Archive for July, 2018

Can we get John Carmack to KansasFest?

July 30th, 2018 10:49 AM
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Filed under Happenings;
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When John Romero was the keynote speaker for KansasFest 2012, an old friend was in the audience: Lane Roathe, KansasFest 2008 keynote speaker. The two had worked together at Softdisk and later founded Ideas from the Deep, or id.

But there was a third person in that original triumverate of founders: John Carmack. Like Romero and Roathe, Carmack has remained active in the games industry, currently serving as the CTO for Oculus, Facebook's virtual-reality company. And, also like Romero and Roathe, Carmack hasn't forgotten his roots.

In 2012, Carmack got an Apple IIc for Christmas; in 2015, he introduced it to his son. If he tweets about the Apple II every three years, then he maintained that tradition coinciding with this month's KansasFest:

He later reiterated his interest, reminiscing about the constraints of the Apple II that breed creativity:

Carmack is definitely a guy who knows what's up and isn't that many steps removed from our community: despite not following the @KansasFest account, Carmack even knew the hashtag to use — perhaps from following Jason Scott.

At least two KansasFest members acknowledged Carmack's tweets with replies, the first being frequent HackFest judge Quinn Dunki:

Followed by KansasFest committee member Andy Molloy:

How long before Carmack joins the ranks of KansasFest keynote speakers, with Romero and Roathe in the audience?

(Full disclosure: Although I was part of the committee that recruited Roathe and Romero, I am not currently a member of the KansasFest committee and do not have any insider knowledge about the current speaker selection process. This post is based solely on observation of public information and speculation.)

Speech synthesis on the Apple II

July 23rd, 2018 9:16 AM
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Filed under Hacks & mods, People;
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Earlier this year, I interviewed Joseph Bein of Out of Sight Games. As a visually impaired gamer, Joseph finds some games more accessible than others; but as a game developer, he encounters other challenges I'd never even considered. Are game development tools themselves accessible? How do we make them so?

Interviewing Joseph made it apparent that computers can cause problems for those seeking easy access to technology and media — but another podcast showcased how they can also solve a lot of problems. The Apple II was one of the pioneers in that department, courtesy the Echo II speech synthesis expansion card. One early beneficiary of the Echo II was Dr. Robert Carter, a podcaster who himself was recently interviewed on the podcast Background Mode, a publication of The Mac Observer.

From the show notes:

Dr. Robert Carter is a Ph.D. Psychologist at Texas A&M, a long-time Apple enthusiast, and the co-host of the Tech Doctor podcast. He's very well versed in assistive technologies, having been blind since birth. Robert tells an amazing story about he's coped with his disability through the years. It started with using a portable typewriter in grade school, discovering the Apple II at age 18 and a speech synthesizer plug-in card, and ultimately using Apple's extraordinary VoiceOver technology on the Mac—and now iPhone.

The Apple II connections in this podcast extend to both sides of the mic: host John Martellaro was the editor and publisher of Peelings II, "The Magazine of Apple Software Evaluation", back in the early 1980s.

I'd love to examine the accessibility features of the Apple II — both historical and modern — in a future issue of Juiced.GS. After listening to this podcast, I'm adding Dr. Carter to my list of primary resources!

Apple II Wii

July 16th, 2018 9:12 AM
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Filed under Hacks & mods;
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I'm not one to hack, crack, or jailbreak; I tend to use products as they were designed. One notable exception was the Nintendo Wii, a video game console released in 2006. Its innovative point-and-click interface made possible a variety of console game genres and experiences that were previously impossible. I wanted to see what hobbyists and enthusiasts could do with these tools, so I installed the Homebrew Channel.

Ironically, my favorite use of the channel was the SCUMM emulator: once this tool was installed, I could play classic LucasArts games. I owned a legal copy of Day of the Tentacle, but it required a version of Classic Mac OS that I didn't have. By copying its files to an SD card, I was able to play it on the Wii's ScummVM. It remains the only way I've ever played this game, despite its 2016 remastering and release for modern systems such as Mac OS X, iOS, and PlayStation 4.

I deleted the Homebrew Channel before migrating my data to the Wii U in 2012, and it's only now that I realize what an opportunity I missed: the original Wii could emulate not only SCUMM, but also the Apple II. Christian Simpson explores this feature on a recent episode of his YouTube series, Retro Recipes:

The video is more an overview of the Wii's many emulation modes; we don't get to see the Apple II until 5:36 into the video. At that point, we discover the emulator, WiiApple, is a port of AppleWin/LinApple — neat! But the only game we see it play is Frogger — not more popular or original games like Choplifter, Lode Runner, Prince of Persia, or King's Quest.

