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30Jun/090

Hackers and the Beautiful System

Hackers and the Beautiful System

On the heels of Steve's wonderful post on the joys of being a creative programmer, we get an idiotic Infoworld post on why American programmers are so bad...because they are hackers?

I like to think that the Hacker Ethic (creative, open exploring of systems and solutions) helps to create beautiful systems, but Neil McAllister seems to think that hackers are actually "hacks" - kids with no coding skills or business knowledge that must be streaming out of our university system if he felt the need to write such a long piece on the subject. He got one thing right, most university students can't code worth shit because coding is assumed to be the "dirty" job in a Six Sigma - like development process system. There are virtually no classes on proper coding in a university IT departments. The funny thing is, if you really examine it, the real dirty, boring work is in the process modeling, business requirements collection, and scoping of the system. Once taught, these "skills" can be applied almost rote with no creativity or real thinking necessary in their implementation. Before you go off calling me a "hacker", who doesn't understand the process, you should know that I am a trained System/Business Analyst. It's just that I am also a highly creative developer. I am not allowed to use my development skills much at my day job, that's why I have this blog. Business analysis skills are necessary skills and that's why they are taught to every business school and IT graduate. They are, of course, drone skills. The real "SKILL" is not in these "SOFT" skills, but rather in the brilliance necessary to actually create a working, beautiful system from pages upon pages of documents and processes that are produced by the "soft skilled" legions. A "hacker" as Neil would wrongly describe as an inexperienced developer with neither code or analyst skills is NOT a Hacker.

I like to call people who allow a Six Sigma-like process to rule their development, "process nerds". The process nerd has been supplanting the "computer nerd" in corporate I.T. departments for years now. One thing I have found out by experience is that even a well defined, well executed process will NOT create great or even good software without brilliant, beautiful, creative hackers behind the development wheel. By Hacker, I am referring to highly skilled developers and systems analysts that like to think outside the box and create beautiful, custom solutions. Remember though, most programmers are lazy, so even a highly skilled, creative hacker will re-use a code library if it makes his job easier. It is the thinking that goes into deciding to re-use or re-build and then the brilliant use of technology to satisfy those pesky business and system requirements that a Hacker uses to create a beautiful system.

Normally I peruse Neil McAllister's blog every now and then on the Infoworld site. I like him, and he doesn't bug me often, but this time he has pissed me off. The article assumes that "The Hacker Ethic" is about cowboy coding with no use of planning an process. The fact that he has hacker defined completely wrong aside, this is what these Six Sigma process obsessed idiots will never understand. THE PROCESS DOES NOT CREATE THE SYSYEM! The process makes the system easier to build, refines the business requirements, and hopefully uncovers the risks involved, but for the most part, the technical requirements, technical design, and development create the system. Neil, for some reason, thinks that American University programs are unleashing hoards of right-brained hacker sloths on the poor unsuspecting business world. In reality, he has it completely backward: University business schools (to their detriment) teach the Six Sigma process skills in abundance to their business students and nothing else. The students that opt for IT training will get a small level of code training, but mostly system analyst training (along Six Sigma lines). There is very little, if any, critical thinking, logic, applied design, technical architecture, or code standards taught to these business students. Those skills are taught in the dwindling CS/CE departments, where the engineering methods are used rather than the business process methods. The students in Six Sigma style business and IT programs have to learn to code on  their own. That is the problem, and Neil is right, but they don't lack Business Analyst skills as he asserts, that's ALL they have! Issue each student a copy of Code Complete, NOT From Good To Great and you might have a lethal combination - a business process nerd student that actually understands what it takes to create a beautiful system, now that would be a revelation!  What our technical students need is a foundation in proper coding and requirements definition, not in process and paperwork. A book like Code Complete, while a very technical tomb on software engineering best practices, also stresses technical requirements collection and technical design - NOT JUST Requirements Collection and Proper Planning, and not just a process to follow with no hard skills! It covers both sides of the equation. What we need are more well balanced developers with a swath necessary of skills, not legions of business process drones.

I see IT departments laying off "rock star" caliber engineers in favor of develop factory drones and MBA process nerds all the time. The process nerd's job is to document the process, provide governance, and define business scope, and requirements. Process nerds call on the "development factory" or "shared services" (read outsourced) drones to estimate and and build the system. This is probably an OK solution for data warehouse reports, packaged software implementation, desktop upgrades, and even Microsoft Sharepoint sites, but it is SHIT for software development. Most IT departments are not about software development, they are cost centers and governance organizations tasked with supporting a multitude of various systems. So, for those types of systems, the Six Sigma style works pretty well. But, if you want to be better than that, you need highly skilled and creative technical people to deliver you systems that are not plain vanilla.

Don't get me wrong, design docs (especially for games) and nicely defined requirements are NOT against the Hacker Ethic. Actually Hacker Ethic has absolutely NOTHING to do with requirements, rather it celebrates creativity, exploration, open systems and sharing.  I am all for well defined requirements, Business Process Modeling, Context Diagrams, and other Business Analyst related tools and documents. They are a piece of the puzzle that help create a working system, but mostly they are used for CYA - Cover Your Ass sign offs at pre-defined process Gates. The Six Sigma processes do work, but the dirty little gray area they always leave as a BLACK BOX is the "development" portion. They don't understand what it takes to actually code a beautiful system. The process does NOT create the system.

Let's be frank here. If applied to my favorite subject, Game Development (or any software product, even and internal Business Solution), which team would you choose?

(a) A team of 5 brilliant, creative engineers, who lack Six Sigma process skills, but understand how to create a great system.

or

(b) A team of 5 Six Sigma trained business analysts who provide 100's of pages of documentation, sign offs, but have no real development skills.

Team (a) includes Code Complete trained hackers with beautiful code skills and well balanced technical design skills. Team (b) includes non-technical business process nerds who will follow a process to their grave because they have no other choice.

If you give both teams a one page document on the required scope for a system, and 10 days to create a prototype, which will produce something useful?
Add a single developer to team (b) and you have the current recipe for how most business systems are created (like crap). Add a single good project manager / Systems Analyst to team (a) and you have a world class system, software product, or game (and you may well have had one with out the addition).

30Jun/090

A Personal Journey To Find The "Meaning" Of Software Development

I believe that I was born to be a computer programmer. Somewhere, deep in my soul, there is a need to organize my thoughts in ways that are both new and interesting, but also foundational and reusable at the same time. I've always felt that there is something atypical about this kind of work, and about the people who have chosen to do it. Not that it is better or worse than any other profession mind you, but that it was very unique, and at the same time both interesting and powerful.

However over the years, I have learned that this is not exactly a commonly-held belief.

Years ago (it seems like another lifetime now), a manager of mine was adamant that we create a "software development factory". This person worked in Information Technology, but was never a programmer. This person (hence forth referred to as "IT") was in love with "process". "IT" had worked up through the I.T. ranks as an analyst at first, but had been able to cultivate the right look and absorb the right words to be promoted through past similar personalities into a position of real power. At this one historic moment, "IT" was in the driver-seat of a team of managers and developers. I was one of them. The problem was, "IT" had no had no idea what our jobs entailed. Since "IT" did not like to think there was a concept,"IT" did not understand, "IT" decided to "improve" the team. "IT" had the bright idea that we should take a team of developers and create a "factory" out of them. In this person's mind, programming was a rote exercise that could be turned into a repeatable process. In "IT"'s view, programming did not take any real thinking. You took inputs, processed them, and created outputs. "IT" believed this was the most menial work possible, only important enough to be treated in the most dismissive of ways.

