A hodge podge of writings by me that warranted a little more gravitas than a blog post. These particular posts are all about old computers and technology like Apple ][ and Atari.
Having recently played the Apple ][ game Transylvania and its sequel, I was inspired to mess with the art program which those games used. The Graphics Magician was a huge hit for Penguin Software, but I never actually had a chance to use it when we had an Apple ][. I just remember it being advertised in every computer magazine I had.
This sequel to the classic Apple ][ adventure game Transylvania has you returning to the same locations as the first game once again to fight the evil Vampire. The game is twice as big and is a bit more refined. I played the updated 1985 version of the game which runs on the Comprehend game engine which is probably the best implementation of a text/graphics hybrid adventure system. You can use a few prepositions and, in this game, you can command other characters to complete puzzles.
Transylvania is a hybrid text/graphical adventure originally for the Apple ][. This was a big hit back in the day and was ported to just about every other 8-bit machine. I loved these types of adventure games but was really, really bad at them. In hindsight, most of them were brutally unfair and prone to the bad game design cliches of the era such as instant death and guess-the-verb puzzles. Still, I remember seeing screenshots of that menacing werewolf in issues of Softalk or A+ magazine and wanting to try this game.
I recently took the time to sample all of the default sounds from the Apple IIgs music composition program The Music Studio for use with my new sampler. The sounds were recorded directly out of my IIgs via an Applied Engineering sound card and into the Octatrack. I then took the WAV files into my PC and cleaned up the audio a bit. The IIgs outputs a rather noisy signal.
We never owned a Super Nintendo so I never got around to playing the 16-bit incarnation of Metroid. Well, thanks to the Wii Virtual Console I have finally crossed this one off my list. These days I am much more familiar with the 3-D versions of the game and, even though I played it back in the day, I don't really have too much nostalgia for the NES version. There were some really frustrating moments of platforming incompetence on display as I made my way around the planet, but I eventually got the hang of the floaty physics and stuck it through all the way to the final boss battle.
This is a classic FPS from the same people who brought us Duke Nukem 3D. In this outing, the politically incorrect humor is based around the protagonist's ridiculous Asian accent and culturally insensitive one-liners. It can be quite cringe-worthy at times, but inevitably it's harmless. Especially when compared to the over-the-top gore and violence. Ah, the 90's. If you can find your safe space, what remains is an exciting game that sticks to the usual run and gun formula of this era. There are a lot of crazy weapons, tough enemies and unique level designs (for the time). Modern gamers may scoff at the lack of narrative and primitive presentation, but I thought it was fast, offensive, silly fun.
You can download and play Teenagent for free from GOG.com, and, because of my obsessive-compulsive nature when it comes to completing games I own, I felt obliged to give it a whirl. It took about 45 minutes of frustration for me to realize that this point-and-click adventure really wasn't worth the logic-defying effort. This game commits all the puzzle design sins of 90's adventure games. It's the type of game design that pretty much killed the genre.
The past few weeks I have been diving into the world of assembly language programming on the Apple ][ computer. My interest in the topic stems from the recent book release of a compilation of articles on assembly language programming called Assembly Lines: The Complete Book. The articles were written by Roger Wagner and originally published in Softalk magazine back in the early eighties. This edition was edited by Chris Torrence and is available for download and purchase from a number of locations.
Now, I am pretty familiar with Applesoft Basic programming, but I was always in awe of commercially released software on the Apple ][ that ran so fast, had fancy hi-res graphics and used sounds other than the system beep. What was the secret of these mythical programs that required you to type "BRUN" in order to get them to load? The secret was machine language.
While this game was a pretty big improvement over KQV, it still was just too mired in Sierra adventure game brutality for me to really enjoy. There has been some attempt to make the puzzles a bit more forgiving here, including allowing for the player to take multiple paths to victory. I did alright through about the first third of the game then it just gets nasty.