8bitrocket.com
30Nov/081

New Star Soccer 4 Chronicles #2: 8bitjeff season 2 start

New Star Soccer 4 Chronicles #2: 8bitjeff season 2 start

Note:
New Star Soccer 4
(NSS4) is a brilliant independent game by Simon Read. It was released
on Windows and Mac platforms in early November and I am spending some
of my free time with it, grinding out a career as a professional
footballer. The game includes a full 3d match engine where you can play
out your career in semi-real time, as well as one of the most in depth
personal career management systems ever put into a computer game. The
early stages of the game are very much akin to a "grind-it-out" role
playing game. I am still in that stage right now. Everything described
below is a narrative version of actual in-game events.

One other note: I got an email complaint from someone who didn't like
my characterization of the low quality of  MLS and especially
the Galaxy in my last post.
I was taken back by some of the language used in the email mostly
because they usually save those comments for Jamie Trecker.
I want to assure anyone who reads this that I have been a Galaxy and
MLS supporter from day one. I was one the the 70,000 who attended their
first game, and I have attended at least 5 games a year since. I watch
every televised game with my 82 year old father, and we yell at the TV
the entire time. I also am a HUGE USA nats fan, and  I watch
every game on TV and attend every local match they play (usually in
January, but this year also in July). I have done this from all the
back in he early 80's. There will be many who claim that they attended
the 1-0 Costa Rica loss at El Camino
college in 1985
, but my dad,
brother Steve and I were actually there.  Contrary to reports,
the crowd 40% USA fans and 60% Costa Rica fans. It was not 75% Costa
Rica fans. I am by no means what you would call an American Eurosnob
(not my characterization, but one used by many USA fans). My
characterization of the Galaxy as needing any player who can kick a
ball and tie his boots properly was a joke made by someone who knows
that is it not actually true. More or less, it's all they could afford
this year though. Now, that's been said...

When we last left 8bitjeff he was warming the bench and getting limited
playing time with the LA Galaxy of MLS. He had scored only one goal
in real competition, had no assists, no tackles, and only a handful of
meaningful passes completed. His confidence was at an all-time low and
his luck with the ladies was snake eyes all the way. He needed
a change badly and one came in an offer to play continental semi-pro
football in the outskirts of England's lower leagues.
 8bitjeff packed up his only meaningful belongings (a full set
of gym equipment, surf board and mobile home) and trekked to the
outskirts of English football for a loan spell with Stelybridge Celtic
of the Northern Continental League.

Once on the ground in Merry ol' Engerland, 8bitjeff spend most of his
free time gambling in the casino and playing 5 aside (plus a keeper)
matches in doors to keep out of the British Winters. He was given the
opportunity to start a few matches because of his impressive training
regime and by the end of the campaign had actually scored a couple
goals and had 1 assist. It was enough to be offered a 5 year stay, but
with his sights set on the big time, 8bitjeff accepted a move to Spain
to play for B league leaders Codiz CF.

The entire summer off season was spend in his new swimming
pool, working on endurance, and running around cones on the practice
pitch in an attempt to turn his natural speed into dribble prowess.
 

When the new campaign started, Codiz wanted to see what their young
American was capable of and 8bitjeff didn't didn't disappoint with a
spectacular goal. Unfortunately, with the fire power already available
to this top table club, he was treated to a bench stay in
reward for his play. After a few fruitless substitution performances,
8bitjeff earned his first ever Man of the Match award for a goal in his
start against Lacena. After 6 matches, Codiz sits top table with 5 wins
and 1 draw. 8bitjeff hopes to keep impressing the manager in training
so he will get more chances to shine, as even a Man of the Match award
will not guarantee a starting spot on this competitive club.

new star soccer

8bitjeff's current financial situation is better than ever, but still
not great. Now that he is earning $2300 a week with only about $250 a
week in expenses, he has been able to save a little dosh. 
This frugal lifestyle has absolutely NOT proven enough impress the
lovely Spanish ladies as 8bitjeff had not been on one date since his
move from England (he had 2 disastrous dates there, one girl left as
soon as she saw his clothes).  8bitjeff hopes to score enough
goals to impress a boot sponsor. If he doesn't, he will need to store
his pennies until he can purchase the $40K power car that will
hopefully be enough for a date to stay more than 3 minutes with him.
 He only has $27K in savings, and with a selection of friends
and family hangers-on sapping his cash reserves all the time, he will
need to stay pretty frugal to get there.

8bitjeff had his $16K mobile home shipped from the Midlands to Spain,
and it is obvious to him that he will need to get at least a small
apartment before any ladies will give him a second date (it they get
even passed driving in his $8K car that is). It will cost $81K for that
small apartment, but it will be well worth it when it he has the
resources to indulge.

In training, 8bitjeff has successfully been able to complete some
advanced passing, dribbling, and tackling drills, but the
shooting and heading drills (what he needs to be a competent striker)
are just too taxing for his weak frame. He will continue to work with
his full selection of workout gear that he stores under a giant tarp
next to his mobile home, and swim in the giant portable pool that he
dragged from England to Spain.  Hopefully if he works on
speed, endurance and strength, he will be able to start more matches
and get the eye of some sponsors.

The next fixture for Codiz CF against 8th place Marbella will hopefully
be another opportunity for 8bitjeff to shine. Until  then,
he'll go hit the race track with some friends and try to win enough
money for that car to entice the ladies...

Filed under: Game Reviews 1 Comment
28Nov/080

Atari Nerd Interviews The First Mainstream Game Journalist – Michael Schrage Of Rolling Stone

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"the difference between an atari CES party (and after party) and bob guccione's 'caligula' was that atari made bob look like a cheapskate with less attractive women..."

