Interview with Retrospectiva 2012 winner: R.International

May 14, 2013 in GFX, RSP2012

Tell us about R.International. Who are you? What do you do for a living?

R.International & Ebony at Retromadrid 2013

R.International & Ebony at Retromadrid 2013

I am a 42 year old very young looking Spaniard, lifelong amateur to Scalextric collectibles (English, French and Spanish), very fond of antique toys, table soccer, building dioramas and 8 bit systems. I am known in such scenes, having organized a table soccer tournament which scored for the national ranking. I use to organize Scalextric races, also worked for two years with Retro Game Systems in the 8 bit world; and I’m very well known in the antique toy world from many many years ago… I’m a butcher by trade and work as such, which is not little given the actual situation.

What was your first experience with a computer?

The usual gang of 16 year old kids from the neighborhood spending time together, one friend had an Amstrad CPC 464, another a Spectrum 48 and another a Commodore 64, fortunatelly this gave me the opportunity to test the systems and make my mind, I choosed the Commodore because its graphics resembled more those of an Arcade. We used to spend whole afternoons playing at the Arcades.

Empire - Los Burros del Soft

Empire – Los Burros del Soft

What led you to program and draw for these old computers?

Three years ago I wanted to retake those days and soon started to collect computers, you can imagine my surprise 20 years later, I founded Retro Game Systems and took part of antique toy fairs raising awareness about the 8 bit systems. But I wanted something more, something was missing, now the feeling was different, I realized that maybe now the emotions were inside the machine (programming) and not outside (playing) as it was 20 years ago, so I started to hit the metal.

What do you miss about the golden age of 8-bit systems?

I can assure you that absolutely nothing! .. I’m not a nostalgic in this regard, those who long for that era is because today they don’t enjoy their computers, I would say today I have a better time programming than on those days. The “golden age” for me is nothing more than an event natural of the time of origin of these machines, it is the beginning, but nothing else, to miss those days, label it, etc, do not benefit the 8-bit world in general and it’s just self lounging, .. current developments open incredible doors to us, now we are in the 21st century of 8 bits and we are fortunate to live them, not to talk about the tools and technology advancement that will make our work easier.

What are your next projects?

After closing Retro Game Systems I started my passion for the graphics seeing that today there are very good tools in this regard, it was a quick way to calm my hunger and see results, then I switched to BASIC and soon made great progress, starting with a Retro Game Systems demo. I founded Los Burros del Soft and released a few amateur but serious projects such as MKII, Empire and Robot Nation, after which I closed Los Burros and Lobo Griz founded the group Revive to which I devote myself exclusively now since I’ve left H-B not forgetting my playpen that is Sputnik World.

Caligula

Caligula

And here comes best, at Revive we have created our range of “handheld games” and the first title is Labyrinth, the game is already prefinished, I guess that within a month it will be fully completed, we want to show it to distributors in case any were interested in it . Labyrinth will feature the following credits: I as Design, Coder and Graphic, Lobogris as Design and SubCoder, Yogi Bear as Music and Pagantipaco as Cover Draw, it is a very dynamic graphic-textual adventure with a very original technique, though the important thing of the game is that is my first project in assembly I will not get into another game project inmediatly after Labyrinth, I want to dedicate the rest of the year to learn assembler, there are many things  still have to learn if I want to undertake an Arcade game that is my goal, all the learning will go to a testbed called Caligula (which already has some progress) I’ll gradually show it at Commodore Mania forum. During that time I’ll take some rest from programming with a graphic here and there, such as the title screen for El Castillo del Dragón having Bieno as project director, and some graphic presented for Retrospectiva 2013. By the end of the year hope to have learned a lot with Caligula and I expect it will look almost like a real arcade game. At the beginning of 2014 will be taking up the second title in the Revive’s pocket game series and it will be a title very expected and known by people, but say no more, I guess I will be able to do it in three months, taking into account that it’ll use many routines written for Labyrinth which I wrote in three months.

Any advice for those who want to start programming or drawing?

Usually people are hiding behind the typical “I have no time”, just think of the time normally wasted with blogs, forums, social networks, games and ethereal amusements , etc, etc. .. I know I can only say. Their loss …!

Thank you very much!

 

Visit R.International Facebook page

Interview with Retrospectiva 2012 winner, Jim Gerrie

May 7, 2013 in RSP2012

Tell us about Jim Gerrie. Who are you? What do you do for a living?

