Archive for the ‘Game trail’ Category

Lode Runner, Choplifter, Oregon Trail, and other classic diversions from 8-bit gaming.

Fallout '84

November 9th, 2015 10:16 AM
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Patient fans of the 1988 game Wasteland have had much to celebrate these past few years. After a successful Kickstarter, the original creator released the long-awaited sequel Wasteland 2 in September 2014, returning gamers to the post-apocalyptic landscape as a Desert Ranger, set 15 years after the original game. Wasteland 2: Director's Cut released October 13, 2015, marking the game's first appearance on the Microsoft Xbox One and Sony PlayStation 4.

Those 15 years were not a wasteland of their own, though. Fallout, the spiritual successor to Wasteland, debuted in 1997 and has seen multiple sequels since then. The latest entry in the franchise, Fallout 4, releases tomorrow, November 10, promising to abscond with gamers eager to explore a bombed-out Boston.

But neither Fallout 4 nor Wasteland 2 have brought their series back to their roots: despite the variety of editions and ports, neither game has appeared on the Apple II. Chiptune artist 8 Bit Weapon has set out to correct that oversight, with the following proof of concept of Fallout '84:

This demo was made using the Outlaw Editor, a tool that was was profiled in the September 14 issue of Juiced.GS and devised to assist with the creation of upcoming Old West RPG Lawless Legends. The song with which the above video opens is "Apple Core II", which was released on the album Bits with Byte.

Although the editor and song are available, the Fallout '84 demo is not, limited in distribution to its creators. But gamers can still enjoy the unique experiences of Wasteland 2, Fallout 4, and Lawless Legends — two of which are out now, with the third exploding onto the scene in 2016!

(Hat tips to Seth Sternberger and Mike Fahey)

Strong Museum's Hall of Fame

August 17th, 2015 10:36 AM
Filed under Game trail, Mainstream coverage;
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We could debate endlessly over the best Apple II games — such a list remains one of my most popular blog posts to date. From Adventure to Prince of Persia, Choplifter to Lode Runner, the candidates are endless.

So I don't envy The Strong Museum of Rochester, New York, home of the International Center for the History of Electronic Games. ICHEG recently announced the World Video Game Hall of Fame, into which would be inducted games with an "undeniable impact on popular culture and society in general" and "games [that] have helped shape the way that people across the globe play and relate to one another," wrote ICHEG director Jon-Paul Dyson.

Journalists, scholars, and other industry professionals chose the original list of 15 candidate games. I have bolded the six that were ultimately inducted:

  • • Angry Birds (2009)
  • Doom (1993)
  • • FIFA (1993)
  • • The Legend of Zelda (1986)
  • • Minecraft (2009)
  • • The Oregon Trail (1971)
  • Pac-Man (1980)
  • • Pokemon (1996)
  • Pong (1972)
  • • The Sims (2000)
  • • Sonic the Hedgehog (1991)
  • • Space Invaders (1978)
  • Super Mario Bros. (1990)
  • Tetris (1984)
  • World of Warcraft (2004)

It's regrettable that no native Apple II games made the cut — but we are not entirely without representation: Tetris exists for every platform, including the Apple II; and Doom is the infamous brainchild of John Romero, who got his start on the Apple II and regularly revisits his roots, as he did when he delivered KansasFest 2012's keynote speech.

You may disagree with the ICHEG's choices, but it's important those disagreements be founded not in what were the "best" or most fun games of all time, but which were the most important. In that context, which Apple II games would you have nominated for inclusion n the World Video Game Hall of Fame's first class?

Interviewing Wade Clarke of Leadlight Gamma

August 10th, 2015 9:47 AM
Filed under Game trail, People;
1 comment.

As host of the IndieSider podcast, I'm constantly on the prowl for new indie (self-published) computer and video games. I like to help my listeners discover obscure titles that represent a variety of genres and themes whose developers are available for podcast interviews about the game development process.

Last month, I found my biweekly guest within the Apple II community with Wade Clarke, creator of Leadlight, a text adventure released in 2010 for the Apple II. The game was featured on the cover of Juiced.GS Volume 16, Issue 1, and Wade declared his intention to translate the game from Eamon to Inform in Volume 17, Issue 2. That project was completed earlier this year with the release of Leadlight Gamma, a game that runs natively on Windows and Mac and is one of the first products under Wade's new label, Heiress Software.

Since Juiced.GS has already covered interactive fiction at length — we have an entire themed PDF on the subject — associate editor Andy Molloy and I decided to give the genre some love in another outlet — namely, the IndieSider podcast. And since I'd already asked Wade about the genesis and influences of Leadlight, I focused this conversation on its transition from the Apple II to modern platforms. The result is episode #26 of IndieSider:

In addition to subscribing to the show in iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, or your podcatcher of choice, you can also listen to the above audio interview paired with video of the game being played on YouTube:

Text adventures may not lend themselves to a visual medium like YouTube, but that's exactly why I did it: there are far fewer examples of interactive fiction on YouTube than there are other genres of games. Wrote one of my regular viewers, "I've never seen this type of game in life."

Getting the word out about games, genres, and developers that mainstream gamers may otherwise overlook? Mission accomplished!

