Pushing Hardware to its Limits (Commodore 64)

I decided to try playing Commodore 64. I somehow started to admire this product of computer industry. It started as I tried to figure out something new, again, something new that I yet haven’t discovered as a gamer or player. I was born in the 80s. But you would have to be a teenager back then if you picked a Commodore 64 up and really started fiddling with it.

There were just so many possibilities for a person. You could just play or you could learn BASIC and ultimately if you were good at it and had some sort of flow and interest in this technology you could go real far. You could actually learn how the thing works and program it to do whatever you wished to. This can be accomplished with Assembler programming.

My minor experiments are nothing compared to what some witty persons have accomplished. With this in mind I am going to begin. First I watched a video on YouTube that introduced me some games. It had 30 games on it. I picked the ones I found most interesting. Then I did a Google search and found this site . Just to give you a clear picture of what Commodore 64 is capable of doing I am giving you some names of some of the best games that I tested. The games are Amalyte, Bubble Bobble, Commando Arcade, International Karate, Katakis, Lode Runner, Prince of Persia, R-Type and Wasteland.

I have stumbled to Prince of Persia and Bubble Bobble way back when I was using our family’s PC so I already had a picture of what these games are like. They definitely didn’t look visually bad at all. You have to consider what kind of a device was in use. What were it’s capabilities of running games. I could just state here its specifications like processors speed and memory, ROM and RAM, that it had but that isn’t going to tell you much.

Commodore 64 was not so powerful. It is mind blowing how engineers and designers used everything they had to deliver games to consumers. There were many limitations to be taken in consideration. This made it a tough job for graphics designers, programmers and even hardware electronics professionals. They had to split the work depending on their own field of expertise. This is important also today when someone is trying to bring a product to the markets and available.

How did I feel after I tried to play some 1980s games? The limitations are there. As I was playing Commando Arcade I figured out some basic tactics and I find it to be real close to some modern shooting games. The action was fast. I had a modern game pad so it helped a bit. Bubble Bobble was nice. It is almost too familiar to me. And then there was R-Type which is a very nice space shooter. You can forgive the poor graphics because the playability is very good…and also fast.

If you are interested to find out more I suggest you use first your favorite search engine and find an emulator. I really didn’t have any hardware to test these games with. I am not sure if these games are available anymore and I think it’s okay to try them out. Later you can get familiar with hardware and you can actually also build your own C-64 if you have time and knowledge or maybe even both. I find even a small possibility of developing some or any software to Commodore 64 very interesting.

What Is Evercade?

Do you like handheld game consoles? Do you play retro games? If you answered yes to these questions you might find Evercade interesting. It has been in the markets already for some time. I haven’t really got into it but I think I am somewhat interested in it so I decided to gather some information and write a blog post about it. Here we go!

We have seen many forays on handheld retro game consoles. They are marketed by saying that they include tens or hundreds of classic games. I have also seen some do-it-yourself projects that have been made with Raspberry Pi. Evercade is a bit different. It offers games in a form of cartridge that has many games, like ten games or so (it actually varies a bit). So you can buy more games.

Let’s talk about some features. It is possible to connect Evercade to television with HDMI connection. Evercade scales th picture to HD resolution when connected to a television. It’s battery is charged through USB-to-micro-USB cable. There is a place for headphones and it is a mini-plug-connection. There is no Bluetooth connectivity. You can see in the “Featured image” of this post how the controls are positioned. Controls include also trigger buttons on left and right side of the device. The size of the screen is 4,3 inches. It is promised that Evercades battery will last four hours maximally. And one more thing about the features. The price of the Premium Pack is, here where I live, about 110 euros. On the Wikipedia it is said that the price is about “£80/$100”.

I think this product is interesting. I don’t know if I am going to buy it. I have made lately a purcase that I will now only tell that about it that it was a handheld game console. So I am not so interested in buying another new console. Also I am not going to buy any new game consoles to be connected to our television. My living room has right now so many consoles that I would have to think about where to put them and how to accurately display them. So I’m basically running out of room.

Breaking Down Mortal Kombat II

I’d like to spend a moment describing my experiences about the second Mortal Kombat game that was released for Sega Mega Drive in 1993. The game has some technical limitations as Mega Drive isn’t, and wasn’t even back in the days, the most powerful platform to release a game like this. Arcade version of this game might have been smoother but we aren’t going to go there today since it’s been too long time for me to talk about that here.