Jim Gerrie

Jim Gerrie

I’m a Scots Canadian and a Cape Bretoner (I live on the Island of Cape Breton off the east coast of Canada). Cape Breton was a former centre for coal mining and steel production. My grandfather was a crane operator in a steel mill before an explosion blinded him, my father was a draftsman in the steel fabrication plant and I’m a professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Cape Breton University. I have a wife, Patty, and a 16 year old daughter Madeleine, 15 year old son Charlie, and a 4 year old daughter Naomi-Marisol.

Which was your first experience with a computer?

When I was 13 my mother, who was a primary school teacher, brought home a TRS-80 Model III on weekends. This was possible since it was an all-in-one computer (monitor keyboard and CPU were all one unit). I started programming by typing in programs from books and magazines. I soon moved on to trying to make some games of my own for my friends. At that time almost any computer program would enthrall us for hours, even extremely simple ones.

TRS-80 Model III - Source: Wikipedia

TRS-80 Model III – Source: Wikipedia

Since my mum couldn’t always get the machine on weekends, I began saving my money from lawn-mowing and snow shoveling to get a computer of my own. I was finally able to buy an MC-10 in 1984 when I was around 14 years old. It was a North American equivalent of the UK’s ZX81. At about $69, it was the first computer I could afford to buy. I bought it because I desperately wanted to do more programming and I was already familiar with the Microsoft Basic on the Model III. Commodores and Atari’s were still hundreds of dollars at the time, so they weren’t an option. I also didn’t like their somewhat non-standard (i.e. non Microsoft), and in the case of the Commodore very limited, versions of Basic. I think one of the first games I tried to make was probably a variation on a theme from the movie “War Games” with Mathew Broderick, which I recall as a very strong influence at the time.

Why the Tandy MC-10? Was it a popular computer in your area?

The MC-10 was not a huge success or a big seller, but I had a number of friends who had them, or 16k versions of the Tandy Color computer. My sense is that the MC-10 was more popular in Canada than in America, because of its cheaper price and the fact that it had plenty of good French documentation. The version of it sold in France was called the “Alice,” which was apparently very popular there. There is a lively forum of Alice users today who I use my pathetic school French to chat with.

TRS-80 MC-10. Source: Wikipedia

TRS-80 MC-10. Source: Wikipedia

We were definitely not the “cool people” with our cheap little Radio Shack machines. Some kids had Apple II systems or Atari systems or Commodore systems, which had better graphics and a vast array of games software. By default my friends and I had to satisfy ourselves largely with our own programming efforts and with learning how to “hack” our systems. One friend, for example, hotwired his MC-10 to have a joystick. We learned how to solder so we could also do the same. We were the first to buy modems and to begin exploring some of the BBS (Computer Bulletin Board Systems) popping up at the time. Our friends with C64s and Ataris made fun of our “Trash’80s”, which was the pejorative name for computers from Radio Shack (i.e. TRS-80), but while they played games, we were writing our own games and exploring the new world of electronic communications. I still have my 300 baud modem from that time. Recently, my son and I set up a simple BBS using my phone at work and one of the Colour computers and modems I have picked up over the years. Then we “dialed” in to the system from home using my original MC-10 and modem. Sharing the high pitched modem sound with him as the two machines connected brought back some powerful memories for me of the excitement of those years.

We have noticed you have written a large collection of BASIC games. Many are inspired by commercial titles. What criteria do you use to choose your next game?

Since the MC-10 is the 8-bit machine of my heart, being my first computer (although I eventually moved on to a Colour Computer II), my programming is largely driven by a desire to complete programs that I either actually started programming, or dreamed about programming at that time. We spent a lot of time reading computer magazines in the school library, and they were filled with pictures and descriptions of games for the C64, Atari, Apple and later the IBM. Since none of these games were available for our machines, and the software base for the MC-10 was very limited, we were always looking for concepts or even actual programs that could be ported to our machines, with their limited sound and graphics capabilities.

Q-BERT

Q-BERT

Working within those limits, therefore, constitutes the central challenge for me, and the central criteria for game selection. The MC-10, like the Colour Computer, has a graphics chip made by Motorola called the “VDG.” In Micro Color Basic the only graphics mode easily available is an 8 colour 64 X 32 graphics screen. The pixels are extremely blocky. The challenge is to use those blocky pixels to create the best games possible using only Basic (I never mastered machine language). If a game cannot be rendered purely in text, or using those blocky 64X32 pixels, it is of no interest to me.

Why do you like to program obsolete computer systems?

