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"It has been rumoured that I was the brains of the robbery, but that was totally incorrect. I've been described as the tea boy, which is also incorrect."

Ronald Biggs 
 .:[ Bleh... ]:.Posted: 13:11 on Tuesday, 01 June 2004 
State: narked off  Music: Secret Garden 

The first day of a new month and everything seems to be crap right now... no details, haven't got the heart to at the moment suffice to say that most of the sense of self worth i've had lately has been shot to shit over the last couple of days...

On the "plus" side, went to see Harry Potter 3 yesterday and enjoyed it a lot; compared to the slightly stilted (although still enjoyable) performances from the younger stars in the original film the transformation is astounding and the darker feel is much appreciated. Michael Gambon as Dumbledore does a sterling job and, despite there being differences in his delivery and voice, i suspect a lot of people won't even notice that there's been a recasting. And i loved the twist too, no spoilers but if you've not read the books and are only following the films (as i am) there's a fairly big surprise coming!

One code development to speak of lately; a marathon resourcing and upgrading of the original Lunar Blitz code for the C64 has lead to an improved version and, after a bit of optimisation and a lot of swearing during the modifications (because i've forgotten half the video registers), there's now a C16 and Plus/4 version done bar the sound. i've built some cover art and the spare P2 called Chronos has the Imagine scene files and is rendering it as i type...

 .:[ Tea and Sertraline ]:.Posted: 01:29 on Wednesday, 02 June 2004 
State: tired  Music: Battle Squadron 

Okay, i've cheered up a bit since earlier... about a quarter of the Lunar Blitz render is done so far so it looks like a rough render time of 48 hours for the entire image although it's not got to the bit with four objects on a line yet. Nothing much planned now so going to play with some options i've never noticed in Imagine before and then bed. =-)

 .:[ Britney moment ]:.Posted: 20:19 on Wednesday, 02 June 2004 
State: dazed  Music: Alloyrun 

Whoops, i did it again... had nothing better to do today, so i ported Lunar Blitz to the Atari 8-bit. The artwork, on the other hand, is still only crawling towards having about a third of the image done. It's possible i went a little over the top on the reflective surfaces...!

One day to Skegness and counting - extreme trepidation has already set in and i'm expecting blind panic and a hardware failure on the web server around this time tomorrow...! =-(

 .:[ i'm going out now... ]:.Posted: 00:23 on Friday, 04 June 2004 
State: half zonked  Music: Frontier 

...and i may be some time. Well, a week to be a little more accurate, we're all making our way to "sunny" Skeggy during the day tomorrow, so unless i find a decent cyber cafe or some other way to wangle a little access to the 'net (blackmailing Butlins' staff, for example) there may not be any updates to my weblog for that period. The house is being sat so, fingers crossed, if the web server software goes arse over it'll get restarted... even if i have to teach one of the cats to use the mouse! =-)

Speaking of software, i'm just getting myself used to Mozilla and posting this update with it. After lots of procrastination on my part i installed Mozilla Firefox today and was very pleasantly surprised when all my recently designed sites worked almost perfectly! i've been very lax about my own standards of late, i used to keep loads of browsers installed, but since the last couple of reformats i just haven't got around to installing them again. i probably still won't, but one of the work boxes may get a few installs at some point...

One thing i'd forgotten about holidays was how damned stressful they can be! We're not packed yet, although all i have to do personally is unwind a few power cables and bits of kit (mobile phone charger, Kodak Easyshare dock, portable 5" telly, very battered Aiwa personal CD player) and lob 'em into my bag... clothes? Oh, s'pose i might need a few of them too but they're hardly essential items are they...?! =-)

 .:[ We're ba-ack!! ]:.Posted: 22:28 on Friday, 11 June 2004 
State: knackered  Music: none 

Back home safe and reasonably sound, restarted the web server and having a quiet night to recover from the journey so i'll add something more substantial when i'm on the same planet as everyone else... =-)

 .:[ Making concessions ]:.Posted: 10:51 on Saturday, 12 June 2004 
State: recovering  Music: Dynamite Rave 

PictureWell, as i said last night we're back from Butlins and, despite my initial doubts about Redcoats and so forth (think Hi-De-Hi on speed) it proved startlingly easy to avoid them most of the time and we seem to have survived unscathed...! i've just dumped the contents of our trusty Kodak digital camera to my machine's hard disk and, when i get some time on one of the other boxes later, i'll clean 'em up. i seem to be in none of them... result!