As a software developer graduate I can see some things while playing that I don’t know if they are so clear for people that don’t know computers, technology and programming so well. This small blog post is here for you to dive a bit deeper on how the game is played. I also understand that some people are way better at playing this kinds of games. I have only spent some tens of hours playing Mortal Kombat. Also I like to note that I am concentrating on Mortal Kombat II here instead of all two dimensional fighting games. Yes, there are many of them and I have to mention Street Fighter series here.

This stuff is very interesting for me. I can see how the game kind of “reads” your moves. The opponent, it is this time a computer, reacts to your moves. It can make a move that is most suitable for a certain situation. So the key to winning your opponent is to react with a move that is the best move in your situation. You have to time this move correctly. You have to be in a right position. And this isn’t all there is to it. You can make moves freely. You have to define when and at which position to make the move that is correct move for you to make the opponents health bar decrease.

Fighting games have come a long way since the days of 1993. It is very different to play against the computer than it would be to play against a player. I know that games like Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter are very popular as genres of electronic sports. So you can have a competition against human players. This is how the game was designed. It sometimes feels like the computer is cheating but what else would it do than read your input and position and react as fast and powerfully as possible.

But to talk more about the game. It’s a great game. I find it very fascinating. The graphics are better than the first Mortal Kombats were. It seems like the development team have done a great work. The game has twelve different characters that have their own strengths and weaknesses. This makes the game even more interesting. To beat the game you have to know how to play with not only one character but many different characters that have their unique special moves and so on. You could actually compare and describe which characters are best against a specific opponent.

I am not sure what the basic attributes of all the characters are. I haven’t touched or even seen the source code. I am not aware if this code is available or is it “open source” or closed code. I know that Mega Drive didn’t have so much memory to use. Graphics and movement took a lot of processing from this gaming console also. When considering that this game was released in 1993 it is a game of very good quality. There is also a port for PC. If you are a big fan I can recommend to getting your hands on Mortal Kombat X. And to be honest I have to say that I just some days ago ordered Mortal Kombat 11 for PS4. I had to do it because the price was, I think, this time good. I hope this short blog post can give you inspiration wherever you are and in what situation with work or studying you might be.

Comparison of Two NBA Jam games

The latest post I wrote some days ago was about basketball games and how they have evolved. While we’re at the subject I am going to continue to write about basketball games. So todays subject is to compare older NBA Jam game, actually it’s NBA Jam Tournament Edition for Sega Mega Drive, and a newer one that is NBA Jam for PS3.

It’s amazing to think that while graphics and controls have evolved a lot the game called NBA Jam has really changed just a bit in all this time that is between the first Mega Drive release and the PS3 release. You still play with two basketball players against two other players. There are some details that have been added. If you haven’t played the original Mega Drive version you can still most likely enjoy the newer version.

The newer version has challenges for one and two players. I think it’s more fun to play with a human player be it against each other or as teammates. I have to mention that this game wasn’t first developed for Mega Drive. To be exact it was  developed first as a game that would be  played in an arcade. This was also where my first experiences of this game started back in the 90s. We put some coins inside the machine and played against each other. This is probably where the game aimed and this is where it becomes attractive to us players.

I have to tell more about NBA Jam since it is one of my favorite games of all time – at least I think that way right now. Maybe it’s just my favorite basketball or sports game. The players heads seem to be a bit big. This is because they originally wanted to bring more details to the players heads. I think NBA Jam was released also for PC. If a player scores points three times in a row, with no other player scoring, he becomes “on fire”. So about any shot will go in. If some other player scores the “on fire” wears off. I can tell you that when this player is hot you must shoot three pointers or at least this makes sense if you are trying to beat your opponent.

