Where I Read – Computer Gaming World V. 1, #1


CGW Issue 1 CoverI’m taking a break from Analog Computing this week to instead take a look at the first issue of Computer Gaming World, for November-December of 1981.

We start off with an ad from SSI, hyping their port of their Civil War Strategy game “Battle of Shiloh” and the World War II game “Battle of the Bulge: Tigers in the Snow.” It’s kind of interesting. Nowadays we’re used to strategy games which will take either larger battles or even campaigns and allow the player to control them from the strategic level all the way down to the tactical level, like with the Total War games. Whereas here, on the other hand, you’re either on the strategic level, or the tactical level. If you’re on the tactical level you’re controlling a fairly generic fight or only one battle, and if you’re on the strategic level you’re either controlling a massive battle (like the Battle of the Bulge), or you’re controlling an entire theater of operations. Continue reading → Where I Read – Computer Gaming World V. 1, #1

Where I Read: Nintendo Power #51


Nintendo Power #51 CoverWe have another recap of an issue in Nintendo Power, just in time for a significant, coinciding event in the modern video game industry.

The issue is Nintendo Power #51, for August of 1993. Our cover game for this issue is Street Fighter II Turbo, which introduces the ability to have same character matches in the game, as well as the ability to play as the bosses, coinciding nicely with the release of Capcom’s latest fighting game to include Street Fighter characters – Marvel vs. Capcom 3.

In the letters column for this issue we have a letter from a 47 year-old chuck driver, looking for assistance with Blaster Master, and who has also been having problems with Final Fantasy Legend for the Game Boy. According to the writer, he got so frustrated with the game, that he nearly ran over his Game Boy with his big-rig until another driver stopped him (I presume this was at a truck stop). The writer discovered that the other driver had been stuck in the same spot in the game he was, and he got some instructions about how to get past that part of the game. I have to admit that I never thought of big-rig drivers as hardcore portable gamers before, but now that I’ve been exposed to the concept, I’m not too surprised. I wonder if the portable game systems are still popular with long-haul truckers today, and if so, I wonder what systems are popular? Continue reading → Where I Read: Nintendo Power #51

Where I Read – Analog Computing #3


I’m continuing on with my walk of Analog Computing Magazine with issue #3 for May/June 1981. Our cover story is programming languages, and we have an ad at the beginning of this issue for Mosaic Electronics spring catalog, and their 32K RAM expansion board. Cygnus Micro systems is also advertising their new disk loader, word processor, and electronic Ledger. Also, COMPUTE! Magazine has a couple new books coming out.

Editorial

First up, we learn that our editors are full-time college students, and because of their course schedule, they’re going to have to ease back on their publication schedule, as not only are they the editors of the magazine, but they’re also the entirety of the writing staff. I’d cut them some slack, except they have to be all snide and snarky and talk about how other editors don’t know all the work it takes to make a magazine, something which, bare minimum Steve Harris and Dan Hsu would take issue two.

They also have a call to fight against computer piracy, as it discourages publishers from supporting the Atari 8-bit platforms over the inferior (their words) Apple and Texas Instruments systems. We also get a call for more article submissions – pity your poor, poor writer-editors.

Letters

We get a massive letter complementing them on their Composer articles, as well as a request for more advanced programming articles. There’s also a request for contact and ordering information for a few hardware manufacturers. Another reader wants to know about this “Compuserve” thingie. There’s a request for a review of a recently released Apple emulator, and information on wargames for Atari Computers. Well, if you’re a little patient on that last front, SSI will have some stuff that should scratch that itch. Finally, the director of Kurta Corporation has a correction for their review of their tablet from last issue. Apparently the $100 does more then buy you some demo software… it will also buy you the power cables for the tablet, as well as interface cables to hook it up to your computer… so you can actually use the tablet. Congratulations, you just unsold me.

News

Dow Jones has some investment management software. Microsoft has announced their upcoming release of Atari BASIC at Summer CES. Plus there’s a new assembler app coming out. Floppy drive production by Atari has also been stopped briefly to incorporate some new changes to cover reading information off of disks that were written to by drives of different speeds. It probably seems odd to you that something like this would require a significant change to drive designs, but remember that around this time consumer floppy drives were fairly new.

New Prodcuts

Temple of Apshai, the latest game in the DunjonQuest series is getting a port to Atari 8-bit systems. The game’s publisher, Automated Simulations, is also putting out the Kaiju game “Crush, Crumble and Chomp” where you have to destroy as much of the city as possible before being stopped by the military. Optimized Systems Software in Cupertino also has a new variant to Basic, called Basic A+.

Listing – Sys/Start

A program listing for an application to provide information on attached devices and whether the system recognizes something being there. Useful for troubleshooting.

Listing – Basenotes

This listing basically expands the range of sounds your computer can handle so it can do sounds in the base range. I don’t know how good bass sounds sound on Atari 8-bit systems though, especially since the sound range isn’t normally accessible.

Assembler/Editor Non-Tutorial Pt. II

This installment in the series covers the Assembler, and some of the option commands.

Review – Quality Software Assembler

This is an assembler program, if you couldn’t tell from the title. They like the program, though they don’t like that you’re required to use the bundled text editor for your coding.

Review – Letter Perfect

No relation to Word Perfect. I’ll give them props for disclosing that this is a program that’s advertised in the magazine. Unfortunately, they review commits the cardinal sin of being apologetic. The opening of the review describes it as being one of the best word processors they’d ever used, but then proceeds, in the course of using the review as a tutorial for the application, they enumerate a litany of problems with the application, to the point that they had to send the program back to the manufacturer and get a patched version back. This would be bad on its own, but the fact that the program costs $150 in 1981 dollars just makes it worse.

Listing – Towers of Hanoi

If you’ve played a Bioware game, you know this.

