Interview with Aaron White: Chiptune Maestro

Aaron_HDRI know we have said this time and time again, and with the risk of sounding like a broken record, we’ll say it again – there are wonderful people around the world on social media. One such lad that fits in this ‘wonderful people’ category, is Mr. Aaron White from the UK. Since engaging with Aaron on Twitter, we have learned  that he has some seriously great talent in creating chiptune music on his beloved Amiga. Ms. ausretrogamer and I have become fans of Aaron’s compositions, so it was only natural for us to sit down with the chiptune maestro and put him through some rigorous questioning. Get your headphones on, tune-in to some cool chiptunes and read on!

AUSRETROGAMER [ARG]: When did you get into video gaming and what was your first games system? Do you still have it?
Aaron White [AW]: My first ever system was a Commodore 64 which I got on Christmas Day 1984. I still have vivid memories of waking up that Christmas morning & unwrapping this huge box and to my amazement, there it was, sitting right in front of me, a beautiful C64. I also received three games along with it which were Roland’s Rat Race by Ocean Software, Ghostbusters by Activision and World Games by Epyx/US Gold. All three were wonderful games. Stupidly, I sold my original C64 along with 100’s of games back in 1992, but I have since acquired two more C64s, one being a traditional breadbin model and the other being a C64C.

ARG: Were you a musician (if so, what instrument(s)?) before you got into making chiptunes? What made you get into music on computers?
AW: I had a keyboard and a guitar when I was younger (I still have a keyboard) even though I can read music, I was never that good at playing either instrument. I just used to try and jam along with my favourite records of the time, listening by ear and trying to play in tune. I suppose I first got into chiptune music when I got an Amiga 500 for Christmas 1989 (The Batpack edition). I would listen in amazement at the sounds and tunes this brilliant computer made. I’d often wonder how it was all done, until early in 1990, a friend of my father’s came around clutching a bunch of disks which contained Soundtracker. I listened in awe when he played back the Axel F theme tune from the hit movie Beverly Hills Cop. This tune, along with many others were on the ST-00 disk, which was the programme disk. They weren’t modules back then, they were songs, so first you had to click on that file to start loading it, and then it would ask you for various instrument disks such as ST-01, ST-02 and so on. This proved to be a pain as I only had five instrument disks, so there were quite a lot of songs that I couldn’t listen to. Still, it was the programme that had me hooked. Before I went onto composing tunes of my own, I started ripping songs/modules from various demos and games to play back and see how they were all put together (effects, commands and so on). Then one day I plucked up the courage to finally try composing something myself and I’m not ashamed to admit, my early efforts were truly awful (some of my very first tunes still exist to this day!). I didn’t understand timing, nor notation really, until I started to teach myself how to read music. Over the years I’ve stopped and started creating music on the Amiga, but over the past couple of years I’ve got back into it becoming a lot better and making my chiptunes sound ok. I think I keep improving all the time and to date, I’ve done over one hundred compositions (some original/some covers). Just as a side note, my programme of choice is Protracker 3.15.

Aaron_protracker

ARG: We are huge fans of your compositions, do you have any favourites?
AW: Thank you for your kind words. It always gives me encouragement and spurs me on to create more chiptunes when I receive feedback like that. As for favourites, this changes all the time, I think I’m still improving all the time and with each one that comes along, it tends to be my new favourite till the next one.

ARG: Who is your favourite chiptune/music artist?
AW: I have several favourite chiptune artists: 4-Mat of Anarchy, Nuke (also of Anarchy fame), Matt Furnis who went on to create a huge amount of game music, and one of my old friends Mub (a member of LSD), who lived not far from me in the same town. I loved Mub’s compositions and some of which he actually created at my house. I can only ever wish to aspire to be as good as these guys!

Aaron_pic1

ARG: Best music in a video game?
AW: Hmm, that’s a toughie. I love the tunes in Pinball Fantasies, I also love the in-game music to Aladdin, Supercars II and Monkey Island 1 and 2.

