8bitrocket.com
28Dec/110

My Interview With Johnny Wilson (CGW) Live on GameCareerGuide.com

A few months back I got the urge to catch-up with Johnny Wilson, the long-time editor of Computer Gaming World.  I do this from time-to-time.  I get nostalgic about old games or magazines, and then attempt to look-up some of the personalities and get them to speak on record about their time in the spotlight.

I had never met Mr. Wilson before, but I've read his book (High Score), and I was a fan of his work for many years.   It seems that so many of the original thought-leaders in the video and computer game world have moved away, and I wanted to know why Wilson himself had "gone underground" and moved away from industry.

The interview presented at GameCareerGuide.com is only about 1/2 of interview I conducted with Wilson.   In a few weeks I'll post the entire thing.  It's a very enlightening look into the field of computer games and computer game journalism from one of the pioneers in the field.

Go on over and read the story here: http://www.gamecareerguide.com/features/1031/a_chat_with_former_cgw_head_johnny_.php

 

-8bitsteve

Filed under: Interviews No Comments
27Dec/110

spaceport.io Takes some of the Pain Out of HTML5 Game Development By Helping you convert AS3 to HTML5

Wow, it's getting hard to keep track of all the exciting new APIs, SDKs and platforms emerging for HTML5 game development!

We just took a look at Ben Savage's spaceport.io project today, and it looks really interesting.       There is both an SDK that helps you to convert AS3 games to native mobile apps, and one that helps you build apps from scratch.

The key here is that the software helps with converting AS3 games to native mobiles games, providing better performance than Flash running on those platforms.

If you are interested in how it works, there is a slide presentation that shows you all the gory details.

Here are some highlights:

  • Includes a native renderer built in C++ and  openGL for iOS and Android (basically they recreated the Flash player  on those platforms)
  • Can take a binary .swf and automatically convert it in seconds
  • Includes 4 levels of code hiding/obfuscation to that makes the code at least as hard to decipher as a .swf
  •  The software is free, but there is a licensing fee if your game generates more than $10k in revenue.
  • Code can be automatically updated from their servers, allowing for automatic updates around the app store model.
A couple caveats
  • The conversion is *not* automatic, so some rejiggering of the code might be necessary, but it gets you most of the way there in converting AS3 to HTML5
  • Games use Spaceport's native formats, so after conversion you are tied to their service
  • Since this is a "service" getting clients to accept using it might be a difficult task.
  • The project does not appear finished yet, but you can get started now converting AS3 to JavaScript
  • We are not sure if they use the Canvas or not, but from this story it appears that Ben appreciates it, however we could only see CSS mentioned in the docs.

We plan to test it out with an AS3 game soon.

25Dec/110

Atari Nerd Chronicles: The Best Christmas Ever


clip_image001.jpg

 

Although I had no idea in early 1981, my brother and I were video game obsessed twins on a collision-course with the pinnacle of ultimate geekdom: computer ownership.    We both loved arcade games and owned an Atari 2600 that we played constantly.  We spent all of our money on Electronic Games magazine, arcade tokens, and Atari cartridges.    In the course of our many adventures searching for good, cheap video game thrills, we stumbled across a store named HW Computers.   HW was part of a chain established among the first wave of computer stores.  The shop was a mish-mash of t-shirted techies,  cheap business-suited sales guys, IBM clones, Apple IIs, and walls of elaborately shaped boxes of software and games.   We were there looking for the 2600 versions of Asteroids and Space Invaders, but instead we found something better...something amazing to me at the time.  In a glass case HW computers had a display if one most beautiful creations I had ever witnessed: an Atari 800 computer and 810 Disk Drive.    Atari made computers?  We had no idea!  We picked-up a catalog of Atari software, left the store, and our passion for computers was born.

