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30Jun/080

8bitrocket Diatribe June 20, 2008

The World of 8bitrocket
Things have been busy here at 8bitrocket towers. Steve is moving to a new house and I am preparing for a new baby to arrive into my old one. These little life experiences have left little time for brand new games and tutorials, but we do have some new content in the works. Between watching my LA Galaxy lose to DC United 4-1 and my Spanish brothers (my mom's side of the family) beat my German brothers (my dad's side of the family) 1-0 in Euro '08, I worked on a new tutorial explaining the basics of blitting from a tile sheet. I want this one to be a fun read, but also informative and useful for the beginner. That leads to a lot of diagrams, copy editing and the like. Diagrams take extra time to prepare, as does fact checking on the history of bit block transfer and other ancient subjects (the fun part for me).

I have finally been able to get a basic particle system going into my new game, Boids of Death. It has been difficult to find time recently to sit down and be creative, but I really want to get another game out there before the baby comes. That means I need to hit the keys pretty hard over the next month. Steve's new game seems to be coming on well also, but he has been out of commission lately too. One of the sites he works on was hit with a nasty virus last week, so most of his time was spent cleaning that up and fixing all of the holes he could find.

The world of Flash games - a quick survey of some sites and portals.
nGfx has a a couple new posts on the Gamingyourway.com site. I especially like this one...

Somehow I missed this awesome 2d racing game on Mochi - Speed Warrior

There is a new high quality Bowja The Ninja game ready for you to play on Kongregate.

Addicting Games has more Bloons fun with the Players Pack 4.

Play a Physics Based Twist on Missile Command with Mirc on New Grounds.

Play a nice version of Arkanoid with Xenocrate 2 on Hall Pass.

Finally, an older, but pretty fun Missile Command-like game from Game Jacket, called Last Defense.

The World of Classic Games and Retro
I recently purchased SNK arcade classics for the PS2. It is quite a nice collection of really fun games. Metal Slug is my current favorite. I was digging around the bargain bins at Best Buy Friday afternoon and two new releases for the DS caught my eye: Arkanoid DS is getting some good reviews and will probably find it's way to my video game cabinet soon. As well, Space Invaders Extreme DS looks promising also. The great documentary, King of Kong, might be getting a sequel. I'd love to get one of these (Classic NES Controller for the PC) babies, and one of these new portal NES systems might be a blast also.

In the USA, July 4th is a Holiday.
July 4th marks our yearly celebration of the time in 1776 when the British Government gave up occupying the USA in favor of fighting the French. We took that opportunity to create a country that would one day save both their asses in multiple world conflicts. (I'm not a history major, so some facts might be a little whack). They, in turn have been our tenuous single good friend in the EU for many years, even though we might not have been the best friend back. It's been quite a ride for the last 200+ years and I figure to spend at least some the 4th celebrating by lighting things on fire. Back in the 70's. before Star Wars or Atari, the first controllable multimedia experience Steve and I had as kids was buying, organizing and then setting ablaze our own "Safe and Sane" fire works extravaganza. I am sure there are psychologists that will stand up and say that it was some sort of release of suppressed aggression from being in the womb together for 9 months, but in reality, we just loved FIRE! Safe and Sane fireworks are basically just a line of relatively innocuous spark and sound emitters. Nothing explodes unless you have my dad manipulating them with his bitchen set of 70's tools. We loved what we had though, especially as explosives did and continue to scare the shit out of me. The July 4th celebrations were always our favorite of the year, as much as it signified the real start of summer vacation, as it meant a day at our Granny's house blasting our saved pennies up in smoke. The legal beagles have made this impossible the last 20 or some odd years because of insane in-duh-viduals who accidentally set fire to entire neighborhoods with imported (smuggled) Mexican explosives. So, it has been some time since I have had the opportunity to geek out with minor explosive spark emitters. As it turns out, we have the opportunity to do that once again this year. We will go to the local TnT stand and just buy the legal stuff. It will be the first chance for my young son to watch his uncle and dad relive the days when the 4th meant begging our dad to buy the biggest box affordable, and then supplementing his purchase with our hard earned allowance.

