My Story

Oh. Where do I begin. I was born in 1984. Two years later my little brother was born. As any parent my parents noticed how clever I was. Or so they thought about it. They thought I was special. We lived in Helsinki for the first four years of my life. We moved to Vantaa in 1988 as my father got a job in high-tech electronics factory. He ended up having a thirty-year career in that company. Later I got to solder some components together but that’s another story.

So it was about 1987 when my father bought our family our first personal computer. I was very interested in it. I started to figure out some characters from the keyboard and I even wrote something with a keyboard before I learned to read. Our family didn’t teach me or my brother to read until we went to school and we learned to read and write actually there.

I was about nine years old when I got my Sega Mega Drive. I really liked Sonic The Hedgehog, Streets of Rage II and NHL 94. I had already played some Sierras games, some casual games, like Space Commander and many others. Space Quest, Larry, King’s Quest, Indiana Jones, Operation Wolf, Bubble Bobble, Sim City and so on.

This was only an introduction to the world I said Hello to as I got a PlayStation. Playing Mega Drive was fun. But the cartridges didn’t bring so much content. You can think about it. A Mega Drive game is about 1 MB. There is about 650 MB on a CD-ROM. So you can figure out how the games would be more longer and they also had more to offer as more and more people and even adults became aware of this situation.

PlayStation really sparked things for me. I played. I enjoyed. Other things in my life were playing basketball and going to junior high as I was studying here in Finland. I really enjoyed life. I even got myself a skateboard and actually also a snowboard. We hang around in Helsinki or Vantaa at parks and had really fun time. It was a fun period in my life.

I played so many games. I had about forty titles and I was eager to loan any games that my friends had. I didn’t get to modding then. I played Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil, Gran Turismo, Oddworld, Colin McRae Rally, Medievil, Fear Effect, Final Fantasy, Silent Hill and Diablo.

I finally sold my PlayStation for so little money. I don’t recall the actual sum but it was about 120 euros. Damn. For all those 40 games, memory cards, two controllers, cables and everything else included. I would have liked to save them for me to use later. But I didn’t think about it then.

I went to Finnish Army in 2003. I had just graduated from high school and I had a place to study in a university. So things were looking up to me. I was not home playing games. I was shooting targets in the woods. So there were some years that I was, lets say, “lost in the woods” with my plans and my life. I believe this is not uncommon at all. I was then 20 years old.

Then in 2006 my mother found an original Xbox in sale. She bought it for me. The first game was Need For Speed Most Wanted. I was back in the game. Later I got to know my wife. She had a PS3. So I bought Final Fantasy XIII to it. I started really getting into gaming again. I started a school in programming. It was a school of applied university from which I graduated in 2016 at last.

So this brought me to my roots again. I started collecting retro in 2017 when I got a PS2 for me. Today I have a bit tens of devices and hundreds of games for them. I enjoy playing. It is my work, hobby and the thing I get most out of.

What is your story? I would like to hear something from you, my readers. Please leave a comment here or contact me some other way.

Different Platforms For Releasing Games

You might have thought about releasing your own game or you might just be curious about what platforms can be used for playing games. This is interesting for me as a programmer so in this blog post I am going to open up a bit these different ways you can today play and even design games.

I have been making websites as a hobby for very long time. I started back in the 90s. To be precise it was the end of 90s. Back then we didn’t have any mobile devices at all. Bluetooth wasn’t where it is today. I think there even wasn’t this thing we call USB standard. So if you had a PC you had to plug in your gaming pad some other way. I don’t recall what that way was. Basically if you wanted to play with game controller you would be preferring PlayStation over PC.

But what I was saying is that one platform that you can make games on is the web browser. You can develop your game with only HTML, CSS and JavaScript. If you make a game this way it is very easy to release it. You just have to upload your game to a web host. There are places on internet that actually sell these games also. So this is one way to make a game.

You might want to go mobile. This means you have to learn Java and after you have mastered it you must learn software development in Android (or iOS and ´the programming language that is used with it). I have tried my hand at Android development. I found it to be very hard. So I gave up on this idea. But this isn’t what you should do. If you have an interest there’s nothing that can stop you from downloading the appropriate IDE (Integrated Development Environment) and start working on it.

One way to release a game is on some gaming console. This is a bit harder since manufacturers of gaming consoles tend to have a sense of control over what kinds of games are being released on their systems. Sometimes you even need a specific development kit for the desired console. So this is a hard way for an independent software developer. It can also cost a lot of money. This way includes also handheld consoles like Nintendo Switch Lite. You might notice that Nintendo is going in it’s own direction as it doesn’t really care so much about mobile gaming.

You can also release a game for an old gaming console. You probably don’t have an appropriate development kit but I can assure you that there are lots of software tools for accomplishing this. So you actually can make a game that is playable through emulator. You can use emulators to play old games on a wide variety of devices that include smart phones, computers like Raspberry Pi and personal computers. There are emulators for playing games of for example Commodore 64, NES, SNES, Master System, Mega Drive, MS-DOS, PlayStation 1 & 2, Dreamcast, GameCube, Wii and many others.

