Minima Reloaded (again)

In 2001 I made a C64 game called Minima - a small role-playing game, sort of a Mini-Ultima. I managed to squeeze it under 2k, submitted it to the 2001 Minigame Competition, and won! In 2003 I bloated it up to almost 4k with some new features, and submitted it to the 2003 competition as Minima Reloaded, and won again.

The improvement most often requested was for joystick controls rather than the traditional Ultima style keyboard commands. The purist in me resisted, but now the time is right, so here it is: Minima Reloaded v1.1.

Use a joystick in port 2! And for those of you who aren't normally into C64 stuff, you can download an emulator such as VICE. Here's one that works in Windows. Install it, then run x64.exe. Go to Settings->Joysticks and choose something for port 2. Then click File->Autostart Disk/Tape image, choose minimareloaded.prg from where ever you saved it, and away you go!

I'm eager to hear your bug reports or comments here, on lemon64, or through email.


Looking Backward

Been away too long - I've been spending a lot of my spare time reading sci-fi and working on an ultra-kewl top-secret project lately.

I've always liked old science fiction - stuff from the 1800s and early-ish 1900s, like Journey to the Center of the Earth. So I did a bit of looking into Science Fiction History and found out about a fellow named Edward Bellamy who wrote "Looking Backward: 2000-1887" in 1887.

I read the whole thing over a few of days. While it does fit in the science fiction category, it's mostly a description of a utopian society, which we mostly learn about through many chapters of conversations between a fellow from 1887 who wakes up in the year 2000, and his host.

Though it did drag on at times, I found the ideas fascinating. There are plenty of humanist and socialist ideas in there, but the fundamental principle seems to be shaping society to bring out the best in people, rather than the worst. Though I'm sure there's loads of criticism for it around - I'm going to look at that next, to temper myself.

I borrowed a video capture card from my good friend Tony, so I might have some goofy early 90s home video to share with you folks soon.


About Me...

There's more to me than video games - that's just what I usually blog about. But maybe you'd like to know some other stuff about me? If so, read on...

I've been married for 7 years to my wife, Carla. We have 4 children, named Rianna (age 6), Heidi (5), Peter (3), and Benjamin (1). We live in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada, on the north-west coast of Lake Superior. In 2001 we moved from our first house to a bigger place a little south of town, and at that time Carla's mom Jansje moved in with us. We had 3 cats between us, but are now down to 2, not sure what happened to Cinnamon.

We homeschool the kids - Carla really enjoys doing this, and we do it for a variety of other reasons. We're part of a group of homeschoolers which meet regularly to share and encourage and help each other. The girls also play soccer and take swimming lessons. Rianna is also learning piano.

We have a good sized yard, which Peter in particular enjoys exploring. We've got a nice playfort (a gift from the grandparents which took me one very long day to assemble) called "Harbron Park" by the kids. I cut the grass with a lawn-tractor, which we bought after several day-long grass cutting sessions with the regular mower.

I drive a F-150 truck which still fits all 6 of us, quite snugly. Quite a few times I've helped friends move with it, or haul stuff around - I mention this as justification :)

I work for TBayTel, formerly known as Thunder Bay Telephone, in the Information Systems department. I do various computery things there, usually involving Windows and PCs and networking.

My family attends Lakehead Baptist Church, and I'm currently a deacon there. I'm also involved with the music, playing guitar and occasionally bass when a sufficiently skilled guitarist is available.

I also play music at "Saturday Night Life", a (sometimes) weekly event that involves some music, a brief gospel message, and a good meal for whoever drops in off the street. I usually get to play bass there, and enjoy helping out like that.

I've been in a few bands over the last 10 years or so, including Mike and the Morons, The Transparancies, and North and the Sea. It was with NatS that we opened for The Dustkickers, who were almost something in the 90's (like, I owned an album or two of theirs before we opened for them). Generally I play bass, though the occasional bit of guitar happens. Lately, Richard Pepper and I have been doing some small church-basement type gigs together.

I like listening to music too. Many of my favourite bands share my favourite bassist, Tim Chandler. He appears on albums by Daniel Amos, The Choir, The Lost Dogs and solo efforts by members of these bands, such as Steve Hindalong and Terry Scott Taylor. Other favourite bands/people include Midnight Oil and Neil Young.