The World's most popular sport
No, I'm not talking about trolling message boards and acting like a jackass - although that does seem to be pretty much the worlds most popular past time. I talking about Soccer or Futbol, or footie, or what ever is it called in your neck of the woods. This isn't a site devoted to sports, but since I am a soccer geek, I will add my two cents every now and then. I am a fan of the Galaxy, and not because of Mr. Golden Balls Beckham. I have been a fan since I dragged my wife to the first game with 79K other Los Angeles area footie fans in April of 1996. I have been hooked ever since. The Galaxy lost 4-1 to DC United yesterday in a "warm up" game to the Euro 08 championship. The most surprising thing about the whole day was ABC TV showing 5 hours of soccer in a row. It is interesting to note that many local affiliates saw that day on the schedule and decided that it was a perfect opportunity to do transmitter moves and commercial make-goods rather than show the soccer games (I'm not joking, these things actually happened). In any case, the Galaxy looked pretty woeful in the DC heat and early morning game (9:00 AM on the West Coast). Landon Donovan looked OK, and Edson Buddle scored a pretty decent goal, but the rest of the team looked out of sorts. Beckham, who I am a fan of, seemed missing and not his usual self. Pires is a joke and the defense was constantly let down by the nonexistent stopper in the midfield. I hope the July 4th performance is better than this one.

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29Jun/080

Designing Arcade Game Graphics – A free book!

I have been researching and writing a few new basic tutorials on using blitting for arcade games. In my search for some simple graphics to use, I once again came across the Ari Feldman sprite libraries. Along with his incredible, free library of sprite sheets, Ari has made something even more valuable available: His Entire Book On Arcade Game Graphics! Mark Overmars, the creator of the wonderful GameMaker tool, has been given permission to distribute Ari's year 2000 book, Designing Arcade Computer Game Graphics as a free PDF download. The subject is a little dated for modern game programmers (PC, XBOX, etc), but the chapters cover such a wide swath of great topics, that all budding Flash game devs should if it a look. It contains a wealth of information that can help turn even the most left-brained code optimization drone (me) into a pretty decent arcade game graphic creator. You won't be a genius over night, but it will sure give you some great pointers.

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25Jun/080

Atari Movie Report: June 25 2008

Today we start a regular column reporting all the news we can find about the upcoming Atari movie.   Today we have a great new interview with Nolan Bushnell from cbsnews.com :

GameCore: During the early video game craze, was it true Hollywood actually pitched the idea of a Kramer vs. Kramer game?

NB: If I can be a little bit blunt for a minute, the Hollywood types kind of screwed up the video game business for a while. They didn't really understand this was a somewhat different medium at that point, because we weren't really able to do the kind of graphics that really amplified the IP. You couldn't put 50 of those engineers in a room and come out with a video game in five days. It was a thing that was a type of art.

You can read the whole interview herehttp://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/06/20/tech/gamecore/main4198903.shtml

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25Jun/080

Flash Game Development Inter-web mash up : June 24, 2008

The latest in Blog entries and articles that might interest Flash game developers.

This week we take a look at new Flashgamelicense features, Mochiland articles, GameJacket opportunities, optimization, source control, Color Fill (again), Law Of The West Pinball, as3gaming.com, and PixelWelder's custom event broadcaster class.

What's new in Monetization?:

Flashgamelicense First Impressions. Flashgamelicense has added some really cool features lately. They have been instrumental in some great monetary opportunities for us in the past, and the flow cool features has turned into a recent flood. With message boards, the quick shop, to the FGLopedia, Chris and Adam have been are the forefront of the monetization of Flash games for some time now. They have just added a unique new feature that lets game devs purchase First Impressions credits to use on unique player feedback for their games. It works like this: You buy first impressions via Paypal for $1 each in their new First Impressions shop. Those impressions are spent on feedback from unique players of various backgrounds who must play your game for 5 minutes (at least). After the reviewers play you game, they are required to give you bug reports and feedback on a variety of topics relating to your game. The reviewers are anonymous, and so far it looks like a great way to get good feedback on your games. We haven't used it yet (as we don't have any new games), but we plan to very soon.

