• Graeme Devine

Metropolis 1987

So today I’ve been heads down in 1987 looking at the old Metropolis game.

Some parts of it are worth remembering like it’s method of telling who you are talking to:

You can use the arrow keys to slide the yellow bar between which character you want to talk to and it highlights it in the status bar to the right and shows you which character you have selected.

And yes, in 1987 I did all the art. And the programming. And the sound.

But mostly I wanted to decode some of the old graphics and data files. And that’s when I ran into Graeme Devine circa 1987. You see. Back then I was a bit of a hacker and I didn’t believe in supporting much, even things like MS-DOS, so to play Metropolis you stick the floppy disk into the computer and start it up.

I wrote the file system, keyboard io, sound io, the whole OS for the game that booted from the floppy disk and you didn’t need DOS at all. I supported sound cards, CGA/VGA and PcJr, and there’s no need for MSDOS when I can write all of that stuff right? So no files. No sticking a floppy disk and going “dir a:”, no easy way to decode this stuff.

So I decoded some of it. Turned out I compressed it. Of course I did. Luckily I remembered I loved LZW compression back then. The loader uses a small LZW decompressor to uncompress the executable into memory and then start the game.

And that’s when I thought. You know what Graeme, the source disks are back in Texas, I hope they are still readable. I’m just going to assume they are just readable.

1987 had several advantages over 2021 Graeme (namely a photographic memory) but 2021 Graeme has forgotten more than 1987 Graeme knows.

Actually the biggest success today was probably emulating a 1987 PC. Most emulators don’t get the framebuffer emulation quite right (or I have a bug in my 1987 code and the little information screen doesn’t work in any of the emulators people use when they show the Metropolis PC game. I fixed that and the intro game animations. Here for the first time since the 80s is the newscaster which I copied as best I could from the Frank Miller Dark Knight comic books I was obsessed with at the time. My other obsessions being Blade Runner and HR Giger’s NY book.