A new Amiga diskmag is bornBy kas1e
Present situation on the Amiga scene
Of course the Amiga scene is not completely dead. Some prods are still released from time to time (for example at Breakpoint) and these prods have a really high tech and design level, but in comparison with the good old days (yes, I said it again), we don't have very much activity in the Amiga scene. Only some old monsters like TBL, Loonies, or Ephidrena are left.
Well, the answer is pretty clear, I think. Old hardware is pretty 'old' and dies quickly, but new hardware is still not 'accepted' by Amigans for two main reasons. The first reason is the 'splitting' of the Amiga scene in two modern ways: Pegasos and AmigaOne.
Pegasos: it's a PPC board with MorphOS (which was born on classic Amigas and reborn on Pegasos). MorphOS (or MOS) has 68k emulation, but it only emulates the CPU and AmigaOS API. To emulate AGA (the gfx chip) and PAULA (the music chip), Pegasos/MOS gives users UAE.
AmigaOne is a PPC board as well, but with AmigaOS 4.0, which is based on the old AmigaOS and updated by HyperionInc for PPC. AmigaOS 4.0 also has some ways to emulate the 68k CPU instructions and AmigaOS API, but again, there's no AGA nor PAULA support. There's only support for system friendly software, much like Pegasos, and UAE is used for classic hardware emulation.
This means that the new Amiga-like hardware do not provide a clear bridge for rare freaks (Amiga sceners mostly), who have been using the AGA chipset for ~10 years.
And we have a battle between rare freaks/low level coders, AmigaOne/OS4 owners and Pegasos/MOS owners. I forgot to mention that there are also problems porting between them. Pretty sucky problems. I also did not add that AOS4 does not work on Pegasos, and MOS does not work on AmigaOne, even though all of these systems run on PPC boards.
Nevertheless all of these ways are available (most of the time), and all can be called 'Amiga'.
The second problematic reason is the 'lack of new blood'. For example, let's say a little boy wants to make something cool on some kind of 'different' platform. He heard from his father that the Amiga rocked and was still alive. "Ok, I will get an Amiga", he said. So they go into a shop. But there's no Amigas there, only PCs and Macs. Ok, so now he wants to buy one from an Amiga WWW magazine, and gets the information - sorry, AmigaOne hardware is not available at the moment and the price is 500-800 EUR (!!) for the CPU and motherboard. But the father said to his son: "Look son, there's also Pegasos, which has MOS and is going for a pretty low price in comparison to AmigaOne, but MOS is not commercical anymore because Genesi stopped paying for development." So the son thinks: "Why do I need this boring crap, if I can just buy a Mac or PC and make anything I want?"
Because of this, there is no new blood in the Amiga scene. And the Amiga scene is slowly but visibly dying.
Is the situation really that bad? The situation will be bad, and soon there won't be any Amigas available with modern hardware at a low price and a pretty usable (but let's not say modern) OS. And still we wait for it, already spending too much time as always :) But right now, we have what we have:
1. Classic hardware with accelerators and PCI busboards
2. WinUAE emulator of classic hardware under Win32
3. Modern hardware: AmigaOne and Pegasos
Let's ask "what is the connection between all of these?" The answer is full emulation of 68k CPUs and AmigaOS API. It means that, using any of these options to run Amiga software, any correctly built application with 68k code and using Amiga 68k libs/APIs will work.
It also means that if any Amiga scener (or just programmer)
wants to support all of these (as we do not have a clear idea as to which one is best), he just has to make system friendly demos/apps/diskmags and it will work OK on every system.
Of course, one of the best things about the old Amigas is the fast, crazy stuff that works fine on a1200 with 030 or on a plain (like '9fingers', or 'technological death', or 'nexus') by using AGA chipset and PAULA. If we make full system friendly apps, it will mean no plain 1200 anymore, because all work will be done by the CPU, and for demos a minimum of a 68040 or 68060 is required. For examples of this, see the newest Ephidrena and Loonies demos (all of them work on pegasos/a1 in fact).
But what if we wanted to make something like 'hi-rez' for the Amiga, not with sucky 256 colors and resolutions like 320x240, but with 16-32bit color at 1024x768? And it must work smoothly on classic hardware, modern hardware, and on an emulator? What can we do? There is only one answer: --== Warp3D ==--.
Let's go into the past a bit. During the time when the Amiga was rocking and the PC was sucking (the end of the 80s, and beginning of the 90s), the Amiga 1200 had the AGA chipset. This was basically just an integrated graphics chip like the ones we have today in modern Radeons, GeForces, etc. (I mean in terms of ideology.) But at this time PC only had poor 16 - 256 color stuff, and nothing for hardware blitting, scrolling, and so on (because PCs were business machines only). Now almost 15 years have passed and PCs have the same 'chipsets' in their modern gfx cards (modern chipsets, no AGA exactly of course :)). But the Amiga gfx AGA chipset was not upgraded at all during that time. Its time has gone.