Atari 2600 Update

Atari has released Othello, Video Pinball, and Missile Command, and Activision has released Freeway and Kaboom. In terms of upcoming titles, we have Ice Hockey and Stampede announced by Activision, and Warlords, Asteroids, Super Breakout and Haunted House from Atari. Also, we get a heads up that 2600 carts don’t work on an Atari 8-bit system, in case you didn’t already know.

Review – File-It

Basically, this is a suite of file-management applications. They like it, and it’s actually less expensive then Letter Perfect at $40.

Review – Atari Touch Typing

If you couldn’t tell from the title, this is a typing tutor program, to help you speed through those program listings in the magazine. They like the program, though it has its problems. However, considering there’s not a lot of competition for the time, you’ll probably have to take what you can get.

 

Anyone want to buy a surge protector?

We also get a little ad here for surge protectors, which is a little notable considering that now they’re practically ubiquitous.

 

Review – Basic A+

They like this (unsurprising), though they don’t like how it handles strings.

Review – Missile Command

This is a review of the Atari 8-bit version of the game. This version does have 2 less cities (and thus less missiles) than the arcade version, and you’re using a joystick instead of a trackball, so take that as you will.

Listing – Target Shoot

Basically, this is a shooting gallery game that you control with a joystick.

Listing – Sketch Pad

This is a basic drawing application which lets you draw lines and fill closed areas with solid colors. Nowadays this isn’t much, but for a two page listing, that’s rather impressive.

Reviews – Target Blockade & Battle Warp

Target Blockade is a multiplayer snake/Light Cycle clone, and Battle Warp is a Space War clone. These reviews also have numerical scores, though we don’t get any information on the scale.

Upload Terminal.

This is a column about online services, wit ha par for the course hating on Apple users and their computers. This issue covers uploading a program listing instead of manually typing in while connected with your 2800 baud modem. This includes a couple listings to help with the uploading process, as FTP clients haven’t been invented yet.

32K Boards

 

Also, here are some memory upgrades.

Want to pimp your comp? Well, check out these boards that will give you a whopping 32K of memory. The boards even have gold plated connectors so they won’t oxidize causing your computer to crash and you to lose your data.

 

Bugs and Bytes

We have some corrections for earlier listings

Program in Style

More advice on writing better code for Basic on Atari 8-bit systems.

Where I Read – Nintendo Power #50


Just in time for the 25th Anniversary of the US launch of the Nintendo Entertainment system, my Where I Read for Nintendo Power has reached issue 50, for July of 1993. It shouldn’t be a surprise to say that this issue’s cover game is a notable one – Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening for the Game Boy – the first portable outing for the series.

Our letters column for this issue has an interesting question – when they added two more face buttons on the SNES controller (in addition to the two shoulder buttons), why did they call them X & Y instead of C & D? According to the official answer, it comes from CAD, and relates to the fact that X & Y are the secondary buttons, as opposed to the main A & B buttons. I don’t know enough about CAD to say how definite that is (aside from X & Y being the axis for any two-dimensional plane), but it sounds good. If anyone who knows more about CAD wants to chip in with more information on what could be referenced here, I’d appreciate it. We also have a couple good-bad Legend of Zelda jokes, from Alex in Victorville, CA:

Q: How did Link help his team win the basketball game?
A: He used his hookshot!

Q: What did Zelda tell Link when he couldn’t unlock the door?
A: Triforce. (Get it, “try force” – I’ll get my coat)

WWF Royal Rumble Guide

So, just to get the age of game across here – it still has WWF in the logo instead of WWE. It’s got the Big Letter logo instead of the Scratch logo. The Undertaker has a goatee only, no moustache. Also, it bears mentioning that of the five wrestlers pictured here – Bret Hart, The Undertaker, Rodney “Yokozuna” Anoai, Curt Henning, and Scott “Razor Ramon” Hall, two are dead (Henning and Anoai), one is out of the business due to being an alcoholic (Hall), one basically can’t actively wrestle after having too many concussions (Hart), and one’s retiring Real Soon Now (The Undertaker). Hey, at least it doesn’t have Chris Benoit in it, if it did then the game wouldn’t exist anymore. 😉

The game itself has four gameplay modes – single player career, tag team career, three-man tag, and battle royal. It’s interesting to note that when wrestlers use a chair as a foreign object, they hold it upside down. Of course, like most steel chairs on WWE programming, they can only withstand a couple swings before becoming unusable for anything really. It’s also interesting to note that while the game has a tag team mode, only two real “tag teams” are represented here – Mr. Perfect and Ric Flair, and Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon, and both those are situations where one wrestler was the other’s “bodyguard”, not that they were a regular tag team and neither team ever held the Tag belts. I bring thus up because earlier games usually had one tag team in it that had held gold, usually the Road Warriors/Legion of Doom, or occasionally Demolition.

We get a list of wrestlers here, and their signature moves – which is a new touch for WWE games. However, the game doesn’t include submissions, something that WCW’s first game did include. I don’t recall if this game includes rope breaks on pin attempts though. Still, from a feature standpoint, they’re behind their competition.

Run Saber Guide

This is a sort of run and slash action-platformer like Strider. We get maps of the all the stages before the last one, including boss strategies. Of note – according to wikipedia, the boss for level 2, a massive reclining undead woman, was originally just a massive reclining woman in the Japanese version, but Nintendo of America had them change it to avoid their “No Violence Against Women” policy – the same policy that lead to the stripper-riffic women from Final Fight being changed to transgender men in the US release of that game. Yeah, their priorities weren’t in the right place.

E.V.O.: Search For Eden Guide

Before Will Wright gave us Spore, we got this ambitious title from Enix for the SNES. Basically, you control a creature of your own creation, and earn Evolution Points by surviving, by eating creatures and so forth. Evolution points can be spent on various genetic mutations that will help you do better later on. For example, as a fish, you can evolve a lure similar to the lure of the angler-fish, to help draw in food.

