Three Defining Commodore 64 Moments

While reading through the Video Games Hardware Handbook and particularly the Commodore 64 section some fond memories came flooding back from that golden age of video games.

It was the time of the bedroom developer when a large team for writing a video game consisted of three or four people working on it. Usually a programmer, some-one doing the graphics and a musician.

Games were less than a tenner and came out on cassette. On the Commodore 64 the early games used to take over twenty minutes to load. Although there had been a the odd game released on cartridge for the Commodore 64, like Commodore Soccer these were the rarity rather than the norm. Even more rare were the disk drives, which were so expensive.

Which brings us onto the first defining moment. One of my favourite Commodore programmers of the day was Jeff Minter of Llamasoft fame. Through Llamasoft Jeff had released such classic games as Metagalactic Llamas Battle At The Edge Of Time, Gridrunner, Attack of the Mutant Camels to name a few. It was the follow up to Attack of the Mutant Camels, Revenge of the Mutant Camels that provides us with my first defining moment.

As I had mentioned earlier games on the Commodore 64 used to take a looong time to load. Revenge changed all that. On one side of the tape the game still took the normal slow method to load. But on the opposite side was a version of the game that loaded in under a couple of minutes. Revenge was the first game to utilise a new technology that would allow Commodore 64 games to load in a fraction of the time. A technological leap that would soon be used by every game released on the platform.

The next defining moment for me came from the software company Ocean. It was their game Daley’s Thompson Decathlon. Which was a Track ‘n Field clone based around the popular (at the time) and gold medal winner Daley Thompson. Although a cracking game which I and friends spend hours playing at the time. The reason it is mentioned here is not because of the game itself but from the loader it used to load the game.

Ocean to now had a loader that allowed their games to load quickly. But imagine a teenage boy, he’s rushed home with the latest game for his computer. He switches his tv on, then his Commodore 64, puts the game cassette in to the Commodore tape deck and presses play. The loader program kicks in. All of a sudden there are two sprites of runners on the screen running and then a rendition of the Chariots of Fire theme by Vangelis blasts out of the speakers of the tv.

Wow not only was the game loading fast but there were animated sprites on the screen and music! Definitely a stand out moment. For me this was the first game that I had purchased that did this. I’m not sure if this was also the first game out that did it. I’ll claim it was unless some-one comments that I am mistaken.

My final defining Commodore 64 moment is the game Ghostbusters. The game itself was not bad, but it was the intro screen that makes this a defining game for me.

The intro screen itself was simply the Ghostbusters logo if I remember correctly. What it did have was a pretty decent version of the Ghostbusters theme song (that had also been a hit in the charts as well). But at the correct moment in the song itself it said “ghostbusters” using a sample (IIRC). Up until this point I hadn’t played a game before that had used samples. To hear this little machine in my bedroom playing the Ghostbusters theme and also saying “ghostbusters” was incredible.

As timings go I think this was out before Impossible Mission one of the other games to use a voice sample in the game. Who can forget “Stay awhile, stay forever”? A classic gaming moment for sure. But not the first example of a sample in a game that I came across.

So there you have it my three defining moments from the Commodore 64 days of the home micro boom. What were your defining moments?


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