DVC extra memory? Lucky Luke doesn't show any full motion video, but it doesn't play with the emulator. "Lucky Luke was done in 1994/1995/1996. It uses the DV cartridge for its sound effects, which is the reason why it won't play without. The multilayer thing is relatively simple: use both CD-i planes to contain graphics, and overlay them with sprites. This requires background restoration on each frame but that was made possible by the extra memory in the DV cartridge. SPC used background erase in most other titles, which is faster. Also, I think that Lucky Luke as a 25 Hz frame rate, not 50 Hz, but I might be wrong here."

Apparently Philips used to have different plans with Lucky Luke. According to the crew it was planned to look more like Zelda than your traditional horizontally scrolling game. However, these first developments never got any far as both changed plans radically. Work on Lucky Luke started in 1994.

"It was a painful release. I will go into some detail below because it was quite typical (Dimo's Quest, Steel Machine and The Apprentice had similarly painful releases but for different reasons). I did the release handling, but PixelHazard did all the programming (Arjen and Luke had already left SPC at this point [to form PixelHazard]).

I have bugfix lists for v1.01 and v1.02 dated January 23, 1996 and March 10, 1996, respectively. These were "normal" bugfix releases, as was typical for game titles: a screen flash here, a crash there, an unplayability elsewhere, and pretty soon you have an unreleasable disc Version 1.03 had most of these fixed.

However, for version 1.03 weird, unrepeatable freezes and crashes were reported on several players, most notably Mono-II, at random points in the game. After some deliberation Philips sent us a set of driver updates to include in the disc, and this became version 1.04. This did not fix all the problems, so we switched from PCM (CDDA) music to ADPCM music for version 1.05 (at some loss in music quality), but left the driver updates in there. This turned out to be a mistake (the drives fixed some bugs but apparently introduced others), so we took them out again as requested by Philips, making no other changes; the result was version 1.06.

Version 1.06 appeared to fix the random freezes, but now we got random dirty disc messages on some players, especially the Roboco (450) with ROM version 1.1. These were very hard to reproduce; at SPC we didn't succeed at all and PIMC reported that the problem went away when they attached the NIRD (Non-Intrusive Realtime Debugger) to the player. Later, however, they could provide us with a few crash traces. We worked around the problem (some calls returned seek error codes; we just retried them in this case) and this became version 1.07 which was released to manufacturing (i.e., pressed).

The saga doesn't end there, however. Version 1.07 still has occasional crashes on some players; I won't bother you with the details. I ultimately diagnosed the problem, but a version 1.08 was never produced.

Note that after version 1.04 no changes were made to the game itself; only initialisation and music/sound effect playing. This is also typical. As an extreme case, midway during testing The Apprentice was restructured to run as two separate processes to fix a problem with the interrupt scheduling of the Mono-II players; this restructuring left the game itself largely alone.

The problems were usually related to the "extreme performance" approach that SPC took to games; the game programmers sometimes took shortcuts that appeared to be legal from the documentation but then turned out not to work on some player models due to hardware differences. After the Dimo/Steel/Apprentice releases we instigated procedures and safeguards to avoid such problems, but they were apparently not foolproof.

Anyway, we learned how to effectively debug CD-i titles on a consumer player; We were, I think, unique in this respect; on at least two occasions SPC programmers were baffled when Philips engineers had problems downloading into a consumer player, which we did quite regularly at SPC.

I can also remember the discussion about Lucky Luke being allowed to smoke or not, but I think this was quite late in the development..."

Thanks to an ex-member of SPC Vision


An unknown video mode support on early CD-i models

>> Thursday, July 26, 2007

And another story by our CD-i developers team: Charles and cdifan! "While developing Frog Feast, I (well we, hello CD-I Fan!) stumbeld on a video mode only present on Mini MMC based boards. There is a 320x224 (or 256 in PAL ) mode supported on the systems such as the 205/910, 350 and, 605. This may be present in other models, but it didn't show up, in the Frog Feast tests. This is what caused the corrupt display experience by a few people. This mode matches the resolution of game systems such as the Sega Genesis/CD and TurboGrafx 16 and, Amiga/Atari ST computer systems. I'm not sure this is a fully supported mode even on the Mini MMC based boards, as there was some pixel garbage in the lower border area, that could not be cleared out."

"If the MCD212 chip was based on a previous chipset, it may've been left over functionality from the earlier chip. There's a document somewhere that details the chips used in each CD-i model. Since the MCD212 was used in other models, the RTOS must not allow the bits to be left unset in other models.

I started investigating why Frog Feast was not displaying correctly on my CD-I 605, and was able to determine the width and height, by drawing lines. Looking into the Balboa source I found both parts of the cause, but didn't put them together. CD-I Fan replied with an e-mail containing both pieces of information, which got me looking at the Green Book again. I noticed that I had overlooked the bit in the 'reload display parameter' instruction, I'd already noticed and corrected the bits in the 'image coding method' instruction.