Over the next two years, my brother and I schemed and scouted all avenues possible to obtain the pinnacle of our childhood dreams: an Atari computer.   Knowing how expensive computers were at the time, and how little money my parents had, we knew we were going to have to be mighty creative in our endeavors if were ever going to see our plans come to fruition.   The first thing we did was to educate ourselves.  We poured-over the software catalog from HW, drinking in every game description with complete wonderment over what the experience might hold.  Titles like Energy Czar, Temple Of Apshai, and Star Raiders had us drooling with excitement.    We checked-out books on basic programming from the library, learning line numbers, loops, gotos, gosubs, plot and color statements.    Soon we were fashioning our own programs on notebook and graph paper, designing games and graphics, and anything else we could think of.  We had no way to test-out our ideas, but that didn't stop us from imagining the possibilities of what a computer could do.  Still, being able to program a computer did not mean we would ever have one.  If our plan was going to work, we would have to start really working on getting a machine into our house.
image2

 

Our first chance came in the summer of 1982.   MacDonald's had an Atari Video Game 'Scratch And Win' contest, giving away 1000's of Atari products, including 5200's and Atari computers.  We resigned ourselves to win the contest.  That summer, in between stints at the arcade that offered '8-tokens for a dollar', we would haunt the local MacDonald's, looking for discarded game-cards on the ground, and braving old Big Macs and soggy fries as we searched the trash cans in and outside the restaurant.   Out of the 100's of game-cards we found, none of them were Atari winners.     The best we did was to win fries and Cokes, but we were too disgusted by MacDonald's food by that time to eat any of it.    As the summer passed, so did the Atari computer dreams, and by the time we were back in school the idea was pushed-back, but not forgotten, as 7th grade got under-way.

In early 1983, Atari announced a new line of low-cost computers.  The XL line consisted of the 600XL and 800XL replacements for the Atari 400 and 800 respectively.  Both had sleek new designs, (straight-edges replaced the space-age curves of the older machines) with BASIC built-in.     They certainly were not as beautiful or engaging as their older counterparts, but they were much cheaper and this fact alighted our dreams once more.   At the time, our dad had been working overtime at Hughes Aircraft with a new computerized CAD/CAM system.   Without any knowledge of our computer obsession, he started coming home and bestowing upon us his wisdom about the virtues of this new computer system, and how computers were going to change everything.    Our father had a degree in Fine Art from Syracuse University, and after spending 20 years trying to land a decent job, he knew the value of not wasting a college education.   He warned us constantly that we would 'end up on skid row' if we wasted our education and didn't find a skill that was sellable.   At the same time, he constantly complained about his job, and told how most of our work lives would be spent 'dealing with boredom'.   As well, with his overtime work, he seemed to have a bit more cash on-hand than usual.   My brother and I decided it was time to tell him about the Atari Computers we have been coveting.

Our dad was blown-away by our enthusiasm on the subject.  We showed him the books we checked-out, the programs we had written, and the catalogs and magazines we had about Atari.  We swept him up in our computer dream, telling him about how we could grow-up to be programmers (a sellable skill) and not be bored with work (because computers were cool!).   He bought ever word.   He had no idea his kids were so interested in something so technical and modern.  With little coaxing, he joined us in our quest to make the 'Atari Computer Dream' a reality, and even better, he wanted to do it by Christmas.

 

image3

In the months that led-up to Christmas 1983 we made attack plans on just how we would make the Atari Computer plan a success.  We listed all the things we would need:  800XL, 1050 Double Sided Disk Drive, a box of 10 blank disks, and a color TV for output.   My dad took care of the color TV by setting us up with a refurbished one he built from taking night classes on television repair.     We kept looking for the best prices on the Atari machines.  Every week we would check the ads in the Recycler, and take a trip to Fedco and Gemco to see if a shipment of 800XL's had arrived.   In the Autumn of 1983, the Atari XL computers became one of the best-selling lines in the world.    Simply finding an 800XL was becoming a problem.   As the weeks before Christmas turned into days, the outlook became bleaker and bleaker, as there were none to be found in any stores.

On Christmas Eve, we still had no computer purchased, and all hope seemed lost.   We took one last trip to Fedco, just for the hell-of-it.     It was Friday December 24th, and it just-so-happened to be the same day Fedco finally received their first shipment of Atari 800XL computers.  We were amazed, and dazed. Our dream of almost 3 years was coming true, and on Christmas!   My brother and I ran around the aisles, gleefully picking out everything we needed.   However, our father was not as enthusiastic.  He looked quite shocked that the store had anything in stock, almost like he had planned to find nothing there.   In fact, he looked rather glum.   As we dashed around the store, he finally got up the nerve to give us the news he had been holding back.   There would be no Atari 800XL this year.  He did not have enough overtime-pay to buy one.  We would have to wait even longer.

