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The Pawn Demo

This is a demo of the text adventure game The Pawn for Sinclair ZX Spectrum Next. The Pawn was first released by Magnetic Scrolls for Sinclair QL in 1985. The Atari ST and Commodore Amiga versions released in 1986 were groundbreaking in providing premium graphics in combination with an advanced parser. A text-only version of the game was released for Spectrum 128 and later Spectrum +3. In this demo, you can walk around in the world of Kerovnia and enjoy its beautiful graphics on your Spectrum Next. If you need help finding your way in Kerovnia, an almost accurate map can be downloaded from Magnetic Scrolls Memorial.

The purpose of the demo is to explore and demonstrate how a text adventure game can be presented on the Spectrum Next using a combination of the layer 2 screen for displaying colorful graphics and the Timex hi-res mode for displaying high-resolution text with a proportional font. It also demonstrates how a text adventure game can support a large amount of graphics and text by loading such resources on-demand from an SD card using ESXDOS.

The purpose of the demo is not to provide a fully-featured playable game. The parser is very limited, you can only walk around in the world, you cannot interact with its in-game characters and objects. To turn the demo into a complete game, a feasible option would be to port Magnetic, Niclas Karlsson's Magnetic Scrolls interpreter written in C, to z88dk. The Magnetic source code would need to be restructured to support memory banking since it will not fit in a 64 KB address space.

The demo contains all rooms with descriptions and graphics from the original Amiga version of the game. The Amiga version of The Pawn used the same graphics as the Atari ST version, which had 16-color images from a palette of 512 colors. These images have been converted to Spectrum Next's layer 2 graphics mode. Some of the images have been slightly reduced in height to fit the Spectrum Next screen resolution.

The demo is written in C (with some parts in assembler) using z88dk. A big thank you to z88dk developer Alvin for helping out with the details of customizing the I/O terminal handling in z88dk. The graphics has been converted to Spectrum Next layer 2 format with the Next BMP tools and is displayed in the demo using the zxnext_layer2 graphics library. The intro music is played with the vt_sound C API for the Vortex Tracker II player.

The demo supports the following commands:

  • north (n)
  • south (s)
  • west (w)
  • east (e)
  • northwest (nw)
  • northeast (ne)
  • southwest (sw)
  • southeast (se)
  • up (u)
  • down (d)
  • look (l)
  • quit


The Pawn loading screen On the Path River Bank Palace Gardens


The Pawn video

How to Run

The latest version of this program can be downloaded HERE. This archive contains a folder called pawndemo which contains the binaries and the required resource files. In the descriptions below, the absolute path to the pawndemo folder is denoted as <pawndemo>.

The demo can be run on the Spectrum Next hardware or in the CSpect 1.9 and ZEsarUX 6.1 emulators.

Spectrum Next

  1. On your PC, unpack the downloaded ZIP file in the root directory of an SD card containing the Spectrum Next firmware. The *.md and *.bat files are not needed and can be skipped.

  2. Insert the SD card in your Spectrum Next computer and start it.

  3. Go to the directory pawndemo and run the program pawndemo.sna.

CSpect Emulator

  1. Install the latest version of the CSpect emulator.

  2. Run the pawndemo.sna file in the CSpect emulator:

> CSpect.exe -w2 -zxnext -mmc=<pawndemo>/ <pawndemo>/pawndemo.sna

Note that the -mmc path must end with a / or \ character!

Tip: For convenience, you can also run the included batch file run_cspect.bat. Make sure CSpect.exe is in your PATH or set the CSPECT_HOME environment variable to the directory where it is located.

ZEsarUX Emulator

  1. Install the latest version of the ZEsarUX emulator.

  2. Copy the contents of the pawndemo folder to <zesarux>/extras/media/spectrum/esxdos_handler/0.8.6_TBBLUE.

  3. Run the pawndemo.tap file in the ZEsarUX emulator:

> zesarux.exe --machine tbblue --enabletimexvideo --enable-mmc --enable-divmmc-ports --mmc-file tbblue.mmc
  --enable-esxdos-handler --esxdos-root-dir extras/media/spectrum/esxdos_handler/0.8.6_TBBLUE --quickexit
  --tape <pawndemo>/pawndemo.tap

Note: The demo does not work properly in the ZEsarUX emulator since the Timex hi-res graphics mode cannot be combined with the layer 2 screen in ZEsarUX 6.1. Initially, only the text will be displayed in the demo. To see the images, press F5 in ZEsarUX and select "Settings -> Display -> Timex Real 512x192 -> No". However, the text will now be downscaled to a 256 * 192 resolution and is thus difficult to read.

Tip: For convenience, you can also run the included batch file run_zesarux.bat. Make sure zesarux.exe is in your PATH or set the ZESARUX_HOME environment variable to the directory where it is located. You still need to manually copy the contents of the pawndemo folder to <zesarux>/extras/media/spectrum/esxdos_handler/0.8.6_TBBLUE before running the batch file.


This software is licensed under the terms of the MIT license.

Text and graphics are copyright (C) 1985-1987 by Magnetic Scrolls Ltd.

The FZX proportional font driver is copyright (C) 2013 by Andrew Owen and Einar Saukas.

Music track "heroquesters" is copyright (C) 2004 by Nik-O (Oleg Nikitin).

The Vortex Tracker II player in the file PT3PROM.asm is copyright (C) 2004-2007 by Sergey Bulba.

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