Suffice to say, "IT" and I did not get along. However, instead of rolling over, I tried to fight back.

  • I argued up and down, and down and up, left ways and right ways that my team of developers were not factory workers, and they did not create widgets.
  • I explained over and over that each project was different and required a unique solution that could not be picked off a shelf and plugged-in automatically.
  • I created 100 page documents that described in detail how software development worked and how it was more iterative and creative than simply straight-forward and rote.
  • I created diagrams of every type imaginable showing the tools, the process, and the creative thinking that went into designing software.
  • I pasted images of all our work on the walls and in the conference rooms.
  • We adopted SCRUM and Extreme Programming methodologies to show that development was iterative and not simple a step-by-step process,
  • I hung statements from notable software designers and developers in the hallways.
  • I brought in great software developers to teach classes on design and creative software development

In the end, of course, it did not work. I was demoted. My team was cut in 1/2, then 1/2 again. Work was outsourced. When it stayed internal, it was done by generic contractors instead of the type of hand-picked software wizards I knew would make the best developers. Quality slipped, and so did deadlines. The super-effective and proud team that I once led was turned into a hallow carcass.

This proved to me that there is a common misconception about what software development really entails. I'm not talking about "software support", but real, honest programming. Truthfully, I don't think many people outside of core development circles understand how software is made, or what it means to the people that do it. Worse, this misunderstanding is not just superficial. It colors decisions made by people in the highest places of power. It's ill-informed, destructive, and in some cases, could even be dangerous.

A few days ago, I decided to try to find out what other people have written on this subject. I was on a quest to find a way to describe programming that would make someone in "IT"'s position understand the reality of "programming".

I started at he top. One of the masters of computer science, Donald E. Knuth, wrote about The Art Of Computer Programming in 1974 (he is also the author of the widely read multi-volume set of books by the same name) . Knuth chose to describe programming as art:

"My feeling is that when we prepare a program, it can be like composing poetry or music...Some programs are elegant, some are exquisite, some are sparkling. My claim is that it is possible to write grand programs, noble programs, truly magnificent ones!"

"...computer programming is an art, because it applies accumulated knowledge to the world, because it requires skill and ingenuity, and especially because it produces objects of beauty. A programmer who subconsciously views himself as an artist will enjoy what he does and will do it better."

While his ideas on the subject are a close approximation of my own, I needed to try to find some other perspectives as well. With a little more searching I found this great article about Art And computer Programming, by John Littler. It contains many quotes from developers on the subject, as well a very relevant quote from none-other than Albert Einstein.

"After a certain level of technological skill is achieved, science and art tend to coalesce in aesthetic plasticity and form. The greater scientists are artists as well."

While both of these sources were awesome, I was not sure that "art" was the only description I was looking for. Programming may well be an "art" but it is also a "science" too, so just calling it an "art" is not quite accurate. Furthermore, calling it an "art" certainly would not have changed the mind of "IT" . In fact, "IT", being of simple mind (in my opinion anyway) , would have probably just found that idea "elitist", and dismissed it immediately. Because of this, I wanted to find another word that did not seem quite as lofty. I found it a few lines down in Littler's article.

"To me, it relates strongly to creativity, which is very important for my line of work"

This , a quote from Guido van Rossum (the creator of the Python programming language), was getting closer to what I wanted to read. Being "creative" was certainly necessary for art, but it was also necessary for many other pursuits. "Creativity" could describe a beautiful painting, as well as an affective strategic battle plan, or even the solution to complex problem with no clear-cut answer. To me, software development involved at the very least, all three of these things. I decided to follow this line to see where it would take me.

Over at AnswerBag.com, I found that someone named "guitar man" had asked this question: "Is computer programming creative? or is it a just an analytical type process? "

There was one answer, and it came from a guy with the very creative name: "Jeztyr - whispering in the ears of kings" :

"Programming is an art form that fights back. It requires creativity to solve the seemingly unsolvable, and analysis to make it better, faster, more efficient. A lot of programming is mundane, ritualistic stuff, but other times it's rewardingly convoluted."

This answer really hit home with me. I liked the use of the words "creativity" and "analytical" at the same time. However, the best word for me was "convoluted". Some how that word seemed to describe the software development process in a way that I had never considered before. I decided to look-up the word "convoluted" on Dictionary.com. Here is what it said:

con-vo-lut-ed: Adjective: complicated; intricately involved: a convoluted way of describing a simple device.

"Hmm." I thought. I then looked at the synonyms: "elaborate,
intricate,
involute,
involved,
knotty,
labyrinthine,
tangled,
baffling"
.

All of these words seemed to point to something that was underlying all of this, but not quite yet on the page. Yes, software development is "intricate" and "elaborate", but the words "tangled" and "baffling" also stood out to me. Those words seemed to describe to me the state of "software development" when you know the problem you need to solve, but you don't yet know how to solve it. It is also the same part of the process that can require a creative "spark" to surmount, and once a solution is in place, the process becomes more scientific. This limbo state of development always seemed to the most "unordered "to me the most...chaotic.

"Chaos."

I then recalled something from our time dabbling in SCRUM (a software process that embraces change instead of pushing back on it). The phase was "controlled chaos". While the SCRUM definition was not necessarily what I was looking for, the term seemed to be appropriate. Software Development was an ever-evolving process of taking chaos and creating order. Creating order from chaos is not an easy thing to do, but it is something that certain individuals (including many talented programmers) thrive upon.

I searched for some thoughts on this, and I found one that was so blunt and and final, even "IT" could have internalized it. Software Engineer Robert L. Glass described his role this way:

"Eat Chaos, Poop Order."

In the most base way possible, Glass had crystallized my thoughts on software development. He continued to clarify his position.

"Chaos and order are the theme of my life. I consume one and produce the other."

I could not agree more.

At this point, I seemed to have come to the end of my journey. All of these quotes I had found sort of swirled around in my head until I came to a realization of what it all meant to me, and it is the following:

"Programming is at once, both disciplined, and undisciplined . You must follow some rules, but also strive to break others if you want to make breakthroughs and discover new ways to make better software. It truly is art and science mixed, however the amount of each depends on the problem you are trying to solve. However, there is something else. Programming is like making sense of the senseless. It starts as chaos,and through sheer will of the mind, that chaos is organized into something amazing. It is also a stunningly enjoyable profession that feeds your mind and soul at the same time. In my nearly 30 years of programming experience, the initial surge of energy I feel when sitting down to start developing a new program has never dissipated nor has the sense of satisfaction when the last line of code is written and I hit the [Enter] key for the final time. If anything, the process has only grown greater and more important as the years slip by. In the final analysis, far from being a rote exercise, creating software just might be the the ultimate creative medium. With the proper knowledge, creativity, and computer power, you can build almost anything you can imagine. "

It was long-winded, but I was satisfied with my answer. However, if I had been able to express these thoughts properly all those years ago, would I have been able to change the mind of someone like "IT", and finally prove the reality of software development to someone in power?

