Sunday, November 28, 2010

Commodore 64 - You Can't Buy a Better Computer at Twice the Price

Finally, at long last, my lost child has come home. As chance would have it someone on Craigslist was having a garage sale Friday and one of the items they were selling was a Commodore 64 with all the cords AND a 1541 floppy drive! And as chance would also have it this guy just happen to be located right around the corner literally 11 houses down the road from my house! Never one to snub my nose at fate, I check my wallet to see how much cash I had - hmmm... $12. Not sure if that'll get the job done or not but I decide to put on some shoes and go check it out. Mrs. MP says "You can stay and finish your coffee. I'll go get it".  "OK cool, thanks" and I hand her my $12. "What if they want more than that?" she asks. I shake my head - "All I have is 12 bucks, so we'll see if it's meant to be."

About 5 minutes later she comes back with a Huggies box full of Commodore goodness. The guy was actually asking $15, but she told him we only had $12 handy and he took it!  And in addition to the C64 and floppy drive, he also included the user's manual for both pieces, 2 old-school joysticks (including a WICO BOSS), the book "How to Use the Commodore 64 Computer", 8 sealed blank 5 1/4" floppy disks (handy since I got rid of mine long ago), and a decent little pile of miscellaneous commercial software - Blue Max (I actually had a copy of this one back in the day), Star Trek Evolution, Alien, Bits Pieces and Clues (with African Adventure, Pirate Adventure, and King Tut's Tomb text adventures), My 64 a Computer Tutor (yawn), and Games I & Games II - 2 compilation disks of some sort. When the C64 was the new kid on the block back in 1982 this haul would've cost about $1000 new, but here in good ol' 2010 it's only $12 - not bad!

And I already have my existing C64 games that I slowly accumulated in the last year or two when I came across a good deal - Hardball! (sealed), Telengard (sealed), Deadline (sealed - got that one for $1 shipped!), Wheel of Fortune (sealed), Suspended, One on One: Julius Erving and Larry Bird, On-Court Tennis, On-Field Football, and Beyond the Forbidden Forest. Who knows there might even be a few others buried in my closet. I'll also be hooking up my old Commodore 1526 dot matrix printer. Surrounded by this much retro hardware I might accidentally slip back in time to 1983 like Christopher Reeve in Somewhere in Time. Hmm... that chick flick reference might be a little too obscure. Oh well.

I was a little too busy this weekend to hook everything up but don't be surprised if there is a spike in the number of Commodore 64 posts around here pretty soon. 

Load "*",8,1

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Good Old Games

I've been hearing about Good Old Games for a little while, but finally got around to checking out their site this week. Good Old Games, owned by the Polish company CD Projekt and launched in 2008, offers older PC games for download that they have patched or packaged with an application like DOSBox and a wrapper of some sort to ensure compatibility with newer versions of Windows (in my case XP). If you've ever tried to play older PC games on a new system you know it can sometimes be challenging to get it to run properly. Also, all their games are sold without any DRM protection and when you buy the game you often get other downloadable extras included like game soundtracks, wallpapers, manuals, etc.

I checked out their games and there were several titles on there that I had heard of but never played and their prices looked pretty reasonable. But the best thing is that they offer 3 commercial games for you to download absolutely free to try out their service - Beneath a Steel Sky, Lure of the Temptress, and Teenagent. Registration is simple and I figured you can't beat the price so I downloaded a copy of Beneath a Steel Sky, a 1994 point and click sci-fi adventure game and tried it out.

I'd never heard of the game but apparently it is a bit of a cult-classic. I played it a while and thought it was decent although I wasn't blown away - all things being equal I'd rather replay Space Quest IV (which is also offered on the site packaged with SQ 5 and 6 for $9.99) - but the point of this post was just to point out the GOG service to any readers that might not have ever tried it out (like me a week ago). It was simple, worked well, and they are offering some full-version free games for you to try it out so what is there to lose?  Check it out at

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Mark Wahlberg is Nathan Drake????

Uncharted and Uncharted 2 are two of my favorite PS3 games - heck two of my favorite games overall, so when I heard about the Uncharted movie in production I thought "cool - I'd go see that".  The game was always heralded as a cinematic adventure romp anyway so it should have been an easy transition to an entertaining popcorn flick. Then I heard that they weren't going to be following the story in the game at all - well OK - the story kinda fell apart at the end in the first one anyway so maybe that's not so bad. And today I read they signed up Mark Wahlberg to play Nathan Drake.  Mark Freaking Walhberg. That is bad casting.

