Reset64 Magazine 2017 Commodore 64 Game of the Year Award

It really seems that each subsequent year for modern C64 game development improves on the previous, and 2017 has been no different! On behalf of the staff at Reset Magazine, I would like to congratulate all of you who have been involved in C64 gamedev in 2017, whether as an individual or as part of a team. 2017 has been nothing short of stunning, beginning with The Bear Essentials (released digitally in 2016, but physical version with a 2017 © stamp released later), and finishing in style with the long awaited Sam’s Journey on Christmas Eve (with a few releases making it out before the new year, too). In between, well, we were spoilt for choice.

The physical releases from the likes of Protovision, RGCD, Psytronik and Poly.Play also impressed, with each distributor/publisher raising the bar for the presentation of their physical releases – perfectly complimenting the outstanding quality of the games themselves. So much thought went into the packaging, artwork, labels, instruction booklets etc. to keep us collectors more than happy!

We will look at 2017 as an amazing year for Commodore 64 games of a quality that could arguably challenge many of the years during the computer’s heyday. It was great to see so many of the contemporary developers remaining so active, old timers returning as well as a host of first time coders, artists and musicians joining in all the fun. Make no mistake, gamedev on the C64 is a challenging and time consuming task, and we are truly appreciative of the efforts and hours that everyone involved has put in.

So to sum it all up, although there can only be one game awarded GOTY, we truly believe that you all deserve to be congratulated (whether or not your game or crew is mentioned within this article), and we take our hats off to everyone involved in the 2017 C64 games development scene.

Kevin (Unkle K) Tilley, Reset64 Editor.

Kevin Tilley (Editor’s Pick)

#1 – Sam’s Journey (Knights of Bytes/Protovision):
Sam’s Journey is a truly astonishing C64 platformer that, amazingly, lives up to all of its hype! Breathtaking presentation, colourful and fast graphics; Sam’s plays like a high-end Amiga platformer with mechanics and design sensibilities not seen in a C64 game before. Beautiful to look at and fun to play, it’s my GOTY and a truly amazing game from Knights of Bytes. Nailed the physics too, KoB 😉

#2 – Galencia (Jason Aldred/Team Galencia/Protovision):
Jason Aldred came from nowhere to deliver this superb Galaga/Gaplus inspired shooter. Incredibly polished, with wonderful presentation, graphics (the animations are superb) and a suitably stunning soundtrack from Pulse Bot. It’s one of those games that you can come back to again and again and it is incredibly addictive. The physical release from Protovision is stunning, and that box-art by Lobo!! An amazing effort from Team Galencia!

#3 – The Bear Essentials (Graham Axten/Pond Software):
Graham Axten produced a game that tugged right at my nostalgic heartstrings with The Bear Essentials. Bear could easily have been a full price release from Thalamus and contains more than one nod to the games from that legendary Commodore 64 games publisher from back in the day. It’s one of the most charming games I’ve seen on the C64, and the final level blew me away. I’m tearing up right now thinking about it!

Honourable Mentions:
There have been so many other games I would have loved to have voted for. Rescuing Orc is another favourite – it is such a beautifully designed and playable game. I also loved LuftrauserZ, Platman Worlds and John Darnell’s charming Sleepwalker amongst many others. Oh, and then there’s Frogs, which is another absolutely charming multiplayer game from Dr. Wuro Industries. Any of these games could have featured in my top 3, they’re all so good!

image source: Jason Aldred & Protovision

Cameron Davis

#1 – The Bear Essentials (Graham Axten/Pond Software):
I’m thrilled that games like this exist on our beloved micro – it’s just so charming! With plenty of secrets to discover, a wild array of cute (but deadly) creatures to avoid and great platforming action, The Bear Essentials has provided me with more joy than any other recent C64 release I can think of. A world without this Essential game is something I couldn’t Bear to think about. (You’re fired – Ed)

#2 – Planet Golf (Antonio Savona/Aldo Chiummo/Gaetano Chiummo/Ilkka Sjöstedt/Massimilano ‘WiZkiD’ De Ruvo/Psytronik/RGCD):
Planet Golf is the demanding but beautiful girlfriend of Commodore 64 games. You’ll be driven mad with its fiendish level layouts and excruciatingly annoying traps, but when you do everything right it’s the best feeling in the world. I love this game even though it feels like an unhealthy relationship at times!

