8bitrocket.com
30Aug/100

Atari Greatest Hits Finally Coming to the Nintendo DS!!

I have been waiting for a good version of some Atari retro c classics to hit the DS for a while now. The old DS Atari pack is a pathetic POC, but this new one looks to make up for it and more!

This $29.99 pack has about 50 games included. There are both arcade classics as well as Atari 2600 favorites:

Atari Arcade Classics
Asteroids, Battlezone, Centipede, Gravitar, Lunar Lander, Missile Command, Pong, Space Duel, Tempest

Atari 2600 Favorites
3D Tic-Tac-Toe, Adventure, Air-Sea Battle, Asteroids, Atari Video Cube, Basketball, Battlezone, Bowling, Centipede, Championship Soccer, Dodge ’Em, Flag Capture, Football, Fun with Numbers, Gravitar, Hangman, Haunted House, Home Run, Human Cannonball, Math Gran Prix, Miniature Golf, Missile Command, Outlaw, Realsports Baseball, Realsports Boxing, Realsports Football, Realsports Tennis, Realsports Volleyball, Sky Diver, Slot Maching, Slot Racers, Sprintmasters, Starship, Stella Track, Submarine Commander, Surround, Swordquest Earthworld, Swordquest Fireworld, Swordquest Waterworld, Tempest, Video Checkers

You can even play head to head via Wifi with other DS players in the same room.  Space Duel is one of my favorite games of all time, and I cannot wait to try it out on the DS.  I hope they make a 7800 + Atari 5200 + Atari XE pack next. Maybe they can follow that up with an Atari ST Pack, and then a Jaguar / Lynx Pack!!!

We are looking to get a copy to give away, so keep your fingers crossed that we do. We'll probably have some sort of a micro-retro game development contest to pick the winner.

(8bitjeff is Jeff D. Fulton)

Filed under: Atari Nerd No Comments
30Aug/100

Commodore To Make PC in Classic Commodore Case: Pong Ball's In Your Court, Atari

It turns out, a company has bought the "Commdore" name and is planning to create a PC housed in a Commdore 64 case.  that's awesome. However,  personally can't buy one as it is simply against my Atari sensibilities to do so.   However, if Atari would do the same thing, with the Atari 800 (too large actually), 65XE (too small) or the 800 XL (just right), I'd buy it in a second.

So how about it Atari?

Full press release below:

COMMODORE ANNOUNCES EXCLUSIVE WORLDWIDE LICENSING RIGHTS
Companies ink deal to produce new line of All-In-One keyboard computers.

FT. LAUDERDALE, FL and OLDENZAAL, THE NETHERLANDS, August 25, 2010 – Commodore USA, LLC and Commodore Licensing B.V., a wholly owned subsidiary of Asiarim Corp (OTCQB: "ARMC"), today announced their licensing agreement whereby Commodore USA, LLC will produce a full line of new Commodore branded "AIO" (All In One) keyboard computers, under an exclusive worldwide license granted by Commodore Licensing B.V. for this newly revitalized computer category.
Mr. Barry Altman, President and CEO of Commodore USA, LLC states "We are ecstatic to be partnering with Commodore Licensing B.V. in this new, exciting product launch. The legacy of the Commodore C64, which sold over 30 million units, making it the best selling computer of all time, and our reintroduction of this legendary form factor, combined with the world's most recognizable consumer electronics brand, is a once in a lifetime opportunity. We look forward to bringing these new products to market, and welcoming a whole new generation of computer users to the Commodore experience".

In response to an overwhelming demand from former Commodore users worldwide, Commodore USA's CTO Leo Nigro announced today that their new Commodore PC64 will be available for purchase this holiday season. Featuring an exact replica of the original beige chassis Commodore C64, this new addition to our lineup will include an Intel Atom 525 CPU with NVIDIA Ion2 graphics, 4GB DDR3 memory, 1TB Hdd, HDMI, DVD/CD optical drive (Blu-ray optional), dual-link DVI, six USB ports, integrated 802.11n WiFi, bluetooth and a 6-in-1 media card reader.

With the recent introduction of their flagship Phoenix model, Commodore USA has once again catapulted the Commodore namesake to the forefront of consumer electronics brand recognition. Other Commodore keyboard computers include the Amigo, a basic entry level computer featuring a system on chip configuration, and the Invictus, featuring a small portable form factor with an embedded LCD screen display.

