8bitrocket Diatribe: My Development Environment and Game Pads / Joysticks for Flash Games
My Development Environment
By Development environment, I don't mean my IDE, or the other programs and utilities in the dev tools folder on my Mac Desktop. I'm not about to break into a MAC v. PC tirade because I use both every day for different parts of my development. By development environment, I am referring to what is around me, in my office and all of the immediate stimuli that affects what I do and how I do it. Since I have been spending an inordinate about of my nights working on a personal retro game, my home office has become a shamble of code printouts (I know, how 1994), discarded diet Coke(r) cans, crumpled to-do notes, scribbles on discarded cd envelopes, and issues 3-50 of Retro Gamer magazine (and both retrospectives). I also have copies of the books, Garage Band 08 Power, The First Quarter, and The Best of 2600 a Hacker Quarterly, as well as all of the PS2 retro collections (from Atari to Midway, Sega, Taito and everything in between) and many other books, magazines articles and assorted sundries that usually take over all of the free space when I am deep into a programming project. The funny thing is, I absolutely hate clutter, and cannot get started on a project with my office in this condition, but when I am fully immersed in a project, the place goes to shite, and I work through the messy haze anyway.
I also have two little ones running around the place (well one running and one non yet crawling), so aside from the usual geek menagerie I have some items that many of my younger peers probably don't have on their desks after a long session of fruitful development: A stuffed green dinosaur, a Toy Story training pull-up (not used, thank god), 6 Hot Wheels (and about 30 feet of orange track), a can of Monkeys (a barrel really) , two plastic sippy cups with what I hope is chocolate milk ringing the bottom of each, a handful of halloween candy wrappers (mine actually, no need to falsely blame the kids for those), a full set of 128 Crayola Crayons (tm) (1/2 broken, 1/2 with the wrappers scrapped down, but still an intact set) , two Oswald DVDs, 3 Simpsons DVDs (just the ones with the House of Horror episodes), and (I kid you not) the entire contents from the boxes of these games: Apples To Apples, Pictionary Junior, Simpsons Monopoly, 10 classic games (like chess, checkers, backgammon), Yahtzee, and Candy Land all dumped in various "organized" piles that only make sense to my 3 year old. Not all of these items are on my desk, but most of it is surrounding me on all sides. I am in the process of cleaning up the office, so there is no need to call child protective services quite yet. An extraction team will not be needed rescue my children from the messy junk pile. If anything, as I look around the room, I see how complicated yet stimulating my life has become. It certainly isn't easy trying to make a game, clean up pixel art, record sounds, and think through collision detection algorithms with a little one begging me to play board games with him, but it is all the more stimulus to keep plugging away at what I love to do. I take breaks all the time to play games with him and sit down at the computer for emulated Atari 2600 action, so the fun, and child-like pleasure of that simple game playing experience is always with me (and him), surrounding us and giving me inspiration while I am working on a game. Plus, some day I will have to tell my kids that they should find something they love to do, and do it as a job. Even though this isn't my full-time job, they will remember me working on games, and taking time out to play with them the whole time. If anything, it will hopefully show them that work, education, and fun can all be mixed up into life. There is no need to separate any of them...
Game Pads and JoySticks
Just a little note about Game Pads and Joysticks for playing Flash games. I have one of the new Legacy Engineering retro Atari sticks (a beta review model) plugged into my iMac, and it has been a blast playing emulated Atari games using it (using Parallels in Windows). I have installed the brilliant Joy2Key software that allows me to use the stick to play flash games, and I am blown away by how cool it is. I can't get the stick to work correctly in Mac OS X 10.5 yet (even though Legacy says it should). I have installed The GamePad Companion (a third party app available from Apple) that will let me emulate keys presses with a game pad. It works brilliantly with my PC Saitek (cheap $15.00) game pad and I am able to play all of the games on our site by assigning keys strokes to the game pad. I can't get the Apple OS to recognize the Atari stick though, but Win XP in Parallels (on the same machine) uses it perfectly. To me that means there is nothing wrong with the stick, but maybe something wrong with the Apple OS's ability to read some USB devices(?.) I'll have to look into it further, but I am having too much fun finding retro Flash games around the internet and blasting away at them with this Atari stick in Windows. Our Retro Showcase has provided hours and hours of blasting fun.