Feb 27, 2009

TAB Adventure Builder

Infocom Games in a ChestApparently the days of professional level BASIC programming are far from over and the thinBasic, err, based TAB Adventure Builder is all the proof I need. Not that I've tried the thing yet mind, but it does seem quite impressive, easy to use and in the spirit of Gilsoft's classic game crafting utilities. It is thus a text-adventure/interactive-fiction creator sporting a variety of editors, some basic graphic capabilities and the ability to compile standalone distributable games.

The TAB Adventure Builder is happily freeware, runs on any Windows version you care to mention and is available here, complete with further info, screenshots, links, tutorials and some lovely demos.

Feb 23, 2009

Spectrum of Beauty (a tiny digital exhibition)

Anyone interested in game design will tell you that graphics and sound should be complimentary to the way a game plays. That gameplay comes first. That, despite the enduring success of Dragon's Lair, the essence of gaming somehow lies somewhere beyond the realm of the visual arts. That there is to it more than mere eye candy, impressive gfx or a thundering soundtrack.

These people would of course be right. Well, mostly really.

On the other hand, the vast majority of game creators, and that would include both graphics specialists and any kind of visual artist working on games, would fail to see that the visual quality of a game, its beauty, is actually platform and technology independent. They can't, you see, seem to grasp the simple idea that hardware imposed limitations can actually inspire artistic innovation and show off ones talent, and keep asking for more power to express themselves. They stubbornly ignore the fact that the abstract beauty of Kandinsky is far more interesting than the latest photorealistic 3D depiction of the Death Star and keep striving for realism; not art.

To actually illustrate the point that visually beautiful games can be created on the humblest of platforms, I've decided to present you with some glorious screens the ZX Spectrum managed to display, using nothing more than its meager (and quite frankly odd) 15 colours on its tiny 256 x 192 display, while simultaneously battling with the computer's inherent colour clash problems. And no, I'm not referring to anything technically impressive the Speccy demoscene has managed to force out of the hardware.

(click on the following screenshots to see them properly)

Deus Ex MachinaAutomata, Deus Ex Machina, 1984, WoS

MugsyRussell Comte, Mugsy, 1984, WoS

Mugsy's RevengeThe Pixel Brothers, Russel Comte, David O'Callaghan & Mike Robinson, Mugsy's Revenge, 1984, WoS

AmauroteSte Pickford, Amaurote, 1987, WoS

Mike Robinson, Terrormolinos, 1985, WoS

The Great EscapeDenton Designs, The Great Escape, 1986, WoS

3D Ant AttackSandy White, Ant Attack, 1983, WoS

Back to SkoolMicrosphere, Back to Skool, 1985, WoS

Now, I could of course go on and show you a dozen other screens showcasing a variety of Speccy-centered art styles, rave about Batman or link to some rather impressive videos, but, well, I won't do that. I'll just hope you understood what I meant to say and that the Artful Gamer soon gets his hands on one of Sinclair's beautiful machines in order to comprehensively tackle the subject.

Related @ Gnome's Lair:

Feb 20, 2009

The appropriately retro VIC 20 Gamer

GridrunnerDid you know that Commodore's VIC 20 was the daddy of the C64, Jack Tramiel's attempt at invading the Japanese market and the platform that hosted the first hits of Llamasoft? And how about the funny little fact that the VIC 20 was known as the VC 20 in Germany since VIC in German sounds quite a lot like fick which actually means fuck? Well, you do know. And if you are intrigued enough then you should visit the brand new Vic 20 Gamer website. It's filled with retro reviews of classic 8-bit games, impressive videos, more than a few freeware remakes and a ton of other features, while sporting excellent design and great writing.

Feb 18, 2009

The spectacular 2008 AGS Awards ceremony

AGS Awards 2008 ceremonyDestroying what had almost become an annual tradition (mostly due to lack of time and alarmingly rising anxiety levels, I'm afraid), I will not go on and post dozens of links to all those lovely AGS Awards nominees, winners, runner-ups and games. Sorry for that. I'll just repost the results as SSH compiled them over at the excellent and aptly named AGS blog. Oh, well, guess I'll just throw in a few links for your downloading pleasure, remind everyone that what follows is a selection of some of the finest freeware-indie games around, and suggest you all have a look at the AGS Awards Ceremony. Ah, yes, the winners:

Lifetime Achievement Award

Best Innovation
Colourwise, by bicilotti

Category Best Game Created with AGS
A Second Face - The Eye of Geltz is watching us, by Le Woltaire

Category Best Gameplay
Nanobots, by The Ivy

Category Best Original Story
A Second Face - The Eye of Geltz is watching us, by Le Woltaire

Category Best Dialogue Writing
Ben Jordan: Paranormal Investigator Case 7 - The Cardinal Sins, by Grundislav

