Sunday, 18 September 2016

Leadlight and a new OS for the Apple II

John Brooks, best known in Apple circles for programming the amazing Apple IIGS version of fantasy platformer Rastan in 1990, recently released an unnofficial update to ProDOS 8, the OS used by 8-bit Apple II computers. The last official version was 2.0.3, released by Apple in 1993, so that's 23 years between lunches. Brooks's 2.0.4 release includes improvements for almost the whole range of Apple IIs, both the 8-bit ones and the 16-bit Apple IIGS.

One thing about ProDOS 2.x in general is that it never ran on the oldest Apple II models: the original Apple II, the Apple II+ and the unenhanced Apple IIe. You needed an enhanced Apple IIe, an Apple IIC or an Apple IIGS. Until now, anyway. Brooks's 2.0.4 lets you run ProDOS 2.x on the earlier IIs.

When I programmed Leadlight back in 2009–2010, I had to assess what the minimum hardware requirement for it would be. The game uses ProDOS 2.0.3 and lowercase characters, so I stated that the minimum would be an enhanced Apple IIe. Now the game could potentially run on older machines under ProDOS 2.0.4, so long as they've been upgraded to 64KB of RAM and have 80-column cards in them (giving lowercase capability).

I don't think I'll be racing to implement this possible OS change. Leadlight is at a very stable place now and content-synced between the Apple II and Inform versions, but there is a glimmer of appeal in the idea of tweaking it to try to get it to work on even more limited hardware without taking anything out of it.

* You can buy Leadlight Gamma for modern devices or get the original Apple II version for free at http://heiresssoftware.com/leadlightgamma/

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Adage myth wreathe kid

I've reviewed IFComp 2011 entry Awake The Mighty Dread on IFDB, with review tagline

'Something like an Alice in Wonderland that's hard to get at/into/through.'

Click this sentence to go to the review.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Let Sleeping Dreads Lie

I'm writing this post in a Mac program called Focused. It's one of those 'no distraction' writing apps. It gives you a blank window with a nice large font, an obvious cursor, no icons, no sidebars, no title bar, no sidewindows, no sidebottoms, no grotesquely nested MS-Word ribbons of chaff.

When you turn it on, a random quote about writing sits in the middle of the blank page until you type something. My quote tonight was:

'Loafing is the most productive part of a writer's life.' – James Norman Hall

This was apt (they're usually pretty apt) as I was about to write about how I'm waiting for a really good idea for the most basic of my Inform CYOA extension examples to come to me. I spend a lot of time thinking about it in pockets of each day. It's taking a surprisingly long time to come, given that the ideas for the other five examples didn't cause me much struggle. They involve such entities as talking rats, a quiz show, ye olde Cloak of Darkness, a glass basket and a dragon.

After fiddling with other peripheral IF busywork – like updating my review tags on IFDB – I felt like playing something. I've been reading Mathbrush's nifty intfiction posts about past XYZZY Best Game winners, in which he often goes sideways to talk about the corresponding IFComps. I realise his posts have had the side-effect of engendering nostalgia in me for some of the games from the first two IFComps I participated in. So it seems it's taken me about five years to develop this particular nostalgia.

In terms of acting on nostalgia for 2010/2011 IFComp games, I find my typing fingers are restless for some of the one-shot games which had mixed receptions and whose authors didn't return. Things like 2011 game Awake The Mighty Dread, which has no reviews on IFDB. And that's why I'm going to replay and review Awake The Mighty Dread while I continue to wait for this idea I'm waiting for. Of course doing this review won't take as long as all that, and then I'll return to the waiting, but you can't force creativity all the time. Sometimes you must even deign to loaf.

Friday, 1 July 2016

News about ME (Clash of the Type-Ins)

Experience a leisurely, digressive thrill at least once every two minutes for probably considerably too many minutes as I chat, jest and otherwise interact in various novel ways with Ryan Veeder and Jenni Polodna, the sometimes wacky, sometimes soulful hosts of podcast Clash Of The Type-Ins.

In episode 34 we play my award-winning™ IF Six from 2011, about little kids playing hide'n'seek tip in the park.

If you never heard the audio from Six before, I cut it all into the podcast, though Ryan didn't cut out me also verbally describing what was being heard in each case (which I had to do for the hosts, who couldn't hear it) resulting in a delivery of information that some would describe as 2 X POWERED UP! but which cynical members of Generation X like myself might describe as Redundant.

There's a decent number of digs at Millennials in this podcast, so be ready for that if you are one.

Clash of the Type-Ins can be got here.

Thanks Ryan and Jenni for having me.

