One of the best Flash developers in the world, Scott Delamater has finally launched his own Flash related development blog, Le Maitre d'Something . Scott is a Flash savant. Anything he has to say on the subject should be read by anyone with even a remote interest in the topic. I suggest you add his site to your daily dose.
This week we cover 4 different retro-style Flash games in four completely different styles. All four styles happen to be some of my absolute favorites of the genre. We have a great bolt-on shooter, an arcade racer, an Breakout/Arkanoid contest, and finally, a platfomer in the style of classic games from the Apple IIe and Atari 800.
Sometimes I crave a good old shooter, and this is one of those. This game has smooth action, good controls, and a "Bitmap Brothers" feel (i.e Xenon). Plus, the basting action, sounds and explosions are very satisfying.
Great little driving game! This reminds me of many Atari ST driving games of the past, and curiously, Rally X (although it looks nothing like it and plays nothing like it). Also, the design reminds me of a game I made for Hotwheels.com many moons ago named Crashzilla Crusher.
This is very nice take on an "Arkanoid" style game. The gameplay is a bit slow at first, but it gets hard within a few levels. The only thing that worries me is the music at the beginning that is lifted right from "Arkanoid". Other than that this is great game.
This is a fantastic little platformer with retro style. The music and graphics are pure 8-bit, but the game play is a bit more like a 16-bit game. Still there is enough "Jumpman" and "Load Runner" here for the retro fan while enough variety and power-ups for everyone else.
Only four this week? Yeah, well, we're only trying to highlight the BEST retro Flash gfames, and we post them as we find them. See you next week.
USA v. England
I watch all of these USA players every chance I get: in MLS, foreign league games, friendlies, etc and I am always sticking up for them when they get put down by soccer snobs for being no good. The fact is, we have some great players, and on any given day, they can beat any team in the world... But, today they just plain looked like 11 blue traffic cones, watching a bored England team run circles around them as if in training. There was no effort, no drive, nothing. I have seen these same players go down 9 v 11 on Italy in the world cup and fight for a tie - and in that game, be the ONLY squad to actually score (albeit an own goal) on Italy (the eventual champion) in the entire tournament. What the fuck happened on that pitch today I will never know. Its not like I was deluded enough to think they could actually beat England, but I at least wanted to see a little effort.
The squad that Bob Bradley put out there was pretty good, but I can't figure the choice of the over the hill Josh Wolff, or Heath Pearce. Also, w/o Donovan, you need to START Adu. I would love to have seen ex-MUFC, now FC Dallas striker Kenny Cooper playing along side a crafty player like Freddie. In any case, this match was so boring that the Wembley crowd started to make fun of us by doing the Wave. Cheeky bastards.
One more soccer note, New Star Soccer 4 comes out soon, and it looks like a scorcher. Its got the zarjazz for sure. There is a beta you can try by visiting the boards, and a native Mac version this time around, so no fumbling with Parallels for me!!! Last time I played this game, I took young striker, Jeff (Spike) Fulton from FC Dallas (where I scored 4 goals) to the LA Galaxy (where I scored 14) all the way to European Player of the year and a World Cup victory for the USA. How's that for a dream...
Bratney Escape the Madness
A new 8bitrocket game, sponsored by AddictingGames.com, will come out on Friday. It is called Bratney Escape The Madness. In it, you play Bratney, a spoiled party girl with 2 kids, an annoying ex-husband, and a band of paparazzi chasing you down. It is loosely based on the Pumpkin Man engine, which was basically an AS3 tile-based blit canvas demo that I turned into a puzzle-based pac-man like game. In this version, which has a re-vamped engine as well as many new game elements and puzzles, you are tasked with collecting as much money as you can to keep Bratney's party-hard lifestyle afloat. On each of the 15 levels you must collect all of the harts of her fans and any money she finds to swell her coffers with cash. She must seek out the restraining order on each level for a temporarily reprieve from the paps. The game's15 levels are filled with power-ups, surprises, obstacles, and more. It features at least one rap song by yours truly, and a host of other cool stuff. Look for it Friday is you do so desire.
Briefly, What's new in Flash Game Land
Mochi has a new weekly $100 contest that you must be present on the boards to win. The last winner, Polinko, is a blast to play. If haven't tried Epislon , you should. It is a cinematic, portal-like masterpiece! Also, if you have not played Robokill, you are in for a real treat!
