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Pit of the Condemned (2015, Inform)
Jan 25th, 2016 by Ice Cream Jonsey

I wrote a review of Pit of the Condemned, a fun little number in last year’s IF Comp, on Emily Short’s blog. Check it out here.

Steve Miller and Deep Dish
Aug 21st, 2015 by Ice Cream Jonsey

Last night, my girlfriend and I went to a Chicago Pizza Deep Dish Style Joint. That’s its name. I’ll wait for Tdarcos to look that up and confirm there’s no place in Denver called that and return.

All right, thanks. So you can get many diffe– everyone wants the pepperoni deep dish but sometimes you don’t want to look like a ham machine in front of your lady, so you entertain the idea of going in there and getting a health pie.

Okay, she’s not a killjoy, it was me. For some reason I started enjoying green peppers, onions and artichoke on pizza now in a way that is a complete betrayal to young me. I ordered the deep dish for us with those toppings. To young me, I might as well have done so in a Yankees jersey.

They say that it takes them 35 minutes to make the deep dish pie, so that means everyone else in the place is gonna get theirs first because some people go in there and order thin crust, which is this whole other thing. The couple in the booth behind us got their deep dish and they ordered a pizza with bacon on it.

I know that bacon as a meme is a really tired thing the Internet ruined, but like Kate Upton on the cover of Sports Illustrated, sometimes you get a reminder why something got popular in the first place. The entire place smelled briefly of bacon. That’s a pretty great scent to have wafting around.

I said to my girlfriend that ordering a bacon deep dish pie is the exact opposite of going to a bar’s jukebox and queuing up the entirety of The Steve Miller Band’s Greatest Hits.

Now, regardless of what you thought of that line, she didn’t think it was funny and I insisted that it was. I tweeted it and one person clicked “favorite” and that person has the exact same sense of humor I do.

So MAYBE it’s not as uproarious as I thought it was.

But the point I was making is that we’ve all heard The Steve Miller Band’s Greatest Hits 1974-1978 a million times. That is not an exaggeration.

Look at this thing. Everyone has seen this and heard it way too many times:



I don’t mean “Everyone born in North America has heard it,” I mean everyone on Earth. When those scientists found that one tribe in the Amazon that hadn’t made contact with civilization, the natives shot arrows toward their boat, and the arrowheads all had inscribed some runes upon them that directly translated into the tabs for “Dance Dance Dance.”

I am not even saying it is a BAD album. Wintertime is one of the 200 best songs ever made. The Joker would have been as well if not for the fact that America’s radio stations haven’t gone more than 5 minutes without playing it since its release (helpfully noted in the album’s title to be sometime between 1974 and 1978).

I’m just saying that trapping the denizens of a bar with that album — it’s 14 tracks long and it’s important to remember that you’ve got to endure “True Fine Love” and “The Stake” before getting to The Joker — is the opposite of a nice smell in a bar.

Anyway, so, here’s the thing: someone playing the entirety of the Steve Miller Band Greatest Hits 1974-1978 on a jukebox actually happened to me in a bowling alley when I went home to Rochester one year. Doing this in a bowling alley is even more fiendish than doing it in a bar because you’ve already paid for the lane after someone in your party throws that first gutterball. You’re locked in! At least with a bar there exists the possibility of putting down cash and leaving. I’m not even getting into the fact that this happened in Rochester, another notch for my hometown’s belt. That is what is what I am saying.

(Well, I’m not saying that any more because nobody enjoys this.)

Anyway, if I had more drive, my version of Taken with Robb Sherwin instead of Liam Neeson would have me finding the jukebox guy who did this. 10 years later I’m still reeling.

A Little Q&A
Jun 5th, 2015 by Ice Cream Jonsey

Latest Q&A update on the Cyberganked Greenlight page is here: https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/updates/438139803/1433221764. I answered some questions that Moop asked.

Cyberganked is on Steam Greenlight
May 27th, 2015 by Ice Cream Jonsey

I’m putting the character role-playing game I’m making onto Steam Greenlight, in the hopes that it gets on Steam proper. This is not the first time I’ve tried to put something on Steam. Long before the Greenlight program, I submitted Cryptozookeeper into their old system and got a rejection letter. I’ll give the old process this: they were quick. Before I had even finished filling out the form on the old system they e-mailed me a picture of someone in Bellevue making the “cut him off” gesture.

You can experience the Greenlight page for Cyberganked by clicking here. There’s a trailer on the page that I haven’t posted to Jolt Country, along with some screenshots.