Mochiland has added yet another deserving weekly winner in The Rings.

They also have a nice case study on monetization by Mochiads member, Badim.

Not to be left out, the guys at GameJacket continue to offer a great guaranteed CPM ($.50), as well as offer $1000.00 up front for deserving games. In some cases this is much better than a license sale, as you keep all of the rights and still can make revenue after the first $1000. I know some very successful people who are using them.

What's new in Game Development Blogs?
visualharmonics.co.uk has great set of optimizations that are useful for Flash games. I especially like that he added some of ours!

GamePoetry has an excellent article on using Subversion for source control.

Emanueleferonato.com has a new tutorial on creating a game Like Color Fill (we reviewed it here a couple weeks back), which itself was a new version of the classic Qix.

The guys are GamingYourWay.com have finally pushed live their sensational Pinball Game, Law Of The West Pinball. This one uses game Jacket. It scrolls both horizontally and vertically to keep the full size table usable in the small window that Flash games usually provide. It works well, and is fun to play.

Check out as3gaming.com as it has proven to be an incredible resource on Game and General Flash development. I still owe them some articles, and I am embarrassed that I have not found time to put them up in the cool wiki.

What's new in general Actionscript Blogs?
PixelWelders has a nice new entry on creating a useful custom Event Broadcaster class (like we did in AS1 and AS2) to overcome some of the limitations of the AS3 model.

Check out Flashgameblogs.com and freelanceflashgames.com for your daily dose.

23Jun/080

8bitrocket Diatribe June 23, 2008

Another Two Gone

It seems that corporate America and creative talent just don't seem to mix very well these days. Steve and I work at a rather large American company and we have been fighting all powers that be for 12 years now to ensure that we keep a cutting edge team of web and game developers. It is a fucking tough job as much because of global outsourcing as the general belief that "if it is on the Internet/Web it must be easy to do, right?" Major companies whose product is not digital, mostly don't understand what it is worth to have experienced, creative technical people... because those people cost a too much. On that note, we say good bye (at least during most normal working hours) to Chris and Jenn Cutler, who have gone off to create their own game development company. Chris started working here about 4 years ago. I turned him onto Flash as a development platform, and he took his considerable skills and applied them to Actionscript and games. Ever since, and he and I have constantly been providing the other with engines, rendering solutions, and game ideas. It's tough to lose that everyday contact with such a great programmer and friend. We will be working on things together in the future, but Chris was one of US. Chris leaves with his wife, Jennifer, one of the best graphic designers I have ever had the pleasure of working with. They will be a success at what ever they do. As my day job loses good people left and right, I wonder exactly when I am going to be forced to make that same decision...

The list of great developers we have lost this year is astounding: Alan Donnelly moved an East Coast agency, Scott Jeppesen now works for Electrotank, Lian Liu now works for the Government, and Chris Cutler now works for himself. Add all of those 2008 departures to the incredible loss of Scott Delamater a few years back. We were IT for a while there. We were firing on all cylinders and the incredible creative ideas and games we were making for some of the most popular sites on the internet (one site alone had 28 Million visitors a month at its height) were second to none. Our games routinely had over 1 million plays a month, some 10x that number. The complete list of lost engineers, designers and producers is far too long to list here, but you get the idea. In 2005-2006 we had one of the greatest in-house teams in the industry ... now we are only a shadow of our former team.

Some Cool Flash Dev sites to check out
http://www.flashbynight.com - A collection of entertaining games made by a fellow Flash gave dev enthusiast - with a bend toward retro style games.

http://www.xiotexstudios.com/you-are-a-resource-nothing-more/ - A funny, but too true diatribe on that it is like working for someone else: "They don't really want what comes with it they simply want me to sit down and write the code that they dictate. They are not interested in anything else I or you have to offer."

http://www.visualharmonics.co.uk/actionscript-optimizations-resource-management/ - A very nice collection of AS3 optimizations that are great for game developers.