I have recently switched from Windows XP to MAC OS X 10.5 and one of the things I feared upon switching was losing the capability to play all of my old Emulated games. I own a copy of EVERY retro game compilation for the PC and Playstation 2, and use these games as inspiration for new games that I create. So far, I have found ways to play Atari 2600, Atari 400/800/5200, Atari 7800, Atari Lynx, Atari ST and Atari arcade games on the MAC via emulation.
Given the nebulous legal nature of emulation, I can not advocate playing any games that have not been released into the public domain. Also, I assume that by purchasing all of the compilation disks for various platforms I have some sort of legal leg to stand on if and when I play version in another medium (emulation). But I also am not really sure. In any case I have purchased multiple disk/rom copies of most if not all of these games I play via emulation (I even have Atari ST disc copies in my attic), and using one main computer to play all of my old games is really the most convenient, space conscious way for me to play.
I was reasonably surprised by the high quality and user friendliness of the MAC emulation community products. In most cases they were as easy or easier to use than their Windows counterparts.
The best Atari 2600 emulator I could find was StellaOSX. Just download the disk image, mount it and copied the contents to a folder on your hard drive. Then, just double-click on the StellaOSX program, then find a rom file on your drive to load in. As a standard, the arrow keys control in the 4 directions, and the [control] key is the fire button. You can set the mouse to control any of the 4 paddles (so Super Breakout is a definite possibility).
F1 - Game Select
F2 - Reset
F3 - Color
F4 - B/W
F5 - Left difficulty set to A
F6 - Left difficulty set to B
F7 - Right difficulty set to A
F7 - Right difficulty set to B
Game pads are fully supported. I used my Playstation 2 controller plugged into a USB converter and it worked like a charm! Atariage.com has most of the Atari roms (save Activision and a few others) for you to try out. I tried out Ms Pac-Man and it worked perfectly.
The Atari800MacX emulator was every bit as good or better than its Windows counterpart. It was another easy install - just mount the image and copy the contents to you hard drive - complicated only by the need to find and place system roms in the OSRoms folder. When you have completed this task, you just need to double-click on the Atari800MacX file to get started. I tried out the classic Blue Max and it ran flawlessly.
F2 - Option
F3 - Select
F4 - Start
In the preferences tab you can choose to use a game pad for control. You can also set the keyboard to control one or both sticks and the mouse to control one of the paddles.
Steem doesn't exist in the Mac world, so I was excited to find great emulator called NoSTalgia. NoSTalgia ia also an easy install. Just copy the unzipped NoSTalgia folder to a drive, copy some TOS images to the main NoSTalgia folder and double click the NoSTalgia application. Choose a TOS image from the FILE menu, and Disk Image from the DISK menu and finally HARD RESET from the FILE menu.
I Have yet to be able to figure out a method to get the game pad to work, but you can easily use the Arrows and [CONTROL]. I will keep researching to see if this is possible though. I tried NARC and it worked and sounded just like the Disc I have in the attic - unfortunately, not very well, but that is the game, not the emulation.
LYNX emulation is handled by the great HANDY emulator. Handy requires that you copy the contents of the disc image to a folder and then find and place the linxboot.img in that folder. The emulation works pretty well. I was able to get most games to run, but there is no Joystick support w/o the addition of a Shareware program (available at the above link) that adds stick support to about 20 other MAC emulators also. I tried Gates Of Zendocon with the keys and it worked perfectly.
A - Option
B - Shift
1 - 1
2 - 2
Arrows control the direction pad.
MESS is the best way to go for the 7800. MESS emulates many systems and is a little complicated to get set up. The contents of the disk image need to be placed in a folder on your hard drive, but the settings go elsewhere. The biggest difference between MESS on he MAC and Windows is that the settings for mess are placed in a folder in the home documents folder of the user who installs it. The MacMESS User Data folder in the documents folder needs to contain a ROMS/A7800 folder. In that folder you need to place the 7800.rom file.
When you have done that, boot up MESS, choose the 7800 system, a CART and click [PLAY]. That's basically it. If you have a game pad plugged in, it will work perfectly. I tried Food Fight and it plays better with the Playstation 2 pad than with the 7800 controllers.
I also used the game pad to select difficulty and start the game, so I don't know exactly what the keyboard controls are.