I enjoyed both of these games. Mega Drive version has more nostalgia but PS3 version has better and updated graphics and it also brings some details and features that wouldn’t have been possible to create in a Mega Drive version of NBA Jam. I didn’t pay a lot for any of these two games. Actually I think I bought them for exactly the same price and that was about 15 euros. I bought Mega Drive version from a flee market and PS3 version was found from a store and it was on discount. So, I liked both versions and I still play them casually. This is also a fun game to be played in a house party but maybe it is too nerdy for that…I don’t know…It might depend…

Redream – A Dreamcast Emulator

Segas last gaming console, Dreamcast, was released in 1999, at least in Europe. It was actually released in November 1998 in Japan. It wasn’t a bad console. Many say it was the best gaming console that was ever released. To some it was even better than the first PlayStation. It sure was more powerful. It had many great games but it only stayed available for consumers to buy for a short period of time. Dreamcast was drawn from manufacture at the end of 2001. So there might have been more games released for this system if it would have been longer in the markets.

Some good Dreamcast games that I’ve played are Skies of Arcadia, NBA 2K2 and Crazy Taxi. I have heard that games like Sonic Adventure, Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, Quake III Arena and Jet Set Radio are good games also. If you have a game for Dreamcast I haven’t mentioned here feel free to comment this post. Skies of Arcadia is a nice role playing game. It reminds a lot of Final Fantasy games. Crazy Taxi is a kind of a driving game where you pick up customers and drive them where they want to go. NBA2K2 is pretty much what the title says – a basketball game.

Let’s talk about Redream. It is a Dreamcast emulator. It is available for Linux, Windows and Mac. There is also an option for a download for Raspberry Pi. The setup is made easy for a user of a computer. You select the download that corresponds to your operating system. Then you unpack and just run the application. You might want to add shortcut to desktop also. The user interface is also easy to learn. You can see all the games you have currently. You can select the location of your rom files inside your computer. You can also adjust some settings concerning your saved games, input devices, video (for example the resolution of the screen you are using) and some other options related to localization.

Redream is a good looking Dreamcast emulator. It’s clearly the easiest one to use when I think about its competitors such as DEmul and NullDC. They required more fiddling with the settings. Dreamcast emulators, all in all, are far more easier to setup than a well known PS2 emulator PCSX2 is. Don’t get me wrong. PCSX2 is a great emulator. It just is a bit hard for a non technical user to setup. Redream also works very nicely. I haven’t had any problems. It hasn’t crashed at all as I have used it for some time now. You can download stable release or development release. This means that the stable version has been tested and development version is the most recent versio´n that has the most recent new features.

You can download Redream here

D-Fend Reloaded – A Frontend for DOSBox

Ever wanted to play those old and definitely retro MS-DOS games you played tens of years ago? Guess what? That is completely possible! There is a tool called DOSBox. It is basically an emulator which then operates an emulation of MS-DOS. It might be a bit tricky to first get it to work but I am glad to say that there is a solution that makes running your DOS games easier. The thing is called D-Fend Reloaded and I am going through in this article where you can get it, how to install it, how to fiddle the settings and how to install a game for it. You can even go as far as installing some other frontend for your mobile device but that can be discussed later in some other article.

1.) Download D-Fend Realoaded

It was very easy to install D-Fend Reloaded on my Windows 10 computer. DOSBox is included in the setup. You can download it here . I am not going into so much details when it comes to different options you can download. Just choose “Default package” and download the installer of version 1.4.4. That is what I am using here. It might be alreaady updated but that’s usually a good thing. Installation is pretty much easy. Make sure you have a folder somewhere that has some zipped, preferably freeware, games that you can install with D-Fend Reloaded.

2) Download a .zip file of some “freeware” game

Next, we are going to download a free game so we can go through the process of installing a DOS game. There are lots of DOS games on “DOSGames.com”. Let’s download “Acid Tetris”. Just click “Download The Game Free”. The .zip file gets downloaded. You can move it to some folder you like.

3) Adding/installing a ´game to the frontend

This is the trickiest part of this easy tutorial. Open D-Fend Reloaded. Now click “File” and navigate to “Import”->”Import archive file…”.  Then select the file we downloaded (“DOSBOX_SABA.ZIP”).  Click “Open”. Add “Profile name”. It can be for example “Acid Tetris”. Click one more time “OK”. And now we have the game in the list.

4) Play the game we just installed

Just double click the name of a game (inside D-Fend Reloaded) that you want to play …

 

 

 

There’s Something About Space Shooters

There is a genre of video games that is called “shoot-em-ups” or “shmups” for short. These shooter types of games have been in my mind since I was a child. I am not sure where I picked up these memories. It was probably from some arcade, restaurant, bar or some other place that I spotted a game or few that were about space, shooting and monsters. The game I have in my mind, or the memory of it, takes place in some space related environment. There are blinking dragons and a flying star fleet ship that is shooting that thing.