About Commodore Licensing B.V.:

Commodore Licensing B.V., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Asiarim Corporation (OTCQB: "ARMC"), is the licensor of the trademark Commodore, and grants other parties licenses in connection with specific products or services. Asiarim Corporation is also investing in companies engaged in, or related to, the development, sales and distribution of computer, mobile and multi-media products marketed under the brand name Commodore.

About Commodore USA, LLC:

Commodore USA, LLC designs, produces and markets a series of all-in-one Commodore branded keyboard computers, and other unique form factor computers and consumer electronics.

Barry S. Altman is the President and CEO of Commodore USA, LLC, based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Spanning a 25 year career in the bleeding-edge electronics and satellite/space telecommunications industry, Mr. Altman founded and served as CEO & President of Cabletech Satellite Systems, Inc. U.S. Cable Technology, Inc., The Cabletech Satellite Network and United Broadcasting Co. This group of companies built NOC's (Network Operation Centers) for cable television programmers, and cable television head ends for cable companies throughout the United States, They designed and constructed the satellite uplink network operation centers for such companies as Viacom International, Warner Amex, Viacom and MTV Networks. They directed and produced the domestic satellite telemetry downlink for the Live Aid concert for MTV, which was at that time the largest world wide deployment of a live satellite television broadcast. Cabletech has manufactured, designed and installed systems for Grumman Aerospace, The United Nations, government and private industry, and over 45,000 TVRO C& Ku band satellite systems for businesses and consumers nationwide. Cabletech was a developmental partner with General Motors & Hughes Communications in the small aperture DBS system that later became DirecTVv.

28Aug/100

Does The Droid-X Blockbuster OnDemand Commercial Make Sense?

I have seen this commercial quite a few times and have always had a little "itch" in the back on my mind as I see it. I didn't have much time to ponder this "itch" until this morning.

I can't find the commercial on-line (but I see it in online video pre-rolls all the time, especially on the Comedy Central Site). The commercial shows a dude, sitting in from of some HUGE Apple iMac-like monitors (presumably at work?) as he watches "giant" (as described in the commercial) Blockbuster onDemand video on his mobile Droid-X phone.

Note: I found the commercial. It looks like the guy is using Windows. In the final cut away shot his other monitor does look like a 36 inch iMac. In any case, especially since he is in Windows, why watch the onDemand on his tiny mobile screen?

What's wrong with this picture? Why would he watch the video on a relatively tiny mobile screen (tiny in comparison to the 36 inch iMac monitors right next to him?). This was really bugging me because I would much rather watch the Bourne Supremacy (the movie he is watching in the commercial) in HD wide-screen on one of those giant iMac monitors next to him.

So, I ventured over to the Blockbuster site to have a look at the onDemand library on my iMac, and this is the message I get:

So, it seems they left some of the story out of the commercial. That dude first tried to watch the video on the giant iMac screen in front of him, but since Blockbuster's site won't work with any operating system other than Windows (plus IE or IE + Firefox bastardization tab) he got frustrated, pulled out is mobile device and was able to see the video there.

Wow, that makes sense now.

Filed under: diatribe No Comments
27Aug/100

(not) Royalty Free H.264 (Might) Boost HTML5 Video & The Canvas, But Flash Still Has A Chance (Analysis) : Updated

Yesterday it was announced that MPEG LA, the patent holder for H.264 (MPEG-4) will "never" charge a licensing fee for video encoded as H.264 and delivered for "free" over the internet.

What does this mean? Well it means that Firefox and Opera, two browsers that have so far held-back implementing support for H.264 because of the potential cost of the license, will probably go ahead and implement the format for HTML5.  (Or maybe not.  See that note below)   It also means that the  Theora (OGG) and WebM formats might fall out of favor.  It also means that developers, who have so far needed to encode their HTML5 video three different ways (.mv4, .ogg, webm) might get to settle on one format.

