It took me a while to notice the challenge was on, but ever since I did it, I could’t help but to hurry and make something cool.
For the last 2 months or so I nurtured the idea of writing a game for a 486 and thus challenge came handy for motivation.
Last friday I bought a ancient (vintage?) 486 laptop. I actually grew up playing in a very similar model (and eventually even had one that was precisely this model, but never got to work well). Fortunatelly, even after more than 15 years powered off, it came on mostly flawless – just some keys not working, CMOS battery dead and internal LCD blurred beyond regular use. Still, It’s feasible for play testing it.
After watching a Retro City Rampage 486 post-mortem, I went looking for more resources and found a video by Bisqwit, a finnish hacker, in which he demonstrastes how to run OpenGL code in DOS.
The game I’m working on actually has a legacy SDL/OpenGL 1.1 renderer because I didn’t bothered with writing a OpenGL 3 renderer (for OSX and Windows)- after all, it already has a OpenGL ES 2.0 renderer for mobile devices, Emscripten and Linux. Adapting it to use Offscreen Mesa software rendering – per Bisqwit example – wasn’t hard at all. The real challenge now is to make it run at playable speeds on a real 486. But so far, I was able to run it on DOSBox and under 8MB of RAM!
And does this look like, when running on OpenGL ES 2:
One last step would be to change the game itself to fit more nicely into the challenge’s theme. That is significantly easier, considering the game engine is very configurable (even without recompiling it). In fact, it has a simpler, text-based core (that runs VERY well on DOSBox. If I fail on optimizing the 3D version, at least I will have a text-based game to submit), making it more suitable for tweaking the balance and flow.
And why a 486? Why DOS? Well, despite having previously owned a IBM PC clone (8088!), NES and Atari 2600, it is this machine that caught my attention in terms of quality of games. It was the first machine I knew that could properly challenge the almighty SEGA Mega Drive.
I hope that, by the deadline for the challenge, I will have a more fine tuned game to show here! =D