Movie Trailers - Movies Blog

Let's compare and contrast - Nathan Drake is a smart-alecky but clever and good-natured everyguy that can kick ass when he's cornered but generally would rather avoid trouble. Wahlberg is - well I was going to simply say "a douchebag" for comic effect but that's not fair since I don't know the guy, but based on my viewing of his movie roles and interviews he seems to be more of a mean, angry, slow-witted, overacting and over-REacting, punch you right in your fuckin face as soon as look at you kinda guy.

But hey he's done some good work like 'The Happening' - no wait, that was shit.  Uh - the remake of the 'Planet of the Apes' - eh that was pretty much crap too.  OH!  He played Max Payne in that video game-based movie.  So that should mean he's ready for another game role - right?  Did anyone out there see 'Max Payne'? No?  Consider yourself lucky because it was shit. I'm ashamed to say I even saw about 15 minutes of Wahlberg showing off his comedy chops with Will Farrel on 'The Other Guys' and it was as close as I have ever come to plucking out my own eyes.

Like several others out there, I was hoping for Nathan Fillion. In case you are unfamiliar with him he's the captain from the sci-fi cult TV show Firefly (and follow-up movie Serenity) and more recently the detective series Castle. If you've seen him in either of those roles and played Uncharted as well you realize right away he is perfect for the role of Drake. He's reportedly an avid gamer and even kinda looks like Drake. Hell he even lobbied for the role on Twitter!

But no - we get Marky Mark. Thanks again Hollywood...

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Monday, November 22, 2010

NBA Jam for the PS3 and Xbox 360

I just bought the new updated PS3 version of one of my all-time favorite arcade games (and Genesis ports) - NBA Jam!  It has been out for a while on the Wii which for some inexplicable reason did not offer online play (yet another shake of the head to Nintendo and the Wii) but the PS3/360 version offers online play and of course a bit of an HD facelift.  Like most sports games, two guys playing in the same room old-school style is optimal, but how often does that happen anymore? At least for people in my age-bracket - not very often. And my wife is not exactly adept at throwing down the Jam so yeah - online play capability was a requirement.

I found this trailer for the PS3/360 version below:


It was originally going to packaged as a free add-on with the new NBA Elite 2011 game for the PS3 and Xbox 360, but after a bug-filled demo was very poorly received and various other problems EA Sports decided to just go ahead and put NBA Jam out as a separate release on its own - which was fine by me since I didn't give a crap about Elite anyway. 

Fallguy40 also chose to get it so we tried it out last night for the first time.  I have to say - I like it!  It definitely retains the feel of the classic with the upgrades you would expect from a current-gen version. It also has several different modes of play like Smash, 21, Elimination, and a few others but those modes felt a little like they were tacked on to try and justify the $50 price point, which FG40 and I both agreed was a little steep for the game (felt more like a $30 game to me - whatever that means). I doubt I'll play the various other modes much but I haven't given up on them yet after only one night. 

There is also a career/challenge type of mode (forget what it's called and the manual is clear over by the TV) which seems to unlock various options and features as you go along so I'll be playing that through as well. That sort of incentive helps add to the fun of playing solo when the game, like all sports games, is really designed for 2-player action. So bottom line is - if you like the original NBA Jam then you should like this new one too and should go out and drop the fiddy on it like I did.  BOOMSHAKALAKA!

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Saturday, November 20, 2010

FINALLY, an "Open-World" Game That I Liked

Today I finished Infamous (or inFAMOUS according to the box), an open-world 3rd-person action adventure game where you play as Cole MacGrath, a bike messenger in Empire City who is delivering a mysterious package when it explodes, devestating the city and granting Cole electrical powers. A plague starts spreading so the government quarantines the city and gangs take over. Your job is to help restore order to the city and solve the mystery of what happened which introduces you to other super powered beings as well for you to fight- or you can just kick ass and be an evil dude too. The game operates on a karma system wherein you slowly progress to the goal of either Hero or Villian. I went with the more natural selection - hero.

This game is a PS3-exclusive title that came out in May of last year and received very good reviews so I'm way behind the curve on finally playing it. But it was always described as an "open-world" or "sandbox" type game and my experience with that genre so far has left me disappointed so I think it scared me away. Unlike the rest of the modern gaming world, I thought Grand Theft Auto IV was boring and I was fairly underwhelmed by Red Dead Redemption as well. But Fallguy40 was nice enough to let me borrow his copy of Infamous and I discovered that I liked it quite a bit after all. So maybe I just don't like the way Rockstar makes the so-called open world games. I dunno. Either way, if you own a PS3 and don't already have Infamous you should give it a shot. In my usual 1.0-10 scale I give it a 8.8.