So, what's that in that piccy then? That's a Namco Gynotai machine, something i stumbled across (pretty much literally) in the camp's arcade and got quite hooked on despite the fact it's a concession game; your score after a very short play time of lobbing three balls up the tracks they're attached to towards targets on the glass projected screen is translated into tickets which the machine dispenses and a series of cheap "prizes" are available from a counter elsewhere in the arcade. i got fairly badly hooked on this machine (the one on the right, it was a little more worn but a lot more generous with the scoring) and played the various modes quite a bit, ending up with over 700 tickets! We have nothing of note to show for those tickets, but it was fun getting them and trying to score a high rank and since my best was an A+ (the top ranking, earning 40 tickets) that's me a happy bunny! Speaking of fun, Butlins had an on-site fair too; four thrill rides, dodge-ems, go-kart racing and, my favourite, a Venturer simulator - apart from the go-karts, everything was free to play so certain members of our party (Matty with the dodge-ems, me with the sim) would get off and just join the queue to get back on! Free rides... gotta love 'em.

We found time in our busy schedule to make a couple of forays into Skegness itself as well and, joy of joys, i found a couple of Outrun 2 machines! For the few who haven't come across this little gem of a machine, it's basically the same genre of game as the original but updated with full 3D graphics, enhanced versions of the classic soundtracks and some more play modes including two player link-up. So, for the first game, 50p goes into the slot, a Ferrari Testerosa gets selected for a bit of authenticity (there are eight cars in total if memory serves, the Testerosa and F40 being for intermediate drivers i later found out) and automatic gears activated, Outrun mode powered up and to add a little more icing to the nostalgia/gaming cake, a nudge of the wheel pulls up "Magical Sound Shower" on the radio and away we go! Naturally, it doesn't play totally like the original and the more realistic gear system and auto gears do mean that the "classic" trick of slamming the gear stick to low and back rapidly to slow down a bit for tight corners isn't there but, in keeping with the fun tradition of Outrun's gameplay, a new power slide feature has been added by braking, slamming the wheel over and accellerating. Yes, you actually use the brake pedal on an Outrun 2 machine!! Overall, the general feel of the machine is spot on, it feels similar to the original, the new graphics and sound are excellent in the same way the originals were for their day, the car handles nicely especially when power sliding and the whole thing isn't bogged down in realism like far too many driving sims are. Well worth a few pennies.

Speaking of which, another fun game played in an arcade in Skegness was Sega's Initial D; based on a Japanese comic strip, it has a back story thats pretty much The Fast And The Furious with Anime characters and Engrish instead of Vin Diesel. The game itself is another driving game (what i would have paid to find an Ikaruga or even Nemesis machine nestled in a quiet corner, but sadly...) but it's very solid fun and, interestingly for techno-fetishists like yours truly, the mac hine issues "cards" if given another credit that contain the driver's name, car type and a few other details. The cards themselves seem rather flimsy and i'd have preferred a nice smart card even if it'd cost me a bit more, but at the same time i appreciate the idea and my own Toyota Trueno GT-Apex (which would have been purple had i been concentrating during the car set-up but is white) now has a few enhancements that make it a bit better than stock... i can see how players could become almost addicted to enhancing their cars and although i can't remember any tales of Initial D cards fetching huge sums on eBay i suspect that's more because i wasn't paying attention...!

After that lot, there was a Konami Thrill Drive in the camp and Thrill Drive 2 in Skegness that both got a few coins wedged into them and much enjoyment derived from driving like a total psychopath (or postman, as they're known!) for a while. Sue and the kids all spent about the same sort of cash on the 2p cascades and fruit machines as i did being a racing hero, so everyone had a good time and that pretty much sums the entire experience up rather well; a good time was had by all bar a little bickering and the journeys there and back being... well, painful in more than one way. The kids enjoyed it and that's the main thing, at least so i'm told...