Cyberganked is an RPG made with the Hugo programming language, which is what I’ve used for the last few games. I’m calling it a text adventure / RPG hybrid to keep all my options open. I guess the difference is that you won’t have to think of new verbs like you would in a normal text adventure. You’ll have all the commands you need in Cyberganked from the beginning.

Robb’s works are not for everyone, but they’re for the intelligent, good people. So the problem kind of works itself out. I interviewed him for a documentary on interactive fiction a number of years back, and his works before and since have been hilarious buffets of viciousness, intelligence and humor. I can’t recommend his way of doing things enough, and his consistency in working on these projects is admirable. Support this guy! — Jason Scott

I wanted to thank everyone that has commented and retweeted links and encouraged me through the process. I anticipated lots of Greenlight comments saying how much the game sucked and by extension how much I suck. Instead, I’ve already been getting great feedback. I’ll be putting updates here and there as I don’t think there’s a whole lot of overlap between this blog and the Greenlight page.

Cyberganked is a ways away from being finished, but I wanted to get it approved for Steam early. If you have a chance to vote that’d be awesome. (Greenlight Downvoter is in the game as a level six enemy, so if you ever wanted to be represented in a video game that’s your big chance. I’d still appreciate the yes vote, though.)



Unlike communism, your votes truly matter. I’m psyched as I can be to make this the best game I’ve ever worked on. I don’t care if the thing makes money — it’d be nice to break even. Steam allows me to have my games seen by more people, and that’s its value to me. It will get into the hands of people who would otherwise never experience them.

pfff — Sigurd

Pfff indeed, friends.

Forever Suspended
Apr 1st, 2015 by Ice Cream Jonsey

My friend Jason recently tweeted that Mike Berlyn is fighting cancer and just had a stroke. He encouraged us to say thanks. I’d like to say thanks.

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Atari 800 Flashcart – Part One
Jan 14th, 2015 by Ice Cream Jonsey

Recently I bought an Atari 800 flashcart. It’s pretty good, but not perfect. Every Atari 800 game in the world comes in the .ATR format, and the flashcart isn’t great at using that format – it prefers .exe or .xex. Which sucks, because NOT every Atari 800 game in the world uses that format. It can also fit 800 KB of stuff. I know the developer is working on a larger cart, and I’ll get that when it is available.

(The alternative to the flashcart is to use a SIO2PC cable that goes from your computer to your 800. And that works pretty well, and it’s OK with .ATR files – it’s just that you are tethered.)

Anyway, how do some of the Atari 800 games hold up? Let’s find out.

DONKEY KONG

Inspired by the fact that The King of Kong has been re-uploaded to Usenet, I picked this one out and started playing it. All four levels are represented! There’s some animation missing, like the upskirt shot of Pauline as DK drags her up another level to the building, but nothing important seems to be cut. Or everything important is cut, depending on how you roll. Much easier than the arcade, in so much as I can actually make it to the top of the first board with some regularity, instead of never on the real thing. (The nearby arcade even has it on “easy” mode and gives you five lives, which is extra-humiliating!)

You can select various difficulty options, but there is no way to tell which is which because instead of “1”, “2”, “3”, “4” and “5” they are “hammer,” “firefox,” “spring”, “barrel” and “pile of cement.”

It’s an easier game, but fuck this is fun. The molasses-encased like myself can now enjoy Donkey Kong. My goal in this project is to determine which Atari 800 games still hold up today. These aren’t in-depth reviews, in fact, some of this stuff won’t even load. Donkey Kong, however, is worthy of being on many “What’s your favorite 8-bit game?” list.

Donkey Kong: HOLDS UP NICELY!


SHAMUS

I personally believe that Shamus is one of the Top 100 games ever made, and the Atari version is actually superior to the one I grew up playing on the PCjr, due to the fact that it’s able to display more than four colors on the screen at the same time. Shamus looks great. He moves a little sluggishly when someone is going in the same direction as he is, but that won’t be for very long because everything dies nicely and quickly in this game, due to the fact that you keep throwing stilettos at them.

Apparently, Shamus is a private investigator, as the name of the sequel is “Shamus: Case II.” He also has a little fedora (well, maybe it’s a top hat: not enough pixels to really tell) and I think “shamus” means “drunken, Irish private eye.” This game is better than Berzerk in two ways:

1) It feels like you are making progress in Shamus.

2) “You can teach a monkey how to play a certain number of rooms but you cannot teach a man how to play Berzerk.”

There’s a few different skills levels to pick from and a running score so you can track your own progress.

Shamus: HOLDS UP NICELY!


