Monday, 20 January 2014

Creating an Amiga boot sequence for WHDLoad... MY way!

Slow/cumbersome typing to maximise memory via WHDLoad? Sod that! Time for my OWN quick menu...

All of the following is probably basic stuff for regular Amiga fans, but as it was all new to me I thought maybe I'll share my experience in case it helps others.

Recently realised after regularly typing lots to launch games via WHDLoad and Shell prompt, why I don't I write my own boot sequence?! With my OWN short cut buttons!  Is this even possible?

YES and I've written how I achieved it!

I'll point out now that even though I grew up with the Amiga, and yes tinkered around with coding/Workbench/Shell etc... it has now dawned on me, actually I just touched the surface of how the whole Amiga worked.

Lets get a Hard Drive... oh hello WHDLoad?

Always having had an Amiga 500, when I saw a cheap Amiga 1200 on ebay I couldn't resist getting it. OK it had a bust floppy drive, but that was easily sorted by buying one from Amiga Kit (

No memory extension with just 2Mb RAM and no hard drive.  After a bit of hunting around I purchased a Compact Flash card + connector from ebay to finally hook up my Amiga 1200 with a hard drive.

Took Amiga apart, fitted the Compact Flash connector, turned it on, BAM job done.  It was at this point I was introduced to WHDLoad.  Always having an Amiga 500, floppy disks were THE only way, (sure I bet you can by a CF connector today).  I'm still not sure what a hard drive would have done back in the day, just one big floppy disk? to save games? backups?   But now it turns out games and programs can be stored on the harddrive and launched via WHDLoad.

As my Amiga 1200 has minimal RAM, I can't launch WHDLoad games in Workbench itself, clearly not enough memory, so there is an option when I reboot my machine holding down the left mouse button launches a Shell window prompt.  From here I have to locate the directory on the hard drive of the game I wish to launch then type out a command to launch it.  As Workbench hasn't loaded yet, the memory is ready and waiting to load+launch the game.

My Amiga 1200 in action! (Chaos Engine)

OK... my poor fingers!

Yes I do miss the Amiga keyboard, yes keyboards have come a long way since.  When I want to simply launch a game, there's actually a lot of typing.  Sometimes I have to double check the folder structure spelling, then locate the directory with the game in it. Then launch it.  Yes, this IS straight forwards stuff, but feels like there's so much typing for such a simple task, especially for games I play over and over again.

A script has got to be quicker than this each time!!

Let me introduce you to S:Startup-Sequence ...

When I reboot my machine and hold down the left mouse button, it interrupts the boot sequence and loads a bare minimum option menu so that memory is available to launch stuff.  Being pretty naive, I thought this was something special with having WHDLoad installed.  It's not.

When I realised there MUST be a script somewhere that controls the boot sequence I started to ask questions on Twitter.  As usual I was kindly pointed in to the right direction, and this is where I met S:Startup-sequence for the first time.

If you open the Shell in WorkBench you can type:

ed S:Startip-sequence

This opens the file in a basic text editor, here you can see each step in the boot up.  After having a quick look around, I found this:


C:GetMouseInput LOCAL

IF $MouseInput EQ 1
  Unset MouseInput
  C:SetPatch QUIET
  C:Assign >NILL: ENV: RAM:
  C:Assign >NIL: T: RAM:
  C:Execute S:Maxmem-Sequence
  EndCLI >NIL:

From this small section of the whole script I could see that there's a check for the left mouse button, if it's pressed then it clears the memory, then executes another script called S:Maxmem-sequence.

Firing up Maxmem-sequence in the text editor, I could see the quick menu that I see when I reboot.  Excellent, I can now see the commands to launch a window with quick options.

LAB Start

C:Requestchoice >ENV:Choice "Maxmem-Sequence""Choose:""RADboot""KGLoad""Reboot""Prompt"

IF $Choice EQ "1"
  Skip RADboot

IF $Choice EQ "2"
  Skip KGLoad

IF $Choice EQ "3"
  Skip Reboot

IF $Choice EQ "0"
  Skip Prompt

Above you can see the script pops up a window with 4 options, there are then some basic IF statements to work out what the user selected. Interestingly the last button has the ID of 0.

Lets make our own script

I had to do some googling regarding Shell commands and running scripts on the Amiga.

This link is a great reference for AmigaDos:

Scripts can be created by creating an empty text file using the regular text editor, then on each line use the AmigaDos commands just the same as if you were typing in a Shell window.

FACT: After 20+ years of using the command, I've only just realised the the Shell command CD means Change Directory.

Once you have created your script file and saved it, you have to change the protection settings of the file to be able to run it as a script.

So if you have created a new script file called "myscript" in the S: director, then open the Shell window and type:
protect S:myscript RWES
(For info: r=read, w=write, e=execute, d=delete, s=script, p=pure)

From a shell prompt you can now type: myscript and it will run. Great!

I created my own script called RichMenu which prompts the user with a window with options of quick shortcuts to games.  Using what I had just learnt this was easy, then for each option in my script all I have to do is change directory to the games' folder then call WHDLoad, as a quick example this is my script:

LAB Start

C:Requestchoice >ENV:Choice "RichMenu""Choose:""Zool""Chaos Engine"

IF $Choice EQ "1"
  Skip Zool

IF $Choice EQ "0"
  Skip Chaos
LAB Zool
  CD Games1:A500_A600_ETOZGames/Z/Zool
  WHDLoad Zool.slave
  EndCLI >NIL:

LAB Chaos
  CD Games:A500_A600/c/ChaosEngine
  WHDLoad ChaosEngine.slave
  EndCLI >NIL:
Editing the RichMenu script

Great this fires up a window with the options Zool and Chaos Engine, user selects and instantly launches the selected game.   The script works!

