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Title: Assessing 318 tracks and 39 albums in 10 days
Posted: May 07, 2009 (08:18 PM)
As a member of independent musician network 'Just Plain Folks', this year I volunteered to help judge the JPF Awards. In terms of entry volume, JPF is probably the largest music competition in the world. Something like 500,000 songs and maybe 40,000 albums compete within their own genres. The competition is so large it is only run every two years. Judging is conducted by JPF members, mostly online.
You can't judge in an area you've entered (which for me is Electronic), and after expressing my areas of interest, I was assigned Death Metal, Experimental, Rock and Metal. The judging software is like an itunes jukebox that can sort and queue entries in many orders, and which lets you 'star' your choices - Fave 10 tracks and 5 albums in a genre, then your second-fave 10 tracks and 5 albums.
Narrowing a list of, say, 120 tracks down to 20 is a Herculean task, especially with the time pressure. I have done the best possible job I could do in the time given, though I feel a bit uncomfortable knowing I could have done a better job with less material or more time. I also had to skip one genre (Metal) for download bandwidth reasons. So I judged:
Experimental: 119 tracks, 12 albums
Rock: 143 tracks, 15 albums
Death metal: 56 tracks, 12 albums
This was round 4, so there's nothing incompetent left you can just throw aside. The main satisfaction comes after you do an initial narrowing of 119 to 30 or so, then listen to the 30 and realise you weren't just stumbling blindly, but actually made choices that were useful to you.
The other satisfaction is finding the odd song you really dig. In most cases I've been able to immediately go buy that song from iTunes.
Title: Aztec for Apple II - a whole enchilada supplied by me!
Posted: April 28, 2009 (08:44 PM)
I don't always plug my new reviews in my blog, but since troublemaker Sashanan is spamming me off the 'new review' list at high velocity with his barrage of gamefaqs material, I thought I better advertise!
I reviewed Apple II game 'Aztec.' And in a first for me, I also supplied screenshots and a video.
Title: HGWars, Bloomer style! - AKA Warlords
Posted: April 15, 2009 (02:07 AM)
("Bloomer style"? Could that sound any dumber? Why did I ever go with this handle?)
Eighteen years ago, Jason Honestgamer was in nappies* and I was in high school. I discussed Jason's high achievement-for-age ratio with him in a chat just the other week, where I praised his ability to walk at age twelve and the like. In roughly the same year as he took those steps – which was 1991 – I programmed 90% of a war/strategy game for the Apple II called Warlords, which actually has a few similarites to the HGWars we are participating in today, and thus which you may enjoy reading about after this screenshot:
(* This is a lie)
Links to other screenshots are at the base of this post.
In the game, four warlords square off for control of gold and real estate across a grid of cities. You can have up to four human players participating, with any spare slots being played by the computer, or you can even watch four computer players fight each other.
There are various kinds of units you can muster, all with different abilities. Humans have recruiting charisma, dwaves are good at robbing, elves can construct stuff like war machines, ogres are great fighters. You can buy weapons, move resources from city to city, destroy cities, and also, if you're unlucky, be pestered by the anti-warlord City Guard. But the Guard are as likely to pester any other players as well, including computer players.
The regular battle programming is the incomplete part of the game. The program has to distribute all your weapons, from best to worst, across all your units from best to worst, each time a battle is initiated. This was difficult for me to write efficiently in BASIC on a 1 Mhz computer, and proved painfully slow when executed during the game. So Warlords ended up being another of my 90% complete potential masterpieces.
Another cool thing about the game is that it has a double hi-res title screen that I was able to display from BASIC via the 'Dazzle Draw' hack. But as per many of my games, the hack doesn't work under emulation. I can't believe the high percentage of my games that trip up Apple II emulators! They can run Prince of Persia just fine, but they can't run my own 'Dragon' without screwing up the sound, or Warlords without warbling the title screen.