Probably not, but at least I proved it to myself.

28Jun/090

Time Warner Interactive , Midway: The Soul Of Atari Might Still Be Alive…

I just read this news story that Time Warner Interactive is planning to buy Midway Games. This would stand as just another boring game industry story for me, if it was not for the "Atari" connection.

You see Atari was bought by Warner Communications in 1976.  When Warner "sold" Atari in 1984, they kept the arcade business and named it Atari Games. They sold it to Namco in 1985. When Nintendo struck gold with the NES, Atari Games created a home division named Tengen, and continued to make games for both arcades and consoles. 

In 1989 Time Inc. bought Warner Bros. and renamed themselves Time Warner.  In 1993, they bought Atari Games in full, and renamed the division Time Warner Interactive, but   Atari Games continued to make arcade games under their own name.  In 1996, the divsion was sold again, this time to Midway games.  Atari Games continued to make games for Midway up until 2003, when the arcade business was closed and Midway began focusing on console games.  However, they still owned the Atari Games assets, and released them for modern consoles as the "Midway Treasures" game collections.

So, now, if Time Warner Interactive is buys Midway Games, they will essentially own all the assets that Atari Games owned in 1993.  However, that is not all.

Infogrames, who renamed themselves "Atari" in 2003 after acquiring the "home" assets of the original Atari from Hasbro (who had purchsed them in 1998, a couple years after Atari Corp went out of business), has recently restructured themselves and they are renewing their focus on old Atari properties.

So here is the conjecture.  With Time Warner Interactive now a "hot" company (their E3 showing of Scribblenauts was met with universal awe and praise), is it too hard to believe that they could finish the job of reconnecting the orginal parts of Atari by purchasing the Infogrames assets now that they are in semi-distress and refocusing on the original I.P.?

It may be wishful thinking, but having all the proper parts of the original Atari back together in one whole is just too good for a die-hard Atari fan like myself to pass-up.  All Time Warner would have to do then is to chnage the name of Time Warner Interactive back to Atari (with the proper logos and spelling), and Atari would again be an intact company.   They could then hire guys like Nolan Bushnell, Al Alcorn, and Ed Logg to run the place like it was 1978 all over again (Ray Kassar need not apply). I know, it's far fetched, but a die-hard Atari fan can dream, can't he? 

 

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25Jun/090

R.I.P. Michael Jackson: Remember His Video Game

I suppose you could call this "gallows humor".  I actually liked much of Michael Jackson's early 80's output, so I'm fairly sad to see that he could not turn himself around.  Anyway, this "Moonwalker" Game came out at just about the time Jackson took his final turn into "Neverland". 

Commercial For The Game

A News Report About The Game

The Angry Video Game Nerd reviews it.

MJ, you will be missed.

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25Jun/090

Favorite Video / Computer Soccer (Football) game of all time

Favorite Video / Computer Soccer (Football) game of all time

In support of the USA's remarkable 2-0 win over the vaunted powerful Spanish side in today's Confederation Cup semifinal, I wanted to up the quiz anti with a poll of sorts.   I have played a number of Soccer (Association Football) games over the years and I wanted to list my 10 favorites in order.  Are your favorites on this list?  If you are an American, Soccer hater, then can just say "Madden is the only Football game that matters", but I would rather you give an answer to the poll.  Mind you, this is a list of my favorites, not technically the "best", but the ones I find the most fun to play again and again.

1. Kick Off 2 (ST/Amiga)
2. Kick Off Player Manager (ST/Amiga)
3. New Star Soccer (3 and 4) (PC/MAC)
4. Sensible World of Soccer (ST/Amiga)
5. Fifa (series) (Genesis / PS2)
6. Winning 11 Series (PS2)
7. Microprose Soccer (ST / Amiga)
8. Pele's Soccer (2600)
9. NASL Soccer (Intellivision)
10. Super Mario Strikers (Nintendo Systems)

Which do you choose? I have surly not played all of the best footie games, so what am I missing?

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23Jun/090

Quiz: Can You Name These Classic Computer Games From Their Old-School Reviews (#1)

Quiz: Can You Name These Classic Computer Games From Their Old-School Reviews (#1)

In this quiz we will give you a few lines of a review from a classic computer and/or video game. Your job: Name The Game.  Leave a comment with your answers below.  The first person to get all 10 will win something worthless and virtual.

1."Computer speech synthesis has just been revolutionized by a product by Don't Ask Software. Unlike all the other systems, [this product] requires no special hardware. That's right, [it] provides the highest-quality computerized speech currently available for ATARI computers, and does it with software only. All you need is an ATARI 400 or 800 with at least 32K RAM and one disk drive."

2."The scenario of [the game] takes us back several years to the Middle Eastern desert where 64 Americans are being held captive in several sets of barracks. The [game] arrives on a starry night with a full moon beaming. As pilot, you push the stick forward to lift off in search of the first of four groups. You spot them, find a clearing and land. Be careful not to crush the hostages. ."

3."[the player] in [the game] looks like a typical 1849 gold-rush prospector, but his obstacles in this game are much more futuristic. Deadly mutant organisms and radioactive waste plague his progress through the mine shafts instead of angry Indians or claim jumpers. Like the popular arcade game Donkey Kong, the object of this game is for the player to travel to the top of a ladder (in this case, mine shaft) and score points along the way."

4. "It is perhaps unfortunate that IMAGIC seems to have translated [the game] almost exactly from the Atari VCS version. Thus, although the game maintains good playability - you want to keep playing to do a little better next time - it doesn't really have the depth one normally expects from a computer game. IMAGIC wouldn't have had to go too far afield to find a related scenario - the "Mother Ship" sequence from the Intellivision version of [the game] would have been an admirable addition to this game. I suspect that [the game] may not have the interest holding power of some of the other software now available."

5. "[the game] is exciting to play, with doors to unlock, and treasures, magic spells, and weapons to pick up. The weapons are most important since you start with only a dagger. Eventually, you'll find swords, shields, and even bows and arrows in the dungeons. Unlike most other games of this sort, the action can become fast and furious. You may be forced to battle as many as three monsters at once in the upper levels. This combination of role playing and arcade action makes [the game] an exceptional value. "

6. "...you start out with one city and, since the cities are where all your production is done, it's imperative to quickly locate and conquer new ones. Once a city comes under your control, you decide what type of piece it should start producing: armies, fighters (jets), troop transports, destroyers, submarines, cruisers, battleships or aircraft carriers. Each piece takes a certain amount of time to produce'from a low of five turns for an army to a whopping 50 turns for a battleship'and each has its own attack, defense and move characteristics. "

7. "At last! An Infocom 'Interactive Fiction' text adventure of a woman by a woman! News of this incredible breakthrough came as a delightful surprise. For years I've been masquerading as a macho male 18 year old in countless adventures, so the chance to shed 'him' and become 'her' was long overdue and more than welcome. Ripping open the package in a frenzy of anticipation, I thought, 'Bless you, little Amy Briggs. You have taken one small step for woman, one giant step for womankind.'"

