Laser-disc games for the C64
The graphics capabilities of computers have increased exponentially over the years. Modern games feature almost realistic graphics, largely aided by expensive and powerful graphics cards.
The Commodore 64 had some great graphic capabilities back in its days and by employing REUs and some neat tricks, developers today are recreating awesome graphics on the old time classic.
But also back in the early 90s, there was a way to have cinematic sequences and high-resolution graphics with the C64!
The Mannheim based German company “LDG/Softwarecorner” had the idea to use the power of datastorage, the CD quality sound and video-playback capabilities from a laser-disc and combine it with a C64.
The idea was simple: hook up the C64 as a “control unit” to a laser-disc player, load special software onto the C64 to transfer the joystick and keyboard inputs to the laser-disc and basically use the two to create a fantastic gaming experience.
All of a sudden, your C64 was controlling basically 400 GBytes of ROM memory (a 30 cm laser disc could hold the equivalent of 2.3 million 1541 discs!), played games with cinematic cut-scenes and had awesome soundtracks with CD-quality.
One of the first games that was released on this combined platform was “Dragon’s Lair”, an interactive adventure game, in which you had to guide your hero through perilous dungeons and fight off evil around every corner.
Behind the gorgeous graphics, the cinematic screens and perfect stereo sound, however, lay the downside of the laser-disc concept: the freedom of movement.
Basically, you could choose every time between a couple of actions and then the laser-disc would show the next scene and so on.
The concept just couldn’t cut it for action games – Hitting the fire button at the right time was not that easy and giving the appropriate command at the right interval required some, or rather a lot of, practice
It wasn’t cheap either, as initially, you had to have a laser-disc player like the CLD 1500, CLD 1600 or CLD 2600 from Pioneer, which had a price tag back then (calculated to today’s money) of roughly 1000 Euro. The CLD 1500 was the cheapest, but had the drawback that it was about 15% slower than its bigger brothers, which led to a longer search time on the disc to get to the next sequence.
On the upside, the LDG-package included all the necessary cables to hook up the laser-disc player to a TV or monitor, all the necessary software on a cartridge or disk and if you didn’t already own a C64, they would provide a special C64 console with cartridge slot (although I never really saw them produce these).
A great concept nonetheless, and one that opened up the door to further interactive software!