-Michael Schrage, 2008

Michael Schrage was one of pioneers of video game journalism. A few months prior to the first Issue of Electronic Games magazine, Schrage was hired by Rolling Stone magazine to write their technology column. Out of the gates he proceeded to write some of the very first stories about video games and video game culture for the mass market. The guys from Electronic Games had come from the ranks of sci-fi fanzines and comic books and made heir magazine into the first real video game publication for fan-boys. At the same time, Computer Gaming world was publishing directly at the wargaming grognard market. However, while most of the mainstream press (and by 1981 Rolling Stone was certainly mainstream) was busy completely ignoring video games, Schrage was writing regular features on the subject. In fact, his first story covered the "military" version of Atari's Battlezone. Schrage covered Atari through 1982, and saw the company from the inside out. When Atari was on the verge of imploding, Schrage entered the bowels of the company for a watershed piece in June 1982 named "Video Games Go Hollywood" which very well might have been the first real "journalism" applied to the art, science and business of making video games. 8bitrocket.com was honored a few weeks back when Mr. Schrage agreed to an interview about his time with Rolling Stone and beyond.

8bitrocket: How did you get your start in journalism? How about Technology?

Michael Schrage: I was always interested in writing and journalism. As a faculty brat in Chicago's Hyde Park, I grew up barely a mile away from the Museum of Science & Industry. I've always had an interest in science in general and technology in particular. While I was not the sort of child who took things apart or played with Lego, I did like playing with and testing the limits of interesting tools and devices. I was fascinated by how technology was designed and used - and misused. How technology influenced how people behaved - and how people's behavior influenced technological design - intrigued me from an early age. I was a good observer and wrote about these things. In high school, I met Ted Nelson (of Xanadu, hypertext and 'Computer Lib' fame) and his work influenced me enormously. So I became a computer geek in high school (working at one of America's first personal computer stores) and took computer science in college. I also became a stringer for the Washington Post - as I was an editor for my college paper - and used my knowledge of computers and technology to suggest technically-oriented stories that somehow found their way into the paper. My editors at the Post - Joel Garreau in particular - sensed that digital personal technology was becoming both more of a pop cultural and 'newsworthy' phenomenon. My timing was good and my stories about hackers, liability for computer programming errors and copyright law were well-regarded.

8bitrocket: What did you do before you starting writing for Rolling Stone?

Michael Schrage: I did an internship at the Washington Post (on the business side) and also worked for Dow Jones in their electronic news retrieval service. I was the young guy who translated between editorial, marketing and technical. It was a good experience. I learned lots - but I wasn't writing enough.

8bitrocket: Did you work at Rolling Stone offices, or did you file your stories via mail/fax etc?

Michael Schrage: I worked at their (then) 5th Avenue NYC offices and saw everybody from Madonna to the Stray Cats. It was a weird, weird place with delightful people who were funny and loved music and always worried about whether Rolling Stone was becoming conventional and mainstream and 'establishment.' Jann Wenner was a character and I think he liked me for reasons other than my journalistic talent. The editor who hired me treated me very well; the main editor - Terry McDonnell - thought I was an obnoxious kid. As obnoxious as I could be, I thought he was way more obnoxious and arrogant to boot. He liked my work way more than he liked me. I didn't dislike him but I can't remember him doing anything to make my life, my work or my opportunities any better. To be fair, he was a pretty good editor. He never 'got' technology as a 'pop culture' beat and thought of what I wrote about as a necessary evil for the magazine - accent on evil.

8bitrocket:  Have you
seen Cameron Crowe's "Almost Famous"? Did it resemble that kind of atmosphere?

Michael Schrage: Were their drugs? Yes. Was I jealous of how Cameron Crowe was regarded? More envious, actually. Did exceptionally attractive women/girls find me more attractive when they found out I wrote for Rolling Stone? Yes. Did I take advantage of that? Alas, no - the idea of waking up with someone who wanted to sleep with someone because they had a 'cool' job creeped me out. I was the only person at Rolling Stone @ that time who didn't own a stereo and never smoked dope. I liked music but didn't love it. I was the consumer electronics/computer gook. I was RS's first consumer electronics columnist - and it wasn't because Jann and everyone loved gadgets; it's because Sony, Panasonic &RCA were stereo/music companies that were also HUGE advertisers and everyone wanted a piece of their electronics ad budgets.

I liked 'Almost Famous' but that wasn't my scene; I was part of the Las Vegas/Chicago CES excesses when young Atari games designers would repeat the Robin Williams bon mot that 'Cocaine was God's way of telling you you had too much money...' You had marginally talented 25 year olds who happened to be able to write assembler really, really fast who - because they could hit a production window - could get a $50K bonus. Real money in 1982!

8bitrocket: How awesome! Before we get to the Atari stuff though, let's talk about music. The dawn of MTV and all those new-wave artists must have
been a very interesting time to be there o working with them. Any stories about musicians (good
or bad)?

I actually went to the MTV launch party at the Warner Amex building, met all the spanking new VJs - had Martha Quinn be annoyed with me - saw the lord high mucketmucks such as Bob Pittman...a very good party...video did, indeed, kill the radio star...

8bitrocket: How did Rolling Stone editors/management view the technology and video game stories you were
writing? Were they seen as important?

