The ISA-Bus

One blog to bind them all.

Loving and hating the Commodore 64

I’ve got a sort of love-hate relationship with the Commodore 64. First, as a sort of disclaimer, I’ve never owned one and therefore have no nostalgy whatever.

I do think it was one of the most important game platforms ever. It was not as pioneering as the Apple ][, which gave birth to nearly every relevant RPG and adventure series, and a couple of genres too. But the number and variety of C64 games is probably unmatched.

Most platforms are at home in one region. Apple ][, Mac and PC (well into the 90s) were American platforms. The Amiga was mostly European and especially popular in the UK and Germany. The Sinclair ZX Spectrum was popular only in the UK and Spain, the Amstrad CPC mainly in France.

The Commodore 64 had its followers on both sides of the Atlantic. As a result, the variety of games is much greater than on other platforms. It is maybe the best 8-bit platform for RPGs, it had the typical British platform games like Chuckie Egg and Jet Set Willy, it had shoot ’em ups, and it had lots of puzzle and board games too.

My problem with the Commodore 64 is emulation. That all the emulators I’ve tried so far for unknown reasons emulate the loading time too is a minor concern. The main one is the graphics.

Most computer graphics are based on an RGB model. Those of the C64 weren’t. It had a palette of 16 somewhat arbitrary chosen colors (a member of the dev team once said in an interview, we chose colors we liked), and nobody really knows how to translate them to RGB for emulation.

The best currently available palette is probably the Pepto palette by Philip Timmerman. It is especially popular for demo pics because it gets the gradients and skin tones far better than any other. Unfortunately it is rather dark and dreary, not to be recommended for more abstract, geometric games.

Additionally it seems that some games and graphics used the TV artifacts to their advantage, similar to the CGA composite mode. This is especially difficult to emulate.

These issues make it often rather difficult to write about C64 games, and are the reason I haven’t done so as much as I’d like to.

Here’s my main Commodore 64 page. If you have any recommendations regarding emulators, please comment below.


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