MORE WARLORDS SCREENSHOTS:
The Royal Guard
Bloomer in Vorpal
Supplies to Bluegate
Title: My Eamons available to the world, at last
Posted: March 14, 2009 (05:29 AM)
The three Eamon adventures I wrote (and in one case co-wrote) for the Apple II, back when I was about 18 years old, have finally made their way into the Eamon Adventurers Guild. They are all set in the sword and sorcery setting.
I doubt anyone reading this will go to the trouble to play these, but in case you want to, I tell you how you can right after I describe the adventures briefly:
1 Cliffs of Fire - I wrote this to learn how to write an Eamon, so it's the least sophisticated. You goes to the cliffs, you kills the bad guys, you brings back the riches. I recommend against bothering.
2. Prism of Shadows - I co-wrote this with my mate James. Well, I did all the programming, he assisted with descriptions of corpses and such. This one's decently sophisticated if I don't say so myself. There's a contest on to reassemble the prism, and you gotta win it, being a good guy and all, to prevent anyone evil from gaining the prism's powers. There are two time-based puzzles, including the cool one where you drink a lady vampire's blood, plus a plot twist, PLUS you get to use the prism's powers slightly after it's reassembled.
3. Dawn of the Warlock - We can melodramatically call this my Eamon swansong. The Warlock needs killing, so you go to the ruined city to do the job. En route you pick up some pals, who occasionally offer commentary or advice (this was a better-than-usual feature.) Bad guys include the child-eating Lamia and a vampiric rose bush. Has a good gore and horror quotient, and also some nasty deathtraps that current gamers would consider to be intolerably unfair, but were more par for the course back then in your text adventure. ** Don't open the jar of vampire's breath 'til you're pretty sure you need to do so.. or at least save before you open it, then cheat if you die by hitting RESET.
To play one of these adventures, a person needs:
1. An Apple II emulator you can run on your Mac or PC.
2. A copy of the Eamon 'Graphic Main Hall' disk image. (available at the EAG - Eamon Adventurers Guild - link up top of this post)
3. A copy of the appropriate adventure disk image. (available at the EAG)
You boot the Graphics Main Hall disk, create a new character, leave town, and then, because none of my adventures are really beginner level, it would help to toughen your character up just slightly by playing the small, unadorned default adventure 'Beginner's Cave.'
Survive that, return to town, spend your newly-acquired bootie to slightly improve your character, then leave town again and when prompted, insert the relevant adventure disk.
OR!!!... just make your new character and go straight into one of my adventures, but don't fight anything unless you have at least one companion with you, or you might get butchered.
I knew that characters both superhuman and puny might enter my adventures, so what I did to try to accommodate all comers (in Prism of Shadows, and especially in Dawn.. Warlock) was make sure that the friends you meet during the adventure, who will fight with you, supply the necessary chops to kill the monsters, almost in their own right. In Dawn, you basically get a companion immediately. This covers the puny characters, who can then become facilitators, just leading each fight, even if they never hit any monsters - plus they might need to flee/heal judiciously if they're truly puny, to avoid being slain. But what else can one expect if one is so puny and untrained?
You can boot into any adventure with a pre-made tough-enuff character from the Eamon Utilites Disk (FRESH SAM), but technically this is beyond anyone totally new to Eamon or the Apple II.
Title: Amazon - Vid of another game from the made-by-Wade vaults
Posted: March 05, 2009 (03:09 AM)
OK! Now we move out of the Apple II age and into the Mac age.
In 2002, using Klik & PLay software on an olde iMac, I assembled one screen of a proposed 16-bit style platformer I would call 'Amazon'. I'd tuned the heroine's physics, illustrated one screen (note the nice fluttering leaves), sorted a couple of sound FX and animated the heroine and a monster.
