RISC World

Games World

Dafyd McFlanders with the latest gaming news

You may well have noticed that the GamesWorld column has been missing from the last couple of RISC Worlds, and you may ask why? Well there is no point having a column for gamers, when there is nothing to write about. Still in the last couple of months things have picked up quite a bit so its time for GamesWorld to be resurrected.

NetChess - Colin Granville

This is a very interesting idea that we only recently came across. I am sure that many people are aware of e-mail games, and instant messaging. Well NetChess sort of combines the two, now you can play chess over the internet against a real human. Although Chess programs can be very very clever, nothing beats a genuine one on one battle between two players. In order to use NetChess you need an internet connection. Then you can log onto a chess server, beware, some are free and some cost money. Then find a player and away you go. Not only can NetChess allow two players to play the game, but it can also show past matches from a chess servers database, as well as give real time lectures on how to play. A copy of NetChess is on this CD. The application is shareware, which means if you use it for more than 30 days you must register. Remember registering software is what keeps RISC OS development going!

NetChess in action

We are so impressed with NetChess that we have incorporated the HTML manual into this issue of RISC World, you can read it here. NetChess comes very highly recommended.

Paul Johnsons Unix Ports

Paul Johnson is a prolific RISC OS author, and has now turned his hand to porting a number of Unix games to RISC OS. So in a GamesWorld first we though we would get him to write about them himself, so Paul it's over to you.

Over the past couple of months, we have seen a number of very important RISC OS ports of Unix software become available from Peter Naulls and Ian Jaffrey (amongst others) utilising the new version of the GCC compiler which can be used both under RISC OS natively or as a cross compiler under Linux. While these are in no doubt much needed, it has left a bit of a gap in what we all like to do in our spare time and that's to play games!

In the past, the RISC OS market has always had a plethora of major productivity applications (Impression, Artworks, Vantage to name but three) with the games market being supported by RCI and ProAction. However, very few games have been released in the past couple of years, so, armed with the latest version of GCC on my Linux machine, and spurred on by RISC Station and the VirtualAcorn crew, I have embarked on an ambitious series of ports and conversions to get some desperately needed games over for us to play with.

Porting and Conversion - the difference.

While this does not hold true and fast for all cases, the following can usually be applied. If the original program is in a different language than the new version (for instance, the source files for my C the WIMP series in Archive were originally in BASIC, mine are in C), it has been converted. If the original program is in the same language on a different machine (the original program was written in FORTRAN say) then it will be ported over to a new machine (assuming there is a compiler for that language on the new machine). If a program is in a different language and platform than the one it is being placed onto (Football Manager was written in ZX-BASIC for the ZX Spectrum, the RISC OS version is in C++ for RISC OS machines), it is a conversion.

There is a cross over between a port and conversion when you have to implement a platform specific operation into the code. For instance, under RISC OS, there is no kbhit() or getch() (available from the conio library). To get around this, a RISC OS specific version can be written to do the same, in effect, the function has been converted.

Porting Problems

Porting a text based adventure is not that difficult. What causes problems are the likes of file handling (though this can be gotten around using a function available in Unixlib) and unavailable/unsupported libraries. Strangely unavailable libraries are not as bad as unsupported ones. Take the RISC OS version of conio. The author cannot fully support it due to no longer having the source code. RISCOS_Lib is in limbo and Desk has recently been brought back to life. Unfortunately, none of these are much use when porting!

The version of ncurses (a useful library for text based operations) currently available to the public is rather old. The newer version available to other platforms contains many new functions and bug fixes. GLib is not publically available and GTK+ is "being worked on".

These libraries are essential for getting more games over to RISC OS. If we had GTK+, we would have FreeCiv (a Civilisation clone) and a plethora of other applications (such as Gnumeric - the GPL spreadsheet fully capable of using Excel files) or Abiword (a GPL app which takes Word files).

But less of that - what of the games.

Currently, I have ported 4 adventures, libRPG (a library for adventure games) with another two awaiting completion. I have also been given the go ahead to do a full blown conversion of the classic 8 bit game, Football Manager.

Why adventures? Simply put, they're quick and simple to do! Plus, I personally enjoy playing them. All four are on this CD.

Colossal Adventure

This was previously known as Adventure1 and has been around since the very early days of computing, it's seen many changes of language (from BCPL, FORTRAN, FORTH and C - there is even a CGI and Java version!) and must go down as a game available for just about every platform ever created (I'm excluding the likes of games machines here). It is a simple text based adventure with many locations, lots of puzzles and plenty of ways to die!