Michael Schrage: except for my editor (david rosenthal), it was pretty much a 'hold their nose' affair...they were about music as the supreme cultural art form (and movie stars #2 with a bullet...) tv was a distant third and technology was - as mentioned - the crap that made all those art forms possible..(ironic, ain't it...?)

amusingly, the business types - kent brownridge's folks & the advertising sales folks - LOVED me and my column & stories...i made their lives easier and expanded their market...i personally couldn't have cared less but they read my stuff and commented on how 'smart' their clients thought it was...whether they were sucking up or being genuine, i didn't care....i liked what i was doing and doing pleasure in the fact that the stuff i was covering was gathering more attention - and more money - in the 'real' world than the latest 'foreigner' or 'men at work' release....be good, johnny, be good...come on eileen! :-)

8bitrocket: OK, let's talk about some of the stories you wrote back then. Have you see the "Rolling
Stone DVD Rom Set" of all their issues? It makes it far too easy to research stuff like this.
Right now you can get all of Rolling Stone...and all of Playboy. My wife only agreed to Rolling
Stone! Have you seen this tool? How does it feel to have your writing from 25 years ago
instantly accessible again?

Michael Schrage: i haven't looked at - let alone read - a copy of rolling stone in over a decade....

8bitrocket: Your first video game stories date from mid-1981, about 3 months prior to the launch of
Electronic Games magazine. That, somewhat, puts you at the forefront of video-game journalism in
the mainstream press (unless you count the Arcade Alley column in Video magazine). Do you
recall why Rolling Stone/and or yourself started covering this subject?

Michael Schrage: as mentioned, i had an editor who had loved a cover story i had written for 'new york' magazine in september of 1979
on the videodisc (remember that?) and when he went to RS, he insisted that not only i write for the magazine but become its first 'video/games' columnist...
i'm not even 22 years old; i'd have been an idiot to say no...i'm not an idiot :-)

8bitrocket: I believe Your first story printed was in September 1981,about Atari's Battlezone and how the
military was wanted a version to train their troops. This story has circulated for many years
afterward, but this seems to be the first place (chronologically) I've seen something written
about it. Do you recall the source of the story or how you were put onto it?

Michael Schrage: wow! what a flashback...yes, i do: ed rotberg - who had been involved with atari/battlezone and who i had met at a ces, casually mentioned it and, because i had done a story on spi - simulations publications inc - a board 'wargames' magazine publisher (strategy&tactics) - while in college...i seized on it as an example of how games once modeled on 2D paper were making the great digital leap to multidimensional interaction... i confess this seemed 'obviously' to me to be a significant story...

what was the difference in age between a 'twitch' video games player and a young army recruit...two years? three years?...what's more, the future economics of video gaming (which, as a geek, i intuitively and intellectually understood the moment I saw 'pong' in high school) guaranteed that it would become both a platform and medium for defense simulation...the pentagon was and is rich...it had a lot at stake in improving the bandwidth of training...

8bitrocket: Your next few stories through the 1981 were about things like Satellite TV, cable TV (with
adult content), recordable video discs, movies on videocassette, 3D movies etc...even Elvis! At
this point, did you have your own, general column about video and technology in the Rolling
Stone?

Michael Schrage: yes

8bitrocket: In March of 1982, you covered the Winter CES show. Did you go to the show? Do you recall
the excitement around the video game offerings that year? Did you sense that companies like
Atari thought they could "do no wrong" with their products? Did you sense that they thought the
public would buy "anything" they put out?

Michael Schrage: yes yes yes! what an arrogant - and happy! - bunch of arrogant fucks they were...they were making games - and money - hand over fist and could do no wrong...the competition...the imagics and activisions - had yet to erode their market share or margins in any meaningful way...

8bitrocket: Do you recall any kind of "excessive" behavior
from Atari representatives? Expensive parties, food etc. in a way that did not seem sustainable?

Michael Schrage: the difference between an atari CES party (and after party) and bob guccione's 'caligula' was that atari made bob look like a cheapskate with less attractive women...

was i offered drugs? yes....did i see them? no...i wasn't into that kind of self-indulgence...i had a small circle of (journo) friends i hung around with...we had a very good time and several remain good/great friends to this day....there's this wonderful line from the late ny times editor abe rosenthal "if you cover the circus, don't sleep with the elephants..." i covered the circus and loved doing so; i did not sleep with the elephants, the clowns or the bearded lady...

that said, i did meet a couple of people over that time - at atari parties, no less - where mutual interest lasted well beyond convention's end...

8bitrocket: One of your next stories was about Japanese games imported to the USA (Pac-Man, Dig Dug,
Donkey Kong). At the time did you sense the Japanese had some kind of upper-hand? Do you think
their games were significantly different from the ones companies in the USA were making?

Michael Schrage: yes! i was FASCINATED by the cultural differences and distinctions between the japanese and american sensibility (and ended up going to japan many, many times over the decade...)...it's not that the japanese had an upper hand; they lived and breathed videogames differently than we did....unlike japanese baseball, where the rules account for more similarity than differences, the rules of video games and video game development were being written and rewritten with a different sense of economics and cultural imperatives....it's like sushi; japanese video games were an acquired taste but they transformed how americans both played and designed them...

8bitrocket: It was about mid-1982 when you starting covering the home computer market with stories about
Commodore, portable Timex machines, etc. Was there any kind of sense at the time that things
would be going in that direction?

Michael Schrage: everybody i knew felt this was the henry ford model A/model T phase of home computer development...we knew things would only get better and better over time and no one knew whether games companies, entrepreneurs, toy companies or 'real' computer companies like IBM or HP or Texas Instruments or Intel would win in this battle...all we knew is that there'd be lots of competition and even more innovation...and we were more right than we knew? (and who the eff was microsoft, anyway...?)