Of course this isn’t any real game. It was some unknown game that I had seen somewhere. It is however true that there were games like this, space shoot-em-ups, in the end of the 80s in arcades (for example). When the hottest gaming device was Sega Mega Drive they marketed the gaming console with a promise that it would bring arcades to living rooms of our homes. Maybe the graphics weren’t as impressive but they were something at that time. They were a bit more detailed than those NES games we had seen some years earlier. And the sound that was generated was better in pure quality also.

The screenshot that is related to this  blog post is taken from a game that is called Gynoug. I’m not sure if it is qualified as a space shoot-em-up but it for sure is a shoot-em-up. This game represents the genre. Playing this game can give some view about the it. It is often said that Mega Drive games are hard to play and that they repeat themselves a lot. I am mentioning also the fact that there was no way for the player to save the game and this caused the game usually to be very repetitive. I can understand this better when I think about what kind of a deal it was to design and program a game in 1990s. So the game development methods weren’t as advanced as nowadays. Maybe someone should desing more new games for Mega Drive today?

The influence these games gave to the whole industry of game development is undeniable. The key to success inside space shoot-em-ups is to move to correct direction at correct time and shooting all of time and accurately. I can already see how programmers coded the behavior of the monster you are shooting. Often you can recognize the pattern. Then you move according to where you see you have the position that enables you to not get hit by a missile or any other particle that is headed at you. This can be fun. Nowadays you do see the limitations of the games designed in the past. Althought there is a lot to learn from these games. I definitely recommend you to play some shooter game like this. This game can be Zero Wing, M.U.S.H.A. or Gynoug but there are also other good ones.

Some Nostalgia from The Dawn of 3D Modeling

Sometimes I find myself going back to where it all began. It was my beginning inside gaming. Somebody else might feel different about this. For me the 90s was an inspiring period of time. We saw the rise of 3D modeling and textures. The development of technology enabled players to enjoy more and more realistic graphics. First came Doom. It brought a realistic environment that you could move in. Soon games like Tomb Raider and Quake were released.

One of my favorite games of this time was, and still is, Kingpin – Life of Crime. This articles featured image is from that game. There are some reasons for me to like this game. A rap, or hiphop, posse Cypress Hill was very deeply involved in this games development. They appeared as voice actors and also produced the music that was in this game. What is the game about? It takes place in some ghetto somewhere. The player takes a role of a gangster. Basically this game is a first person shooter.

3D modeling has come a long way from these days. It was 1999 when Kingpin was released. I think about this as I just a while ago have played a really nice rally game – WRC 9 that was released recently. I think about how much the job of a 3D artist has changed. Back in the days you could see the models edges. Now you don’t see such edgy graphics. I also think about how much it affected gaming that there suddenly were graphics processing units that could reliably convert 3D graphics for players to enjoy.

3D acceleration in home computers brought computers that had more performance. Earlier it was thought that processor in computer was the component that made it faster and stronger. There was more to it. Some time ago we saw also some other components that can bring your PCs performance stronger. I’m talking about solid state drives or SSDs.

I strongly believe in the development of technology. We are going to see many advancements that are also somewhat related to gaming. Be it virtual reality or the development of sharper screens this is bringing us as human beings more advanced games. Technology has many qualities. Bringing games for players to play is just one side of it.

If you are interested in Kingpin – Life of Crime go check this website : https://www.kingpin.info/

My Recent Experiences of SEGA Mega Drive

I recently stumbled on a nice deal. I found that SEGA Mega Drive Mini was on sale. Its price was 59 euros. Of course my living, or gaming, room is full of consoles. So I had to buy also a new HDMI Switching Console to get some more devices connected to my television. I forgot to buy one more HDMI cable so I ended up unplugging my PlayStation Classic. I’m getting a new cable some time after the holidays. Anyways I got my “retro nostalgia” on again. Played a game of Streets of Rage II with my wife. She usually doesn’t play so much but this game inspired her a lot. We played some time maybe an hour or so. Mega Drive has so many great games.

