8bitrocket.com
31Oct/090

8bitrocket.com Video Podcast-Essential Flash Game Book Games Preview


8bitrocket.com Video Podcast-Halloween Edition. In this edition we preview the games from our forth coming Flash game development book, Essential Flash Games. You actually see them in action. We also learned to use a screen capture utility and the results are...mediocre as always. Hey, but it's getting better. Also, check out out new title sequence!

PS: Sorry for the terrible edit at the beginning. I had to cut 2 minutes to get it on YouTube.

28Oct/090

A Youth Well Wasted: Lee Bradly Bogs His Youth In Video Games


UK game journalist Lee Bradly has been writing an on-going blog chronicling his youth playing video games.  His series, A Youth Well Wasted is a a fascinating story about his friendship with a kid whose dad was a Sega executive. 

As you may know, we here at 8bitrocket.com have been running a similar series named Atari Nerd Chronicles that follows our youth loving Atari.  Bradly's story is 100% his own, but at the same, it could be called "Sega Nerd Chronicles", and that is why it like it so much. 

Bradly paints himself as an unabashed video game fan, but his writing also gives context to the time and place in which he grew-up.  The fact that he titled his series "A Youth Well Wasted" shows that while his story revels in his joyous youth inside arcades and playing consoles, his age has brought an "emerging perspective" to his past. 
I love it.

Filed under: Book Reviews No Comments
28Oct/090

Kill Screen: A Video Game Magazine That Aims For The Mature Mind

If you are like us, you constantly lament the demise of great game magazines like Electronic Games and Next Generation. Those magazines went beyond the standard news/preview/review/strategy format of most gaming tomes to include in-depth articles on subjects like sociology and future of the hobby. However, even those publications still followed a familiar format (obviously invented by Electronic Games but improved-upon by Next Generation) that made them stand-out as magazines for video game fans only. Mainstream general entertainment magazines like Rolling Stone and Entertainment Weekly have dabbled in gaming, but games never appear as any kind of regular in those publications either. At the same time, there are some very sophisticated, format busting magazines dedicated to music (Blender) technology (Wired), D.I.Y. (Make), culture (Fader) that try to go beyond the mainstream and look at their topics in the context of the real world. However, there has never been gaming magazine that tried to tackle the topic from that angle ....until now.

Kill Screen is a magazine in its' infancy that is trying to fill the void. The project was started by writers from various publication (New Yorker, GQ, the Daily Show, Christian Science Monitor, LA Times, the Colbert Report, the Onion, Paste) that want to see video game topics treated in the same mature manner as other entertainment and cultural topics. In short, they are striving for context. This is a topic near and dear to our hearts at 8bitrocket.com, as we have been struggling to put our love for video games into the context of our normal lives for almost 25 years now. This lack of context in video game journalism is one of the reasons why we tend to read stuff like Retro Gamer (it validates our past), and not Game Informer (we feel no connection to it). As adults we have grown past the need to get excited about each every new game that is coming down the pike, nor do we really need to have our gaming likes and dislikes validated by random game reviewers. Instead, the hole we need filled by a video game magazine is much deeper and more complicated. Basically, we have invested a good portion of our lives into the medium of the video game, and we have a desire to see that investment both validated (or not) and ruminated upon. This is what Kill Screen aims to do. They describe their goal this way:

We're talking about the long format read on the creative minds behind AAA and indie game titles sided by the personal essays about what games mean as part of our daily little lives. There are intersections between the games and everything else that are only beginning to be explored. The minds of the videogame world are woefully faceless and we should change that.

This is something that we are really excited about. However, this a magazine that is being self-funded through Kickstarter.com, so there is a good chance that it won't last very long if people who enjoy this kind of thing do not support it. The first issue has already been paid-for in full by donations, but there is no reason to not support the project and get in on something this interesting very early. We have already pledged our support. When we get the first issue, we'll review it and tell you what you are missing!

note: Yes, the name Kill Screen is reference to "King Of Kong". It's another reason why we like this idea so much.