8bitrocket: OK, now we get to what I consider, your "magnum opus" on video games. A story about Atari
from June 1982 named "Video games Go Hollywood". This is one of the best stories on video games
ever written. Do you recall how this one came about?

Michael Schrage: yes, i do - and i appreciate your characterization....the truth is, the insight that led to the story was in the story itself...

who didn't grow up in the 60s or 70s thinking about writing 'the great american novel' or directing 'the great american movie'...you had the rise of the indie outlaws in hollywood and the 'bright lights, big city' (yes, i know that was 1984 but the point holds!) zeitgeist where ambitious youngsters wanted to simultaneously express their deepest selves and change the world with their 'art'.... video games weren't just games; they were an art form...(i had written a piece about computer animation (disney's tron) that year) and it was blindingly obvious to me that OF COURSE computer/video games were as much an art form as novels, movies, photographs or painting...once you were prepared to commit to that idea, the notion of atari and imagic games designers as the braques, picassos and modiglianis of their day was an easy one...

it became the organizing principle for the piece...you know, picasso - not unlike (or should i say, precisely like) damien hirst - was a helluva entrepreneur...

8bitrocket: In the story you ask the question, who will make the "Star Wars" or "Jazz Singer" of video
games. I believe what you were saying was that, when time comes that technology will no longer
be factor, who will use the canvas of the video game to create something that transcends the
medium. Is that right, or way off? If so, do you think someone has done that yet?

Michael Schrage: not quite...my belief is that technology is always and inherently a factor...remember - both the dutch masters and impressionists mixed their own paints; photographers developed their own film - my point then (if i recall) was technology wouldn't 'get in the way' of appreciating the brilliance of the narrative or the expression - any more than the pages and typeface get in the way of reading and loving a great novel...

8bitrocket: In the story, it sounds like you visited Atari. Did you actually visit the campus? Do you
recall anything about it? Do you recall seeing any of the famous "excesses" of the
management, or "antics" of the development teams?

Michael Schrage: yes...people had very, very, very nice offices; their secretaries seemed awfully attractive and rather less than competent...there was a huge gay contingency in atari management, too...as for the designers, they were sealed away from access...i only met them off campus...atari discouraged publicity for them...

8bitrocket: Did you ever talk to Manny Gerard or Ray Kassar? If so, do you recall if they seemed to
think they were "on to something" with Atari, or if they seemed to be in the "right place at the
right time"?

Michael Schrage: ray took an immediate dislike to me...i only met him @ the ces...manny and i actually became friends and we corresponded and lunched together for years...he had a big lunch for many of my journalist friends and i in his richly appointed dining room @ warner ....i remember him setting aflame the paper for italian biscotti and it flew up into the air...we were warned about having that set off fire alarms by the wait staff....

i liked manny; he was the jewish uncle i never had as a child :-)....

he was one of the folks made to take the fall for atari's financial collapse....i confess i liked him as both a person and as an intellect...

i'd be thrilled to take him to lunch....maybe i will...

8bitrocket: You have a fairly long sequence in the story where you talk to Chris Crawford in the Atari
Research Lab. Do you recall anything about Crawford? Did he seem out of place at Atari? Did the
research lab seem integrated at all into the rest of the company?

Michael Schrage: chris was, indeed, an odd duck...he was an intellectual aspirant in a place where twitch games reigned supreme - will wright's success must have eaten him up...
i liked chris but i thought he'd rather be a philosopher king than design games millions of people would enjoy...he'd rather make people 'think' about 'important' things...

the lab under alan kay was like a never-never land of provocative technology beginnings that could never seem to ship either on time or on budget...lots of good - even great - ideas...but steve jobs' line is true: great artists ship....

8bitrocket: Is there anything striking that you can recall about Atari during that important time in
their history?

Michael Schrage: yes - that they had lost self-control and self-discipline both strategically and creatively....they were trying to do too much an exploit every single great opportunity or idea that crossed their path...the firm - filled with bright people - couldn't focus or prioritize ...should we bet more on computers or games consoles? personal games or networks? we can do it all; we should do it all...yes, i know the game was supposed to ship three months ago - but we need another six months to do it 'right'...

etc...

8bitrocket: In August of 1982 you wrote about two of the greatest pieces of hardware from the golden Age
of video games: The Aracadia Supercharger and the GCE Vectrex. At the time did it seem like
videogames would continue to progress unabated into the future? Was there any inkling of trouble
ahead?

Michael Schrage: umm...this is a trick question: did the ideograms bubble of 1982/1983 collapse? yes! did video games (not unlike the post 2001 internet) pick itself up and get bigger, better and more innovative than ever? hell, yes...i accept the fact that trees don't grow to the sun and that bust frequently follow booms...the fact - and it is a fact - that everything we dreamed about and talked about in those early 80s CESs have largely come true twenty years later...and look pretty damn promising twenty years hence!

i find that inspirational, not depressing

8bitrocket: In September of 1982 you wrote another "magnum opus" named "The War Against Home Taping".
Do you see any real difference in the "home taping" issue from the 80's and the MP3/digital
music issue today? Do you think record companies have the ability to change their 150 year old
practices?

Michael Schrage: that one was nominated for ad became a finalist for the national magazine award; i loved writing that piece ...david geffen called me up to complain about it; walter yetnikoff called me up and called me a motherfucker and hung up on me...i always felt the IP issues were important and thought this piece (and the RIAAs unethical immoral and hypocritical campaign against home taping) a useful view into the issue's future on themes ranging from law to ownership to privacy to creativity....

...there are commonalities to today but, honestly, the piece was best for its moment in time - unlike the games designer piece which was written to capture the universality of creativity, technology and aspiration...

