Wednesday, 24 August 2011

The Dandy wars…

I’ve read three different independent reviews lately that all said Dandy was a Gauntlet clone. Not true, my inner ATARI-Geek shouted. In fact the exact opposite is (more or less) possibly true; because, if anything; the mighty Gauntlet is in fact a Dandy clone.

Originally adorned with the snappy title of ‘Thesis of Terror’ and written in 1982 by Jack Palevich's for his bachelor's thesis at MIT. The game was based on the cellular automaton principles displayed in John Conway's Game of Life, and wasn’t especially produced with a commercial goal in mind.
The system designed for running the game was a two-part affair. With a file-server program running on a Hewlett Packard Workstation, which supplied the maps data, and a series of four Atari 8bit machines connected up as graphics-terminals through their serial ports, to display the graphical front-end.
The design of the game was very much based on, and influenced by, the Dungeons and Dragons role-play table-top systems of the time (although reportedly Palevich had never played D&D in his life!). Imaginative, yes… but not the type of setup most people could whip up in their bedrooms.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Down on the farm…

Ok, when I go retro I don’t do no wishy-washy half-measures!
This blog was inspired by an accidental glimpse of an old advert I remembered from my misspent youth.

The advert was by the, then, mysterious ‘Softwarwe Farm’ and promised ‘hi-res’ graphics on the ZX81… a machine that everyone knew couldn’t do user-defined hi-res graphics, and I have to admit that I was sceptical.

Well it turns out that everyone, including sceptical teenage me, was wrong, and the humble ZX-81 could indeed do ‘hi-res’ user defined graphics. My dumb was well and truly struck, and probably like many others I immediately began to wonder how this was done. As it turns out Julian Chappell, the main programming half of the one man / one woman Software Farm team wasn’t too forthcoming on this front. And who could really blame him. It reportedly took him six months just to work out the user-defined graphics procedure code.

In hindsight I think the most remarkable thing about this revelation is that it was done at all, far-les done commercially and successfully on a machine that was already falling out of favour. This really was a relatively major software coupe at the time, and although the games were more-or-less successful I still don’t think the user-defined graphics process got the technical accalation that it richly deserved. If this had come just a few years earlier it would have been hailed as a major accomplishment.
In today’s world of neo-photorealistic graphics this may not seem much to write home about, but at the time it was scarcely believable. Imagine the impact of some little-known software firm announcing it had come up with a purely software only solution to allow the 360 or PS3 to show real 3D on a normal monitor. Yes, it was that fantastical a claim for some people in the ZX-81 community at the time. It was something that accepted knowledge said just couldn’t be done.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

A console for life…

…but how long is that? 

My PS3 just died this week.

 It was an original 60G model...

The one that played PS2 disk.

I asked around on a few PS forums to try and figure out if it was worth trying to fix it, and the consensus of opinion seemed to be that I was lucky to have had it last this long.

Now, the thing is a lot of these people were very genuine in their response. They really did believe that this was a good run for a console. Even though I didn’t even play it all that regularly.
And there lies the current problem…