This all took awhile, yet I was already dissatisfied with the rubbery-ness of logic in K+P's programming language. It seemed the rest of my time designing the game, had I continued, would have been spent trying to stop the sprites from escaping all over the place - EG - magically flying from ladders to nearby ledges in ways I didn't want them to, getting into parts of the screen I didn't want them to, etc.
Displeased, I stopped work on the game. Tonight I made a demo vid of what I did back then, for archive purposes (a point will come where I can't run Mac OS 9 or older on my G5, and then Klik & Play will cease to work), and the vid lasts a whopping eleven seconds. Enjoy it (...maybe twice or even three times.) I definitely recommend going fullscreen for this one.
Posted: February 23, 2009 (08:17 AM)
I began 2007 doing nothing but creating the AMay videoclip. I was working part time and the rest of the time I was doing this, for four months. It's a period of life I notice I already feel a bit nostalgic about, even though it wasn't very long ago at all. Artistically, the experience had a clear trajectory and a finish line I could anticipate, which made it very rewarding. The musicmaking itself is a lot more mercurial.
It's exciting to send your film to festivals. Three coming up for this clip are in Italy, Romania and Newcastle. But making the submissions is quite tedious and time-consuming if you have no staff. Still, if we go back even 15 years, you couldn't post someone a film on a little DVD, and you couldn't benefit from any kind of e-registration. You probably had to send them a chunky videotape, or (EGAD) a heavy canister with actual film in it.
Posted: February 13, 2009 (04:22 AM)
For some reason I've lately found myself thinking about what phases of my gaming life I feel most nostalgic about. I think I'm thinking about this because after RSI took my right arm out completely for months, I started considering long term ramifications. I expected I would heal up, but thought, 'Okay, what if I don't heal back to full, what activities can I remove from life, and how will I feel about living without those activities?'
When I was small, we had the Apple II. My friends would often come over and play it with me. Coin-operated arcade games of that time were more amazing than anything you could ever have at home, so I experienced breathless excitement whenever I got the chance to play them, either at milk bars or in the foyer of the Hoyts cinema in town. For years I always felt the same excitement wash over me upon approaching any arcade machine.
I guess the next phase was when people started getting Commodore 64s. The hours/days spent playing C64 games during sleepovers at their houses were great, especially because this was my first experience of real two-player gaming, whether competitive or cooperative. I kind of saw the Apple and the Commodore as the twin poles of gaming. Any good RPGs or adventures you had to play on the Apple II (the Commodore had the shittest, least reliable disk drive in the world...) but the C64 approached arcade quality in lots of its action games, and had the effortless two-player power.
In high school I got an Apple IIGS and suddenly had 16 bit games at home. This was awesome and again, I had a renewed round of friends visiting in the arvos to play, especially Zany Golf. Though secretly I was devastated that the IIGS version of Gauntlet sucked, when it should have been as good as the Amiga's. Every time you went to someone else's house, you'd see a different gaming platform. A IIGS, an Amiga, a Mac, a PC, etc. Cool time.
At the end of uni I got my first Mac, and entered what I think of as the beginning of the current era of gaming. PC games took off. Doom arrived and blew us all away.
Around 2000 I got a console for the first time ever, a Playstation. The first two games I ever tried on it were Um Jammer Lammy and Resident Evil 2. Poles apart, yet in retrospect, highly representative of the best of the range of the console. What was depressing about this time was the death of variety in games in arcades. Platformers, especially, disappeared, to be replaced by endless rows of gun and racing games. And from here we extend, all console-like, to the present.
Title: Serial Killer Party
Posted: February 03, 2009 (06:31 PM)
(FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE)
SERIAL KILLER PARTY for Wii
Certificate: 18+ (R) Release Date: 07/02/2009
Developer: Developer Unassigned
Publisher: 2K Games
SERIAL KILLER PARTY proposes a variety of 30 mini–games that can be played head–to–head or cooperatively amongst your family or 'friends'. Live a soul-destroying adventure if you play alone or drag down up to four other players.
