Electronic Arts

Status: Preview, Findability: 2/5

Populous was a groundbreaking game from the mind of Peter Molyneux, which was still around the time that the C64 was going strong still.  Of course, it posed the question of whether a C64 conversion would be on the cards.  A Master System conversion happened though, which frustrated us – but we moved on without nothing penned in.

In the UK at least, news of a conversion was non-existant, but 64’er in Germany had surprised its readers by printing screenshots of what looked like a working demo.  They had stated that the magazine received a demo-disk which included a demo of a c64-version of the god-sim Populous by Peter Molyneux.

The demo-disk included the first graphics and routines for this game, indicating that the scan shots were in fact real and interactive.  The last thing the magazine stated is that they will try to contact the programming team and give them some-sort of legal protection (“Schutzenhilfe”), and follow the development of the game.

It wasn’t known how things went with the game, and if 64’er got hold of the game. It looks unlikely due to nothing being released (and the coder later all but confirmed that no-one got in touch with them), but all we had for a while were screenshots from the magazine.

Zeldin informed GTW that the guys who made the early screens, did the game “Boom”. After the unsuccessful launch of “Boom”, they sent Zeldin and his crew all their started projects and said: “Finish it if you want!”. On those disks were the “Populous” graphics, and also the source codes.

Coder, Frank Hugenroth, got in touch with GTW64 in 2015 and confirmed that it was created more as a technical demo for the C64 and was contributed initially as a contribution to an animation/GFX competition to 64’er.

Frank mentioned that they pitched the potential conversion to EA Germany, but they sadly declined it (feeling that the market had moved on from the C64).   In the end, the demo initially created was done just for fun, but has a working grid of 64×64 and can be scrolled.  It’s suggested that after EA’s rejection, they did think about using the technique with another game – but it was never to be.

Well, one of the AWT members in 2015 – LightSide came to the rescue of GTW64 and has supplied us with the disk which Frank and Andre originally had sent over.  Which includes the source code.  This includes an interactive title page and a map which can be moved around rather impressively.  There is also a tune separately which was not integrated, and is pretty impressive.

Frank has given full permission also for the source code to be released.  The source code is credited to both Frank and Andre.  It is released under the Creative Commons license Attribution as detailed by Frank:

“This material is licensed under the Creative Commons license Attribution – Noncommercial – Share Alike 4.0 International. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/.”

Separate from this version of Populous, we can confirm also that an official C64 version was in the pipeline!… Paul Hughes had the following to say…

“Its only a tidbit – I’m not sure how far that version of Populous actually went, but when I was in first talks with Pete and Les at Bullfrog about Flood 2 – they asked me (circa 1991) if I’d be interested in doing a 64 conversion of Pete’s Populous (having just left Ocean and having a raft of 64 routines still fresh in my mind).

As I got more and more “into” flood 2 and pushing the Atari ST, the thoughts of doing more 64 work where the furthest from my mind. I don’t think they ever got much further, and just afterwards they did a massive selling Megadrive port of Populous and it all fizzled away.”

So did they get someone else to do the port?… Is this the port?…. More info needed, but a very interesting snippet of information there…

But for now, check out what could have been the real deal had EA Germany signed it up!  A massive shame it never got further, but so glad it has been fully saved!

Contributions: Zeldin, Paul Koller, Paul Hughes, Frank Hugenroth, LightSide, Martin Pugh, Jazzcat

Supporting content

Available downloads

Update history

  • 22/01/15 – Tidied up the pretty terrible write up – all over the place, hopefully better now.
  • 22/01/15 – Added Onslaught crack to the archive (compressed and music fixed)
  • 21/01/15 – Populous demo recovered and released thanks to LightSide, including source code!
  • 07/01/15 – Frank Hugenroth talks to GTW64 about Populous. Comments embedded into write up.
Posted in: GTW64 archive | Tagged: | 9 Comments

9 Responses to Populous

  1. Displayed graphics of this demo version are very nice.

    As Ross implied below a multi load disk version would have been easily possibly.

  2. So I managed to convert the original ProfiAss sources to something more modern and build the code. But the sources are a bit different than the code from the preview build, so the result is not 100% working. It seems that the data that is used by the preview build doesn’t exactly match what the source expects. The upper half of each tile is not drawn correctly. Also the radar doesn’t redraw correctly. I can’t figure out what could be wrong, but if anybody is interested in having a look, please contact me. Here’s a test build I made: http://twinbirds.com/populous.prg

    • Thanks Andreas, great work! I’m not sure how the source came to be different to the preview, but I can only guess they lost the very latest version when compiling up the disk to send to AWT.

  3. At that time (Uhh…1991?), we developed this more as a technical demo for the C64 and sent this to the mentioned 64’er magazine as a contribution to an animation-GFX competition ;)

    But the magazine never “tried” to contact us (in fact, they knew us). We only had seen a screenshot in one issue without notifying us – nothing more.
    We tried to contact EA Germany by ourself, but they simply declined…

    Technically, the code is very small. The demo supports the original sized (a grid of 64×64) Populous world which can be build up/down, scrolled and is displayed in the overview (“radar”).
    As I mentioned, it was a tech-demo – we did it just for fun. Maybe after the refusal from EA we thought about developing an own game with such “terrain” GFX, but this never happened :)


  4. Ahhh.I was only reading a few days ago an interview with the coder behind the NES version and huge difficulties he had bringing game to the NES, running out of cart space halfway through and game playing at a really slow pace compared to 16 Bit versions, but still remaining ‘playable’.I could only see this ‘working’ on C64 as a cartridge or disk based game.

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