Pictures
I have no freaking clue where Steve got those pictures to put next to the blog by lines. Can you say serial killer any better than mine? Time to break out iPhoto...

Filed under: diatribe No Comments
19Jun/080

Flash Retro Game Showcase #6: June 19, 2008

A depressing week as far as "new" retro inspired games go. It is getting more and more difficult each week to sift through the wealth of "new" "super click", "dress-up" and other "copy-and-paste-grammer " (coined by Chris Cutler) developed game engine re-skins to find legitimate contenders for this list. I dove far back into the Mochi archive this time to bring you 5 games that I think you will really enjoy.

Cow Bandits

CowBandits

A Scrolling shooter/ rescue game inspired by Gravitar, Choplifter and...cattle from matts/Gimme5. The game is completely mouse controlled for flying, shooting, and bovine rescues. When you collect cows, they follow your ship in a snake-like pattern. Your job is to save as many cows as possible and get to the nest level. The game has beautiful graphics, nice sounds, and is a joy to play.

Super b

Super b

Free World Group's first game on the list this week. This one is a first-person scrolling shooter in the vein of Space Harrier, but with an added twist. You aim and fire with the mouse, but move independently with the keyboard. This gives the player a nice sense of freedom that is not present any many games of this type. Also, it looks and plays very cool.

Vector

Vector

An Asteroids/Geometry Wars inspired game from BlastOne (the same guys who made Partical Pong). Smooth playing, with crisp graphics, fast action and addictive game play. Your ship fires automatically, and each geometric enemy has a life-bar that must be depleted before it is destroyed. These guys at BlastOne have some neat ideas on how to take retro games and add their own spin. I look forward to their future efforts.

FWG Pinball

FWG Pinball

Free World Group's second game for the week. It is an innovative cross between pinball and breakout with progressive tables. The graphics are simple, but effective with very nice animations. The tables are large, but  scroll, which can be distracting for a pinball game. The physics are nicely done, and while not 100% accurate, they sort of match the style of the game and don't really distract the player at all. The action with the "breakout" style paddle is a very nice touch, and I suppose it is a much needed update to the classic game for allow for 21st century web user consumption. I personally like the classic game of pinball, but I very much appreciate what the developers were trying to accomplish with this game.

Arena

Arena

Arena from Xiotex Studios is a very satisfyitng arena fighter style game...for lack of a better description.. I can't put my finger on any  exact retro games that it reminds me of, but it doesn't matter. It feels like a fun 16-bit Atari ST/Amiga game. The graphics are great, with nice explsions and enemies. The ship movement is near perfect. I found myself playing this much longer than I expected. As a bonus,  the Xiotex Studios blog is a fascinating read.

18Jun/080

Atari Nerd Chronicles: Kenny Brown and The Atari 400

When Kenny Brown moved to Manhattan Beach in 1980 from Philadelphia PA and started 5th grade in my class with Ms. Nash, I did not like him at all. The Dodgers were playing to win the National League West that year, and Kenny could do nothing but root for the Phillies as they thwarted L.A. every chance they got. The Dodgers failed to win anything, while the Phillies advanced toward and ultimately won the World Series. I was a huge Dodger fan. I knew every name of every dodger player, their place in the line-up , their batting average, their ERA and everything in between. Seeing the Dodgers go down so hard was one thing, but having a guy in class who actively danced on their grave was quite another. For most of the Fall of 1980 I simply could not stand to be around Kenny Brown.