8. "Moving out of the town of Pendragon, you cross the countryside, battling scores of creatures in the forests and dungeons of the land, stopping at inns and towns to rest and build strength. Successful quests are rewarded with gold and experience points; unsuccessful ones are rewarded with death. The kingdom you explore is vast and full of dark dungeons and dangerous monsters, as well as a number of hidden worlds not immediately discovered. But rest assured that if you manage to explore all the nooks and crannies filling the data disk, you will meet the evasive Nikademus and battle him on his own turf."

9. "You armchair Rambos are sure to get a kick out of this one. [the game] is arcade war action at its most frantic. As the manual states, 'The object of the game is to score points by surviving and advancing as far as possible through the treacherous jungle.' The rules are easy; surviving is the difficult part. The instant your fighter steps onto the screen, he will be attacked by wave after wave of enemy soldiers, each soldier firing a rifle or throwing grenades."

10."In [the game] you take command of a Cobra Mk III spacecraft. She is fast, maneuverable and pretty well armed. Further, because of her versatile construction, weapons and tools can be added to the ship as funds permit. The basic idea of the game is to make a living (and get rich if you can figure out how) as a trader, roaming among 2,000 planets spread across eight galaxies."

Remember: Leave a comment with your answers below.  The first person to get all 10 will win something worthless and virtual.


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22Jun/090

Interview with PhotonStorm’s Richard Davey

Interview with PhotonStorm's Richard Davey

Richard Davey has created some excellent games for the freelance Flash portal market in the past year including (but not limited to) Kyobi and Abominaball. Both has been featured in our Hall of Fame Arcade Showcase as Gold Medal winners. The combination of modern game-play, retro sensibility, and an excellent eye for finishing touches and polish has made the 8bitrocket team big fans of Rich and his games. His excellent blog, PhotonStorm (named after a great Jeff Minter title) and his dedication to the Atari ST (www.atari.st) makes an interview with Rich a perfect fit for 8bitrocket and our dedicated readers.

kyobi_full.jpg
(Kyobi)

abominaball1.jpg
(Abominaball)

8bitrocket:
Richard, Kyobi is doing EXTREMELY well. How did you come up with the idea for such a unique physics based block puzzle?

Richard Davey
I guess like most game ideas it was born from trial and error, many prototypes and a sprinkling of luck.

After finishing my previous game 'Fruiti Blox' (1) I really wanted to create something quick and simple. Fruiti Blox had taken 3 months to create, and although I sold it to Candystand the development process took a lot out of me. I told myself that my next game had to have a really short development time.

fruityblox.jpg

(Fruity Blox title screen - borrowed, but not leeched from Photonstorm.com)

 
When I first started making games in AS3 I wrote down a long list of old 8/16-bit classics I'd like to revisit. One of them was a little known ST game called "Kubes". It was similar to Columns, but with a much harder control mechanism. Anyway I coded up a prototype in a day and sent it to a few friends. They (thankfully) all said "what the hell?". At the time I was also working on Box2D integration with PixelBlitz and it just occurred to me "what if those blocks were just physics objects, and you can throw them around?". So I added that, and it was just fun to play with. Then I figured what would happen if you bolted on the match-3 mechanic. It took a couple of hours and at the end of it I had this pig-ugly prototype that I just couldn't stop playing. At that point I knew I had something special. I sent it to a few friends and they confirmed this was the case.

At that point full production mode kicked-in, and I got the graphics
and audio produced while I polished and polished as best I could.

kubes.gif
(Kubes on the Atari ST. Animated Gif borrowed, but not leeched from www.atari.st)

8bitrocket
Kyobi looks like it might make a decent franchise. Would you consider more versions and variations, or do you want to move on to the "next" game in your head?

Richard Davey
I have four projects in development right now, they are a return to more arcadey action games. In reality I only expect I'll get to finish a couple of them before I get side-tracked with Kyobi 2. Creating a sequel is just a sensible move to make. Both because there were a number of things I'd like to have added to the first game but didn't, and of course because the concept has now proven its popularity so I want to exploit that.

I've got a couple of neat ideas for a sequel that will take it in quite a new direction. But as with all my games I'll need to flesh out the prototype first. If the prototype doesn't fly, the game won't either.

8bitrocket
Where do you find the time to make such polished games with a full time gig during the day?

Richard Davey
Honestly, I'm not sure. Like a lot of devs my age (with families and kids) you tend to only really get a few spare hours in the evening. But if you look at my games so far none of them are really that complex. Yes they are polished, but that's because I don't like releasing crap (Ed: Ouch!). But polish is quite easy to add in small chunks to a game. Once you have the core mechanic working you can dedicate a few evenings to polishing the interface, another on the level progression, another on highscores etc. I'm also sad enough to admit that I will often use my work lunch breaks, or early hours of the morning to work on them :)

8bitrocket
You have re-made a few classic Atari ST games. Did you get the idea for Kyobi from an ST classic?

Richard Davey
Not really, but as I explained at the start - if it hadn't been for an ST game I wouldn't have got to that stage with my prototype. Physics in ST games was virtually non-existent. But finishing Kyobi did make me wonder what old potential gold mines might be created from taking well worn concepts and injecting a little Box2D into them.

8bitrocket
Physics in ST games were funny to say the least. Most racing games were far too loose (like floaty balloons). When a game got physics right though it had a very quality feel to it.
You ran The Little Green Desktop (www.atari.st) for a number of years. For those who don't know, it was (and is) the best Atari ST gaming nostalgia site on the web. Do you plan get back to it some day?

Richard Davey
Invent 48 hour days for me Jeff and I'll get LGD updated in an instant :) I still love the site, and I have grand plans for what it could become. But I simply don't have the time at the moment. I do still do little bits to it now and again. I re-instated the forums the other week for example, and fixed the magazine flashbacks. So it's still alive, just not in active development. With the way the web is changing at the moment LGD may benefit from me holding off working on it right now, who knows what may be around the corner? Perhaps I'll turn it into one giant Google Wave? :)

8bitrocket
Did you create any games or software for the ST back in the early days?

Richard Davey
On the ST I mostly did graphics work for games, but I did try coding too. I cut my ST coding teeth on STOS like a lot of people, and had great fun with it. I even squeezed a few truly terrible games from it, but my life back then was spent mostly in the demo and cracking scenes, so I concentrated on making demos instead. You can see the ST games I worked on here.

super starioland.gif
(Super Starioland on the ST. Animated Gif borrowed, but not leeched from www.atari.st)
(Notice the familiar name in the credits)

8bitrocket
Ahh, Rich there are some very nice visuals in those games. Now I see why your Flash games have such a nice graphics touch, and you still have other do your visuals for an even better impact! It's a strategy that certainly is working well!
Anyway, what was your first computer/game system? Which is your favorite?