Edutainment Games

We get a run down of various edutainment games as we approach back-to-school season. Several of these games, like the Miracle Piano Teaching System, have previously been covered by the magazine, and nothing is really in-depth.

Bubsy Guide

This game is a little interesting, as while the game was originally licensed when it was released on the SNES, the Genesis version was initially unlicensed (a licensed version was released later). We get maps for levels 1, 4, 7, 10, 13, and 16 (the final stage). We don’t get any boss information though, it’s entirely possible that the game doesn’t have any bosses until the end, or that the bosses are on the levels we don’t get maps for.

We also get a gallery of the covers of all of the last 50 issues of Nintendo Power. Thus far I have to say that I like the cover of issue 2, the Castlevania II cover, the most. Our Nester’s Adventures strip covers TazMania and is has no useful advice at all.

50 Year Retrospective

This is, as it says, an in-depth retrospective. Apparently they consider the Castlevania II cover their “worst” cover, because it gave kids nightmares. Personally, I would say any piece of cover art good enough to cause nightmares would be a sign that it’s quality. Anyway, the official history here downplays the magazine’s role as a piece of advertising, instead describing it as a way to give a lot of information about Nintendo games for fans, and not including advertising as a way to avoid any awkward conflicts of interest, never mind that this is a house organ, and thus will probably skip on saying anything too negative about their products.

At the very least, they attempt to leave the American kusoge (shitty games) out of the magazine, and to be fair, with the Quality Control picks I’ve played, while some are bad, I haven’t seen anything as bad as Deadly Towers, or the far, far worse Dragonlance: Heroes of the Lance in the magazine, at least not very often.

While the Starfox comic continues, I’m still not going to cover it because it’s still not good.

Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening Guide

So, this guide covers enough of the overworld map to get you to the first three dungeons of the game, and maps of those dungeons. That’s unfortunately it. Most other guides usually give a glimpse and maybe a few hints of what’s to come later, but this has none of that, unfortunately.

Gargoyle’s Quest II Guide

This is a sequel to the spinoff game based on Ghouls & Ghosts/Ghosts & Goblins. We get strategies for all the bosses right off, as well as a full two-page spread of the overworld map. We don’t get maps of the dungeons, but I’m okay with that. Frankly, I wouldn’t have minded if, with Legend of Zelda, we had gotten no maps of the Dungeons, and just gotten a complete overworld maps and a few useful notes on the dungeons (for example, in this dungeon you can only defeat some enemies with jars, and you can only lift those jars after you find the Power Bracelet in this dungeon).

T2: The Arcade Game Guide

This is a port of the arcade light gun shooter… for the Game Boy. Yeah, no good can come of this. Mind you, I liked the arcade game, but light gun games really need to be played with a light gun – either one hard locked to the machine (T2, Operation: Wolf), or a couple on cables, possibly dual wielded.

The Addams Family: Pugsley’s Scavenger Hunt Guide

Moving to the NES, we have a licensed game based on the Addams Family animated series. I watched this show a fair bit as a kid, and I have to say that the animated format probably worked better for the Addams Family than the live action format, at least outside of big features like the two films with Raul Julia. We get a map of the hub area and notes on the individual levels, but no full maps.

Mighty Final Fight Guide

So, what do you do when you want to port one of the best fighting games of the last 5 years to the NES, when the system can’t handle it? You put out a Super Deformed version! Thus, we have Mighty Final Fight, a version of Final Fight with Chibi characters. Plus, it has a level up system, and we have Guy in the game! We get maps of the levels and notes on beating the bosses. Frankly, I like this game’s visual style, and I’m probably going to make it my Quality Control pick.

Bubble Bobble 2 Guide

Remember Bubble Bobble? Good. Now you’re getting more of it. We get notes on a smattering of levels from the game and their World’s bosses – 3, 11, and 15 in World 1, 21, 24 and 36 in World 2, 42, 45 and 59 on World 3, and after that is the final world.

We also get a mini-merch catalog, which includes the opportunity to get every single back issue of Nintendo Power for just $50. That’s actually a pretty good deal. There’s also a Member’s Only shirt, and the Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Adventures graphic novels.

Top 20

For our Top 20 this issue, Star Fox now holds the top spot on the SNES, bumping down Street Fighter II (original version) and Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. On the Game Boy, Super Mario Land has once again been bumped off the top spot, and not by Metroid II. Instead, Super Mario Land 2 has claimed the top of the charts, pushing Samus and Kirby further down the charts. On the NES, Mario 3 retains the top spot, followed by the original Legend of Zelda (who has been on the Top 50 for the magazine’s full run), and Mega Man V. It bears mentioning that every NES Mega Man game is on the charts and every Metroid game released as of this issue is on the charts. We are missing Zelda 2 from the charts on that franchise, and the original Super Mario Bros and Super Mario World are absent from the charts from that franchise.

Now Playing

Now for the best of the rest. Ultima V: the False Prophet is getting a SNES release. Unlike the PC games you can’t carry your character over from the last game. Seika is releasing Super Turrican, JVC has the Wizardry clone Dungeon Master, There’s also a Game Boy game based on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Pak Watch

As my favorite wrestling commentator, Jim Ross, is fond of saying, business is about to pick up. Capcom is preparing to release Street Fighter II Turbo, with the ability to play as the bosses, as in Champion Edition, plus a speed boost. However, Midway has their own major fighting game on the way, albeit in a bowdlerized fashion – Mortal Kombat. By bowdlerized, I mean that many of the finishing moves have been toned down, though the people writing this column attempt to downplay this – and fail. Ultimately, this game, more than Sonic vs. Mario, is what truly divides the Genesis vs. SNES camps.

Konami also has a fighting game of their own, with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters. This one also has its own differences between the Genesis and SNES versions. The SNES version has more characters from the animated series (like Bebop and Rocksteady), while the Genesis version includes more characters from the comics (like Casey “10 Minutes For High-Sticking” Jones). Finally, Capcom is taking Mega Man to the next level with Mega Man X for the SNES.