An important reinforcement of news not about ME

People who know and have done a lot of IF, and who either love organisation and oversight, or are highly driven by cause, and/or who exhibit a mixture of all of the above qualifications, have formed the non-profit Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation

Its homepage is http://www.iftechfoundation.org/

Its facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/iftechfoundation/

The way I read it, the foundation's plan is to help look after the tools, services and culture of IF in a way that should take the pressure off a random collection of individuals to have to do so. In this light, I'm reminded of how all the individuals have done pretty stellar jobs holding the structures aloft to date.

I guess most people involved in making IF, including myself, have pointed their attention at the bits that interest them and tried to help keep those bits going, or contribute to them or maintain them. And sometimes there have been bits You are interested in personally, but which you don't have the skills to help with. At a low level, the do-what-you-can and hope-for-what-you-want experience has probably been a bit frustrating for everyone involved. I don't expect a pile of instant solutions from the new foundation, but I'm glad and grateful that the IF folk who feel they can or want to or must address such issues are thinking about the long term.

I like helping people with things I can help them with, but I hate organising stuff. Just thinking about itARRRRRRRRGHHH!

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Tunnel Runner on Wade-Memoir

I lost June to what doctors think was viral meningitis. It wasn't easy to diagnose, but I had two overnight stays in hospital and have been spending the rest of the time at home. I also developed double vision. The vision is expected to self-correct over time and it does seem to be improving a little each day. Today I tested my computing abilities (with a patch over one eye) by writing this and updating one of my websites, Wade-Memoir, with a parser/shoot-em-up (?!) bit of game, Tunnel Runner, from when I was ten. You can go to the Tunnel Runner post by clicking this sentence.


Why I thought of Tunnel Runner today: While my vision was really messed up, I couldn't read and I couldn't watch anything, so I listened to a lot of podcasts. One of them, No Quarter (about classic coin-ops) mentioned that the hosts were supporting the crowdfunding for some turn-based shoot-em-up. This sent my mind back – way back – to Tunnel Runner. It was meant to be a sideways shooter like Star Blazer or Scramble. How it came out is that you use a parser to enter commands to move your ship. Today I wrote this game up in my blog Wade-Memoir, making it my first post there in half a year.

I was having motivation troubles writing the last example for my WIP Inform CYOA extension before I got sick, probably because I've already written a good number of examples that interest me more. This last one needs to be the most fundamental, in a way, and is intended to be the first one for a user.

Soon I hope to be reconstituted enough that I should be able to recommence using my will to force myself to do certain things. Or a day may come when the sun is especially bright (it's winter here) and a particular shaft will hit me in a particular way and inspire me to do it without me having to kick myself.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Loitering with the Joneses of technology

– I've reviewed mystery adventure The Black Lily, from IFComp 2014, on IFDB.

– I participated in an IF podcast last week, but I don't know when it will be around.

– My Inform CYOA extension is pretty far along. I hope to release it sooner rather than later so that it can ward off the ravages of age. Tools are particularly susceptible to those ravages. Some of them get ravaged before they even get out the door. I reckon the important thing is not to dawdle in the doorway. Whether due to feature creep, or to the high and impatient current speeds of all of modern citizens, technology and history, you can be left palely loitering in the doorway with your outmoded tool.

This happened to me in 2012 with a GameSalad project. That this was only four years ago surprises me; it feels like much longer. Such time collapses are illustrative of the point.

I spent months using GameSalad to build the engine for an overhead viewed point-and-click adventure game with a dash of action. But not difficult action. The iDevice touch interface wasn't going to be slick enough for tight control. I was building this engine for a ghostly horror type game I was going to call Hedra.

GameSalad was in development heat at the time. Every time it got updated, I had to redo more stuff in my game. Plus Apple's Retina technology was coming in. Suddenly it came to GameSalad. Then everyone had to figure how to trade in double resolution graphics as well. As a one-man band, I was having a hard enough time tuning the engine per se to keep up with the Joneses of technology, and eventually I gave up on the whole thing. My demo no longer runs properly on my current Mac. It needs an old version of GameSalad on an old Mac or a bunch of updating, and even if I did update it, I'm no longer in the headspace or flush of interest to make that game.

I think this all makes Hedra the only computer game in my gamemaking history that I invested solid time in but which didn't get off the ground. I've got a decent number of incomplete games behind me, especially back on the Apple II, but I consider those to have gotten off the ground because they reached the point where they had either a bit or a lot of game content going before I stopped working on them. Hedra doesn't exist except in my head; all I've got is part of an engine that was intended to turn into it later.

Having only abandoned one project late in the fundamental development stage strikes me as a fortunately low stat. I think the rate has probably been helped a lot by most of my projects having been all me. The moment you become part of a development team, you can face exponentially more complex completion factors, but technology affects all projects.