ARG: Tough question, ZX Spectrum or C64 (and why you chose that computer)?
AW: There’s no competition, C64 all the way for me! No colour clash, and far superior music. It was also my first computer I ever owned, and I will always be in love with it for that reason alone. ARG: Great answer! *winks*

Aaron_pic2

ARG: What is your favourite game or gaming genre?
AW: Again another toughie. I have a few favourites – on the Amiga, it has to be The Secret Of Monkey Island, Ruff N Tumble, Aladdin, and Toki. On the C64, I’d say – Batman: The Movie, The Untouchables, Platoon and for sentimental reasons, Roland’s Rat Race – as that was the first game I ever loaded up on my C64. I’m also looking forward to a few new games on the C64, two of which being Maze Of The Mummy and Jam It, which could well become new favourites of mine. As you can tell, I do love platform games, but I’m also a massive fan of adventure games (point & click) and sport games also.

Aaron_Pic3

ARG: Do you have an all-time favourite system?
AW: I have three all-time favourite systems – the C64, Amiga A1200 and the Sega Saturn. The first two are for the vast array of games that were available on both systems, as for the Sega Saturn, well, to finally get arcade perfect conversions of popular Sega titles running at home in front of my very eyes, it just blew my mind.

ARG: Finally, where can people go to listen to your awesome chiptune compositions?
AW: If people would like to check out my chiptunes, then they can – follow me on twitter (@aaronub4t) or check out my YouTube channel where I upload some of my compositions. Also, people can download Amiga disks I have created in ADF format which can either be used on a real Amiga or via emulation from vintage is the new old,  and from Commodore Is Awesome. As long as people keep enjoying them, I’ll keep making them. Enjoy!

As we say our goodbyes, we can’t help but be in awe of Aaron in what he has achieved with creating chiptune music – if only we were that talented! We’ll definitely be enjoying his next creation. For now, we’ll let Aaron get back to playing one of his (many) Ocean games.

 

The Sega Genesis 32X Wasn’t Just a Gimmick

SegaGenesis_32X_HdrMany gamers, me included, have fond memories of Sega at its prime – they were ready to knock Nintendo off of its pedestal. The Sega Genesis, in all of its 16-bit glory, took home gaming to an entirely new level. The colors were more varied and vivid, the music was better, and the worlds that we visited were more realistic. That’s not to say that I didn’t love my NES, but my Sega held a special place in my heart.

Nintendo didn’t just sit around and let Sega have all of the 16-bit fun, and soon, the Super Nintendo was looking to dominate the home video game market. Maybe this was the reason why Sega felt like they needed to improve upon the Genesis, by adding peripherals and add-ons like the Sega CD and 32X.

While I never was a big fan of the CD add-on, I did enjoy the 32X addition to my Genesis. It basically plugged into the cartridge slot, and into the back of the system, essentially doubling the output of the unit. The 32X promised better sound, especially through a premium Selby home theater surround sound system, brighter colors and ushered in true three-dimensional gaming to the masses.

I wasn’t sure about the add-on at first until I happened to see a demo at my local mall for the fighting game Virtua Fighter. It was a 3D fighter with fully articulated fighters on a 3D field. The camera rotated around the fighters and the polygonal figures on the screen moved so realistically. I was so gobsmacked, I knew I had to buy the system immediately.

32x_VFsource: Wikipedia

Now, the ultimate promise that Virtua Fighter made on the fledgling system never really materialized. It was probably the best game on the system and although there were other good games such as Mortal Kombat 2, Star Wars Arcade, and the Sonic and Knuckles games, there were many other games that weren’t much more than pretty ports of the original game, but ultimately the best version of the game.

Even though the system was not very successful and ultimately only 30 or so games were released, it had a lot going for it and was a stepping stone towards the games we enjoy today. You have to hand it to Sega for having the guts to give this thing the green light in the first place. It offered near perfect arcade ports of games that were unbelievable at the time and affordable to most people as well.

Nowadays the system is mostly for collectors, but some of these games are still pretty fun to play, even 20 years after their release, such as Virtua Racing, NBA Jam and Space Harrier. With more third party support, the 32X might have been considered a classic today with a huge library of games…unfortunately, it has become just a footnote in the history of gaming, much like Nintendo’s Virtual Boy…my eyes and head hurt just thinking about that thing.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Selby_logoMatt Thames
Blogger and Brand Manager at Selby Acoustics.