Psychologically speaking, at the age of 45, I recognize that I am probably going through what is called my “mid-life-crisis.” For most men this involves buying a red Ferrari to live out the dreams of their youth. For me it involves completing programs I wish I could have completed back then so that I could brag to my friends who owned “superior” systems. What I couldn’t do then, I can do now. However, on another level it is simply a wonderful distraction and a fun hobby that I can share with my son, who shares my interest in computers.

What do you miss from the golden era of the 8-bit systems?

I miss the excitement of feeling like I was exploring a vast new territory that other people knew nothing about. We knew we were at the very front edge of a technological revolution. We were helping to develop the systems and the techniques of computing. When we left messages on BBS’s we knew that we were some of the first people who were doing that and of course this special knowledge gave us a sense of “power” (something that is very attractive for boys). My son experiences this too, but for him it is the ability to use his knowledge of the Linux operating system (which I don’t have) and of networking to use one of his computers to turn off another remotely. See dad, no hands! Be amazed!
Your son, Charlie, helps with the betatesting and development of your games. ¿How did he got interested in your hobby?
Charlie has been receiving pretty intensive “geek” training from me for some time. Of course I told him stories about our computing exploits as kids. I gave him some of my old books from that time like “The Secret Guide to Computers,” by Russ Walter which contains a best compendium of 8-bit computer knowledge and computing anecdotes (his favourite line from that book is the statement by the president of Commodore, the late Jack Tramiel, that “Business is War!”). We watched the movie War Games together. From an early age he watched me using my original 8-bit computers (I still have my original MC-10, Colour Computer 2 and Colour Computer 3 setups). These strange machines, of course, simply elicited endless questions about how things were done on them (compared to the ubiquitous computers of today). Eventually he began to make suggestions for game ideas of his own. His first was the game “Sentinel” which you can find in our collection. He sketched his concept on a piece of paper, which he gave to me.

Thank you very much for your time. Any word of advice for those who want to start programming these old computers?

Well I have developed or discovered a vast array of techniques for getting speed out of Basic. Basic is a great introduction to computer programming, because it is so forgiving, but with the right techniques it can also be very powerful.
For example my friend Neil Morrison on the Yahoo MC-10 forum taught me that it is useful to put all of the GOSUB and GOTO destinations in the first lines of the program. I also have learned that you can use the DIM statement to declare non-array variables and that by dimensioning them in the order of the most used variables you can increase the execution speed of the program. So it is best to actually put a jump to the end of the program and DIM variables there, and leave the top lines for GOSUB and GOTO subroutines, since the Basic interpreter starts searching for such routines from the top down. You want to make that search time as short as you can.
I also generally use a main set of FOR/NEXT loops occurring around line 20 instead of GOTOs for looping. And when I use FOR/NEXTs, I leave off the variable designation for the NEXT command (e.g. NEXT A), since this is unnecessary and simply slows down the interpreter. By structuring my programs using FOR/NEXT loops instead of GOTOs, and using ON/GOSUB/GOTO statements instead IF/THENs, and by packing lines as tightly as possible (which can be done completely on the MC-10 but, if I recall correctly, not on the C64 or Atari), I have managed to get quite a turn of speed out of old un-compiled Microsoft Basic.

I also, generally use memory heavily by doing as many of the repetitive calculations at initialization as possible and then store the results in arrays. This often means a long start-up delay for my programs, but much faster game play when things finally get going. I am never bothered by such preliminary delays, as we old 8-bit computer users are used to waiting for our computers while they “think.”

If I’m manipulating strings, I always try to CLEAR as much memory as possible to cut down on the garbage collection delays. This was critical for a program like my attempt at a 3D tank shooter game like KURSK, which is always cobbling together your current view from string arrays in any of the four possible directions you can turn your turret.

When I use an ON/GOSUB statement I also generally use multiple RETURNs to leap back directly into the main FOR/NEXT loop from a subroutine, rather than GOTOing to a single RETURN statement for that routine. In other words any RETURN is the same as any other. I also generally have a line like “1 RETURN” at the top of the program for use as a “null” option for any of my ON/GOSUB statements and their lists of subroutines. I also use multiple NEXTs to jump quickly back into the main loop after GOTOing subroutines.

 

Personal page: Jim and Charlie Gerrie’s Software Page

Blog: BASIC Programing on the Tandy TRS-80 MC-10

Retrospectiva 2012: Special Mentions

May 2, 2013 in Basic, Coding, Games, GFX, Music, RSP2012

These are, in our opinion, some of the presented entries that deserve special mention.

