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The Amiga was an important platform for games in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Of all the 16-bit home computers, it was the one to gain the greatest success as a games machine due to its graphic and sound subsystems, which were widely considered to be far ahead of their time. A game made for the Amiga platform generally had much better sound and graphics than the same game running on an IBM PC, and it was also a more powerful machine than its nearest rival, the Atari ST.
From the Amiga's introduction in late 1985, through to the early 1990s, Amiga games were developed in parallel with the Atari ST as both machines utilized the Motorola 68000 CPU. The Atari ST was, by default the industry's primary focus for 16-bit games development because it initially had a larger user base than the Amiga. Additionally, developers found it easier to develop for, and it was easier to port from ST to Amiga than the other way. This was due in part to the ST's minimalist hardware design, which consisted of the 68000 CPU which controlled a bitmapped framebuffer chip called Shifter. The ST's graphics hardware was similar to previous computers, such as the Apple II or ZX Spectrum, which made the transition to 16-bit easier. In contrast, the Amiga uses 2 chips to form its graphics hardware, making it a more complex architecture than previous generation of computers. This made programming the Amiga a harder task in comparison to the conventional design of the ST.
A major proportion of games developed from 1985 to 1988 were written specifically for ST, then converted to the Amiga. As a result, many Amiga games of this period were, in most cases, identical to the ST version. These games were usually called "straight ports" and did not utilize Amiga specific features, such as the blitter and hardware sprites (useful for animations), copper (useful for raster effects) and superior color capabilities (the Amiga has larger color palette and can display more colors at the same time). Additionally, games that did not make use of the Amiga's hardware often ran slower on the Amiga because the ST's CPU was clocked slightly higher at 8 MHz versus the Amiga's 7.09 MHz. This went against the Amiga's design philosophy of using hardware acceleration to reduce the load on the CPU. The only major difference in these games were apparent in audio effects and in-game music. The Amiga used digitally sampled audio for realistic sound and music, while ST used a Programmable Sound Generator, which were used in older 8-bit computers.
The ST continued to be the dominant machine until the introduction of the Amiga 500 in early 1987. The Amiga 500 allowed the Amiga platform to compete with the ST on price, and with increased sales the gaming industry (mostly in Europe) gradually shifted its focus to the Amiga. By 1988, an increasing number of games were developed specifically for the Amiga. Games of this period began to show the Amiga's power, as programmers became more familiar with its architecture.
Games developed on the Amiga often had to be scaled back for the ST, due to the limitations of its graphics hardware, as such these games would often have fewer colors and less detailed background graphics which gave the Amiga a distinct advantage in head to head comparisons with the ST, reversing the previous trend. At this point in time, the Atari ST began its decline in the 16-bit games market. Atari responded by releasing the Atari STE in 1989, an "enhanced" version of the ST to match the specification of the Amiga 500 by adding a blitter, more colors and DMA driven digital audio. Unfortunately for the STE, the Amiga had already captured the market, and developers were reluctant to write software for the STE, preferring to stick with the larger established ST userbase.
Meanwhile, Commodore boosted sales of the Amiga in the UK by bundling A500s with a games package, the first being the "Batman Pack" in 1989. The Batman package was conceived by the Managing Director of Commodore UK, David Pleasance. Most bundles consisted of popular games of the time or games with some television or film licence. These packs helped the Amiga become the most popular 16-bit games computer in the UK.
At its zenith in the early 1990s, the Amiga continued to be the platform of choice of many games development companies. At that time many games were released first on the Amiga, before being converted to other formats.
MOD-based game music
Amiga games popularized tracker-based music, particularly the MOD file format, which has enjoyed continuing popularity in the Demoscene community. Demoscene music was influenced by the Amiga and its plethora of games with upbeat, electronic music soundtracks. Music was considered a big part of the game experience in most Amiga games.
Companies with Amiga roots
The Amiga gaming scene was responsible for the rapid growth of small gaming companies including Electronic Arts who were contracted by Commodore International to produce the Amiga's standard file format IFF in 1985. Electronic Arts' Deluxe Paint was included as standard with many Amigas thus giving them early access to productivity software. Other game development companies that were spawned by the Amiga platform include Psygnosis (later purchased by Sony as the in-house development team for the PlayStation), and a sub-set of Psygnosis called DMA Design (which later became Rockstar Games—the developer of the Grand Theft Auto series). Factor 5, now affiliated with Sony, created such Amiga and Commodore classics as the Turrican series, DICE, originally founded by ex-Amiga swedishes demomakers, Traveller's Tales, or Team 17.
Games distributed with the Amiga
Batman Pack : A500 : October 1989 - September 1990
- Batman the Movie — Ocean Software
- New Zealand Story — Ocean Software — (1989)
- F/A-18 Interceptor — Electronic Arts
Flight of Fantasy : A500 : April 1990 - September 1990
- Rainbow Islands — Ocean Software
- Escape From The Planet Of The Robot Monsters — Tengen
- F29 Retaliator — Ocean Software
Screen Gems : A500 : September 1990 - July 1992
- Back to the Future Part II — Imageworks
- Days of Thunder — Mindscape
- Nightbreed — Ocean Software
- Shadow of the Beast 2 — Psygnosis
Cartoon Classics : A500 : July 1992 - September 1992
- The Simpsons: Bart vs. the Space Mutants — Ocean Software, port of Acclaim's NES title
- Captain Planet — Mindscape
- Lemmings — Psygnosis
The Wild! The Weird! The Wicked! : A600 : Late 1992
Race 'N' Chase : A1200 : 1993
Dangerous Streets : CD32 : 1993
AmigaOS 4 games
AmigaOS 4 Powervideo games.
- The Battle for Wesnoth
- Cave Story
- Gorky 17
- Project Starfighter
- Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness
- Cube (video game)
- Gish (video game)
- Warzone 2100
- UFO: Alien Invasion
- Aquaria (video game)
- Lincity NG
- Earth 2140
- Descent 2
Amiga game developers
Many famous game developers first established themselves on the Amiga, although some such as David Braben, Jon Hare and Jeff Minter had already established reputations from the 8-bit formats. Famous developers that have worked on Amiga games include:
- David Braben (Elite series, Virus)
- Dino Dini (Kick Off, Player Manager)
- Jon Hare of Sensible Software (Cannon Fodder, Mega_Lo_Mania, Sensible Soccer, Sensible World of Soccer, Wizkid)
- Dave Jones of DMA Design (Lemmings)
- Sid Meier (Civilization, Railroad Tycoon, Pirates)
- Jeff Minter (Llamatron, Grid Runner, Revenge of the Mutant Camels)
- Peter Molyneux (Populous)
- Jez San (Starglider)
- Will Wright (SimCity)
- Amiga Games Database
- Lemon Amiga An interactive Amiga game database containing reviews, comments and ratings.
- AmigaMemo.com - The Amiga Game Museum
- The Hall Of Light (HOL) database of Amiga games
- All Amiga games at UVL
- S.P.S. - The Software Preservation Society Technical effort for the preservation of commercial games.