8bitrocket.com
24Nov/100

Silverlight Apps For The Xbox Live Arcade? They May Come Soon.

Earlier this year we predicted that Microsoft would start to focus Silverlight on their own platforms as it loses ground to HTML5.  Well, this recent story on Wired.com points to towards that predictions becoming a reality.   Tim Carmody or wired.com says:

"It feels like a smart move. Xbox 360 is Microsoft’s most successful gaming and entertainment device. It brings content to the biggest screen in the house.

Extending Silverlight extends the range and variety of what that content might look like, and would allow Microsoft to bring products to the market faster. Having that versatility at the very moment when other companies are struggling for a foothold in the living room, and the shape and scope of computing in that space is up for grabs, could be a powerful advantage."

So do we now have another viable RIA web platform that targets a whole subset of screens and devices?  We here at 8bitrocket.com have always thought highly of Silverlight.  Maybe with version 5.0 coming out, the technology's time (and niche) has finally arrived

Filed under: Silverlight No Comments
23Nov/100

What Can Be Made In 16K? Atari 5200 16K ROM Games

Here is some 16K inspirations for you.  The following are videos of some Atari 5200 games made in 16K or less.  The ROMs for these games fit on a 16K cart.  the games used the plethora of hardware features available for the Atari 8-bit line of computers (hardware sprites, 4-voice audio, display lists, etc.)  They are akin to the types of features you would find in a Flash, Silverlight, etc. player.   This should give you some idea of what the game programmers from the 80's were able to squeeze into 16K while using the resources of the platform available to them.

Gyruss

Q-Bert

20Nov/100

Indie, Web , Flash, Retro Game Development Interweb Mash-up

Here is the "mash-up" for this week. I have had a little time to visit some of my favorite blogs, magazine sites, retro message boards and more. There are some reviews of games and our second ever portal review (at the request of the owner, so don't go thinking I have time to seek out portals and pick on them...they asked for it).

Wired picks on "Fremium" games. I couldn't agree more. How did it come to this crap being the only way to make big bucks in  games?

Is the future of gaming REALLY cloud rendered titles fed to your cigarette carton sized portable console via the interbaun?  I'm not sure about this one either, but it sounds kind of cool.

If you sponsor games and you have not put in a bid on the ridiculously awesome Cat Astro Phi by Photonstorm's Richard Davey (fellow Jeff Minter and Atari ST super fan), what are you waiting for? Look for an in-depth review as soon as someone with much more money that us can give it the sponsorship it deserves.

What the "f" is the Hellstrom project? Why should you care? Because these guys (Gamingyourway.com) are geniuses, that's why.  It looks awesome.

Can you win the 8bitrocket.com 16K Retro Inspired Atari Re-make contest?

Flash Game Portal Review: Addicting2games.com

The owner of the game portal called Addicting2games.com emailed to ask if we would review his site. I don't normally review gaming sites, but I figured this time that I would give him some public feedback and also leave it open to anyone else who wants to comment.

The good:
The site looks clean with an simple layout and nice easy to find game menus. There is a wide selection of games.

The Bad:
Many of the games and categories might violate multiple copyrights / trademarks. You probably  should not have the word Barbie or Bratz, or any other trademarked name in your menu unless you have specific rights to use those names. You could be looking at some trouble if you do things like this and it gets noticed.

There are a lot of ads. Now, I don't disparage someone making money, so this not a big problem usually, but on this site a actually had trouble finding the games because there were so many clicks to get to them. When you click on a game, the page shows an ad with a text link underneath to click to open a pop-up to play the game.  This was a cumbersome, to say the least, way to start a game.

The Question Marks:
I played about 6 different games and I saw the "Ads By Google" pre-loader on most.  I didn't see any Mochi ads, even on games like Bloons, which I thought were Mochi exclusives. Now, this might not be a problem at all. I have no idea what rights the owner has to the games on his site. I didn't find any of my Pac-man style games under his "Classic Pac-man Games"  list so I can't personally say whether or not the ads in these games are legal.

