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Which is better, Atari 400/800 vs. Commodore-64 (GRAPHICS ONLY!)


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Can't really disagree with anything you said. I would also agree with your main criterion. "It has to make the fewest concessions with nearly every game type. "

I didn't own an Amstrad  in my childhood and my opinion is based on how capable the machine looks in Home brew projects. It appears that the Z80 is powerful enough to scroll things around on its own.

It is true that C64 games(as I already wrote) reached the limits of the machine during his commercial life...earlier than any other 8bit. Its also true that the Atari's custom chips/architecture were far more advanced and the Z80 is a superior  cpu in many ways for the programmers to take full advantage of them(Atari's  "embargo" on third party software did really help lol).

This is why we never managed to see in full the limits of those machines. Complex hardware and the invasion of 16bit machines in 1985 made things even more difficult.

Now even the Speccy has amazing " tech demos" of games producing more inviting end result(graphically) that the good old C64, in limited cased of course).

Sure the fluidity in animation by a dedicated hardware can not be matched by those two British machines , but our brains also need color and graph to be trick in the "story".

So I guess its all about how ready you are to  accept reduced colors and graphics  or reduced quality in animation. This is why I believe the Atari 8bit line holds a sweet spot. Many colors, great animation.(and I know that there is some bias in there).

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18 hours ago, Bill Loguidice said:

Sorry, but I just don't see the appeal of the Amstrad CPC as a games machine. The proof is in the games and very few games hold up to the performance of either of the two platforms in question. In terms of the palette, sure it can push a good amount of color, but they're often quite garish due to other limitations. The CPC platform feels like a better Spectrum, which is really not saying much, and many of the games lack speed or smoothness.

Rather disappointing to read this not-so-slightly biased view, not just from some random poster, which would be normal here, but an acclaimed videogame historian. While it's not really a big mystery that C64 was overall the best machine, it was defintely not flawless and also had some serious limitations. Hearing about the "garishness" of Amstrad's palette made me chuckle, seeing as C64 with its prevalent  mixture of shades of brown and sickly greens is really not a contender here. Adding the mostly lo-res look to the mix wasn't helping (ditto A8), same as its weaker 3D performance. It did excell in other areas of course, but it's not at all as one-sided contest as your post suggests. The "speed and smoothness" are important factors, but not in all the genres, plus there are many examples of arcade-type games which are actually much more playable on the "inferior" machines (Bomb Jack, Renegade - off top of my head)


ZX Spectrum was undoubtedly the weakest of the lot hardware wise and yet it actually has worked in its favour, since its limitations forced the devs to experiment and come up not only with some astounding coding feats, but also kickstarting entire genres, just like it happened with Knight Lore. And the implication that people who appreciate the Z80-based machines have the nostalgia-glasses firmly stuck on is also quite unfair. I'm sure it's true for quite a few people, but there are also many who actually appreciate big chunks of their library for its timeless brilliance, and not because of childhood memories.


Amstrad CPC is a bit of a curious case, since it has appeared when ZX already ruled the UK and with its lower user base and bigger price was obviously getting both less games and lesser quality ports (something its fans still like to moan about, unfairly blaming it on the ZX). But there are enough examples of great games to let us know it was a capable machine too. Alas, hardware history is a harsh mistress, something A8 found out about only too well, since despite being the king of innovation and software up till 1983, it had fallen off the table around 84-85 and was only sustained by the Eastern European market later on, missing out on most of the famous later titles.


So, while going to a desert island I'd no doubt pack a C64 (mainly thanks to its "big" games, such as Pirates! or Zak McKraken) that does not mean I'd be really gutted if somebody swapped it for a ZX or a CPC (or, indeed, an MSX, my current darling). They are as viable as gaming machines as their US 8-bit 6502 brethren.



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It's OK that something is better than something else, especially when we're being specific about a use case. It doesn't necessarily mean the other thing is bad or doesn't have ways in which it shines. I've been very clear on all of that, so to pull the "how dare you!" card on me is being disingenuous. 


Gaming-wise, especially as a US gamer, the ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, and BBC Micro are all sub-standard games machines in comparison to what we had in the US, which AGAIN and for ALL TIME doesn't mean that there weren't instances where each of those systems shined or have a special appeal. We also had the benefit here in the US of more or less standardizing on disk drives by 1984, for instance. Different markets, different tastes, different experiences. It's hard to appreciate the lack of smoothness on Amstrad CPC games or the color clash on the ZX Spectrum when we rarely had to deal with such things here in the US on our most dominant platform. And yes, despite the extra colors on the CPC, they were often not used well in actual games. No crazy statement made there.


Again, I can personally appreciate - and DO personally appreciate - any and all machines, warts and all, and can simply state there never was a perfect computer. I also don't think it's outrageous to say that the C-64 was the best all around 8-bit games computer, both back in the day and homebrew-wise now. You just can't match its extensive library and the consistent audio-visual quality pulled from a single machine, the one machine you could buy in 1982 and not have to do anything special with to enjoy 99% of its library even today. It doesn't mean the generic "you" has to agree with that statement about the C-64 being the best overall 8-bit games computer, especially when it comes down to personal taste and a preference for how other machines do something, but if we have to pick, you'd have a hard time convincing me there's a better option out there based on my experience with, well, nearly everything.