Filed under: Book Reviews No Comments
26Oct/090

Mochi Game Review Mash-Up: October 26, 2009 (10 new games reviewed)

Mochi Game Review Mash-Up: October 26, 2009 (10 new games reviewed)

Games Reviewed: Street Fighter 2: CE, GraveShift 2: The Sewers, Zombie Taxi 2, Globulos Challenge, Froggy, Lost Mouse, WS Cup 2009, Battlerun, Speed

Game of the Week: Street Fighter 2 Championship Edition

I don't know why I haven't got around to reviewing this one yet. I was never a huge fan of the fighting games in the 90's (mostly because I button mash), but I always appreciated the technical skill it took to both create and play these games.

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This is an official port, used as "adverware" to promote the latest edition of the franchise. From what I remember, this is identical to the arcade version and is an amazing technical achievement as a Flash game. All of the characters, moves and specials you remember are there (at least the ones I remember are are present). I'm not sure that the 6 key config is as easy to use as the Genesis (Medgadrive) 6 button controller I had, but it is still a very fun game to play.
Grade A.

GraveShift 2: The Sewers : This is a very well crafted isometric puzzle/adventure/arcade game in the same class as some of the classic Atari ST and Amiga similar efforts. You must traverse the multi-room levels, searching for artifacts and keys to open doors. There are many traps and puzzles to solve to make your way around them. The only problem I had was with the iso-control as the arrow keys are a difficult match for the actual direction the player needs to move. Once you get used to the control though, this is fun game to play.
Grade B+

Zombie Taxi 2: Zombie Taxi is supposedly a little like Crazy Taxi, but I never even attempted to pick up any passengers. The real fun is running over the green zombies and watching them splat into red goo. In this 2D overhead contest (it looks a little like the original 2 GTA games), your job is to drive around the town on your yellow taxi, picking up passengers to get them to safety from the zombies. Your car has nicely modeled driving physics and an extensive set of damage mapping. You can also upgrade your vehicle and there are a lot of things you can add with Mochi coins.
Grade B+

Globulos Challenge: This is a very unique puzzle game where you must fire one or more cute little yellow Globulos characters at a foot (soccer) ball and attempt to score a goal in a single shot. The challenge is based on collision reactions between your Globulos characters and the ball. On most of the levels you have one shot to get the ball in the goal. You must set the angle and strength the Globulos vector(s) and then fire them off. There are also bad Globulos characters who will also get to add their own collision reaction to the mix and challenge your shot.
Grade B

Froggy: A pretty decent version of the classic Frogger game. I played this game A LOT on multiple platforms in the 80's. There is nothing really special about this tribute, but the graphics and nice and clean. A good effort at a classic remake. They get points for not stealing the original name or graphics, or sounds.
Grade C+

Lost Mouse: Move your mouse through the mazes and don't touch the walls. A nice demo in the use of hitTestPoint. It works though and there are some decently designed levels. The icon for this one is hilarious.
Grade C-

WS Cup 2009: A soccer / football game played as if you are a 5 year old in an AYSO (American Youth Soccer Organization) game. Actually, it is EXACTLY like an AYSO game. There are 11 pretty stagnant players on each team, and you man one of them on the red squad. Bat the ball around hockey puck style and try to get it in goal. Scoring is not easy, and it is actually a little fun for a few minutes.
Grade C

Battlerun: Battlerun is a nice little arcade game that doesn't look like much at first, but builds into as a sort of combination Galaxian/Robotron game. The interface and poorly looped sound could use a fresh coat of attention, but the core is a nice little game with some unique power ups and action.
Grade B-

Tunnel Syndrome: A really short, simple game with some Zarjaz effects. The game play leaves a lot to be desired, but this is supposed to be a simple game. You just need to keep your ship between the lines of the tunnel as it scrolls up the screen. The ship and tunnel move very fast and it is easy to hit the walls but there is not a lot of feedback when this occurs. In any case, I like the the visuals and sound but the game play is a little lacking.
Grade C-

Speed: Speed is a cool little arcade game. You fly your ship up the screen using the arrow keys and fire your weapon to move blue blocks out of your way with the WASD keys. The graphics are pretty basic, (your ship looks nice though), but the game is pretty fun (and difficult).
Grade B-

21Oct/090

Essential Guite To Flash Games Book: Pre-Order

This has been up for a couple weeks but were waiting some confirmations to post it.  You can now pre-order  the Essential guide to Flash Games book from Amazon. 