But I did find a HUGE problem. Stolen games. There is a game on the site in the "driving" section that is a stolen Hot Wheels game. How do I know? I worked on the HotWheels.com  site when it was created. The name of the game on this site is "No Brakes", but the real name is "Brakeless".   I also found s stolen "Hot Wheels Modifighters" game that I personally added the web trends  tags to. This game links off the "Car Parking Games.net" so I have no idea what is really going on here.

Conclusion:
This site has potential, but will need to focus on more original content and a way to keep users returning to be a major success.

Games I'll Play Again

Alloy Tengu - A stupendously well crafted and fun scrolling "arena" style shooter. This is a little like a combination of Asteroids, Bosconian, and Geometry Wars combined with Ace's humours sensibilities.
85% Retrotastic

Eagle Mini Golf - A very well crafted Mini-Golf game with greens that are HUGE and fun. The controls take a few minutes to understand, but then get set for an awesome fun time playing.
89% Retrotastic

The Nokkians 2:  Play this awesome retro side/top-down/down-up/sideways...every-which-way scrolling shooter and you'll love the hell out of it like I did.
89% Retrotastic

Hostage Crisis: 8-bit, tile based, scrolling world adventure / action / shooter with style in droves that I can't wait to play again....need I say more?
88% Retrotastic

Some Retro Stuff

An awesome collection of old articles about arcade video games (1980 - 1998).
I especially enjoyed this one on the secrets of Asteroids, and this one on Ms. Pac-Man.

Totally Off-Topic
If you do indeed park like an asshole then you might find yourself on this site. If you find some who does, take a photo and send it in.

(8bitjeff is Jeff D. Fulton)

19Nov/100

The Mac / Flash Develop / Parallels decision…sort of

For the last 30 days (according to the Flash Builder 4 trial countdown) I have been trying to get FB4 on the Mac (in conjunction with Flash CS5) to work as well as my Flash Develop / Flash CS3 in Windows did for years. I have now really given Flash Builder a good tire kick, and while it is not bad at all, it simply cannot compare to Flash Develop for my needs.   I'm going to need to have a copy of FB4  around to work on those big / multi-developer  projects that come up every now and then, but for every day use I need to look else where.

For me, FB4 is kind of like the girl you date and take to all the wild punk rock shows and 70's retro parties. She's always dressed to impress, but there is something about her that makes you know she will not be around for the long haul. She's much more complicated then she should be, and you never seems to actually listen to anything you are saying.  She's really got more game than you need and you can't keep someone like that caged up, or expect them to be reliable when you need them the most. Flash Develop, on the other hand, is perfectly content watching a little tv, playing some X-Box, and going out for some good food. When you need her to recognize your custom classes and static consts, she is right there where you need her. She can also debug and re-factor with the best of them. She may not have that sexy "profiler" costume that is all slinky and skin tight for halloween, but she certainly has quality, looks great where it counts and understands your class "packages" better than anyone else...

Ok, enough of that mixed metaphor, but you get the point (I think).

About a month ago, my Parallels 5 installation in Windows XP started to act up. My Flash Develop projects would not be recognized on my Mac disks and it slowed down my entire system to have it running at the same time as Snow Leopard and my new Mac Flash CS5 install.  I had to make the painful decision to simply turn off Windows XP and start to become a full Mac user...after 2 years, the training wheels where about to come off.

So, over the last month I have only used XP one or 2 times, which is certainly a record low for me. Without a day job that demands constant use of MS Office and Outlook as well as shitty home-grown corporate applications that demand IE 6 (yes, you read that right) I was able to make it those 30 days without really missing Windows...but I certainly missed 2 things: My old Fireworks 8 install (a story for another day), and Flash Develop. Both are classics in simplicity and ease of use. Neither is bloated and both do exactly what I want.

So, now not completely frustrated with FB4, but missing my old friend, Flash Develop, I booted into XP in parallels to try it once again. It booted very slow and then asked me to update everything, run virus scans, etc because it had been so long. After the inevitable 45 minute slog through those tasks I set make this baby stable:

Hard Drive and Memory Thrashing

The VM and Mac OS seemed to be fighting over memory and this was causing the disks to thrash about looking for virtual memory to use in place of physical. I had the XP VM set to use 2GB of the 4 total, so I set this to 1GM and pretty soon things started to settle down a bit.