Although Balboa isn't a good library for game development, it does provide source code that would help a programmer understand CD-I programming. It provides the correct way to interface with the CD RTOS. Unfortunately for me, I found it too late in the process."

cdifan: "The Green Book explicitly defines the above three bits as required to be set, but does not tell you what happens if you forget to set them. Well, Charles found out the hard way: on Mini-MMC hardware you get a different video resolution; on later hardware it has no effect. I suspect that on Maxi-MMC hardware (CD-i 18x series) the effect would have been similar.

Charles actually happened to confirm both my best hopes and worst fears about using CD-i Emulator for development. He found the various tracing and debugging aids (which are much more powerful then whatever was available at the time) invaluable, but also managed to get stuck on the differences between the emulator and "real hardware" in several cases (some of which were bugs in CD-i Emulator, but others where not).

The experience has been enlightening and got me thinking about ways to support developement with the emulator. Bitwise validation of the Display Control Program was easy to add and presto, out rolled the three bits! Of course, Charles had already noticed them by bitwise comparison of DCPs from various other CD-i titles including the early Balboa version of Frog Feast, which speaks volumes about the amount of effort he must have thrown at the problem. Hats off!

About the various hardware versions... Some of this is documented in the Technical Notes series which should appear on ICDIA sometime soon. Early CD-i models used a separate decoding chip per video plane, called VSC (Video System Controller?) on Maxi-MMC and VSR (Video System Revised?) on Mini-MMC, with another chip called VSD (Video System Decoder?) used to combine the outputs of the two video planes. This chipset generation supports the weird resolutions in hardware, but I have not been able to find any software support for it. It may have been a holdover from early development or an attempt to make the chipset reusable for other purposes as well.

The Motorola MCD212 reimplemented the functions of these chips on a single chip called VDSC (Video Decoder and System Controller), and I guess in the reimplementation the "undocumented" functionality got dropped. The VDSC is used in all CD-i players from Mono-I on.

ICDIA has a Comparison table of all Philips and Philips-build consumer CD-i players listing the board types of each CD-i player; the Player Support section of the CD-i Emulator website shows the board types of each CD-i player in the tooltips; the CD-i Types section lists the chipsets used in each board type."

If you want more info: Check the forum.

By: Charles Doty, cdifan


Time-line history about Philips CD-i

We started the wonderful history of CD-i a few months back but due to the load of work the next episodes are still on the to-do list. They will be published however as soon as time permits, and meanwhile a short time-line about Philips CD-i you can read below, which is the short version of what to expect from our next history episodes. However, this list is extended with the recent developments in CD-i, like the release of CD-i Emulator and Frog Feast. To be continued!

Philips and Sony began independently to work on another derivative of CD which would combine audio, text and graphics.

The two companies joined forces to develop a draft standard at the beginning of 1985, and later that year Matsushita joined in to work on the development of integrated circuits.

The first public announcement of the new product - Compact Disc-Interactive - was made at the first industry conference convened in March 1986 to promote CD-ROM in the United States. A provisional standard (the ‘Green Book’) was issued in May.

A full functional specification of the system was issued in March 1987. CD-i discs and prototypes were demonstrated to licensees in June 1987.

The first working samples of players were distributed to developers in Autumn 1988.

Philips introduced a range of hardware options and developers’ tools to encourage small software houses to enter the industry. A package was released, aimed at users who wanted to evaluate CD-i, both through playing back existing software, and/or use the supplied software to emulate a CD-i disc. The package, launched in February 1990 in the United States, and from mid-1990 in Europe, comprised the 180 player/controller/interfaces together with a monitor, a 100 Mbyte hard disc, and basic authoring software which allowed the user to put together graphics, text and audio using a sequence editor. The price also included limited studio services for processing images and audio, as well as one place on two training courses for designers and programmers. For users who were already experienced at software development on PC systems, one of the erstwhile ‘taboo’ products — the PC Bridge — enabled video, audio and text files to be created within the PC operating system MS-DOS, and then converted to CD-i format.

The 16-bit CD-ROM based system was not promoted as a gaming platform. In advertising, Phillips highlighted the multimedia applications that the CD-i would be able to perform. Dutch electronics giant Philips, begins to introduce its Compact Disc Interactive (CD-i) technology to industrial users before marketing it as an entertainment system for consumers. It is based on CD-ROM ('Read Only Memory') technology which stores and reads information in the same way as a compact disc. CD-i systems can play audio discs and films as well as numerous other publications from computer games to illustrated encyclopaedias.

Philips sold various professional CD-i players next to the standard consumer models. Both types of players comply fully to the CD-i standard as defined in the Green Book and were based on the same CPU and audio and video ICs, but the professional players usually offered some extra features. There were professional players with an integrated floppy disk drive, parallel ports to connect a printer or ZIP-drive, SCSI-ports, Ethernet network connections or with up to 5 MB of extra RAM. Some players had a feature that enabled the users to customise the start-up screen of the player shell. Several professional players were especially made for CD-i development studios since they included input ports to connect an emulator to simulate the playback of a CD-i disc from an external hard disk for testing purposes.