#3 – Galencia (Jason Aldred/Team Galencia/Protovision):
This modern spin on the Galaga formula is not just a technical marvel – it’s by far the best shmup to hit the C64 in years! The movement of all the ships (oh, so many ships) feels nice and fluid, the blasting action satisfyingly explosion-filled, and there’s a real sense of accomplishment to survive the first few levels! We really are lucky to have games of this calibre grace our system.

Rob Caporetto

#1 – Galencia (Jason Aldred/Team Galencia/Protovision):
Arcade-esque games are totally a ‘been there, seen that’ proposition on the C64 in the homebrew age, where many try to rekindle the feel, but most I’ve felt have always missed that something. Galencia, on the other hand? Nails it. From its old school difficulty curve, its high level of polish, and the overall polish of the package, it’s a labour of love which totally, totally manages to feel fresh, and challenging for 2017!

#2 – LuftrauserZ (Paul Koller/Stein Pedersen/RGCD):
I’m a sucker for games involving air-combat, and working around gravity, both of which are core to this C64 adaptation of the indie hit. What blows my mind away the most though? The fact that the original game has been squeezed over into a C64 cartridge. In full. The pace is even more frantic, the controls flow excellently, and the challenge on offer is intense – for anyone after a fresh twist on arcade action, LuftrauserZ is easily one of the best picks you can go for!

#3 – Rescuing Orc (Juan J. Martinez/Vanja Utne/Poly.Play):
One of the great things with the homebrew community is in seeing less visited genres make an appearance on our favourite micro. Rescuing Orc brings over the tradition of the exploratory platformer, with an old-school difficulty to match. The challenge of course being to locate your friend said Orc, whilst exploring the world, and dispatching the devious hordes who stand in your way. Compared to some of the other releases in 2017, that level of challenge may be a turn off, but despite some misgivings, it’s a throwback release, which is well worth checking out!

Honourable Mentions:
Sam’s Journey (Knights of Bytes/Protovision):
The Knights of Bytes crew have been working on this one for a long time, and it truly, truly shows on so many levels. Compared to many other platformers on the C64, it’s expansive, packed to the brim with levels, and power ups and features. If I’d been able to spent more time with it before submitting this GOTY, I expect it would have made the top 3. But considering I’ve not put anywhere near enough time in, an honourable mention will have to do…

Petunia Pickle’s Pumpkin Preview (Anthony Stiller/Vanja Utne/Pond Software):
Seeing new faces start off with amazing releases is something I always find mighty positive. It might sound a little too biased here, but I had a lot of fun with this little preview, and it being by a good friend is just the icing on the cake.

image source: Knights Of Bytes & Protovision

Paul Morrison

#1 – Galencia (Jason Aldred/Team Galencia/Protovision):
I’ve been playing arcade shmups like Galaxian since the 1970s. I love them, so it always rankled with me that the Commodore 64 didn’t really have any that could truly stand among them. Consider me rankled no more. Galencia is an incredible clone of Galaga which has kept me playing since its release date. I’ve played it more than most of the PC and PS4 games I’ve bought this year, and I’m going to keep playing it. It may have been 35 years in coming, but it’s the best game of its type on the C64, and it’s my Game of the Year.

#2 – LuftrauserZ (Paul Koller/Stein Pedersen/RGCD):
The original PC game was a simplistic but fast-paced shoot ’em up which featured an absolute mountain of extra weaponry to experiment with. That Paul Koller has replicated the game so accurately on the 64 is nothing short of miraculous. I’ve got a pretty sweet crate right now, but I’m looking forward to unlocking more and seeing just how destructive I can become.

#3 – Planet Golf (Antonio Savona/Aldo Chiummo/Gaetano Chiummo/Ilkka Sjöstedt/Massimilano ‘WiZkiD’ De Ruvo/Psytronik/RGCD):
I played Desert Golfing and Stick Golf on my phone for far too long, becoming totally addicted to seeing how far I could progress or if I could whittle down my best scores. Planet Golf captures the feeling of those games emphatically, whilst adding a flavour that could only have come from our beloved C64. It’s hair-tearingly frustrating at times, but that one-more-go factor is in full effect.