Flash Develop

When I last saw my old friend, Flash Develop, she no longer looked her old self. She had added some new features such in-line code hinting and a  full debugging suite, but those fancy new features seemed to have gone to her head a bit. When I asked her if she would kindly open a project file stored on my Mac User partition, sadly, she refused. This problem caused me to have to keep multiple versions of my project directory so I could use the Snow Leopard Flash CS5 to create assets that published to my correct build folders (thus, making the asset pipeline as streamlined as possible).

Solving this problem was crucial for me to start using Flash Develop again in conjunction with my Flash CS5 install.  After relieving the memory thrashing I tried to create a new project targeting one of the Mac personal folders that is backed up with Time Machine. The project was created, but right as it was complete, Flash Develop gave mea path error. When I looked at the folder, the project was there, but Flash Develop inconsistently opened and recognized the file.

My next step was to download the latest version of Flash Develop. These new versions actually install the Flex SDK and Debug Flash player for you, so I was extra pleased with the install. When I tried to create a new project though, I got the same mixed response. When time is of the essence, mixed results in file and disk access just won't cut it.  My only choice was to pay the $56 upgrade price (including extended download service) for Parallels 6 and try it with Windows 7.

(I skipped telling you about the lack of success with Windows XP and Parallels 6, so no need to ask).

Parallels 6 and Windows 7 Success!

Parallels 6 was able to create a VM from my bootcamp Windows 7 partition in about 3 minutes. After the installation, I had to wait for the updates to the OS, security software, Java, Adobe Acrobat, and everything else before I could move on. It seems I had not booted into Windows 7 in at least 3 months. In any case, when this was complete,  I installed the latest version of Flash Develop and held my breath. I created a project by finding my Mac user folders in My Computer and it worked flawlessly.

Parallels 6 even has handy Mac User folder icons in the Windows 7 desktop that I can use to map short cuts to and place in the "favorites" section of the My Computer left-side panel. This makes it easy to load and save to and from my Time-machine backed up user folders.

What's next?

I have 3 projects on my plate that I am going to build with this new system. My hope it to test of the speed of this asset/code code pipe-line to see if it works the way it should. My hope is that Windows 7 will not get in the way and it will still work that way I need it to.

Fingers crossed...

19Nov/100

Announcing the 8bitrocket 16K Retro Re-make Contest ** Small Rule Update

Note (12/8/2010): The Prize package has been extended and the end date moved to December 19th at 11:59Pm PST.

Note (11/19/2010): We have modified the rules slightly to help with file size issues. The HTML wrapper file will not longer count in the 16K total.  See below for details.

To salute the revitalization of Atari, and to coincide with the release of The Atari Collection volume 1 for the Nintendo DS, we are happy to announce a little game development contest open to any  web playable game made with Flash, Silverlight, Java, HTML5, DHTML, CSS, Multimedia Fusion, or any other platform that can be easily played via a web browser.  As long as it can be embedded/or played via  an HTML page  it can be submitted to the contest.

The idea is to pick any game released for any Atari console or computer and create a re-make version in 16K or less. You cannot use the original graphics, sounds or even name of the game (for legal reasons) in your creation, but you get to say which game inspired the re-make.

All games must be submitted to info[at]8bitrocket[dot]com by midnight December 19th (right before December 20th begins) Pacific Standard Time.   Please send us a zip file that contains a "web publishable" folder that includes everything needed to play your game (aside from the browser plug-in).  Please tell us  the name of the game you are re-making and give us a brief description of why you chose this particular game.

We only want the executable and all assets needed to post to a web page.  We do not need any source code, or any raw assets or anything else.  Obviously, if the game is for a "non-pre-compiled" platform ( Javascript for example) then we will need the source code or at least an obfuscated version that plays properly. If your game requires a specific plug-in, please let us know. The plug-in is considered part of the platform and will not be counted in the size of the publishable code.

