Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Packraticus Maximus

Okay, I admit it, I'm a collector, especially for game related stuff. I just snagged a Colecovision console yesterday to add to the growing heap of hardware that has taken residence in virtually every corner of my house. I recall that a buddy of mine once laughed about my house being a "wire jungle." That description appears to be fairly accurate at this point as you simply can't find a room without some form of gadget laying around. Hell, even the garage has gear in it. People kept giving me old equipment they were upgrading so I figured why not put a little bit of audio in the garage. Under a workbench, there's a 433 mhz PC with a wireless network card that handles piping audio into an old Sansui amp. Nothing hightech or expensive mind you, but nerdy none the less. There's even a bargain basement powered subwoofer nestled next to the PC that I picked up at the Goodwill for eight dollars. Nothing like chillin out to some cool techno/trance tunes while spinning a wrench. Ah, now if only I can find the elusive MD deck I've been hunting after.

Movies on deck for watching:
Ringu - (from what I hear this is the Japanese predecessor to "The Ring" only better)

Chow for the day:
Stir fried udon noodles with vegetables and pork saut├ęd with szechuan sauce.

Games playing:
Altered Beast on the Sega Nomad.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Emulators for game console CDs

Recently, I've been tinkering with emulators for several different game consoles. Specifically, I was able to get Neo4All up and running on the Dreamcast so I could try out some of the Neo Geo CD games. Obtaining the console itself has proven to be a bit of a challenge as I've only seen them on Ebastard. Sadly, Ebastard is infested with very deep pocketed shark collectors so obtaining anything for what I consider a reasonable price (cheapass tightwad alert!) is out of the question. So, I've had to shift to an alternate plan until I can find a console locally. Hence, the emus. I tried out a 2020 Super Baseball CD and was rather pleased. The game played rather well in my opinion.

I think I'll also give one of the PC-FX emulators a try. There are a number of odd Anime related titles available for this platform that I'd really like to tinker with. Of course I'll have to work on learning how to read Japanese though as the PC-FX was only sold in Japan.

My latest game acquisitions:
Mortal Kombat II for the SNES, (no label, no box), $3
Altered Beast for the Genesis, (grungy looking label, no box), $3

Movies on deck for watching:
Flight of the Phoenix (1965 version)
7 Faces of Dr. Lao

Anime I'm watching:
Rune Soldier Louie
Welcome to the NHK

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Back problems, baked beans, and yard work.

Man, my back is bugging me again. I did some light lifting this last week and seem to be paying for it now. I was moving some small 12 inch border blocks about in the yard on one of the sunnier days. The net result is that my back is on the verge of spasms. Let me tell ya, putting a pair of pants on when you have problems like this is difficult. I hate growing older!

On the plus side, I found a nice 17 inch LCD at a Goodwill store earlier. It cost me a grand total of $20. I just barely snagged it as this other guy was eyeballing it shortly after I picked it up. He hovered for a couple minutes trying not to be obvious and was waiting to see if I would set it down. I plugged it in and observed a "No Video" signal which was good enough in my book. I headed for the register with a debit card ready to go. Before I left the store, about three or four different people asked me about the monitor. Sad part is that one of them was a store pricer. You could see the gears turning in their head that they thought the price was way too low.

I spent a few hours yesterday looking into using a data structure called a quadtree for collision detection in my 2D games. I was toying with the idea of using it to replace my brute force collisision detection code in the Centipede game. The Centipede game has about 50 sprites on average to test so using the brute force method, it takes roughly o(n2) comparisons per frame. I roughly understand how to build the tree but I still need to figure out how to retrieve the correct nodes when a sprite falls in multiple quadrants and is bucketed in several leaf nodes. Once again, growing older is difficult. Wrapping my mind around something technical was a bit easier when I was younger. I just need to think about things a bit longer now.

I tried my hand at a new recipe today, baked beans. Considering this is the first time I've made baked beans, it turned out fairly good. The only thing I messed up was the soaking of the beans versus the cooking time. I soaked the beans overnight but probably should have soaked them a while longer. The beans were still a bit crunchy after baking the beans in the oven for about 2 hours. I also need to find some turkey bacon to add for flavoring. Mmm, baked beans! Now all I need is some bourbon for that explosive combination. Bones would be proud!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Rebuilding toolchains

I'm currently trying to build the Satans Hollow clone for the GBA. The compile works fine but the .GBA file crashes on Visual Boy Advance. Since setting up a debugger for VisualBoyAdvance seems to require some effort, I'll try using VisualHam and see if it is any easier to configure on a Windows box.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Checkered Flag source code for the Atari Jaguar

I was just poking around looking for programming info about the Jaguar when I found something quite useful. Curt Vendel has released source code for "Checkered Flag" on the Atari Jaguar. This is excellent news, regardless of whether you like the game or not. I applaud Curt for providing the source as a means to help the homebrew community. Google it or a link can be found here: Checkered Flag source code for the Atari Jaguar

Saturday, February 9, 2008

The lost version of Centipede.

