New Indie FPS Grind Gets Very Close To Doom On 1987 Amiga 500 OCS Hardware
To appreciate the subject of this post, you're going to have to take a trip back to 1993 with us. The gaming scene on the IBM PC had been growing rapidly for a few years, championed by graphics-heavy games taking advantage of the explosion of clones of the expensive Video Graphics Array (VGA) adapter. Gorgeous titles like Wolfenstein 3D and Dune II were starting to offer an experience comparable or superior to what you could find on other home computers at the time.
It was really the release of Doom in late 1993 that cemented the IBM-compatible PC as a serious front-running gaming platform. There was absolutely nothing like Doom on any other system at that time. Before Doom, most people would probably have told you that competitor Commodore's Amiga systems were the superior gaming platform, but as John Carmack himself famously said in an e-mail to a fan requesting that id Software port the game to Amiga, "the amiga is not powerfull [sic] enough to run DOOM."
The problem wasn't with the CPU, exactly; the Amiga 1200 that was available at that time could be upgraded with a 68040 CPU that would have been more than capable of running Doom. The problem was with the way the Amiga's graphics hardware was programmed. We won't get into the gritty technical details here, but the point is that the Amiga wasn't capable of being programmed the same way that IBM's VGA was, and this is why Doom was ultimately "the impossible port" for the Amiga.
Well, fast-forward thirty years, and while Doom still isn't officially available for classic Amiga hardware, we've got something that gets damn close to that classic game's visuals and gameplay. In-development indie FPS Grind offers almost everything about Doom that was groundbreaking for the time: variable ceiling height, sector-based lighting, outdoor areas, angled wall geometry, and smooth full-screen rendering. Most impressively, it can do it on an original Amiga 500, released in 1987.
To be fair, you'll need a more RAM (1MB) than the A500 came with, and the performance on that machine isn't great—around 10 to 12 FPS—but it does work, which is incredible. The developers, a small studio called Pixelglass, recommend an Amiga 1200 for smooth gameplay, which is what the video embedded below was captured from.
Grind is based on the same game engine as another relatively-recent Amiga FPS game called Dread. While Dread got attention for its impressive performance and feature set on positively-prehistoric Amiga hardware, it saw some criticism for its "generic" sci-fi visuals and theme. Grind completely resolves these complaints with a gorgeous rusted-steel-and-copper aesthetic that recalls both steampunk media as well as Lovecraftian horror themes.
Actually, as many commenters on the YouTube video point out, it reminds strongly of another beloved Amiga title called The Chaos Engine, also known as Soldiers of Fortune in some territories. That game was an overhead-view steampunk shooter with co-op, and it eventually found its way to the Super NES and Sega Genesis as well as IBM PCs.
The demo in the video is marked as version "0.3", so obviously it's far from complete. The developers say that the missing features in alpha phase include music support on the Amiga version, an SFX overhaul, additional polish on the weapon models, weapon secondary fire modes, adding more enemies and polishing the ones already there, and adding two more levels. That'll be enough to represent a "vertical slice" of the title, they say.
We first heard about Grind thanks to IndieRetroNews, who got a quote from Pixelglass stating that the Grind team has grown with a number of famous scene coders joining the group. BSzili is a developer famous for working on Amiga ports of classic DOS FPS games, and Kabuto from the Titan demogroup may be looking at porting the game to the Mega Drive. The group's most recent Patreon release includes an Atari ST version, too.
If you're a retro games fan and want to check out Grind, head over to Pixelglass' Patreon page to subscribe and support the development of what was once a white whale for Amiga gamers.