Although there were various models of CD-i players, every CD-i disc performed exactly the same in terms of system speed or audio and video quality on every CD-i system. The Green Book extensively specifies how and at what speed the audio and video data should be read from the disc and parsed trough the appropriate decoding ICs. Even if a faster CPU was used in a CD-i player (which is allowed by the Green Book, but never implemented in any CD-i player) system performance would only rise slightly because the real-time retrieval of audio and video from a disc is not influenced by the processor.

By 1994, with low sales, Philips decided to alter its approach to advertising the CD-i. It was finally marketed as videogame platform. The console was redesigned to more resemble a standard gaming system. The price was lowered to $299 and a pack-in game named Burn:Cycle was included.

Philips' decision had been made too late. By this time there was heavy anticipation centered on the upcoming release of the Sega Saturn and Sony Playstation systems. Sales for the revamped CD-i were poor. In the summer of 1995, Philips began to release versions of CD-i software for play on the Sega Saturn and PC. Also in the summer of 1995, Philips announced plans to release a modem add-on for the CD-I, though there was no set date.

In the summer of 1996, Philips announced that they would be discontinuing the CD-i system. Reportedly, Philips had lost close to one billion dollars on the console since its introduction to the US.

In early fall 1996; Philips did eventually release an Internet terminal designed for use with television sets. It retailed for $329.

With a last strong breath a couple of great games were released on CD-i including the highly anticipated Atlantis: The Last Resort. This was the first and only realtime first person shooter on CD-i, created by Philips Research. However, the decision was already made to stop the media activities; Philips Media was sold to Infogrames. The dutch Philips Media publishing continued as Softmachine. They released The Lost Ride in 1998.

Infogrames released the last small bits of CD-i titles: Solar Crusade and the french version of The Smurfs (teleportaschroumpfs)

Oldergames released four prototype games on CD-i: Jack Sprite, The Crimson Ghost, Plunderball, Go and Space Ranger.

cdifan released the first working CD-i Emulator.

Rastersoft released the first homebrew project on CD-i: Frog Feast.



Dimo's Quest: Amiga versus CD-i

>> Wednesday, July 25, 2007

You know about the original version of Dimo's Quest being a game for Amiga produced by Infernal Byte Systems. After some playtime with the other games they developed I feel a lot of the same gameplay I experienced with the SPC Vision games on CD-i. I felt right at home and SPC licensed the game from a quality partner. I just figured out about the original version of Dimo's Quest a few months back. It looks the same, it plays the same. SPC just changed the theme of the game, changing the original frog "Dimo" into the kid "Dimo". The bibliographics file for the CD-i says "Game graphics and design by Infernal Bytes Germany and Eclipse". The only major change from the Infernal bytes version is the Dimo character and the background storyline. Oh and by the way the level codes for the CD-i version are in fact unique for every CD-i player because they are generated from a random seed in the NVRAM file. It's always fun to see people laboriously writing down all 51 level codes and posting them, only to have others find out that they don't work.

I always thought Dimo's Quest was an original CD-i game! Compare both screenshots and look for any differences: First, the original Amiga version by Infernal Bytes:

And then, the game how we know it, created by The Vision Factory:

Thanks to: cdifan, lemon amiga


Frog Feast CD-i: Releasedate, Price, Cover-art and the developer's story

>> Monday, July 23, 2007

I'm very excited about the official release Frog Feast CD-i is given at the Classic Gaming Expo in Las Vegas. This brand new CD-i game will launch 28th of July 2007, and above you can see the official CD-i cover. Since the existence of Interactive Dreams, we haven't been able to announce a single new CD-i game so this is all very exciting. I hope this motivates Charles and more people to develop more games on our beloved system. All important release info included. The CD-i version is an exclusive release and much more than just a conversion of the SNES version, read on why!

Oldergames (publisher): "Just in time for the 2007 Classic Gaming Expo, OlderGames is pleased to announce the commercial release of 'FROG FEAST' for the Philips CD-i. The initial run will be limited to 50 numbered copies and made available at the Classic Gaming Expo on July 28th... This product will debut and be exclusive to the show. Remaining stock will be made available the first week of August when the company returns from the show. 'Frog Feast' marks the tenth product to be announced by the leading retro-publishing company to debut at the tenth anniversary of the Classic Gaming Expo. The product will retail for $25 at the event and is available in a limited edition quantity of 50 numbered pieces. This is the latest offering of master programmer Charles Doty: FROG FEAST. This game, a tribute to the classic FROG BOG, was developed entirely from the ground up with a focus on fun, replay value, and a true love for making a great game. Control one or two frogs as you jump above the lillypads and entangle as many flies as you can using your amphibious tongue. The game is played in rounds after which your score is calculated. Whomever has caught more flies is the winner!"

The cover is labeled "DEMO/50". It says 'demo' instead of the number the published artwork will be numbered from: 01 / 50 all the way to 50 / 50. It is the complete game. Remaining copies "which I'm sure there will be" will be available on our website when we return the first week of August. Make no mistake: Frog Feast is done, and 100% complete and functional.

rastersoft (producer): "Frog Feast has been released, check the OlderGames website for more information. Thanks to all who helped test out Frog Feast for the CD-I, your efforts have helped to ensure the product should run on any CD-I player. Special thanks to: Devin, for keeping the hope of a Frog Feast for the CD-I alive. Your posts have helped motivate me to finish it. Special thanks to Omegalfa, your coverage of this game has helped push this game to completion. And, a special thanks to Bas. Thanks for the blog entries. It has helped inspire me to complete Frog Feast for the CD-I. Seeing the excitement for the project has helped out a lot."

