Archive for the ‘Game trail’ Category

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

Temporal anomaly in MazeFire

February 1st, 2016 11:54 AM
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Back in the summer of 2014, I attended a Boston Games Forum event. This group, now known as Playcrafting, gives local game developers opportunities to network, hone their craft, and showcase their work. Not being a developer, I enjoy Playcrafting letting me get my hands on new and upcoming games as I scout potential candidates for my YouTube channel and IndieSider podcast.

That night, one of the games being demoed was billed as a maze, though it seemed more a multiple-choice trivia/quiz-type game: each correct answer would automatically advance you through from one side of a grid to another. There was nothing a-maze-ing about it, but I was drawn to the theme of the questions: each one was about the history of computer and video games, from Pong to EverQuest and more. The random selection of 19 questions weren't hard, since they were often accompanied by a screenshot of the game featured in the correct answer, but it was still neat to see our history being celebrated.

One of the questions was just slightly wrong in its details, though:

MazeFire (2014)

The game may've come out in 1981 — but it certainly wasn't being played on an Apple IIe, which wasn't released until 1983.

The game in question is the first Wizardry:

Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord was an incredibly addictive game developed by Greenberg and Woodhead and launched in 1980 at the Boston Computer Convention. Character classes, alignments, specializations (Samurais and ninjas) along with maze tricks and keys all foreshadowed the MMORPGs of the modern era. Probably was not used for military training, although it was a favorite of at least one Fort Riley US Army Officer.

The text has been updated in the latest version of the game:

mazefire-2016.jpg

You can play Mazefire online for free and test your own knowledge of gaming history.

Video Game Hall of Fame 2016

January 11th, 2016 3:21 PM
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The Strong Museum of Play in Rochester, New York, is an ardent supporter and ally of video game preservation. Their International Center for the History of Electronic Games has collaborated with countless developers to archive personal notes, hardware, and other artifacts of gaming history.

Some games deserve special recognition, and to that end, the ICHEG has instituted a World Video Game Hall of Fame. In June 2015, they inducted six games from a list of fifteen candidates "that have enjoyed popularity over a sustained period and have exerted influence on the video game industry or on popular culture and society in general". But in a gross oversight, none of those six games had their origins on the Apple II.

We retrocomputing enthusiasts now have the opportunity to correct that error. Nominations for the next annual round of inductees to The Strong’s World Video Game Hall of Fame close February 29, 2016. It's as simple as filling out a form, though two questions will require some thought: "What are your reasons for nominating this game?" and "Tell us a story or experience you had with this game."

So, Apple II fans: what games will you nominate? Lode Runner? Choplifter? King's Quest? All these games and more resonated with us thirty years ago and continue to inspire games and game development today. Getting just one such landmark from the Apple II recognized should be a no-brainer.

But ultimately, all we can do is make these titles available for consideration: "Final selections will be made on the advice of journalists, scholars, and other individuals familiar with the history of video games and their role in society."

Let's get the Apple II's place in gaming history the recognition it deserves!

Let's Play Operation Lambda

December 28th, 2015 9:39 AM
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At KansasFest 2015, I gave a presentation on how to record Let's Play videos on an Apple II. These videos combine A/V capture of Apple II software, usually games, with the player's audio commentary of their session. It's a way not only to demonstrate the program, but also to capture one person's unique, subjective experience.

My YouTube channel consists primarily of Let's Play videos of modern gaming consoles, such as the Sony PlayStation 4 or Nintendo Wii U. I occasionally mix it up with videos featuring other kinds of content, though my ability to produce any videos at all depends on how available my day job, night job, and Juiced.GS leave me. I recently enjoyed a bout of freedom from other obligations, and so from October 22 to December 9 — 50 consecutive days — I was able to produce one video a day. I capped that streak with a Let's Play of one of the most impressive games for the Apple IIGS: Operation Lambda.

"A logic/action game, where you work your way through a space station under distress, deflecting laser beams and saving hostages," describes developer Bret Victor on the game's website. The press release lists the game's features:

  • • 100 levels, ranging from simple to challenging to brain-boggling
  • • an original, kickin', five-song musical score
  • • impressive graphics from the PowerGS staff artist and former LiveWire IIgs art editor
  • • smooth, flicker-free animation
  • • three difficulty settings
  • • written in 100% assembly language for speed
  • • a concise, one-page printed manual

For the purpose of this recording, I used Eric Shepherd's Sweet16 emulator, as it was quicker and easier to set up than capturing video off an actual IIGS would've been. It was fun to revisit this title from the creator of TextFighter, PuyoPuyo, SurfBurgers, and Opening Line.

Bret Victor was a genius programmer to have developed Operation Lambda at only 16 years old; he was interviewed for Juiced.GS Volume 2, Issue 1 and wrote the cover story for Volume 3, Issue 1. He remains a genius software developer, speaking at a Dropbox developer conference in 2013 on the future of programming:

Personally, I'd like the future of programming to include ports of Victor's classic games. John Romero recently released Dangerous Dave for iOS — a platform I can see Operation Lambda residing on. Any chance we'll see updates to these lost classics from Right Triangle Productions?

Scoring Dangerous Dave

December 21st, 2015 11:39 AM
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On IndieSider, my biweekly podcast, I interview game developers about the creative process. The Apple II is one of the platforms that got me into gaming, so I enjoy the opportunities to feature it on my show, bringing everything full circle. For example, Episode #16 featured the voice talents of Brutal Deluxe's Antoine Vignau, whereas episode #26 highlighted the work of Wade Clarke in interactive fiction.

Some of my podcast subjects come to me through public relations specialists such as Emily Morganti, whom I've found to be a gamer with excellent taste in games. She recently pitched me a game she didn't realize I have a long history with: Dangerous Dave. This franchise of side-scrolling platform games was founded on the Apple II, where it had two famous names attached to it: publisher Softdisk and developer John Romero.

John has been a friend to the Apple II community before, during, and since his success with Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Quake: he was the KansasFest 2012 keynote speaker, and his writing is featured in this month's issue of Juiced.GS. He recently ported one of his Dangerous Dave games to iOS — but it was not Mr. Romero that Ms. Morganti was representing. Instead she was putting me in touch with Dren McDonald, the composer who created the score for Gathering Sky, a game I featured in IndieSider #28.

I took the opportunity to interview Dren about his long history of collaborations with the Romero family; creating an original soundtrack for an Apple II game; the programming tools that a digital musician employs; and what constitutes the "chipbilly" genre he invented for this game, seemingly inspired by chiptune. The resulting interview became IndieSider #34, which can be viewed on YouTube:

or listened to in your podcatcher of choice:

I appreciated featuring one of the many creative artists who contribute something to a game other than design or development. It takes a village to keep the Apple II alive!

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
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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?