Take That Amiga! Or Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

Posted by Alex Lee on 25 January 2015 | 20 Comments

Tags: Amiga, Jim Sachs, Apple IIGS, Graphics, Images, Conversion, Amiga Graphics Archive, Rick Parks, Herman Serrano, Henk VanDer Graaf, Garvan Corbett, Avril Harrison,

Many moons ago, I came across something on an Amiga website that could only make a petty, immature Apple IIGS user like me and about 10 other people on the planet smirk.

You see, ‘The Official Amiga Software Catalogue', a printed publication ‘describing over 300 of the best Amiga software, hardware and accessories titles' actually reveals more about IIGS software on its cover than the Amiga - If you look closely, the iconic Amiga software Deluxe Paint II, apparently running on an Amiga 1000, graces its cover. If you look even more closely however, you'll see that it's actually the Apple IIGS version of Deluxe Paint II - the pull down menu style and use of the Shaston font, make that a stark contrast to the GUI look and feel of the Amiga.


The Official Amiga Software Catalogue


If you need any further confirmation that it's the IIGS version, look no further than the InCider magazine issue of October 1986 - the one with Woz introducing the IIGS...which includes exactly the same screen shot of Deluxe Paint II.


Check out the screen grab!


This petty, immature IIGS user has enjoyed this pointless cheap shot at the Amiga. It's all in good fun of course - I have much respect for the Amiga as a platform. Let's be honest, its cost, 16-bit software library and abilities with not only displaying graphics but pushing them around screen effortlessly leaves a lot to be desired on the IIGS. Of course what the IIGS has going for it is better sound capabilities, an arguably better standard user interface and a bevy of legacy software from its 8-bit forebears. 

When I ever get enough space (ideally a man-cave) I'd like own some form of classic Amiga and hopefully some solid state method of playing around with its software library. Until then however, I'm making do by going back to one of my old pointless hobbies and converting graphics in the best way possible on the IIGS.

The Amiga can display graphics with 32 colours from a palette of 4096 at resolution of 320 x 200 (and other resolutions as well). The IIGS can display 16 colours PER SCAN LINE from a palette of 4096 at 320 x 200 pixels. But just how well can using different palettes across different scan lines help convert 32 colour art to the IIGS?

I thought I'd start with artwork from Jim Sachs, the artist who really made the Amiga and 4-bit graphics shine thanks to his art, including his work on Defender of the Crown. The Amiga Graphics Archive does a wonderful job showcasing Amiga graphics and their artists and I've used that as the source for obtaining classic Amiga art for conversion on the IIGS with Super Convert 4, Prism and Convert 3200.


Jim Sachs Self Portrait


I tried using just the 16 colour palettes evenly distributed down the SHR screen (for a maximum potential of 256 colours, bearing in mind that you're limited to 16 colours per palette) but it just didn't cut the mustard. So, 3200 colour mode it was. It's a little overkill to try to maintain the original 32 colour artwork, but it's worked almost flawlessly across all the images I converted and Jim Sachs artwork displays perfectly (in most cases).


Art Examples of Jim Sachs


Fortunately, unlike a lot of the Pixel Joint artwork I converted, each of the images I've included in this collection are all 320x200 (and no taller, requiring scrolling to see the rest of the image), so 3200 colour mode works well in this regard. Rather than use the otherwise excellent SHR View by Ron Mercer, it's best to view these Amiga images from Dream Voir, DreamWorld's slide show viewer, as it includes fade to black transitions for 3200 mode graphics (which no other slide viewer on the IIGS offers) as well as Sound Smith music accompaniment (if you feel that way inclined for background music). The fade transitions make it look like the IIGS is displaying the images with ease, but in reality, it's quietly breaking a sweat in the background, as it requires many additional cycles to keep all 200 palettes doing their thing across the image.

To enjoy these new Amiga graphics on the IIGS, download the updated the Graphics & Animation 32 meg volume:

 Graphics & Animation (A collection of classic and new graphics slideshows and animation ~18.6meg)

Once mounted in System 6 or System 5.0.4, open the ‘Gfx.Viewers' folder at the top of the volume's window, and then ‘DVoir' and launch the ‘DreamVoir' application. It should be configured to run the slideshow of Amiga graphics already, if not go to 'File' > 'Get Picture Directory...' and select the 'Amiga' folder.

Jim Sachs artwork is joined by other notable artists Rick Parks, Herman Serrano, Henk VanDer Graaf, Garvan Corbett, Avril Harrison and others. Some images in the end didn't require the full 3200 conversion (in particular, the Barbarian intro graphics look great in 256 colour modes). Note that 3200 colour graphics will not display properly in the emulator Sweet 16, and your mileage may vary for KEGS/GSPort/ActiveGS as well. Real IIGS hardware is best to enjoy these graphics.

A last comment: it surprised me to learn that the premiere screen saver for the IIGS, Twilight II, doesn't include a module for displaying a slideshow of images to prevent screen burn-in, although there is a module that will play Paintworks animations. Anyone up for the challange of creating a Twilight II module to enable a slide show as a screen saver? If you take a peek inside the Graphics & Animation 32meg volume and look inside 'Twilight.Mods', there's a file in there called 'tii.G2MF.jun14' which is an AppleWorks GS text document that outlines the specifics of the module format. Could this perhaps be coupled with the code DreamWorld very effeciently wrote for handling the opening and display of multiple graphic formats, which Brutal Deluxe used in their PicViewer Finder Extension?