That one format, that has the potential to work across all platforms, both desktop and mobile, will probably send Flash video back to the niche it started from.  This does not mean that Flash video will not be used, but it does means the adoption curve of HTML5 video over Flash will start to accelerate.  There are still many technical reasons to choose Flash for video on the web over HTML5 (i.e. HTTP streaming, better control, progressive download, etc.) but it will become quickly apparent that the majority of developers will choose "ease of use" over features, and most end-users will not know the difference.

At the same time, the continuing adoption of the HTML5 Canvas will probably force Adobe to support the Canvas as a (limited) output option for the Flash IDE.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, as it will extend the life of the Flash IDE.   The HTML5 Canvas will soon be supported by all major browser platforms and mobile devices, something that Flash will not be able to achieve without a legal victory (no thanks to Apple).  For standard interactivity on web pages, HTML5  & the Canvas will become the king, especially for common elements like UI and targeted advertising units.

My feeling though, is that if Adobe makes the right decisions,  most users of the Flash IDE will never know the difference.  To do this, Adobe needs to implement HTML5 Canvas support into the next version of the Flash IDE.   They need to make the support transparent to most end users, and make it part of the standard Flash IDE export options. If they don't, Flash will die a slo death.   Yes, I've said it.  If Adobe does not embrace HTML5 and the HTML5 Canvas, the future of Flash is in jeopardy.

Adobe should be able to create a way for the Flash IDE to export 80-90% of Flash's functionality to the HTML5 Canvas.    A Flash IDE, an "export" to a web page could include a .swf and the packaged assets and JavaScript for the HTML5 Canvas.  The Flash <embed> could also include the ability to switch between the .swf or HTML5 Canvas version of the app depending on the platform executing the HTML page.  If Adobe can achieve this in the next version of Flash, they can help transition their core audience of web developers to the HTML5 standards, while keeping their customers dedicated to the Flash IDE.

However, For the Flash .swf format to survive, more need s to be done and it needs to be accomplished quickly.  This means a migration towards higher-end applications and games that simply cannot be created in HTML5.  Adobe needs to get those robust 3D features into Flash as soon as possible, and continue on a path of supporting motion, touch, and gesture based interfaces across all platforms.   They need to enhance and promote the audio features of the .swf, which right now (and into the foreseeable future)  outstrip HTML5 on every level.  They also need to make sure that the Flash IDE can target as many platforms as possible, hopefully with a native compile  (Air for the Wii or XBox 360 anyone?).

I am a huge fan of Flash, but I'm not a technology bigot.  I love Flash because of what it brought to my development efforts.  I still think it is a great tool.  However, the reality of the situation is that HTML5 and the HTML5 Canvas will be able to achieve much of what Flash can do now, and they will do it across nearly all platforms.  That will make HTML5 the lowest common denominator.  For Flash to survive, it needs to be enhanced and differentiated before it goes the way of Java Applets, Shockwave, and all the other technologies that were once defacto standards until the day they suddenly were not.

Update:  This link has a good analysis of why people have gotten the wrong idea about this announcement. Our analysis of the HTML5 Canvas and Flash still stands, but as far as video goes, Flash still might be the top platform for some time.  Thanks to all the people who commented to clear this up

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23Aug/100

More Games I Might Play Again (Flash Game Micro Reviews)

Ahh, here I am, its a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Southern California, and I am in doors, playing YOUR games. God I hope they are good this time...

Hikouki Tomodachi (FGD) (82% Retrotastic) - A very fun, and well done 1 or 2 player vertical scrolling blast-fest.

Darts and Beer (FGD) (75% Retrotastic) - Just as the title states. Play a pretty decent version of Flash darts and chug some beer (virtual) between each round. The more you drink the more difficult the game becomes.

Megapolis Traffic (FGD) (79% Retrotastic) - I love the look of this game.   The object is to navigate public transportation to get to your desired end point. A novel concept.  There are some interesting game design ideas in this one.

Protect The Treasure (FGD) (70% Retrotastic) - A simple, but pretty well presented shooter. You must protect your treasure from the attacking horde of zombie-like creatures.

Britney Spears (FGD) (10% Retrotatsic) - This dress-up game is notable only for how little the avatar looks  like Britney Spears.  It gets 10% because they did a good job looping the music sample. Let's note that I don't despise these games and understand they have and audience and hopefully make some money for the developers. This is not a good one though.

Santa Pod Racer (FGD) (80% Retrotastic) - Now, this is a well done little "Dragster" style game. It reminds me of the Atari 2600 classic.