8bitrocket: Related to the above, Warner Communications, one of the biggest recording companies in the
world owned Atari at the same time the home taping issue came about. Was there any irony in the
fact that, on one hand they saw themselves as this progressive technology company on one side of
the business, but at the same time at to try to thwart technology on the other?

Michael Schrage: they hated each other...warner was a conglomerate in every meaning of that word...the music people and the games people were rivals....steve ross was the ceo/referee and wanted to milk them both

8bitrocket: Some of your final stories for Rolling Stone centered around computers and turning video game systems into computers. Was it obvious to you where the industry was going?

Michael Schrage: at risk of sounding like a putz, yes....to be fair, all of my best sources and friends thought along similar lines...we felt digitalization created more of a convergence than a fragmentation...that said, there always seemed to be dedicated games chips that did a measurably better job of imagery and animation than the standard microprocessor...

8bitrocket: How did your job/contract with Rolling Stone end?

Michael Schrage: the washington post offered me a job covering technology

8bitrocket: You have been involved in many very "serious" pursuits in the past 20 years or so including working for DARPA, the Pentagon, writing about Collaboration and for CIO magazine among many other things. did you time with Rolling Stone pre-pare you in any way for those jobs?

Michael Schrage: yes! rolling stone began my career as someone who cared passionately about getting people to express themselves about technology and its design - and my transforming those expressions into stories and reports that made expanded thought and discussion about technology and design...writing on deadline with the desire to explain - not just to bloviate - is a fantastic discipline and opportunity

8bitrocket: How did you get involved with the MIT Media Lab/Security Studies Program etc.?

Michael Schrage: nicholas negroponte invited me...i was in nyc on 9/11 - i asked the ssp if i could assist it in any efforts to help america better defend itself against future attack and threats...i was immediately invited to join and have worked with the ssp and various parts of the national community since...

yes, video 'games' are occasionally involved

what goes around....

(Steve Fulton, November 2008)

27Nov/080

Happy Thanksgiving from 8bitrocket.com

If you are not from the USA, then you might not be aware that today we celebrate a holiday we know as Thanksgiving. You can read wikipedia to find out the details on what is basically a harvest celebration.  It is all of those things, but to most of us it is a day to see family, eat too much, and hopefully not dredge up old ghosts from the closet and turn them into family turf wars.  We also are supposed to reflect on what we have in our lives that we should be thankful for...and then MAKE A HUGE list of all the STUFF WE WANT so when the stores open at 4:00 AM Friday for the BLACK FRIDAY sales we can push, shove, scratch claw and bite our way to happiness. Want want want buy buy buy!  Isn't it wonderful all the stuff we can have?

For today though, have a great day, no matter where you are.

Filed under: diatribe No Comments
26Nov/080

Fresh Kill : Spike Arcade Edition

Fresh Kill : Spike Arcade Edition 

Spike.com, the web arm of Spike TV has launched an arcade filled with
games that they claim are just for men (women will get a kick out of
some of t these too I am sure).   The arcade currently
contains 5 titles that will probably look familiar to you if you have
spent any time on addictinggames com. While certainly
not "Fresh",
these titles do offer some great entertainment.   We take a
look at three of them below:

Beat
Me Up

Beat
Me Up
is a rag doll physics game
where the player is tasked with trying to inflict the most damage
possible on a stick polygon man within the given time limit. The game
begins with your poor on-screen dude falling from the sky and impaling
himself on a tall sharp object attached to the bottom of the screen.
Once he has been suitably impaled, your job is to use the mouse and
fling him around the screen, aiming for a number of the sharp objects
in almost a pinball like fashion. The better you are at flinging him
into on screen ordinance, the more blood he will spew and the higher
your score will be.  You can used the [+] and [-] keys to
control falling debris which inflict even more damage.

Beat Me up

This title was originally created by Will
Perone
, and I have seen it
around the net for a while now. It is nice to see it collected together
with other games targeted at dudes with time on their hands while at
work.

8bitrocket take: Beat Me Up certainly is not for the faint of heart or
young children, but there is an undeniably addictive quality
to
flinging the hapless on screen man around the screen. This is due to a
very nice use of physics to create an almost rag-doll pinball machine
effect. I liken all of these types of games (including the series
of clone games where you launch a helpless hero scrolling horizontally
down the screen and try to see how far he will go) to the wonderful
game  that
was the Javelin throw game in the classic Track and Field by Konami.
While Beat me Up is fun, it isn't without a few problems that can
easily be rectified. The game is solid, but the UI and instructions are
almost non-existent. It took me a few plays just to figure out the
basics, and I still don't know exactly what the [+] and [-] are used
for. I certainly had fun trying to figure it out  though.

Riff
Master II

Riff
Master II
is  the Flash
equivalent of Guitar Hero.  Notes fly down the screen and
using the ASD and JKL keys you attempt to play the right notes that
corresponds to the associated key in time with the song.  
There are Easy and Normal Editions for 1 or 2 players. In a two player
game, one player uses ASD and the other the JKL keys.  The
game is very polished and well programmed with nicely drawn and
animated characters.

riff mater ii

This game was originally launched on to addictinggames.com by Freaky
Tiki Productions
.

8bitrocket take: Riff Master II is F**King hard! You can see above
 that my score when taking the screen shot was -325. That
being said, it is a very well made game. I had a lot of trouble getting
the keys  to time properly,  even in the easy mode.
 I am a huge fan of Guitar Hero, but find keyboard versions
lacking. That being said, Riff Master II is a great reproduction of
the Guitar Hero style of game play with a keyboard. I just wish I
wasn't such a lame ass at it.