Richard Davey
All my friends owned Sinclair Spectrum 48ks. I nagged my parents endlessly to buy a computer, so they went out and bought an MSX (a Toshiba HX10 model, the most common in the UK). Part of me was elated that they had bought a computer at all. The other part of me was gutted that no-one within a hundred mile radius had ever even heard of my computer, let alone had any games I could copy from them.

In hindsight however I now appreciate just how incredible that 8-bit MSX was. It had a built-in cartridge port, a fully hard-key QWERTY keyboard, built-in joystick ports, link-up for a tape recorder and excellent graphics and sound. All the hottest Japanese games came out on the MSX: Metal Gear, Antarctic Adventure, Castlevania, Yie Ar Kung Fu. All the top titles from powerhouses like Konami and HudsonSoft.

Of course I didn't really appreciate this at the time, but looking back now I realize just how cutting edge that micro was. I even faithfully converted one of my favourite MSX games Cannon Fighter to Flash, and I have another in the works.

Which is my favourite computer system ever? Well that's an easy one. It was, it is and it always will be the Atari ST :) Ok so sure my Xbox 360 is stunning, and GTA on my DS blows me away - but the ST era was a fond period in my life.

8bitrocket
I agree, Rich. I think was because just as you were defining who you were as person, the ST was right there with you. Steve and I had an ST all through college, and it was both my entertainment, and my school work companion. The games were unbelievable (for the time), but it was just an elegant machine. The Amiga was a much more powerful box, but it just didn't have the elegance of the ST (the the Littge Green Desktop). The Amiga eventually won out because of its power and great game library, but the ST certainly had its own popular times too. Back to the ST, What are your favorite classic games? Do you still play any?

Richard Davey
Sure, I'm a retro game freak! From the ST I'd have to raise a glass to immortal works of art such as:

Populous
Dungeon Master

Oids (how cool would this game be on the DS?!)
oids.gif
(Oids, one of Jeff's favorite all time games. Image borrowed but not leeched from www.atari.st)

Interphase
Simulcra
Turrican 2
Bubble Bobble

Rolling Ronny
rolling ronny.gif
(Rolling Ronny on the ST. Interrupts or the STE must have been used to display that many colors at the same time. Image borrowed, but not leeched from www.atari.st
 

I also owned an Amiga and I just can't list "favourite games" without throwing in a mention for Cinemaware's valiant arcade flight-sim Wings. I have the GBA version and it's not a patch on the miggy one.

I was also a video arcade junkie. Every chance I got I would play and play on all kinds of cabinets. To list them all would look like a Mame ROM dump, so instead my absolute classic favourites have to be:

RoadBlasters (also appeared in a beautiful conversion on the Lynx)
Star Wars (proper sit-down version)
Dragon Ninja (Bad Dudes vs.)
Side Arms

My favourite arcade game of all time though is Aliens. It's also the only arcade game I can complete from start to finish, and have done many times.

8bitrocket
Oh, Wings was a game I was always jealous of on the Amiga! The sit down Star Wars game was the best one of all time! Speaking of retro games, you wrote a couple articles for Retro Gamer magazine (in its first run). Do you still read it? How do you like this new version compared to the original 18 issue run?

Richard Davey
I love it! I have every single issue and I subscribe. I would urge any Flash game developer to do so actually. It's both a goldmine of ideas but more importantly of inspiration and motivation via the interviews with developers / classic software houses.

I think the new style of the magazine is much better than the early one. They give a good chunk of coverage to homebrew as well which is great. The only thing I think they are missing is just how large and talented the Flash "retro remakes" game scene is. I think I may have to drop them a word.

8bitrocket
Before you created Flash games, and after you did graphic work on ST games, did you create any games for other platforms (commercial, non-commercial, demos, experiments, etc)?

Richard Davey
I also did a lot of work on the Atari Falcon (the 32-bit successor to the ST). But I haven't released any games on any other system other than the PC (see next question :)

8bitrocket
You have worked with the Game Creators for some time. Are you a Dark Basic fan? I have DB Pro, but never got into it as I started to make serious Flash games about the time I purchased it. Did you ever get into it heavily?

Richard Davey
Get into DB heavily? Absolutely! I was very late to own a PC. I just didn't need one really, as the Atari Falcon was my life. But with the release of Windows 95 I recognised that things were now changing. So I
jumped onto the PC bandwagon. Going from an Atari to a Mac was the typical move most people made, but Macs were so expensive back then and had NO GAMES! Today they're just as over-priced, but at least they fare a little better on the games front.

Anyway the PC world was a fun one to be in from a consumers point of view, but actually coding on it was about as far removed from fun as you could get. So I fell deep into the "only played games" trap. I did
this for a few years until one day I saw a banner advert for DarkBASIC. I clicked, downloaded a demo (via my 56k modem), ran it and was impressed. I looked at the source code and was like "WHOA! this is STOS for the PC!" and that was it. I was hooked.

I have a very, shall we say "addictive" mentality. When I find something that truly inspires or empowers me, I throw absolutely everything I've got into it. DarkBASIC was no different. I coded like a mad man. Being devoid of a wife and family at this time I could easily code until 4am, drag myself into work, get home and repeat all over again :) I released my code under the moniker "DarkForge" and did all kinds of things. From 3D games and puzzles to loads of demo effects and graphical treats.

By day I was a php developer, but DarkBASIC fed into that creative bloodstream. At the time the DB web site was a bit of a mess really. I contacted Rick and Lee (the two founders) and basically hassled them
into letting me redesign it. A year later and I was working for them full-time. I spent 4 happy years with them, seeing the release of DarkBASIC Professional, FPS Creator, FPSC X10 and also seeing the dramatic shift in the market. Newer bigger faster GPUs. Shaders. PhysX. You name it, it was happening. It was all a bit overwhelming really. TGC still produce great hobbyist development tools, but it was certainly fun to be at the crest of that wave. I left them to go and work for Aardman Animations, a big film / commercial production company based here in Bristol / UK. They were opening an Online department, I was head hunted, the challenge was too enticing to ignore and so I went for it. Just over a year into this new job they made me learn AS3. Let's just say I haven't looked back :)

8bitrocket
Wow, the Games Studio looks fantastic!!! (I wish there was a Mac version because there are so few indie Mac games...)
Back to Kyobi, you detail the process of sponsorship and licensing of Kyobi very well in your blog (linky, link, and one more link). Do you have any advice for budding game developers out there? Are there Any revenue avenues that are just too difficult / time consuming for the money made back?

Richard Davey
The Flash platform is unique, probably more so than any other platform out there, because of its sheer size. Have a think about the number of machines that have Flash Player installed on them world-wide.
Hundreds and hundreds of millions. It is this volume of numbers that means you have such an incredibly diverse range of audiences to target. There is literally a home for ANY type of Flash game you want to create (yes even the really crap ones) (Ed: Ouch again!).

Given the ease with which you can create a game you should never be scared to experiment. If you have an idea that is a little off-the-wall then so what? Go for it.

Equally I'd say don't be blinded by figures the popular media is throwing around at the moment when they talk about "indie flash game devs". Yes there is money to be made out there, but just making a game in Flash isn't a license to print it.