Atari Arcade Machines
Many Atari 2600 games and Arcade machines are available on the 80 Classic games disc that I have for the Playstation and the PC. I don't think it was released for the MAC, so the best way to play these games is with MacMAME. Like MESS (with an almost identitcal interface), MacMame requires you to copy the contents of the disk image to a folder, and then all settings AND ROMS go in a folder called MacMAME User Data in your documents folder. I replaced the ROMS folder there with an alias to the ROMS folder I have elsewhere. It worked like a charm, so I didn't have to copy a huge rom folder to my documents folder.
4 - Adds a coin to the game
1 - starts one player game
2 - Starts a two player game
Asteroids worked perfectly and the game pad worked great. I also tried out Star Castle, although not an Atari game, it was one that I wasted 100's on hard earned quarters on before I ever shot out the center baddie. Alas, it didn't work because I don't have the correct roms ...Karma I guess because I don't own the roms for it in any other form.
I was not able to get any roms to play in the MESS Jaguar emulator. Maybe soon... Until then, it is Jagulator in Parallels.
There are many other emulators out there. I can't wait for MESS to add Lynx, ST and better Jaguar support. It really is a great emulator, even if the current MAC version is a few revs behind. It also plays 2600, Atari 800 and 5200 games, but I chose to use the dedicated familiar emulators for those.
news.as3gaming.com is doing an excellent job of culling together blogs and resources on Flash gaming, AS3, etc every day. Add it to your book marks or your Bloglines, put it in your RSS reader, add it to your face book or Myspace page... or whatever the kids are using now.
www.triqui.com is a new portal from Emanuele Feronato. It is run by a Flash developer for Flash developers. We haven't submitted and games to it yet, but we certainly will today.
There has been a nice influx of DIY sites and blogs and sites s in our growing, vibrant grass roots Flash game creation culture. Some Brand New Blogs to check out:
flashth.blogspot.com (By|)ereck). This one seems to cover a variety of topics including making Flash games.
blogflashgaming.blogspot.com (by hazzard77). This one covers and reviews Flash games extensively.
blog.elite-games.net (by badim). This one covers mostly how to make money from Flash games.
Tonypa has been on fire lately, creating a huge number of new games for distribution on portals, winning contests, etc. Check out his new and old stuff here.
Kirupa has a tutorial on Loading an External Image in AS3. This very detailed and aimed at beginners (for the most part). It gives great step by step directions on using URLRequest, LoaderInfo, ProgressEvent, addChild and more to accomplish this task.
That's it for this week. If you have a blog that you would like included in the round-up, please email us. Also, you can stay informed every day by visiting http://www.flashgameblogs.com/.
Now this one sounds like a no-brainer, but for some reason almost every book written on AS3 and even the built-in help fail to give adequate information on how to effectively use sounds embedded in the library in AS3. I scoured the included help file and eventually found how to do this, but I have had a few people ask me how it is done, so here goes. We will also cover looping the sound, playing from an offset, and controlling all of the sounds in an application at once to provide mute functionality.
1. First you need to have a sound in your library. Let's call our sound explode_sound.
2. You must make sure to set explode_sound to export for Actionscript (it will set a base class of flash.media.sound) and an export name of explode_sound
3. In your Actionscript (in a frame, in a class, etc) you need to import the basic sound classes:
4. You must then instantiate an instance of your sound in the library:
5. You then need an instance of the SoundChannel class to actually be able to hear your sound.
5.5 You must create and instance of your sound
6. To play the sound, you must assign it to your SoundChannel.
7. You can play a sound from a millisecond offset by adding the first parameter: The example will start 10 milliseconds into the sound.
8. You can loop a sound by adding the second parameter. The example has no offset and will loop 3 times
9. You can control the volume of this individual sound by first importing in the SoundTransform class.
And then creating and applying the transform to the sound. This will increase the volume 3x.
var transform1:SoundTransform=new SoundTransform();
10. To universally control all of the sounds by calling class methods of the import flash.media.SoundMixer; Class.
And then you can use it easily to set the volume for all sounds in the application like this. Below acts like a mute for all of the sounds in the game or application universally.
var transform1:SoundTransform=new SoundTransform();
To un-mute to application, you change the mixer value to 1.