Negotiator

Negotiator
is almost like a text adventure of old, but with nice visuals to go
along with the well text. Actually it is  more like a
linear choose your own adventure book where you must negotiate with a
bad dude until he gives up the location of a bomb, releases hostages,
etc. After a mission briefing, the player is given a nice cut screen
intro into the current situation, and then is presented with a screen
containing the scene (including on or more characters that need to be
negotiated with). Using the arrow keys the player selects questions to
ask the perp. After the first question or statement is selected , the 2
minute timer starts. There is also a radar screen at the bottom of the
play area that is used to signify progress.  the goal is to ask the right questions/say the right things  before the situation gets out of control.

negotiator

Negotiator was originally released by Games2win.com

8bitrocket take: Negotiator is a very cool, unique concept. The
illustrations and animations are done very well, and the "radar"
screen at the bottom of the play field seamlessly changes into what
every is needed for the current level. There doesn't seem to be a lot
of replay value in the levels after they have been completed a first
time, but I'm not sure there was an intent to have people replay them,
as making them random would probably not have made them an better and
would probably have made them worse.

Filed under: Game Reviews No Comments
25Nov/080

Flex Files: Sound Exploration – Loop an Mp3 with a ByteArray?

Flex Files: Sound Exploration - Loop an Mp3 with a ByteArray?

After reading through all of the documentation on loading and embedding sounds in Flex Framework swf file, I have come to the conclusion that Adobe has been and continues to have its collective head in the sand when it comes to managing sound in actionscript. When I first started using CS3, I was appalled by the lack of information on using library embedded sounds. I finally uncovered the right docs after numerous fruitless searches and created this basic tutorial on controlling sounds embedded in the library. When searching the message boards on the subject I found numerous newbee response posts from people chastising others when they claimed to have problems looping an imported mp3 properly. Most people have absolutely no idea that the current mp3 spec was not created with looping in mind, so when you play a mp3 file loaded in or embedded in the library, you will ALWAYS hear a little silence at the end of the sound before it starts to play again. That doesn't happen with .wav file imported into the library and exported to compress with mp3 compression. This only happens when to try to loop a file saved as a mp3 and loaded in or embedded in the library. I had to shake my head after reading far too many "know-it-all" posts from 12 year olds claiming "DUDE, GET A BETTER MP3 ENCODER, Of COURSE THEY LOOP". I used to write into those boards and set the record straight, but I decided to end that fight and concentrate on fixing the problem. The problem has been in Flash since its inception, but NOTHING has been done to fix the it. Simply allowing the user to load in an aiff, wav or au file at run time would have solved the problem, but nothing was ever added to do do this. Also, some how the onSoundComplete event NEVER FIRES in AS3. What a joke. After numerous complaints from users, the problem was not fixed in FP9. Let's hope it has been in FP10.

Back to the mp3 looping problem. My first attempt to fix the problem was way back in Flash 8. I created this tutorial on the MP3 spec and how to loop a loaded in .mp3 file by skipping over the leader and follower blank space. It works fine and I used it in a couple Flash 8 apps. I haven't needed it so far to target the Flash 9 player, but now that I have researched sounds in Flex, I might have to. This is where Adobe has hid it head in the sand, and continues to. You CANNOT EMBED wav, aiff, au or any other sound file BUT mp3 in your Flex apps. YIKES! That was a huge blow when I found out. Now, there certainly are some ways around the problem. One is to embed the wav files into a swf in Flash and then load that swf into Flex. Sure, that will work, but I have been trying to rid myself of the need for the Flash IDE in my game development. I need a better way. I could re-write the AS2 tutorial above for Flex and create a class to control mp3 files by poling while playing and moving the sound play head back to the start when needed. That certainly will work too.

I hate to reuse older ideas if there is a better way though, so my next exploration will entail embedding the .mp3 (or loading it in), but using the ByteArray class to copy the BYTES of sound from the file to an array of bytes that excludes the leader and follower information. Then, I can just play the sound and not worry about skipping over the leader and follower information because it won't exist. I figure this MUST be possible because the new FP10 spec allows the user to load a file from his/her computer as a ByteArray. Actionscript will need to be used to turn that file into an image or sound or what ever by casting it as the appropriate type. I should be able to do that exact same thing with my embedded or loaded in mp3 files.

Here is how the process might work:

Extend the mx.core.ByteArrayAsset class by Embedding and asset with the appropriate mime type:
[Embed(source="music.mp3", mimeType="application/octet-stream")]
Private var Mp3BinaryArrayAsset:Class;

I have no idea where to go from there, but I will be spending some time this week on it.

Here in the USA, most people have the Thanksgiving holiday this week on Thursday and Friday. I hope to have this figured out and up as a tutorial by Friday.
First things first, tonight is the series finale of The Shield, one of the best shows in the history of TV.

24Nov/080

The 56k Connection : PigRace Review

The 56k Connection : PigRace Review
http://www.picasogames.com/games/pigrace
By PicasoGames

Today we go to the farm - it's time to race and your pig is
entered.

PigRace is an easy, good-looking game that involves navigating your
piggy through various obstacles to get to each level's finish
line.  Using the tried and true Frogger-ish motif the player
uses the up and down arrow keys to move the piggy in one of three
lanes, and pressing the space bar causes the piggy to jump. 
There are objects to pick up such as acorns, carrots and apples and
there are things to avoid such cows, bales of hay, mud puddles, logs,
pumpkins and small ponds.  