WiiApple is a nine-year-old emulator running on a twelve-year-old console. Nintendo has since released the Wii U (2012) and Switch (2017), but Apple II emulators for either have not yet surfaced. If you want to emulate the Apple II on a home game console, Simpson's video shows you what's still the best way.

(Hat tip to Christian on Google+)

Travel Oregon: The Game

July 9th, 2018 11:06 AM
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Filed under Game trail;
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The Oregon Trail is the perennial Apple II game: everyone has played some version of it, with it being adapted to feature zombies, reapppropriated by travel brands, and more. Regardless of how the game has evolved, it has the constant goal of arriving safely in Oregon. But what does one do once the party has reached its destination?

The state of Oregon itself offers its answer in Travel Oregon: The Game. This parody browser game offers a tongue-in-cheek glimpse into the experiences awaiting you in Oregon. As in the original game, you start by choosing your profession, except updated for the place and age: yoga teacher; apple farmer; ski pro; rancher; fly fisherman; winemaker; or surfer. Starting funds can be used to buy artisanal coffee, craft beer, kombucha, snow chains, newspapers, dry socks, spare tires, and gas cans. At stops along the way, you can buy cheese-flavored snack mix, sequined ice skates, crossword puzzles, phone chargers, beef jerky, a fisherman's hat, pinot gris, baby carrots, and more. Once equipped, there are plenty of fun minigames to play, from figure-skating to fishing. But it's not all fun and games, as poor party management can still lead to unfortunate consequences. As the state describes it:

While playing it, you can hunt (but make sure to buy a hunting license or you’ll be fined), build snowmen, and buy gas station sushi. You can choose to travel to the high desert or go down south to fish for steelhead among the rapids. There are quirky moments that distinctly remind you of how strange Oregon (and by extension, Portland) can be, like choosing the class, stats, and backstory for your freshly built snowman, or dueling a ghost to the… undeath?

Here are some photos I snapped in my travels throughout Oregon.

Want to make your virtual adventures a reality? The game offers a menu item to book your trip today! Come experience everything to offer in Oregon — only slightly exaggerated:

(Hat tip to Alec Blouin)

Updated art & music for The Bard's Tale

July 2nd, 2018 8:29 PM
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Filed under Game trail;
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Three years ago this month, the company that brought us the Wasteland game series took to Kickstarter to revive another classic franchise: The Bard's Tale. With Brian Fargo of inXile entertainment helming the project, the fourth entry in the RPG series was sure to harken back to its roots.

Although the game is still in development, we are already seeing — and hearing — evidence of that history. Jason Wilson at Venturebeat got a demo of an early build of the game, during which he interviewed creative director and lead designer David Rogers, who said:

"We took the old MIDI tracks and we brought them forward and orchestrated them, had our sound designers pour their love into it," Rogers said. He went on to note that the games (they were on Apple II, Apple II GS, MS-DOS, Amiga, Commodore 64, and other formats) had different MIDI tracks, so the best depended on what platform you played on. He wasn't sure what versions they used, but an InXile rep said over email that "some are from the GS and some from the Amiga. We picked and chose our fav[orite] ones."

As part of the original Kickstarter pitch, the original trilogy was also promised to be ported to modern systems. That deliverable has hit some bumps that were addressed in a campaign update on May 17 from Lindsay Parmenter, head of development at Krome Studios, who's handling the remaster:

The original Bard's Tale games hold a special place in our hearts – many of us here at Krome Studios, especially Design Lead James Podesta and myself, played the games back in the 80s and are also backers of Bard's Tale IV.

After some casual conversations with the inXile team, the opportunity came up to put something together that we think will be really great for the Trilogy remaster. Not only are we updating the games to work natively on modern systems, but we're also putting on a fresh coat of paint, to give a new generation of role-playing and dungeon-crawling fans an easier opportunity to experience these classic games.

As a short list, our goals for the Trilogy remaster are:

  • • Up-res the original art, but keep the art in theme with the originals
  • • Add in various audio throughout the games for attacks, spells, and more.
  • • Add some quality of life improvements, such as the automap, tooltip popups in the UI, etc.

Here is some art from the Amiga version of the game compared to the updated art.

Personally, I prefer the original art. It leaves more to the imagination and is more evocative of its era, whereas the updated art seems a bit more… generic.

Will you play either the remasters or the new Bard's Tale IV upon their release later this year?