However, one day near the beginning of Winter break, Kenny brought a game to school and asked Mrs. Nash if he could play it with other kids in the class when we had free time. Since Mrs Nash just so happened to be the best teacher ever, she happily agreed, and Kenny went looking for players. Kenny came by my desk and asked if I would like to try the game. Even though I was not fond of  Kenny Brown, there was no way I would pass-up playing a game in class. No teacher had ever let us play anything more than Scrabble Jr., and this game looked nothing like that at all. The cover of the box featured and elaborately designed scaly beast breathing fire at a warrior deflecting it with a shield. The title on the box read:

Dungeons And Dragons

A Fantasy Adventure Game

I had never seen anything like it before. Along with myself, Kenny enlisted Barney Hedges and we started a game during recess. The game had no board of any kind, just a couple rule books and a set of 5 oddly shaped dice. Kenny told us that he would be the Dungeon Master, which meant he would not play the game, but rather, guide us through it. Barney and I both created "Fighter" characters, which took most of the free time that day, so we did not get to actually playing the game until the next. As the Dungeon Master, Kenny led Barney and I through a quest in a set of caves. In our first session, we fought rats and mold, discovered copper, silver and gold pieces, and mapped out several rooms in the cave before we were forced to stop playing and get to our school work. That same day we played at recess, and during our free-time in the afternoon. By the end of the day, there was nothing else I wanted to do but play D&D. That night I had trouble sleeping. I spent the entire time trying to figure out ways to play better and discover more in the short time we had at school. I was completely hooked from that day on, and I tried to play with Kenny as much as possible. I forgot all about the Dodgers and the Phillies and our friendship was built on the shoulders of D&D, which led to other common interests like Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy and Steve Martin's Let's Get Small. We continued playing D&D off and on for the better part of the year. When Barney quit playing, we found other players in my brother and Scott Johnson. When summer rolled around we stopped and promised to restart in the fall.

Sometime after 6th grade began, Kenny and his mom moved to an apartment near Foster A. Begg Jr. High. so they could be closer to the new school we all had to attend. While Jeff and I lived right next to Pennekamp Elementary, we were about a mile from the new school, which meant we found ourselves with a long trek home every day after classes ended. One of those days early on, Kenny invited to his house instead of walking home, and thus began a sequence of events that changed my life.  Since Kenny lived alone with his mom, we essentially had the place to ourselves. If we weren't such geeks, I'm sure we could have found much more nefarious ways to spent a few unsupervised hours alone in the early 80's, but all we wanted to do was play games. I suppose we could have started to play D&D again, but it never happened. Instead we focused our attention around something that was even more fascinating than Half-Orcs and Magic Missiles: Kenny's Atari 400 computer. I'm not sure how Kenny got his 400, but since he was a latch-key kid who lived with his mom, I always figured the computer was served as a replacement for...something. No matter why he had it, Kenny was fiercely proud of his computer. However, unlike some other kids I knew who had home computers, he was not overly protective of it, so he let Jeff and I use it as much as we wanted.   I had been completely wrong about Kenny Brown when he arrived in the 5th grade.   At the beginning of Jr. High, not only did I want to associate with him, but he was fast becoming one of our best friends.

The first game Kenny showed us on the 400 was Star Raiders. I could not believe that this amazing game could be played on a home computer. It was a tactical, yet action-oriented space battle against the Zylon invaders. The first person 3D space battles were like playing the movie Star Wars on a TV screen. Star Raiders was one of the first games for the Atari 8-bit computer line, and it was so amazing in it's time that Atari sold 10's of 1000's of 8-bit computers on the strength of it alone. Another great game Kenny let us play was Caverns Of Mars, a a smooth scrolling, vertical space shooter. Mars was another mind-blowing game unlike any I had ever seen on a computer or home video game system. It even rivaled anything in the arcades at the time. The graphics were so crisp and the explosions so satisfying that the game was difficult to stop playing.

The two hours of our first visit to Kenny's went very quickly, and Jeff and I could not wait to return. The chance came a couple weeks later when Kenny told us that he had bought a brand-new game that was like Donkey Kong and Pac-Man combined. Since those games were the kings of the arcade at the time, Jeff and I were anxious to see what this game might be. It was difficult to imagine just what a cross between Donkey Kong and Pac-Man might look like, but the day at school move very slowly as we waited for 3:00 and our chance to play Kenny Brown's Atari 400 again. 

When we got to Kenny's house after school, he pulled out the new game, a Wico joystick, and started playing. It was named Miner 2049er by Big Five Software and it became our obsession for months to come.