This week we micro-review 5 more retro inspired games for your playing pleasure. We are starting to see some distinct genres emerge in these lists, and this week starts with one that we previewed with last week's Asteroids' Revenge: The "deconstructive, ironic, turn-the-table genre". We follow that up with several modern takes on old classics, and end with a new game inspired by an old classic. Also, the troubling (to me anyway) trend of not respecting copyrights and intellectual property continues as well. Anyway, here we go!
Another "turn the tables" game like Asteroid's Revenge. I like these kinds of alternative takes on classic games. This one poses quite a challenge as you try to catch Pac-Man playing the ghosts. I'm still not sure how Namco would feel about the I.P. use here, and I think devs need to be careful about it.
So this started out looking like a "pass-over" Breakout remake, but I kept playing through 3 levels, so it must have "something". The sound FX meld with the music in a compelling way. Also, the "flashing" bricks are a nice added game play element. By the time I finished playing I was impressed with the game design. The technicals are a bit "off", but only a "Breakout" nerd like me will notice. However, I still contend that devs need to stop naming these games after real world titles, especially if they plan to make money off them. The I.P. police might be here shortly, and you don't want to get caught using someone else's' trademarks.
Another Terry Paton extravaganza. This time it's a cross between Joust and Blueprint. Fly around, pick-up the pieces to your ship, build it, and fly away. It has Apple IIe sounds to boot. Very well done.
Terry Paton does Gyruss. Curiously, the game is just as hard as the arcade game that inspired it. I like seeing retro games built that are based on more obscure coin-ops. It makes me believe that people have a longer attention span that I've been led to believe. Again though, using the name "Gyruss" might be an issue. I would have figured out the inspiration even if it did not have the full name of classic game in the title, and I think others would have done the same.
This is the kind of retro game I'd like to see more of. It might be "inspired" by Pac-Man, but that is as far as it goes. It looks retro, sounds retro, plays retro, but is in and of itself, a unique game. Plus, there really is no I.P. infringement. The maze scrolls, and you must move through it, avoiding the baddies and "eating" the dots. Simple and classic, but refreshing. It does a good job of not aping the source too closely.
That's it for this week. Next week we'll be back with another set of games. We've settled in on Thursday as the launch day for this column, and we will try to make it a regular feature.
There are two services on the horizon for Flash game developers that could be complete game-changers for the viral Flash game industry.
Both Come2Play and Nonoba will soon open up their multi-player game APIs to developers so they can create and host multiplayer games for free. This is great news for anyone who has wanted to dabble in multi-player, but could niether find hosting, or afford their own socket server.
Come2Play has their 1.1 API available right now. It includes both a Client and Server-Side API, but the server side API is actually a HTTP pass through to code that lives on your own server. This seems a bit weird, but could work. It just would not be able to handle anything beyond turn-based games. Their example is "Tic-Tac-Toe", which should be a signal to the type of game-play you can achieve with their systm. Still, turn-based is better than nothing, and they do offer a rev share and have a 2.0 API on the horizon.
Nonoba's API on the other hand, looks far more promising, at least technically. They claim to support real-time games (i.e racing, asteroids) and, plus they offer chat, lobbies, achievements, etc. In fact, their feature-set looks remarkably similar to Electroserver 4. I'm anxious to get my hands on it so I can give it a test drive. Right now, Nonobo is is beta (they have announced a June release). On the down-side, while they do offer contests, they have not announced a rev-share. This may or may not mean you can use Mochiads or GameJacket with your games.
We've applied for the Nonoba beta, and if we get in (or when it comes out of beta in June), we will start reporting our progress here and maybe even start adding tutorials.
A few years back, when Steven L. Kent published the bible of video game related history books, The First Quarter, bedroom video game historians and classic game fans like myself were in heaven. Kent's book spurred a much heftier second volume, The Ultimate History Of Video Games , plus the photo heavy High Score as well as several others books on related topics. The "gaming" section at the book store filled-up with interesting volumes on video games, and it appeared a new book genre was born. However, 6 years later, that section is almost completely devoid of video game history books, and whatever space they might have taken has been pushed a side for strategy guides and books about playing chess and Texas Hold'Em. I get angry every time I browse that section, wondering "What happened?"