I enjoy a few sports, particularly (ice) hockey and cricket. I'd like to play hockey someday, but know I need to improve my fitness and skating first. My favourite hockey team is the Toronto Maple Leafs. My favourite cricket team is the Australian national team. I grew fond of cricket while living in Australia in 1987. I had also lived there in 1977. Both times my family went there through a teacher exchange my dad was in. From time to time I've enjoyed cycling, running, weight-lifting, roller-blading and squash. And I need to do more of this again!

I like reading. Besides old and new computer books and magazines, I like science-fiction (Arthur C. Clarke in particular, and Douglas Adams though that's more like comedy), fantasy (Tolkien, especially the Hobbit), books on Creationism, and reference books, like how-to fix-it books and Star Trek/Star Wars fiction and reference. I've also got a fair sized collection of comics from when I was especially interested in them. My favourites included The Incredible Hulk, various Spider-man and X-men titles and Atari Force.

I watch and collect movies. I'm especially fond of sci-fi and fantasy movies, but also like adventure and some comedy. I'm particularly nostalgic about 80s films. Some of my favourites include Tron, the Mad Max films, Star Wars, Star Trek, The Goonies - probably a bunch I can't think of right now too.

I also like a lot of oldish TV, especially cartoons, and have been purchasing this on DVD when possible. Battle of the Planets, Inspector Gadget, Rocky and Bullwinkle and Astro Boy are some of the shows I like.

I loved Lego as a kid, and have gotten back into it over the past few years. I have to admit that some recent decisions by Lego have dampened my enthusiasm somewhat, but I still really dig the space sets from the late 70s and early 80s I grew up with, and have a fair collection of that stuff, and the more recent Star Wars sets. My kids are really into Lego (specifically, Duplo) too.

Alrighty - I had intended to link this up like crazy, but haven't got around to it after some weeks, so up it goes as is.


Homevideo 80s Style...

Found some decent stuff at the Value Village today - another 15" VGA monitor for $6 (it's handy having an extra extra monitor for working on people's computers here at home, since my extra has been indefinitely loaned to my church, when that monitor blew up a couple months ago), bicycle training wheels for $3 (I can't bear to pay $20 for a new pair when I only paid between $4 and $10 each for the 3 used, pink bikes we have), and a Video Enhancer Stereo Audio Mixer for $6 (apparently it retailed for $75!!).

Boy, that was a once sentence paragraph! Anyway, I just had to buy the above mentioned VESAM to add to my small video equipment collection. It mainly consists of some VCRs and some Amiga computers. Though I haven't used it for anything yet, I also have a genlock for my Amiga 1000. The genlock allows you to overlay the Amiga's video output over another video signal - like when Kelly Hrudey starts drawing Xs and Os and lines all over your TV screen during a hockey game.

Shroom and I did some video work together back in high school, since the Amiga was naturally gifted at it, and we had enough sense to use it. While our english class was studying Macbeth, we were supposed to split into groups and act out a Scene of the scottish play. Actually, as I look through a copy of Macbeth, it looks like we did from Act V, scene iv right to the end (V.ix). Maybe Darren can help with his rememories.

So, instead of acting it out in class as all the common, non-Amiga-owning folks did, we got permission to do a video version. I played Macbeth, Dylan Benson was Macduff, and Aaron, Suzie and Darren (I think those were the other three) must've played Young Siward, Prince Malcolm, Earl of Northumberland, and whoever else was there.

This section has most of the cool bits in the whole play, in my opinion - two fights and even a decapitation! The fights were pretty well done, with lots of bad cuts to make it look extra fake. Apparently, my severed head was put in a paper bag to be shown off by Macduff on the last page of the play. Glad I got it back, anyway.

We padded up the video footage with some extremely gratuitous credits, both beginning and ending. Fine Young Cannibal's "She Drives Me Crazy" was the very appropriate music for the closing credits.

The teacher also (somewhat foolishly) allowed Darren and me to show a segment from the "Nightmare on Elm Street" tv series, re-dubbed by the two of us. Darren did the girl's voice, and I did all the others, including the evil skeleton's chortle when he stuck his boney fingers in somebody's eyes. Campy-gross at it's best!