Finally, for my Quality Control pick. While Super Turrican in the Now Playing section caught my eye, I’m going to go with Mighty Final Fight.

Where I Read – Analog Computing Issue 2


We move on with the issues of Analog Computing with its sophomore issue, for March and April of 1981. As you can see from the cover, we’ve got coverage of some printers for the Atari 8-bit systems.

Editorial

Last issue’s Editorial column was a statement of principles, while this issue’s column is a request for feedback from readers asking what they’d like the magazine to become. They also stated that at the behest of Atari dealers they’ve decided to stop running ads for their own Atari software. That’s kind of disappointing. Yeah, it could be construed as being biased in that you’re not reviewing your own apps, but on the other hand, that they’re publishing their own software provides a bit more clout to their reviews – they’ve developed for the system, so they know what software development for it entails.

They’ve also announced that they’re not going to run ads for mail-order houses or specific retailers. I can kind of get why they’re doing that, but it still feels like a boneheaded move to me. Part of having editorial integrity is, in my opinion, you run ads for the people you want to run ads for, in accordance with your ad policy – and once you’ve set your ad policy, you don’t change it because retailers who carry your magazine get pissy because you’re running ads for competing firms. Considering that last issue they strongly came out in favor of Atari fanboyism, their yielding compromise here feels a little depressing.

Additionally, they’re accepting program submissions, for review, and possibly for listing. They’re also announcing that since they stopped running ads for their own products, they’re depending more on advertisers for revenue instead of subscriptions. Since they’ve also cut mail-order firms and other retailers from their list of approved types of advertisers (which is something that EGM didn’t even do), then this could be a little tricky.

Letters

That was fast. Usually it takes an issue or two to get letters, at least that show up in time for deadline. I guess that being bi-monthly makes that less of a problem.

Our first letter has a possible solution for the program lock-up problem from last issue. Apparently the “BYE” command can clear up lockups like this. I can’t find the details, but presumably BYE is the kill process command. The letter also had a little news tip of interest. Apparently Ham Radio operators who are also Atari enthusiasts were trying to start some sort of Atari Ham Radio program on Monday nights at 8 PM eastern, at 14.329 Mhz. It’s kind of interesting, the ways computer enthusiasts found to exchange information, before Usenet started finding its way outside of academia.

Letter number two starts off with asking about what readers have permission to copy. Remember when you had to have written permission to photocopy stuff? I’m glad those days are over. The writer also runs down a few computer issues that the customer doesn’t have to be in warranty to have Atari fix, even if the computer is out of warranty. Most of these problems involve adding or removing capacitors from the motherboard. Also, apparently crossing your power cable with your printer cable could cause RF interference. God, the loads of cables coming out of the back of my tower would have tremendous problems with RF interference back in the day. We also have an alternate method for making hyperspace jumps in Star Raiders.

There’s a bit more stuff related to contacts on Atari computers, and that Atari might want to switch from their current contact design to gold-plated ones for improved conductivity. There’s also a letter from the head of marketing at Axlon Inc, hyping their new memory module for the Atari 800, that can expand the system’s memory up to a stunning 256KB of RAM. No one could possibly need more than that!

Another writer brings up the TRS-80 and the Apple, and how Atari is the last hope for the industry since those systems are crap and won’t be anywhere in the future. Well, he’s half-right. Finally, we get a very impressive letter from an 8th grader with what is basically an article submission, explaining what the PEEK and POKE commands do. It’s not perfect, but this probably the first time this kid has done technical writing, so I’ll cut him some slack. Wonder what he’s doing now.

Atari News

Atari is working on an accounting suite for businesses. It has an Accounts Receivable system capable of handling up to 300 customers at a time, with a max of 1200 monthly customers. The General Accounting application can handle 2700 transactions a month for up to 750 accounts and finally, Inventory control will handle covering stocks of up to 1000 different items. All in all, this sounds like a decent application for a small business.

Atari’s also working on a word processing application, which I’ve used and I’d say it was okay when I was in grade school, but now I prefer WYSIWYG applications like OpenOffice or even premier.

New Products

First up is a brand spanking new modem for the Atari from from the Micro-peripheral corporation. The modem includes a printer interface, so it can print off everything you see on your screen for later reference, as well as a tape recorder so you can record the information you viewed for playback later. Or, to put it another way, the tape recorder lets you save files. Frankly, that’s kind of awesome. It’s horrifically dated now, and even if I had one of these, I wouldn’t be able to use it as the BBS services would no longer be up and running. Still, were this the 80s and were I a hacker or just a general geek who hung out on BBS services, I’d want this so freaking bad. That said, this would cost $249 in 1981 dollars (approximately $546 now).

Activision has home ports of Kaboom and Freeway for the 2600, both of which have been released for Game Room, and have been covered on GiantBomb.com’s Game Room features. Meanwhile, Automated Simulations has a few games for the Atari 8-bit systems under their Epyx brand. They have The Datestones of Ryn, Invasion: Orion, and Rescue at Rygel. None of these I’d heard of before. Manhatten Software (that’s not a typo – at least not my typo) has a casino blackjack game designed to teach you how to get thrown out of casinos by counting cards. For the record, fuck casinos who treat card counting like cheating.

Disk Files – Note and Paint

We have our first program listing of the issue, with a 100-item inventory management app. While the application isn’t very useful in modern systems, the listing might offer a little useful information on the theory of designing database systems.

You’re Wasting Arrays

A column from Charles Bachand about being a better programmer – particularly with regards to using system resources more wisely. Bachand boasts that the programming techniques he recommends will cut down on memory space used by 80%. First, they recommend using single byte numbers (255 or less) through a chunk of memory (about 256 bytes large) starting at the memory location 1536, or $600 if you’re using machine language. These sections would have to be accessed with PEEK and POKE.

