March 31, 2017

Arcade - Time Pilot

A strong contender for my favorite arcade game of all time is the unassuming Time Pilot. We used to have an arcade in Boise called Pojo's Nickel Palace. They had a swath of older arcade games which you could play for a nickel (or two). They had newer, more expensive games also. For ten dollars worth of nickels, you could play Time Pilot for a long time.

In the game, you command a fighter jet, equipped with a time travel device, and guns. The game is a multi directional scrolling shooter, where your jet is positioned in the middle of the screen, and you control the direction of movement with a joystick. The jet is always moving, like an airplane does to stay in the air. There is one button, for shooting your guns. And the game requires shooting continuously.

You must fight your way through different eras of aerial combat. From biplanes, to fighters, to helicopters to jet fighters, to UFOs. As you progress in each level, you eventually destroy enough of the little planes to summon the boss airplane. After destroying the boss, your time travel equipped jet is warped to the next era. After the UFO's you warp back to WWI and the biplanes, but with harder combat. Occasionally, you can pick up a parachuting ally for bonus points. As well, squadrons will appear, and destroying the whole will grant bonus points.

A classic button mashing shoot-em-up favorite

March 29, 2017

Biblical Theology & Reading

I've been quite busy reading for my courses this spring. For one course, Understanding Biblical Theology, I've been reading several books about Biblical Theology. Among the many books are the New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Christ-Centered Biblical Theology by Graeme Goldsworthy, Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church by Michael Lawrence, Understanding Biblical Theology: A Comparison of Theory and Practice by Edward W. Klink and Darian R. Lockett, and God’s Kingdom through God’s Covenants, by Peter J. Gentry and Stephen J. Wellum. All of the books for this course I went Kindle/digital with, except the dictionary.

For the other seminar course that I am in, Biblical Theology of Worship and Ministry, there are many books as well. Engaging With God: A Biblical Theology Of Worship, and Encountering God Together: Leading Worship Services That Honor God, Minister to His People, and Build His Church by David G. Peterson, Christ-Centered Worship by Bryan Chapell, True Worshipers: Seeking What Matters to God by Bob Kauflin, Recalling the Hope of Glory by Allen Ross, and For the Glory of God: Recovering a Biblical Theology of Worship by Daniel I. Block. For the seminar course, I went physical paper, as we are required to bring our books with us to the class (and it's nice to have paper to share a reference).

March 27, 2017

Apple ][ - Sabotage

One of the earliest games for the Apple ][ that I remember playing by myself was the game of Sabotage. After a fair bit of training, I loaded the 5 1/4" floppies into the machine and turned it on, listing to the clunking of the drive heads in the floppy disk drives, as they read data.

The game of sabotage was relatively simple, you operated a canon. You could pivot the canon left or right, and shoot. The game used either the keyboard, or the analog input from the apple paddle controller. The less rounds you shot, the higher your score. The goal was to defend your base from incoming paratroopers. You could shoot the paratroopers, helicopters, jets, and even bombs. But when four paratroopers landed on a side of your canon, they would jump up and demolish your canon.

The game did have an alternate play mode, where pivoting the canon would also cause the bullets to steer. This was helpful as shooting the parachutes off of incoming paratroopers, plummeting them to the ground, sometimes smashing troops below.

Shooting off the parachutes of the incoming paratroopers may be some type of virtual war crime. .

Arcade - Moon Patrol

On of my all time favorite games is the arcade masterpiece Moon Patrol. Moon Patrol brought together good music, interactive side scrolling parallax game-play with multiple areas of focus, and driving a moon buggy. A six wheeled moon buggy with loaded guns!

There were two main areas of concern in the game. One area was the terrain, which featured craters, rocks, mines, boulders, and speeding alien ships. The other area was the skies, which featured an array of different bomb laden spacecraft. The spacecraft came in stages, with the grape looking craft launching bombs that created craters.

The player controlled the speed of the moon buggy with a two direction left/right joystick. You also could make the buggy jump, and fire its guns (which fired unlimited shots both forward and upward). The player progressed through checkpoints, from A towards the goal of the letter Z. After the first course (blue), the player then progressed to the challenge course (pink), with a repainted red moon buggy. Always a fun game to be had driving the moon buggy through alien landscapes!
Moon Patrol had an awesome soundtrack for the golden age of arcade games.

March 24, 2017

Arcade - Joust

One of the best two player games of the golden age of the arcade was the game of Joust. Joust put the player (or players) against wave after wave of flying knights armed with lances. The players rode an flying ostrich or a flying emu. The computer players rode upon buzzards. The players could attempt to work cooperatively, but had to take care not to dismount the other player; which then may escalate into a discordant spiral of retribution between the players.

The game had relatively simple input controls. There was a joystick that allowed for left and right movement, and a button that would flap your mount's wings. It took great practice to be able to hover your mount effectively.

If you wren't fast enough in dispatching the computer enemies, the screen would be invaded by speedy and near invincible pterodactyls. There was the lava troll, that would attempt to reach up and snag you into the lava.  You could attempt to break free, by feverishly pound the flap button. As well, after every few levels, a platform would disappear until you were left with a laissez-faire aerial melee. The enemies got faster and more adept as the levels went on. This game kept its players on their toes.