Also, we learned yesterday that that great Iain Lobb will be the technical reviewer for the book,so if we lead you guys astray, you can be sure Iain will get us back on-track!

17Oct/090

Essential Flash Games Book Ch.9: Dice Battle! A.I.Battle Puzzle Game.

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Here is an alpha sample screen of the game "Dice Battle" from the "Essential Flash Games" book. 

This game builds upon the material in Chapter 8 (Color Drop), adding ramping machine-based A.I., a soundtrack manager, multiple enemies in battle-style puzzle game like Book Worm Adventures or Puzzle Quest, plus a bunch of other enhancements.  This another game that uses the graphics in spritelib.

The A.I. algorithms are all custom and designed to be as efficient as possible.  They are based on the color-matching routines in Ch.8.  We have added an intelligence to the code that allows the computer to make decisions based on it's level of ability.

As you can from the screenshots from the various games that Jeff and I have been posting, that the "Essential Flash Games" book contains many different styles of games, many that have never appeared in a book before (that we know of). 

14Oct/090

Mochi Game Review Mash-Up : Oct 14th, 2009 (Games where things shoot at other things day)

Mochi Game Review Mash-Up : Oct 14th, 2009 (Games where things shoot at other things day)

These were always my favorite types of arcade, video, and computer games, so I scoured the "Coins", "Featured", and "Recent" Mochi lists for some arcade blastin' titles to review.

Games Graded: Tank Destroyer, Gravitor, Bug Squad, Mummy Tombs, Halloween Kill Zone, Spiders Attack, Target Shooter, Indirect Assault, and Jump 'n Gun

Games of the Day: Tank Destroyer

Tank Destroyer is a very well made, over-head scrolling 2D arcade blaster. You man a tank that can be upgraded with an arsenal weapons and you are tasked with destroying all of the enemy tanks.

tank destroyer.jpg

The mouse moves the turret, the WASD keys move the tank (Asteroids style) and the F keys fires your ass kicking missiles.You also have mines that you can drop. The music, sound fx, and overall presentation are all very well done. This was the most fun I had today playing Flash games.
Grade A

Gravitor: Another in a series of well crafted LongAnimals retro arcade games. This one is a combo of Geometry Wars, Gravitar and Oids. I love the concept, but I had a lot of trouble with the controls. I can't blame them because I'm old an lame though.
Grade B

Bug Squad: A ridiculously fun little arcade shooter. You are in the bed of a pickup, driving right to left, manning a missile launcher. Chasing you are a variety an animals that all carry some sort of flu like virus. Your job is to blow them up into sweet sweet particle glory. Satisfying to say the least.
Grade B+

Mummy Tombs: Mummy Tombs is a very nice looking, fun over-head shooter with a psuedo-3D look and feel. Your job is to run about the nice looking Egyptian themed levels and kill all of the Mummies. There are multiple different zombie-like Mummies to blow up, and you can use your own hit points to buy new weapons. The carnage is fun and the presentation is well crafted.
Grade B+

Halloween Kill Zone: Little kids will dig this simplistic game reminiscent of very early Flash contests (would these be retro now?). Halloween themed baddies float across the screen and you shoot them down by aiming with the mouse. The graphics are pretty well done, and it doesn't pretend to be more than it is.
Grade C-

Spiders Attack: A little like a junior version tank destroyer. While Spiders Attack lacks a certain polished sheen that I have come to expect from the best Flash games, there is no denying that at its core there is a nice little game engine and some fun blasting game play. You are in a tank and you must traverse the scrolling 2D world., blasting all of the spiders and find the exit. Nothing complicated, but there is some fun to be had.
Grade C+

Target Shooter: The very simplest of target shooting games. As a demo of junior coding skills (basic movement and creating a count down clock) it is pretty decent. For an ad supported game to compete with even the mediocre games in the mash-up, it will go no where.
Grade D.