Apple Games Done Quick

July 27th, 2015 8:41 AM
Filed under Game trail, Happenings;
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This month at KansasFest, I gave attendees a crash course in two genres of YouTube gaming videos: unboxings and Let's Plays. There's yet another genre that I have no participatory experience with but am nonetheless in awe of: speedruns.

A speedrun is an attempt to finish a game as quickly as possible without using any external cheats — by which I mean emulation, ROM hacking, Game Genies, or other devices. What is allowed are exploitation and manipulation of glitches (intentional or otherwise) within the game. This approach can allow the Super Nintendo game Super Mario World to be finished in under five minutes — even though the programmers never intended it, they nonetheless laid the groundwork for their game to be abused in this fashion.

Speedruns are extraordinary for the players' intimate knowledge of the game. They've memorized minutia and can predict likely outcomes, demonstrating a depth of mastery that few casual or even hardcore gamers can ever hope to achieve. Unlike unboxings or Let's Plays, which are done for fun or profit, speedruns are highly competitive, even if the player is challenging only himself to shave a second or two of world record.

When it comes to organization Games Done Quick, that competitive force is used for good. Their twice-annual events — Awesome Games Done Quick and Summer Games Done Quick — are video game marathons that raise money for charity. Players — as many as 150 — congregate in a single location and stream their speedrun trials, encouraging viewers to donate to various non-profits. For SGDQ15, which began yesterday in St. Paul, Minnesota, and runs through August 1, the charity is Doctors Without Borders.

That's all well and good — but where's the Apple II connection? The answer to that question comes at 6:45 AM CDT this Thursday, July 30, on the speedrun schedule. At that wee hour, under the subcategory of "Silly Games Done Quick", runners will be playing Oregon Trail. Confirmed Facebook user Cat Morgan: "Yes, they are hoping to do it on an Apple — they are waiting for the hardware to arrive to test it with their streaming rig." Their intended completion time is a mere 15 minutes — which should be feasible, given that a tool-assisted speedrun uploaded to YouTube just this month shows the game being completed in 8:24.63:

The hardware and software demonstrated in my Let's Play tutorial opens the door for many more Apple II speedruns. Maybe you'll be the next gamer whose retrocomputing will help Games Done Quick raise money for a good cause!

UPDATE (Aug 1, 2015): A YouTube record of the #SGDQ15 speedrun of Oregon Trail is now online:

Recording Let's Plays on the Apple II

July 20th, 2015 10:31 AM
Filed under Game trail, Hacks & mods, Happenings;

Last week I attended the 27th (and my 18th) annual KansasFest, a convention for Apple II users. I was thrilled to be among fellow retrocomputing enthusiasts, charging my batteries for another year of Juiced.GS and other hobby projects.

As an educator and public speaker, I love giving presentations at KansasFest. Most of the event's talks are technical in nature, whereas I tend to take what I've learned in the other areas of my life — podcasting, crowdfunding — and apply them to the Apple II. This year, I drew upon my experience developing a YouTube channel and demonstrated how to record a Let's Play video using the Elgato Game Capture HD hardware (but not the more expensive HD60, which lacks the necessary A/V input port).

This $150 device is normally used to capture HDMI audio and video, but with an included adapter, it can capture component video as well. By plugging the red component cable into an Apple II's composite video output, and then connecting the computer's headphone jack to a 3.5mm-to-RCA adapter, the audio and video from an Apple II will show up oon a PC or Mac in the Elgato's software — but with a delay. A monitor stills need to be connected to the Apple II, which is why I used Chris Torrence's Night Owl monitor plugged into the IIc's video port; an RGB monitor connected to a IIGS will work as well. Then I used a 3.5mm Y-splitter to connect headphones or speakers to the Apple II. (Note that the IIc Plus does not have a headphone jack; neither does the IIe, unless you add a RetroConnector adapter.) Finally, a USB headset allowed me to overlay my audio commentary over the recorded gameplay footage.

Prefer to learn these techniques visually? Mike Whalen streamed my KansasFest session and has made it available on YouTube:

Here's the Let's Play Flapple Bird video that I recorded during this session.

The capture process was not perfect, as I had to make two edits in Final Cut Pro X before uploading to YouTube: the height of Elgato's exported video was stretched (654 x 480), so I reduced the Y-scale to 85% (though ultimately I went with an X-scale of 147.79% and Y-scale of 125.62%, so as to occupy the full window); and the color was off, so I adjusted it per this screenshot.

Final Cut Pro X

Editing Flapple Bird in Final Cut Pro X.
I saved this setting as an "Apple II" preset.

Also, I should've disabled the KansasFest sound system, as I was close enough to the speaker for my USB headset to pick up my booming voice, resulting in poor audio quality.

Although my session focused primarily on Let's Play videos, I also gave a brief introduction to unboxing videos, the genre with which I launched my YouTube channel. I combined unboxing Let's Play, and the Apple II when I unboxed and played Retro Fever.

Not sure why anyone would watch someone else play a video game — or what my "I moth stories" shirt meant? Both are explained in this video from a monthly storyslam I attend in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

I hope this session was useful and that it inspired attendees to record and share their subjective experience with Apple II software. I look forward to your YouTube videos!

Parsely games at KansasFest 2015

June 22nd, 2015 9:29 AM
Filed under Game trail, Happenings;
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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.


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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