As just one example, there are of course die-hard fans of the ZX Spectrum (mostly outside the US, of course) that despite the color clash and other limitations vastly prefer it, but to say it's better than the C-64 is a stretch, particularly since it has gaps in its library in comparison thanks to variable memory configurations and standardizing on cassettes. In other words, I'd argue that the Spectrum has many of its fans because of its very special quirks, including the atypical keyboard usage and color clash, etc., things we'd say define the platform's "personality." That's a good thing, but also one of the indicators of why it's not reasonable to say it's a better games machine than something like the C-64. And to tie it back to the C-64 vs. Atari 8-bit comparison that's the actual thread topic, the Atari 8-bit is a brilliant architecture and a class act, but again, has more architectural limitations overall than something like the C-64 and is thus harder to get the same consistent results, even putting aside the big gaps in depth and breadth of libraries, which really has to be a significant factor in this type of evaluation. Theoretical power, prowess, or gameplay possibilities are one thing, but to see consistent quality implementations in actual practice is something else entirely. 


Anyway, I've basically been saying the same thing throughout this thread. That's just my opinion and the reasons why I feel that way. It's OK that other people may and do feel differently. I'll happily continue to enjoy anything and everything, because that's one of the great luxuries of being an enthusiast today. We have no limits to what we can enjoy or experience and that includes the absolute best each platform has to offer.

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This thread's title is about the graphics abilities of two 8 bit micros.  I threw in CPC because even coders of that period accepted CPC's superiority over C64's capabilities. (Virgin Software quote in the video below).


The homebrew community has proven that all 8bit machines are capable game machines and provided a larger pool of "data" for our evaluations. Some are better in specific genres than others.

Sure, scrolling looks great on C64 and Atari machines with their dedicated  hardware, Pseudo 3d and scaling is superior on atari 8bit computers due to Miner's advanced architecture(I saw a new C64 racing game with impressive scaling), and "16bit" like appearance is CPC's strong point  without having many serious drawbacks in  scrolling or sound.  

In my opinion and based on  old and new game library , the Atari 8bit line and the CPC are  the most balanced machines since  they both score really high in all categories (graphics/colors,scrolling/scaling,sound).

Of course we are forgetting MSX2 machines with their objectively  superior graphics and Speccy's  aesthetic which is so unique and artistic in so many instances.

 I would be equally happy owning any  of the 8bit classics micros but I have to admit though,  in the case of the C64, its the support this machine enjoyed  during his commercial life not its graphics  that would justify my satisfaction.

Well I don't really play games anymore(I just test them for some secs) so  my critique is solely  based on my initial impressions on their graphics, sound and control response.




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While I greatly admire and enjoy "super" 8-bits like the MSX2 (and beyond) and CoCo 3, etc., I still go back to the whole depth and breadth thing when it comes to both impressive games and visuals (say static images or demo scene stuff).


I mean, the C-64 can hold its own with still images, like in the examples that follow (don't know if they've been posted earlier in the thread), but then I feel like EVERY system, even the super modest ones like the VIC-20, can output impressive still images with the right tricks employed. That's why I'd personally rather focus on actual games and gameplay above all else:








Again, because we can find beautiful pixel art by talented artists who know how to take advantage of still image creation quirks, just about any system can be pushed to do all kinds of things not really possible in an actual game (and don't get me wrong, I love to look at them, but that's not the end-all, be-all for me). That's why I'd personally rather point to actual games like Sam's Quest, A Pig's Quest, Zeta Wing, etc., on the C-64, that are super colorful, super smooth, and have pixel-perfect control for reasons why I'd give the overall (there's that word again, "overall" rather than in all cases) nod to the C-64 over other 8-bit systems, again, adding in all the stuff that came before. I just don't experience that same combination of color, smoothness, control, etc., regularly on any other 8-bit system. And when I do, I acknowledge it's something pretty special.



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Since my first job was  creating digital illustrations I have to say that I do love C64 still images. The higher resolution, the earthy colors and creative use of that grey and purple colors produce real art in my opinion. I really appreciate creative art  on limited resources. But again the problem is that there aren't enough colors to produce dramatically different results, without ignoring advantage of  the higher resolution in the detail of these images.

On the other hand, images on the Atari 8bit line are a bit more "rough"  from a resolution perspective but the available hues and colors can  produce a huge spectrum of different color schemes.

Here is a great image from Lamer's demo "Prozac".(Scrolling picture).

If you check this thread you will see many examples of converted still images. Of course they are not "art" but they can roughly  show the  abilities of the hardware to produce images in a variety of different color schemes.

An other great example is the conversion of the  "Defender of the Crown" title screen.



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  • 11 months later...

If I may give my 5 cents on this topic in this super old thread :D :


The C64 is an all around good games hardware.


The A8, like with every Jay Miner hardware, you need to build the games around the concept of verticality.

But then it really shines.


I am just researching the possibilities on the A8 currently, so not sure yet about my final verdict, but at the moment I am mighty impressed by the Atari 8 bits capabilities. 


And I guess, you could do a lot of the stuff you see on the C64 on the A8 as well.

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