There are also many operating systems that games for PC can be released on. There is Windows, right now it is Windows 10, and many versions of Linux (like Ubuntu). There are also Linux distributions that are dedicated to retro and emulator gaming. I can name some of them. There is Lakka OS, RetroPie and Recalbox just to name some of them.

If you don’t want to release your game for free there are many online software stores that can be used to sell your game. There is Steam and GOG which are big names that have numerous amounts of games available. There are also lots of other options that you can find using your favorite search engine.

I didn’t go to what tools you can use for developing your own game. This might be a good time to have a break. I will come back with another post for you very soon. It would be a good idea to present for you some tools that can be used for developing a game for Android, Windows, Linux or for web browsers. This would be interesting wouldn’t it?

Space Invaders for PS1

Since I recently played Space Commanders, that is a Space Invaders clone for PC, I decided to pick up this PS1 game titled also as Space Invaders. I bought it some time ago but I haven’t really played it.  The price of this game was low. That’s one reason I decided to buy it. Back when I made the decision to buy this game I had already many items in my mind that I wanted to order. It kind of came with the other stuff that I ordered.

It is basically the same game that especially retro game fans know. The original game was released in 1978 as an arcade game and it was also released for Atari 2600 in 1980. Graphics have been improved for this PS1 release. It doesn’t introduce three-dimensional graphics. There is also some slight modifications made in the game play. Activision was the publisher of this PS1 version of this game.

All in all this is  a nice little game. It didn’t keep me playing for a long time. It is although interesting to me at this time of my hobby as a game enthusiast. It is  not difficult to figure out why this game was popular when it was remade for PS1.

As I read the Wikipedia page of Space Invaders I realize that there was a big difference in the arcade version and the console (Atari 2600) version of this game. During that period gaming consoles located at home weren’t as powerful as specially crafted devices that were placed inside arcades. I really don’t know much about their technology.

Things like game consoles and computers are things I know a bit more about. If you are interested in arcade machines and games you could play with them you might want to check this site: https://www.mamedev.org/

One Great DOS Game

In UFO – Enemy Unknown you face a serious situation. All the worlds countries have to set aside their disagreements because aliens are attacking the Earth. You first get to decide where are you going to set up your base. You get to build the base. You have money that you can use for research, training and otherwise imnprove your base. When you get to attack against UFOs you get also to missions that happen when an UFO gets shot down. For that you have to have soldiers, guns and you can evenuse tanks.

This game has many different areas. It combines very nicely strategy and action. I am trying not to spoil the game so much in this text since it has some moments in it that can be a bit suprising. I am not going to reveal any more about the plot of this game.

This game was first released for PC in 1994. When I first encountered it it was end of the 90s. This game was for me like candy for a child. That’s about how attractive it was. UFO – Enemy Unknown had many innovations that set it apart from some other strategy games. It also told a story that was full of Science Fiction influences.

I definitely recommend you to get into this game and give it a chance. It is an old game, but it also is a gold game or an oldie goldie if you want to use that term. If you are into DOS games already I can do nothing more than recommend this game. Also if you’re into alien stuff or have even a slight interest in Science Fiction.

Short Retro Moment

So this game is actually “Space Commanders”. It was released as a DOS game back in 1983. This is actually a game that I remember playing as a very young kid. This was made possible by the fact that I was extremely interested in computers when I was a young boy. There really weren’t any real violence in this game or I was too young to understand it. It is a game where you shoot objects but thanks to poor graphical presentation the deeper meaning of this game didn’t really come clear. Nowadays it is more important as the graphics are better to make sure that the content of the game is appropriate.

This is actually a clone of well known classic called “Space invaders”. I tried Space Commanders after so many years. It’s design is very interesting. I could be interested to see its source code. I don’t know if it is possible. Maybe I use my favorite search engine to find more information. I didn’t see, at least yet, who has designed this game.

I see already some structures in this game. I mean I understand some concepts and some designed features. I almost see the code in front of my eyes but not so clearly. The game works like this. You have a space ship that you can move to up, down, left and right. You can also shoot a bullet. Your mission is to shoot these, we can call them invaders, that are moving towards you. The game ends when invaders reach the bottom of the screen. Invaders move in, is that, six rows or in some kind of a formation. I don’t describe the movement so accurately.

There is a high score chart. It holds only the best score and the score gets deleted if you exit the game. After you have shot all the invaders you get back to where the game started and you face the next group of enemies. They  are a bit faster this time. At the top of the screen there is a randomly appearing space ship that moves from left to right. If you shoot it you will get a bonus score. When you get 10000 points you get one ship more for you to use. So you have limited lives or fighting ships to use.