I liked: The story, grinding on the power lines and rails to get around the huge city quickly, the various powers and the way you progressively obtained and learned new ones, the climbing mechanic, the way heights/falls looked which felt genuine enough to make my stomach feel a little nervous.

I disliked: Cole was a little too grabby onto things which sometimes made precision jumping and falling awkward, getting on a ladder was needlessly difficult and frustrating, quite a bit of pop-in on buildings etc as they appeared from the distance, goon fights were fairly repetitive, Trish.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Zork On a Typewriter!

Staying with the recent Zork theme here - I happened across this short video of this nifty little device created by Jonathan M. Guberman - the Automatypewriter. Guberman added various technical bits to the back of a real typewriter along with a USB interface to communicate with a computer that in effect allows you to play Zork (and presumably other IF titles as well) directly on the typewriter!  You type in your commands, the typewriter recognizes them as if it were a keyboard, and then it self-types the computer output response.  See him play a couple of minutes of Zork on it below.  And if you want to check out his explanation of the tech details of the device you can check that out HERE.

A new way to interact with fiction from Jonathan M. Guberman on Vimeo.

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Eaten By A Grue Achievement/Trophy

MadPlanet recently showed off some clever advertising for Call of Duty: Black Ops, but the cold war-era shooter has a few other gems for us as well. You can actually play Zork from within the game! And if you're a trophy whore like me, you will be rewarded for your retro-gaming efforts.

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"It is an enigma, a maze, a treasure chest, an arena... and it is also a quick death for the unwary. It is... TELENGARD." 

Thus reads the box of this true classic computer game which I just added BACK into my collection of Commodore 64 games thanks to my good friends at eBay.

This baby is still sealed and in near-mint condition and since I don't even have my C64 anymore I haven't even cracked it open yet - but I'm going to.  Check out the awesome box art of the dragon with the hapless adventurer in his talons - one of the cool gifties inside the box is a full-size poster of that art. That's going up on the wall in the Commodore 64 corner of my gameroom - when I repurchase a Commodore 64 that is - and uh - get a gameroom to put it in. Details...

Telengard was released on several different systems back in the early 80's, but I played and loved the DEFINITIVE version (might be a little fanboyism showing there) on the Commodore 64. It is a real-time (more-or-less) dungeon crawl RPG where you are an adventurer who is exploring a dungeon filled with treasures, traps, all sorts of crazy magical items, and a variety of monsters that may do one of two things - like you and reward you with mystical gifts or, as is more often the case, really want to kill you and/or take your stuff. Let me tell you, nothing is quite as frustrating as seeing an Elf pop in in front of you, steal your Armor +40, and then disappear into the darkness before you can do a damn thing about it. Well, possibly more painful is being unexpectedly transported down to level 50 when you are still a young level 2 adventurer and meeting a Dragon who just crushes you in the wink of an eye - that's a little worse.

Good dragon... nice dragon....
The game is basically a computerized version of Dungeons and Dragons which was very popular at the time. Just like the original D&D, at the beginning of the game you roll randomly-generated points for your various attributes - strength, intelligence, wisdom, constitution, dexterity, and charisma. Then you name your character and start your exploration of the dungeon to see how many evil monsters you can kill (or befriend) and how much treasure you can 'snarf' (a word this game introduced me to). And you just keep playing and ratcheting up your hit points, stats, and inventory of items - there is no real end-game.

The game was stored on a data cassette and I clearly remember starting my C64, typing the command to load the game, pushing play on the datasette, and then going into the kitchen to get something to eat, maybe watch TV etc. while I waited the eternity it took for the game to load, calculate all the monsters and rooms, and finally let me get started. I turned the volume on the TV (my monitor) up loud enough so that I could hear the tell-tale gong that signaled that the game was finally loaded and ready to go.