We ended up getting 95% or so, and had a great time. As far as I know, the video has been lost (Shroom's dad probably taped golf over it or something). But I do still have another highschool video - the "Students For The Future" video we made in an effort to raise environmental awareness in our school. We actually got to go around from class room to class room with our nearly $0 budget film, and interrupt everything to show it. So, I'll try and get that turned into an .mpg or something and let you all see it, if you'd like. It's got Shroom as "Enviro-man" - it can't be bad!


Sports - on screen, and IRL

I've always had a love/hate relationship with sports. As a kid, I remember doing a lot of physical activity - riding my bike around for hours at a time, or running to and from school (partly because I could, and partly so I could be at home as long as possible to watch TV or use the computer - walking just took too long).

I also remember despising "gym", or Physical Education as it was more properly called. I did well enough at track & field type events, but team sports, such as basketball and especially volleyball I *hated*. Well, serving the volleyball was okay - in fact, I could often place the ball just about where I wanted, so I'd pick some clueless girl and keep serving it at her, and often get all 5 points we were allowed. But when I was in the place of that clueless girl, with the ball coming at me, I'd freeze. Volleyball is always "do or die" - either you bump the ball back up at least well enough for someone else to get it back over the net, or you failed and let down the whole team. Sure, in hindsight, that kind of failure doesn't mean much. But at the time, being a failure in front of my peers, that was awful. I especially remember the time I inexplicably caught the ball, instead of bumping it back up, and being laughed at by everyone (including the "whole internet" now). Argh!

Soccer and basketball were a bit better, because sometimes you could screw up and play would at least still go on. Volleyball draws attention to the screw-up like no other team sport I can think of.

Okay, I guess that's not true. When a hockey or soccer goalie lets the puck/ball by them, everyone notices. Baseball and cricket (two of my favourite sports) are full of individual performances that are potential show-stoppers.

Maybe part of the issue is the indecision that I often felt in volleyball. I was often thinking "Do I have to get it?" and "I hope someone else gets it" right until the ball was on top of me. In baseball and cricket I almost always know what I need to do - for example, when I'm fielding, it's pretty clear when the ball is coming at me, and there's no one else near by (which is almost always) that I'm supposed to catch the ball, and possibly throw it afterwards.

One (possibly) strange thing is that I excel at sports video games. I posted before about video hockey - for the last number of years I've won nearly every tourney I've gone in, and when I've lost, I've taken second place. I even enjoy video volleyball.

What are the similarities and differences of playing the real sport and playing it on screen? Well, the rules are more or less the same. The strategies can often carry over as well. The sense of urgency and needing quick reactions can be the same as well, but what you do with those reactions is generally really different.

Leaving aside the obvious physical differences of sitting in a chair and running for all you're worth across a field, I think the difference comes down to the simplicity of the possibilities in a video game, and the infinite number of outcomes that happen in real life. I think this can be split into the modelling of the virtual athlete and how you control him/her/them, and the modelling of their virtual environment.

If you're playing video game tennis (I guess I haven't played a really modern one) you generally push the joystick in the direction you want the player to go, then hit the joystick button to swing the racket. In real life, you might think you just "swing the racket" but really, there's an infinite combination of factors when you actually hit the ball - each part of your body can be at a different angle, the speed of the racket will vary, all sorts of thing. These things can be modelled into the game to a degree, but while a good tennis player has all sorts of subtle control over these factors, consciously or unconciously, how can you possibly deal with all this in a real time video game. At least, how can you deal with all these things and still make it fun?

Likewise, the environment isn't going to be modelled accurately. In real life, subtle wind changes, slightly bumpy ground, etc. are going to affect the travel of a ball, for example. Are these going to be put into the game? I suppose they could be, to some degree, but how far can you go and still retain the fun factor?

So sports video games make a series of approximations and compromises to arrive at the end product. The best of these become some of the best games in all genres, across all platforms.

And now, I'm going to go play some real-life cricket with some real people, and probably get really sore again. Fun!


Tree Wave and Star Fire

I received my order from Atari Age earlier this week - so I'm now the proud owner of Tree Wave's "cabana ep+" CD that I was talking about earlier. It has a couple of extra tracks, and a couple videos as well that you can watch if you put the CD in a modern computer.

