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Talisman Teardown

For those not interested in how this came about or how I collated this information, you can skip to this part where the real teardown begins here.

For those of a technical or inquisitive nature, I began this task by accident. I was looking through my big red folder of Spectrum game maps and although I knew I had full printouts of my Amiga titles (Baldy, Video Ease and Talisman) I forgot about a lovely letter that was sent to me.

It was from someone in Greece, who had taken the time to write to me saying how much they enjoyed the game, but also asking for a few hints. This was amazing to me, and I started looking through the pages and pages of source code to reminisce about the game.

I was, to be honest, astonished at how much content there was in the game, and I am not just saying that because I wrote it. This was a public domain game, obtainable for a few quid, and yet the amount of locations, graphics, puzzles, interactions and story was incredible.

I started playing the game using an emulator and was thoroughly enjoying this 25-year-old gem, but had to agree with several reviews at the time, that the combat element could be a pain at times.

I wanted to see all the location images, but even after a hour of play I still hadn’t got more than 20% in.

The puzzles were quite simple, as the interface only allowed certain actions. This meant most of them involved getting an object and USING it in the right place. The story was driven by TALKing to characters or having the right object when you encounter them. I even made an appearance late on, digitised and placed over a location image.

Now onto the problems. To get access to the location images I either had to play the game all the way through or grab them from the disk. I thought the second option would be best, until I discovered that they were stored in an AMOS format rather than a standard image format.

I downloaded AMOS for windows, a great tool that emulates an Amiga running AMOS Pro, and gives you full access to every function. Using this I copied bits of code from the original source and tried to load and display each location in turn. This worked to some extent, but the colours were completely wrong.

I tried manually setting the palette for each of the 16 shades of grey, but that only partly fixed it. Now stuck I tried the first route, playing the game. I worked out, by looking at the source code, how to cheat by upping my strength and hit power to 100 (instead of 10). This meant the fights were easy to win. I then ran into a puzzle that stopped me cheating. How clever I must have been back then!

You cannot get past a certain Dwarf unless you have a larger sword. To get this you must work your way through a few puzzles. So, back to option two!

To get the palette right, according to how the source code looked, I needed an IFF file that was loaded in at the start. This file was the interface, and the rest of the images used its palette. This is not stored within the game discs, it is compiled into the main code.

I had the original backup discs from my Amiga, but no way of actually getting to the data on them, as I don’t have a working machine. I tracked down two programs that would allow an old PC with two floppy drives to be able to create ADF image files I could then use within an Amiga emulator.

This took longer than expected and after three days of messing about with faulty floppy drives and Windows XP, I was finally dumping the discs. Sadly, one disc I could not access because it was an Amiga high density format, something the programs would not handle.

Now armed with the ADF images, I quickly located the interface image, added the code to my image viewer and finally I could see all the images. Now I just had to grab them, crop them, and make them ready to be used in the teardown.

It was great to see those images again, it took me over six months to the write the game, and many images were grabbed from films, cartoons, German TV shows and even the Amiga game, Eye Of The Beholder. To get the full, massive insight, read the teardown.