Pig Race

It starts out verrrry easy and lulls a player into feeling superior,
but as the levels progress more and more obstacles are added until your
piggy is jumping sliding and ricocheting all over the course. 
And if your little piggy crashes into an object, there is a cute cut
screen that shows him splayed out, head spinning with
'headache stars'.  More than once I
reached up and rubbed my own forehead when my piggy crashed, bashed or
tripped headlong into a puddle or the side of a cow.  If your
piggy crashes you lose a life which is represented as a heart on the
screen ' the game starts out giving by giving you only one
heart but don't worry ' there are plenty of hearts
scattered around the course for your piggy to pick up and add to
it's longevity.  I had 10 hearts at one point and
then around level 15 or 16 I lost them all ' due to the added
enemy of renegade rabbits running directly at my piggy and kamikaze
ducks-flying overhead.  Your piggy has to jump over the
rabbits and NOT jump when the ducks pass by.

What I liked:  Randomness of levels.  With some games
if you die on a level and have to repeat it, the level will be exactly
the same and so by repetition the player will learn where all the
objects to be avoided are and can triumph.  Not with PigRace,
when you die on, say, level 16 (because you had to jump over a rabid
rabbit and got smacked in the face by a low flying duck,) and you have
to do the level over, (aargh) the objects, good and bad will not be in
the same places.  It keeps the game level fresh and a player
won't feel like they'll never get past some
stagnate set of obstacles that has only one solution.  
I also really liked the level-winning screen with it's
'hoo-raaah' and the
'yeee-ha's'.  When your piggy
has accumulated a certain number of points during a level you hear,
'YEE-HA!' in the background ' made me
laugh every time.

What I wish was better:  Little things, not much. 
PicasoGames recently uploaded this game and I believe these were just
a couple of things that were overlooked ' like it is with all
new games or games in development, just a couple of teeny tiny
incomplete entities.  

First, after a certain number of levels completed you are supposed to
get a trophy.  But when that time comes,  the game
goes to a cut-screen and a blank cartoon wooden sign pops up with
absolutely nothing on it, next to the sign is a box to click that says
'skip'.  Now I'm sure that that
cartoon wooden sign was supposed to show my hard earned trophy, but it
just showed nothing ' and I felt strangely like
I'd been somewhat ripped off.  Hey!  I
worked for that trophy!  Let me see it!  Ahh well, I
suppose I won't be too traumatized to continue to
play.  I'm sure this is something that the creators
of PigRace know about and will fix in later
versions. 

Editor's note: After talking to Alex of PicasoGames, he explained that this is an inter-level ad and not a problem with the game.

 Second are just a few grammatical
faux-pas such as using the word 'to' when it should
be 'two' on some of the informational screens and
small things like that, that give the game a sort-of beta-esque
feel.  But nothing dramatic, no big glitches or programming
problems ' nothing that should stop anyone from going and
trying out this cute little game.   

But I cannot stress this enough ' Make sure your piggy avoids
those racing rabbit, flying duck, mud puddle combos or he's
in for a killer headache!

24Nov/080

3d Space Shooter Star Force added to 8bitrocket Retro Showcase

3d Space Shooter Star Force added to 8bitrocket Retro Showcase

Star
Force
,  a very well
made 3d first person perspective space shooter has been added to the
8bitrocket Retro
Showcase
.
In the game, you pilot a space fighter against hordes of enemy pilots,
asteroids and other baddies. It has the feel of the great Atari ST game,
Star Glider.

star force

Onemangamestudio.com
(Mochi user Arcade Quest) has put together an impressive game here. I
hope to see more from them in the future.

Filed under: Game Reviews No Comments
23Nov/080

6 new music clips added to the 8bitrocket royalty free music library

6 new
music clips added to the 8bitrocket royalty free music library

I spent the only fee time I had this Saturday creating 6 new music
clips for our royalty free music library.
The 11KHZ mono versions of these are free to use in commercial games
and applications if attribution is provided. 44khz stereo
versions are available for unlimited and single use (no attribution
needed)  for a small fee ($9.99 single use, $19.99 unlimited
use).  No reselling of the music clips directly is allowed
under any circumstances. We have had quite a few games make use of the
our music clips over the last few months, so we are happy to provide
more for anyone who needs them. All of the clips can loop repeatedly,
or be used as one-off's. The looping on this page is done with DHTML
with doesn't provide a seamless looping capability. Add them to a flash
project and you will be able to loop with out a break at the end. (they
can all tested below)

Ambient
Rock 4

Designed to have a BIG melodic sound behind a pretty funky bass line
(if you can catch it).  There is a little U2 influence in
there as well as later era Slade, and maybe The Alarm and Big Country.
The 11kHz versions sounds good because I took the levels down to
prevent clipping, but the 44kHz stereo version blows the doors off.

Kick
Ass Rock 1

Built
directly on top of Ambient Rock 4, Kickass Rock 1 employs a couple
guitar loops to provide the KICK-ASS ness. The rhythm loop goes through
out, and the kickassness is provided by a solo loop that cuts in about
1/2 way in.  I think it sounds A LOT like 80's Slade. They
seem to have a big influence on my clips this time around. I especially
like the little drum fill added between parts.

Blues
Piano 1

The Blues Brothers was on this weekend (in DVD format) , and it
inspired me to put together this pretty standard 3 part piano
progression that loops seamlessly.  I added in a 4x4 set of
drum loops and a non-standard rock bass line to give is a little gritty
sound.  It builds up in the first 4 bars, then spends 2 bars
on a bridge and then a cut out. Each of the 3 parts can be clipped out
and used separately if needed.

Ambient
Rock 3

The first clip I worked on today.  It is meant to loop
repeatedly inside a puzzle style game.  It employs couple
layered acoustic guitars over a simple beat and bass combo.

