The 10 most expensive Apple II games

October 21st, 2013 5:22 PM
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Filed under Game trail;
1 comment.

Brian Picchi: I'm your biggest fan. You were a great guest on Open Apple; your Apple II videos on YouTube are informative and entertaining; your Deadly Orbs game is killer; and your website runs WordPress.

But where have you been all my life — or at least, the last month? I haven't heard so much as a peep out of you, so I went digging through your YouTube channel to find the latest. Uploaded on September 14, your rundown of the most expensive Apple II games on eBay was a fun watch:

For your fans in a rush, here is a summary of your findings:

GameValue
Wings Out of Shadow$0709
Labyrinth of Crete$1000
Cranston Manor$1525
Mystery House$1691.66
Ultima I+II$1775
Time Zone$1825
Softporn Adventure$1999
Zork$2495
Starcross$2495
Akalabeth$4900

I'm not much of an eBay user, having taken 14.5 years to earn my 100-star rating this month. The only Apple II software I've bought on eBay is Microzines; I've never paid more than $20 or so for anything Apple II-related on the auction site. That anyone has so much money to spend on these games is a little baffling to me. I understand the appeal of collecting items of historical significance — no one is buying Akalabeth to play it — but that's a lot of dough to drop on something of esoteric interest. A framed Akalabeth over your mantle won't engage many house guests.

But hey, I know you're not just trolling eBay to pick up some games, Brian Picchi; you're one of those hawkers of rare goods, with a copy of Akalabeth all your own. I'm sure your wife will be happy when you cash in those chips.

So keep up the good work, Brian Picchi — just don't go a whole month between videos, if you can help it.

The Deadly Orbs

December 17th, 2012 11:59 PM
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Filed under Game trail;
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From the creative genius that brought you Applesoft Action and Dogfighters of Mars comes a new game: The Deadly Orbs!

Brian Picchi created this Applesoft BASIC game as part of Retrospectiva, a programming competition similar to RetroChallenge:

Retrospectiva is rediscover the fascination and wonder the first home computers generated in us. Challenges you to put your knowledge and inspiration to the test under the constraints of obsolete computers.If you like programming, draw or write music and are interested in the retro-computer world, this competition is meant for you.

Here's some gameplay footage of The Deadly Orbs:

The Deadly Orbs demonstrates a consistent improvement in the graphics of Picchi's products, as seen by comparing it with the blockier antagonist of his former Retrospectiva entry, Surfshooter. Orbs accepts input from either the keyboard or the joystick. With either, the pace is a bit slow for me, though maybe that's for the best, as I also find the orbs' movements less predictable than Picchi does, making for a good challenge. Speaking of patterns, some randomization in the initial placement of the sword would've made the levels, at least the first few steps, less rote.

The game took 30+ hours of extracurricular programming to produce, resulting in a self-booting .DO disk image inside a ZIP archive. It's an encouraging reminder that one person can be responsible for game design, programming, and art and still produce an entertaining title.

VisiCalc review

June 25th, 2012 8:30 PM
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Filed under Software showcase;
3 comments.

I have a soft spot in my heart for VisiCalc, though perhaps more as an idea than a piece of software. I don't advocate using the world's first-ever electronic spreadsheet in modern times, except perhaps as a learning tool or torture device. But with this the software that cemented the Apple II's place in business having been invented practically in my own backyard (Massachusetts) by Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston, I can't help but have a sense of pride and nostalgia for the little productivity tool.

YouTube artist Brian Picchi is apparently also a fan, as he's recently deviated from his usual computer game reviews to spend five minutes with VisiCalc:

Half historical narrative and half review, Picchi's video is an effective summary of the key points of VisiCalc's significance and function. I didn't remember VisiCalc's formulae for equations, so it was interesting to see that they aren't much different from the syntax used in AppleWorks or Excel.

I could've interviewed Brian for more details about his video, but since he often reads this blog, I'll ask him to leave a comment: Where did you get your v1.37 VisiCalc, Brian?

For more non-gaming critiques from Picchi, check out his top ten television shows cancelled after one season.

Applesoft Action & Dogfighters of Mars

March 5th, 2012 3:18 PM
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Filed under Game trail, Software showcase;
6 comments.

Brian Picchi, whose excellent software and hardware videos have graced YouTube, has recently taken a more hands-on approach to the Apple II gaming scene. In addition to commenting on other people's games, he's begun creating his own. The first two entries into his growing portfolio are both Applesoft BASIC games: Applesoft Action and Dogfighters of Mars.

Both titles are action games, which can be significantly harder to program than other genres. Whereas turn-based puzzle and strategy games can take their time accepting input and displaying the result, an action game is a far more immediate experience, as gameplay progresses with or without player interaction. Although I'm proud of my one Apple II game — an Applesoft adaptation of the text-based BBS door game Spaceship of Death — and I did successfully create a few action games for my graphing calculator, I doubt either experience gave me the knowledge, skills, or confidence to create anything like what Picchi has. Well done, sir!

CFFA3000 video review

December 15th, 2011 1:42 PM
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Filed under Hacks & mods;
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As mentioned on the latest episode of the Open Apple podcast, Brian Picchi has lately been putting out some remarkable YouTube videos. He started this time a year ago with a review of the IIGS itself. Lately he's cast a wider net, highlighting a variety of Apple II products from games to NDAs. One of his latest is a review of the CFFA3000, the CompactFlash and USB card from Rich Dreher. It's a card I had the opportunity to purchase in-person at KansasFest 2011. I passed at the time, as I was still months and thousands of miles away from my Apple II. Now I'm kicking myself, as not only does the card have scads more features than I realized, but the first batch sold out like hotcakes, with no more expected until 2012.

Brian's video is a good overview of what will have you too lining up for the second batch:

If you're looking for other ways to expand the hardware capabilities of your Apple IIGS, Brian's overview of several peripherals is also worth a watch. And be sure to read the comments on this and his other videos — unlike most YouTube comments, these are quite knowledgeable and constructive, suggesting yet more ways to improve your retrocomputing experience.

Keep up the great work, sir!