Min er 2049er

In the game you played the "miner" who had to run, jump, and transport his way through each level. The game looked like Donkey Kong, in that it was a platformer, but the added element was the need to walk over every platform to pick-up the "mine ore", which gave it the added Pac-Man element. The most amazing thing about the game was that it had 10 very different, very difficult, full-color levels, each with different elements and features (ladders, transformers, elevators, cannons, etc.). At a time when even the best arcade games had just one level (Pac-Man) or maybe four (Donkey Kong), 10 levels made Miner 2049er seem like the best, most elaborate arcade game ever made. Kenny had already mastered most of the game, but it took Jeff and I much longer to get through much of it, simply because we had to wait for stolen minutes at Kenny's house to play. Jeff and I obsessed over this game for months, trading ideas on how to defeat each level and try to match Kenny's prowess. There was a time with Miner 2049er when I thought it was the best game ever made, and the best game that ever would be made. This did not last very long, as Kenny had another surprise up his sleeve that would change my view of home computers, and specifically the Atari 400, forever. One afternoon At Kenny's house, when Jeff and I expected to play Miner 2049er, Star Raiders or Caverns Of Mars, Kenny instead took out a computer magazine named Antic and started to read it. At first, Jeff and I had no idea what he was doing. However, after a couple minutes, Kenny showed us what he was looking at. Besides ads and news about new products, Antic had a section of the magazine dedicated to program listings. In particular, game program listings. What this meant was that if you spent the time to type-in the program listing, and was able to do it perfectly, at the end of the process you would have new game to play.

Kenny plugged a Basic cartridge into his Atari 400, and sat down to start typing. Even though Jeff and I had some experience programming on the Apple IIe, Kenny was a much better at typing than us and he took full control of the machine. Jeff read out-loud the lines of code to Kenny, and he transcribed them into the 400. It was painstaking process, but after about 2 hours the listing was complete. Kenny typed "run", and we marveled at what was on the screen. The game was not very elaborate, (it was a simple maze/chase game named something like "Money Bags") but the time and energy we put into making it come to life made it worth much more than the end result. At one point one of us thought that the scoring in the game was not quite correct. Kenny stopped the game, and listed the code on the screen. He used the arrow keys to edit the line of code that controlled the score, and doubled the value, then ran the game again and wracked up amazing scores. This was a "light-bulb switching" moment for me. All of a sudden I realized that not only could we use the BASIC language to play other people's games, but if we had ideas about how to make them better, we could easily make them a reality. A whole world opened up to me at that moment and I knew, some day, some way, some how, I would became a computer game programmer. Kenny's friendship and openness to allow Jeff and I into his world for many afternoons from 1981-1983 made this possible. It was something I would never forget. 

As we continued through Foster A. Begg we met other a few other kids with similar interests. Kenny told us all about "Hell Night" in Philadelphia, which was the day before Halloween when all the kids played nasty pranks on each other. We tried to start the same tradition in our town by holding a scavenger hunt every Halloween that included, among other things, traffic cones, barricades and street signs. By 8th grade there was a whole group of us that played role playing games, watched weird movies, played video games and loved computers. We were all pretty much big geeks, even though we didn't realize it at the time. Back then there was just all this new cool stuff, and we really liked it. For Christmas 1983, Jeff and I received our own Atari 800 computer. It was amazing to finally have one of our own, but it is also meant that we spent a lot less time at Kenny's apartment with his Atari 400. As well, Kenny had started hanging out with a couple of our other friends, both of whose parents were either divorced, or were getting divorced. As Kenny grew older he must have needed support from people going through the same stuff he was going through, and the two-parent home life of the Fulton's (no matter how explosive it might have been in reality) was simply not compatible. We were still friendly, but by 8th grade graduation we hardly saw each other outside of school.