Post your comment


  • This blog is dedicated to the work of Jim Sachs? Really? Must have escaped my attention.

    Posted by Chris, 14/10/2015 11:53am (3 years ago)

  • What an absolute pleasure it is for Jim Sachs to comment on this blog dedicated to his work!

    Regarding the aspect ratio issue, the screen shots above are shown in their square pixel display of modern computers and devices, as the original 320x200 resolution has been maintained. When anyone downloads the disk image of the converted slideshow of your work and the art of other Amiga artists, when it's run on original IIGS hardware, the the aspect ratio will revert back to its intended 4:3 display, with no modification to the graphics.

    Displaying the correct 4:3 pixel aspect ratio would involve stretching the images above to 320 x 240. Which I could look into to see if it can be specified in HTML rather than having to do so in Photoshop, which will maintain the original pixel density.

    Thanks for writing in Jim! You've been an inspiration to many!

    Posted by Alex Lee, 10/10/2015 7:24am (3 years ago)

  • Most delighted to see Jim Sachs still cares about the ways and channels his precious Amiga works are presented amidst the abundance of semi-abandoned content that the internet has become. Unfortunately, I am just a visitor, so there isn't much I can do to help getting his wishes respected.
    But if Jim has a preferred procedure of conversion to square pixels that doesn't lead to loss of information, it would be appreciated if he could share it with the interested public. Perhaps on his homepage?

    Posted by Chris, 05/10/2015 12:58pm (3 years ago)

  • The only problem I have with my artwork displayed above is the vertical squashing caused by displaying the 320x200 Amiga image on a machine with square pixels (320x240). The color rendition is great, though.

    Posted by Jim Sachs, 20/09/2015 6:34am (3 years ago)

  • In response to notk: Actually, the Apple IIGS's multi-palette mode (which in essence allowed the screen to be split vertically up to 16 times, each time swapping out the 16 color palette) allowed up to 256 distinct colors and *no* extra load on the CPU. Several games and demos used it, it was more practical than you may think.

    Of course while you could theoretically display true 8-bit color in the "256 color" mode, in practice it'd be far few colors used because you'd often have have repeating colors in your palettes. Nevertheless, it was used for more than just static images in games. In this area, it really gave the machine an edge over the ST and Amiga.

    It was only when you did trickery to split the screen 200 times (or what was known as "3200 color" mode) were the CPU was tied down.

    Still disappointing Apple never updated the VGC chip to handle 256 colors per scanline and 400 lines vertical resolution. I imagine the engineers likely did but it never got out the door, like so many other missing IIGS enhancements.

    Posted by Mitchell Spector, 07/09/2015 7:39am (3 years ago)

  • Hi,

    on the page where you exhibit DeluxePaint II, I've seen a scan of Electronc Arts' "Art Parts Vol. II". Do you have that collection of artwork? I am asking this because I suspect some images to be in this collection that I have been looking for since the late 1980s. I once posted a request to an Amiga newsgroup, but received no reply:


    Do you happen to recognize these images? I am especially interested in the picture of an eagle.

    Thank you!

    Posted by Chris, 14/08/2015 10:02pm (4 years ago)

  • Aprt from the LZ format of DreamGraphix, there is no common code between DreamWorld's s/w and PicViewer,

    Posted by Antoine Vignau, 08/06/2015 7:21am (4 years ago)

  • In the same manner that the IIgs could swap out its 16-color palette per-scanlnie (not quite true, there was a limit to how many pallettes could be used per screen), there was a similar hack on the Amiga called "Dynamic Hi-Res" which swapped out the 16-color palette arbitrarily per-scanline for every single line in 640x400. Of course on both platforms these modes were impractical for anything but displaying static images, because the cpu overhead to do the palette swaps was significant.

    At 320x200 meanwhile, the Amiga had the alternative of HAM, which had its limitations but high CPU use wasn't really one of them.

    So overall I'd say the above is slightly misleading in the comparison.

    Of course on both platforms, these special video modes were pretty cool.

    Posted by notk, 29/05/2015 6:59am (4 years ago)

  • Sad but true for me too - no other piece of tech, as flawed as it is, excited me more than the IIGS.

    Posted by Alex Lee, 28/01/2015 4:11am (4 years ago)

  • Further evidence that indeed it is the Apple IIGS version of Deluxe Paint II: the rainbow Apple logo is blackened out in the screen shot! Perhaps the message here is one of the top best 300 accessories for the Amiga is....the Apple IIGS? ;)

    Beautiful images! I'll have to check out the graphic archive on my real GS. Few people realize how big a difference these graphics look on an AppleColor RGB versus a modern LCD--even just subtle color shading can be lost. And speaking of lost, it's a shame pixel art like that above has become a lost art form. You just don't see hand crafted graphics like that in games and other software anymore. It takes a fair bit of patience, and challenge, but the results can be stunning, even today! In later years the most challenge (and frustration) was trying to work with the GS's 16 color per scanline limit. I did most of my artwork using PaintWorks, and by the time DreamGrafix came along, my RGB monitor was conking out. It would be fun to try getting back into it today!

    Incidentally, 27 years ago on this very day, I unpacked and set up my Apple IIGS for the very first time! Off hand I can't think of any piece of technology I bought since that time that's matched the same kind of excitement I had that day!

    Posted by Mitchell Spector, 27/01/2015 3:47am (4 years ago)

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