Category Best Puzzles
Nanobots, by The Ivy

Category Best Player Character
"Limey Lizard" from Limey Lizard: Waste Wizard! by ProgZMax

Category Best Non-Player Character
"Magic Smiling Cat" from Little Girl in Underland, by The Ivy

Category Best Background Art
A Second Face - The Eye of Geltz is watching us, by Le Woltaire

Category Best Character Art
Once Upon A Crime, by Ghost

Category Best Animation
Quest for Glory II VGA: Trial By Fire, by AGDI

Category Best Programming in an Adventure
Nanobots, by The Ivy, programming by Vince XII

Category Best Sound Effects
Ben Jordan: Paranormal Investigator Case 7 - The Cardinal Sins, by Grundislav

Category Best Music
Ben Jordan: Paranormal Investigator Case 7 - The Cardinal Sins, by Grundislav, Music by Pete Gresser

Category Best Tutorial or Documentation
ColourWise, by bicilotti

Category Best Short Game
Beauties And Beasts, by MashPotato

Category Best Demo
Dust to Water (DEMO), by Le Woltaire

Category Best Non-Adventure Game Created with AGS
ColourWise, by bicilotti

Category Best Programming in a Non-Adventure
ColourWise, by bicilotti

Category Best Voice Work
Ben Jordan: Paranormal Investigator Case 7 - The Cardinal Sins, by Grundislav
Related @ Gnome's Lair:

Feb 12, 2009

Retro Abomination: Super Gran

Super GranSo, after buying that lovely Spectrum, I finally got to properly explore bits of the amazing Hobbit text adventure, got impressed by Winter Sports, tried solving Waxworks, avoided more than a few sub-par arcade conversions and -eventually- decided to give Tynesoft's Super Gran a try. It is, you see, an arcade game based on the 80s kids friendly TV series of the same name; a series I fondly, though admittedly vaguely, still seem to remember.

The first thing that actually struck me after loading the game was just how dreadful everything looked. I mean, come on Tynesoft, we all know the Speccy is a graphically limited machine, but at least it always managed to output some decently detailed graphics that didn't horribly flicker. Not so with Super Gran, despite it being a 1985 release. Everything is ridiculously blocky and badly drawn, moves sluggishly and flickers like there's no tomorrow. What's more, the only redeeming feature of the thing's graphics, the admittedly decent looking sprites' size, only contributes in reducing the game's playability and making for a horribly crammed playing area.

Super Gran SpectrumThen again, graphics don't make a game, do they? Of course they don't and that's where Super Gran spectacularly fails. The controls are shockingly unresponsive, the first three levels (ranging from a horrid shmup-like thing to a top down racing affair) I managed to see are dull, short and ridiculously tough and -adding insult to injury- the game has even managed to age horribly, making sure nobody will actually dare to find out if it really sported the 10 levels/screens the devs promised. Then again, the first level should be all you need subject yourselves too. It impressively manages to encompass all that is wrong with Super Gran in just one screen!

As for the sound, well, at least it can be easily turned off.

(Find out more about Super Gran and -god forbid- download a copy of the thing via World of Spectrum. It will be a most enlightening experience let me assure you.)

Related @ Gnome's Lair:

Feb 4, 2009

The Retroaction Premiere

RetroactionThe promised retro gaming magazine is finally here and, if I may say so myself, it's absolutely brilliant. Happily, it also happens to be available as a free PDF download. Grab it from the aptly named Retroaction site and enjoy.

Feb 3, 2009

Elvira: Mistress of the CPC

Elvira Mistress of the DarkElvira CPCProbably old news for most CPC users, but here is something definitely shocking for the rest of us: Elvira is actually being remade for the classic Amstrad 8-bit computer by Devilmarkus. Impressively, said remake will allegedly be based on the Amiga version, feature all locations from the original game, a full point-and-click interface, mouse and joystick support, Digiblaster music and some fantastic mode 0 graphics. All it will ask for in return are a humble 128k of RAM. Or an emulator. It will of course be freely available.

Though far from finished, you can happily watch a video of Elvira CPC here and even try an online demo (or would that be a preview?) of the thing over at CPC-Live. Oh, and do visit the game's webpage. It's full of photos of lovely Elvira being all mistressy and quite a bit dark, you know.

As for the original Elvira: Mistress of the Dark game, well, it was a tough and excellent first-person RPG/adventure hybrid developed by the aptly named Horrorsoft and published by Accolade back in 1990. Its major selling points were some brilliantly gory graphics and a rather odd but tension building real-time combat system. Find out more about it here and here and -if feeling particularly wealthy- spend some money here. Elvira can be enjoyed via ScummVM too, mind!

Related @ Gnome's Lair: