42-byte hack adds two-player battles to Karateka

Karateka is not just a classic game, but one of the most well-documented thanks to Jordan Mechner's memoirs and his habit for maintaining archives. 34 years after its release, Charles Mangin studied the game's source code and patched it to allow a second player to control the enemies—effectively adding a vs. battle mode.

I’ve taught myself 6502 assembly after getting back into the Apple II, through the thriving community online. The idea of a two player version of Karateka came back to me while at KansasFest a couple of years ago. I noodled a little on it back then, getting distracted by finding the code that created the unique music in the game. Long story short: I finally found the places in the game code that needed patching to allow a second player to control the enemies in the game, and create a functioning two player version of Karateka. The resulting patch is only 42 bytes long

42, the meaning of life! You can play the two-player Karateka at the Internet Archive.

I'd love to see this done to Great Gurianos (sometimes renamed Gladiator), another 80s' fighter with an interesting combat system whose attract mode suggested vs. battles that were not in the game itself. Read the rest

Steam effectively halts approval of saucy visual novels

The game platform Steam has an anything-goes policy toward what it publishes. But the resulting kelp mat of smut has spread enough to lead it to institute moderation by the back door: freezing approvals in certain genres while it develops 'filters.' Targeted most clearly are visual novels, manga and erotica. Fans and developers of erotic manga visual novels are most displeased!

Based on just the developers coming forward, it seems like visual novels with some degree of adult content are in the crosshairs of this approval freeze. One such dev shared their recent conversation with a Valve employee, seemingly from Valve’s developer portal, and noted that their game was being held despite censoring out adult content and images from the Steam edition ahead of time, a step the dev says has worked for their past releases on Steam.

While Valve has yet to comment on the criteria under which it is selecting games to withhold from Steam for the time being, sudden policy enforcement shifts have slighted visual novel developers in the past. At one point a few months back, Valve reached out to several visual novel developers and threatened to delist their games, all of which had been previously approved for Steam release, unless those devs patch out content deemed inappropriate. However, Valve later backed down from those threats.

There are maybe colder facts in play here than the usual freezepeach discourse. More porn means more chargebacks, which means the payment processors taking an interest in what is being sold and turning the screw on Steam. Read the rest

Snake 3D: classic phone game made into a total headache

Snake 3D adds depth to the classic two-dimensional game; hold shift and you'll move in and out rather than up, down, left or right. It takes so much getting used to--and is so difficult before you even get to the point where the snake's length becomes a hazard to itself--that I suspect that the entire premise is beyond the threshold of human patience, if not comprehension.

See 1989's Welltris, from Tetris creator Alexey Pajitnov and Andrei Sgenov, a game design that only makes sense as the result of failing to make a more obvious implementation of 3D Tetris playable. Emboldened by superior 3D graphics in the late 1990s, Nintendo eventually implemented 3D Tetris itself but it wasn't much more fun than Block Out. Nowadays, some form of 3D Tetris sometimes shows up as a "go fuck yourself" mode on normal Tetris games. Read the rest

Tetrolled: Tetris but it trolls you

Tetrolled is Tetris but with an additional layer of hostility: as time passes, obsctructions pop into existence at random spots on the board. Trasevol_Dog made it in just 2 hours for the Ludum Dare game-making contest. The source code offers a nice simple example showing how the Pico-8 "fantasy console" is coded. Read the rest

Basic Engine: $10 open-source gadget designed to be the best game machine of the 1980s

The Basic Engine is a tiny but intentionally limited computer platform designed to be like a late-1980s game console or home computer, but with some useful modern benefits. In effect, it's like Pico-8, but hardware instead of a set of abstract and arbitrary design limitations on software.

The BASIC Engine is a very low-cost single-board home computer with advanced 2D color graphics and sound capabilities, roughly comparable to late-1980s or early-1990s computers and video game consoles. It can be built at home without special skills or tools and using readily available components for under 10 Euros in parts, or mass-produced for even less.