Gunzy (FGD) (80% Retrotastic) - Another fun little game. You keep the can in the air while earning badges and shooting other little critters that make an appearance. It really is a cool little time waster.

Zombie Beast Stampede (FGD) (83% Retrotastic) - A deep and fun little "Tower" not "Path" defense style game combined with an arcade shooter.

E7 (FGD) (90% Retrotastic) - A cinematic masterpiece hiding in a very well crafted physics-based side-scrolling adventure.

19Aug/100

Tutorial: Turn Your Flash Game Into A Google Chrome Web App (beta)

While the Google Chrome App Store will not be available until October 2010, you can still package-up your apps and test them as Chrome Web Apps.   Google has some extensive documentation on the subject, but we are going to slice it down and show you the easiest path to success.

Step 1: Get The Right Browser...Windows Only!

Yep, the only Chrome build that supports the installation of Chrome Web Apps, right now, is Chrome for Windows.  You will have to subscribe to the Chrome "Dev Channel" and then download the browser.  This is really simple.  I didn't really "subscribe" at all, I just downloaded the dev channel version of Chrome to my Windows machine.

Step 2: Set-up The Browser To Load Apps

After you have downloaded Chrome, you need to create a short-cut in Windows so you can change the path to the Chrome.exe executable.  You need to do this so you can add the "--enable-apps" option to the execution path.  This option allows you to test the "loading extensions" functionality which is the basis of the Chrome Web App technology.

Here is an example of the link to put in the Target box of a short-cut in Windows XP:

[cc lang="javascript" width="550"]

"C:\Documents and Settings\username\Local Settings\Application Data\Google\Chrome\Application\chrome.exe" -enable-apps

[/cc]

Step 3: Prepare Your Flash Game

Now you need to get all the assets together in a folder/directory that you will provide as part of the Chrome App installable package.  This includes:

  1. .swf file
  2. An HTML file that holds your .swf
  3. a 24x24 px .png icon
  4. a 124x124.png icon
  5. Any other assets the .swf needs to load externally

For this example, I decided to use our game "Palindromes Plus". First I found the Mochi version of palindromesplus.swf and the converted the cartridge icon image we use into  24x24 and 124x124 icons.

I then created a palindromesplus.html page.  To make it simple, I made the background of the HTML page black, and centered the game on the screen.

Step 4: Create Your Manifest.json File

The manifest.json file is required for every Chrome Web App.  It describes  meta-data about the game you are creating, and where to find some essential assets.  Most of this file is  (like name, description, version) self-explanatory.   However, a couple items could use a little sunlight to make them clear:

  • "app:launch" section:  The "app:launch" section contained describes how this app will execute:
  • web_url: This is the complete URL to an app that exists on the web.  You can deploy an app a s a Chrome web app without embedding the code in your directory/.crx file (more on that later)
  • local_path : a relative path to the html file that will launch your app.  This is required for a "server-less" app that can run offline.  This is the style we are creating for our Flash game.
  • "permissions" section:  This section defines some security constraints around your app for specific Chrome APIs and storage.   This is where you would place urls that your app might call for web services and xml rpc requests. We don't really use this, so we left the default from the Google example ( here)
    • notifications : Allows the app to use the proposed HTML5 notifications
    • unlimited_storage : Allows for unlimited HTML5 Server-side storage.

There are other options you can read about all the manifest.json file options here: http://code.google.com/chrome/extensions/manifest.html

[cc lang="javascript" width="550"]
{
"name": "Palindromes Plus",
"description": "Unscramble The Palindromes",
"version": "1",
"app": {
"launch": {
"local_path": "palindromesplus.html"
}
},
"icons": {
"24": "24.png",
"128": "128.png"
},
"permissions": [
"unlimited_storage",
"notifications"
]
}

[/cc]

Step 5: Create Your Application Folder

After you have your manifest.json, .html file, .swf, and and .png file files,  you need to create a folder file to hold them all.  Create a folder and place all of the files inside of it.

Step 6: Launch The Chrome Developer Version

Find the shortcut you created to the Chrome Browser  with the "-enable-apps" command line option and launch it.