And i returned to both the web server and ident server having fallen over (the latter disconnecting the bot) close to a week back and four or five hundred emails which were mostly made up of spam, mailing lists i'm signed up to or queries about sites on the web server... nyerk! Ah well, at least i don't have to worry about leaving it alone for another year now.

 .:[ Drop 'em! ]:.Posted: 02:04 on Thursday, 17 June 2004 
State: tired  Music: Lunar Blitz C16 

Just a quickie post before a big one tomorrow (oo-er, missus) - Lunar Blitz C16 is now beta testing with the music Matt's done so i'm a happy likkle bunny! =-)

 .:[ The border is down ]:.Posted: 01:25 on Friday, 18 June 2004 
State: zapped out  Music: DNA In Creation 

The world appears to have gone slightly bonkers over the last couple of days (at least, i don't think it's just me...?). After the whole Commodore Group thing (a posting to c64.sk with a questionnaire that seemed to indicate some Commodore-branded PC in the same vein as the Web.It) the big push for Commodore branded products from Tulip and co. started today, or at least yesterday, with the launch of CommodoreWorld.com and all that sail in her.

i'm not entirely sure where they're going with this idea, Commodore appears to just be a brand now and used to shift everything from online music to DVD-RW disks but the only feature of note at the moment is a collection of C64 titles to download from the shop for what works out at just under a Euro a title. What is a little strange is that, from the accounts of others who signed up and grabbed a few files, these products are actually the same cracks that have been doing the rounds for years and even have the intros left in place. There's no "official" versions it seems, which seems a little unprofessional to me and i'm wondering (since there's some overlap in the titles) which games the C64DTV joystick will have and if there are intros there too...? Well, i plan to get one anyway because it might be good for getting the kids playing classic retro games (C64 emulators are good, but since they're all pre-teen a little involved just to start a game) so i'll find out when it's released...

Who knows, perhaps they're going to want new titles at some point... nah, i doubt it too.

Since i'm on the subject, i've been doing quite a bit more gaming than usual since getting home from Skeggy courtesy of a batch of Japanese shoot-em-ups i've gained for the Dreamcast. Zero Gunner 2 is very nice with a very snazzy rotational firing system and some nicely thought out and detailed levels to decimate (the armoured train being my personal favourite so far) and Psyvariar 2 is a "lets bury the player in bullets" vertical blaster with some pedigree, a look that is reminiscent of the legend that is Ikaruga and a cool feature where wiggling the control causes the player's mecha to spin around and increase it's firepower. But cream of this particular crop has to be the awesome Border Down. Released last year, this horizontal 3D-doing-2D shooter is nothing short of class; each stage has three states (or borders) and players can choose to go in at green, yellow or red. Getting killed borders the player down into the next variation and, should they die on the red stage, it's game over - a very neat twist on the three lives system. Well worth the time and effort if you can find it...

 .:[ Dizzy... ]:.Posted: 01:36 on Saturday, 19 June 2004 
State: confuzzled  Music: Parodius 

i'm still digging around to see what the gig is with the new Commodore (or indeed Commodores, there seem to be a few!). So i knocked out what i hope was a polite email to Tulip, DC Studios, Ironstone and Ironstone's PR people to see if anyone fancied saying a few words... More on that if it happens.

 .:[ Commodore ]:.Posted: 00:27 on Tuesday, 22 June 2004 
State: thoughtful  Music: Leander 

Y'know... the fecal matter has really impacted with the air conditioner over this whole Commodore thing; as it stands, nothing much has actually happened but if certain people are to believed it's the end of the community, all the archive sites will be told to pull all their files, the C64 ROMs are no longer allowed to be distributed with emulators and we're not getting rice pudding for tea. That last one may seem out of place but it's just as accurate as the rest of the bloody rumours doing the rounds! The situation to date appears to be thus; there's no evidence that Commodore BV are going to shut anyone down for any reason. Gamebase have pulled a few files to cover their backsides and i can see why and don't blame them in the slightest for being cautious, but at least some people are seeing this as the beginning of the end regardless of if Commodore BV have actually asked for those files to be removed or not. Commodore BV have the right to protect what IP they own or have licences for so legally we're in the wrong and they're in the right and it's open and shut. The moral question, which has already been raised on message boards, IRC and newsgroups in the last few days, is almost as simple since the games in the archives that are being "threatened" are not there legally in the first place and it's a bit pot and kettle the people using these archives waving their fists at the people who actually own the IP.