Graphics and sound · 256-color text and graphics at resolutions from 160x200 up to 460x224 (PAL: 508x240) pixels · Software sprites (up to 32 sprites sized up to 32x32 pixels). · Scrollable tiled background graphics engine with up to four layers. · Wavetable synthesizer and PLAY command that renders music in MML format. · Loading and saving of PCX image files to and from video memory. · Various text fonts built-in, including an ATI 6x8 font (for up to 76 (PAL: 84) characters per line) and PETSCII. · Direct manipulation of video memory and controller registers possible, permitting higher-color screen modes, custom resolutions and other video effects.

"Why not just use a Rasberry Pi?" is a common question but the answer should be obvious: it's about a nostalgic idea of the perfect thing that never existed, a technological hiraeth, forbidden to exceed the place and time the yearning was born. Read the rest

Great deal on Nintendo "SNES edition" 3DS XL

Nintendo's retro-themed 3DS XL is rarely marked down, but is currently $150 at Amazon, which is $50 off the normal price.

By far the weirdest and most portable of the company's growing rack of retro-fueled gear, it's also one that has a serious library of modern games to play too, in addition to the oldschool cool that comes with it—in this case, Super Mario Cart.

Nintendo's classic consoles, dating to decades-old designs, now regularly top the hardware charts, driven by cheap prices and an endless reservoir of nostalgia.

SNES edition 3DS XL [Amazon link] Read the rest

Code Golf masterclass: fitting a whole bootable CDROM game into a tweet

Alok Menghrajani is a master player of the game of Code Golf, in which you challenge yourself to do something useful in as few characters as possible; his latest triumph is fitting a bootable CDROM image including a fun little retro game into a single tweet. Read the rest

NES Classic is America's best-selling game console

Returning to the stores in June, Nintendo's NES Classic game console—a miniaturized version of the 1985 original—outsold the PlayStation, XBox One and its own Switch to rule the hardware charts.

"The NES Classic was June 2018's highest unit-selling hardware platform, while the PlayStation 4 led the market in dollar sales," wrote Mat Piscatella, an analyst with the NPD Group. "This is the first time a Nintendo Entertainment System console has led in monthly unit sales since NPD tracking began in 1995."

Granted, it's only $60 (at least when you can find it) with dozens of free games, but that's not bad for a 33-year design. Now, about that credit-card sized Gameboy Classic everyone's dreaming of...

NES Classic [Amazon link] Read the rest

Report: Steam game platform lost 1 in 6 players this year

Steam's anything-goes policy toward what it will host hasn't helped: the game platform suffered a 17% drop in active users so far this year, according to data posted by SteamDB.

The fading of fad hit PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds appears to be responsible for about half of the decline. Whether its its rise and "fall" hides continued steady growth elsewhere should become quickly apparent, as that game's player base reached equilibrium over the summer.

The anything-goes policy was seen as a capitulation to (or even an investment in) a rising tide of low-quality and often racist, sexist and plagiarized software, or at least an attempt to avoid the angry culture wars surrounding such material. The emergence of malware posing as games is the sort of obvious result of hands-off moderation they were nonetheless unable to see coming. Read the rest

Guide for buying a cheap game-ready laptop

$1000 is a lot of money; too much for a new laptop if all you want to do is play games on the go. At Laptop Mag, Rami Tabari wrote a guide on how to hunt for a good one.

4. Whether you're going cheap or all out, avoid touch screens. All they do is hike up the price.

It's a good guide with all the necessary caveats; the most important one is that the GPU is by far the most important factor. The entry-level GPU is the Nvidia MX150, which gets you playing older and casual titles easily and fancy new games with the settings all on low. But if you're gonna bother, you may as well fork a little to get to a 10xx-series chip so you know it'll handle the hits of 2020.

Here's my one-sentence guide: go on Craigslist or Facebook marketplace or OfferUp or whatever, search for "1060 laptop", and buy the cheapest on offer that looks kosher to you. If you don't want to risk used, but want something good under a grand, this Dell is about $950 [Amazon link] and won't mark you as one of The Gamers, with only 2 (two) red LEDs and no leprechaun swastika logos. Read the rest

Quake on me: classic shooter rendered with pencil sketch filter

Non-photorealistic Quake takes the classic game and applies particularly well-crafted filtering effect to give it the appearance of a hand-drawn pencil sketch. Or blueprints. Or ink. [via]

To add to the realism of the sketchy lines, we made each slightly transparent to make the lines seem more realistic. This added a number of depth-buffer-based transparency problems, but were alleviated by disabling the depth buffer entirely.