Next, you can hack basic to handle the limitations for array storage. Basically, (no pun intended), in ATARI BASIC, Arrays – places you store variables are designed to only be able to be two-dimensional, and there are some limits to their size in two-dimensions. Thus, if you’re making a lot of variables, you might end up needing multiple arrays. Well, not anymore, as Charles has a hack for you that lets you create 3-dimensional arrays instead. Finally, if you need arrays that are bigger than the 256 byte space at 1536, they recommend using DIM to define the arrays… as strings.

Now, all this programming advice is very useful if you’re doing, say, Atari 8-bit home-brew programming. However, if you’re using anything else then this advice won’t nearly be as useful, as modern versions of C, for example, handle memory usage differently then ATARI basic would.

Rumors

This is sort of like the Quartermann column, but not presented in anything near as interesting a style. Of note in the rumors are:

  • a multi-player Star Raiders (fat chance)
  • a new OS (maybe)
  • a screen dump cartridge (maybe, though I don’t know how useful that would be)
  • a voice synthesizer and voice recognition system (I can see the first but not the second)
  • an EPROM burner (which sounds fun, lets you author your own cartridges – which could be useful for the modern home-brew community, as well as independent software publishers from the time who want to publish for something other than floppy or cassette – as both of those need external devices.)
  • a home port of Galaxian which would in theory step upon the ground covered by the home port of Space Invaders.
  • a dummy terminal version of the Atari 400.
  • the Atari Program Exchange – a service that will help 3rd party developers get their software published through Atari.

We get an ad for Letter Perfect from LJK Enterprises, a word processing program that boasts the ability to adjust your header and footer, and even delete whole lines of text, all for the low, low price of $149.95.

Balance Your Checkbook

For our next program listing, we’re continuing with the practical programs with one to help you balance your checkbook. This code is a little better documented than the last app. Still, there are already existing open source apps you can check out if you’re looking to write your own checkbook app, like HomeBank.

Player/Missile Graphics

Like the title says, this article covers Player/Missile graphics when you’re writing games. What are Player/Missile Graphics you ask? Well, with Atari systems, the “player” is whatever sprite on-screen that’s being controlled by the character. The missiles are autonomous sprites which move on their own accord, based on rules set by program. They don’t give the details for what this program listing does, but my suspicion is that it’s a Space Invaders clone.

Unleash the Power of Atari’s CPU

I suspect that if you were a programmer in the 80s, and Spam E-Mail existed, instead of herbal Viagra, you’d get messages telling you how you could unleash your CPU’s inner power. Anyway, this article does have some useful information, like how the system has a dedicated GPU, called ANTIC. To my knowledge this makes for the earliest computer system to have a GPU. Anyway, Basically, their way of boosting your processor speed is having your system stop using the GPU if it has to some heavy thinking, whether it’s math calculations or plotting out a chess move. That would explain some of the blinking in the 2600 version of Reversi that’s on Game Room (as commented on by Jeff and Ryan) in past Game Room Rundowns. For those who are wondering about that, Reversi is one of the games commonly used when designing AI systems. Chess is used as well, as is Go – though people working on more advanced game algorithms have yet to design one that will work for Go, due to the game’s complexity.

Cannon Duel

This is a listing for an artillery duel game, one which doesn’t have the player account for wind speed, which is disappointing, as that’s what separates the children from the adults, when it comes to artillery games.

Reviews

First up is Decision Maker. Basically, this application lets you enter all the information you have for a decision – where you must choose between one of 10 options, weight the information based on how important it is to you, and then tells you which one to pick. Frankly, this is one of those things that would probably be easier to do with a pad of paper.

Listen

For our Music Composer program, we get a listing for an application that will let you more easily and perfectly translate your compositions in Music Composer to a text hard copy that you can then re-enter, and have translated into music again. To show you how the program works, we also get an output/input listing for “Yellow Submarine” by The Beatles. When do we get AC/DC?

Atari VCS

The 2600 has gotten its first big 3rd-party publisher, and perhaps the first major 3rd party publisher in general – Activision. Activision is putting out their first five titles: Fishing Derby, Dragster, Checkers, Bridge, Boxing & Skiing.

A Clipping Routine

This little listing is another useful piece of code for writing games. The last one taught you how to draw Player & Missile characters. This one handles drawing off-screen without getting error messages. Now, I’m not going to enter the listing, so I’m not going to get the details about what it looks like, but I do wonder if this just has drawing off-screen, or if it will have the image wrap. Similarly, I wonder if this would allow for scrolling images – and thus scrolling levels, and thus, theoretically, I dunno, Mario for the Atari 8-bit? Commander Keen? Anyway, I’m putting the listing up as an image if you want to read it and maybe play with it.

The Game Room

This is meant to be a new ongoing column that will serve as a combination game design/game review column. It’s an interesting idea. I haven’t heard of any columns anywhere that connect directly connect game design theory discussion and game reviews in this fashion. Now, I just hope that they’ll try to keep the design concepts connected to the game reviews – illustrating a concept and then focusing on games that carry out that concept with varying degrees of success.

This issue they’re talking about building playfields, and in particularly randomly generating them. This is different from modern procedurally generated content. This is more of a less sophisticated Nethack – like randomly populating a Snake/Light Cycle level with some obstacles. They’re implementing this with a sort of ship battle game – we have two moving ships on-screen, a Player (the player’s ship – natch) and a Missile (the enemy ship), plus additional missiles for any shots fired by the ships. However, we want to populate the field with some islands, and to make things interesting and varied between plays, we want to randomly place them, but we don’t want them to be put on top of each other, and we don’t want to accidentally spawn a ship on top of the island. So, we get another useful subroutine for handling the generation of the playfield. This makes the third useful subroutine for designing games we’ve gotten this issue. Now, all we need next is one for collision detection, one for shooting, and one for the actual AI, and we’ll have all the pieces for a game. From that it would be just a patter of putting the pieces together.

