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a tribute: dr. c. wacko and the whiz-bang miracle machine

(recenty entry on my site )

Ever rediscover a half-remembered book from your childhood and realize that it was probably wildly influential on you? Such was the case with David L. Heller and John F. Johnson's "Dr. C. Wacko Presents: Atari BASIC & The Whiz-Bang Miracle Machine". I recently found a good PDF copy at Atari Mania's Page of Atari 8-bit Books

The book was a beginner-level but thorough guide to BASIC programming - I suspect I knew most of it by the time I got my hands on a copy, but it was still very cool. The style can perhaps best be described as "Early Doctor Demento" -- hardly a paragraph goes by without a gag of some kind, but still it seems like it would do a good job of explaining fundamental concepts.

I can even see the book's influence in my own guide to Atari (2600) Programming,
Atari 2600 101. (No cartoons, more's the pity.)

I was reminded of this book when I ordered some Eggs Benedict, and I thought about this chart in it:

Anchovy Burritos: 280 Calories each
Twinkle Cakes: 340 Calories a look
Guacamole Juice: 90 Calories per slurp
Clam Dip: 70 Calories a dip
Greaso Burgers: 470 Calories per bun
Quicko TV Dinner: 400 Calories a tray
Pizza a la Hollandaise Sauce: 900 Calories a sniff

I think that for years that was my main image of Hollandaise, some kind of insane calorie vortex. (I guess I forgot how the other foods needed only a glance...)

Atari Mania also finally let me read the book's -- prequel? It was much more advanced, but came first-- companion, "Dr. C. Wacko's Miracle Guide to Designing and Programming Atari Computer Arcade Games". I'd like to think if I had had this book at the appropriate time, I finally would have gotten those damn "player/missile" graphics and in general made some better games.

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sequel to a sequel: pretty colour invader rally 3d *2*!!!!


So I wasn't 100% happy with my KotMK entry, so I updated it...
now the invaders stay upright, and oriented towards the "player", and they have grey outlines, and the "chase cursor" is a bit different... now x+y axis is changed when you move the mouse, and x+z when you move the mouse with the button held down. Plus the chase box is a white box rather than a red dot

again, more of a toy than a game....

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global game jam 2010: sprinkle


A vaguely incredible-machine like puzzle game, made in a weekend by my team at Northeastern U for the 2010 Global Game Jam
Play it at or

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A pretty deep improvement of my recent KOTMK entry, markovlove360 uses all the works sent into in 2004 to create a web community / computer /human collaboration tool, using markov chains for statistical textual analysis as the basis for computer-augmented lyrical composition.

Simply move the mouse to highlight the next word you want, and click to select. The most recent 2 words selected define what options are available for the next word; those options are the set of words that followed that word pair within the body of work from the blender, scaled by frequency (the more often a word followed a word pair, the larger its piece of the pie.)

"S" saves the current work to a text file in the same directory, "C" clears the page, and "R" sets a Random Robot to do the selection for you

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this came to me in a dream this morning:
I don't know what, if anything, it "means" but I was proud to be able to pull together a java version in like 5 or 10 minutes.

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little isometric castles


So, kind of a counter point to smashenfreude,
iso is all about the joy of building...

mouse and mousebutton to build, space clears, m toggles the bricks' mortar.

lately I've been thinking about how important motion and kinetics are to me, game-wise.
Maybe I'm more of a toymaker than a gamemaker! I certainly seem to do jack and squat when it comes to level design.

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If there's one thing I learned from the MIT Mystery Hunt it's that I like Game James a lot better. A HELL of a lot better.

Actually this extends to like board games. I'm not very competitive, I'd rather not play and stay safely in my ego cocoon than risk proving my freinds smarter than me, but I love creativity based games like Pictionary and/or Scattegories and all that lightweight stuff.

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idea backlog

I'm reading Tracy Fullerton's "Game Design Workshop" book. One idea she puts forth is don't worry about playtesters stealing your ideas, your game will be just about as hard for someone else to make as it will be for you, and you obviously have a head start...

Those economics don't quite apply to quick and dirty KotMK-able games, but I'm still a little nervous about sharing because A. i guess i'm "paranoid" about some stealing, but would that be such a bad thing? B. I'm worried I might disappoint people who see this list and what I'm NOT working on

So here is the list from my iPhone "glorious trainwrecks" memo, with explanations, roughly in reverse chronological order