Indirect Assault: Well, it doesn't involve shooting, but it does involve a sweet weapon tethered your ship. This game a akin to Asteroids and Space Duel (think tethering) with no shooting involved. The lack of sound is annoying, but it is a fun little, well coded contest.
Grade B.

Jump 'n Gun: Jump n' Gun is solid little retro-style platformer where you run, jump, collect coins and jewels, and shoot. The music is retro and bouncy and the graphics are very nice little pixel art sprites. The game play is a little on the fast side and some of the physics for jumping could be tweaked to make them more "realistic". Those really are game design decisions though, and what is "realistic" in a game genre where the coins you collect are the same size as you body anyway? If you like retro side scroller games like Super Mario Bros, you will enjoy this one.
Grade B.

12Oct/090

Essential Guide To Flash Games Book: Chapter 10: A tile-based scrolling driving game

Essential Guide To Flash Games Book: Chapter 10: A tile-based scrolling driving game

I put the finishing touches on the game for chapter 10 this weekend and started writing up the chapter text. It is supposed to be done by now, but the game took me a little longer than I had thought. I originally wrote a tutorial that covered some of this area, but never finished the game. Now that my code and game will be in print, I needed to spend extra time ensuring that I was doing everything as best as I can. It took a little more time than I thought it would. If this had been a one-off game, I could have taken some short-cuts, but the game engine needed to work will all of the levels that anyone could think of (within reason) and to do that took more time than I thought.

driveshesaid.jpg

Oh well! I will have the chapter complete by the middle of the week. The beginning chapters took care of most of the basics, so in these later chapters I find my self focusing on the new content and not having to (for example) re-hash how to loop back-ward through an array (and why), or why to create listeners with weak references for the 100th time. That makes for a relatively quick written 40 page chapter with a lot of code and explanation for the new and interesting material.

The game is called "Drive She Said". It is in the Mattel Intellivision Auto Racing / Rally Speedway (Atari and Commodore 8-bit) and Super Cars (ST/Amiga) genre - You drive around a a 2D top-down, scrolling track as fast as you can. I didn't want to create an actual racing game, but rather more of an arcade adventure game based on driving a car. I ended up with a hybrid of both:

Your task is to collect the hearts around the track before time runs out. You must get to the finish line with enough hearts to make it to the next level (I only have 2 levels right now). There are skulls that will slow you down and clocks that will add time to your timer. The sprites (once again) were taken from Ari Feldman's Spritelib GPL, but modified by me to suit this particular game. Philosophically, the game represents the Sisyphusian task of keeping an angry girl friend happy. You have done something she doesn't like and must re-collect all the hearts or she will not take you back. There will always be another level to complete, but the time to do it will get shorter and shorter and the track will get more and more difficult. Eventually time will run out and you will lose the game...don't we all?

On the technical side, the scrolling world is fed by an XML set of tile sheet data and is output on to a single BitmapData canvas. The scrolling is done with a new Camera2D class that is used to create a display buffer. The buffer is one row and column larger than the canvas (12x12) and the camera orients the output properly by moving to the right location on the 13x13 buffer tile grid before outputting to the 12x12 canvas. The collision detection uses a few tricks (such as look ahead points). The angled tiles made me first think about using Pixel Perfect collision detection, but I went for a more math based model in this game. The car is a child of the BlitSprite class from chapters 6 and 7 modified to include some variables needed for basic car physics and trig.

Anyway, enough talking about it, I need to get back to actually doing it.

More game reviews and a mash-up later this week...

10Oct/090

Jeff Minter's Grid Runner Revolution PC Review

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If 8bitrocket.com had it's very own "Mt. Rushmore" containing the faces of four video games designer/developers who have influenced us the most they would be:

  • Dan Bunten (programmer/designer of MULE and Seven Cities Of Gold)
  • Chris Crawford, Atari 8-bit evangelist and the author of the first ever book about the art of video game design.
  • Ed Logg: Long-time coin-op programmer/designer and co-developer of both Asteroids and Centipede.
  • Jeff Minter : Yak loving 8-bit and 16-bit game developer, developer of Tempest 2000, and the originator of the entire "Post Retro/Retro Evolved" game genre.

