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The first 100% QuickBasic game Review magazine

Revenge of the Basics, Part 1: DarkBasic

(4/6/2001) Just because Microsoft QuickBasic is no longer in distribution doesn't mean that modern Basic compilers aren't around! In this new feature, we search the world for new Basics, this time starting with DarkBasic.

Cave Run, one of the first examples included in the DarkBasic demo, proves the compiler can handle 3D right off the bat.

With the coming of Windows ME and of other future, DOS-detached operating systems, it's beginning to look like Microsoft is doing everything in it's power to make life a struggle for QBasic programmers. After all, many of the world's most popular Basic compilers and variants rely on DOS partially or fully. GWBasic, Turbo Basic, Power Basic, and even Microsoft QuickBasic are best stored in the more DOS-reliable versions of Windows, where they are allowed to thrive free. It can only be concluded by Microsoft's efforts to strip DOS from Windows that Bill Gates desires to have all Basic programmers using Microsoft Visual Basic, where they can be demoted from the exciting world of game-making to the boring land of applications construction.

But is that really any way for QB programmers to go? I don't think so! Should you be compelled or forced into a position where you have a computer in your house with absolutely no DOS support and no way of running QuickBasic, you should be prepared. And one way to prepare yourself is to go is to search for a second Basic to learn, one that's more Windows compatible. That way, you'll be able to program in QBasic on your DOS/Windows 9x computer while you'll something to toy around with in your spare time on your next-generation Windows box. After all, if you're as much into the hobby of programming as I am, you'd take every effort to make sure you have the opportunity to program in Basic twenty-four hours a day.

So as a new feature in V Planet, we'll scour the Internet in search of Windows-friendly versions of Basic. Our hope is to find a cost-effective, user-friendly version of Basic for Windows with excellent performance ratings and a high portability for QBasic and QB library code. We won't promise that we'll find such a language since QBasic is so perfect just the way it is, but we can do is report what we discover about these new Windows-oriented Basic variants as we find them.

The Windows-drawn interface in DarkBasic is funky, dark, and user-friendly.

Our first specimen is DarkBasic. Deemed "The Ultimate 3D Game Creator" by its creators, we were a bit skeptical when DarkBasic claimed to combine the ease of use of Basic with the ability to combine DirectX and Direct3D. Our first impressions of the free programmer's demo proved us very wrong.

To the gamer, the first thing you'll notice is that DarkBasic delivers in the 3D department. The first 3D game included in the demo is Cave Run, a simple demo that illustrates the fogging and texture-mapping abilities of DarkBasic. But to the programmer, you'll notice that the portability of QBasic to DarkBasic is very high. Except for the new 3D commands, the syntax in DarkBasic does not stray from QBasic at all. FOR/NEXT loops, IF/ELSE statements, and other basic structures in DarkBasic are faithfully maintained.

The free demo of DarkBasic includes a "restricted" version of the compiler and some free game demos to try. Besides Cave Run, other demos included a Tank simulator, a first-person shooter called Iced, a rain demo featuring an impressive scorpion model and lighting effects, and a Jet-skiing demo of sorts. The demos show the versatility of DarkBasic in various 3D situations.

But the DarkBasic demo is more than just eye candy. Also included in the package is a comprehensive instruction manual, as well as a help menu that provides command lists and many examples intended to train anyone from the beginning Basic programmer to the veterans seeking to learn the new matrix commands.

Of course, all this power doesn't come without a price. This 3D-intensive version of Basic will thrive best if you're using DirectX 7.0 or higher, Windows 9x, a Pentium 233 or higher, 64 MB of RAM, a 16x speed CD-ROM, 50 MB of hard drive space, and a Voodoo2 3D card. These are pretty hefty standards, but DarkBasic is a serious 3D language that requires some equally serious equipment.

In addition to the hardware strain, the free DarkBasic demo would not be free without a few restrictions. Among these restrictions include the fact that you can't have more than 100 2D objects, 100 3D objects, and 100 sound effects stored without purchasing the full version of DarkBasic from their website. This hurdle is actually invitable considering that part of the thrill of Basic is working around handicaps. What will really urge you to buy the full version of DarkBasic is the fact that all your programs compiled through the free demo will display a pretty huge DarkBasic logo in the lower-right corner at all times. This isn't much of a problem for hobbyist programmers, but this interjection into creative property almost forces you to purchase the full DarkBasic package if you intend to make your product marketable.

There are advantages however. As said before, the portability is high for QB games written fully in Basic code. Perhaps the biggest advantage regarding DarkBasic is the company that will be with you. houses a busy discussion board with a group of content DarkBasic programmers, and if you look around hard enough you'll be treated to screenshots and demos of many upcoming projects. The growth of it's community of programmers is embryonic when compared to the much larger QB community, so if you're looking to be part of something big early on, this is a good place to go.

This DarkBasic demo of a tank simulator shows fogging and other 3D effects in DarkBasic's bag of tricks.

Overall, adding DarkBasic to your repetoire comes recommended if you're an experienced QBasic programmer with some money to shell, particularly if you want a 3D-based Basic in your utility belt. DarkBasic manages to move Basic into 3D without taking away much of what makes QBasic fun. The full version is a bit on the pricey side though, so if you're not fully satisfied with the demo version, you should give us time to check out other versions of Basic before you commit.

Demo Version: Free!
Full Version: CD or Upgrade package ($70)
Download the Free Demo at:

DarkBasic Screenshots (high resolution)
Lost in a Cave
A World With Nothing But Reese Witherspoon... can you tell Vance made this?
Jetskiing on a Gremlin
Spectacular Lighting Effects (especially for Basic)
Bring on the Combat

Article written by QBShire

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