Code Notes – C64 Crack Intros (part 1)

Your correspondent has taken a couple of weeks off from the Code Notes series (and this one is running a day late for assorted reasons, mostly the weather) but it’s time for another instalment and our topic for the next series of posts is C64 crack intros, the demo-like programs written almost exclusively by bedroom coders to “tag” the releases where they’d removed the copy protection.

Triad Mr Z Intro (C64)

After the advent of file compression tools, one of the goals for crackers was to produce the most compact version of a given game so the intros they created were often heavily optimised as well; this example from Mr. Z of Triad is a good example of that and was linked to over two hundred cracked games. Along with Triad’s own re-workings of the design throughout the years – the logo’s shape appears even in their most recent releases – there are also countless copies, homages and occasionally even parodies of this intro.

There are three effects to note here; the “dealer quality software” tagline uses the regular C64 ROM character set but skews it sideways by changing the horizontal scroll register once per scanline, the occasional lighting effect on the logo which is done by redrawing the logo on screen rather than merely redefining the characters and the colour changes on the scrolling message – the characters are inverted and the code changes the background colour.

Fairlight Intro (C64)

Referred to in the title of its CSDb entry as “the legendary one”, this 1987 Fairlight intro coded by Woodo and optimised by Gollum was used for over a hundred cracked games. We can be reasonably certain that the green bar rotating around the logo is built with hardware sprites rather than colour splits because the darkest red of the logo always remains behind the bars regardless of their priority. Again, this is a compact piece of code and, whilst your correspondent has avoided covering C64 releases with ripped music since the author petulantly whined previously[1], we have to make an exception in this particular case because, whilst David Hanlon’s composition originally comes from the game Enlightenment – Druid 2, but this intro is at least as well known!

From a C64CD perspective, these are programs written by teenagers who learnt the C64 in the same way that your correspondent did and the author failed to; the documentation available in 1987 wasn’t vastly different to what the author could have found had he properly looked.

[1] Your correspondent didn’t stop because the author complained dear reader, it’s just funnier to cover releases where said “argument” can’t be applied!

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