Archive for the ‘Happenings’ Category

The Apple II isn't just a computer; it's a community. Conferences, conventions, and parties are where to meet your fratres in computatrum.

Parsely games at KansasFest 2015

June 22nd, 2015 9:29 AM
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At KansasFest 2010, I ran a session of a live text adventure. These Parsely games are inspired by interactive fiction but substitute a human for the computer. Think of it as a cross between IF and Dungeons & Dragons: I became the dungeon master (DM) who described rooms, solicited direction from the players, and reported results — but all input had to be provided as if I were a two-word text parser. So go ahead and tell me to "GET AXE", but if you ask me "Can I pick up the axe?", I'll respond, "I'm sorry, but I don't know how to 'Can I pick up the axe?'". It was a lot of fun to watch players with their graph papers map the connections between rooms, take notes, consult their IF cheat sheets, and try to coordinate their activities across alternating turns — it was a bit like watching Twitch Plays Pokémon. Here's a demonstration of Action Castle, the game I ran at KansasFest 2010, as moderated by its creator, Jared Sorensen:

Parsely returned to KansasFest 2014 with an all-new adventure and was a hit! We even had to adjourn to another room when the players' exploration of Jungle Adventure ran over the allotted session time.

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Comparing maps in Jungle Adventure, the live interactive fiction game I ran

Rather than wait the four years that divided KansasFest's last two rounds of Parsely, I'll be bringing another text adventure to KansasFest 2015. I have several scripts to choose from but will not begin memorizing one until en route to Kansas City. That gives you, the potential players, time to suggest the nature of the game. Should we explore a haunted house; a space station; a medieval castle; a Halloween graveyard; or a zombie-infested hospital? Choose your own adventure in the below survey!

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Game tournaments at KansasFest 2015

May 25th, 2015 11:41 AM
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On the KansasFest email list, Michael Sternberg proposed to organize a third annual Apple II game tournament. This is Sternberg's forté, as he not only ran the Structris competition in 2013–2014, but modified Martin Haye's original game to create the tournament edition used in the event. I captured some of Sternberg's talent and passion in this video for Computerworld:

Sternberg has asked, what game should we play this year? Puzzle games seem a popular choice: GShisen is a KansasFest classic, having been featured in tournaments run first by Juiced.GS founder Max Jones, then by me. Structris, being inspired by Tetris, is also a puzzler, but with an action component that I enjoy. That hybrid nature also describes I classified in Juiced.GS as one of my favorite Apple II games of all-time. Its creator, Steve Chiang, is big in the modern gaming industry; and its artist, Dave Seah, recently made an appearance in the Apple II Enthusiasts group on Facebook. Maybe they'd sponsor a competition with some sort of promotion or giveaway!

But for those retrocomputing enthusiasts whose reaction times have not yet faded with age, there are plenty of action games to choose from, too. Retrobrite afficionado Javier Rivera, who this year will make his KansasFest debut, recently demonstrated two color LCD screens displaying the same video output simultaneously. His software for this test? Karateka.


It's a dual duel!

Charles Mangin proposed we hack this game to allow a second player to control the opponent. Head-to-head Karateka? I'm in!

Photos of KansasFests past

May 18th, 2015 9:15 AM
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I've been bringing a digital camera to KansasFest every year since 2002. Every year, I come home with dozens or hundreds of photos that require sorting, cropping, tagging, and uploading. And every year, as I take more photos, I fall further behind in doing so.

This problem is getting bigger.

This problem is getting bigger.

The biggest hangup is metadata — specifically, captions. I like to write captions for each photo that suggests what could be but isn't happening. Sometimes it's taking note of something happening in the background, or expressing what someone in the photo might be thinking. And the more photos I take, the longer this process.

I used to post the photos in August, shortly after I returned home from KansasFest; then, when I adopted an academic schedule, I'd wait until Christmas break; now my goal is simply to get them posted before the next KansasFest.

I'm relieved to say that KansasFest 2014's photos are finally online. I selected two hundred of my 266 photos to post, then chose eight to share on Facebook, Google+ and Flickr.

Why eight? If you look at my Facebook profile, you'll see I have hundreds of albums, but each one is limited to exactly eight photos. There are three reasons for this self-imposed restriction:

  1. Any photo uploaded to a social network grants a license to that network to use the photo as they see fit. Copyright is the lifeblood of a professional content creator, so I want to grant that license on only a representative sample of my work. The rest are hosted on my own server, where I can claim sole copyright — while knowing that anyone can still copy and distribute a photo as they see fit, at least I am not granting them permission to do so.
  2. As a content consumer, I know how little interest I have in browsing hundreds of other people's photos. I respect people's time by presenting them only a reasonable number of photos; those who wish to explore further may exercise the option of clicking the link to view the full gallery.
  3. As a writer, I've learned how necessary it can be to say something in as few words as possible. Choosing eight photos out of hundreds to best represent an event is the photographic equivalent of that economy of expression.

