From time to time, I intend to take the lid off a certain CLASSIC retro title and really chew on its game mechanics, popularity, software house/author and also other versions that came out on other platforms in order to compare and contrast.
Coming up on Oric World is one of the most popular games of all time for this classic 'underdog' of home micros - that is to say let's take a more closer look at -
DURELL's HARRIER ATTACK
First, I'm intrigued by some user-defined graphics I came across the other day which immediately took me back "to those far off halcyon days" when we used to code our own little 'masterpieces'...
ABOVE: We can see here how the graphics for the enemy gun boat and the eponymous harrier were 'born' in these two graphic character planning grids.
Harrier Attack, as well as being a sure-fire hit on the Oric, was also released to popular acclaim on the: Spectrum, Amstrad CPC and CBM-64. Spectrum programmer, Mike Richardson, had this to say about his work on the Sinclair version:
"Although I am often credited with creating it, the ZX Spectrum and Amstrad versions that I produced were almost entirely based on the Oric version, written by Ron Jeffs."
Nice to see credit being given where it's very definitely due.
More next time as we look at:
- What makes the game so playable? - When was it released and what historical event inspired it? - Which of the other versions are better/weaker than the Oric 'original' and... - What can collectors of Oric tapes expect to look out for when buying copies of Harrier Attack?
More to follow soon.
Meanwhile, enjoy the clip and please do post your responses to this thread - were you a fan of Harrier Attack and which version(s) have you played/preferred?
Nice, I'm curious to know if the drawings were made for the Oric, or Speccy version? BTW I remember there was an attempt for a Harrier Attack II something like 10 or 15 years ago. Tried the game (in limited free version) but it wasn't very easy, and I didn't find back the fun from the 1st. Never found the complete version.
I wasn't much of a fan of this. It's a bit tricky,as you can see in the video. Basically a Scramble clone. But it's a bit slow and can be annoying in that the smoke and everything kills you , but your bombs and gunfire are a bit ineffective. The fun of shoot 'em ups is in going round shooting stuff and blowing stuff away. It's not what happens in this.
Always appreciate your comments, guys, and all of it is welcome whether we are fans of a particular piece of software/hardware or not - it's the interest, I feel, that is stimulated as a topic for discussion, that counts.
Symoon, I am almost 100% certain that those UDG grids are for the Speccy version - they don't seem to resemble the Oric gunboat or Harrier graphics but I will check against the Amstrad and CBM-64 versions.
Steve, agreed, it is a bit of a swine that you can't sweep back around and have another blast at the enemies (plus that flak, enemy fighter and missiles are indeed a major hazard), on the Oric version. You are probably aware that you CAN change direction and fly back on the Commodore release:
ABOVE: The C-64 version "shows off" the Harrier's nimbleness and ability to hover and turn on a sixpence... IIRC, ALL the other releases do NOT have this feature.
Symoon, we must investigate the latter PC release of Harrier Attack II in a later post in this thread, but for now, here is the general synopsis of the original 'classic' game:
Harrier Attack is a computer game for the Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, Oric and ZX Spectrum initially released in 1983 by Durell Software.
The player controls a Sea Harrier jet fighter. The aim of the game is to take off from a carrier, attack ships and land targets, avoid the odd missile and enemy fighter, then land back on the carrier again. Although the game was a work of fiction, it was inspired by the 1982 Falklands War, in which the Sea Harrier had played a major role.
One interesting little quirk to the game was that it was possible to bomb your own ship as you took off from it. If you did this, when you returned it would no longer be there (having sunk, presumably) and being unable to land on it your plane would just continue flying until it ran out of fuel and crashed.
Durell managed to get the executable size down to just under 9 kilobytes, which allowed for a fast loading time from cassette. The game sold over 250,000 copies in total.
You mentioned different release platforms, Baz, and different variants that were released for the Oric in terms of what collectors out there might be looking-out for in terms of differences, so what you got, you 8bit varmint?
Right, since you ask, here are a few pics showing exactly what I've got.