Anthony Stiller

#1 – LuftrauserZ (Paul Koller/Stein Pedersen/RGCD):
Paul Koller’s demake of Vlambeer’s aerobatic blaster is a miracle. Somehow Paul has captured the frenetic feel of the original and crammed in almost all of the features. Fast, furious and more fun than a barrel full of barrel rolls. Buy this game immediately.

#2 – The Bear Essentials (Graham Axten/Pond Software):
Graham Axten of Pond Software brought so much joy to my C64 when he released The Bear Essentials. A delightful, highly playable platformer, polished like a shiny red apple, Bear is what C64 gaming is all about. Check out Graham’s dev diary, too, if you get a chance.

#3 – Galencia (Jason Aldred/Team Galencia/Protovision):
Jason Aldred turns run-of-the-mill Galaga up to 11 with the exhilarating Galencia. With superb design, crisp graphics, and faultless gameplay, Galencia is a marvel to behold and has been a firm favourite in the RESET offices. A stellar release!

Honourable Mention:
Rescuing Orc
Juan J. Martinez’s wonderfully named game, Rescuing Orc, is everything I love. An adventurous romp with sword in hand, perilous leaps, varied enemies, deep caverns, and bats! Bats are great and so is Rescuing Orc.

Merman

#1 – Argus (Trevor Storey/Achim Volkers/Saul Cross/Psytronik):
From the moment I saw the preview video on YouTube, I knew this was going to be special. The first-person view of the action is superb, there is a huge and involved quest to complete and Psytronik pulled out all the stops with the amazing Ultimate Edition (cramming loads of extras into the box, including the poster with the all-important map of the land of Argus). A landmark RPG for the C64 and my game of the year.

#2 – Planet Golf (Antonio Savona/Aldo Chiummo/Gaetano Chiummo/Ilkka Sjöstedt/Massimilano ‘WiZkiD’ De Ruvo/Psytronik/RGCD):
Antonio Savona strikes again with a beautifully crafted game. The physics of the golf ball – and the fast-forward option – work really well, but it is the superb presentation that stays with me. The clear sampled speech and the amazing introduction sequence (with digitised graphics) set a high bar for others to reach.

#3 – Galencia (Jason Aldred/Team Galencia/Protovision):
A very polished shoot ’em up, particularly the mutating aliens. It really captures the Galaga style and brings it up to date with great graphics and sound. So glad it was finished.

Honourable Mention:
Just sneaking into 2017 was the digital release of SAM’S JOURNEY. I have only had time to play it briefly but it looks amazing – it could already be my game of the year for 2018!

Richard Bayliss

#1 – Sam’s Journey (Knights of Bytes/Protovision):
I purchased a digital download of Sam’s Journey on Boxing Day 2017. The game has very stunning presentation. The game is really colourful, but when it comes to playing it, I was almost late for work, due to its pure addictiveness. The game has a fun story line, and each world is well crafted. The ideas put into this game really pushed the Commodore 64 to its limits. There are some very colourful maps, cute enemies, which Sam can jump on (or avoid). The power ups are truly amazing. This game gets my vote to be the best ever game of 2017.

#2 – Slipstream (Bauknecht/Psytronik)
I always wondered what the Commodore 64 could spin out for the C64 gaming world. We have seen many C64 demos, and demo coders of big groups today continue to show off their talent. Now what if you had this idea to produce a game, which uses some of the demo effects, such as realtime, vector animation? Bauknecht has proven this by developing something spectacular. The game has stunning presentation, along with some very amazing animated effects. The concept was quite original. You take control of two different modules through a simulation. This game reminds me a little of Domark’s Star Wars. Slipstream has very slick presentation, thumping soundtracks, and is also addictive to play. I love this game for the originality and addictive game play. It is very difficult to master at first, but you’ll get used to this game after a few attempts. Slipstream is a stunner.