Step 7: Install The Extension (Chrome Web App)

  1. Find the Wrench icon in the upper right hand corner of Chrome and click it.
  2. Choose The Tools Menu
  3. Choose The Extension menu
  4. Click the (+) next to Developer to open Developer mode

You should see the following screen:

To load your extension, click the [load packed extension] button and find the folder you put the files into.  Once you find it and click [OK], the extension will load.

Now, to try the Chrome Web App, simply click on a New Tab, and you should see the icon you created:

Click the icon to play the game.

Step 8: Create a .crx File

A .CRX file will be needed to distribute your app in the Chrome App Store.  This is very easy to create.  Follow the directions to get back to the developer mode.   Then click the [pack extension] button.

This will bring-up the following screen:

For the "extension root directory", find the folder you created with the manifest.json, etc.

Click [OK]

A .crx and .pem license file will be created for your app.  Hold on to these for when the Google App Store is ready to accept new applications, or for when Google Chrome can load packed extensions (not available yet).

A .crx is simple a .zip file with the extension changed.  You should be able make these without using Chrome very easily.

That's It...But It's Still Beta

Google says all of this could change wholly or partly by the time the Google App Store launches, but we thought it would be cool to give some idea of what the process and work flow will look like once the Chrome Web App Store is ready for action.

Here is a zipped directory for the Palindromes Plus extension: palindromes.zip that you use to try this on your own.  It includes the .swf, a sample manifest.json file, and icons.

Here is the .crx  abd pem files we created for Palindromes Plus:  palindromes.crx and palindroms.pem (.zip)


18Aug/100

Atari Nerd Interweb Mash-up

Here are some of the more interesting Atari related retro gaming related tidbits I found while trolling across the infobaun.

The Classis Game Room HD Reviews Atari 2600 Video Olympics - The only way to play pong on the 2600! (literally and hyberbole). Who doesn't like Ice Hockey Pong with 4 players?

The Classic Game Room HD Review Atari 2600 Home Run - If they called it "Over The Line" or "Pickle" it would have been a better description.

Curt Vendel has added some new stuff to the AtariMusem.com site:
-Pictures and some descriptions of his Atari Corp  document, blueprint, etc cataloging project.
- The pre-release issue of Atari Connection Magazine (circa 1981) was added to the archives.
-New an interesting Jaguar docs including the payment amounts to game developers and  a licensing agreement to use Jaguar tech in set top boxes.

Here is one of the numerous reports that quoted Nolan Bushnell as calling himself stupid for having sold the original Atari.

The ISO50 Blog's awesome set of "would-be" Atari design concepts.

The Music from Alternate Reality (The City)  for the Atari 800. It's as good as the Mule Music but a little more ethereal.

The SteelBerry Clones blog has a sweet Atari 8-bit demo scene piece of "zar jaz".

The Retroist provides Atari rainbow logo wall paper.

And finally, and absurd apology (via Gizmodo) on the screen of an Atari TT used to test Jaguar Games.  I wonder what the "transgression was...".

17Aug/100

The Future Of Web Games: The Google Chrome App Store

1Up.com is running a story from GDC Europe about the Google Chrome App Store.   From the details provided, it looks like Google has a real winner on their hands.  Here are the highlights from the article.

Google Chrome App Store

Launch Date: October 2010

Supported Technologies: Flash, HTML5/JavaScript, C++

Installation: Users "install" web apps on their device/machine.  Permissions are granted at install time.

Google's Cut: 5%

Store Features: Free and paid apps, free trials, subscriptions. No micro transactions (yet), but you can use other solutions or roll your.

Steps To Deploy Your Game

  1. Create a web based game
  2. Create a wrapper (manifest file with icons, metadata)
  3. Upload: Create pricing, description, add videos, etc.
  4. Publish

We are very excited about this.   8bitjeff is developing a strategy right now to put it through it's paces with a real-world test very soon.

Filed under: Uncategorized No Comments
17Aug/100

Games I’ll Play Again #3 – Flash Game Distribution and Mochi Reviews

I find it easier to get into my day if I play a few games first.  Digging through the Mochi Latest and Flash Game Distribution feed, here are some games that were good or bad enough for me to want to take a second look (at some ethereal unspecified future date).