Devastated, my brother and I went home and sulked.  Christmas was ruined, and there was nothing we could do.  We both wished our dad had never latched-onto our plan, as it only raised our hopes only to dash them in the worst way possible.    However, church and family added some spirit back, and soon we got caught-up in the evening.   It was Christmas by God, and it would still be fun, as it always was.   Since the holiday fell on a Saturday that year, we would have two full weeks to play with whatever toys we received.   Even without a computer, we still might get some Atari or Vectrex games, and that couldn't be all bad.  Sleep that night was tough though. All the pent-up energy and feelings from years poured into twisted dreams about the Atari Computer Christmas gone-awry.  Asleep, awake, asleep, awake, with dreams in- between about what could-have-been: programming our Atari 800 XL, playing computer games all day long.

Christmas morning and the next two weeks are a complete blur in my mind.  For how precisely I remember the events that led-up to Christmas 1983, the events afterwards live in a state of suspended animation, where all memories seem to rest on-top of one another as if they all happened in tandem. My brother and I awoke, and things were just as my father had said.   There was no Atari 800 XL, and there was no Atari 1050 disk drive.   There were no shiny new computer games in elaborately shaped packages.  In their stead were two giant Atari Computer boxes, one for an Atari 800, and another for an Atari 810 disk drive.   Next to those was a box filled with books and two 5 ' inch floppy disk holders filled with disks.   Our father had not lied.  He could not afford a new Atari 800 XL,1050 disk drive or brand new computer games.   His buddy at work, Dave Elwood, had sold him an older Atari 800, with its beautiful curved design, an older model 810 disk drive, and all the software he had collected for 3 years.     It was like discovering The Lost Dutchman Mine when you thought you were on a trip to have your teeth pulled.

image4

My brother and I dived into that computer and all the riches it held and did not come-up for air until two weeks later when we had to go back to school.   We wrote programs, played games, and discovered everything we every wanted to know about owning our own computer.   Mr. Elwood had collected dozens of games, and we tried them all.   Every Zork adventure, every Scott Adams Adventure, all the Atari created arcade translations, Star Raiders, and tons of others.  We explored financial programs, graphics demos, the realms of the public domain, and everything in-between.  Nothing was off-limits, and everything was of the utmost interest.  It was the purest moment I ever knew as a child.   It was the joy of complete intellectual and sensory discovery.  The computer held the promise as a device that we could control, and meld into what we needed and wanted, and as an unlimited tool for learning and creating.

imkage5

20 years later, I still feel that way.   I may be older and grayer, with 100's of games played and 1000's of lines of code written behind me, but the discovery of that Christmas will never change.    My love of computers, programming, and games has grown and changed over the past two decades, but I now seem to be at a crossroads with it all.  In a time when 'Global Sourcing' threatens my job on a daily basis, and multi-million dollar soul-less video and computer games threaten to destroy my hobby,  I look back on that Christmas to remind me of the reasons why I still program computers for a living, and why I still play games.   There is always the hope of the next great discovery, be it technical, or the story of a great game that will make me say 'wow!' with a pure heart and no irony what-so-ever.   I seek to recall Christmas 1983, and to retain a tiny bit of that nerdy 13 year-old boy I once was: the one that believed, with computer in his hands, and a dream in his head, anything was within the realm of possibility.

23Dec/110

The 12 Years Of Atari Christmas 1981-1992

On Christmas '81 Atari gave to me,

a VCS under the Christmas tree

 

On Christmas '82 Atari gave to me,

two arcade conversions

and a VCS under the Christmas tree

 

On  Christmas '83 Atari  gave to me

three Swordquest titles

two arcade conversions

and a VCS under the Christmas tree

 

On Christmas '84 Atari gave to me

four  XL computers

three Swordquest titles

two arcade conversions

and a VCS under the Christmas tree

 

On Christmas '85 Atari gave to me

five TOS icons

four XL computers

three Swordquest titles

two arcade conversions

and a VCS under the Christmas tree

 

On Christmas '86 Atari gave to me

six peripherals

five TOS icons

four XL computers

three Swordquest titles

two arcade conversions

and a VCS under the Christmas tree

 

On Christmas '87 Atari gave to me

seven 7800's

six peripherals

five TOS icons

four XL computers

three Swordquest titles

two arcade conversions

and a VCS under the Christmas tree

 

On Christmas '88 Atari gave to me

eight games imported

seven 7800's

six peripherals

five TOS icons

four  XL computers

three Swordquest titles

two arcade conversions

and a VCS under the Christmas tree

 