After Jr. high School, in 1984 Kenny Brown made a sudden change. I'm not sure if it was always in him, or something he suddenly just decided to do. Within the first year of High School, he tried to forge a brand new persona for himself. He shed most of his geek friends like Jeff and I, and went out for the football team. Since Kenny was about 6'2" and weighed about 150, he was built for football. He made the team, and within a year had completely re-invented himself. Kenny left most of his geek stuff behind (at least in public), started hanging out with a new group of people and never looked back. I recall he even caught the winning touch-down pass in one of the rare games in which our team was victorious. Even though we never hung-out any longer, I still secretly rooted for my old friend on the football field and within the halls of Mira Costa High School. Sure, anyone who was once one of "us" but was able to re-imagine himself as one of "them" should have been suspect. However, Kenny was never mean or cruel, and never tried to prove himself by being an ass to his old friends to impress his new ones. He was just a good guy who made good for himself. Still, it was not easy to lose another friend in much the same way it had happened for many years prior. The good news was that Jeff and I, being twins, always had each other to fall-back upon. In time, we forged our own in-roads in the social fabric of high-school. However, I always wished we could have found a way to remain friends with Kenny Brown. In time, I'm embarrassed to admit that I sort forgot he had ever existed, or at the very least, put him out of my mind. I suppose,as far I was concerned, Kenny Brown had forgotten us, and we had, in-turn, returned the service. The D&D and the Atari 400 became merely shadows of time in the past when kids were friends with each other for no better reason than just because we could be.

Years later, long after we had left high school and were much of our way through college, I came home back to my parents house to find a note on the kitchen table attached to a package. I opened the package first, and found a couple Atari ST games from Epyx inside, including their version of Battleship. I was baffled about where they had come from. I picked up the note, written by my sister. It said that Kenny Brown had stopped by and left the games for Jeff and I. I was astounded. I had not even thought about Kenny Brown for years, yet he had managed to not only stop by our house, but leave some gifts as well. I called a couple people to see if they knew about Kenny being in-town, or what he was doing, but my inquiries went no where. As it turned out, it was the last I ever heard from Kenny Brown. I'm still not sure what Kenny meant by leaving us the games, or if he really meant anything at all. However, it's not the act that is important, it is the way it is received. In my mind, the gesture was Kenny Brown telling us that indeed, he had not forgotten that we were once friends and once shared the wonder of the home computer age together. In turn since that day, I have never forgotten Kenny Brown, my introduction to D&D, or the time we spent at his apartment exploring the wonders of the Atari 400.

17Jun/080

John Harris Asks: Where Are The Atari Fan boys?

John Harris over at Gamasutra.com has a fantastic new artical named "Game Design Essentials: 20 Atari Games" in which he spends a massive amount of time (23 pages!) discussing the brillant game designs that came out of Atari's coin-op division from 1972-1998.

At the beginning of the article, John asks a very ligitimate question: "Where Are The Atari Fan boys?"   He's not referring to the console fanatic at places like Atari Age,  Atari Protos or Atari Mania, but rather the people who played and loved Atari coin-op games. 

I'm not sure I have an answer for John because, frankly, I have the same question.  I'm stunned about how little information there is about Atari coin-ops and their designers.   Check out John's article, as it goes a long to rectifying the situation.

Filed under: Atari Nerd No Comments
17Jun/080

Fresh Kill Five: June 16, 2008. A biased pick of fun new Flash Games

This week we once again  visit Agame.com and Mochiads to find games that we love to play. Our choices: Captain Zorro, Uchuforce 2, Speed X, Diamond Frog and Midnight Race.

Finding good games to play is not as easy as it sounds. There are so many stinkers out there now, sifting through all of the junk to find a few good games seems to take an extra long time. Any way, here are a few good ones from the bunch. I had to search the sites for some games I like to play, so not all of them are brand new.

Captain Zorro by www.gamezhero.com (on agame.com)
Captain Zorro is a retro shooter combo of Xenon 2 and Choplifter. Your goal is to shoot everything in sight and pick up the stranded people on the ground. You can use both the mouse and keyboard to control your ship. You can pick up heath and super shots along the way.