Alt
Rock 30

This is meant to repeat over and over  to provide an early
90's Nirvana style electro-acoustic bass heavy sound. The drums and
bass are in sync with no fills (mostly bass drum).

Atmospheric
Start 1

This is a rock piece that can loop, but is meant to begin and cut out
over a menu screen, game level start or other situation where the music
is not needed during the entire game section. It employs some a heavy
synth sweep that lowers in volume near the end, a heavy simple
synthesized beat,  and a synth
bell pad.

Check out the entire 8bitrocket music clip library.


21Nov/080

A Musical Interlude: One Of The Best Song's I've Ever Heard

I've been getting into 60's punk lately and I "found" this gem from the L.A. 60's punk/garage band Love fronted by Authur Lee.  If you thought the MC5 and Iggy Pop were the only precursors to 70's punk, think again ("Seven And Seven is" from "De Capo", Electra 1967):

Filed under: diatribe No Comments
21Nov/080

Flash Game Development Inter-web mash up: Nov 20, 2008

Flash
Game Development
Inter-web mash up: Nov 20, 2008

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

This time we cover The Casual
Collective; Playing Flash games at Maximum Size; A fantastic Atari ST
Remake; Smart Game Interface Choices; Kongregate's Kred system; Box2d
Tutorials; The 25 Line Actionscript Contest; Getting Started with Flex
Game Development; A Papervision tutorial; Making Money With Web Games;
A Silverlight Shootorial and more...

The
Casual Collective

A portal from the creators of the massively successful Desktop Tower
Defense and Flash Element TD called the Casual
Collective
has been launched. It
seems to have been up in at least a beta form for a few months now. The
site features the usual assortment of features you would expect fro ma
AAA portal: Multi-player games, chat, message boards, and even an award
and credit economy. With how successful Paul and David have been so
far, this looks like a sure winner.

Maximize
the Size of your FLASH (if is stays at MAXIMUM size for longer than 4
hours, reboot)

A new plug-in for Firefox will allow you to play games at
'full-screen'. Called the Flash Maximizer, when invoked it reloads the
current page, asks you which of the running Flash movies to Maximize,
and goes about its business. Games will not be stretch-skewed to fit
the
screen, so the plug-in first resizes the game for maximum height, and
then scales the width to an appropriate value. (chicks dig width I
hear). It's pretty cool, I have tested it.

Awesome
Atari ST Remake, Abominiball hits Agame

Rich, over at PhotonStorm has finally been able to see the release of
his excellent Atari ST remake, Abominaball.
This action puzzle game hit the infobaun on the AAA
portal  Agame.com this week. The wonderful Atari ST fan site, The Joy
Of Sticks
, has a nice comparison
between Rich's version and the original ST public domain version. You
can read all about the history and the making of this  ST
remake on Rich's Making
of Abominaball page
. There is a
least one hidden secret in the game : Use the level password
"8bitrocket" to get an Pompey Pirates / D-Bug quality demo screen right
from the ST demo scene days!  The game is getting fantastic
reviews
and a huge number of plays on agame. Nice work, Rich!

Web
2.0 User Interface Ideas for Flash Games

The great Panayoti over at GamePoetry has put up the second in a series
of entries entitled Make the Smart Choice So That Your User
Doesn't Have To
. In
this installment, the use of the web 2.0 concept of creating a simple,
intelligent user interface is demonstrated and explained.

Kongregate
Creates a Monetary System (can it help auto makers in the US?)

Freelance Flash games has a new item on Kongregate
adding a monetary system
called
"Kreds" that can be purchased by via paypal or credit card. There
currently isn't too much users can do with the Kreds other than tip
developers (yeah, like that's gonna work), but soon multi-player games

and virtual items will use the Kreds for game economy. I'm not sure
people who are getting stuff for free are going to jump at the chance
to pay for more stuff unless it is really worth the money. I hope it
works out well for everyone involved though as it is getting more and
more expensive to add/create/sponsor good content..

Box2d
For AS3 Tutorials

Emanuele Feronato has created some game related tutorials for using the
great Box2d physics engine.
- Understanding pixels and meters with
Box2D and how to select an object with mouse - part 1

- Understanding
pixels and meters with Box2D and how to select an object with mouse -
part 2

- Dragging objects with Box2D Flash
November 20, 2008 by Emanuele Feronato

All three of these have to do with explaining how to use the concept of
METERS (30 pixel long objects) in Box2d.

25 Lines of Actionscript
Contest

If you have the chops to compete with the elite, test your skillz in
this contest that challenges you to create the the best Flash
App possible in only 25 lines of code
.
  See the template you must follow here,
next read the rules,
then start coding!

Getting
Started With Flex Game Development

Bright Bulb has a very nice, very thorough new tutorial on using Flex and MXML to create a
scrolling shooter
.

How
to create a Papervision 2.0 Rotating Flat Plane

No, not an airplane, but a flat surface that can rotate in 3d
space
.
It's a good skill to have
and the great DreamInCode site is ready for you if you are ready for
them...

Is
there really money to be made in casual game development?

Gigoam takes a deep look in an article entitled Where's the Money in Casual Web Game
Development?
. The answer? The
usual suspects, but read for yourself and find out.

Free Books on Game
Programming?

I have no idea of this is legit or not, but this site
has quite a few game development books digitized and downloadbale for
free (mixed in with quite a number of random computer game magazines
and other assorted junk)

What to learn how to make
a
game in Silverlight?

Check out this Shootorial on making a game in
Silverlight
. I don't know much
about Silverlight, but it sure as hell looks a lot like MXML...hmm

As always, check out Flashgameblogs.com
for your daily dose.

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