The particles are drawn as small jittering crosses.

As the creators explain:

Non-PhotoRealistic Rendering (npr) is often considered the task of taking a 3d environment and displaying it as if it were (for example) hand-drawn. Stylization is the main purpose of an npr, as is with most pencil-and-paper artists (imagine if everyone who drew cartoons tried to make them look as realistic as possible - boring!). NPRQuake attempts to capture the elements of different drawing techniques, and immerse the viewer in worlds drawn entirely in the prescribed style. If you have ever imagined running around inside a painting or a drawing, you are beginning to get the idea.

Downloads are available to mod Quake thus.

Here is your new Quake soundtrack. Read the rest

1994 video game "Wolf" reviewed by a wolf

Awoo. [Obscuritory.com] Read the rest

MIT has an open course in winning at Texas Hold 'Em

MIT's How to Win at Texas Hold 'Em is a CC-licensed open course taught by Will Ma in 2016 and now free to watch online; the game is the perfect combination of psych and stats, and learning to play is a great way to improve your basic reasoning skills. (via Kottke) Read the rest

Kickstarting Flotsam, an RPG about "marginalized people in space"

Josh writes, "Imagine the Belters of the Expanse watching as Earth and Mars shape their lives, the civilians in Battlestar Galactica living with the decisions made by the military and the folk of Downbelow in Babylon 5, abandoned to destitution and squalor by those who built the station. Flotsam is a game is about characters like that. In Flotsam you play outcasts, renegades and misfits trying to make their way in a world where poverty and gang conflict sit alongside alien technology and supernatural weirdness. You play through their lives, their interpersonal relationships and small-scale drama against the epic backdrop of space." Read the rest

Thieves use free-to-play games to turn stolen credit-card numbers into cash

Markets for video-game assets, sanctioned and unsanctioned, are a major target for credit-card scammers, who use bots to open fake Apple accounts using stolen cards, which are then used to buy up in-game assets that are flipped for clean, untraceable cash to players. Read the rest

1986's OutRun a maintenance hassle for arcade operators in 2018

Running a retroarcade sounds like a lot of fun, and the same games that used to get the kids pumping quarters then are still the most popular. Which means that 32-year old OutRun cabinets tend to break down often.

Out Run is a favorite at the arcade to say the least. It is in almost constant use from our younger Players. One of the reasons of course is that Sega designed this particular model to basically make you feel you were in an actual vehicle. While not quite like the Ferrari Testarossa Spider you drive in the game itself, it’s a nice design. Furthermore there were four different versions of the arcade game produced. Two of them were upright models with two others being sit-down cabinets.

Great fun working around hot CRTs! You can whine about authentic monitors all ya like, if I were running an arcade, I would replace the innards on most of the machines with Raspberry Pis and 4k LCDs and put the original PCBs in a nice glass cases on the wall next to each, with art gallery-style cards. Read the rest

The most popular engines for indie games

A new page at Itch.io, the top platform for publishing and selling indie games, reveals the most popular game development engines and apps there.

Unity is way out in the lead, accounting for almost half the projects published at Itch. Construct, an app requiring no coding skills, and GameMaker, a general-purpose creative suite with powerful scripting tools and optional modules, together account for about a quarter of the projects.

Then come engines designed for specific genres: Twine, for interactive fiction, in fourth, and RPG Maker, for Japanese-style computer role playing games, in fifth. PICO-8, a "fantasy console" that imposes strict limitations on developers in imitation of a 1980s' 8-bit box, is in sixth. Bitsy and Puzzlescript, which produce simple tile-based games, are the seventh- and twelfth-most popular engines. Ren'Py, for making visual novels, is in ninth. Unreal Engine and the beloved free 2D engine Löve round out the top 10.

Of the rest, only the fast-growing Godot engine has more than 500 projects.

Note that software frameworks—HTML games—are excluded from the tally. Only Phaser, with 1,173 projects, would rank in the top 10, between Bitsy and Unreal Engine. Read the rest

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