|★ APPLICATIONS ★ DISQUE ★ GAME LOADER FOR USE WITH THE MULTIFACE 2 ★|
|Game Loader for use with the Multiface 2||Applications Disque|
As anyone who owns or has used an Amstrad CPC computer will tell you, they are one ol the best value home computers on the market.
Having owned my 6128 lor over two years now, I have never regretted the purchase. I have found it a great games machine as well as being more than capable at the business end of things.
I do have one slight gripe, however. The cost of disk software often exceeds that of tape software by more than the cost of a disk (or even two).
Buying software on tape is the obvious answer, but who wants to wait all that time for the damn thing to load when one has the much faster and more efficient medium of the floppy disk at hand?
"Buy a Tape-Disk Transfer utility!", I hear you cry. Well, I've tried about six of those. Some were quite good, but most would successfully transfer only about 60% of the programs I tried them on. I have yet to see a software-based Tape-Disk Transfer program which works simply (none of this start/stop button bashing) and efficiently every time.
SEND MONEY, CHOOM
Being an avid reader of anything relating to the Amstrad, I came across an advert in one of the English CPC magazines lor a device called the MULTIFACE II.
The ad claimed that this little "black box" could transfer from Tape-Disk, Disk-Tape, Disk-Disk and Tape-Tape at any time, quickly and easily - as well as giving you a few handy extras. This I just had to see!
So, off to the bank I went, cash in hand. To send money to the U.K. you first have to get your Aussie dollar converted into £ Sterling. This isn't as daunting as it sounds.
The nice teller at the bank converted the £42.88 I needed (£39.88 plus £3.00 p&p) into A$102.10 (which included A$4.00 for the conversion and the cost of the bank note) in a matter of minutes.
Next it was down to the post office to send off the cheque and the coupon.
Then it was time to go home, mope around and wait lor it to arrive.
To my surprise and amazement, the package arrived within 7 days! Hastily, I ripped open the brown jiffy bag and extracted a small blue carton which contained my new toy.
Once freed from its confinement, the MULTIFACE II is about the size of a cigarette packet - can I say that here? (Editor's note: OK - MULTIFACE smoking reduces your fitness). On the top of the unit are two buttons, a green one marked RESET and a red one marked STOP. A ribbon and edge connector protrude from the front of the box and you plug this into your expansion port. A thru connector is at the back of the unit, so you can tack other peripherals onto it.
UP & RUNNING, SORT OF
There is a switch on the front of the unit which you use to switch the MULTIFACE II in and out of play. According to the instructions, which are short and to the point, when this switch is up. the unit is invisible to the computer.
I found this not to be the case when using certain programs. For instance, while using Mini Office II, I tried to save a copy of this story to disc, On choosing the Save Mini Office file option, the screen went berserk the disk drive decided to play Round-and-Round-the-Mulberry Bush and the old Ay-3-8912 ( sound chip) played its rendition of My Darlin' Clementine in reverse! Worse, the disk I was saving it to contained about 3 months and 60K worth of database files, none of which were there anymore. My fault for not having back-ups!
By the way - all you piratical plunderers out there will be disheartened to know that you can't reload a game saved with MULTIFACE II unless the device is present and switched on. So it's back to the software-based backe-ruppers for you lot.
Once you're plugged in and powered up, you can do one of two things. You can press the RESET button and get a kick out of watching a true reset (as much fun as watching rocks growing); or you can press the STOP button.
OK! OK! Enough with the RESET button already! Sheesh! You'd think some people would get the hint!
AND HERE'S YOUR MENU
Once the STOP button is pressed, the screen goes all haywire and a two line menu appears at the bottom of the screen.
On the first line of this menu, you are presented with five options. They are RETURN, SAVE, TOOL, JUMP and CLEAR. Apparently, when using the MULTIFACE II with a 464 or 664, the CLEAR option does not appear. This is because the CLEAR option is used to clear the second bank of RAM on the 6128 which is full of junk when you first power up or reboot.
CLEAR is a very useful option as it will save you up to 70K of disk space. The reason for this is that on power up the second bank of RAM on the 6128 is full of garbage. If the MULTIFACE II detects anything there, it assumes you want it saved.
If you are using CPM 3.0 (Plus) or any form of bank switching, it's not a good idea to use the CLEAR option. CPM+ uses banks 4 to 7 during its operation. I won't insult your intelligence by telling you why you shouldn't use it with Bankman. (To the two of you who are wondering why - go ahead and try it!)
You can save either a whole program or just the screen you are looking at. The MULTIFACE II doesn't actually save the program. What it does is take a 'photograph' of the computer's memory at the time you pressed the red STOP button. It then compresses this and saves it as a number of blocks of data. When you reload the program, it is put back together again by a short (IK) '.BIN' file which it creates when saving.
The program you save can be either saved to disk or to tape. If you are saving to tape, you can choose normal speed of 1000 BAUD or high speed of 2000 BAUD.
An obvious omission is that nowhere in the instructions or on-screen does it specify whether you can save to a second drive. I assume it's not possible, but if you know otherwise, please let me know.
This certainly must be one of the easiest to use back-up devices around. So simple to use, yet so effective. It must be - even I can get it right!
When you choose S)ave. a prompt will ask you to enter a file name which can be up to 7 characters long with no extension. It's only 7 because the MULTIFACE II uses the eighth character as a suffix for the blocks of data, numbering them filenaml, filenam2, and so on, adding the extension ' BIN'. On receiving the file name the units asks for confirmation. Answering YES takes you to the next menu.
NO ERROR WORRIES
The new menu gives you the choice of saving to tape (either of 2 speeds) or to disk. One minor annoyance is the fact that the unit defaults to saving a whole program so that if you forget to set the p)rogram / s)creen toggle before saving .... ! As I said, only a minor annoyance and an easy mistake to rectify - most of the time.
On the plus side, the whole operation is error-trapped so if your disk can't accommodate data due to not-thereness or corruptivitis or just plain data-obesity, never fear! MULTIFACE
II will let you know and you can then abort the operation or use another disk and start again from the main menu.
To reload your programs, you simply type RUN “filenam". Reloading screens is a little more involved, but not much so. A small routine to reload screens is given in the instructions.
Most of the games you'll save will be from a point somewhere after the loading screen. So. first you save the loading screen from tape to disk then save the program itself. For effect, you can then write a small loader which will call up the loading screen and after a key press, take you into the game.
Generally I have found I can fit two screens and two games on a data-formatted disk. I have written a short menu program for you (see box) which you can use to load and run two programs you have previously saved using MULTIFACE II.
It's nothing fancy, mind you. After all, what do you expect for nothing? The two games used in the example will be called Donk The Zungoids and MegaNuke (the latest atomic blast simulator) and their respective files are DTZSCR.BIN & DTZGAME.BIN / NUKESCR.BIN & NUKEGME.BIN
MORE THAN JUST A BACK-UP
Not only do you get a fast, reliable and efficient back-up device for your money, the MULTIFACE II also includes a very comprehensive programmer's toolkit. The options within the toolkit include such features as the ability to POKE and PEEK at any memory location and/or RAM bank with ease; view and alter any of the Z80 registers, get information on the colour palette and generally raise hell with your computer's memory! Try playing around with the software controls for the screen pack and you'll see what I mean.
All this can be done at any stage during program execution. The ads say this gives you the ability to POKE infinite lives and so on into your games. While this is certainly true, the fact remains that you'll still need a relatively good knowledge of machine code to get it done.
Next time. I'll give you a more in-depth look at the features. Sooooooo! Join us again next issue for another thrilling instalment in our climactic series on the MULTIFACE II!