On Christmas '89 Atari gave to me

nine Lynxes playing

eight games imported

seven 7800's

six peripherals

five TOS icons

four XL computers

three Swordquest titles

two arcade conversions

and a VCS under the Christmas tree

 

On Christmas '90 Atari gave to me

ten Federated Groups closing

nine Lynxes playing

eight games imported

seven 7800's

six peripherals

five TOS icons

four XL computers

three Swordquest titles

two arcade conversions

and a VCS under the Christmas tree

 

On Christmas '91 Atari gave to me

eleven Nintendo lawsuits

ten Federated Groups closing

nine Lynxes playing

eight games imported

seven 7800's

six peripherals

five TOS icons

four XL computers

three Swordquest titles

two arcade conversions

and a VCS under the Christmas tree

 

On Christmas '92 Atari gave to me

twelve Jaguar disappointments

eleven Nintendo lawsuits

ten Federated Groups closing

nine Lynxes playing

eight games imported

seven 7800's

six peripherals

five TOS icons

four XL computers

three Swordquest titles

two arcade conversions

and a VCS under the Christmas tree

23Dec/110

HTML5 Canvas Game: Tic Tac Pro Quack The Glass – Goes Gold

8bitrocket in conjunction with Producto Studios and in association with TicTacDontion.com is proud to announce the launch of our HTML5 Canvas only game targeted to work on ANY HTML5 browser platform (mobile or desktop).

8bitrocket and Producto Studios did all of the game programming in HTML5 and TicTacDonation.com  provided the game and asset design.

The game can be accessed by giving a $5 donation to a worthy cause (see web site for details).

Here are screen shots of the game. It was completed entirely in Flash first, then the assets were exported and code re-designed from AS3 to Javascript and the Canvas. There are some browers compatibility problems (especially with sound), but overall it was a very successful engineering effort.

 

Quack The Glass Title Page- HTML5 Canvas Text is tricky, so I left 3 lines for them to fill in as needed

 

Touch (finger) and browser (mouse) movement is slightly different, so they need to be both need to be handled properly.

It wouldn't be an 8bitrocket or Producto game production if we didn't find some place to add in particles effects to replace the delivered canned animations of feathers and glass breaking.

 

22Dec/110

Atari 80's Christmas Commercials (More Filler For A Slow Week)

Nothing brings back 8-bit Christmas memories like atrocious video game commercials from the 80's.  The funny is, we LOVED these commercials.   They represented the mainstream accepting our love of Atari and video games...at least that is how we thought about it.

Anyway, here are a couple for your viewing pleasure:

21Dec/110

Atari History Book Kickstarter Project Launches

By Jeff Fulton

Marty Goldberg and Curt Vendel have launched their Kickstarter.com project to help get their massive Atari History book project off the ground.  Here is a video about the project:

 

 

Filed under: Atari Nerd No Comments
20Dec/110

Image Gallery : From Altair To Nintendo : Christmas Themed Computer And Video Games Ads and Editorial Pages, 1975-1989

When I was growing up, getting into the Christmas spirit usually involved reading my favorite computer and video game magazines and paging through the special Christmas content created just for the holiday. Since the physical magazine era is quickly coming to a close, I thought we would salute the golden years of video and computer magazines with a gallery of Christmas themed computer and video game themed covers, ads, and editorial content from the 8-bit era: roughly 1975-1989. (click the images for a larger version).

Okidata "Santa's Helper", Byte 1980

Electronic Fun ET Xmas cover (1982)

16Dec/110

Italian Review of HTML5 Canvas : fantastico!

Here is a review of our book  HTML5 Canvas in Italian.  The  English translation appears to be pretty positive, however, the Italian looks better...so here is a quote in Italian:

L'esempio che viene discusso e realizzato è veramente fantastico: un video puzzle. Si tratta di un video che viene diviso in righe e colonne e le cui celle vengono mescolate casualmente: quello che l'utente vedrà è il video (ovviamente in fase di riproduzione) diviso in rettangolini disordinati tra loro e dovrà, cliccandoci col mouse, scambiarli di posto e ordinarli per poter vedere il video integrale.

I'm not sure exactly what he is saying here, but I think  Fantastico is now my personal favorite word...ever.