The entire set of publishable files for the game (not counting the HTML file needed to display the game) must fit in a folder that is 16K or less (calculated in Windows 7).  There are some variances in folder sizing between operating systems, so we will standardize on the on the Windows 7 calculations. If you submit your game and we find it to be too big, we will let you know and have a chance to update the size up until the end date for the contest.  We must be able to play your game from the folder you provide. We will not adjust any files in the folder, so if you publish a Flash SWF (for instance), please include the  HTML wrapper that will play your game (although it will not count against your 16K total). If you are using HTML5, then please keep your game .js separate from the HTML wrapper file). By doing this, we feel that web publishable technologies will be on even footing. Also, you cannot link to external files outside of the folder. For example, a 1k shell file that actually links to an off-site 1MB Java Jaguar emulator to play Iron Soldier 2 would not fit the spirit or the rules of the contest.

We will be testing all games with on a machine that is not connected to the Internet just to be sure that no off-site loading is baked into the compiled code. It is up to our discretion who is an who is not participating within the "spirit of the contest" or rules.  That being said, you would have to make an egregious faux pas to not have your game accepted. Just don't be an ass and everything will be fine.  If you have any questions as to what fits the spirit or rules, please ask us.

By submitting to the contest you are agreeing to allow us to display your game on our site for (at least) one week for voting purposes only. We must do this to ensure that all playable games are within the size regulations and to allow registered users to vote for their favorite game. Everyone who is registered on the site is allowed to vote a single time for the game of their choice. That will be 1/3 of the criteria needed to win. Both Steve and I will also get to vote and our votes each count for 1/3.

We will retain absolutely no license to the submitted games. If requested, we will delete any game from the contest review page once the contest has completed. We will replace the deleted game with a link to an external site if the game developer desires. Also, when the contest is over we will personally post a review of each entry on the site.

We are not looking for games to steal, sponsor, rip-off, or in any way take advantage of. We simply want to play some bitchen Atari retro-remakes in 16K (or under) of modern code. We will not surround your games with ads  or anything else because we will be using the game display page that YOU submit.  There won't be any ads on the individual game pages at all (unless you somehow fit your game and your own ad on your game display page). So, yes, if you really want to have Mochi ads (for example) in your game, you can, but your game and all of the ad code must fit in the 16k folder and your game must be playable from a non-connected machine. We are not doing this for any monetary gain our our part, just for the fun of it, but there are prizes for the winner...

Prizes:  There will be one main prize package given to the best game.
The Package Includes:

1. Atari' Greatest Hits: Volume 1 for the Nintendo DS

3. The Icarus Kid CD - retro inspired music by the master himself!

3.  A physical copy of our book,  The Essential Guide To Flash Games

4. Clint Herron has graciously offered a license for his Platformer Starter Kit as an an additional prize for the contest.

Clint’s product is a full featured development kit for use with the Push-Button Engine. You can see a demo that includes many different examples of the games that can be produced using the kit here: http://hanclinto.com/site/index.php/demo

Read more: 8bitrocket 16K Contest Update: New Prize Added! | 8bitrocket http://www.8bitrocket.com/2010/12/01/8bitrocket-16k-contest-update-new-prize-added/#ixzz18gCULPei

5. Richard Davey and his wonderful new game, Cat Astro Phi have become an official sponsor of the contest. Richard has graciously added a copy of the masterpiece soundtrack to this game to the prize package.

6. A Snap! Classic Arcades PC game CD collection including: a copy of Atari Warlords for the PC , a copy of Atari Millipede for the PC , a copy of Atari Crystal Castles for the PC , a copy of Atari Combat! (90's remake from Hasbro).

7. The immeasurable prestige and honor of winning the first 8bitrocket.com 16K Retro Game Remake Contest.

8. Any other retro inspired prize donated by organizations and/or groups who would like their retro related product associated with amazing developers working their magic into 16K. (hint, email us big guys)

-Steve Fulton (8bitsteve), Jeff Fulton (8bitjeff)

14Nov/100

Review: Atari Greatest Hits Volume 1 For The Nintendo DS

Playing retro games is much adu about nuance.   If the little things do not feel "right", the overall game is usually failure, no matter how much effort went into recreating the past.  Nuances are much more than graphics: they also come in the form  timing,  sound design, responsiveness to controls, and  other intangible details that make-up a whole product.