About 6 months ago I wrote a blog about this topic entitled Where is the great, all-encompassing history of Atari? , basically asking someone to write a end-all-be-all book on my favorite video game company, mostly because I, selfishly, wanted to read one. I'm still waiting, and it looks like I will be waiting even longer. Bill Loguidice over at Armchair Arcade wrote in his blog last week about the current situation with a book he and Matt Barton have been writing about the first 15 years of video game history. Bill wrote:
"...the market for videogame books through normal publishing means (meaning not vanity press, subsidized or self-published) has collapsed, making publishers hesitant to bite on even a 90% completed book with proven content and testimonials from countless people who actually want to purchase it. "
This is quite unfortunate, but not surprising. When Gamerdad.com's Andrew Bub and I attempted the same thing with a book about Atari through mainstream publishers in 2004/2005, we ran into much the same situation. Unless there is some sort of lurid angle that a book can take (i.e. violence arguments), it seems like it might be some time until we see another solid volume at the book store dedicated to video games.
It's interesting to note that the market for technical books (a category that has a similar audience as video game history books), has steadily fallen since 2001 (the same year The First Quarter was published) to about 50% of what it was that year. Technical books are an interesting comparison , because many (but not all) of the video game history books of the past have seemed "technical" in their style and appealed to "techies" and not the mainstream public. Instead of telling stories, some ofthe books presented a mostly dry set of information ( technical facts, figures, dates, specs) and organized it strictly chronologically or alphabetically. Many times, the actual games that these video game books were ostensibly covering, were pushed aside and replaced with business information and corporate politics. Furthermore, it seems that the advent of Web 2.0 has given us so much more to read online, and so many more ways to interact with readers (Blogs, Digg, Wikis etc.), that the need for these types of technical-heavy volumes has fallen greatly. This is exacerbated by the fact that the web is an easy way to find "general knowledge" on almost any topic these days and for most people, that is quite enough. Want to know something about an Atari VCS game, your first stop is Atari Age. If you have a question, for instance, "Did Atari Make An Army Version Of Battlezone?" It's fairly easy to find that information on Google. So easy in-fact, that it's become common knowledge. It all comes down to how much detail you want in your answer.
I think that possibly, the scope of these all-encompassing History Of All Video Games ideas might be the problem. It's difficult to make a compelling, page-turning story out of an chronological history book. Authors of titles for other entertainment genres have solved this problem, while video game many aspiring video games book authors still playing catch-up. How many large-volume History Of TV or History Of All Books Ever Published do you see at the book store these days? While they do exist, you'll find many more books that relate to single topic or personality and organized in their own sections. While some of these books are technical, more often than not they tell very personal stories about particular TV shows and movies, or personalities in their respective fields. I could not find any information on sales for these types of books, but my own personal observation is that there seems to be many more movie and TV related books these days than ever before, and certainly more than in the nearly vacant video game section. I think ultimately, video games deserve their own section just like that Movies And TV (near-by if possible, away from the strategy guides), and to get there, it needs to be filled with volumes that present the small stories as well as the larger ones.
There are very interesting. smaller stories about events and larger- than-life characters that could easily fill-out this section. Along-side great, more focused volumes of the past like Game Over, Hackers, Masters Of Doom and Dungeons And Dreamers I'd love to see biographies, war stories, insider's views, etc on topics like Nolan Bushnell, Dan Bunten, Jay Miner, Rockstar, Sid Meier, Blue Sky Rangers, the Atari Coin-op division, Ed Logg, Eugene Jarvis, Lucasarts, Activision, Chris Crawford, Trip Hawkins, etc., etc. etc. It might be time for aspiring video game book authors to dig deeper than the big, all en-compassing picture, and instead focus on the small stories that can be blown-out into interesting narratives and biographies. I suggest this all starts with a warts and all, no-holds-barred, dirt and glory biography/autobiography of Nolan Bushnell. There has never been one, and since he arguably started the industry, it will set the tone for everything to follow. It needs to be written by a well-known author/biographer who is also a video game fan (anyone have a suggestion?), and it needs to find a way to fold the importance video games into the cultural fabric of last part of the 20th century. We all know how important video games, and by extension, video game entrepreneurs, authors, and companies have been to our generation. They are just as important, if not more-so, than TV and movies were to the previous generations. It's time someone made a push to prove it. However, to accomplish that task, they may have to focus on smaller portraits to paint on a larger canvas, instead of trying to tackle the full story on a single landscape..