Captain Zorro is a pretty fun game. Some quality time was spent on the visuals and music. I find the game play a little on the slow side, but it was still a blast to play.

UCHUFORCE 2 by babarageo.com
The description for this game claims that is is like space invaders, which is probably the absolute most lazy ass attempt at describing a game I have every read. This is a much like space invaders as Grand Theft Auto IV is like Wolfenstein 3D. Yes, you shoot at stuff, but this game is more a pretty basic (but fun) retro vertical shooter. It is a lot like a basic version of the game that came with my Sega Master System. I forget the name, but it was a pretty excellent for the time vertical shooter.

Uchuforce 2 has beautifully retro feel to it. It would have been an 8-bit classic.

Speed X by ABE @ 2008 (wtf?) Many of these games have the true credit removed, so I can only go on what I find.
Speed X is basically Moon Patrol on some serious acid. You control a Robocop style future police officer in a jet powered vehicle. Your goal is to blow everything you see up. You control your gun up and down with the mouse and use the W A D keys to move up, left and right respectively.

There are some pretty novel enemy units to destroy in this action packed retro blast fest.

Diamond Frog by www.goplaysushi.com
Diamond Frog is modern take on the classic snake game, but with added features. You are a frog and you are tasked with collecting diamonds that appear in the play field. You must avoid the crushers that move back and forth, up and down on the screen. To aide you, at your disposal are bombs that will create a vertical blast radius and take out the crushers.

Diamond Frog is an enchanting little modern retro game.

Midnight Race by DjSonix
Midnight Race is a rather simple racing concept in a very well done package. The file download is quite large, but the final product is worth the wait. You basically dodge cars in a 3rd person, 3-d (from top and behind) perspective. The control is exactly like a hand-held game my sister game me for christmas in 1978.

You'll have a fun few minutes playing Midnight Race. As you can see, the visuals are very impressive.

That's it for this time. I hope for there to be some more good games out there next week.

Filed under: Game Reviews No Comments
17Jun/080

Flash Game Development Inter-web mash up : Jun. 17, 2008

The latest in Blog entries and articles that might interest Flash game developers.

This week we take a look at the latest Mochiads Friday winner; generating friendly URLS and AS3 platform games; Interdisciplinary tensions (teaching programmers some needed design skills), cool games from Sokay and GamingYourWay; flashperfection.com collection of game tutorials; and how to create a simple particle system.

Mochiads.com latest Friday winner is a bitchin' little puzzle / platformer called Cave Escaper. It reminds me of quite a few Retro games including Pitfall 2 and Montezuma's Revenge.

Emanuele Feronato is not only content with combating Flash game illiteracy with his awesome new tutorials like : Step by step as3 translation of creation of a platform game with flash step 1. But he is now writing tutorials for portal and site owners like this: How to generate friendly URLs with .htaccess - part 2. Buy this man a beer!

Scott Delamater is also out to combat developer illiteracy with his latest entry targeting programmers lack of knowledge concerning basic and advanced design principles: Interdisciplinary Tensions.

I look over Bryson Whiteman's shoulder the other day while he was playing an awesomely retro Commando style shooter called Luv Tank. It turns out that he and his Sokay.net pals made it last year. If you like retro games, this one is a blast (not literally as the game concerns shooting flowers from a tank?). In any case it is a splendid retro design and fun to play. It's a great example of exactly how to do a retro NES style game right!

GamingYourWay.com is always a great source of inspiration and wickedly brilliant games to play. They have a new entry in the Phantom Mansion series to check out as well as a preview video of a game I can't wait for called Law of the West Pinball - painstakingly created with Box2d, sweat, tears, and some god provided raw talent! These guys would have been Minter / Bitmap Brothers caliber stars in the Amiga / ST days.

I guess I don't get out much because I have never visited the site FlashPerfection.com. They have a nice array of useful tutorials and especially quite a few targeted at games.

Flash Game Book Author, and all around cool dude, Gary Rosenzweig has a video tutorial you can check out that explains how to create a basic particle system.

Check out Flashgameblogs.com for your daily dose.

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