I see a similar question come up on the FlashGameLicense forums over and over again: "How can I make more money with my games?". The answer I would always give is "Make better games".

How do you make a better game? Simple - you just don't stop. Build something, RELEASE IT, learn from the feedback. Repeat the process. If you are weak at graphics then do a collab or pay for an artist to work
for you. If your music is about as tuneful as a session on the toilet then buy some royalty-free tracks or pay a musician to compose something for you. Speculate to accumulate :)

The most important thing of all is to prototype. If a bare bones concept game works, flesh it out, take it to the next stage. If it falls flat then at worst you've probably only lost a few evenings.

The only other piece of advice I would give is not to spend too long on one game. All games have that point where they become more of a chore than a joy to create. It usually happens when you're at that "10% left to go" stage that you get most disheartened with it. If when you sit down at your screen you are thinking "damn, I must really work on my game I guess" (in a negative sort of way) then you know you're at the point where you need to do something else. It's right then when your cursor is lingering over the Left 4 Dead / TF2 icon vs. the Flash one - we've all been there :) - but try and have more than one game on the go at once. So if you get really stuck on something anal in one title you can give it a rest and move onto something totally different in another game. Try and keep these projects bubbling along though. If you stop and don't work on them for a few weeks it'll be so much harder to get back into it again. A little now and again is better than a huge burst and then nothing for months.

8bitrocket
That is some very very good advice, Rich. I too, need to make better games! What is next for Richard Davey in games? Are you moving to Unity, working on Pixel Blitz, thinking of a new game, or just taking a rest?

Richard Davey
Unity interests me, but not enough to actually invest time into it yet. The adoption rate isn't significant, and creating a proper 3D game is just a whole other world of pain that I don't really want to return to just yet. I know you can use it to create 2D games as well, but then I have Flash, so there's no real incentive there. Maybe in a few years, but then again who knows where Flash will be then either :)

PixelBlitz was put on hold while I worked on a massive project at work, but I have had a LOT of interest from people wanting to help me evolve it. Some really smart folk have contacted me, so I will be kicking this project back into life shortly. Stay tuned.

As for games - well I'm deeply involved with a little chameleon right now, who is having a great time charging around my new game world in a bid to rescue his mate. This past week alone I've made very good
progress with this game, so I expect to have it finished within the next 4-8 weeks (note to self: never quote timescales, have you learned nothing yet? :)

8bitrocket
Thanks for taking the time to talk to us a little bit, Rich. We're big fans of yours.

Richard Davey
Not as big as I am of you guys :)
Keep the rocket flying, there are exciting times ahead.

8bitrocket
*Blush* - I just wish I could make games as well as you, Rich (Ed: Don't we all).

18Jun/090

Cool Stop-Motion Video Game Tribute That You Probably Have Seen But I Have Not (until today)

I was searching the Indiecade Web site for some kind of interesting story, and I came across this awesome stop-motion film by Pez. Watch Centipede, Frogger, Asteroids, Space invaders and Pac-Man all re-made with household objects. Brilliant!
I may be a bit late on this, but it's still awesome.

Filed under: Atari Nerd No Comments
17Jun/090

Post-Retro: Have We Entered The Era After "Retro Games"?

There is a sense these days that the concept of "Retro" games is disappearing. This does not mean that there are no retro inspired games being made, but it means that "retro" has been enveloped into the mainstream, and "retro" does not really exist any longer as it's own genre.. "Retro" is mainstream. At E3 this year, games that would have been shoved off into far corners and dismissed as "retro" in years past, were right up-front (i.e. Super Mario Wii, Nostalgia, Final Fantasy VII). This proved that "retro" is so all encompassing that the term means almost nothing if applied to these games.. These are just "games" (good games mind you) and are tagged "retro" only for the most superficial reasons. In sense, these are "classic" games with "classic" game play, that don't necessarily have to have a "retro" aesthetic.

At the same time, there still is a very healthy community for actual "retro gaming": Playing games on old systems old systems and emulators , or writing games specifically for old hardware. This is a truly is "retro" activity and should be treated as such.

However, a new game design movement is emerging that is very difficult to describe with the current set of accepted game genres (i.e. casual, core, retro, viral, mobile etc.). The new movement consists of new concepts, presented in retro fashion, but are not really retro games. These are not remakes, re-mixes, arrangements, remakes of old games with new graphics, or retro collections, nor are they pure play games for retro consoles. These games are something entirely different from genre I like to call: Post-Retro.

Post-Retro Defined

Post-Retro games are games that utilize a "retro" aesthetic mixed with both "retro" and "modern" game play elements to create a wholly new experience. The term "Post Retro" relates to "Post Modern" in that these games have "moved beyond" the pure nostalgia element of the "retro" game era and instead use "retro" as a platform for new ideas.

Post-Retro Game Features

Post-Retro games can, and have been implemented in variety of ways, making the boundaries of this genre a bit undefined at this point. However, there are some general features that many of these games contain. Not all games in this genre contain all of what is listed below, but they contain enough of them so that they are identifiable as part of the genre

  • Plays Retro/Plays Modern: Game play that feels retro, but also feels not retro at the same time. (A paradox!). A sense that the game could have been made in the "retro" era but was not ever made, possibly because game design concepts have evolved since that era.
  • Retro Aesthetic: Usually utilizes a retro graphical look (usually 8-bit, 16-bit or vector), and sound FX that match
  • Modern Music : Music is one interesting factor that sets these games apart from retro remakes and straight retro games. Most games for the original golden age consoles had little or no music (computers games did, but that is a different story). While may of these games retain the 8 or 16-bit look of older games, they replace the relative background silence with music that is usually both trippy and/or hypnotic. Sound effects are still in place, but the sound mix puts them in the back behind the music, instead of in front. Sound effects usually match the retro look of the game.
  • Hypnotic State: Another feature that many of these games have is sped-up, almost flowing game-play. In most games, "lives" and "score" are still important, but you get many more "lives" than you would have received in a traditional retro game. In a sense, these games are more about experiencing a "state" of "Post Retro" then about strictly being retro inspired games.
  • Background Images: Hypnotic, moving background images to fill void space that once existed in retro games.
  • Particle Effects: Massive particle effects that do not add much to game play, but add a kinetic and chaotic feel that did not necessarily exists in games from the classic era.
  • No Nostalgia For Nostalgia's Sake: While these games might elicit a nostalgic feeling in certain gamers, they are designed as new experiences using (in part) a retro/nostalgic aesthetic.
  • No-Remakes: No straight retro remakes. If a game is a version if an older game, the game play has been changed significantly so that it is recognizable as part of this genre.

Some emerging Post-Retro Game Features

  • Automatic Shooting/Movement: This is fairly new, but these features remove some of the classic game play burden from the player so they can concentrate on the modern features
  • Retro As The Starting Point: Another fairly new concept. This happens when a game uses the concept of "retro games" as the platform to create an entirely new game. I don't want to sound elitist here, but in some cases there is literary/arty feel to the games. This can occur as a deconstruction where he whole idea of certain games are torn-apart and turned-around and/or given multiple meanings, a metaphor, where the games takes on completely different meaning than what is presented, or even transcendence, where games are taken to a place beyond what they were initially created to do. (Note: Obviously this area is up to debate)

Post-Retro History

While the history of Post-Retro has not been fully examined yet, most of the features of Post-Retro games can be found in Jeff Minter's Tempest 2000 for the Atari Jaguar from 1993.