ABOVE: We see here THREE different tape cover inlays which are different for the Oric version and then we see the Commodore and Spectrum releases.
The cover art is identical for all platforms - just the bottom right flash section showing computer manufacturer/model differs. However, when it came to the Amstrad release, it would appear that Mr Sugar got his hands on Durell's happy harriers and so re-issued them via his own Amsoft software publishing arm and so the artwork did differ somewhat though not drastically:
ABOVE: In Baz's collection, he has located SEVEN different Harrier Attack label types. All subtly different, can you spot them ALL?!
Finally, would you please check your Harrier Attack copies, Oricians, and tell us what you've got - particularly if you have some DIFFERENT variants to these (including French/Spanish/German labels/stickers etc).
OK, that's it for this update - keep your Oric news and views coming to keep the old underdog alive and well for another year of retro computing ahead, you recycled teenagers.
You'll be hard-pressed to see something as "advanced" as Microprose's Atari 'F-15 Strike Eagle' - seen here going through its paces - on the old Oric:
ABOVE: Thark loves to go into "AFTERBURNER" mode on the Atari classic version of F-15!
Yep, you won't see anything quite the same as this out on the Oric, Baker, but I did review this particular Oric "wire frame 3D" graphical effort from Loriciels called "3D Fongus" released back in 1985, a short while ago here on Oric World.
It's not exactly 'mission-rich' a-la F15 but more 'slalom-ski' as you dodge your way down the course and score a few points as you steer to keep within the flags, mes amis.
Oooh, there is of course 1337, but that's "out there" in space... I think we've showcased this before, Baker, but here it is once more just to show the Oric could do it - with some kick-ass advanced programming for the old under-dog:
Hmmm... anyone else got any better examples of 3D vector graphics (flight sim style) available for the Oric, fellas?
In this next installment, I would like to take a quick peek at the Amstrad & Speccy versions and see if we can detect differences / improvements / faults in game design or gameplay in comparison to the Oric original.
We might also 'put to bed' the discussion on those UDGs in the first post - do they belong to the Oric original or more than likely one or both of these versions...or perhaps the C64 version? We shall see...
Here's a close-up of the Oric action featuring both the harrier and the enemy gunboat:
Here is another look at the UDGs we first glimpsed in the first post:
Look how on the Oric gunboat there is a missile/gun on the back and no front gun - which this graphic clearly has; look also how the two harriers are similar but the Oric one has a tail that continues to taper away to the left whereas the harrier graphic above has a straight edged tail. In other words, these graphics do NOT belong to the Oric original. The question which now follows is, which version do they belong to?
Let's examine the Speccy version first - do we have a match-up with the graphics and the UDG grids:
ABOVE: We definitely have a MATCH - the harrier and gunboat are like for like - just the upper harrier wing looks a little different and that forward gun turret looks a little altered too - maybe there was a tweak or two in the end?
Next, the Amstrad version:
ABOVE: CARAMBA! A total match - even from the harrier's upper wing to the gunboats's CLONE of that forward gun turret design - I do believe we now have a 100% match - the UDG grids come from the AMSTRAD version - which itself was most probably an improved mk.II design update on the Spectrum's (which came out after the Oric original, but was the forerunner of the later Amstrad version).
ABOVE: The Spectrum version seems to have large fuel/weapon load-outs taking up precious screen display space at the bottom of the screen. It also seems to be played within a 'border' and not the whole screen.
ABOVE: You won't be surprised to hear and see that the Amstrad version is set-out and designed very, very similarly to the Speccy release - yep, they were both programmed by Mike Richardson.
What do you think of these two versions?
Superior or inferior to the Oric and would you place the Commodore 64 version as being 'top of the pile' with that switch of direction feature?
IMHO, I really like the white wave crests which appear on both the Speccy and Amstrad versions - a neat touch and they work particularly well on the Spectrum's sea surface BUT on both these latter versions they suffer from a much smaller, postbox-style and sized screen action which gives the game player much less room to manoeuvre their harrier. I'm not sure whether I like the clouds on the Amstrad version either - they definitely have more definition but are they too similar to white fluffy outlines of the Falkland Islands themselves (where the game action is presumed to take place) ?! What do YOU think?
