Well Documented Code Helps Revive Decades-Old Commodore Project

In the 1980s, [Mike] was working on his own RPG for the Commodore 64, inspired by dungeon crawlers of the era like Ultima IV and Telengard, both some of his favorites. The mechanics and gameplay were fairly revolutionary for the time, and [Mike] wanted to develop some of these ideas, especially the idea of line-of-sight, even further with his own game. But an illness, a stint in the military, and the rest of life since the 80s got in the way of finishing this project. This always nagged at him, so he finally dug out his decades-old project, dusted out his old Commodore and other antique equipment, and is hoping to finish it by 2024.

Luckily [Mike’s] younger self went to some extremes documenting the project, starting with a map he created which was inspired by Dungeons and Dragons. There are printed notes from a Commodore 64 printer, including all of the assembly instructions, augmented with his handwritten notes to explain how everything worked. He also has handwritten notes, including character set plans, disk sector use plans, menus, player commands, character stats, and equipment, all saved on paper. The early code was written using a machine language monitor since [Mike] didn’t know about the existence of assemblers at the time. Eventually, he discovered them and attempted to rebuild the code on a Commodore 128 and then an Amiga, but never got everything working together. There is some working code still on a floppy disk, but a lot of it doesn’t work together either.

While not quite finished yet, [Mike] has a well-thought-out plan for completing the build, involving aggregating all of the commented source code and doing quarterly sprints from here on out to attempt to get the project finished. We’re all excited to see how this project fares in the future. Beyond the huge scope of this pet project, we’d also suggest that this is an excellent example of thoroughly commenting one’s code to avoid having to solve mysteries or reinvent wheels when revisiting projects months (or decades) later. After all, self-documenting code doesn’t exist.

15 thoughts on “Well Documented Code Helps Revive Decades-Old Commodore Project

  1. Saw this on YouTube a few days ago.
    If I remember correctly, the dude went to army in order to not harm his mother financially. Then he lived with a friend in a camping car for a while? I’ll have to re-watch the video at some point..

    Anyway, what’s the saddest part, I think:
    He had a C128 and didn’t manage or want port the game over.
    So if it’s finished eventually, it won’t be a native C128 game. Merely another C64 game. 😞

  2. > The early code was written using a machine language monitor, since [Stephen] didn’t know about the existence of assemblers at the time.

    So, not just younger-me then?

    I started off with pencil and paper and a lookup table, then wrote something to actually convert the hex for me and poke it into the REM statement.

    It probably took a year to realise that assemblers were a thing.

  3. OK, Its mind blowing that my project actually made Hackaday!!! One minor tweak though, my name is Mike :LOL: You can confirm on the about page on the channel but still, Thank you for writing this, it is very humbling.

  4. Very cool story! Good luck to you Mike! Have you seen Unknown Realms? That’s another crazy ambitious C64 RPG project. The guy started making it in high school on C64, then switched to Amiga, and then started it up decades later after working in the game industry. They did a Kickstarter a few years ago, sounds like development hasn’t gone very well, but I’m still following it and I think it’s coming out soon.

  5. I’ve been working on an old C128 CP/M project called C3L which takes advantage of all the C128 chips and uses C89 standard and Z80 assembler. I started over 30 years ago. Probably the only difference is I use a modern build pipeline now. I’d never try this on C128 hardware at this point. https://github.com/sgjava/c3l

  6. I love this!
    My first home computer was the Commodore C64. I’ve had scores of computers since yet none of them has provided me with that nostalgia feeling that the 64 does. While I find that I may have too many C64’s today, having them talk to each other and even dial out to the telnet BBS’s is still fun.

    Looking forward to following this project!

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.