Special mentions for the best use of a graphic mode restrictions:

laughtree81

  • TREE’81 (ZX-81) by PIESU/AGENDA
  • Laugh (ZX-81) by mono/tristese

 

 

 

 

Special mentions for the advanced use of the hardware capabilities:

orb2_2memotest2

  • Memotest (Commodore 64) by Alakran
  • Double Deadly Orbs (Apple II) by Brian Picchi

 

 

 

 

Special mentions for originality:

splink2Presentación

  • Splink (MSX) by Gary Green
  • Surfshooter (Apple II) by Brian Picchi

 

 

 

 

 Special mentions for playability:

romp2lumbriz2

  •  A Romp in the Garden (Tandy MC-10/CoCo/Dragon) by Jim Gerrie
  • El extraño caso de la lombriz… (Commodore 64) by marcosjl

 

 

 

 

Very Special Mention:

yerzmix

YERZMIX PART 6 by YERZMYEY

Retrospectiva 2012: The Winners!

April 28, 2013 in RSP2012

And the winners are…. :)

With the votes counted, and with no draws on the first places, we present you the winners of the 2012-2013 edition of Retrospectiva.

 

BASIC Games:

 

With 195 points with an average score of 3.0 the winner of the BASIC Games category is:

Title screen

Penguino by Jim Gerrie for the Tandy MC-10, Tandy CoCo and Dragon 32/64
Congratulations!

And these are the runner ups:

2º place –  194 points (3.0): Double Deadly Orbs by Brian Picchi for the Apple II

3º place – 189 points (2.9) - draw:

  • Memotest by Alakran for the Commodore 64
  • Dungeon Crawl by Jim Gerrie for the Tandy MC-10, Tandy CoCo and Dragon 32/64

4º place – 186 points (2.8): The Doctor’s Adventure on Scaro by Jim Gerrie for the Tandy MC-10, Tandy CoCo and Dragon 32/64

5º place – 182 points (2.8): Battle Bots by Jim Gerrie for the Tandy MC-10, Tandy CoCo and Dragon 32/64

6º place – 177 points (2.7): A Romp in the Garden by Jim Gerrie for the Tandy MC-10, Tandy CoCo and Dragon 32/64

7º place – 171 points (2.6): BRIDGE RACER (1KB) by tomaes for the Commodore 64

8º place – 161 points (2.5): The Deadly Orbs by Brian Picchi for the  Apple II

9º place – 140 points (2.2): Mark Attack by Christian Santamaría for the Commodore 64

10º place – 125 points (1.9): REC by DamianWorf for MSX computers

11º place – 124 points (1.9): Surfshooter by Brian Picchi for the Apple II

12º place – 122 points (1.9): Curso interactivo de plomería ficticia by marcosjl for the Commodore 64

13º place – 118 points (1.8) – draw:

  • El extraño caso de la lombriz que se alimentaba de simbolos ASCII y los perturbadores efectos que este alimento tenian sobre su crecimiento by marcosjl for the Commodore 64
  • Ahorcado 64 by Christian Santamaría for the Commodore 64

14º place – 117 points (1.8): La venganza del fantasma by marcosjl for the Commodore 64

15º place – 111 points (1.7) – draw:

  • Splink by Gary Green for MSX computers
  • Simon Crazy by Christian Santamaría for the Commodore 64

 

Congratulations to all the contestants and thanks for your participation!

 

 

Graphics:

With 109 points and an average score of 3.8, the Graphics category winner is:

robot_robby

ROBBY ROBOT by R.International, Commodore 64 multicolor mode graphic
Congratulations!

And these are the runner ups:

2º place – 101 points (3.5): Habemus Pappo by Alakran, Commodore 64 multicolor mode graphic

3º place – 90 points (3.1): Osgeld’s Skull by Osgeld, Apple II monochrome DHGR graphic

4º place- 83 points (2.9): Laugh by mono/tristese, Sinclair ZX-81 graphic

5º place – 78 points (2.7): HOUSE by PYZA/ILLUSION, Sinclair ZX-81 graphic

6º place – 77 points (2.7): TREE’81 by PIESU/AGENDA, Sinclair ZX-81 graphic

7º place – 73 points (2.5): CHIP by Osgeld, Apple II HGR graphic

8º place – 72 points (2.5): With the Wind by krue, Apple 2 text mode graphic

9º place – 66 points (2.3) – draw:

  • FOTO-APARAT by YERZMYEY/HOOY-PROGRAM, Sinclair ZX-81 graphic
  • Strange World by Osgeld, Apple II DHGR graphic

10º place – 65 points (2.2): SPACE BASE by YERZMYEY/HOOY-PROGRAM, Sinclair ZX-81 graphic

11º place – 61 points (2.1): Alien Hug by Osgeld, Apple II HGR graphic

12º place – 53 points (1.8): Damn Cat by Osgeld, Apple II monochrome DHGR graphic

 

Congratulations to all, and thanks for you participation!