Finally, it would be interesting to see what else Ron Jeffs released for the Oric, particularly via Durell. Find out in the next episode of:
Did you know that - Harrier Attack was Durell's best-selling title of all-time shifting a quarter of a million copies across all formats?
Many Oric fans have very pleasant memories and experiences playing this classic on the old 'underdog'[/font]
What else did he release whilst at Durell, then Baz?
Well, many people point to SCUBA DIVE being an even better accomplishment:
ABOVE: I lurve the 'cartoon' quality graphics whilst other users rail against the C64 version saying the programmer (N. Dewdney) should be shot!!
The next credit for Ron goes to a "rumoured" release only, via Durell, called Jungle Trouble. Interestingly enough, Oric.org talks of an Oric version which was:
"completed or almost completed, but never released..."
It would be amazing if we could contact Ron and locate any existent screenshots, code or artwork for this rarity, Oricians.
As it turned out, another programmer (namely Mike A. Richardson), released the game finally on the Spectrum - did he pick-up where Ron left off? It would be interesting to find out some day...
LEFT: Villordsutch gives Jungle Trouble a real roasting - NEVER play it again!
Is that it then, Baz, or did the original creator of Harrier Attack ever release any other commercial software for any other of our retro machines?
Well, I'm afraid to say, after extensive searches, other than Ron being recruited by Durell founder Robert White to write the aforementioned two titles for the Oric - the only other pieces of software he seemingly got involved with were releases for the C64, so clearly Ron went "over to the other side", Oricians.
ABOVE: The creator of Durell Software was Robert White - the name coming from one of his middle names.
Durell's opening shared capital was just £100 - this was spent on one of the first Oric's off the production line - they bought "an Oric, a black and white telly, a few books on machine code...it's still all there on the company's balance sheet." - Robert White.
Ron's later portfolio then is as following: he was behind the conversions of COMBAT LYNX (in 1984):
and CRITICAL MASS for the C64.
ABOVE: Released in 1986, was this the final chapter in Ron Jeff's coding career?
Perhaps not, as Ron also released, in the spring of 1987 on the C64, his own game called Sigma 7 -
ABOVE: Sigma 7 was important enough to have music arranged by the one and only Rob Hubbard - you might have heard of him?
- that when Durell were eventually bought out by Elite (who then resold Durell games on their budget Encore label) Ron and Robert White (under new trading name Durell Solutions - durell.co.uk/) have designed database software for the UK insurance industry called Insurance Master.
Now then, Steve, Symoon and the rest of you Oricians...you know the question I'm gonna ask next:
- was Insurance Master ever released on the 48K Oric?!
I think Jungle Trouble was slated for Oric release, but it never happened. What was that other one? Saboteur? I think there were a couple of adverts with those listed as coming soon for the Oric. Wonder if they ever started programming them?
I liked the old Galaxy 5 tape. It was one of the few that worked on my 16K Oric-1. There was a good invaders type game in machines code. A couple of less impressive, but playable games, and then a couple in BASIC. They weren't too good but were handy for trying to learn to program.
As far as I remember the company still exists in Taunton, though they don't do games any more. Ah yes, durell.co.uk/about/ Robert White is still there !
Right then, you 8bit renegades from beyond the buddleia.
There's a nice tail-end piece here from the aforementioned electronic mag - here - which really shows the impact that sales of Harrier Attack had on the software company Durell:
Mike Richardson, the Speccy conversion programmer for H.A. recalls:
"I remember getting quite excited when we had our first big order from WH Smiths for Jungle Trouble which was for about 2,500 copies. Then, a little later, we got another order for 5,000 more copies, then a few weeks after that, another 5,000! That seemed like a massive volume to me."
Robert White, head shed at Durell, then adds:
"Harrier Attack was my idea and it was a crackingly good idea because basically what all kids wanted to do was to take off in a harrier and bomb everything."
This was 1983 and of course the Falklands War was the big news item so releasing a game that was closely linked was going to reap rich dividends - if they could get the timing right. The game, roughly a Scramble-clone, was written for the Oric by our main man Ron Jeffs then ported over to the Spectrum and Amstrad in under four weeks by Mike Richardson. Robert remembers that there was a helluva lot riding on the success of this seminal software release:
"Around about September 1983, I placed the adverts for Harrier Attack and actually booked TWENTY GRAND's worth of advertising. I had a little word with my wife and told her that if we didn't sell them then we would have to sell the house because the company didn't have that kind of money!"
However, by Christmas, the game had already sold 40,000 copies. After being bundled with the Amstrad CPC 464, the game went on to sell over 250,000 units. Everybody was happy, despite reports that some folks took objection to the game's scenario given the fact that the UK was at war with Argentina. Both guys don't recall a single complaint and in fact Durell even sold some copies to Argentina where the software was released under the name Matador Attack!
You know what's coming next, Oricians: anyone willing to do me a copy of their rare, Argie-version which they have in their family vault?!
Cheers, dudes - remember NOT to bomb your aircraft carrier on take off and watch out for that deadly flak and air to air missiles.
Enjoy your Oric retro-gaming and have YOU got an absolute classic software title in mind that either YOU fancy dissecting or recommending to the rest of us here on World of Oric?
Look at your picture of cassettes and observe the back of the one on the left. It's got the Martech name slapped on it. I think some of the later ones were marketed under the Martech brand but as far as I know the Durell name continued after they stopped producing games.
I had no idea about the Martech involvement with Durell on the Oric. I am pretty sure that Elite ( Publisher ) bought the rights to the back catalogue of games after Durell moved out of games market entirely. That was why you see Harrier Attack and other Durell titles on the Encore label ( Elite's budget label )
So I don't know how this Martech involvement on the Oric would have played out, even if it was solely only on the Oric. I say that as I never saw any Martech labels on Spectrum and C64 Durell titles.
Yes, while Durell produced some great games whilst they were active they were never as prolific as some other software companies the games were normally very good, Turbo Esprit was one of my favourite games. They were underappreciated in my opinion.
OK, spotted a couple more mentions of Harrier Attack in some old copies of Oric User Monthly (OUM) lately.
In the first edition (no. 85, p.4), on the left, the Norwegian software reviewer Arnt Erik Isaksen says this in Part 1.2 of his series of looking at Classic Games:
ABOVE: Clearly Arnt is a big 64 fan and doesn't really rate H.A. but the disk tips over on the right are invaluable if, like me, you'd like to have a go at getting H.A. to load from floppy.
Then in issue (no. 64, p.24) we have some top tips - I think from editor Dave D i c k (yes, that is his real name) - on how to transfer the tape version of the game to DISK - now that would be doubly cool in that I lurve the game and I've NEVER been able to transfer an Oric tape title to disk...
SO THERE'S A FUTURE CHALLENGE / POST, Oricians!
Come on now, how well have you got on with transferring tape to disk on the Oric?
If we get enough responses then I'll start a new thread with all your comments, hints and tips.
I'll need to get my buffer out to show you. It's just a chip wired between the interface and Oric. It solves the problem of tapes not loading with the disk system attached. I'm guessing other similar devices like the amplibus would work, if you have anything like that.
The Durell tapes usually loaded with a loading screen whilst the game loaded. The first program is usually Basic with this text screen, which'll have the CLOAD command to load the actual prog. So you just need to change that to a disk loading LOAD"...." and you can keep the original loader. Sometimes the initial loader will have characters redefined or some other useful bit. Sometimes the character set is saved separately so you have three files to load. The character set won't need to be auto, but the main game will. You can change a machine code program to autoload using the STATUS command. By default BDDISK saves things without autorun. (which is handy for having a look.)
LOAD"....",v will show the start address, end address and status (without actually loading the game). A number beginning with 8 are basic with the end being 1 for autorun and 0 for not. so 81 is an autorun Basic prog. Number beginning with 4 are machine code. so 40 is machine code with no autorun. There's a final number o indicate the execute address.