I found another partially complete game I was working on in the past. This one is for Windows Mobile devices. Here's a screen shot of it running in a device emulator:
The centipede and the player move in this version but the player can't shoot and destroy the centipede. The code was written in C# so I might convert it to C++ and continue working on it for one of the consoles.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Phone screens and thrifting.

I hit a few of the thrift stores today to decompress after having a phone interview for a senior dev position. Found some interesting stuff for the Sega Genesis and the NES systems. For the Sega system, I snagged copies of Golden Axe and Spiderman. For the NES system I snagged Galaga, Q*Bert, Pinbot, and Castlevania. Prices ranged from $2 to $3 per game. Not too bad in my opinion.

I'm also poking around looking at the old Vectrex system. One of my friends has several systems and might be willing to part with one for the right price. It's kind of an interesting game system in the fact that the original developers released many aspects of it into the public domain. More or less, I believe that implies one can develop games and distribute them legally as long is it is a non-profit scenario. I'd still need a bit more development gear to get started on this though like a programmable cart. Seems they are available but there aren't any "in stock" currently from the manufacturer I've been looking into. I'll keep my eye on things and if I can piece together enough stuff I may try my hand at coding up Tail Gunner for the Vectrex.

I used to write tons of code in assembly for the Z80 so a 6809 shouldn't be too much of a stretch to figure out. Biggest problem will be finding an emu or something similar that will let me take a look at Tail Gunner to get a good feel for the game.

Ah, so many ideas, so little time. I think I've got too many pokers in the fire as usual. I've got the Space Invaders clone that needs to be cleaned up so I can port it to the Sega Saturn, the Satans Hollow clone that I started last year before I snagged the MS contract, and now the Tail Gunner clone that I'm itching to tackle. Good thing I'm a loner or I'd be saying that same thing the Squeaky voiced kid on the Simpsons said after he retrieved Krusty's taco in the deep fat fryer: "If I had a girlfriend, she'd kill me!"

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Looks like I'm back in the same groove as last year with needing to spend more time preparing for interviews. I've got a phone screen interview with F5 Networks this week so it's back to studying again. The challenge is to demonstrate to the interviewer(s) that my set of skills are indeed useful and I'm not some braindead coder that will leave a trail of destruction in his wake.

The biggest challenge I face is with the whiteboarding style of interviews. If you're like me, taking tests can be a challenge, especially in the interview scenario where you frequently need to talk in more of a "front of the group lecturer" style as opposed to an interactive "let's hash through an idea together" brainstorming session. Put me in an office with one or more people and let me hash out a problem verbally and the results will be far more positive.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Resurrection once again

It's been almost a year since I last posted. Talk about staying busy! I'm on my 100 day break from my MS contract so hopefully I can scratch out a few lines of game code. A lot of things have changed in the last year so hardware and software changes are plentiful around here. For example, the machine I was using for development had to be rebuilt due to some flakey hardware. The current dev machine isn't exactly a powerhouse machine at 800 mhz but as Krusty the Clown would say "It's not just good, it's good enough!"

I've added a few consoles to the collection throughout the year. As a matter of fact, I just found a Goldstar GDI 1000 CD-i system last night. Kind of a cool score for nine dollars. Now I just need to hack together a 8 pin mini din to DB9 serial null modem cable so I can get it talking with the PC. I'm hoping to compile Charles Doty's source code for Frog Feast and get it running on the console. If you aren't familiar with his work, do a little googling. He's created ports of Frog Feast to a large variety of older consoles. Pretty useful stuff to look at if you wan't do a bit of cowboy coding for a given console.

I also hunted around and found some game code I wrote back in the late 90's. One of my neighbors had a teenage son named Herman who was interested in game graphics. I wanted to provide Herman with an opportunity to work on his graphics skills so we started a game. Herman and I ended up hacking together a Space Invaders clone called Bug Out. Herman did the graphics and I churned out the code. For fun, I'll post the code up on the alien shadows source forge website. I'd like to cleanup the code a bit and try to make it a bit more platform agnostic as I'd like to port it to the Saturn for next years C4 coding competition.