This was a nice short moment for me to play my dear, now so retro, game. I remember playing the EGA version while this game was in CGA. I mean actually that this game is black and white while EGA version had some colors. It definitely brought some memories to my mind. And if you wonder what kind of a computer I played this with back then I can tell you that it had a 286 processor. I can’t remember accurately any more details about the computer.

Importance of Nintendo to Console Gaming

Nintendo was founded in 1889. It was originally named as Nintendo Karuta. As you can probably conclude – the end of 1800s wasn’t yet the time for this company to develop a gaming console to be played at thousands of living rooms worldwide. But it was the same company that brought NES or Nintendo Entertainment System to markets in 1983.

NES wasn’t the first video game console that was introduced to consumers. Atari brought their very popular console to the markets at the end of 1970s. It was very popular device but it got into real problems as the quality of games that were released did drop. These games included a game that was well-known and often named as the worst game ever made. It was a game based on Steven Spielbergs movie “E.T.” . This and many other games were buried to wasteland. And this is a true story. When Nintendo released NES the industry started to get over this crisis of games that didn’t have a good quality. Nintendo was making sure that only good and playable games would be released to the system.

If you have to name one game console you probably get your mind to NES. I remember clearly that it also was the first gaming device that I remember seeing ever. In the 1980s we had Commodore 64 but what Nintendo offered was something that revolutionized gaming.

Nintendo had to compete with Sega and later with such big names like Microsoft and Sony. Nintendo has been in gaming industry for a long time. Somehow Nintendo kind of missed mobile gaming and approached handheld gaming by bringing new handheld consoles to the market. Lately there was introduced a new handheld device and this device is the one I acquired very recently – Nintendo Switch Lite. Thinking about this makes me puzzled. I bought this for about 220 euros. A new smart phones price is from about 150 to 400 euros. Would you buy a handheld device for gaming if you have your smart phone already? This is something to think about. Although I have been very satisfied with my purchase this far.

So Nintendo was the company that brought 8-bit gaming to our living rooms. It might not have been the first but in my opinion it had the strongest impact on this culture that was already starting to rise it’s head. This brings out the question – Why are games so popular? I think Nintendo has come up with the answer and they are, after all these years, still coming up with new innovative devices and games to gamers worldwide. So the impact to the whole industry is undisputed.

 

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.

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 …

 

 

 

Getting to Know Nintendo

I have played a lot of Sega Mega Drive, various PlayStation consoles, PC and even Xbox. I started thinking about what have I to this day missed. What would be something for me to get to know next? I figured I hadn’t played Nintendo so much and seriously. What were the titles I would like to get into and could I maybe purchase a new console. Could I learn something new about gaming?

I thought about this for some days. I had some plans about first getting some NES games. I figured also that I haven’t played any games in the Zelda series. It would be expensive to buy first or second game for NES. It was almost 50 euros and I would have only old retro game. It wouldn’t be a great experience.

I was thinking about this. I thought that I could buy Nintendo Switch. This would however cost over 300 euros and I would have to think about games and spend even more money to get them. I finally made my decision. I would get my hands on Nintendo Wii.

My Nintendo Wii came with one game that was Super Mario Galaxy. The price tag was 80 euros. Shipping didn’t cost anything since the purchase was expensive enough which was a nice deal for me. I was a bit surprised of the size of the console – it was definitely small and light.

I haven’t played any Wii games before. I have barely seen it. I knew the controls were very different if compared to PlayStation or Xbox. I had ordered a gamepad with my Wii. It was a bit of an surprise that I had to plug the gamepad to this other controller called “Wii Remote”. And I didn’t get the gamepad to work. What to do next? I started the device. I even had to go to the store to buy some batteries for this new and exciting thing I had just added to my gaming collections.

So it was soon getting late and I just had this thing called Wii in my hands. I knew also that I could play GameCube games with it. I had ordered also one game for GameCube. I found out that I would need at least an original GameCube controller and maybe even a memory card. So I had to order them also. I did that next morning.

Nintendo Wii is a very nice product. I connected it with my television through SCART. There was a HDMI adapter also available but I haven’t, at least yet, ordered one. That would surely make the display more detailed and sharp. I found out that playing a bit of Super Mario Galaxy introduces this system for a complete beginner. The controls aren’t so difficult once you get the hang of it. You have to be a bit careful not to slash your friend or drop a bottle of lemonade from your table while playing. But after all it works great. You are playing with both of your hands and not only with your thumbs and index fingers. You have several buttons and sometimes you have to shake your Wii Remote for Mario to spin fast around for couple of times.

I am going to play my Wii some more. I already have three games and one GameCube game. Those three are Zelda – The Twilight Princess, Resident Evil 4 and, the one I already mentioned, Super Mario Galaxy. The GameCube game I got is Resident Evil and it’s a remake of the original one that was released for PS1. If you want to get yourself a Wii just remember to check if it does run also GameCube games. Newer versions of the console don’t support this feature. And remember that you have to have yourself at least a controller of GameCube and preferably also a memory card. I might write a post or a few about Nintendo Wii games in the future so stay tuned.

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