Seeing this game in action is like viewing a time capsule into the future from 1993. Minter's game includes nearly all aspects of the "post-retro". While the game-play is very much like Tempest, new elements are added as well. While still a bit basic, this game was a template for what post-retro would became 15 year later.

Still, while this game might be the spiritual fore-bearer of the "Post Retro" aesthetic, it's difficult to trace all this genre directly back to the game because not much else happened in between it's release in 1993 and the appearance of these types of games en mass in about 2007.

Instead of going the route of Tempest 2000, retro games took some different turns in the ensuing years. When Hasbro bought the Atari assets in 1998, they started to create modern versions of Atari classics like Missile Command, Pong , Breakout and Centipede. At the same time, Activision took up the idea to do the same thing with Battlezone and Asteroids. While some of these were fine games, they were not really "Post Retro" because they were more like remakes with a modern paint job.

The same goes can be said of"retro collections": multiple retro games in a single package that gained much popularity on the PS2. (i.e. Activision Anthology, Capcom Classics, Namco Museum). While some of the collections offered "remixed" or "arrangement" version of games with slight upgrades, for the most part they prided themselves on duplicating an exact classic gaming experience on a console.

While other examples of "Post Retro" games are bound to exist (send them if you have them) it was not until the current generation of consoles that we started seeing games in this movement taking shape. The real "ground zero" for these games and the emergence console "downloadable" era on the Xbox Live Arcade and Wiiware in 2007, as well as the viral, web Flash gaming explosion,

Post-Retro Game Examples

Geometry Wars

One of the best, first examples of "Post Retro" would be Geometry Wars. First released on Xbox Live Arcade in 2007, this game was a smash-hit that proved marketable games could be created by a very small team, and could be successful on the XBox Live Arcade. This game has a definite retro look and feel, but it adds a modern control mechanism, hypnotic music, and other FX. It's one of the first and best examples of the new "Post Retro" movement. It was also the both a creative and financial inspiration for many of the games on this list.

Space Giraffe

Since we credit Jeff Minter as one of the founder's of this genre, it would only be fair to add one of his own games to this initial list. Space Giraffe is an evolution of Tempest 2000, and that might also be it's downfall. While this game contains most of the post-retro aesthetic (including actual 8-bit sounds from one of Minter's original computer games games), and while it is does contain some major changes to the Tempest template, it's game-play is very close to a classic retro game. There is so much going-on however, that it becomes a very tough game to play rather quickly. That might explain it's limited appeal and slow sales as compared to some of the other games on this list.

Pac-Mac CE

Pac-Man Championship Edition is an odd but addictive beast, and it a is very good example of one strain of "Post-Retro": the classic game reborn. This game takes the main ideas of Pac-Man (eat all the dots, east power-ups to kill ghosts), and keeps them mostly unchanged. However, it changes the game-play just enough by adding morphing mazes and progressive game-play to make it an entirely different game than the original. You never finish a "level" in Pac-Man CE, you just finish a portion of a level, and then the play field alters itself and you keep going. This not insignificant change to the core game play makes the a wholly different and addictive game. You get the sense while playing this game, that this "should have been" the sequel to Pac-Man, but the state of game design at the time just could not have spawned this game. This is an important distinction for some of the best examples of "Post Retro". The sneaking feeling that some of these games could have saved the golden age of video games.

 

Bit Trip Beat/Bit Trip Core

Bit Trip Beat takes the game of Pong and turns it into a journey through an 8-bit landscape filled with all sorts of challenges related to a ball and paddle. However, calling this "Pong" is like calling Galaxy Wars "Asteroids". You can see the inspiration, there really is no comparison. While it has nearly every feature on the Post-Retro list, the most striking aspect of this game is that it feels like an Atari 2600 game that was never made...but could have been made (without the obvious modern FX) if only the idea had occurred to game developers back in the early 80's. However, at the same time, the game could not have been made because it's reliance on music and musical timing would have been nearly impossible to achieve on golden game consoles. Because of this, Bit Trip Beat might be the quintessential Post Retro game on this list.

The sequel, Bit Trip Core, is a similar take on shooters, but with the same feel as it's older brother.

Space Invaders Extreme And Galaga Legions

Both of these games take classic shooters and give them a Post-Retro make-over. Both have hypnotic soundtracks layered over classic sounds and graphics. Galaga Legions tends towards classic game play, while Space Invaders Extreme takes the whole concept of the original and deconstructs it. What is interesting is that both games have been made and remade over and over again for the past 25 years, but these Post-Retro versions stand-out far above any of those previous efforts.

 

Mark Essen's FlyWrench from IndieCade

FlyWrench takes a seemingly simple concept and turns it into a fascinating Post-Retro game. Your job is to fly your "avatar" through vector-graphic looking levels, morphing the shape to match the current obstacle that you need to overcome. The game is very difficult and very addictive. It layers modern music over classic graphics and sound FX. To be honest, a few seconds after seeing this game at E3, I knew it was part of this emerging trend. The game is striking example of how to take retro concepts to make a very new and interesting game.

Retro Game Challenge

Retro Game Challenge is very good example of another emerging trend in Post Retro: Transcendence. There are many meanings for Transcendence, but in this case it means "to go beyond". Basically, This type of games takes the actual act of playing a "retro game" and makes it into something much more. In Retro Game Challenge you play a young boy in the 80's who is visited by a man from the future who has challenged you to play through 8 different "Retro Games", trying to achieve certain objectives. These "challenges" are set-up in such a way, that playing the games themselves take a backseat to act of "playing a retro video game within a game". You get hints from virtual magazines, you input cheat codes, find hidden items, etc. However, most of these things happen inside the retro games that are inside Retro Game Challenge not in the actual game of Retro Game Challenge itself (if that makes sense). The difference here is that an entirely new game was created based on retro games, but it itself, is not a retro game, but more of a modern game. The retro genre is transcended to a completely new place: Post-Retro.

Bit Boy

Bit Boy is a lot like Retro Game Challenge in that it takes the players through several levels, each inspired by a different "era" of video game graphics and game play. While it does not contain multiple games, it does take the player on a journey through retro games (and beyond), transcending the genre to make something totally new.

Post-Retro Viral Flash Games

Besides these commercial games, there are many viral Flash games that also fall into this category of Post-Retro. A great example as is the recent hit "Retroshoot" . We, ourselves, also have a game that sort of fits into this category named Retro Blaster, created more than two years ago.

A secondary offshoot of this genre would be the "turn the tables" retro games like Asteroids Revenge and Anti-Pac-Man. These games are good examples of a minor form deconstruction in Post-Retro viral Flash games, where the multiple meanings for the game-world exist simply by having the player take the non-traditional role of the "bad guy" from those classic games.




What Does This Mean For Indie Game Developers?

To me, there is no doubt the the genre of Post-Retro games exists and and is only growing. What then, can indie game developers learn from it?