- Enjoy exciting and various games inspired by serial killers' daily life:
* Kill / torture / cannibalise strangers
* Progress with memory games (Where did I bury the bodies?) puzzles (Fit dismembered limbs in fridge) colouring (Paint your van) and cutting up activities
- A great story to live:
Choose the people you want to kill. How long can you keep on killing until you're captured or realise you need to commit suicide? You will have to do your best to become the best Serial Killer.
Urologist Party, Dentist Party, Party Party and Family Law Court Party
Title: The Last V8
Posted: February 01, 2009 (04:35 AM)
There was, in the past, an exciting-seeming overhead perspective driving game for the Commodore 64, with an absolutely kicking Rob Hubbard synth score, called The Last V8. The main thing to know about this game is that the Last V8 itself was a car which was so outrageously, skull-destroyingly difficult to control that you'd usually die on the 2nd or 3rd corner you tried to turn. You'd load the game, listen to the cool music, try and drive around a few measley corners and then watch your car explode. Game Over.
Well, that was in 1986. I looked up a youtube playthrough of this piece of 80s insanity tonight, and to my fascinated but utter horror, it reveals that, if you don't crash, the duration of the entire game is approximately two minutes. At which point a message appears saying 'You made it!'
They don't make 'em like they used to.
I present to you, ladies and gents, in its entirety, this video a kindly gent has made of The Last V8. Remember as you watch that the car essentially cannot be controlled - without trying to indulge in this fantasy, the video will just look ever stupider and more incomprehensible to you than it no doubt already will.
Title: Clips from my January gig
Posted: January 13, 2009 (01:41 AM)
I isolated the 4 best parts from my Jan 11 show into 4 videos. I'm wearing a Silent Hill 3 shirt in all of em! See them via my youtube channel:
As soon as each one starts, click the 'watch in high quality' tab down the bottom right of the frame. They're way better that way.
I recommend watching them in this order:
1. Skirr (which is actually last video on the page)
4. Lenticular Cup
I think the first two are good to watch for anyone.
AMay is long, and Lentic cup is almost 10 minutes long, and also the least scrutable.
Title: NYE gig and beyond
Posted: January 02, 2009 (05:38 PM)
I played a gig for friends on New Years Eve. I'm calling it 'The Ironing Board Sessions' for reasons obvious from this photo:
EDIT: Myspace BS prevents hotlinking, so to see it, you'll need to just go to my myspace, click 'pics', and look along a few photos:
My 1st real gig is on Jan.11 at the Excelsior Hotel in Sydney.
Posted: December 08, 2008 (06:37 PM)
Heh, I'm still waiting for my Eamons to appear. But, away from computers, or back on them but in a different context, it is extremely likely I will play my first Aeriae gig in Sydney in January. And my interview in Cyclic Defrost magazine has come out in the print and online versions. Videogames, game music, Ocular Trauma and moviemaking all get some airtime:
Title: Adventures make international debut - 15 years after being written
Posted: November 27, 2008 (05:08 PM)
Yes, more of my Apple II games are set to stagger onto the international stage!
This time it's three fantasy RPGs, Cliffs of Fire, Prism of Shadows and Dawn of the Warlock. They were written for the Eamon game system in the early nineties. Eamon was an open-ended text-based RPG and adventure game system, which in its heyday had clubs, newsletters, and ended up with a library of 250+ different adventure. To get these adventures you had to swap and copy through friends or mail order them from the Eamon club or public domain/shareware companies.
Anyway, I recently recovered my own Eamons from rotting 5.25 floppies and sent 'em to the Eamon Adevnturers Guild, which is understandably quiet today but still exists. Hopefully they'll be up and reviewed in the near future. I look forward to seeing what the Eamon webmaster makes of my high school efforts.
Have a look at the Eamon adventure list
Title: Can you ever really get over Monkey?