The last one, Jeff Minter also happens to be one of the chief developers of Grid Runner Revolution, the modern update (27years in the making) of the 1982 Llamasoft game Grid Runner just released for the PC and available at the Llamasoft Web Site. Minter jumped back into the modern era of video game after releasing Space Giraffe for the PC and Xbox Live Arcade a couple years ago. Unfortunately for Minter, the reaction to Space Giraffe was not what he expected. While Minter expected to find on Xbox Live, a sophisticated gaming audience that would appreciate his modern retelling of Tempest via Space Giraffe, what he found was quite different. The masses must have been too busy filming themselves naked with playing Uno to realize what a gem they missed in Space Giraffe, but missed it they did. They missed it so much that Minter vowed to quit making games altogether.

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It's fortunate then. that Minter did not quit, but instead went back to the drawing board to create a modern take on one of his first games. Grid Runner has a long history that we don't have the space to relate here (and thankfully, we don't have to because Llamasoft has done this already). We here at 8bitrocket.com played the original game on the Atari 8-bit back in the 80's, and we loved every minute of it. In fact, it inspired us to follow the rest of the Llamasoft catalogue, and to read Jeff Minter's columns in the back of ST Action magazine. The original game was a cross between a standard shooter, Centipede, and the coin-op Targ. The basic idea was that the player had to destroy all the bad guys by traveling around a grid populated by lasers and all sorts of other nasty things. It was a very unique and very successful game.

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Grid Runner Revolution is less a sequel to the original, and more like a Minter patented acid-trip audio visualizer crossed with top-down version of Space Giraffe all played on an Atari color-vector monitor. The games needs to be played to be fully understood, but we'll try to get the point across with our words and static images as best we can. There are 200 levels, and on each one you must blast everything in sight and save the sheep that fall from the top of the screen. You ships fires automatically, the mouse moves you around and you use the buttons (there are other control schemes as well) to rotate your ship right and left. Everything blows up really good with seemingly infinite particle effects, while dozens of simultaneous objects move, glow, and pulsate like the best vector games of old.

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For pure retro enjoyment, this game really delivers the goods. It's easy to get into, keeps your attention, and inspires you for "one for game". There is not much else you can ask from an arcade game. Honestly, there is so much going on in Grid Runner Revolution, it's surprising to see just how much work went into the game. In some places, the game is so beautiful, and so pleasingly retro at the same time, we nearly emitted tears of joy. Your ship continually upgrades, while the enemies ramp up in difficulty and styles at a constant pace. In all honesty, this might be the best modern retro style game we have ever played. We also award the game extra points for the Atari ST "bee" cursor used on all the selections screens, and the fact that you can unlock Vic 20 and Commodore 64 versions of the game by advancing through the levels. (Although we will pretend the C-64 on is actually an Atari 8-bit version)

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Right now this game is only available for the PC, but it certainly is perfect candidate for Xbox Live Arcade. Hopefully minter can work it out Microsoft to get the game on that platform very soon.

Grade: A

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Filed under: Atari Nerd No Comments
7Oct/090

Mochi Game Review Mash-Up: October 7, 2009 (11 Games Reviewed)

Mochi Game Review Mash-Up: October 7, 2009 (11 Games Reviewed)

Today the game selection kind of made me feel like I was looking though some of the various pirate crew Atari ST and Amiga late era disc menus from the 90's. Some gems, some odd games with bad foreign translations, too many games with unintentional penis references, and many mediocre or unfinished arcade romps.

Games Reviewed: The Tickler, 2 Days 2 Die - The Other Side, Race, Gold Train, Raksha Bandham, Docokrampage, Kafrina's Cart, Watercolor Shooter, MX Creator II, Surreal Worlds Shooter, and Soul Survivor.