Well, first of all, the fact that many (but not all) of these games have been very successful cannot be overlooked. It seems that people who buy downloadable games and play viral Flash games like this genre very much. It could also mean that the audience for "retro games" is getting much more sophisticated. You might not be able to settle on a pure retro inspired game and hope for it to build any kind of audience. Most likely you need to add "something more" to mix to get your game noticed.

If you are interested in making a game in this genre, here is my advice: Take a look at a couple old games, and try visualize what it would look like a Post Retro game. What would you add to the classic concept that could not have been achieved when the game was first released? Would it transcend or deconstruct the original game, layer modern game design elements on top, both or neither? I'm truly fascinated by this emerging trend, and I look forward to playing all any new games in this genre.

17Jun/090

Flash indie game interweb-mash-up : June 17, 2009

Flash indie game interweb-mash-up : June 17, 2009

I was on vacation last week, so I missed doing one of these (well, I
wouldn't say I missed it, but I didn't get a chance to do one). I was
on vacation, so I must have had more time than usual to grind out a
mash-up, right? Not! With a 1 year-old and a 4 year-old happy that
daddy was home from the evil corporate world for a week, I had even
less time than usual to troll your sites, mess with your games, drink
your beer, leer at your women and laugh at your message board posts on
making $1000 a day from Flash games...

Let's Start By
Highlighting A New Releases that caught my eye...

- Play Fruiti Box from Richard
Davey (finally available after a 6 month wait).
- Hovernauts
is a new 8 v 8 player at a time multiplayer retro-styled action-based death
match! Now, that's a mouthful, and I was only able to play by myself
because it is in beta and I am probably in the wrong country (the Atari
ST obsession aside). So, do me a favor and EVERYONE play William
Gelpi's
new game so I have someone to lose to.  You can create an
account or just play as a guest, but it looks really fun, and was even
a blast just buzzing around in single player mode.
- Steve's new Palindromes Plus.
- Crunchball 3000 RAAAWWWKS!!! This
reminds me of a 16-bitter of old, was it a Bitmap Bros game??
- Palisade Guardian is also well
done. Those Vortix
guys are doing well for themselves!
- Lawrie Cape's Riz-Man puts all other Pacman
games to shame...but its for cigs?  You'll also need to
"prove" you are older than 18 and in the UK to play.  So, I
had to lie to play. I'm going to jail, aren't I?

Photon Storm
What does the worlds greatest Atari ST game fan have to say about
info-web games this week? Kyobi, which would have been an instant
16-bit classic, hits MySpace as the first AS3 game
on the Oberon system. Congrats, Rich!  I was going to report
this first, but Rich got to it before I returned from vacation (I'll
call you scoops Magee from now on):   There is a new AS3
library for playing Amiga MOD files.   You can ready Rich's post on it here.  
I

It was created by the great Italian programmer (no not that one), Christian Corti.
The code is provided under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike
3.0 Unsupported License and has full support for all the effects up to
protracker 2.3 including Amiga filter on/off (A500 and A1200 versions)
and the Invert Loop effect (plus more). Christian is an Italian, living
in Costa Rica. So, he must have witnessed both the Costa Rica 3-1
mauling of the USA at Saprissa (god knows what they throw from those
stands) and the unfortunate traitor Rossi pantsing the 10 man 
USA for a brace in yesterdays confederation cup battle. Thanks
a lot, Christian =) No, really, thanks, the AS3 mod player is
brilliant.   Christian is looking for help with graphics and
music to remake this C64 gem, so if you want to help,
drop us a line and we'll put you in contact. It could be a portal
favorite.


Gaming Your Way

Squize asks why it has taken Adobe so long
to even recognize games are a viable use of their platform. Good
question. Did you realize that there isn't even a game forum on the
Adobe Flash boards - none. nothing, nada. It's funny, but as soon as
we started a few Silverlight games articles, Microsoft was interested
in talking to us, and even sponsored a few contests. Adobe could have
done the same, but silence has always been their reply.

Also, nGfx shows off his latest personal
game programming gem
of a project
.   GYW has a very global reach.  The
USA number is high because I made it my mum's home page and she doesn't
know how to change it. For a while now she has been talking about this
new game called X++. Actually, I stalk them like crazy.

The Gross One (or the
Icky one). The IckyDime Blog.

The Basement (Mark's day job), won some much deserved awards.
Especially one for the Surf the Crowds game where you can play as
8bitsteve, the bouncer!  Mark's article on becoming a Flash/Flex developer
was published in Flash/Flex Developer magazine!  Nice Job,
Mark, I can't wait to read it. I have my 10% discount card ready for
Barnes and Noble. I knew it would be useful for more than Retro Gamer...

Freelance Flash Games
Here is a list of some of the great new stuff Freelance has to offer:
- His list of game prototypes with code
and tutorials to match.
- Mochiads new Word Play Contest (Steve has
already
entered
).
- The list of the Top 7 Flash Game Enemies.
- His own Mash-Up (Freelancer's Flash bash). He gets
a lot of stuff I miss.
- I especially like his Big List Of Power-Ups!


Game Poetry / Urbansqual
The team has a lot of new stuff on offer. The Play testing article is a must read
- their biggest problem: Expecting people to read! How could they? =)
  Here is a some very sound advice on creating a
game release package. Battalion Arena looks like a fun
ride. When is it available? Or is it, and I missed  the launch?

Emanuele!!
- His Mochiads Arcade plug-in for Word Press
to be released next Monday.
- Understanding the Papervision Plane Object Parts 1-6.
- Understanding
Rogue-Like Dungeons.
I was a HUGE Rogue fan all of the Atari
machines. Nice call, Emanuele!
-A Case History on Hooda Math, a
very successful nice Flash game site.

Micheal James Williams
- Michael created and entire Forum for his avoider
game tutorials
...that's success, my friends.
- Using the very expensive Flash IDE as a Level Editor and Separating Level Layout From Appearance.
It's funny, because I have always considered the Flash IDE to be much
less than what it could be. When I can purchase a tool such as Acid or
Music Maker for under $100.00 and it is loaded with music making
features (and can even create a song for me!), why does the Flash IDE
does nearly $800 and just recently added FILTERS!!! For $800, the
fucking thing should shit out beautiful animations for me, much less
let me edit my damn levels for a game.  Sorry for the
off-color language near your name, Michael.

Smash and Grabs (like a
drunk Lakers fan near a shoe store):

- Freeactionscript.com's Projectile Weapons

- Drawlogic let's us know that the Blender to AS3 exporter for Papervision
has been updated.
- Game Jacket is no more.
- Hilarious (but long) video and song on CPM/CPC and ads of all
things
. Worth your time!

Off Topic:
UP
kicks ass
! If it wasn't for the one review it would be the
first movie to have 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. I know, it's for kids, right? Not really, but my 4 year-old son loved it and so did I. It stars an OLD MAN (older than me). We Star Trek also, and while I thought it was very well done, my wife (who suggested it), thought it was boring. Oh well, you can't win them all.

As always check out  www.flashgameblogs.com
for your daily dose...

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