Reviews (Cont)

Our next review is for another “edutainment” simulation game on par with last issue’s SCRAM. Specifically, we have Energy Czar. Your job is to regulate energy policy to meet certain environmental goals without pissing off the public so much that you get fired. This feels like the kind of game that the Atari 8-bit systems would have problem handling, but might work a little better now, in the hands of the right developer. Their reviewer like the game’s challenge, though he came in suspecting it would be terribly dull.

We also have a review of the Mosaic Memory Expansion Kit. Basically, this is a kit you can install into your system that lets you increase the amount of memory you can work with, thus making it easier to do software development. The device was actually made by a company that would have been not too far from me – Mosaic Electronics in Oregon City. Mind you, installing the memory isn’t as easy as it is with modern systems, as you have to solder the memory onto the board. Naturally, this process will void your warranty, though apparently since the system only shipped with a 90 day warranty, this might not be a problem.

As an aside, a 90 day warranty! Really? Most computers now ship with a one-year warranty! My God, and my customers when I did tech support complained when we wouldn’t do support longer than a year, saying that warranties were longer back in the day.

Next up is a review of War at Sea, a serial-numbers-filed-off port of Battleship. It’s apparently a one-player only version, though it has some interesting sound presentation, particularly with Morse code effects and some engine rumble, as well as a ticker-tape message for the winner. The reviewer things a two-player version could work, but I’m not so sure of it working for hot-seat play.

Download Terminal!

The exclamation mark was their idea.

Anyway, this listing is another useful, practical application – an app that lets you save the output from your modem to a floppy drive or, presumably, a cassette tape drive. Practical for the time, but not really useful now.

Reviews (cont.)

We have a review of a calculator application. Not something I’m particularly interested in. There’s also Mind Bogglers, a collection of simple puzzle games, like variants of Simon, Hunt the Wumpus (called Mystery Box), and an Othello clone.

There’s also a round-up of various first party Atari printers – an 80 column and 40 column dot matrix printer and a thermal printer. All the reviews are favorable, which is unsurprising, considering their fanboyism at this time. We do get a sample printout for each printer, which is a nice touch though.

Machine Language to Basic Conversion

This is another program listing of the practical sort. Apparently Atari’s own Assembler/Editor cartridge doesn’t translate Machine Language back to Basic very well, after you’ve done the original translation from Basic to Machine Language. This is something that’s kind of important, if you’re planning on selling a program to someone and you want them to be able to edit the code – something that was somewhat important at the time.

Assembler/Editor – A Non Tutorial

As it says, this isn’t a tutorial on how to use Atari’s Assembler/Editor. By which I mean it’s not a complete tutorial, instead covering some of the basic features of the Editor side of the app, like auto-numbering, exporting your program to a floppy disk, and so on.

Bugs and Bytes

I get the impression that Assembler/Editor just came out, as that’s the big running theme for this issue. They could have, in theory titled this issue “The Assembler/Editor Issue” on the cover. Anyway, the manual for Assembler/Editor said you could CLOAD code from tape (CLOAD, I presume, meaning “Code Load”). However, it doesn’t work that way – so instead they have a little subroutine they’d written to help you do that. We also have advice on what to do when you have two files with the same name (apparently this version of DOS doesn’t catch that automatically).

In The Spotlight

We get a look at some of the programs being developed by Adventure International. They published Star Trek 3.5 that was being reviewed last issue, as well as a bunch of upcoming text adventure games. Adventure International would later develop a text adventure game based on the Buckaroo Banzai film.

If this isn't a cheap shot, then I don't know what is.

Where I Read – Nintendo Power #49


After a far too long delay, I’m finally carrying on with my Nintendo Power Recaps with issue #49 for June of 1993. Our cover story for this issue is the crossover that nobody was really anticipating – Battletoads and Double Dragon. It perhaps bears noting that it is the Battletoads which are hogging the spotlight here (no pun intended) while one of the Lee brothers is in the far background.

The letters column this issue has a request of more reviews of alternate controllers. It does bear mentioning that as we moved into the 16-bit generation, magazines dedicated less space to reviews of 3rd party controllers. Gamers still knew they existed, thanks to massive numbers of ads but we didn’t get dedicated reviews of them.

B.O.B Guide

This is a side scrolling run-and-gun game from E.A. for the SNES. The game follows a teenage robot who crashes his dad’s spaceship on a planet full of enemies. He has to fight through them all and make it to his date. The game incorporates falling damage, related to how quickly you fall, which is a nice touch. We get maps of stages one through six, as well as weapon and utility item notes. I’m also noticing that none of these stages have boss fights, which was probably a daring move for the time. There are some more difficult stage-specific enemies, but no set-piece boss fights, except towards the end of the game, which isn’t covered in this guide.

Taz-Mania Guide

So, Taz Mania is running wild, Brother. Unlike other versions of Taz-Mania, this one uses Mode Seven graphics, to make this a sort of racing game, with the player standing behind Taz as he runs down roads wrecking havoc, collecting Kiwis along the way. We get maps for the first 3 stages and, due to the camera angle not allowing screen-shot maps, they’re hand drawn.

Casino Games Round-up

First up is Vegas Stakes for the SNES. We get info on the five different casinos you can play at, none of them officially licensed. The games are the usual games for a casino game – 5 Card Stud, Blackjack, Craps, Roulette, and Slots.

Next up is Super Caesar’s Palace, which does have an official license. This game has only one casino, but a slightly larger collection of games. In addition to the usual stuff, there’s Red Dog (draw 2 cards and then bet on whether your card will be in between the two). There’s also horse racing and keno.

Yoshi’s Cookie SNES Guide

Well, Yoshi’s cookie has gotten a SNES port, which means it’s time for a guide for the SNES version. Of note with the SNES version is Bullet-Proof Software, the same people who brought us Tetris, developed the game. Alexey Pajitnov even did the puzzle design..

