Remember those Diary-of-a-game features in Zzap64, Commodore Force and those other great magazines of yesteryear? Andrew Braybrooks "Mental Procreation", Martin Walkers "Walker's Way", Apex's "The Clyde Guide" and "Creature Feature" and many more. These diaries was always the first thing I'd read whenever I got my hands on a new copy of a magazine.
Reading the scene-magazines I always thought "Wouldn't it be cool if someone did a diary of a crack for a change?". Of course, nobody ever did. Back in december of 1990 I decided to do something about it and write one myself. Unfortunately it never got published... until sometime in late 1992 when Watchman of Fairlight asked me if I like to do an interview. I mailed him one I had written a few months in advance and asked him if he would like to have my "diary of a crack" as well. Both were published in the FairLight DiskMag Reformation, probably in 1993.
- Qed/Triangle 3532
Saturday, 1. december
Opening the mailbox, revealed a mysterious envelope. Despite the fact that it was heavily sealed(thanx Marcel!), it soon had to give in to the excessive use of a survival knife, applied with great force. Inside was another licenced game by Activision (when do those guys invent a gameplay themselves!) called "Dragon Breed".
Loading the game, I discovered it to be another cyberloader (no sweat, right u guys ?!?) done by ASH'n'DAVE with music by Martin Walker (the worst he's done so far (which is a description Scratch believe covers all MW's music)) who seems to have done all his recent musics for Activision (Ninja Spirit, Atomic Robo-Kid, Time Machine(on the Activision/Vivid Image label) and now this!)
The rest of the day was spent transferring files (by hand ofcoz, since none of the transfer programs seems to work on more than a couple of games.) Watch out for the Triangle intelligent cyberload transfer, coming soon (in ten years time or so!)
Sunday, 2. december
The files on the tape are crunched with "Final Supercompressor" and "Timecrunch 5.0" (which I (for some reason) won't allow it to be on our version.) So item 1 on the agenda was to depack the stuff, preparing it for recrunching with the Level-Squeezer. Then search the files for common data, in order to achieve maximum crunching. The (crunched!) files on the tape is over 900 blocks (which is, as we all know, a lot more than the available disc capacity) so the possibility of a one sided version seems very far away (the original disc version is a twosider.)
On with the search, luckily I still have the Expert Cartridge, I borrowed from The Ranger for the cracking of Atomic Robo-Kid. Unfortunatly I don't have a DolphinDOS anymore, as it was sold to TCD after the total breakdown of my old 1541.
As verifying 6 files of 250 blocks with normal dos takes a hell of a long time, and I wasn't in the mood for writing the results down, as they whizzed by on the screen, thereby missing other vital results. Since you can't pause the verification, I devised a devious scheme, in which I, using the technological benefits of our time, recorded the whole caboodle on video for later playback. A lot of you guys must think I am a bit nuts, doing a thing like this (Scratch laughed like hell!), but it has the major advantage that you can scan the recorded material back and forth. By dinnertime, I had a videotape with 45 minuttes of data, and four sheets of paper with the results.
Found 77 blocks of common data, which is quite a lot, given the consideration that the six crunched level files have an average length of 152 blocks. A one sided version now seemed a faint possibility, but was rejected after a miscalculation of the crunched length.
Monday, 3. december
On my way to school (which takes around an hour and a half), I theorised a great deal on the crunching subject, and I am now pretty sure that I'm able to squeeze the nine files which needs to be loaded from time to time onto one discside (may the force be with me!). The trick is to locate the endsequence on the other side of the disc.
Test crunchings sadly revealed the fact that this game won't be crunched with our levelsqueezer 3.1, as it screwed the data real bad. Propably because the charpacker doesn't like some of the quite small files. The 2.23 version, worked out, but the depacker needs a few modifications, which will be fixed tomorrow, as I ain't got more time today.
Tuesday, 4. december
Researched the possibility of storing 30 blocks of common graphics permanently in memory, thus both reducing loading time and increasing the free blocks on disc (if I should be forced to store it on the other side.) and the result was positive. Then squeezed the common files, end sequecnce, and one of the six level files before going to bed.
Wednesday, 5. december, (morning)
Crunched another level this morning, before zooming off to catch the bus. So far I've used 243 blocks for common data, end sequence and 2 levels. Calculating an average level lenght of around 100 blocks (which is higher than I expect it to be) I have about 27 blocks of space for the startsequence, which might be a bit short. So I'll just have to pray that the levels won't exceed the predicted amount of blocks.
Considered reprogramming the end-sequence, as it uses the same character set as the main game, although it's a two blocks "boiled-to-the-bone" version without any of the extra characters, contained in the game.
Now all the 6 levels are crunched, using 585 blocks of disc space. Sadly this means that the startsequence will have to be on 19 blocks (which it can't, since a test crunch two days ago, produced a file at 27 blocks.)
Thursday, 6. december (at school)
All in all, I will have to conjure 8 free blocks on the disc (or store the endsequence on the other side. (which I pray won't be the case.)) Figured I might be able to save a block wasting the endsequence charset, and use the all time present main character set. (see the wednesday entry.) A search for more global data, which won't be changed (thus being able to store it permanently in memory) seems to be the only possible way of squeezing all the files that have to be loaded onto one side.
The biggest unanswered question is: Why on earth haven't Commodore, in their infinite wisdom, programmed DOS to use forty tracks ??? :)
Aha, an idea just popped into my head. All my common files are based on what the levels have in common with the sixth level. If I compare all the files to each other, I might locate some more saveable blocks.
The search for more common data sadly revealed no hope for a one-sider, so I'll have to store the endsequence and the file with the global data plus loader and intro on side 1. This minimizes disk swapping to two times, once at the start of the game and once when you complete the game.
No more work today, as I'm off to a xmas luncheon with my classmates. Any development in the cracking tomorrow will heavily depend on my condition.
Friday, 7. december
No headaches following yesterday. Trained the game (lives, time and startlevel), then wrote and fixed the loader. Didn't feel like doing anything more, as my stomach is a bit twitchy after yesterdays six-course chinese dinner (plus sake!)
Saturday, 8. december
Installed the trainers and started playtesting (even hell is better than playtesting a shoot-em-up!). When I completed a level, the timebonus continued ad ifinitum (hi-scores in no time at all!). The problem is that the bonussection and the game uses the same subroutine, and I have told it to bypass the decrement. Modified all six bonussections to JSR a routine in my loader-trainer program which disables the trainer before giving points for remaining time (done by using the same addresstable as the "trainer-checker-and-enabler" and another applying datatable to jump to the right address afterwards.
Playtested again, and the bug is now a thing of the past, albeit the bonus seemed to be a bit huge, a bit of locical thought showed the reason quite clearly: You get six thousand points per remaining minute and one hundred for each additional second, which is 24.000 pts. for four min. and as the bonus counter only has four digits, it has to loop twice.
The only thing left to do is to link files, put on an intro and pack the lot (half an hour!) Final Result: 61 blocks used on side1 and 13 free blocks on side2.
At last, I would like to credit some people for their support of various kind: The Ranger (for supplying the expert cartridge (which I used almost as much as my own Action Replay Mk5)) and Scratch, for the (usually!) nice phonecalls.....
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