Sunday, February 28, 2021

The Google Stadia Disaster Is Even Worse Than We Realize

Thirty years ago a coworker predicted that streaming games would be inevitable.  His reasoning was that internet speeds would be fast enough eventually to stream any video to your PC.  I thought that this was a horrible idea then, and I think that it is a horrible idea now.  What could possibly be the benefit?  Offloading the compute power to a server means that I am competing for that power with everybody else.  I would rather pay $500 for a console and know that I can play games anytime, rather than $100 for a special controller because I think that I can save a few bucks.  The Netflix of Gaming is going to be like Microsoft's subscription game service.  No matter how much the internet improves, home hardware still will become more powerful and possibly cheaper.  I was around in the early days of computers when you had to use a dumb terminal to dial into some mainframe.  It is far better to have your own hardware.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

An American Original - Timex/Sinclair

In the early days of computing and videogames, magazines devoted to specific systems were very popular.  By 1986, the Sinclair and Timex-Sinclair lines of computers were a dying brand, but they had a very devoted set of followers, of which I was one.  The primary feature of the Timex-Sinclair 2068 computer was its relatively low price of $200.  Compare that to the Commodore-64 introduced in 1983 at $595, which is around $1600 in today's dollars.  Other brands of computers were higher.  Most of these were way too cost-prohibitive for me, so I went with the cheapest model, but I happened to very much like the brand.

I did an internet search for a videogame I wrote in 1985/1986 called, "Diamond Mike".  I found a magazine that I had completely forgotten about where I had a quarter-page ad on page 34 for the game, along with another quarter page of products that I was selling, most of which I don't remember selling.  I think that I had entered into some kind of partnership with another company to sell their products.  The wording of the ad looks somewhat unprofessional like it was written by me, which it was, but this was typical of these relatively obscure magazines of the time.  I think that I had the advertisement typeset by a professional printer because in those days we didn't have modern computers to help us do that.  The game was in color, but the magazine was black and white, so the advertisement is Black and White.

The magazine did a "review" of the game on page 4.  Essentially they were scratching my back for buying advertising.  The wording of the "review" isn't that different from my advertisement, and they also said a few nice words.

The graphics capabilities of the 2068 computer were not as quite good as the more expensive brands, and since I did my own artwork and I am by no means an artist, the graphics of the game are pretty basic.  This was typical for many computer games of the time.  What I could do well is write efficient code in "machine language", which is the internal language of the CPU chip.   An honest review of my game would have said that it was an imitation of another game called "Boulder Dash", but when "Boulder Dash" was ported to the 2068 computer months later, its code ran too slow.  They didn't do a good job on the port.  They should have gotten me to write the game.

This kind of work eventually led me to get a job in the videogame industry.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Nintendo is "working without stopping" on its next new console after Switch | GamesRadar+

There have been rumors of this since 2019, but Nintendo repeatedly denied that they were working on a new system.  Ironically, the Nintendo Switch, which is a low-power portable tablet has been outselling the new ultra-powerful systems from Microsoft and Sony.

Hypothetically, if Apple were to put their new M1 chip into a portable game system, it would be remarkably powerful.  The chip should be better than anything Nintendo can get their hands on.  I have heard rumors that Apple might do something like this.  Even their latest phones should make for a powerful game system.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Grab an Off-Screen Mushroom in SMB #Shorts - YouTube

John Coffey
1 second ago
Speaking as a former videogame programmer, I am going to make a big assumption here, and maybe my assumption is wrong:  The collision detection is probably just using a single byte for the coordinates in both the horizontal and the vertical, giving it a range of only 0 to 255.  This would make sense because the 6502 processor only does math 8 bits at a time.  Doing 16-bit math here would be too much trouble, but maybe only the vertical is just using 8-bit math.  As the mushroom or Mario moves off-screen, the coordinate wraps to the other side.  The NES displayed 240 horizontal lines compared to the 224 lines on the SNES, so the objects wouldn't have to go far offscreen to wrap.

This is similar to a bug on Pac-Man/Ms. Pac-Man that turned into a useful feature. The different ghosts are trying to reach different locations depending upon which way Pac-Man is heading.  The pink ghost is trying to reach a location two characters (8x8 pixels) in front of the player.  However, Pac-Man does this math using 16 bits, which the Z80 processor supports, but the cordinates are two 8 bit values x and y combined into a single 16-bit word.  I don't remember why this is, but when Pac-Man is moving up this can create an overflow on the Y coordinate that ends up subtracting from the X coordinate.  This sometimes means that the Pink Ghost will move to the left when he wasn't supposed to, but this gives him extra "personality."