Posted: November 10, 2008 (05:39 AM)
Every weekday afternoon for years and years, nearly every Australian kid of my generation would turn over to Channel 2 and thrill to another episode – or another repeat – of Monkey, the extraordinary adventure series based upon the Chinese novel 'Journey To The West.' The actors were Japanese, the filming took place in China and Mongolia and the dubbing was in English. The boy priest in the series, Tripitaka, was played by an attractive woman for reasons we never understood, and Buddha frequently made cameos in the show to teach us moral lessons. Tripitaka was always crying out, 'Monkey! No violence!' – and would use her special prayer to bring Monkey under control, but that didn't stop every episode from being filled with awesome kung-fu battles that little kids would re-enact the next day. The theme song is also outrageously catchy, and the soulful end of episode music still makes people choke up.
Mostly for the Americans on this site whom I imagine will have never seen or heard of this show, I present the opening and closing sequences. Watch out, 'cos the opening song is very, very catchy.
Monkey Episode Start
Monkey Episode End
Title: Apple IIGS and SNES - the hidden connection
Posted: October 19, 2008 (07:36 AM)
I just listened to an interview with Brian Greenstone, who programmed some cool arcade games for the 16-bit Apple IIGS computer back in the day. Something interesting I learned was that as the IIGS folded and the SNES came out - unrelated events, but which happened around the same time - a bunch of ex-IIGS programmers suddenly got great jobs coding SNES games, since they were already well versed in programming for the 65816 processor used in both the computer and the console.
Title: Metallica release loudest CD in history
Posted: October 07, 2008 (07:34 PM)
Metallica's newly released Death Magnetic album has been mixed in such an extremely hypercompressed, distorted fashion, that even Metallica fans - who I imagine already sport above average hearing loss due to their ongoing exposure to hypercompressed metal records and hyperloud live metal gigs - are complaining that the sound quality is akin to crap.
Lars Ulrich defended the record slightly by saying, 'We wanted to roll with Rick Rubin's (the producer's) vision.'
I don't know if anybody's said this yet, but I imagine Lars' hearing is pretty appalling by now, considering the number of metal gigs he's played at without hearing protection. Maybe he honestly can't hear the distortion or detect the obnoxiousness of the recording.
I'd like to think that this incident will prove to be some kind of positive turning point in The Loudness War (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loudness_war), but I doubt it will. The world has largely dispensed with concepts of quality in audio recording. A baseline of distortedly high, flat loudness and low dynamic range has become the default recording position in all mainstream genres. Almost nobody has a hi-fi system of any quality. Most people are content to listen to lossy mp3s on crap sound systems, and they like those mp3s all be compressed to exactly the same volume so that they never have to think about touching a volume dial.
I find it curious that in terms of visual quality, the mainstream demands better and better of their entertainment and art all the time - they want high definition, they want big screen TVs, and kids squeal if some XBOX game doesn't have a few extra pixels - but it hasn't noticed or cared that the quality of recorded music has been marching steadily backwards for about a decade.
Title: 'Cull' - it's not as good as Dragon, but hey!
Posted: August 06, 2008 (01:33 AM)
Here's a vid of perhaps my equal 2nd most all together Apple II game, Cull, which I co-wrote with a friend. This one's from 1992 and the core was all Applesoft BASIC, hence the more flickery graphics and occasionally hesitant pace. Still, I think the game lives up to its title in the taste department.
Title: Dragon, the best videogame I ever made (playthrough video)
Posted: August 01, 2008 (12:46 AM)
Between the ages of 6 and 21 I programmed more little games for the Apple II computer than I can count. 95% of them were done in Applesoft BASIC. In high school I started to make some arcadey type games, still just using BASIC. So for instance, Silverblade was an okay fighting game inspired by Golden Axe, but the characters were only as big as your thumb on the screen. To make them bigger under BASIC just slowed the game down too much. Silverblade II had more enemies and better AI, but everyone was still as big as your thumb. With Conjurer, I made a platform game mimicking Conan, but at this point my designs had become so ambitious relative to what BASIC could do on a 1mhz computer that playing speed slowed to a crawl.