Exclusive CD-i specific features are included like the exit feature, the pause feature, a better artificial intelligence of the fly bots, and last but not least: a credits screen! Charles: "I had never really thought about it before. There wasn't as much of a community involvement with any other release. It should be fun to add in." Personally I think this is an exzcellent addition to make the game much more complete. The last remaining bugs were typical for CD-i development caused by incompatibility issues between the variety of players. Charles: "Most of the time is now being spent fixing the remaining issues with Frog Feast, and implementing a few optimizations. I did get multi-player support working. My to-do list is currently down to:
1. Add Sound and Music.
2. Add an 'Exit' option and a credits screen.

There are probably a few additional bugs left; I intend to do quite a bit of testing over the next week. One outstanding problem is incompatibility with the CDI-350 and CDI-605 players. I got music files working on the CD-I version of Frog Feast. I tested the result on the CD-I 370, and it works correctly. I spend the most of the last two days working on getting real time files working on the CD-I. The biggest problem I had was getting master to build the file from the script. I was missing one character! I didn't put an '>' at the end of the filename. Without help from CD-i Fan I could've been stuck for awhile. Once that was working, it was easy to add support for the real time files to Frog Feast. I finally got sound effects into Frog Feast. It was quite a challenge to figure out all of the little issues to get sound to play correctly. It looks like I may not be able to have the background sound play during the game. The sound effects pause the background sound, which probably wouldn't be noticable. But, there is some latency in restarting the sound, causing a noticable silence. The game is fast paced enough that the frog, tongue, fly and water noices are almost always playing.

I've spent the entire day looking for the problem on Mini MMC based players. I cannot find a solution for the problem. I've rearranged the FCT many times, done traces on the Balboa version of Frog Feast, studied many FCTs from different games and even followed the code through the Balboa sources. The image I get, on my CD-I 605, is 320 x 224 or 256. Frustration is setting in as there is no clear answer or any direction on where to search for a solution. A 320x224 ot 256 mode is not listed in any documentations that I've seen. But thanks to CD-I Fan, the problem with Frog Feast playing on Mini MMC based players now is solved. I had already implemented part of the solution, and had tried the other part. But, I had never tried both parts. This is a big relief to have this behind me. All of the bits (3 in total) were used in the Balboa sources. Now, to implement the last part of Frog Feast, and wrap this up!"

cd-i fan: "What Charles is very tactfully not mentioning is that the wrong setting of the bits was done by sample code I provided :-( It turns out Mini-MMC hardware has some interesting undocumented features!"July 22th: Charles: "What a difference a day can make. I've gone from wondering if Frog Feast would ever work on a Mini MMC CD-i player, to feeling confident about a release. I've resolved all of the issues that I'm aware of on the CD-I version of Frog Feast. There was another issue that would've caused Frog Feast to fail on any system without a DVC cart or extra memory. I was allocating memory for sound that was 18 times bigger than it needed to be. This turned a 27k memory requirement into almost 512k. This was futher compilcated by the fact that I didn't think about the extra memory provided by the DVC cartridge. I now have one thing left, and that's displaying a credits screen. It won't be anything spectacular, but gives credit to the people that have made Frog Feast possible, and a couple of marketing weenies. (just kidding RW) :)

Frog Feast will work without a DVC. The initial problem was a bug in my code. The music and sound effects will work on any CDi player. It may run a little faster with a DVC, but I'm not sure. It was designed with systems such as the CDi 220 and 450 in mind. Additional testing was done on a CDi 605 with no extra ram or rom. The only reason the DVC is mentioned is because it hid the bug in the code.

It seems the game was inspired by Mattel's original 1982 classic Frog Bog, which also spawned an Atari 2600 version called Frogs and Flies. It seems though that Mattel itself was inspired by Gremlin's 1978 arcade game, Frogs, which utilized a background overlay. While is some ways Frog Feast is actually graphically less rich than the Mattel version(!), it's refreshing to see a homebrew game inspired by something a bit different than the norm.

CD-I Frog Feast... Waxing poetical

The journey to complete Frog Feast for the CD-I began a little over two weeks ago. In the process I've learnt more about the CD-I that I would've thought possible. It all started with a simple request for examples on using the CD-I RTOS. I had come to realize that the Balboa library wouldn't allow the level of performance I needed. For the most part, the Frog Feast development was driven by the rapid pace of implementing features. There were a few moments where I had to wonder if Frog Feast would run on all CD-I models. In the end, overcoming these frustrating challenges, provided the extra motivation needed to properly finish Frog Feast. I feel Frog Feast is a solid game for the CD-I.

