Monday, 28 November 2016

Super Adventures in Amiga Disk Screens

I feel like Super Adventures has been getting a bit niche lately, so this week I've chosen a subject that likely appeals to basically everyone: Amiga game loading/insert disk screenshots! I've assembled a gallery of work from some of the best pixel artists of the 90s to present their interpretations of a 3½-inch blue square with a label and a metal shutter on.

This isn't the first time I've thought about writing this article. When I was doing research I found I'd written this on my Cannon Fodder 2 post back in 2013:
 "You know, sometimes I'm half-tempted to make a post just about 'insert disk' screens. A page full of basically nothing but pixelled floppy disks. That's when I'll know I've finally gone crazy."
So bad news, I've gone crazy. Good news, at least I'm getting this over with now. Plus it'll be nostalgic for people who've owned the system, and educational for those who didn't!

Amigas could support hard drives just fine, but most people didn't own them and the games generally weren't designed to be installed, so one of the big differences between PC and Amiga gaming in the early 90s was all the bloody disk swapping. Scroll through a dozen of these pictures slowly and you'll get an idea of what it's like to play an adventure game on the system. Keep scrolling back and forth through two or three of them over and over and that's what it's like playing a fighting game.



Well that's just great.

I figured this would be easy, as I remember pretty much every Amiga game I've played having a nice pixelled disk request screen, but I guess my memory's been lying its ass off to me. I've been trying game after game and most of the time all I've gotten is a black screen with "Please insert Disk 2 in any drive."

Or if I'm really lucky, like I am here with Alien Breed: Special Edition '92, it says something like "Please insert Disk 2 into drive DF0:" which means the game's going to completely ignore all the external disk drives I bought to avoid this disk swapping crap and sulk until I put the next disk into the main drive.

Awesome, Sensible Soccer has a proper (tiny) disk icon and no specific directions about where it wants me to shove it.

In fact I'm not sure it even wants me to insert it into a drive, the only clue it's given me is a green arrow pointing down. Am I supposed to drop disk 2, is that what it's saying?

Cannon Fodder on the other hand feels that disks should go up. But it also states that the disk should be inserted into a drive and it doesn't care which, so that's nice and clear. I wouldn't recommend shoving a disk in label first like that though, that ain't going to do the mechanism any good.

Though speaking of labels, it's funny that this is obviously one someone's printed out at home and stuck onto a copied disk. Not that there's anything wrong with that; it makes perfect sense to back up your expensive game disks and run it from copies instead... if the copy protection lets you.

By Cannon Fodder 2 the developers apparently felt that that players probably had disk insertion techniques figured out by this point, so they replaced the pixelled disk with a scanned picture of cross-eyed Lord Kitchener requesting the second floppy instead. Very disappointing.

The game's save disk format messages still crack me up though.

Oh that's another fun part of Amiga gaming: save disks. With no hard drive, memory card or battery backed up cartridge to save on, Amiga players had to format a blank disk instead (and it took a while).

Lemmings 2's insert disk screen is clear, shiny and gives me an excuse to post a picture of the Psygnosis logo. Drive 0 doesn't actually look like that on most Amigas, but it's the thought that counts.

Also to be fair, later Amigas show a similar disk drive on their boot screen, even though chances are that the machine displaying this will look kind of different in the disk slot area.

Just for reference, the most common home models look like this. That's the Amiga 500 on the left, and the Amiga 600 and 1200 look like the one on the right.

Though I'm only showing you this so that you'll be amazed...

... that Obitus gets it right! It's even aware that you put a disk in shutter end first, and recommends an external drive!

Another thing Obitus gets right that every other game ever gets wrong is that Amiga games tended to have the logo printed directly to the disk instead of on a label with a giant number on it.

It's funny because the player will know better than anyone when a disk doesn't look right, as they've already put one of them in to get this far.

Plus Overdrive and B.A.T. are trying to confuse players by having "DISK ACCESS" and "INSERT DISK #2" written on its disks while Obsession baffles them by having "Bsesssion" on its label. Sure there's an O in the background, but words don't work that way.

Oh if you're wondering, Dreamweb actually does have a floppy disk on its insert disk image.

See, there it is! The tiniest little disk you'll ever see.

Not every game suits having 80s storage media flashing up on screen though. It doesn't do the atmosphere any favours to abruptly cut to a picture of a standard floppy disk when you're trekking through the spooky woods on your way to go slay a dragon, or whatever. Fortunately some game designers thought of this and came up with a clever solution:

Make the disk out of wood and now it totally fits the setting of the game! Heimdall's 2 disk looks it's been carved, while Prophecy I: The Viking Child's disk has a more complicated construction. But both of them still have the sliding metal shutter so they'd totally still work.

Tower of Souls (AGA) on the other hand has screwed up and made the whole disk out of stone! There's no way that's ever getting read by a disk drive.

Oh by the way, 'AGA' just means I took the screenshot from the slightly higher colour version of the game. Though sometimes there's other changes too, like the original version of that Heimdall 2 disk screen doesn't actually have Heimdall standing next to it.

Speaking of characters posing with their giant floppy disks, here's Soccer Kid, Brian the Lion and, uh, a dragon.

Have some characters from the Goblins games with their weird angular smiles as well! Or maybe that should be the Gobliiins games; they lose an 'i' with every sequel so I don't know how that works.

This is as far as I've ever gotten in Top Wrestling, but it's enough. Plus it gets bonus irony points for them both being topless.

The nice thing about all these shots is that I can use the disk to calculate the characters' comparative sizes!