But at some moment (1998 - 2000), Amigans realized that closed architecture was killing the Amiga, and they needed something which would allow plugging things from the PC world into an Amiga. Thus PCI busboards were born. Grex, Mediator, Prometheus - all of these boards have from 3 to 6 PCI Slots, with DMA or without, with good design or not, but one good step was taken: Amigans can put PCI cards into Amigas. Of course, to support all this stuff, they needed drivers. This is a problem for the little Amiga world. Amigans today do not have very many drivers for PCI cards, all we have are these:
- Support for voodoo cards (voodoo3/4/5) with 2d and 3d support (Warp3D) - Support for old strio, virge, etc. cards only with 2d support - Support for tons of network cards on Realteck chipsets - Support for sound cards like SbLive - Support for tv tuners
and so on. The list is big, but not very when it's compared to the PC world.
So why do I write about these boards? Because gfx cards have a graphics CPU which can do blitting, scrolling, etc. just like the old AGA chipset from the Amiga classic. It also means that the main CPU (a slow 68k CPU) does not have to do tons of hard things. And it also means that if we write something for it, it will work on every system where a GFX card is present. But we need universal methods to support different kinds of cards. On the classic we have the voodoo3 and bvision/cvision (these ones aren't standard PCI, but have something of an Amiga-specific PCI interface) 3d cards. On WinUAE :) we have Radeons, GeForces, Voodoos, etc., and on AmigaOne/Pegasos we have Voodoos and Radeons.
What do we have for a universal graphics layer on Win32? Yes. DirectX. For Amiga we have Warp3D. That is it. All software which is written for Warp3D, by 68k code, will work on any Amiga-like platform. AmigaOS 4.0 has Warp3D. Pegasos has Warp3D. WinUAE has Warp3D (it's just a wrapper to translate Warp3D stuff into OpenGL/DirectX called QuarkTex).
The latest version of classic, which is also supported on everything, is Warp3D 4.2a. If compared with DirectX it's the same as DirectX 5.0. No, it doesn't have anything like math, etc., just a render pipeline. You create a context and use functions like W3D_SetDrawRegion, W3D_DrawTriStrip, W3D_LockHardware, etc. To learn more about it you need to check out my article in the latest Jurassic Pack, or wait until our Warp3D emag is released, where you will be able to read a more detailed article about it. For it you will need a classic Amiga with a 3d card, or any modern Amiga, or WinUAE with the w3d wrapper. And .. Now I think it's time to say something about our project :)
A new Amiga diskmag is born
Well. The situation with diskmags in the Amiga scene today is pretty SUCKY. We only have Jurassic Pack - a low quality engine, but the content is good (thans to Ghandy for it). We also have the Eurochart, which uses the same engine as HUGI (hi Adok) by Chris Dragan - Panorama. The engine itself is good, but not for the Amiga. Because it's SDL, it's too slow for us. On a classic Amiga it's not just like a slideshow, it's like a crazy slideshow, unusable in any way. On WinUAE it works but is also very slow, even on very powerful PC. - Also we have some very rare ESC mags with lots of interesting content.
Now that we know all the facets about today's situation, here's what we want: a modern Amiga diskmag which we hope everyone will like. But sorry rare freaks, no AGA at this time. Warp3D only.
The reqs are pretty low, 040 with 33 MHz will be enough, but there is one thing that could annoy some of you, as I said: you'll need a Warp3D gfx card.
The E-magazine itself will be in 640x480x32bit mode. That means
hi-color graphics art, fast article scrolling, nice fading effects, and so on. The Emag will be called "The Vague".
One of the interesting features of the mag will be AHI mixing. It's strange, but I do not remember any Amiga diskmag that could play modules and at the same time make 'clicks' of a menu and so on. That's pretty funny/strange sounding for PC users, I know. For me, it's also something strange. Of course mixing is not only one feature, but I think it's one of the more interesting ones for Amigans.
We've put up some screenshoots, but not fll ones because we want to give everyone a little 'surprise' and 'fire' their interest :)
Well, the diskmag was planned to be released right after Breakpoint, but as always it's taking a bit more time. And it's THE TIME to support something in the almost dead Amiga scene. All who have nostalgic feelings and are annoyed about all the 'low quality' Amiga stuff can support us. Do it right now or die! :)
So, how you can support us? Everything is welcome: gfx, music, articles, ideas - anything is good. At the moment we already have the engine and all the music and gfx for the first number, but any new pretty ACTIVE members will be able to help us of course. Here is how you can help:
- Music: Protracker 4ch module. At this moment no mp3 support, but there will be in the second issue. So mp3s are welcome too.
- Graphics: Any graphics, any format, any resolution. Logos, clips, navigation design, panels, and so on.
- Articles: Any amiga related article. Demoscene, software scene, warez, coding, and so on.
- Ideas/help: Any ideas, help with design, with code, with anything will be OK. Criticism is ok too, of course :)
Right now, we need to find someone who can make GOOD ascii, anyone who is interested in writing an article (or two ;)) about the scene/coding Amigas or related concepts, and a good DESIGNER/GFXER, because we have some very, very small unfinished design parts left.
In any case, if someone is interested in helping in ANY way, just write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and with your help we can release it ASAP.