Developing Frog Feast, for the CD-I, reminded me of the programmer stories I read about in ZZap! or Amiga Format. Writing much of the underlying code in 68000 assembly, and the optimizations needed to get everything running smoothly, felt like being a programmer in the early 16 bit days. I got a glimpse of the challenges faces by these early programmers. They had to overcome some pretty big issues to get their code running smoothly on these limited platforms; and doing all of this while struggling with limited documentation and early development tools. The only true answer to their problem was the challenge to overcome it. They would have had to try many solutions before they arrived at the one that did exactly what they needed. I also developed a great admiration for the few development companies that released arcade or fast action games for the CD-I. Getting decent speed on a system not designed for fast action games is a huge challenge. This is probably equivalent to developing a dos game using the BIOS: something never used in dos games.

The CD-I version of Frog Feast is, by far, the most optimized version of Frog Feast. Much of the game code was redesigned to eliminate speed issues. The low level graphics routines were optimized for speed and designed to do only one thing as fast as they can. The SNES and the FM Towns versions are the second and third on the most optimized list. The SNES version was more challenging to get working correctly, due to battling the 65816 and development tools. And, I'm not as fond of the 65816, compared to the 68000. The CD-I version has additional features not available in any other version; it has an exit option, a credits screen and, slightly better AI. The load time on the CD-I was not an issue. I thought this was going to be a big challenge. Everything that is needed, except for the credit screen and sounds, are loaded while the two opening screens are shown. The loading time only takes up part of the time displaying the screens. This version of Frog Feast has the greatest number of blog entries; which, I believe, shows the number of challenges faced developing the CD-I version.

In the end, I'm pleased with the results and enjoyed overcoming the challenges of the CD-I. I look forward to developing more games for the CD-I. For a few weeks, I had a chance to experience what it was like to be a programmer in the early days of 16 bit game development; optimizing code to overcome speed issues and, redesigning code to avoid slowdowns. I say to the CD-I, in my best Arnold voice, "I'll be back!"


CD-i Emulator front end loader developments

>> Sunday, July 22, 2007

As if the recent developments of Frog Feast aren't enough great news for the CD-i homebrew scene there have been some interesting developments in store for CD-i Emulator. With rumours of a front end extension that should keep media player PC owners happy. Just think of the MODS this could inspire! Nologic, the creator of the loader, explains: "I've been asked to create a loader for this emu, in order to get it to work with GameEx a very well renowned front end. While working on this I've come across a few issues that I feel should be addressed as soon as possible, so that I can add whatever support I can for this one of a kind Emulator...which in turn will draw more foot traffic to this site and forum...and in all likely hood increase revenue. On July 17th, I have released the loader." Unexpected developments for the readers, I didn't know this was going on! I have to admit I don't really know what a front end loader is, so maybe one of you can explain me a little?

The first version of the loader had to deal with a couple of issues, posted below. The release is yet too new for us to know which issues have been solved eventually or what still has to be done about it. Whenever we hear more, you'll hear too.

1. While launching in fullscreen the taskbar area is not occupied by the Emu...and hence not truly fullscreen.
2. While launched in fullscreen and applying stretching, the mouse control is captured and forced continually to the left.
3. While fullscreen the mouse is clearly visible, while it should be made hidden...or at the very least a completely transparent cursor should be used.
4. No command line options to send the Emu to fullscreen, nor to remove toolbar, nor apply stretching.
5. No INI file in which to save default graphical settings (fullscreen, aspect, show toolbar,...)
6. Issues with Emu not asserting its self correctly in z depth (top most window) when launched by Front end.


The Case of the Cautious Condor: Thomson's contribution to CD-i

>> Monday, July 16, 2007

In 1986, Thomson had a working prototype of the Thomcat, a "16-bit European PC." Just a little later Philips (and Sony) announced CD-i ... same idea, same CPU, same OS, and of course, Thomson was already a CD licensee. As soon as the announcement was over, within 10 minutes the decision had been made that the ThomCat would swing in behind the CD-i standard, since it solved the problem of creating a software development standard. It turned out that in 1985, Philips had offered Thomson's computer division the opportunity to participate with them, Sony, and Matsushita as part of the Green Book standard, and the head of the computer division, had turned it down, telling them "we will do our own."

Shortly afterwards, the decision was made to close the computer division entirely, and send a few top technical people from it to Los Angeles to work on CD-i which was now under his responsibility. Although they weren't part of the Green Book committee itself, they made an alliance with Microware to work on tools and a UI together, and built the first working CD-i platform in the US using the CD-RTOS extensions on top of OS9, and replacing the ThomCat's MCGA and 8-bit audio with the CD-i graphics chips and ADPCM audio chips.

the rest is history, as Thomson stopped CD-i support in 1988. Too bad, because it could have brought some interesting releases on CD-i!

Like the game "The Case of the Cautious Condor". It was in development for CD-i waaay back, even before cd-i was released. And then it was switched over to CDTV.. too bad, looked interesting. Marty Foulger, designer of Super Mario's Wacky Worlds, worked on it. It was released by Tiger Media, Los Angeles on CDTV, FM Towns and PC in 1991.