CENTIPEDE

That’s Boggit, he hates buggies. I thought I would hate this game as well due to the fact that you control it with the joystick and due to the necessary changes from the arcade version’s vertical monitor to the horizontal TV. But it really is quick to respond. The extra horizontal room is nice and offers more chance to shoot down the centipede. The graphics are colorful and crisp. Centipede is the game that everyone used to point to and use as the one that women liked more than men. My theory to this is not because there are pastel colors in the game, but because of the spider. Allow me to explain. Wait! Come back!

You get 900 points if the spider is right on top of you when you kill it. You get 600 points if it’s a little farther away and if you’re some kind of baby you get 300. The game dispenses an afghan and booties out of the coin return if you’re continually trying to get 300 points from the spider. The spider can never retrace his steps. It can’t go backwards: if it enters on the left side of the screen, it can move up and down and right, but never to the left. If he enters from the right, he can’t go to the right. It’s the easiest thing in the game to avoid, so long as it does not kamikaze itself right at you before you can respond. But there is something ingrained in the male brain that will cause guys to pick a fight with an enemy that can no longer affect them, whereas a woman is more likely to have matured to the point to where they won’t make it personal with a goddamn video game spider.

I don’t have an 800 “trakball” so I don’t know how it is on that. Probably better, but there’s no negatives to this version being played on the joystick.

CENTIPEDE: HOLDS UP NICELY!


POGO JOE

What is this awfulness? I remember reading through computer game magazines and being jealous of the fact that Atari and C64 owners could play this, which had to be an awesome game, and I just had access to shitty version of Q*bert, including but not limited to the 2600 version (horrible) the Intellivision version (less horrible) and the version that came on a digital watch (surprisingly better than the 2600 version). This game is stupid. I don’t like Pogo Joe.

For starters, he looks like there is something wrong with him, like he’s been squashed in an industrial lathe accident, or somehow part of the Doug Flutie family tree. Going to cylinders instead of cubes was stupid. You have to press the button to do a “super jump” onto and off of the really high areas, and you can jump on most of the monsters I encountered, which limits the challenge. The monsters are all a single color and while you can tell that one is supposed to be a dragon and one a featureless blob, they look like rejects from Atari Football.

This game isn’t any good today, so if this was somebody’s huge favorite in 1983 I’m not saying you have no taste or that you’re dumb or anything. Pogo Joe now has competition against the MAME version of Q*bert and it does not hold up.

POGO JOE: DOES NOT HOLD UP!

 

 

Lode Runner
Sep 15th, 2014 by Ice Cream Jonsey

Douglas E. Smith has died. This news was broken by people at Tozai Games, who handle the mobile platform ports of his game. The news was picked up by the copy and paste video game sites … and they added nothing to it. Kotaku, Gamasutra and Polygon could run massively moronic screeds about how much they’d awkwardly like to turn the word “gamer” into an epithet, but not a single one of them could even produce as much as a fucking photo of Smith for their articles. You can’t Cntl-V up a head shot, it seems.

All of the people behind those sites just sort of felt that the death of the creator of Lode Runner still fell into their domain, though, which is hilarious. Lode Runner has nothing to do with modern game journalism. Trying to pretend they give a shit that its creator is deceased is their laughably transparent attempt at showing cred. More, they couldn’t do the barest minimum of research on the shit they do add. The fact that these garbage urls believe that Lode Runner and what they do are in any way related is disgusting. Take what Polgyon added to the “news”:

Released in 1983 for the Apple ][ and Commodore 64, Lode Runner was a […]

Oh! The Apple “][” and the Commodore 64 got the first releases in 1983? That was it, huh. I mean, it was ported to a million different machines, but just the Apple and C64 got the ports in 1983, only those, because they specifically mentioned them and certainly not the Atari 800, as shown in this screenshot from AtariMania, and —

You lazy fucking assholes.

They couldn’t add the slightest bit to the news without fucking it up. DO YOUR FUCKING JOBS. It would have been better if they had said NOTHING rather than add rotten detritus to the over easy shit-scramble of knowledge that multi-platform software releases have become. You can’t trust Wikipedia, because Wikipedia is wholly constructed by dipshits like this. You need original sources. You need to not add to the confusion. There’s some manuals that might have the proper copyrights (I had the physical PC/PCjr manual to Lode Runner within arm’s distance when I began to write this article, but even I’ll admit that expecting that sort of thing from the cretinous bile that make up #GAMESJOURNOS might be a bit much) but not all of them have been digitized.

What we do not need, what nobody needs, is the same press looking down their noses at regular people that play games trying to be helpful and getting it wrong. Getting it all wrong, wrong, wrong. Making it worse by polluting the future evidence like the amateurs they are.

So with that in mind.