Some high scores from long ago and far away...

March 21, 2017

Apple ][ - Castle Wolfenstein & Beyond Castle Wolfenstein

In the History of video games, Castle Wolfenstein and Beyond Castle Wolfenstein, marked the first time I remember of a computer making somewhat analog voices. We used to play the games on the Apple II, and the shouting of the guards over those apple speakers was something else. In the first game, Castle Wolfenstein, you were to escape from the Nazi prison, Castle Wolfenstein. In the second game, Beyond Castle Wolfenstein, you were to infiltrate the Fuehrer's underground bunker, find a hidden briefcase bomb, find the secret conference room, set the timer, and escape! You have to use security passes, bribes, gunfights, elevators, alarm tool-kits, and your memory (to remember your way out). All of which make for an exciting game on the first personal computer, the Apple ][!

Ihre papiere, bitte!

March 20, 2017

Ding! 40!

It happened!  I have chalked up 40 trips around the Sun.
It's been interesting so far!
It will be exciting to see what lies ahead.

March 19, 2017

Atari 2600 - Missile Command

Early arcade games had different genres of input methods (such as: buttons, paddles, steering wheels, joysticks, pedals). The arcade version of Missile Command used a giant trackball to move around your cursor, which would direct and range the flak cannon anti-ballistic missiles. In the game Missile Command, the player commanded a battery of defensive missiles. The player directed the launch of a limited set of defensive missiles against incoming ballistic missiles (raining down from above), hoping to save their six protected cities. The game was intense, as the pace quickened, defenses were limited, and the number of incoming missiles increased. On occasion, the would be cruise missiles, which may sidestep your defensive missile's explosion, and could only be stopped by a direct hit. The Atari 2600 version didn't have the giant trackball, but it did have a frenetic pace!

Launch defensive missiles!

March 17, 2017

Apple ][GS - Your Tour of the Apple IIGS

One of the first mouse based games that I got to experience was the very appropriately titled, Your Tour of the Apple IIGS. This introduction/game was designed to usher the user into the era of graphical based computing. The tour was essentially and introduction to using the computer mouse. The early Apple mice had a single button (until eons later, when Apple went with non-mechanical touch pads, and eventually decided multi-touch was the future).
Your Tour of the Apple IIGS was not much of a game, but it was an experience using the mouse to interact with the computer. Analog input had come a long was from the paddles of the Apple ][, and the Apple ADB mouse was a well designed peripheral.

March 15, 2017

Atari 2600 - Bezerk

Battle against the robots in some distant future! Bezerk, for the Atari 2600 was a bit of a nightmare scenario, where the player is stuck in a maze battling robots, and being chased by an invincible bouncing smiley face robot.
There were different versions of the robots. There were apparently different versions of the game, with different versions of the robots. The game version we had only had four types of robots:

  1. Malicious
  2. Malicious and armed with some type of gun
  3. Malicious and armed with two guns 
  4. Bouncing and invincible 
Oh, and lest I forget, the walls of the maze were electrified. Our hero could only shoot one bullet at a time, so if he missed, he might not have another chance. Yikes!

One of the more memorable aspects of Bezerk was the stark and intense sounds effects of the game.  

March 14, 2017

Atari 2600 - Pitfall!

Pitfall! The game that took Atari's everywhere by storm. The must have console game of  1982! Pitfall was a one player game that had you tromp-sing through the jungle, finding gold bars and swinging from vines. You could match your reflexes against snakes, crocodiles, scorpions, logs, tar, and quicksand. With subterranean caves and underground brick walls. And a race against time, no less. All in the quest for the Inca gold/high score! Pitfall is the ancient prototype of the side scrolling adventure genre (albeit in a side-panning method).

Actual gameplay may or may not feature rainbows.

One of the most memorable aspects of Pitfall! was the monophonic Tarzan yodel while swinging on the vine.

Atari 2600 - Combat

Possibly my favorite game for the Atari 2600 was Combat.  A two player competitive game.  You could compete against you component with tanks. There were more options as well, such as: tanks with barricades, tanks with more barricades, tanks with bouncing bullets, invisible tanks, biplanes with clouds, biplanes without clouds, bomber and planes, jets with clouds, etc.
Eons later, the Nintendo Wii had a remix of the concept with tank combat on Wii Play, albeit with much better graphics and controls.
One of the best parts of the Atari games were their picturesque manuals. The graphics were so rudimentary, the game left much to the imagination. And the manuals and comic stoked the fires of the mind!

TRS-80 - Hammurabi

When I was in Junior High, there was a computer room where some students could play with computers. The computers they had for the students were donated TRS-80's. One of the games for those computers was Hammurabi.  Though it might of gone by another name, such as Camelot, or Verona. There were various versions, including a DOS port.