Power U

If this isn't a cheap shot, then I don't know what is.This is basically a Q&A column, with a bit of FAQ to it. We’re starting off with a surprising cheap shot at Sega and the Genesis, with their response to the question “Does the SNES have Blast Processing.” Nintendo’s response is, basically, “Sega won’t tell us what Blast Processing is in the first place, so they really can’t say. The closest they could get to a straight answer was Sega saying that developers program their games to get the most out of the console’s system resources. That’s something the SNES, and for that matter, all consoles are capable of, so if that is the real, technical definition of Blast Processing, then it’s essentially meaningless. Or Sega just didn’t tell Nintendo because they’re a competitor, and Nintendo’s just going for the blatant low blow. I’m going with the latter because we have an actual honest-to-god editorial cartoon mocking the Genesis.

Next up is a question about whether the SNES CD-Rom or the Super FX is better. I’d say the Super FX is better because it actually came out, though Nintendo says it’s apples and oranges. We get another question about the lack of first party sports games, and Nintendo decides not to give a straight answer and points to all the third-party titles instead of saying “We’re getting out of the sports games business because Madden is awesome”.

We get a question about what all the possible colors on the SNES do. Well, Timmy, they help the SNES show many different types of colors on-screen at once, including multiple objects that are the same color.

Finally, we get detailed information about the SNES’s processor speed, and then a side-by-side statistical comparison on the SNES and the Genesis in terms of processor speeds, memory and that sort of thing. As any PC hardware buff will tell you, that information is meaningless without benchmarking but even now nobody’s written benchmarking software for the SNES and Genesis. It would be interesting to see, if you wrote such an application, and were able to create cartridges for the software for the SNES and Genesis, how they would turn out.

All in all, though, this article reminds me a lot of some of the raw numbers articles from EGM that came out earlier. I wonder if it was a response to how popular such articles were.

Battletoads in Battlemaniacs Guide

The SNES finally gets its own Battletoads game. I should really hunt down the arcade game version of this on MAME, if for no other reason because it was dramatically more violent than the home console versions, and just to compare it to the console versions or something. We get maps for every level except the last, including the rocket-bike levels, which is a really nice touch, though you don’t get timing information. Still, if you’ve played the first Battletoads game, all the levels look pretty much the same.

Battletoads in Ragnarok’s World Guide

Like with the other Battletoads games, this one, for the Game Boy is pretty similar to all the earlier games. You have several brawling stages, you have a jet bike stage, and you have a stage where you zip around on snakes.

Battletoads & Double Dragon Guide

This little guide covers the NES version of the game. While this version keeps some of the classic Battletoads level types – brawler, Rocket-bike, Swinging wrecking ball, it does ditch the snake level type, which is nice.

Controller Roundup

We get a run-down of various notable controllers, both first and third-party for the SNES. This includes a few 3rd party controllers that are only available in Japan, like ASCII’s one-handed controller for use with Wizardry-style RPGs. Unsurprisingly, ASCII also what is basically a memory card unit for your SNES that lets you transfer your saves between games – like the Wizardry series, which ASCII also released in Japan.

Bubble Bobble Part 2 Preview

This is more of a preview than anything else. We get a refresher on the gameplay mechanics of the Bubble Bobble series.

Titus The Fox Preview

Mascot-based action platformer, and the rundown of the gameplay mechanics we get makes it clear that it doesn’t have particularly much to distinguish it from other games in the genre.

Raging Fighter Preview

This is Konami’s fighting game for the Game Boy. We get a list of the roster and a stat breakdown. No move lists though.

Normally I don’t go into counselor’s corner much, but there’s one trick of note here – we get a 3 page spoiler-free guide (not that it matters much) for Destiny of an Emperor for the NES. For those who don’t remember, that was the Romance of the Three Kingdoms themed RPG from Capcom.

Also, for this issue’s Nester’s Adventures, Nester (playing Batman Returns) would learn to use a cape attack when a heart is in the area, if it wasn’t for the fact that Batman and Catwoman were teaming up to hit him with a logic bomb so they can go off for a hot date.

Fire and Ice Guide

Another puzzle game for the NES gets a guide. We get maps of a few of the rooms, as well as some notes for the level creator.

I’m not going to go in-depth here, but we also get a run down on a bunch of upcoming hockey titles and, with Father’s Day coming up, we get a repeat of some hints for games that you might want to play with your dad.

Top 20

For the SNES, Legend of Zelda regains the top spot, while Mario firmly retains his hold on #1 on the Game Boy and NES.

Now Playing

Of note among the also-rans is The Terminator for the SNES, which apparently is too easy for power-players, despite the fact that it has no continues, and it drove the Angry Video Game Nerd up the wall. There’s also Super James Pond for the SNES, and F-15 Strike Eagle for the Game Boy.

Pak Watch

Sunsoft has an upcoming Bugs Bunny game based directly on several specific cartoons, which will likely be a future Quality Control pick. Jaleco has the fighting game Tuff E Nuff. Koei has PTO, and JVC has Dungeon Master.

So, for my Quality Control pick. I’ve already done Yoshi’s Cookie, so that’s out. I think I’ll go with Raging Fighter, just to give a Game Boy fighting game a try.