Atari retro game collections usually fail on the nuances.  The worst offender of this was Atari Retro Classics for the DS, and updated, "re-imagined" graffiti mess that lost nearly everything in the translation.   Atari has attempted to make amends for this 5 year old mistake with Atari Greatest Hits Volume 1 for the DS, a straight ahead emulated retro collection like we have not seen from Atari in many years.

Here is a video that shows this new title:

I've been playing Atari Greatest Hits Volume 1 for an entire week now.   I have to admit, my first reaction was "huh?" .  I love Atari and Atari games, but at first glance, this pack appears to have included an entirely random selection of games.    The title includes 9 arcade games, and about 40 VCS games that cross all genres and with dates that stretch from 1972 (Pong - Arcade) through 1988 (Sprintmaster -2600).  Since Atari released 100's of games from 1971-1996, you can see that this is in no way a definitive collection.

When I think of the Atari 2600, I think of games that changed my world when I played my 2600 in my formative years: Combat, Night Driver, Breakout, Circus Atari, Street Racer, Canyon Bomber, Space Invaders,  and Yar's Revenge, just to name a few.   None of these classics are included in this package.   It's obvious that these are saved for a volume 2, but that is a bit presumptuous of Atari, as I'm sure this title needs to sell well before that project is greenlit.

The included arcade games fare much better, as the choices appear to make sone kind of sense.  The pack includes the "big 5" of Asteroids, Battlezone, Missile Command, Centipede and Tempest.   It also includes the aforementioned Pong, Lunar Lander, Gravitar and Space Duel.  However, let's start with the VCS games, as they are probably the reason most people will pick-up this package.

I will start by saying that the Atari 2600 emulation appears to be spot-on.  You are given the chance to configure all of the 2600 console controls (difficulty, select, reset, etc). before each game starts.  You are also give a description of the features of each game variation, which is extremely useful since most original atari 2600 games had dozens of variations, all of which were described only in the instruction manual.  The controls of each game are easily emulated on the DS using the control pad and buttons.  Most two player games have been opened-up for multi-player on the multiple DS machines, which is a great added feature.

The game selection falls into a few categories that I have defined myself:

9Nov/100

Active.Tutsplus HTML5/RIA Roundup Includes Our Thoughts

Active.TutsPlus.com recently ran an article about HTML5 that rankled a few feathers among developers.  Their intentions were good, but the result was not what they intended. Instead of crying foul, or simply defending themselves, they went out and asked some industry people to comment on HTML5/Flash/Silverlight.  We were honored be asked to provide our opinion on the subject.  You can read the article here: HTML5, Flash and RIAs: 18 Industry Experts Have Their Say .

Filed under: Uncategorized No Comments
8Nov/100

Microsoft Kinect Day 4: Lightsaber Dreams

So I have to admit, one of the reasons I bought a Wii on release day was the because I thought it would be a perfect platform to finally play a Star Wars game with a lightsaber. Ever since I flailed aimlessly with my mouse trying to play the PC game Jedi Knight, I've wanted to find a way to play a game that included lightsaber battles that more closely resembled a real battle. The original Wii-mote simply could not replicate anything in 3D space, so that Wii dream died sometime in cold winter of 2006. Last year, the Wii Motion Plus promised a real sword-fighting game, and we got a couplee...kind of, with both Red Steel 2 and Wii sports Resort. Will both were fun, but they were still not Star Wars.

Yesterday while playing "Fitness Evolved" on the Kinect, I stopped between exercises, and just for the fun of it, posed like a Jedi holding a light saber. No one was awake to see me (thank God). I swung my hands in sword fighting motion, and my swing was replicated very nicely by my on screen avatar. This got me thinking: would a Star Wars game really work with Kinect? How could it work without holding anything in your hands? Sony's Move's claims to solve this problem with the colored balls on their controllers, but that's Sony, and I don't plan to but another system any time soon. Kinect does such a good job of making you feel like you are "in" the game, and replicating your movements, it seems like a loss not not have a controller to "hold" while playing a Star Wars game.

A quick search of the interbaun found this: Kinect games will scan objects in the future. Here's quote from Microsoft Kinect guru Kudo Tsunoda:

It’s not like we’re trying to take controllers out of the equation [..] games that involve both controllers and Kinect as well are totally possible. [...] That’s one of the unique things about the Xbox platform: we can do controllers; we can do controllers with Kinect, which is more than just motion control, it has voice and human recognition as well.