  • space war with rotational inertia - I heard Space War originally had rotational inertia, which is an element usually left out. I'd like to find out what it feels like
  • space war boxing - thinking of the old 2600 boxing, overhead view, along w/ playing Little Big Planet. What would it feel like to swing big fists?
  • like unfinished swan game demo, but 2d... use paint gun to see otherwise invisible area and monsters - most likely next Trainwreck - but in 3D. I'd almost like to try it KnP, but I'm not sure I know how it handles "invisible" objects. Also I'm total pants at KnP
  • katmatari damacy using sprites - I did this a bit with cosmicarkatamari for the Pirate Kart, I think I would want it with more colorful sprites (maybe Atari?) and having the mass of cuaght things rotate a bit...
  • like sperm game but you have to lure sperm into contact with something - Preggers was another Pirate Kart game... just my general love of simple smooth motion physics games
  • javascript game library - just thinking about what a generalized javascript game library would look like...
  • slingshot - I kind of this OLPC Physics Game Jam - which reminds me, I really should use the Java wrapper for Box2D stuff, one of the maintainers of that port was that the game jam, and it would probably be much more solid than my half-assed "engine"
  • pick up the phonebooth and die 2600 - if I ever get around to using Batari BASIC, this would be my first game that about 8 people would find conceptually amusing
  • atari basic simulator - Atari BASIC Programming is classically weird and wonky, but I admire the effort a few people have made to make playable games in it-- unfortunately i haven't been able to really see the games, because the emulator support is so-so for the keypads, and the keypads used such a weird ass way of entering commands. But an emulator that could let you type in the code might work...
  • cellular automata system CAoleslaw - SpindlyQ would love love love to see this.
  • life war, majority wins - maybe glider gunner? - a bit like Conway West, but more Life- centric. I was thinking the player could fight the ghost (or, heh, a 2 player network version... dreaming...) in painting life blobs. Normal life rules, but every live square has a team color, and for birth, the new cell gets the color if the majority of its 3 neighbors. It might turn out painting isn't a good enough game, so another variant would be firing off glider guns...
  • atari rips..... - I think this is shorthand for "smash bros w/ atari characters", grabbing the sprites from the game... though the motion and attack forms would be tricky.
  • heatseeker via repositioning? - heatseeker is this old C=64 game I might still do a Java processing or maybe even Batari Basic 2600 port of -- here I'm wondering if KnP could do it.
  • game where firing is done when you collide with object, like a cannon - if/when I do a KnP game, this is a mechanic I might like to try. Typical "run from the monsters" but with cannons that are constantly rotating (or maybe not) and the player running into them fires... just exploring the indirection
  • assemble little robots to do fighting for you -another study in indirection. I love the idea of having to craft an army... one idea I've had for a while, but w/o the right interface or gesture recognition, is rock paper scissors, where you draw circle, square, or x, and then fling what you draw at your opponent who is doing the same. Or the way ASCII bots has 1000 robots based on head, torso, feet, having to put together your minions to do your bidding might be an intereting game. Or snowmen from 3 diff sized snowballs? All of this might be tough to implement, but still, not my worst idea

UPDATE Half asleep, I had some more ideas for some of gamebuttons, games where the display and input is all a "normal" HTML pushbutton.

  • "Birth control", target little ~o as they come swimming by
  • Olympics - archery, hurdles
  • slot machine
  • Rock Scissors Paper
  • some kind of hungry hungry hippo
  • sideways lunar lander
  • Some kind of RTS gaiden, where your the local commander of a base and just have to press a single button when told to to make a unit.

Most of these ideas are pretty bad

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thoughts on development

I'm thinking about what platform I want to code on.

I think Processing has been pretty good to me, and I might stick with it... it lets me use my Java mojo, I've figured out how to do sounds, it can embed in a webpage and make standalone downloads, it has some 3D primitive stuff going on, it's kind of artsy.

The downside is it has a big footprint, in terms of download size and processing power, and its 3D is pretty rudimentary, plus I have to code a lot myself, though I'm slowly making progress on some simple engines.

I prefer to be conservative in picking up toolkits (which is a bit of a handicap my professional life shares as well)

So, criteria would be:
* should be embeddable in a browser ... I think downloads are a big handicap for people tooling around with your game
* I'd like to find some kind of 2D and/or 3D physics engine

Any thoughts? I'm taking a 2 part Flash introduction class, just to try and get a feel if that's something I want to get into. I think of the games at -- but then again, that clearly has a TON of love in the A/V department that my games likely will lack

I was considering pygame, especially since professinally I think cementing my python skills would be a good thing, but I don't think that's embeddable.


In general I think I keep meaning to get more into the online indy game community, tigsource and all that stuff. And I have a hope with my new move reducing my commute to like 25 minutes, I might find it easier to find the time. But even then it's tough to for me to focus when I'm feeling angsty about my chances of making something cool. Also, it's so easy to get jealous when someone grabs an idea I've been thinking about, like heat seeking missles and sproingy rope physics.

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the revenge of the gods trilogy

VIRTUAL SISYPHUS! Drag the boulder to the top of the mountain!
VIRTUAL TANTALUS! Reach for the delicious grapes, or duck into the pristine water to slake your endless thirst!
VIRTUAL PROMETHUS BOUND! Drag the bound firebringer away from the eagle that seeks to consume his delicious liver

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