So if you've ever wondered who's taller, Soccer Kid or Heimdall, now you know.

Also I can't remember if the guy on the left's called Fingus or Winkle, but either way he's bloody huge. Relatively speaking.

There's no one posing next to this nondescript disk from Black Viper (AGA), but I thought it was worth including because it's rare to find a game that actually tells you to hit reset. Every other game seems okay with replacing old data on it own, they've never asked me to flush the memory entirely.

And then there's Perihelion's disk screen, which looks just about as awesome as the rest of the game art does. Plus it's equally orange.

Though if your disk actually looks like this you'll probably be better off not inserting it into your drive.

What The Speris Legacy (AGA)'s disks lack in style (and text) they make up for in quantity. Doesn't seem like they have numbers on them, it that supposed to say "Insert disks (2)"? Makes sense to me, I don't see why I have to do this one disk at a time when it likely knows what'll be next.

Hired Guns actually does let you know what disk it'll need next, so you can swap it into an external drive while it's loading.

Though for some reason it's apparently requesting one of the Amiga's system disks instead, as they have that iconic tick logo printed on them and Hired Guns' disks don't.

Deathbringer's disk has no label at all, but it's still a cool insert disk image. This is one of the first games I ever played for the site, but I only got about three screenshots into the game and my writing was shite so I'm happier not linking to that particular post.

Speaking of disappointments in my life, I'm shocked and saddened that I haven't found a single disk request screen with someone's fist coming through the label yet.

Though a monster's face breaking through is half-way there.

The game's called Ooops Up by the way, not Demonware. It plays like Pang if you're curious, where you run around the bottom of the screen shooting bubbles, except you have to listen to a remix of 'Ooops Up' by SNAP! (YouTube link) on repeat the whole way through. I'm not even joking.

Boo!


Barbarian II may not have the best 'insert disk 2' screen ever made... but it probably does. I mean you've seen what all the other screens tend to be like; players had no chance of seeing this coming. It's even better in the actual game as the skeleton's got a maniacal laugh. Here have a YouTube link so you can hear it yourself: this is a YouTube link.

I might as well stop here really, as how is any other game going to compete with this?

Body Blows Galactic (AGA) gives it a shot by having perspective and moody lighting!

Desert Strike takes that a step further by having perspective and rotation! Though the disk seems to have had one of the corners snipped off.

The sequel, Jungle Strike, features a less artistically impressive disk, but compensates for it with size and a helicopter. I was tempted to edit this into the line up from earlier, but the Comanche would be like 10 pixels across at that scale.

I like that it's telling me it's unpacking by the way. So many other games just say 'loading' and leave it at that, but Jungle Strike's keeping me informed about every step of the fascinating game loading process.

Desert Strike wannabe Seek and Destroy has it beat though, with a real-time 3D disk spinning around! A full 3D landscape makes it slow down a bit, but Amigas can handle a single disk no trouble. Though I guess they didn't have enough polygons to add the circular spindle at the back.

Virocop (AGA) is all about video games so really this loading screen is showing the fake game disk I'm visiting rather than the actual disk the came came on.

I'm honestly shocked to find that the game isn't on my site, as I was 100% certain that I'd played it already.

Amnios on the other hand is on Super Adventures... I just didn't write anything about it.

I put this picture on the site back in the early days when I thought it was a good idea to show random pictures from games instead of showing what the games were actually like. Man I've come a long way since then... and now I've circled right back around. To be fair whatever this game is, it's going to be a let down after this picture of a cyborg with its brain in a jar holding its second brain in a tentacle arm.

Sure they forgot to include a picture of a floppy disk on the 'insert disk' screen, leaving me to try to visualise what it's talking about with my own brain, but then some of the very best disk request screens are missing a disk! Probably.

I can only think of one that stands out right now though:

Look at the pixels go!

Walker's loading screen is pure genius. Though if they'd assembled a little disk out of those dots it would've been perfect. Also I finally figured out how to capture it properly this time, after making a real mess of it back when I wrote about the game. I should go back and edit it to replace that crappy old GIF I made with this one.

Anyway I'm done writing about floppy disk art now, but if your hunger has not yet been satisfied I found a whole gallery of disk screens at http://mortal.shang.free.fr/pages/amiga_ecrans_disk_loading.htm.

Me, I'm going to go find another game to play, something with music loud enough to drown out the voices in my head telling me to do a sequel article all about CD loading screens.


Next time there'll be no disks and no pixel art as I'm taking a quick look a semi-recent RPG sequel. Guess what it is and amaze other readers with your video game knowledge!

Or you could leave a comment about the article or my site I suppose.

7 comments:

  1. I like to watch the PS1 loading screen for fun, so this is right up my alley.

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  2. How much space did that skeleton "insert disk 2" animation take on disk 1? :D

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    Replies
    1. Less than half a disk. They needed space left in the other half to fit his voice clips.

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  3. It's Dungeon Siege 3 yeah? I actually really like the game despite the general lukewarm to harsh dislike it received. If I guessed wrong though, pretend I didn't wright anything...

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  4. Loved this post. Seeing the Psygnosis logo always cheers up my mood. And I had totally forgot about that Virocop screen. That was such a brilliant game that helped through the last days of the Amiga.

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  5. Hired Guns high-res screen is smooth.

    Desert Strike also has a nice picture and calming music when it's loading.

    >Walker's loading screen is pure genius

    Can we, as humanity, reach this level of artistry again...

    ReplyDelete

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