Further comments

The author is spouting bilge about BASIC and Logo in his latest post, but your correspondent has something of a busy weekend so probably won’t have time to respond until next week… but there’s a couple of comments on his older post which can be debunked a little more rapidly. The initial comment was from someone using the name “Goat” which we’ll pick through some of:

After years of C64 hype and seeing the colourful screenshots – I was shocked how bad the games were, compared to the Spectrum! It turned out that to have twice the amount of colours (brown was the only additional colour the Spectrum needed anyway, and clever programmers got around the colour attribute clashes) the C64 pixels had to be ‘twice’ the size of Spectrums! As a result, the C64 games were far worse graphically, and also played much worse too!

The C64 didn’t have to use that graphics mode but both developers and gamers preferred it to the higher resolution option. The C64’s 320 by 200 mode has a higher resolution and very similar attribute system to the Spectrum, but with less restrictions as regards colour use. But because most of the games back in the 1980s that actually used this mode tended to be cheap and rather cheerless conversions that used ported Spectrum graphics to save the developers a few pennies, they were mostly seen seen as inferior products (and in most cases that was a fair evaluation).

It’s also worth remembering that on machines like the Amstrad CPC or Atari 8-bit series the developers tend towards using the equivalent of the C64’s 160 by 200 mode as well so this isn’t a “C64 thing” either. It isn’t a given that it would have happened on the Spectrum as well if the option to switch resolutions were there of course, but it would also be impossible to argue against the idea with any certainty too.

As to if the games played badly compared to the Spectrum, your correspondent is surprised that anybody feels able to deliver such a blanket statement with a straight face. There are tens of thousands of C64 games  so, unless “Goat” is claiming to have played a significant percentage of those titles, he isn’t anywhere near equipped to be making that call.

The Spectrum games played much faster and smoother, so I’d guess the ’48k’ Spectrum actually had more usable memory than the ’64k’ C64, or had a faster processor – but I don’t know much about the technical side of PCs.

The Spectrum does indeed have a faster processor than the C64 (although the difference isn’t as pronounced as it appears “on paper”) but there’s far more to do in order to move things around for a game as well so that advantage is lost in almost every situation; the majority of C64 games usually run at fifty frames a second but the same isn’t true of the Spectrum.

And no, the C64 has more useable memory than a 48K Spectrum.

If you want to compare 2 computers and declare a winner, it’s simple – compare their 2 greatest games. Target Renegade was the best Spectrum game – 128k version had great music/sound and could be loaded in one go – 48k version looked the same though. I don’t know what the best C64 game was but Target Renegade on the Spectrum would’ve destroyed it!

We can only compare games from the same genre so, ignoring how “Goat” appears to be offering his personal opinion as fact[1] for a moment, if your correspondent were to arbitrarily chose Mayhem In Monsterland or Enforcer as the “greatest” C64 game, how on Earth do we compare a beat ‘em up with a cutesy platformer and a shoot ‘em up? Comparing like for like works a little better but it still doesn’t really work as such because we’d be discussing opinions of games rather than having any real way to measure their “greatness”.

Surprisingly, the author not only allowed this comment through moderation despite it not being about programming (which is, we’re assured, what the topic of the author’s blog is despite his own regular deviations) and even went on to offer what we shall loosely refer to as a few thoughts in response:

Thanks for your comment! This criticism has been made often before.

It has indeed been made before, in fact it’s been repeated frequently over the decades – but that doesn’t make it anything more than subjective personal opinion.

Can you tell me about any programming you did on the Spectrum instead of just playing games? Unfortunately, it now seems that MOST computer owners were put off programming by the BASIC language on nearly all computers, although Commodore 64 BASIC was worse.

The reason that most computer owners didn’t program wasn’t BASIC – many simply weren’t interested. Not everybody wanted to program a computer, some wanted to balance their finances, word process or just play games.

[1] Is Target Renegade actually the best Spectrum game? Not according to many Spectrum fans no, and the odds of getting every C64, Atari 8-bit or Amstrad CPC gamer to settle on the top of the totem for their favoured platform isn’t going to happen either.

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