I do remember this title from way back then, since it was supposed to be released on cd-i. I wonder how much development has been done before CD-i arrived?! It would have been a nice addition to our Japanese CD-i section ;)

A short description about the game: Megalomanical millionaire Bronson Barnard has invited a select group to celebrate the maiden flight of his extravagant flying boat, the Condor. Not only champagne and caviar will be served, since Barnard knows that someone of his guest is a murderer. With your help, private eye Ned Peters must discover who the killer is. This game from Tiger Media (now Net 4 TV Corp.) was "Best Adventure, 1989" in Japan and was perhaps the best game for the Amiga CDTV. It's something that could not possibly be done on floppy disks because its major appeal is massive quantities of gorgeous cartoon graphics – the intro sequence is an amazing 15-minute cartoon film. Essentially it's a detective adventure game in which you have to guess the identity of the murderer by wandering around the rooms, eavesdropping on conversations and looking for clues. Unfortunately, the main game mechanic is the strict time limit, so your impetus for having another game is frustration at not finding out whodunnit on you last go, and it's not as much fun to play as it is to watch. But it's still a pace-setter that shows what masses of storage can do for graphics and sound.

Do you remember this game?

Thanks to Erronous and Merijn


CD-i Voyeur reviewed by Defunct Games

>> Sunday, July 15, 2007

Small notice for you that Defunct Games returned to CD-i with a third man who hopefully will feature more CD-i games in the future. I'm refering to the new Voyeur CD-i review that has been published yesterday. Thankfully Defunct Games does not forget about CD-i ;). Adam: "Voyeur has left its legacy on the industry. It is a game more known than actually played. It did have something of a cult following, however, and this led to a sequel for the PC a few years later. The original's star, Robert Culp, was apparently not turned off by this acting experience; he has since lent his talents to PC hit, Half-Life 2"

How surprising and enjoyable it was when we all heard about the news Defunct Games was going to start a CD-i review archive early 2006. Defunct is ofcourse the typical example of people trying to capture 'defunct' games and therefore reviewing CD-i games. True, we had a few comments about their first run of reviews as they ended up with a few weird scores, like 95% for Flashback and 5% for Micro Machines. I'm interested to know your opinion about this.


The Nintendo CD-i Art

>> Saturday, July 14, 2007

The most popular CD-i titles will always be the titles licensed by Nintendo. Both loved and hated, a lot of people never gave them a chance and go along with the mass opinion. Today we're following a nice story recently posted at The Black Moon Project about the art that has been used in the Nintendo CD-i games. Because there's more than meets the eye ;). Thanks to Kao (from Zeldapower) we tracked down the artist behind Link: The Faces of Evil and Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon: Rob Dunlavey. Maybe you remember the official Zelda CD-i art reproductions we presented you in a charity auction? Next Devin contacted the artist behind Hotel Mario: Trici Venola. Both beautiful artists, click on 'read more' to see more ;)

Rob Dunlavey: "I recently got some fan mail regarding background paintings I'd made back in the early 1990's for several computer games. This work is terrifically different from my current mix of more-or-less recognizable illustration/design styles. I still really love this work so I thought I'd share it with you. Back in the early 1990's, I was employed by a computer game developer in Cambridge, MA. The best work I did there were the numerous painted backgrounds for two adventure games that played on the (soon-to-be-obsolete) CD-interactive sytem made by Philips. Programming was later added to the images to allow the animated characters to walk , jump and fight on the various surfaces. The images are fairly small and in proportion with television screens The backgrounds usually scrolled with the action; seeing them in their original state in this gallery is not the way gamers would experience them. The paintings started with extensive sketching in pencil and final rendering in Painter and Photoshop. Here are some of my favorites." Do you recognize these settings from the original game?

Kao: "Artist Rob Dunlavey created the amazing background paintings which players enjoy in Link: Faces of Evil. These images started as extensive pencil sketches and ultimately became the full, digitally painted (via Wacom tablet) backgrounds you see here, by using Painter in conjunction with Photoshop. Dozens of these such paintings had to be made for all of the scenes in the game. These images are in their original, full-color palettes." As Rob sais, his work on Zelda CD-i is far different from what he usually creates. Here are a few examples of his style:

Rob Dunlavey: "The particular game was titled "The Adventures of Link: The Faces of Evil". The Link character (an adventurous boy elf) was licensed from Nintendo by Philips which was trying to break into the gaming console business. They failed a few years later. For a few years, I was able to claim Nintendo players and titles as business expenses! I have to sheepishly admit however, that I hate to play computer games, always have. This work was done at the time when 3-d computing was just starting to make an impact on the desktop game market. The games I was involved in, while pushing the 2-d technology and aesthetic were essentially "behind the curve" of where the market went. So it goes. Back then, editorial looked pretty good so I started marketing that and the rest is history! ;-)" Take a look at the pictures above and compare them with the ones below. These were used in the game, including the character, enemies and health bar:

However, these few images do not justify the complete style of Rob nowadays, and I highly recommend you to visit his extensive gallery to see more art like this. And before I forget, his images are copyrighted by Rob Dunlavey, and used here for illustrational purposes only.