But still people are crashing around, threatening to sabotage this or boycott that and it seems that they're making much ado about nothing or, more accurately, nothing so far. What happens next is fairly open, i've sat through the (rather dull, generally speaking) press conference footage and the only part that grabbed me was Darren Melbourne talking about the C64DTV and the community; he comes across as a genuinely enthusiastic person, at least to me, and certainly not some corporate type who'll be shutting Gamebase and Magyar down and doing the "muahahaha" laugh at the same time. Do i trust him and Ironstone with the future of the machine i love? Well, it's a bit of an overstatement (we're just good friends) but i think i do right now and Ironstone haven't given me any real cause for concern - a few nervous twitches possibly, but not real concern. Would i consider the "loss" of a few games from the major sites (although they'll probably still be available in most digital backwaters) a fair exchange for new hardware and another pop at the limelight for my favourite machine and possibly even myself? i'm not so sure, i'd like the games to remain free after all these years even if it's not entirely morally correct. But if those eleven or so titles are a trade off and we really do see some new kit and PR budgets then i suppose it's not too bad. Will i code for the new hardware? Maybe, depends if i'm allowed to play and how much it costs...

Some possibly erroneous specs are doing the rounds as well, the DTV is supposedly based on a 27MHz ASIC that i think is simulating the CPU, a hybrid VIC-II with 256 colours and dual SID chips and the next generation may even turn that into a full-blown computer. i know what i'd like to see (this is me day-dreaming, so it's not a prediction even if i was right about the C64DTV! =-) and that's a unit about the size of an external laptop keyboard in black, fitted with two standard 9 pin joystick ports (well, that'd create a market for 9 pin digital joysticks that Commodore BV could cater to) along with composite video and stereo out as three phonos, power in from a stock 9V supply and a port for USB 2 to connect a 256Mb storage area to a PC for shipping data back and forth. On powering up, the device would provide a reasonably nice menu to allow navigation of it's memory space and selection of a D64 and after that away it goes! Like i said, a day-dream but they've put a couple of years into this lot, the DTV hardware is essentially a full-blown C64 on a chip and they're not afraid to use USB since some of the new products are based on it. So who knows... Give it a nice 50 Euro price tag and i'll take one off yer hands, guv'nor.

Oh, i got an email back from Mark Greenshields at DC Studios in response to the one i wrote on Saturday morning, except it was a semi auto response to my previous mail... so still no news on the rights front. The email was stock (i know others have received it) and gives very little real info away other than they're looking for one programmer right now for hardware that's being finalised and it may well expand if the demand is there for more programmers. Again, it came across as very positive... Since they asked for examples of my work, i sent back Reaxion X and the refix of Cyberwing, as well as mentioning the older titles on the Cosine site... and yes, i did ask if the dev rigs would be generally available. =-)

Well, that was a big one (as the actress said to the bishop)...

 .:[ Catching up ]:.Posted: 23:27 on Monday, 28 June 2004 
State: sniffly  Music: none 

We all trundled off to see Shrek 2 yesterday; we loved the original and this is more of the same so we enjoyed it thoroughly. The kids get a fairy tale with a difference and there are enough adult-oriented jokes, parodies and cameos to make sure that nobody gets bored. Highly recommended even if you don't have the kids as an excuse to go!

Been doing more code lately, Cyberwing went through tape mastering on Sunday and is just being double checked to make sure it's okay whilst Lunar Blitz is now on the 8K expanded VIC20 after a few hours fevered modifying of source. It needs 8K because it uses a larger screen area (to balance the gameplay correctly) and i wanted space for a decent soundtrack...

i also grabbed issue 5 of Retro Gamer yesterday and the review of Reaxion in there was a major ego boost; 81% overall and second highest score in the reviews section (only beaten by R-Type on the Speccy and i can certainly live with that!) Smugness aside, it's proving another good read and previous comments about each issue topping the previous ones still apply because this is the best to date.

Finally, it's club night on Thursday! Woo!! =-)

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