Many years ago, in 1998, I released my own version of Arkanoid/Breakout for the Commodore Amiga. Written in AMOS, it was a reasonably good version of the game and came relatively near what I had in mind. Sadly, it only really worked smoothly on an Amiga with at least a 68020 processor and it contains some bugs I never quite got rid of.

This is part two of the story behind the game, giving yet more details about the first piece of software I ever released on the internet.

Now, as any Amiga user will know, the best way to release share- and freeware on the internet - especially back then - is using Aminet. For those of you that didn't own an Amiga back then or who somehow managed to miss out on it, Aminet is a big* software archive for Amiga compatible computers of any type.

In typical hobby project fashion, I decided one day that the game was 'ready enough' for release and made a .LHA file of the directory with a nice startup script and uploaded it to Aminet. After a few updates, I managed to accidentally upload an archive with a flawed executable (as I recall it failed to start because a filename was mistyped somewhere).

As it turns out, Aminet resticts updates of existing files in an effort to have people only upload stuff that works. The result was that my soon-fixed version was greeted by a no-way-think-before-uploading message and refused to upload.

Breakout - Level 1 from the Magnetic Media level set
Above: Screenshot from Level one of the 'Magnetic Media' level set.

Instead of waiting two weeks and updating, I decided to release a separate - fixed - version. It was all a bit messy, with lots more files on Aminet than there needed to be. Now, years later, Aminet has fixed the mess for me. That is to say, I didn't change a thing, but Aminet only has the three most recent files available. Which just happen to be the correct three!

The Aminet trouble ended well, but as you have read earlier, the game was never actually finished. The problems stemmed from my choice of development environment. It turned out that AMOS had a few bugs when dealing with very large programs**

For starters, after Breakout reached about 100KB of source the built in AMOS commands started well, disappearing. One moment you could convert text to integers, the next the command was no longer known. This led to the bizarre situation where I was rewriting parts of AMOS in AMOS to keep the game working. After I reached 120KB of source it went downhill so fast I just had to give up, only changing things when I could use less code to fit it in than was used before.

Another interesting bug was that the extensions I used would only work if you manually assigned the proper banks. They worked fine in their default position originally, but as the program became bigger I needed to change the bank used to keep it all working.

Then there was the Amiga 500 performance. See, I started making Breakout on an Amiga 500 with the standard 1MB expansion. Halfway through developing the game I obtained an Amiga 1200 and continued development on that. Later I also got a Blizzard 1230MK IV, featuring a Motorola 68030 at 50MHz and 16MB of fast memory.

A 68030 with fast memory is much faster than an 68000 without. The shocking result? The A500 version was dead slow, while the 68030 version ran fast enough without even compiling it.

In the end I couldn't fix the bugs AMOS created or keep the performance on the A500 version good enough to be playable while fixing the bugs I could fix. So I decided to stop working on the game and leave it as it was - a nice version of Breakout, with some nice features and a few bugs. And with the end of active development, I also lost interest in making more levels in the editor, so the game remains incomplete.

If you are interested in playing Breakout (and why not, it's a nice game!), visit the download page and have a whirl! The game requires an Amiga with at least a 68020 at 14MHz and at least 1MB of Chip RAM (preferably some fast RAM as well) of RAM to play well. It'll also run on the emulators available.

*) Aminet actually was the biggest software archive on Earth - regardless of platform - for quite a few years. It still is the largest Amiga software archive on Earth today. An especially cool feature was that you could get a subscription to Aminet CD's and get all the updates to the archive delivered right on your doorstep!

**) At least, the AMOS version I used had them. It's possible versions exist that don't have the bugs I mention here.