 

16Dec/110

HTML5 Puzzle Game : Color Drop : Game Demo + AS3 vs. JavaScript Code Comparison

Color Drop HTML5

Color Drop was game that was featured in our book The Essential guide To Flash Games.  Earlier this month I decided to to see how hard it would be to tackle a similar game for HTML5 Canvas for the next version of HTML5 Canvas for O'Reilly.  Color Drop HTML5 Canvas is the result.

Same as the other demos from earlier this week, this has only really been tested in Google chrome, so your mileage may vary with other browsers.

What interested me the most about the process of converting this game from AS3 to JavaScript was the ease of reusing the existing AS3 algorithms in JavaScript.  In the code snippets below you can see the process.

The function findLikeColoredBlocks() is designed to find a list of blocks that are the same color and adjacent to the block that was clicked by the player.  There is a full discussion of the code in The Essential guide To Flash Games.

When I sat down to rewrite the code in JavaScript, I found the process very very easy. In fact, the only thing I needed to do was to remove the type definitions on variables.

JavaScript Code

function findLikeColoredBlocks(blockToMatch) {
          var blocksToCheck= new Array();
          var blocksMatched = new Array();
          var blocksTested = new Array();
          var rowList = [-1, 0, 1,-1,1,-1,0,1];
          var colList = [-1,-1,-1, 0,0, 1,1,1];

          var colorToMatch = blockToMatch.blockColor;
          blocksToCheck.push(blockToMatch);
          while(blocksToCheck.length > 0) {
              tempBlock = blocksToCheck.pop();
              if (tempBlock.blockColor == colorToMatch) {
                  tempBlock.selected = true;
                  blocksMatched.push(tempBlock);
              }

              var tempBlock2;
              for (var i = 0;i < rowList.length;i++) {
                  if ((tempBlock.row + rowList[i]) >= 0 && (tempBlock.row + rowList[i]) < BLOCK_ROWS && (tempBlock.col + colList[i]) >= 0 && (tempBlock.col + colList[i]) < BLOCK_COLS ) {
                      var tr = tempBlock.row + rowList[i];
                      var tc = tempBlock.col + colList[i];
                      tempBlock2 = board[tr][tc];
                      if (tempBlock2.blockColor == colorToMatch && blocksToCheck.indexOf(tempBlock2) == -1 && blocksTested.indexOf(tempBlock2) == -1) {
                          blocksToCheck.push(tempBlock2);
                      }
                  }

              }
              blocksTested.push(tempBlock);
          }
          return blocksMatched;
      }

AS3 Code

public function findLikeColoredBlocks(blockToMatch):Array {
          var blocksToCheck:Array = new Array();
          var blocksMatched:Array = new Array();
          var blocksTested:Array = new Array();
          var rowList:Array = [-1, 0, 1,-1,1,-1,0,1];
          var colList:Array = [-1,-1,-1, 0,0, 1,1,1];

          var colorToMatch = blockToMatch.blockColor;
          blocksToCheck.push(blockToMatch);
          while(blocksToCheck.length > 0) {
              tempBlock = blocksToCheck.pop();
              if (tempBlock.blockColor == colorToMatch) {
                  blocksMatched.push(tempBlock);
                  tempBlock.makeBlockClicked();
              }

              var tempBlock2:Block;
              for (var i:int = 0;i < rowList.length;i++) {
                  if ((tempBlock.row + rowList[i]) >= 0 && (tempBlock.row + rowList[i]) < BLOCK_ROWS && (tempBlock.col + colList[i]) >= 0 && (tempBlock.col + colList[i]) < BLOCK_COLS ) {
                      var tr:int = tempBlock.row + rowList[i];
                      var tc:int = tempBlock.col + colList[i];
                      tempBlock2 = board[tr][tc];
                      if (tempBlock2.blockColor == colorToMatch && blocksToCheck.indexOf(tempBlock2) == -1 && blocksTested.indexOf(tempBlock2) == -1) {
                          blocksToCheck.push(tempBlock2);
                      }
                  }
              }
              blocksTested.push(tempBlock);
          }
          return blocksMatched;
      }

While the display code for making HTML Canvas games is quite different between AS3 and JavaScript, the logical algorithms for iterations, loops, multi-dimensional arrays, etc. are pretty much the same.   This is good news for people who have libraries of AS2 and AS3 algorithms that need to be converted to HTML5/JavaScript will have a fairly easy time accomplishing the task.

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