One of the videos (apparently performed live) appears to be a game of Atari 2600 Combat, synced to the music - perhaps it's been rigged to react to the music? The first time I watched the video, it didn't interest me much, though it got better towards the end, as the pace kept speeding up, and all 27 game variations were being run through in a matter of a second or two, some really neat video effects start to happen. Subsequent viewings were more interesting.

The video for Sleep is great - I've watched it many times - the screen is split into 4, and each mini-screen focuses on a different thing - the video output from the Atari, the dot-matrix printer (and later, a guitar lying on top of it), the video from the C64, and a camera filming what appears to be a home movie, that the vocalist appears in front of when she's singing. Great tune, cool video.

I also bought a new Atari 2600 game in the same AA order, Star Fire by Manuel Rotschkar. There's a lot of new games to choose from nowadays, but Star Fire won out because of the cool Star Fire Elite Squadron promotion they're running. The first 50 people to buy the game and send in a picture of their score of at least 3500 gets the offical patch and Acceptance Letter.

It took me about 1.5 hours of play to break 3500 - and when I did, I actually got all the way to 4027. It's a first person shooter - you're inside a space ship, shooting at things that look suspiciously like Tie Fighters and other famous sci-fi ships. It was quite an enjoyable session, and it was quite exciting to know I had won the patch - I'm eagerly awaiting it's arrival in the mail.

This idea of patches was started by Activision years ago. I didn't own an Atari at the time, so I never had a chance of winning, though I do remember breaking 20,000 on Pitfall! back then on someone else's machine, and wishing I could get the patch. I wonder if Ron or Darren ever got one?

So, it was great to have the chance 20+ years later to do something similar!

64HDD on the Tiny Pro?

64HDD allows you to turn an older DOS-based computer (minimum of a 386sx/25, which you can probably find out at the dump, or in a back alley somewhere) into a hard drive for your 8-bit Commodore computer, using an X-Cable.

I'm especially interested since MagerValp pointed out that a DOS machine can share drives over a TCP/IP network - how cool it would be to download stuff from the Internet directly to the 64HDD machine, and have it immediately accessable on my real C=? Here's some links he gave me: Microsoft Network Client 3.0 and DOS Networking.

This is a project I'll work on - maybe even this weekend? I've got a number of machines that would be appropriate for this, but I'd especially like to use the Tiny Pro machine I got from Shroom when he skipped town for a girl. Unfortunately, I'm not sure what to do about powering it, since it doesn't have a built-in power supply - it just has a 6-pin DIN helpfully labelled "DC IN". I may be able to find the specs somewhere, and hack one together.

Anyway, here's a couple pics of the PC - neat little thing, with built-in VGA, IDE controller, and two ISA slots.


Lost C64 Game Found?

I've been continuing to list my game collection in an Excel file - since I've done all my cartridges and CDs, I'm moving on to my floppy disk based software. I've got thousands of C-64 5.25" disks, and within that collection are hundreds of original commercial (like, non-copied, non-pirated) disks.

Much of my collection has been obtained by buying boxes full of disks at yard sales and thrift shops, and some have been donated by friends as they got rid of their old systems.

While sorting, one disk just jumped out at me tonight - the disk label is obviously just printed on a dot-matrix printer, but it still appeared to be a commercial release. The label says:

For use with the Commodore 64(tm).
LOAD "*",8,1 (RETURN)
(c)1984 Interphase Technologies Inc.

I loaded it up, and it's a surprisingly cool looking game - you're looking out at space through a cockpit alot like the Millenium Falcon's. Asteroids are flying at you in "3D" and you have to dodge them - you can fire at these mines that come at you.

Did a bit of research on the web, and found these interesting pages:

Blockade Runner at Games That Weren't and
Blockade Runner for Intellivision with mention of the "not-released" C64 version.

Cool! I can only guess that the programmer, Stephen Willey, sold this game directly himself from his home in Vancouver, Canada, and that explains why this game is so rare.

The disk might be worth a bit to collectors, but I think I'll make it available to the public soon. I'm going to try and "crack" it and then spread it :)

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?