I doubt anyone was waiting for these photos to be released or even noticed their absence, but given my past involvement in the planning of KansasFest and the production of Juiced.GS, my photos have a tendency to show up in ads, flyers, videos, and more. I like to think that someone, somewhere, sometime, will take a moment to read some of the two hundred captions and enjoy my perspective on this unique event.

Avengers Assemble: Steve Woz & Stan Lee

May 4th, 2015 8:43 AM
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Summer blockbuster season is here, as heralded by last week's release of The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Comic-book superheroes will be smashing across the screen all summer, with the likes of Ant-Man and The Fantastic Four soon to follow.

Many of these characters are the creation of Stan Lee, who has played as much a role in the development of the comic book medium as Steve Wozniak has in the creation of the personal computer. If Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, and the Hulk can team up, why can't these legends?

Geeks need wait only a year for that union to occur when Woz and Lee combine forces to bring us Silicon Valley Comic Con 2016.

Says Woz:

I want to give Silicon Valley it's very own kind of Comic Con where everyone can have fun enjoying what they love. Today we're lucky to have so many kinds of entertainment, from movies, TV shows, web series, music, video games, social media and more, and the lines between entertainment and the technology we love so much in Silicon Valley are getting blurrier every day. We're going to create a place where all these different kinds of interests can come together, and we can come together too.

The event will be held March 19–20, 2016, in San Jose, California — home to the Children's Discovery Museum that Woz founded. Although tickets are not yet on sale, you can register to receive information for attendees, exhibitors, or media.

The creators of Spider-Man and the Apple II will make an awesome team. Who knows what fun their fans will have at the inaugural Silicon Valley Comic Con!

(Hat tip to Conviron Altatis)

Burning floppies

April 6th, 2015 6:26 PM
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Attending the Different Games conference in New York City this past weekend gave me plenty of opportunity to catch up with Juiced.GS staff writer (and frequent Apple II Bits blog subject) Ivan Drucker. While waiting for registration for KansasFest 2015 to open, we reminisced about our favorite moments of last year's event — Ivan's sixth KansasFest, and my 17th.

I was delighted to discover Ivan had not previously stumbled upon Kevin Savetz's video capture of a unique moment: Martin Haye, having just demoed 8-bit Western RPG Lawless Legends, burned the game to disk and declared it ready to ship.

For those archivists who thought it was too late to preserve floppies: Martin's making sure of that!

For an equally entertaining pyrotechnic display, try burning an actual compact disc:

Ken Gagne, Gamebits, Apple II Bits, and Martin Haye offer no assurances, guarantees, or warranties, express or implied, regarding the safety of you or your hardware, software, or other property or loved ones as a result of information received or linked to from this or any other website.

Happy burning!

Reboot Our Roots at PAX East 2015

March 2nd, 2015 8:38 AM
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This week marks Boston's sixth annual PAX East, and my sixth time attending the video game expo with Juiced.GS editor Andy Molloy. Inspired by our Apple II magazine's 2014 cover stories about Leisure Suit Larry and Shadowgate, we'll be bringing our retrogaming love to bear on the event.

On Sunday, March 8, at 1:30 PM EDT, I'll be moderating the panel "Reboot Our Roots: Bringing Our Favorite Genres Back to Life&quot:

Many of today's indie games are spiritual successors of yesteryear's hits, from King's Quest to Gabriel Knight to Quest for Glory — with some even being developed by the same teams that brought us the originals. What's it like to reboot a franchise or genre after 30 years? How do you update a classic while staying true to the original? Industry veterans share their stories of revisiting their roots, taking up their heroes' mantles, and what they've learned in the intervening years.

I'm excited to be hosting this panel with so many talented developers. Katie Hallahan of Phoenix Online Studios will be representing Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers, as well as the King's Quest fan sequel The Silver Lining, which I previously presented at KansasFest 2010. Steven Alexander will be on the panel discussing Quest for Infamy, a spiritual successor to Quest for Glory, while Dave Wadjet will present his original creation, the Blackwell series, a point-and-click adventure inspired by the games of yesteryear.

This will be my third year moderating panels at PAX East, and the third year the Apple II has influenced my contributions to PAX. In 2013, I coordinated the donation of an Apple II gaming rig to become a permanent part of the freeplay console room. And in 2014, I moderated a panel on gender equality in gaming, which was made possible through 8-bit connections.

If you're in Boston this weekend and have a ticket to this sold-out show, please stop by "Reboot Our Roots" on Sunday afternoon and say hello — it'll be great to meet fellow gamers who have been around long enough to appreciate these classic genres and franchises. If you can't make it ot the panel, it will be recorded by Travis Stewart of Broken CRT Productions and will be posted to Apple II Bits at a later date.