Devin: "The Fantasy Factory™ developed Hotel Mario is one of those oddities that turn up in video games every so often. Even stranger is the often overlooked psychedelic level design and artwork attributable to one Trici Venola. In a tribute to the artist (...and because we failed to contact her!) we've put together an article of sorts entitled 'The Art of Trici Venola'. We found plenty of resources and some marvellous digital artwork by Trici Venola that goes some way to explain the influences that inspired the design of Hotel Mario. Although some of the artwork is quite shocking, the content is very powerful and the style should appear very familiar to those that have played the game. It's not often Black Moon fails to make contact with a CD-i developer once we've tracked them on-line, however Trici Venola has proved a slippery fish! This is probably with good reason, as some final remarks on her website state that she's 'Travelling alone and drawing everything', presumably in Turkey. The website is 'The Art of Trici Venola' where we first got excited by the passage describing her work on a certain Mario Bros game. A quick look at the credits of Hotel Mario confirmed our suspicions, this was the artist we had been looking for.

For the original site you really should visit 'The Art of Trici Venola' for further colourful pieces of her work. Described as 'L.A. - Driven Cyberart', Trici Venola tried to preserve classical painting techniques and principles when applied to the rather limited constraints of computer software. The artwork as might be expected is outlandish and definately aspires towards controversial content. None more so than the 'Monsters and Bimbos' collection, some favourites include 'California Girl' and 'Precious Little SanMo'..."
Take a close look at the picture below and find out the inspiration of Trici Venola that is used for the art in Hotel Mario. The hotel and the tree are remarkable!

Los Angeles mac artist Trici Venola is an award-winning commercial illustrator who has built game art for Mattel, Disney, Sega and the Mario Brothers. She's created art for Eddie van Halen, Paramount Pictures, Norton Utilities and two major campaigns for Apple.

Thanks to Kao, Devin, Rob Dunlavey and Trici Venola
All art images are copyrighted by their respective owners and posted here for illustrational purposes only!


Games 0-F

3rd Degree - PF Magic
7th Guest, The - Philips Freeland Studios
Accelerator - SPC/Vision
Adventure of the Space Ship Beagle, The - Denshi Media Services
Affaire Morlov, L' - Titus
Alfapet - Adatek
Alice in Wonderland - Spinnaker
Alien Gate - SPC Vision
Alien Odyssee - Argonaut
Aliens Interactive CD-i - Dark Vision Interactive
Ange et le Demon, L' - Smart Move
Apprentice, The - SPC Vision
Apprentice 2, The - Marvin's Revenge - SPC Vision
Arcade Classics - Philips ADS / Namco
Asterix - Caesar’s Challenge - Infogrames
Atlantis - The Last Resort - PRL Redhill (Philips ADS)
Axis and Allies - CapDisc
Backgammon - CapDisc
Battle Chess - Accent Media (for Interplay)
Battleship - CapDisc
Big Bang Show - Infogrames
BMP Puzzle - Circle (for ZYX)
Brain Dead 13 - Readysoft
Burn:Cycle - Trip Media
Caesar's World of Boxing - Philips POV
Caesar's World of Gambling - CD-I Systems
Cartoon Academy - Bits Corporation
CD-i mit der Maus - SPC Vision
CD Shoot - Eaglevision Interactive Productions
Change Angels Kick-off - HMO
Chaos Control - Infogrames
Christmas Country - Creative Media
Christmas Country - The Lost Levels - Creative Media
Christmas Crisis - DIMA
Clue - 3T Productions
Clue 2 - The mysteries continue - 3T Productions
Connect Four - CapDisc
Creature Shock - Argonaut (for Virgin)
Crime Patrol - CapDisc
Crow, The - Philips POV
Cyber Soldier Sharaku - Japan Interactive media
Dame was Loaded, The - Beam Software
Dark Castle - Philips POV
Dead End - Cryo
Defender of the Crown - Philips POV
Deja Vu - Icom Simulations
Deja Vu 2: Lost in Las Vegas - Icom Simulations
Demolition Man - Virgin Interactive Entertainment
Demon Driver - Haiku Studios
Discworld - Teeny Weeny Games
Dimo's Quest - SPC Vision
Domino - Wigant Interactive Media
Down in the Dumps - Haiku Studios
Dragon's Lair - Superclub / INTL CDI
Dragon's Lair 2- Time Warp - Superclub / INTL CDI
Drug wars - Crime Patrol II - CapDisc
Dungeons & Dragons - PF Magic
Earth Command - Visionary Media
Effacer - CapDisc
Escape from Cybercity - Fathom Pictures
Evidence - Microids
Falco & Donjon & The Sword of Inoxybur - BMi / Zephyr Studio
Family Games I - DIMA
Family Games II - Junk Food Jive - DIMA
Felix the Cat - Philips Sidewalk Studio
Flashback - Delphine/Tiertex (for US Gold)
Flinstones Wacky Inventions - Philips Funhouse
Fort Boyard: The Challenge - Microids
Frog Feast - Rastersoft