None of them had anything to say about what life was like when Lode Runner dropped. There isn’t a Digital Antiquarian article about Lode Runner, the go-to source on this sort of thing, so I’ll give it a shot. I never met the man, Doug Smith, that invented the game. I have nothing for you there. I can tell you about what it was like when the game was released, because maybe that will matter to someone playing the game years from now. It really is that good. Doug, if you’re in a better place (but one that can still get the feed of this blog): this gem you created really did capture the attention of the western world, sir.

In 1983, it was generally accepted that all the real action games were at the arcade. We’d get a sucka port for home computers… maybe. (The PCjr, which my family had, needed to have the PC port authorized, which wasn’t often and then we had to hope that the boot loader didn’t do anything that the PCjr couldn’t comprehend.) The consoles usually got a port, but almost everyone had an Atari 2600, and those ports were awful. I’m generalizing – the, hooooooah, Zaxxon port for ColecoVision, to pick a game at random – was probably alright, sure. But you had to go to a place to see the best new action games in the world. Until Lode Runner.

I cannot think of a better home computer action game that was released before Lode Runner. I’ve been struggling all night – Lode Runner was the one that blew everything else away, wasn’t it? It rocked my neighborhood’s world. Within days of getting the PCjr for Christmas in 1985, I was subscribing to every mail order PC games catalog I could find. If I couldn’t get the games, I could at least memorize their SKUs. My memory isn’t great, but I am pretty sure the first PCjr game our family purchased from those catalogs was Lode Runner. It was in all the magazines. Every review was solid. There was something iconic, even in the mid-80s, about the Lode Runner Dude on the Lode Runner Box blowing away robots with a jolly knapsack of gold at his hip, climbing ladders, wearing a Cheshire smile.

It arrived and I played it and nothing else for weeks. The keyboard was perfect for it, unlike a lot of PC ports. The use of two separate keys for “dig left” and “dig right” made it superior to the home computer versions that used a single joystick button and forced you to be pointed in the right direction. And then there was the matter of the speed…

You could change the speed on Lode Runner. Doing so sped everything up or down — this wasn’t an early cheat code, letting the player character run faster or slower than the enemies of the Bungeling Empire. I got used to the default one for the PCjr, and that speed felt truly crafted to give the best experience. I’d put the speed up and see everyone comically run around like spazzes, but keep going back to default. It’s so good. If Zork was the first game to occupy my imagination, Lode Runner was the first game to directly interface with my nervous system. It had cyan and magenta and black and white, but that’s all you needed to depict the world and the rules and the gold. The primitive graphics that didn’t let you necessarily see when an enemy grabbed a gold bar even worked to offer up intrigue. Lode Runner, as a concept, understood platform limitations and simply elevated itself past them. There are so many ports to modern systems, but the speed is never juuuuust right, and the backgrounds are always so desperately over-complicated. It doesn’t need to be anything more than this:

… because that is all you need to be perfect. We kept that disk for every IBM PC compatible computer we had. I still have it. It might be the only game with a universal approval rating. Some people have seizures because of Tetris. Civilization II is in a genre where I’m sure some Sasquatch of a war gamer go PFFFFT at playability versus realism. Ocarina of Time might be the one if something happened to kill off the world’s grown-ups. But I don’t know anybody that dislikes Lode Runner. I think it’s the only game out there that everybody loves. It was one of the best games in the world and it included a map editor on release for chrissake.

It is available on everything these days, including iOS and Android, though. The first few years I had a mobile phone, I tried rooting them, jailbreaking it and putting all manner of apps onto it. I was going to have a small tricorder that did everything. I gave that up. To play a video game requires a controller, and the tablets and phones don’t have one. There are only two I have on my phone and I will always install them. The first is the original Bard’s Tale. I’ll pay for that a hundred times on a hundred different phones, but playing it is not realistic there.

The other one is Lode Runner, and it’s the only mobile port I like. It was that good originally, and it’s that good now. In the face of the world’s most terrible gaming platforms, this game designed over 30 years ago by Douglas E. Smith still holds up. My girlfriend’s six-year old nephew tried it on a long car trip. When he asked if he could play it, I realized… well, not that I too want to have children one day, but I promised to remember how he spelled his first name. Perched high on a nanny state seat booster, he played. He ran up ladders and across the wire and dropped to the ground. He liked that you couldn’t die from falling. He ran for the lode. He loved it.

Somebody always will.

Introductions: The Don Rogers Show
Jul 16th, 2014 by Ice Cream Jonsey

I will be continuing the top 100 list soon, but I’d like to take an opportunity to re-introduce a radio show that I’m on.

The name of the show is called The Don Rogers Show. I have been tweeting about it and I’m sorry if I have annoyed everyone. I’ll shut up about it.