Deep Diver (FGD) (83% Retrotastic) - A well made arcade / exploration game with mellow music (I was almost lulled to sleep by the long intro and the music, but it is a great game for kids)

Crazy Race Arena 2 (FGD) (85% Retrotastic) - An ambitious (if slightly flawed) first person 3D "smash-em-up derby game". This took some technical wizardry.

Cork Blaster (Mochi) (65% Retrotastic) - This isn't a deep game, you simply try to shoot the corks off the tops of bottles, but if you miss and shoot the bottles it makes a satisfying explosion. That's enough to get me excited this morning.

Zombie Miner (Mochi) (80 % Retrotastic) - Well made, fun little mining game (shoot to grab treasure from the top of the screen style) with a Zombie(?) theme.

Paint Man (Mochi) (65% Retrotastic) - Better than it looks 8-bit (or even 4-bit) style game.  It's hard to explain, so watch the tutorial.

Cavity Crusade (Mochi) (88% Retrotastic) - I was getting bored and ready to stop reviewing games, but then this gem came along. Shoot the baddies and save the teeth.

Space Mission (Mochi) (75% Retrotastic) - There are both English and Spanish versions of this little arena / avoider game. Not incredible, but it was fun for a few plays a little unique.

Soviet Conquest (Mochi) (75% Retrotastic) - Hmm, I don't know about this one, but I would try it out again. You don't find too many traditional war games on Mochi. if I have time I will come back...

Oil Spill Escape - (Mochi) (82% Retrotastic) - Very well crafted little side-scroller where you avoid the gulf oil spill.

17Aug/100

8bitsteve Interviews Steven Levy, Author Of The Classic Computer Industry Book: “Hackers”

Steven Levy is one of my heroes.  He's genius author who has the rare ability of making technology subject not only palatable, but down-right fascinating.   He has written tons of great books, and written for magazines such as Wired and Newsweek. Steven Levy's book, Hackers: Heroes Of The Computer Revolution is one of the best books ever written about technology.  It is one the required reading list for 8bitrocket.com

I caught-up with Steven today, and he was kind enough to answer a few questions.

8bitsteve: "Hackers" is one of the classic books about the computer industry.   When you started the project, did you have any idea of the impact it would have when it was finished?

Steven Levy: I did understand when I was working on the book that I was trying to tell an important story.  When the book came out it didn't take off right away, so I had no idea that it would eventually find such a great and wide audience.

8bitsteve: Have you kept-up with any of the principal characters in "Hackers" over the past three decades? (Steve Russell, Ken Williams, John Harris, etc.)?

Steven Levy: Of the ones you mention, I have had sporadic contact with Ken.   The ones I see more often are Lee Felsenstein and, some of the Apple people. And Bill Gates, of course, who is part of my regular journalism beat.   I run into a few of the MIT people, too.  It was good to check in on Greenblatt and Stallman for the update.

8bitsteve: Do you think the book  "Hackers" can have the same impact today they might have had just 15 years ago?  Are there three "Hackers" you would write about now, given the chance?

Steven Levy: This is a time of groundbreaking changes, and there are great stories to tell.  Of course the way to do this would not be to emulate "Hackers" but deal with a narrative of today on its own terms.   As for the people I would write about now, I think a major story of our time is Google, particularly on the nexus of its aspirations, its technical philosophy, and the way its leaders handle the impact of their products on the public.  That's the book I'm just finishing now.

8bitsteve: What is your perspective on the whole "Apple vs. Adobe vs Google" situation?  Where do you think Microsoft sits in all this?

Steven Levy: Well, Microsoft will do anything it can do mess  up Google.  In general, the competitive triangle of Apple, Google and MS is a juicier tale than "Twilight."  I talked about this a bit in the Wired cover about the iPad.

8bitsteve: Can you tell us something about what the latest  project you have been working on?

Steven Levy: As above, a substantial book about Google, out early next year.  I was given extraordinary access to its people.   I think it's the closest thing I've written to "Hackers."

8bitsteve: What did you think about the 2010 "25th Anniversary" Edition Of Hackers?

Steven Levy: I was thrilled to have a new version out from O'Reilly and hope it can find a new generation of readers--as well as re-readers who have lost their original copies.

We'd like to thank Steven for taking time away from writing to answer these questions.  Check out the new version of Hackers  here.

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