CD-i Games Index G-M

Go - CapDisc
Golden Oldies - SPC Vision
Golden Oldies II - SPC Vision
Golgo 13 - Japan Interactive Media
Great day at the races, A - CD-I Racing, Dove Films, Total Vision
Guignols de l'Info, Les - Canal+ Multimedia / INTL CDI
Heart of Darkness - Amazing Studio (for Virgin)
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, The - Philips Kaleidoscope
Holland Casino CD-i - HMO
Hotel Mario - Philips Fantasy Factory
Inca - Coktel Vision
Inca 2 - Coktel Vision
International Tennis Open - Infogrames
Jack Sprite vs. The Crimson Ghost - PF Magic
Jeopardy - Accent Media
Jigsaw - Novalogic
Joe Guard - DIMA
John Dark: Psychic Eye - CapDisc
Joker's Wild!, The - Accent Media
Joker's Wild Jr., The - Accent Media
Kether - Infogrames
Kingdom - The far reaches - CapDisc
Kingdom 2 - Shadoan - CapDisc
Labyrinth of Crete - Philips Funhouse
Laser Lords - Spinnaker
Last Bounty Hunter, The - CapDisc
Legend of the Fort - Microids
Lemmings - DMA Design / Psygnosis
Lettergreep - Wigant Interactive Media
Lingo - SPC Vision
Link - The faces of evil - Animation Magic
Lion King, The - Virgin Interactive Entertainment
Litil Divil - Gremlin Graphics
Litil Divil 2: Limbo Years - Gremlin Graphics
Lords of the rising sun - Philips POV
Lost Eden - Cryo (for Virgin)
Lost Ride, The - Formula (Lost Boys)
Lucky Luke - The video game - SPC Vision
Mad Dog McCree - CapDisc
Mad Dog McCree II: The lost gold - CapDisc
Magic Eraser - Circle (for ZYX)
Mah-Jong - Japan Interactive Media
Making the Grade - 3T Productions
Man Before Man - Cryo
Marco Polo - Infogrames
Mario Takes America - CIGAM
Master Labyrinth - AVM AG/HQ
Mega Maze - CapDisc
Memory Works, The - Compact Disc Incorporated
Merlin's Apprentice - Philips Funhouse
Microcosm - Philips Freeland Studios
Micro Machines - Codemasters
Monty Python's Invasion from the Planet Skyron - Daedalus CD-i Productions
Mutant Rampage - Body Slam - Animation Magic
Myst - Sunsoft (for Cyan)
Mystic Midway - Rest in pieces - Philips POV
Mystic Midway 2 - Phantom Express - Philips POV

Compact Disc Interactive

Compact Disc Interactive

Games N-Z

Name that tune - Philips Fantasy Factory
New Day - Bits Corporation
NFL Hall of Fame Football - Philips POV
Othello - HMO
Pac Panic - Philips ADS / Namco
Palm Springs Open - ABC Sports / Fathom Pictures
Pool - SPC Vision
Pinball - CapDisc
Plunderball - ISG Productions
Power Hitter - ABC Sports / Fathom Pictures
Power Match - Two's Company
Pursue - BEPL
Pyramid Adventures - Compact Disc Incorporated
RAMRaid - PRL Redhill
Return To Cybercity - Fathom Pictures
Riddle of the Maze, The - Fathom Pictures
Riqa - Bits Corporation
Rise of the Robots - Mirage Technologies
Sargon Chess - Spinnaker
Scotland Yard Interactive - AVM AG/HQ
Secret Mission - Microids
Secret Name of Ra, The
Shaolin's Road - Infogrames
Skate Dude - Viridis
Smurfen, De - De Telesmurf - Infogrames
Solar Crusade - Infogrames
Solitaire - BEPL
Space Ace - Superclub / INTL CDI
Space Ranger - Studio Interactive
Special Operations Squadron - SPC Vision
Sport Freaks - SPC Vision
Star Trek - Philips POV
Star Wars: Rebel Assault - LucasArts
Steel Machine - SPC Vision
Striker Pro - Rage
Strip Poker Live - Greenpig Production
Strip Poker Pro - Interactive Pictures
Super Fighter - The Super Fighter Team / C&E
Super Mario's Wacky Worlds - NovaLogic
Surf City - Philips Sidewalk Studios
Tangram - Eaglevision Interactive Productions
Taco's Toyroom Troopers - Creative Media
Tankdoodle - Creative Media
Tetris - Philips POV
Tetsuo Gaiden - Creative Media
Text Tiles
Thieves' World - Electronic Arts
Tic-tac-toe - BEPL
Tox Runner - ISG Productions
Treasures of Oz - Philips Kaleidoscope
Ultra CD-i Soccer - Krisalis
Uncover featuring Tatjana - SPC Vision
Uninvited - Icom Simulations
Video Speedway - ISG Productions
Vinnie the Pinguin - Pandemonium Labs
Voyeur - Philips POV
Voyeur 2 - Philips POV
Whack-a-Bubble - Creative Media
What's it worth - Marshall Cavendish Multimedia / Spice
Who shot Johnny Rock? - CapDisc
Wordplay - BEPL
World Cup Golf - US Gold
Zaak Sam, De - Toneelschool NL
Zelda - The wand of Gamelon - Animation Magic
Zelda's Adventure - Viridis
Zenith - Radarsoft
Zombie Dinos From The Planet Zeltoid - Philips POV

  © Interactive Dreams Version 5 by The Black Moon Project 2013

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