 

 

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Cramers Pinball Tournament

Cramers_HDR_titleAttention all pinball wizards and potential pinball wizards! If you want to participate in a local International Flipper Pinball Association (IFPA) sanctioned pinball tournament, then diarise June 11!

Scott ‘Skott’ Kellett (Tournament Director) will host the inaugural pinball tournament at the Cramers Hotel in Preston. Registration opens at 5:30pm with a $10 entry and all machines set to free play to hone in on your flipper skills. The official tournament commences at 7:00pm, with great prizes on offer, like tickets to PAX Aus 2015. Another bonus for participants is that they will receive IFPA points and gain a world ranking! With a great specials bar and menu on the night, it promises to be an all-round awesome evening.

Tournament: Cramers Pinball
Date: 11 June 2015
Where: Cramers Hotel – 1 Cramer Street, Preston VIC
Entry fee: $10
Registration time: 5:30pm
Tournament start time: 7:00pm
Tournament pinball machines: Metallica Premium and AC/DC Luci

For more details on the tournament and to register your attendance, go here.  We hope to see you at Cramers!

Are you ready?
Metallica_START

Let’s get it on!
Cramers_Flyer

The tournament tables are waiting!
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The Wizard Files

Wizards_HDRWhat’s up with wizards in video games – why do they wear those hooded robes and why must they have long white beards? Well, most of them do. I guess I would have to be into sorcery stuff to know such things *wink*.

My first interaction with a wizard in a video game was in Wizard of Wor. The evil wizard was one scary dude – with his face hidden under his blue hood, he would move swiftly about the dungeons, taunting you to shoot him. The satisfaction when you got him was overwhelming, but the disappointment was just as intense if he escaped. Damn wizard!

Wizards have featured in many video games, some were good and others were evil. Some wizards were even awesome characters you could select – just like Merlin in Gauntlet! Here are a few famous (or infamous) wizards that you may have played as or against, in a video game. Who were your favourites?

 Wizard_Merlin Wizard: Merlin

Game: Gauntlet

Comment: “Wizard needs food – badly!” – Merlin was always a popular character choice in Gauntlet.

 Wizard_wizball Wizard: Wiz

Game: Wizball 

Comment: Not your conventional wizard, but Wiz was most definitely dabbling in wizardry. Wiz even had a feline companion, Nifta!

 Wizard_Wor Wizard: Wizard of Wor

Game: Wizard of Wor

Comment: The titular evil wizard that lurks in the dungeon and taunts you to shoot him before he escapes through the side exits, is one shifty dude.

 Wizards_Chaos Wizard: Wizard 1

Game: Chaos: The Battle of Wizards

Comment: Wizard 1 battles it out till the death. Last wizard standing, wins!

 Wizard_Axil Wizard: Axil The Able

Game: Heavy On The Magick

Comment: The neophyte wizard Axil has a few magic tricks up his generously big sleeves. Those goblins, vampires and wyverns don’t stand a chance.

 Wizards_TheWizard Wizard: The Wizard

Game: Atic Atac

Comment: Do you want to swing an axe, a sword or cast awesome spells? That’s easy, casting spells is always damn cool.

 Wizards_Sabreman Wizard: Sabreman

Game: Pentagram

Comment: Your typical wizard with a pointy hat, beard and dapper robe, sets out on a quest to resurrect a mystical pentagram. Oooooooooo!

 Wizard_Sorcery Wizard: Sorcerer

Game: Sorcery

Comment: Travel from your home in Stonehenge to free the enslaved and save your three wizard mates from the Necromancer. It is all up to the Sorcerer!

 

Pixels Invading The Silver Screen

Pixels_TitleOn the back of the Wreck’It Ralph success, it seems that video game characters and themes are the hottest ticket in Hollywood right now! Sony Pictures Entertainment have released their second official trailer for their upcoming Pixels movie.