AberMUD is a Multi User Dungeon system from Aberyswth University. MUDs have had a very bad press due to large phone bills cropping up when they originally were created and people had to dial in on slow modems, using slow servers and all in the name of playing Dungeons and Dragons over a network. This stigma still remains with some.

Of course, with unmetered access and lightning fast servers, MUDs are very much becoming very popular. AberMUD comes as a client (you use it) with a few other bits thrown in. I must admit that when I tested the software with an online MUD server, I intended to try it for 30 minutes or so. I was on for just over 4 hours...

The Rise of the Damned

Another simple adventure. Nothing to write home about.


World has been available for quite a while on the IF archives at for RISC OS. I didn't know that. However, it was a quick and simple port and taught me quite a few of the downfalls of porting.

C has been with us for quite a number of years and prior to it's standardization, was written in a very odd style which assumed a number of things. While they will compile on a modern compiler, these old style C source files can lead to problems.

For instance, a function call may be


With the corresponding function (in a different source file) being written as

     int n1;
     long n2;
     char *v;
     short n3;

the return type is assumed to be int (though it need not be). It is not obvious what the arguments are from the calling function.


Adventure is actually in two parts. A very simple game and the RPG library used to create it. My main reason for this port is that I've seen quite a few games which rely on the RPG library and they have all been very impressive. Okay, they are the games I've released. But what of the games that are being worked on?


Dopewars is an online adventure where you are a drugs merchant in New York during the 1970s. It has everything you would expect of an adventure, with the ability to interact with other pushers, cops, thieves, gun runners and other general low-life.

The game can also be played as single player adventure, but this is very dull indeed. With material like this, it will obviously be for those over 18. Dopewars is approaching completion, but won't be available for a time.


Crawl is another Dungeons adventure which has been around now for quite a while. It is hugely complex with multiple plot layers, different storylines being played out by the computer, roaming bandits, magicians and other such characters. As with Dopewars, the software is close to completion.

Football Manager

Anyone who either had a ZX Spectrum, BBC B, Oric 1, Dragon32, C64 or just about any of the 1980s home micros, will know Football Manager. Either because it was the first graphical football management game or for Kevin Toms' huge cheesy grin adorning the cover of every copy sold!

If you've not played it, get hold of a Speccy emulator and play it. It is strangely addictive... I can't say *why* it's addictive, the graphics are 8x8 bit stick graphics, the game play is terribly slow, the teams are unrealistic, the skill levels aren't very skilful and the noises are beeps. If it were released in it's original form today, you would not be able to give it away as a freebie! Yet for all that, hoards of spotty teenagers would huddle around their micros, pretending to be the manager of their favourite team and watch as they went from Division 4 to Division 1. I can remember shouting at the TV screen wanting Liverpool to score against Everton in the FA Cup final! (at the time, Liverpool was in Division 3, Everton where top of Division 1 and we were one-nil down).

The new version keeps a lot of the original, but brings it screaming into modern times.

The teams are in text files, the saved game saves all the divisions, the managers stats and the current team. There is an option to update via a website (hosted by RiscStation) the teams so they are constantly kept up to date (including the transfer market), half decent animation and just about everything you would expect from a modern management simulator.

All of the cups are there (including Europe, though this will not initially be in there), players will have training spats, agents make unreal wage demands and obviously, you may have a board who will think nothing of selling players behind your back!

I've not set a release date for it yet, but at it's current rate, it should be the end of this year. A network version is also planned.

Paul Johnson

Thank you Paul. Still its not just Paul who has been working away on new RISC OS games, one of the most anticipated RISC OS games ever gets its release on the 15th of April 2002.

TEK 1608

Artex have finally announced the release date for TEK 1608. For those who don't already know TEK is a realtime strategy game, a bit like Command and Conquer on the PC, only it should be much better. The game features multiple cameras, many different game units as well as a host of buildings. TEK will come on CD and we will be suitable for all modern RISC OS computers, including the Kinetic, Micro and RISCStation.


Not only will RISC OS users get TEK on the CD, but also a good amount of the Artex back catalogue, including Exodus, Ankh, and both the Botkiller games. RISC World will have a review as soon as possible.

That seems to be it for this issues Games World, I hope to see you all again real soon.

Dafyd McFlanders