Some might say that SNES is better than Mega Drive. In my opinion there isn’t “the best console” or “better console” just a different type of console. If someone says Mega Drive doesn’t have any reasonable, decent or good games, I believe is wrong. There is always this comparison. Mega Drive and SNES were competing hard. SNES seemed to capture younger audience with games and characters like Super Mario or Donkey Kong or Zelda. Mega Drive brought fighting and violence in the form of hockey games with fights and blood in games like Mortal Kombat. I’m not going very deeply in the technological differences of these two. Let’s just say that Mega Drive was released, in Europe, 1990 and SNES was released 1992. So I believe SNES was slightly better in purely technical view.

As I am saying these consoles were not bad or good. They were different. For me it was always Mega Drive. I remember getting it in maybe 1993. I still have the original box it came in. It is a bit worn out because I took my Mega Drive with me at times when spending time outside our homes living room when I was a child. It has so many memories. I played hours and hours. At that time games wouldn’t take ten to thirty hours to complete. They were smaller and often more difficult to play. So there really was no room for SNES inside my gaming hobby at that time. I have got to know SNES better as I grew more older and understood better its meaning as one of the most popular gaming consoles of the past.

Music and graphics are a bit old but at the same time very nostalgic. I don’t know if it’s reasonable to spend some hours to play these old games. Why do I keep coming back to Mega Drive? Because I like also about the fact that it was a part of history. It was part of my history and it was part of the history of gaming. The price for this purchase I made was low. If you consider that the price was about 100 euros, and 59 euros was the price I bought it,  and that this device had 42 games installed I think this was a very good deal and it brought many great memories to my mind. It is a reflection of the times of the 90s.

I am saying Merry Christmas for all the readers of this blog. Take a break. You have earned it!

Why did I finally buy a PS Classic?

I remember how it was hyped. Oh, do I remember. It was then discussed how many games would it have, which games it would include, would there be analog buttons included in the gamepad, would there be two gamepads, would the device be “hackable” and finally – how much would it cost. My expectations were high. The price for this product was 120 euros.

When the details of PS Classic were released I was disappointed. I decided it was not for me or at least not right now. The “mini gaming console” received very bad reviews. I watched these video reviews from YouTube. It was a very big disapointment for me and for also all of the retro hobbyists worldwide. It soon became clear that the remake of PlayStation had failed and flopped very badly and sadly. It wasn’t the console it was expected to be.

First thing I noticed was that PS Classics price dropped heavily since retailers had to get rid of it. No one wanted to buy this product. Some months went by. I read some news of how PS Classic would be easily modded to run more games. This would be done using an external USB drive or stick. Suddenly you could be able to bring like hundreds or even thousands of games to this device. It seemed that there was a way to install software through PS Classics USB port that was actually meant for controller and PS Classic had two ports like this.

There were some technical difficulties in this type of operation. All of the USB drives or memory sticks didn’t seem to work. There were lists gathered and brought on-line by users that were going to do the mod to the device. You couldn’t rely that a USB stick you bought to be used like this would work. So there actually was a way to bring more than 20 games to this product.

As the price of the mini console dropped more people got attracted to it. There were more reviews about how the price was lowered and how the modding was possible to accomplish. So what happened was that the price dropped to very low. I remember seeing ads that told the price would be 35 euros. It’s almost a drop of 100 euros compared to the original price. What happened was that Sony released a product that wasn’t truly finished properly. They paid a high price and had to sell the Classic for so low price.

There would be some things to be improved here. You would expect the device to have a decent controller, and yes, you should have analog sticks on the gamepad. The selection of games wasn’t the best possible. The list had nice games like Final Fantasy VII, Resident Evil and Grand Theft Auto and also Metal Gear Solid, but it had too many unnotable games. Where were Gran Turismo and/or Crash Bandicoot? Tony Hawks Pro Skater? Colin McRae 1 and 2.0? These points were the most important. There were some technical issues related to the actual emulation. In practice this showed as poorer graphics than could have actually been possible. One positive thing of course was the ability to save a game smoothly.

Let’s say this also. I am not encouraging people to mod their PS Classic. I am just saying that it’s possible. Copying roms is at this moment illegal. If you own the game you are allowed to make a rom out of it but this would be “another topic for another day” so let’s just end this post right here. Stay safe!

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