Superior artistry on the Commodore 64

April 25th, 2011 10:56 AM
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Filed under Musings;
3 comments.

My recent blog post about Jeri Ellsworth produced an unexpected response on Facebook: it stoked the feud between Apple II and Commodore 64 users. "I didn't know Jeri was also interested in Apple II computers as well. I thought she was just a Commodore girl," wrote one of her friends. "I absolutely hated Apple systems when I was a kid. I thought they were so inferior to Commodore and overpriced. Plus they were ugly." Although this particular fan matured to appreciate both platforms, it underscores the rivalry and intense passion that platforms of the Eighties (and Apple products today) inspire.

I've never used a C64 so don't understand any antagonism that may have once existed or still does. But I have noticed what appears to be a difference in motivations among modern retrocomputing enthusiasts: Apple II users are more technically inclined, making their machines perform technological feats such as putting it on the Internet; whereas the output of C64 users is more artistically inclined. At least, that's the conclusion I've come to after observing something as amazing as the C64's own music video, courtesy Press Play on Tape:

There's also a "Happy Computer" mashup that's a bit stranger but still creative. More impressive is this gallery of pixel art, depicting amazing works of art recently drawn on a Commodore 64.

Even their sense of humor is remarkable, as demonstrated by this spoof of how Apple would market the C64:

I don't mean to discount the Apple II's impressive demo scene, but that is largely the work of decades past, with nothing recent to compete against the C64. I don't know that I prefer C64 users' approach to the more practical applications to which Apple II users dedicate themselves; each is its own kinds of art. But is there something about the Commodore 64 and its users that better lends themselves to these amazing visual and musical accomplishments? Will the Apple II ever have its own music video?

Castle Wolfenstein painting for auction

February 14th, 2011 10:38 AM
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Filed under Game trail, Software showcase;
1 comment.

Growing up with the Apple II, I enjoyed the computer more as a games machine than anything else. Sure, punching numbers into Visicalc or writing short stories in Apple Writer can be fun, but not so captivating to a five-year-old's imagination as Choplifter or Lode Runner.

One game that made an impression like no other was Castle Wolfenstein. Eleven years before its 3D successor, this Apple II game was spouting synthesized German at players as they made their way through a Nazi stronghold. I would wake up Saturday mornings before the rest of my family to play this game, and to have the pre-dawn silence suddenly broken by a stormtrooper bursting into the room and screaming at me was nerve-wracking. Castle Wolfenstein and Silent Hill are the only games that have made me so scared, I wanted to turn off the system. It's a powerful legacy for its late creator, Silas Warner, to have left.

Now, a piece of that history is up for auction. The box art for Castle Wolfenstein was based on an original painting which is currently listed on eBay. Here are the details:

Castle Wolfenstein paintingThis is the original painting by John D. Benson used as the cover for Muse Software’s 1981 game “Castle Wolfenstein” – the game that inspired id Software’s “Castle Wolfenstein 3D”! Castle Wolfenstein is the first in the genre of stealth-based computer games. Created by Muse software, it was available on the Apple II, DOS, Atari 8-bit family and the Commodore 64.

[The piece is for sale by Walter Costinak, who] was an incredibly successful video-game web designer, having created sites for id Software, Activision, Ritual Entertainment and many more. About nine years ago he bought this painting on eBay for his personal collection from someone who had acquired all the art from Muse's assets.

The original artist has contact me to let me know the painting is done with Alkyd Oils, not watercolor.

The dimensions of the piece (including matte and frame) are 27 1/4 inches by 23 1/4 inches. Also included are the original C64 manual and game disk (NOTE: disk slipcover is *not* original, and I don’t know if the disk still works).

Proudly show off the retro gaming geek that you are and hang this is your home, office, boardroom, or subterranean lair! Good luck on your bidding, schweinhund!

Although the artwork itself may not be a masterpiece, its historical value is at least that of its current bid, which at the time of this writing hasn't increased from $305 in the last 48 hours. I'll be watching this auction with more than a passing interest. Best of luck to all bidders!

(Hat tip to Andy Chalk)