Well I’m a little older again. Thank you to everyone who celebrated with me. Of course there can’t be a Birthday without Birthday cake.
My talented sister flexed her baking skills yet again and came up with a great old school video games cake. On top of course is Pong (the one that started it all) along with Tetris, Space Invaders and Pac-Man. It even tasted nice. Chocolate cream sponge yum.
It seems we have come along way in what seems a short amount of time. Actually its a lot longer than I care to think about. Now a days I spend my time knee-deep in databases and data entry forms and lets not forget, reports. Data, data, data. But there was a time when such things were the last thing on my mind. Dare I say it something much more frivolous and fun. Games. Back when people were writing software in their bedrooms (we weren’t called developers then) and games weren’t multi-million pound productions with hundreds of people working on them. For the record I didn’t have my first computer in the bedroom. It was for the whole family and used the TV in the front room. It was a Commodore VIC-20. Which later was ungraded to a Commodore 64 and then an Amiga 1000.
But writing code has always been fun and I had to have a go at my favorite arcade game of the time, Donkey Kong. I never got very far playing on it. It’s still pretty damn hard when I try playing it with MAME. But its only got 4 levels so they’re not going to let you do it quickly. I had already got one game coded on the VIC-20. A breakout clone. Even managed to sell a copy of it to a friend. Actually he wanted to buy it. There was definitely a shortage of good quality games at the time. If I remember correctly it would only get every brick if I allowed the ball to go through a wall once or twice. Certainly made it interesting to play.
Wanting to do better next time I aimed higher. This time I had designed a new font for the game. This was essential for a VIC-20 game as custom fonts were used to display graphics. The Mario like character, the Kong character, platform, everything, was a character in a font or made of several characters. That meant I could use that font designer we typed in from a listing in Compute magazine. Of course we typed it in. There was no Internet, we couldn’t download it. There was nowhere to download it from. Program source code was printed in magazines and people had to type it in. Of course they had to make sure they typed it in correctly, or they would be playing an entirely different kind of game. A bug hunting one. A lot more frustrating and not nearly as much fun. Some of those listings were hexadecimal assembly code. They even had special software to make typing that in that bit easier. But you had to type those in first of course.
I liked the designing graphics part. That was definitely fun for me, and it made the creation of the code to make them move about the screen more interesting. After all what would you rather watch, a funny little man running around the screen or the letters “A” and “B”. As we were moving characters or symbols around the screen this wasn’t smooth pixel movement. This was move a graphic 8 pixels a time for every step. But hey those were the days. Moving graphics around the screen a pixel at a time was more complicated for the old VIC-20. It could be done but that meant manipulating the custom font in real-time to map a graphic to a set number of characters. This meant some very clever code in assembler. I wasn’t quiet at the stage yet. But I didn’t let it stop me from going ahead and coding my version of Donkey Kong. Of course I couldn’t call it that. So I came up with the name Logger. After all those do look like logs rolling down the platforms.
It didn’t seem long at all before I had a working game written in BASIC that only had one screen and only one log-rolling at once. But it worked and it was only my second attempt at coding. So I was quite proud.
Around this time a new magazine had started to be published in the UK called “Computer and Video Games“. Or C&VG for short. As there weren’t a great deal of games to review they, like other magazines, published the source code of games for the readers to type in and, cross their fingers and, hope it worked. I thought why not send mine in. A month or so later I received a copy of the magazine in the post and a cheque for 10 pounds. Much boasting to my college friends followed. Can’t remember if they were impressed or not.
Why this trip down a very long memory lane? The guilty confession is something that you are probably guilty of. Googling yourself. You haven’t done that? Really? Of course not. Lower down my search results was something I hadn’t seen for sometime. Site’s have cataloged nearly every game you can think of. This particular site (GB64) had not found “Logger” in the magazine but in a book. As apparently it had been collected with many others and reprinted. They even had a screenshot. How about that. You can even download it from here. Well, it saves you from having to type it in.
I certainly don’t play as many games as I used to. I’ve played everything from Pong and Breakout (Atari 2600), Manic Miner (Spectrum & Commodore 64) up to Bioshock and Uncharted (Drakes Fortune, Among Thieves, Drakes Deception). The last console game I really enjoyed was The Last of Us. My taste in games is more in the adventure and story based line. Sure the likes of Destiny have a story but I’ll leave Joshua to play that. He’s currently on Level 21 by the way.
Microsoft have been bring out some good classic games (although with a little advertising in them). Such as Solitaire, Mahjong, Pinball Fx2 and even Jigsaw. Some of these games are multi-device and sync the players progress in the cloud. The player can stop playing on their mobile and carry on on from their laptop and vice-versa. Which is pretty cool.
When it comes to the free games you can download, you can end up being a little disappointed when they come to a halt and then say you have to pay to get the rest of the game. Well no such thing as a free lunch. But there are some exceptions. Although I have to say I took advantage of a limited offer in the Windows Store for a free copy of Max the Curse of Brotherhood and grabbed it so I could play it later.
It’s a 2.5D side scrolling platformer with a few inventive twists thrown in. Keyboard and mouse are used, with the mouse used for more than point and click. This is were you probably have an advantage over the Xbox player. When you run out of platform to jump on and off from, use Max’s magic marker to draw branches and pull up pillars of rock with the mouse to carry on. As it progresses you have to get inventive and put these and other skills to work together, if you want to go further. A good thinking platform game. It looks and sound extremely nice too.
Good for flexing my problem solving muscle(s) in a fun way. If they haven’t been flexed enough while working during the day sheesh! If the weekends are running a little slow then I jump on my laptop and play Max.
If you get stuck, or you just fancy seeing what it looks like, you could try the walk through video below which has helped me a couple of times. Normally I watch how the expert gets past the spot I’m on, slap the forehead and say duh! and carry on playing with a smile.