Game Of The Day: The Tickler: One word...(ok two)...Fcuking (sic) AWESOME! You are the Tickler, a cyborg gone wildly mad who is hell bend on destroying everything in his(her?) path. The game uses a relatively simple, over-head view of an incredibly well animated Tickler to depict the action.

thetickler.jpg

Using the mouse you extend your extending claws to rip, kill and strangle everything and everyone. The Music, presentation and action are all first rate. Don't miss a few minutes with this little gem. This one might win for best game name since Panda Hate Maze!
Grade A.

2 Days 2 Die - The Other Side: (Coins Enabled) - Zombies, guns, heads exploding in washes of red, what more could you want from a Zombie side scroller. 2D2D (the other side) is a very well produced, fun arcade/adventure blaster that will have the kids enthralled for days. You are a SWAT team member who must walk through the city and shoot zombies in the head while collecting power-ups, weapons, and performing missions. What's not to like?
Grade A.

Race: Race is a nice little first-person (actually behind) sprite-based motorcycle racer. The actual game play is done pretty well with the track tilting to depict turning while the controls are easy and intuitive. The interesting part is what is missing. Why make a game that looks this good, and plays pretty well (needs a better physics engine though) but leaves out the extra touches such as sound and music that would push it over the top. Also, some of the graphics in the game also look like they were thrown in by a different developer, so I am unsure of the exact origins of this engine. In any case, with a little love, this could be a winner.
Grade B-

Gold Train: This is a pretty standard catch game with a hard-rock mining theme.The idea is well thought out and interesting, but at the end of the day, it is still a simple catch game with very little flair. The black text on blue at at the top seems like a mistake, but it seriously detracts from what is already a below average game at best. For a first or second novice game, it is pretty good, but the quality of viral Flash games is well beyond this now.
Grade C-

Raksha Bandhan: This isn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. It's crazy (at least to someone from the USA) though. You are a girl in a blue dress, chasing a dude in a red shirt. The graphics are animated well, but the game play employs those "floaty" physics from the early Atari ST/Amiga/Genesis (MegaDrive) days. Also, the theme must be from some sort of TV show or movie that is foreign to me. There isn't much game here though other than pushing the left arrow and the space bar every now and then.
Grade C-

Docockrampage: I don't know if Koffi realizes that the name of this game sounds A LOT like a some sort of hard-core porn game. In any case, this is a pretty well done version of the classic Rampage, but starring one of the baddies from a recent film concerning spiders and powers and such. Fun for a bit and presented well.
Grade C+

Kafrina's Cart: Another Koffi game that could be pretty good if given a little more love. As it stands, you must race your horse drawn cart in the desert through a top-down scrolling environment. The action is pretty good, the visuals and presentation surprisingly well done, but the sound is so annoying that I had to turn it off within 30 seconds. You can fire HUGE missiles at other racers and they pop with a nice little canned explosion, but basically the game play is pretty generic.
Grade C+

Watercolor Shooter: A side scrolling little arcade blaster with some nice watercolor graphics. The basic controls are pretty simple: Mouse to shoot and aim, and arrows or WASD to move. The music is pretty good for a game of this type and the in-game action is OK, if nothing special. The problems is that the game needs some major work in organizing the interface. It is very busy and difficult to tell what is going on. Also, there is a pre-game screen with what looks like a dude and a GIANT penis (it looked like it to me). ( Updated Note: Steve pointed out that is is probably actually a thumb, not a penis.) Not a bad game, but needs some work here and there to make it something special.
Grade C+.


MX Creator II: A physics-based, side-scrolling motorcycle racing game with a full track editor. This is a nice little game with some good features. It kind of looks a little like a Cyclomanics tech demo. The game play is well depicted and fun. The sound is a little annoying, but probably appropriate for this type of game. I don't want to make it sound bad because it actually is one of the best games today, but there is a lot more that could be done to make this a real excellent $$ earning game.
Grade B.

Surreal Worlds Shooter: A pretty standard action game that uses the mouse to blow up an an odd collection of items falling from the sky. There is a kitty in the foreground who I assume is blowing these things up with his mind.
Grade C

Soul Survivor: A pretty decent little single screen Asteroids style game with WASD + Mouse controls. I like the music and the glowing vectors, but ultimately these games need more optimization and faster game play. It is a little slow, but still a good effort.
Grade C+

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