Now I just need to go back to the original Maxmem-sequence script and add an extra option.  When selected this option just runs RichMenu.  BINGO!

Here's a snippet of the new change:

LAB Start

C:Requestchoice >ENV:Choice "Maxmem-Sequence""Choose:""RADboot""KGLoad""Reboot""Prompt""Rich Menu"

IF $Choice EQ "1"
  Skip RADboot

IF $Choice EQ "2"
  Skip KGLoad

IF $Choice EQ "3"
  Skip Reboot

IF $Choice EQ "4"
  Skip Prompt

IF $Choice EQ "0"
  Skip RichMenu


LAB RichMenu
  C:Execute >NIL: S:RichMenu
  EndCLI >NIL:

To summarise

  • S:Startup-sequence checks to see if left mouse button is down.
  • If it's down then clears memory and calls, S:Maxmem-sequence
  • S:Maxmem-sequence has been updated with an extra option called "Rich Menu"
  • When "Rich Menu" is selected it calls the script called RichMenu
  • RichMenu contains shortcut options to popular games I play, when a game is selected, it changes directory to the selected game, then game is launched with WHDLoad
  • Lots of fun had

And that's it!  I hope this makes sense, and someone one day might find it useful!

Comment here or get involved on twitter: @rich_lloyd

Monday, 6 January 2014

Porting Nimble Jim over to the OUYA, easy enough? Of course it is!

So last November I got involved with the #SpeccyJam event and entered my game Nimble Jim for Windows, now it's time for the OUYA...

Comment here or get involved on twitter: @rich_lloyd

As you'll know we only had a week to produce a game in the style of a ZX Spectrum game which could run on any platform. Because it's my favourite language I wrote my game in C# and the easiest platform to get up to speed quickly is Windows. Even though it was rushed, I actually designed my code structure to be as generic as possible with the mindset of porting to other platforms. This meant I could actually choose different game engines to display and my main game code wouldn't need to change.

Because of speed and the opportunity to port to multiple platforms I chose XNA/Monogame to render my game. Actually the game I finally submitted was just XNA for Windows. As time was tight I just didn't get a chance to test or submit the game on Android/Linux/OUYA, so stuck with Windows.

That was a few weeks ago now and it's been bugging me that I didn't get a chance to produce for different platforms. So I managed to get a small bit of time over the winter break to have a bit of a play with MonoGame and the different platform options.

Port the game to mobile devices?

From past experience I know it actually takes a bit of time to get the controls just right for mobile devices playing games. People like Orange Pixel have really nailed it with their mobile games, ( Yes I managed to create an Android project and it ran my code on my phone (Samsung Galaxy S4), however at the moment in my code I've only got checks for key presses for the Windows version.


I was one of the original backers for the OUYA KickStarter project, hoping I'd have the console months/weeks ahead of launch to get familiar and start coding for it. OK there were delays and only received it a couple of days before launch day which has left a bitter taste in my mouth. STILL, it's a console, and a console I can easily port code to!!

So I have mixed feelings about the OUYA, but essentially would love to produce a game for the OUYA console. In MonoGame they have a project template for the OUYA, oh wait, I wrote my code using MonoGame :) Just create an OUYA project just like the Android project I thought and away I go... no... there's a few hoops to jump through first!

Hoops?! What hoops?

I'm just going to give you a brief run down of the steps I took to get working on the OUYA, but please visit here: for more details and will probably be kept up to date with changes.

First of all you need to sign up to be an OUYA Developer on the website: this registers you and lets you download the latest OUYA Development Kit ODK.

Make sure you download the latest MonoGame build. There are more up to date branches of the code, but I used the latest stable release (MonoGame 3.0.1 for Visual Studio 2010). I can't remember if it's included with MonoGame or part of the ODK, there is a more up to date OUYA library to use with MonoGame, you just open the solution, build, then copy the output to a safe location and reference your project to the new library.

Connect your OUYA to your PC via USB cable, I've seen online a few people have had problems with windows not installing the driver straight away. I'm using Windows 7 and it updated drivers as soon as I plugged it and didn't have any problems.

I did have to update Google USB drivers .inf file with some OUYA information. I also had to add a line of text to the ADB USB .ini file so that the ADB manager could see the OUYA console. I wont go in to detail here, but all the details you need can be found right here:

Lastly make sure your OUYA is setup for developer mode in the Advanced Options, this will allow for it to communicate to your PC and deploy apps etc...

Those are the setup steps I took. Back to my Visual Studio project, I found I have to Rebuild my project and then Deploy which sends all the files over to the OUYA and installs them. Then I can hit the Play button and my game almost instantly starts playing on the OUYA!! At the moment this only seems to work in Debug mode, when I try Release mode, it deploys but won't run from Visual Studio. I have to go to my Play menu on the OUYA and I can see my game in the menu options where I can run it.

I hope this has all been useful for you?! I made a quick video giving the overview here:

Comment here or get involved on twitter: @rich_lloyd