I wanted to learn assembly language so I could make a fast game, but I never had been able to find a book explaining how you could do cool animation routines in the Apple, or have sound effects that didn't stop the game moving. It wasn't 'til 1995, well after the Apple's heyday, that I found some helpful information in Apple magazines archived in the library of my university. With the aid of a pile of how-to-write-assembly programming books, the Merlin 8/16 assembler and the stuff I photocopied from the magazines, I finally wrote an 8-bit arcade game with an assembly core on my Apple IIGS. That game was Dragon. I only completed one level of it but that level is 17 screens long, and packs a lot in.
I tried the game the other day on the Virtual II emulator and found I liked it perhaps better than I ever did before. There's stuff I'd complain about in it if I was reviewing it, but some of that isn't evident in the video I've made (Eg - When you enter a new room, the place you enter is where you will always reappear - sometimes this can be a game wrecker if you enter in a yucky spot, etc.)
So I've played through the game and recorded the whole first level for folks to check out. Graphics, sounds, music, levels, coding, all by one guy, like in the olden days. Now that I worked out how to do this I may follow with vids of a few of my other decent games.
Hope you dig it
Title: Can you get sentimental about the passing of old file formats?
Posted: July 26, 2008 (04:58 AM)
Apparently if you're me, the answer is yes.
After holding out on buying new software to cover my graphic design needs for the past nine years, I purchased Photoshop Elements last week, rocketing me into 2008. What I had been using instead of Photoshop for nine years was Metacreations' excellent Painter 3D. I never even used the 3D part of it. I just used it to simulate things like paint, pencils and crayons on screen, and perhaps more importantly it offered an awesome system of floaters (what Photoshop calls 'layers'), making for very flexible design options.
Painter stored its files in a proprietary format called RIFF. I've got nine years' worth of RIFF files on my hard drive, including the source material for all my online comics. Painter doesn't even run natively under Mac OS X, but I can still run it on my Mac G5 under Classic mode. The new Macs have switched over to using Intel processors which will enforce the kissing goodbye forever to the classic OS, so it's guaranteed I won't be able to run Painter on my next computer. And since I now have a cut-down version of Photoshop as well, and no contemporary software in the world reads RIFF files, I decided today it was time to say goodbye to them.
I felt nervous about erasing what seemed like such a mountain of my work, but I couldn't think of any situation in the future where I'd really need the files. All my comics now exist in their final versions online and I know I won't be going back to them.
Once I'd erased the RIFFs, I erased Painter itself. It was only one of two pieces of software that ever caused me to fire up Classic mode. The other one is the Mac port of the originally-for-the-3DO-console FPS 'Killing Time', and just recently I got a carbonised version of that which runs under Mac OS X. But that version still won't run on the next Intel-based Mac I own. Stupid future!
Title: Roundup of late
Posted: June 12, 2008 (07:48 PM)
I'm volunteering at the 55th Sydney Film Festival at the moment, which is lots of fun. I'm at the best of the handful of venues, the Dendy Quays, which is on the harbour and a couple of hundred metres from the Opera House.
I'm also reviewing in blog form any films I see there. I don't imagine these reviews are of great interest to HG folks, mostly just the blog name:
All your film are belong to us!
In gaming, I'm playing Project Zero (Fatal Frame) late at night. On the Wii I've been going in for small doses of House Of The Dead 2 Return. I received some 'gun grip' freebie when I bought the game, but it doesn't house the various Wiimote cords and such very well. I don't know that it makes the game much easier to play than just using the Wiimote, though somehow it does slightly reduce the amount of RSI you get.
Speaking of RSI, I bought Cooking Mama for Wii yesterday, and one hour of that crippled my right arm for the rest of the day. It was a fun hour, though.