Set for release this (northern hemisphere) summer, the movie sees four mates (Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Josh Gad and Peter Dinklage) use their former arcade gaming prowess to save the world from invading intergalactic aliens, including Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Galaga, Centipede and Space Invaders!

The movie will hit Australian cinemas on July 30! Are you game to watch Pixels? Let the the trailer whet your appetite.


source: Sony Pictures Entertainment

Operation: Atari Lynx LCD Mod

Should we allow our retro gaming gear to age gracefully, or do we do what everyone does in Hollywood, go under the surgeon’s scalpel in the hope of looking better? In this instance, having an Atari Lynx II upgraded with McWill’s LCD modification (with VGA out) was an easy choice. This surgical transplant was well worth sacrificing one Atari Lynx II out of the many sitting there to be used at ComLynx parties. The only difference being, I would have the best looking screen at the next meet *wink*

In its original form, the Lynx II’s screen isn’t the best, you are constantly angle it or mucking around with the contrast to get that perfect view. With the new LCD, that is all gone! No more mucking around with the contrast knob, and you certainly do not have to angle the Lynx II to get a better vantage point. The new screen is super sharp, able to be viewed clearly at 180 degrees! Not only that, you can also play your Lynx II on the big screen via the VGA out interface! Cor blimey!

Just like any delicate surgical procedure, I left this modification to the expertise of Dr Curlytek. With precision, Dr Curlytek was able to salvage the old screen (to be used as a spare part if need be!) and install the new one without a hitch. The mod isn’t as straight forward as the instructions lead you to believe, so it is best left for those that have steady hands and exquisite soldering skills. So was it all worth it? A photo comparison can’t do the new screen any justice – you have to see it in real life to get an appreciation of its sharpness and vividness! Imagine if Atari had installed these screens originally? Perhaps they would have sold more Lynxes!

A huge thank you to Serblander for sourcing the LCD kit and to the surgeon himself, Stacey “Dr Curlytek” Borg for his exceptional skill in transplanting the new screen into the Atari Lynx II.

The surgeon prepares!
LCD_1_DrC_transplant

Open that sucker!
LCD_4_prep

The Lynx II opened up
LCD_3a_opening_her_up

Out with the old (screen)!
LCD_5a_remove_of_the_old

The new screen awaits its new host
LCD_2_newLCD

The Lynx II patiently waits for its new internal organ
LCD_7_Lynx_waiting_for_new_screen

Read the instructions twice and perform surgery once – great plan!
LCD_8_the_hard_part

The delicate work continues
LCD_6_delicate_op

Additional body part for the Lynx II
LCD_8a_VGA_wiring

The Atari Lynx II in post-operation recovery
LCD_9_done_in_recovery_room

The screen test begins! Wow, looking super sharp!
LCD_11_crystal_clear

Testing the VGA output! Looking good.
LCD_10_VGA_test

Let the Lynx II screen battle begin!
Lynx_war

And the winner is……. Ah, it’s an easy choice
Lynx_head_to_head

Press Play On Tape: Amiga vs Atari ST

PPOT_ep2_headerBefore the 16-bit Sega and Nintendo console war era, there was the 16-bit computing war in the late 80s between Commodore’s Amiga and Atari’s ST. The war between these two titans was being waged in schoolyards across the world – you were either a diehard Amiga fan or an ST whiz kid.

In episode two of PRESS PLAY ON TAPE, hosts Daz & yours truly, Alex Boz, together with special guest, Matt Cawley, go toe to toe on which computer was best. It’s Amiga vs ST – a battle for the ages! As nostalgic 16-bit blows are traded, we even find time to reflect on the once mighty publisher, Epyx. As Professor Elvin Atombender famously said, “Stay awhile, staaaay FOREVER!”.

press_play_on_tape_podbean_header

If you like PRESS PLAY ON TAPE on Facebook, you will enter the wonderful world of 8 and 16-bit computing awesomeness – with plenty of discussions and lots of photos to tingle your nostalgic senses! You can listen and subscribe to the PRESS PLAY ON TAPE podcast on Podbean or iTunes.