- Kudo Tsunoda

So, does this mean we will get a lightsaber (functional or not) to swing with a Kinect Star Wars game? There is already a game on the horizon, could this be the holy grail for prospective Jedi? Would having an object to hold while playing as a Jedi make the game feel that much better? It's been 23 years since the Atari gave us the true feeling of destroying the Death Star for the first time with their sit-down arcade game. Now, do we finally get to be Luke, Obi Wan and Darth Vader too? It's almost too good to consider. Personally, I feel that the company that finally does a Star Wars game the right way with motion-control, will be THE winner. With Kinect's superior camera technology, and their ability to track objects and use controllers at the same time, I think Microsoft may just have the edge they are looking for.

8Nov/100

Kinect Day 3 : 5:00 AM Workout, plus Detecting All sizes

So I'm on to day #3 of my Microsoft Kinect adventure (not to be confused with Microsoft's Kinect Adventures, the pack-in game).    I got up at 5:00 AM this morning to test out my ability to make use of "Fitness Evolved" before the rest of the family woke-up.   I was able to get the 360 and Kinect up and running in just a couple minutes.  Since I did not have to find and/or check/replace the batteries of Wii-mote, Nunchuck and Balance Board, the process was far quicker than the last time I tried this with Wii Fit Plus.  By 5:05 I was into the the Gym Games, and moving fast.

The block breaking game is still the most compelling, but the other mini-games are certainly appealing to me more and more as I play them.  I went through all of the multiple times,  By 5:40, my middle daughter had woken up, and she came down to play too.     One great thing about Kinect is that it tries (and mostly succeeds) to automatically identify anyone who enters the "play space".  Instead of having to go through a cumbersome character  switch, she was up and playing the block balancing game very quickly.

Later in the morning my other two daughters arrived, and they started playing Kinect Adventures in earnest.  One of them is four ,and the other is twelve.  There is maybe, a 2 foot difference in height between them. Still, Kinect responded to their movements without fail.   Especially good for little kids is the "stop the leaks" game because they can flail around and still be successful.  My wife commented that it was the first time she has seen the two girls play anything together for any length of time.  She was right,  I had not realized that before.  Such much for being an "observant" dad, eh?

Even later in the morning, when the Kinect was back in my hands (or that is, I was back in Kinect's hands) I noticed that there was demo for "Kinect Joy Ride" on the "Kinect Adventures" disc.  I loaded it up, a bit skeptical of the driving game because you only steer and do stunts, you don't control the speed.   However, the game was surprisingly enjoyable.  I was espscially struck by how kids would be able to play it , simply by mimicking driving a car by pretending to hold the steering wheel, the same thing they might do anyway.

So as day #3 closed, I felt very pleased with Kinect.  I appears that Microsoft has done a very good job of getting little kids into the fray, almost the same way Wii got older adults to play video games.   The jury is still out on the rest of the games.  I have one more I'm holding back until Thanksgiving, but if the girls like it enough, there may be more for Xmas.

6Nov/100

Microsoft Kinect Day 2: Punching And Kicking My Way to 180 lbs With No Excuses.

Day 2 of Microsoft Kinect has been spent playing Ubi Soft's "Your Shape Fitness Evolved" which would be the most metrosexual game imaginable if it was not for all concentration on hitting stuff.  There might be all kinds of workouts and training classes in this thing, but I would not know because I've spent most of my time punching, kicking evil  green blocks as fast as possible.

The mini-game section of this title has some really enjoyable stuff, and the best two best games involve the aforementioned violence against green blocks , and also balancing blocks just like one of Flash stacking games....except you do it with your arms.    This thing is very addictive.  I believe I will have dreams tonight of how to attack those green blocks faster and faster.

My goal is to reach 180 lbs by using this thing every day.  I tried the same thing with Wii Fit, Wii Fit Plus, and EA Sports Active, but all those games suffered from one fatal flaw:  The Wii.  Yep, both the wires that tether the controls, and the Wii balance board got in the way of my exercise.  Kinect offers almost total freedom, so I have no excuses this time

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