I've heard some folks call Telengard a "roguelike" game or a Rogue variant or clone which I consider a bit of a slap in the face since Telengard's production actually predates Rogue. Daniel Lawrence wrote DnD on a PDP-10 mainframe at Purdue in 1976. In 1978 he ported it to the Commodore Pet and changed the name to Telengard. Then in 1982 he sold it to Avalon Hill for commercial release on multiple systems.  Rogue was developed in the early 1980's on a UNIX mainframe at U.C. Berkley and was later included with U.C. Berkley's BSD UNIX package that was distributed to universities across the country so it became very well-known. Epyx tried to publish the game in 1983 and was a commercial failure. So to that "Telengardlike" game I say bah!

Rogue on Unix - aka Telengarbage
I bought my Telengard off of a guy from Caracas, Venezuela who apparently somehow stumbled onto a large stash of shrinkwrapped Telengards in a warehouse or something because he has been selling them for the last several weeks. I bought a single copy but at them moment he is selling a bundle of 6 if you care to check out the auction HERE.

If you don't have a C64 but would still like to check out this all-time classic game I recommend you try the emulator CCS64 (download HERE) and grab the ROM at Gamebase64 HERE and give it a whirl. These days it is an extremely simplistic game that probably won't hold your attention too long but I assure you that back in the day it was awesome and took up many hours of my time. In the words of Matt Barton in his book Dungeons & Desktops "What is Diablo but Telengard with better audiovisuals?"

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

TAFA Flyer Packs 0.140

As I've mentioned before, The Arcade Flyer Archive is a remarkable resource for old arcade flyer images and they have provided downloadable .zip files of the flyers for a long time, but there were always 2 problems with it - 1) they weren't updated very often and 2) the image files in the flyer packs were smaller versions of the full-size images that you could browse on their website.

Well NOW they have fixed both those issues.  They are now offering .zip files of all the games they have available for the current MAME version 0.140 (and reportedly will be updating them regularly) and the zipped image files are the full size high resolution images to boot! The files are all in .png format so they are compatible with the various MAME frontends out there (like my favorite MAMEUIFX).

So if you are a big MAME guy like I am or just have any interest in taking a look at the old arcade flyers they used to try and sell these games then click HERE and start downloading.  But be warned - there are a total of 62 zip files with about 75 MB of image files in each so it will take a while and a pretty good chunk of hard drive space if you decide to get them all.

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Call of Duty: Black Ops TV Commercial

I got burned out on the various Modern Warfare/Call of Duty FPS titles a while back and decided I wasn't going to buy anymore of them for a while, but I recently saw the TV spot for Call of Duty: Black Ops and found it pretty entertaining. It mixed in a little game footage but mostly it showed various regular people playing soldier blowing away stuff. Lots of big explosions and the Stones' "Gimme Shelter" playing in the background - that equals a good commercial for me. And Jimmy Kimmel's RPG said "Proud Noob" on it - amusing. I'm still probaby not going to buy the game - at least not for a good long while - but they almost got me.

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Sega, I Wish I Knew How to Quit You

I've never owned a working Sega Genesis. I've played on one quite a few times back in the day with Fallguy40 and have known some other guys who have owned one in the past, but personally I've never owned one. They are obviously easily obtained and pretty cheaply, but I have been determined to wait until I find an outstandingly good deal before I get one.

A couple of years ago while I was in Rhode Island I noticed a person on Craigslist that was selling their complete Genesis model 2 with the box, Sonic Spinball, controllers, instruction manual, etc. for $5. So I figured OK let's go grab it and I'll shove it in my suitcase. So we drove out there and did just that. When I got home to Texas I plugged it in and guess what - it didn't work. So now I own a $5 copy of Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball with no system to try it on - fair enough.

Two years and hundreds (or if I include eBay thousands) of potential Sega Genesis purchases later I see on Craigslist that a guy in my very town not even 3 miles down the road is selling his Genesis Model 1 with a controller but no AC adapter cord for $6. I figure - OK cool, I'll just use my useless power cable that I got with the Genesis 2 and I'm goood to go. But Sega would have none of it.  Turns out that even though the 3 different models of the Genesis were fully compatible with each other game-wise, for some reason Sega decided to make their power cable for the model 1 with a negative tip polarity, but for the following 2 models they went with a positive tip (the more conventional apparently). The nice fellow I bought it from did actually inform me of this and said I would most likely fry it if I tried to use the model 2 cord - which fits perfectly. Now why the hell would Sega do that?? So anyway, I thought I might be able to use a universal power supply I have so I bought it.  I got it home and my universal power supply could match the voltage but didn't have near enough amps.

So now I own 2 Sega Genesis systems (Genesi?) and still no way to play this damn copy of Sonic Spinball that I probably won't like anyway.

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