I’m going to start putting the episodes on the Internet Archive, but in the meantime you can download old episodes here.

So, my deal is that I try to make a text adventure every few years and that’s where all my good stuff is. If you are tired of the wait, this is as good as anything I’ve ever done. I hope you enjoy it, and I hope you join me in this continuing audio adventure.

Ultimate Texas Chili, By Pinback
Mar 31st, 2014 by Pinback

It is time to talk about chili. Specifically, it is time to talk about True Texas Chili, and the greatest recipe you will ever find on this site.

This has been verified by one Laurence "Radio" Trask, who recreated this in his own home and immediately proclaimed it the greatest chili that not only is, but ever could be.

Please delete all of my other chili recipes off of this site. They are disowned.

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The Top 100 Games: #99 Brataccas
Mar 19th, 2014 by Ice Cream Jonsey

#99 – BRATACCAS (1986, Amiga, Psygnosis)

If this new list accomplishes anything, I hope that it will convince some people somewhere that Brataccas isn’t a terrible game with a terrible interface, but a great game with an interface that is "only" bad.

The premise of Brataccas is that you are a genetic engineer named Kyne. You developed a way to engineer a super breed of man. The government wants this research to create a supersoldier, but Kyne refuses. He is framed for treason, there is a reward for his capture and Kyne travels to the asteroid of Brataccas for evidence to clear his name.

You are then dropped into a self-contained world filled with characters that have their own agendas, their own cares and desires. At no point does anyone give a shit about the well-being of the player of Kyne. It’s surprising that the pages to the manual are even bound together.

Each "room" in Brataccas can have several different things going on. There are elevators, so that you can travel along the game’s y-axis. There are characters to bribe. You can start a fight with almost anyone in the game, which was waay, waaaaay ahead of its time. The cops are trying to arrest you, sure, but they don’t have omniscience. There are security cameras to disable, false leads, bartenders to get rumors from and a lone, hissing psychopath wandering around the asteroid that will try to kill you with his sword for no reason.

The room layout of Brataccas is compact and paranoid and uncomfortably put together. When you get arrested, you travel in real time behind the cop, who drops you off to the jail cell. You go through rooms that, when you start, you probably can’t get to easily, meaning that the act of getting arrested in the game is initially interesting. (Years later, the act of getting arrested in the most famous series of games, GTA, simply cuts to a black screen. Brataccas was ahead of its time.)

There is a problem with the game, however, that every review addresses. Brataccas offers gesture-based mouse controls. And they are just as terrible as you might think with systems like the Amiga, Atari ST and Macintosh that used mice with physical balls.

It’s terrible and inintuitive. This game would be famous if they didn’t screw it up! You move forward by moving the mouse to the right, but then have to stop by holding the button and moving the other way. And you have to stomp that mouse. You have to slowly press down and move it the other way. You’ll gesture to enter combat when you meant to jump. In a way, and I am admitting this is a stretch, the terrible gestures mean that you will randomly start combat with people minding their own business. Some guy that you might want to talk to might end up with a sword in the gut. It adds to the web of lunacy going on in the asteroid.

That said, when I played it on my real Amiga, I saw that the game lets you use keyboard controls. Great! I thought I would try that. And that’s when the final mystery of Brataccas revealed itself to me: the gesture-based controls that everyone savages are actually better than the keyboard controls.

Brataccas is just a game that requires time to learn its controls. It’s like Defender in that respect, it’s just that with Defender you feel like a spaceship captain and every NES game in the world mastered moving people with a gamepad. Because of the gesturing it’s a game of skill with the most wide-open sci-fi world of its time. The speech bubbles are all in caps, with bizarre punctuation. The graphics mode for the Amiga has you at 640×200, which is a very silly resolution to try to do anything in.

Brataccas is the best example that I can think of of an attempt at a simulated, uncaring world. And while I appreciate the quest arrow on Fallout 3 and BioShock, those games will always be a little less than they could be because they care about you in a way that Brataccas never will. It feels just as cold as life on an asteroid probably would be.

I guess I can also put it this way: when it comes to each game I’ve made myself, they always started in the design document phase as open-ended simulations where the player is dropped in and meant to learn and survive, just like (and even thanks to*) Brataccas. None of them have ended up that way because I haven’t been able to achieve what this extremely goofy, yet charming, little asteroid-sim did manage to successfully accomplish. A world.

(*Specifically, the fact that you can start a fight with anyone in Fallacy of Dawn, and the one "CopBot" were inspired from Brataccas, along with the fact that I set Pantomime on a moon essentially the size of an asteroid.)

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