Cover for the first issue of Analog Computing

Where I Read – Analog Computing #1


Cover for the first issue of Analog ComputingHaving run out of issues of EGM for now, it’s time for something completely different. Specifically, we’re shifting focus from gaming consoles to computer gaming, with Analog Computing Magazine. For those unfamiliar with this magazine, it focused on computing on the Atari 400 and 800. Why am I picking this magazine? Well, because the first computer I ever used was an Atari 800, so Atari computers hold a special place in my heart over the Commodore 64. Fear not though, once I’ve gone through this magazine, I’ll see if I can find an old Commodore magazine and give that a run through – particularly since Commodore’s history is interesting in its own right. Continue reading → Where I Read – Analog Computing #1

Where I Read – Nintendo Power #48


We’re moving on with the Nintendo Power Recaps with issue #48 for May of 1993. Our cover story for this issue is the beat-em-up adaptation of the Batman Returns film. Our letter themed topic for this issue is suggestions for contests. The prizes that are printed seem pretty reasonable. We have one writer who suggests a Wrestlemania themed contest, with the winner getting a trip to Wrestlemania IX, second prize being a Super Wrestlemania Game Pak and a years subscription to WWF magazine, and the runners up getting Nintendo Power jackets. Another reasonable one is a trip to a snowboarding championship (have the X-Games started yet?), with the winner getting a meet-and-greet with the contestants, as well as snowboarding lessons from the winner. Continue reading → Where I Read – Nintendo Power #48

Where I Read – Electronic Gaming Monthly #104


I’ve found one more gap that I can fill in my Electronic Gaming Monthly Recaps – with issue 104 for March of 1998. Our cover story for this issue is Yoshi’s Story for the N64. This issue also has the absolute dumbest ad for Klonoa ever – in that it deliberately tries to draw a connection between the main character of the game and blood-borne pathogens of the sexually transmitted variety. Yeah. Continue reading → Where I Read – Electronic Gaming Monthly #104

Where I Read – Nintendo Power #47


We continue on with the Nintendo Power recaps with issue #47 for April of 1993. Our cover story for this issue is Starfox, after it played second fiddle to Tiny Toon Adventures last issue. Our letters column this issue has a bunch of letters asking the question of what column they’d like to get rid of, and what they’d like to replace it with.

Overall, most of the readers of the magazine would like to get rid of George & Rob’s column. I’m not too surprised – the column’s reviews aren’t necessarily as useful as the reviews in, say, EGM – though they’re more useful than the reviews in GamePro. A couple readers also suggest dropping the comics, Player’s Picks and Power Players. I kind of like Power Players. While I don’t report on the high scores listed in the magazine, when I was reading issues of Nintendo Power as a Kid, it always interested me. It was like the high score list on arcade machines, except with people from all over North America, instead of just local people. It provided me as a player with something to look up to. As it is, I wouldn’t mind if such leader-boards were built into emulators that supported high scores like, say, UberNES or, alternatively, on Wii’s Virtual Console. I wouldn’t mind dumping Nester’s Adventures though. Continue reading → Where I Read – Nintendo Power #47

Where I Read – Electronic Gaming Monthly #66


Cover for EGM #66I’ve finally found another issue of EGM to fill one of the holes in my back catalog, with issue #66 for January of 1995. Our cover story for this issue is Killer Instinct, and is looking positively ’90s-licious. We also get a look at the Virtual Boy on the cover. This issue’s editorial column is about the Virtual Boy, and to be short, Ed Semrad is not impressed with it, in terms of game quality, display quality, or quality of the controls.

Letters

This issue’s letter of the month is a cautionary tale to warn people not to let bug spray get on your compact disks – told from one reader who accidentally got bug spray on her Sega CD game, which ruined the game. We also get a question about upcoming CD based fighting games – they mention Samurai Shodown CD, Fatal Fury Special CD, Eternal Champions CD, and Brutal.

We also get a letter from a writer who wants to make his own Turbo Duo games, and thus continue to provide support for the system. Unfortunately, doing such a thing would be incredibly expensive, both in terms of chip manufacture, and in terms of licensing fees, and learning Japanese well enough to translate the documentation. Continue reading → Where I Read – Electronic Gaming Monthly #66

Where I Read – Nintendo Power #46


So, I’m continuing on with the Nintendo Power Recaps with issue #46, for March of 1993. I’m also posting this issue of my recap on GiantBomb.com. Hello to you all! Anyway, this issue’s cover game is Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster Busts Loose. All things considered, the cover art for this issue is a little better then some of their earlier cover art for licensed properties (as opposed to licensed photographs).

Our letters column actually has stuff that’s worth mentioning this time. We have a letter asking about a code to play as the bosses in Street Fighter II (code? No. hack using a Game Genie or Pro Action Replay that they can’t talk about? Yes!) There’s also a letter about the trading cards that they have at the back of each issue that I haven’t been talking about (because it doesn’t really matter), and a letter about how you can get a job as a game counselor – live in Seattle, be over 16, have great skills at video games, and have better skills at communicating what you’re doing. Continue reading → Where I Read – Nintendo Power #46

Where I Read – Electronic Gaming Monthly #21


After a little break to get some schoolwork done, I’m going to carry on with filling one of my gaps in the EGM recaps. This issue is issue #21 for April of 1991. The focus of this issue is on 16-bit systems, from Nintendo, Sega, and NEC. The Editorial column for this issue focuses on Sony and Nintendo’s announcement that they working on an optical drive for the SNES, one we all know never pans out, and ultimately leads to the development of the PlayStation.

Letters to the Editor

We get letters applauding EGM’s staff’s prior articles on the TurboGrafx-16, as well as a question about how they got their screen shots of Darius Super in a prior issue – they snuck them at a convention, how else? There are also letters about other magazines running tricks and news stories that they ran first, which they’re flattered about. Continue reading → Where I Read – Electronic Gaming Monthly #21

Where I Read – Nintendo Power #45


We’re continuing on with the Nintendo Power recaps with issue #45 for February 1993. Of note in the letters in this issue is one calling for the SNES getting Final Fantasy III, which they say we’ll get it as an adaptation of Final Fantasy V (sort of, we get Final Fantasy VI instead).

Cybernator Guide

Konami has a new mecha action game, and this is the guide for it. We get a map for the first stage, as well as notes and boss strategies for stages 2, 3, and four. Reading this, and seeing the plot summary – this feels like a Gundam game based on the original series. It’s probably not a Gundam game, but I suspect the plot similarities are deliberate for Japanese audiences. Continue reading → Where I Read – Nintendo Power #45