 

Retrospectiva 2012: Counting of votes

April 27, 2013 in RSP2012

It is time to count the votes, there was a total of 65 votes(49 in the English page, and 16 in the  Spanish page) for the BASIC Games category and 29 votes (10 in the English page, and 19 in the Spanish page) for the Graphics category.

Vote breakdown:

BASIC Games category votes (English)

Entries in chronological order, with total points given and the mean value in brackets

  • Surfshooter: 86 (1.8)
  • Penguino: 159 (3.2)
  • The Doctor’s Adventure on Scaro: 149 (3.0)
  • A Romp in the Garden: 141 (2.9)
  • The Deadly Orbs: 125 (2.6)
  • Battle Bots: 150 (3.1)
  • Double Deadly Orbs: 154 (3.1)
  • Dungeon Crawl: 153 (3.1)
  • Ahorcado 64: 88 (1.8)
  • Memotest: 127 (2.6)
  • BRIDGE RACER (1KB): 133 (2.7)
  • Simon  Crazy: 86 (1.8)
  • La venganza del fantasma: 79 (1.6)
  • Mark Attack: 105 (2.1)
  • Splink: 85 (1.7)
  • El extraño caso de la lombriz que se alimentaba de simbolos ASCII y los perturbadores efectos que este alimento tenian sobre su crecimiento: 80 (1.6)
  • REC: 81 (1.7)

BASIC Games category votes (Spanish)

Entries in chronological order, with total points given and the mean value in brackets

  • Surfshooter: 38 (2.4)
  • Penguino: 36 (2.3)
  • The Doctor’s Adventure on Scaro: 36 (2.3)
  • A Romp in the Garden: 36 (2.3)
  • The Deadly Orbs: 36 (2.3)
  • Battle Bots: 32 (2.0)
  • Double Deadly Orbs: 40 (2.5)
  • Dungeon Crawl: 36 (2.3)
  • Ahorcado 64: 30 (1.9)
  • Memotest: 62 (3.9)
  • BRIDGE RACER (1KB): 38 (2.4)
  • Simon  Crazy: 25 (1.6)
  • La venganza del fantasma: 38 (2.4)
  • Mark Attack: 35 (2.2)
  • Splink: 26 (1.6)
  • El extraño caso de la lombriz que se alimentaba de simbolos ASCII y los perturbadores efectos que este alimento tenian sobre su crecimiento: 38 (2.4)
  • REC: 44 (2.8)

 

Graphics category votes (English)

Entries in chronological order, with total points given and the mean value in brackets

  • FOTO-APARAT: 29 (2.9)
  • TREE’81: 38 (3.8)
  • SPACE BASE: 28 (2.8)
  • HOUSE: 32 (3.2)
  • CHIP: 28 (2.8)
  • Laugh: 32 (3.2)
  • Alien Hug: 25 (2.5)
  • ROBBY ROBOT: 37 (3.7)
  • Osgeld’s Skull: 35 (3.5)
  • Damn Cat: 17 (1.7)
  • Strange World: 26 (2.6)
  • With the Wind: 28 (2.8)
  • Habemus Pappo: 34 (3.4)

 

Graphics category votes (Spanish)

Entries in chronological order, with total points given and the mean value in brackets

  • FOTO-APARAT: 37 (1.9)
  • TREE’81: 39 (2.1)
  • SPACE BASE: 37 (1.9)
  • HOUSE: 46 (2.4)
  • CHIP: 45 (2.4)
  • Laugh: 51 (2.7)
  • Alien Hug: 36 (1.9)
  • ROBBY ROBOT: 72 (3.8)
  • Osgeld’s Skull: 55 (2.9)
  • Damn Cat: 36 (1.9)
  • Strange World: 40 (2.1)
  • With the Wind: 44 (2.3)
  • Habemus Pappo: 66 (3.5)

 

Thank you very much to all that  took the time to vote, final results will be up shortly, stay tuned.