The scenario of Hammurabi is that you are managing a feudal kingdom, and you have limited resources. You want your kingdom to grow. On occasion, the rats eats part of your grain storage. If you don't have enough food for the people in your city, they will remove you from office (and you lose the game).  To win requires carefully balancing your resources to grow your acreage, feed your people, and sow crops to have grain for the coming year.  Hammurabi was an ancient ancestor of games like Populus or Civilization, where the player are in charge of managing economies and populace.

Hey look, it's Hammurabi!

March 13, 2017

Atari 2600 - Air Sea Battle

We had an Atari 2600 way back in the day.  We of course, had a dozen or so games.  One that my brothers and I played a fair bit of was Air Sea Battle.  Air Sea Battle had one or two players, which the preferred method was with two players. The players would then shoot at planes and ships.  After a certain time, the winner of the round would be declared by the amount of destruction he or she had reaped. This may be a formative area for my love of destroying things (hard disk drives, etc).

There were some screens where you shot at planes, and some screens where you shot at boats. I recall being able to change the speed of one of the planes. Definitely a game for two players, who can appreciate the Atari 2600's rudimentary graphics. Use your imagination!  They're planes, jets, battleships, submarines, mines, balloons, frigates, and canons/howitzers.

March 12, 2017

Apple ][ - Microzine 7: City Blocks

It's amazing what you can find on the internet with enough persistence and a little google-fu.  When I was much younger, we had an Apple ][, and I spent much time on it creating cityscapes with Microzine 7: City Blocks.

City Blocks allowed for a small graphical man to move around 'city blocks.' you could maneuver the man, up down, left right, and he could pick up and drop blocks. The city blocks were graphical tiles that had pictures of parts of a city, or partial parts of larger building. It was a very early ancestor of the type of game-play that Minecraft might typify today: the creative sandbox. You could save your creations, and I'd make many different cities, with different aspects of the tiles (there was only about 50 tiles total.

Arcade - Space Invaders

One of the simplest games, but yet an arcade staple was the the original, the Space Invaders.
The game featured a relentless march of invading aliens with an ever increasing tempo. You were in the tempest in the fury of survival, with diminishing defenses. Your only recourse was a high score in the name of planetary defense.

As the player, you moved a mobile ground based canon that shot (one at a time) into the sky towards the descending invaders. The invaders marched in cadence, back and forth across the screen, descending after every cycle. The cadence increased the long the aliens persisted.  The best way to play was to make every shot count, and to make the shots connect with the lower rows of aliens first. The aliens would shoot back, and you had several bunkers to hide behind. Though the bunkers were damages by the aliens' blasts.

A very memorable part of space invaders was the increasing tempo as the invaders drew closer.  This usually had the effect of driving the defenders into a panic, resulting in folly and a landing of the aliens!

Apple ][ - Artillery

Another great game that we enjoyed on the Apple ][ computer as kinds was Artillery (game_01a.dsk). Artillery was a ancestor of the now ancient shareware game Scorch (Scorched Earth), probably the first in turn based artillery genre. Artillery used basic math to pit two forces against each other. There was a mountain in between the two 'castles,' and the castles took turns shooting rounds at each other. There was a random variable to each game, the wind. After a while, you became good at predicting the best angle and velocity to put into your round, but the wind always meant that there was and element of learning.

I loved this game, and before we finally donated our ancient IIgs, I printed off the source code for it (via dot matix). Although it did not matter as much of what was popular is archived online. Artillery the program was programmed in Apple Basic; the source code for Artillery was a paltry 175 lines (including 34 lines of remarks/metadata information):

Apple ][ - Olympic Decathalon

I've conceived of a new project, I'm wanting to document some of my favorite electronic games that I've enjoyed over the years.  I could start with Space Invaders, but I'll start with another of the first games I remember, Apple ][ - Olympic Decathalon.

In the dawn of the 1980's, there were the heady days of the Apple ][ and the onset of personal computing. With the rising tide of personal computing came games, and themed games representing sporting events were an aspect of electronic gaming. The 1980s started with the USA's boycott of the Olympic games in the USSR.  Which then resulted in the USSR's boycott of the games in 1984 in Los Angeles. An interesting time, but the spirit of the Olympics was alive in the electronic competition of Olympic Decathlon.

The game, like many early computer games had some rudimentary input controls.  For instance, for the foot race, you would alternately mash the 1 and 2 keys as fast as possible.  If you were racing multiple people, they would also mash keys simultaneously, to see who could mash keys the fastest!
The game also used the Apple ][ paddles, which allowed for some analog input, but was rather horribly executed. Analog input was generally terrible until the computer joysticks became more popular, allowing developers to come to grips with how to effectively integrate analog input.

One of the most memorable parts of the game was the monophonic music during the opening crawl, roughly approximating the Olympic theme song Bugler's Dream.

March 11, 2017

Portland Prius Tires

Portland was not prepared for the waves of snow it received this year.  One side effect of the snow and rain was a decent buildup of washboard style ice ridges on the freeway.  After that melted away, the potholes began appearing, and have created a minefield.  Though that may only be a partial cause for the replacement of the tires on the Prius.  It was time to get new tires, as they were light on tread.

The safety warning was bulging out.  The blister was a literal emphasis upon the message.