#3 – Galencia (Jason Aldred/Team Galencia/Protovision):
I always loved a good and decent shoot ’em up. Looking at this game. It takes me back in time and reminds me a lot of Galaxians, Galaga, Gaplus blended in together. This game is well designed, has some good bonus rewards for the play. Some alien attack patterns can end up as a little surprise. The Galencia like to transform into different types aliens. There are plenty of in game options, to enhance game play even more. You can even select competition mode, which is a real challenge. This is a really good retro-standard shoot ’em up. Nicely animated sprites, graphics, loading picture, music, etc. I enjoyed this game a lot, due to the quality arcade standard, presentation and excellent music. Some funny boss fights in between. Nice loading and intro graphics. Great series of options.

image source: Psytronik

Damian Caynes

#1 – Planet Golf (Antonio Savona/Aldo Chiummo/Gaetano Chiummo/Ilkka Sjöstedt/Massimilano ‘WiZkiD’ De Ruvo/Psytronik/RGCD):
Antonio Savona’s Planet Golf was not only a very playable game, but had superb production qualities and awesome digital sound. The intros were brilliant, and the game itself was difficult and addictive.

#2 – Galencia (Jason Aldred/Team Galencia/Protovision):
One of my favourite arcade games as a kid was Galaga, and Jason Aldred’s Galencia hits all the buttons. It has bright, colourful graphics and excellent fx, as well as masterful attack waves and bosses. Well worth the asking price, and I can’t wait to get it on cartridge.

#3 – The Bear Essentials (Graham Axten/Pond Software):
I really hate to give this game one point, but there have been so many great games in 2017. Graham Axten’s Bear Essentials has a lot of similarities with the style of Creatures 2, but is an awesome game in its own right. Pond must be very proud of this release

Roy Fielding

#1 – Planet Golf (Antonio Savona/Aldo Chiummo/Gaetano Chiummo/Ilkka Sjöstedt/Massimilano ‘WiZkiD’ De Ruvo/Psytronik/RGCD):
From the moment I first heard of this game, I knew it was one for me. Antonio certainly delivered with a splendid and very professional game. The physical release is sublime with great original artwork by none other than Oliver Frey. Top notch game with oodles of replayability. This game will remain one of my faves, alongside the likes of the Leaderboard range.

#2 – Galencia (Jason Aldred/Team Galencia/Protovision):
A very close second is Galencia. This game came out of nowhere for me and really grabbed my attention immediately. I am a big fan of early arcade shooters like Galaxian/Galaga so this game really ticked my box on that score. The game looks and plays wonderfully and will certainly be a game to return to time and time again. Very high production value and again, we have a super physical release, with lovely original box art by Fleming DuPont. A wonderful game just slightly pipped (for me) by Planet Golf.

#3 – Sam’s Journey (Knights of Bytes/Protovision):
This was a very close call between this and Paul Koller’s excellent Luftrausers demake. I went with Sam’s Journey as it is an original title and has one of the most beautiful scrolling engines I’ve seen on the C64, with such vibrant use of colours. A very playable game, albeit probably not one I’d return to as much as #1 and #2. It’s still super impressive and delivers on the early promises and smashes away the doubts people had that it was not for real. I cannot comment on the physical release as it wasn’t available at time of writing.

Simon Quernhorst

#1 – Rescuing Orc (Juan J. Martinez/Vanja Utne/Poly.Play):
A very nice and atmospheric game, which I really liked playing through the end!

#2 – Galencia (Jason Aldred/Team Galencia/Protovision):
A perfect arcade game with fun graphics and always good for a round now and then.

#3 – Frogs (Dr. Wuro Industries):
What a fun game when playing with four players… always great to push ’em into the water.

Roy Widding

#1 – Planet Golf (Antonio Savona/Aldo Chiummo/Gaetano Chiummo/Ilkka Sjöstedt/Massimilano ‘WiZkiD’ De Ruvo/Psytronik/RGCD):
I decided to give my top 3 points to Antonio and his addictive and funny golf game! Nice graphics, nice music and addictive. Very addictive!

#2 – Sam’s Journey (Knights of Bytes/Protovision):
I struggled a bit to play the digital version on my real hardware, but except for that, the game is amazing. A brilliant story, a nice plattform adventure, and it is not too hard, so I have kept my interest for this, and I think I still will have that interest when I receive the physical cartridge. (2 points to Chester)

#3 – Galencia (Jason Aldred/Team Galencia/Protovision):
The game is so well made/polished/full of details that you can’t leave it out of a top 3. Even if I’m not such a huge shooter fan, I have played this game several times, and it is not one of the games you try and forget… (1 point to Jason)

Honourable Mentions:
I have bought all commercial releases this year, and kept my eye on all free games too. I might have missed some, but I have placed my votes on the ones I kept coming back too and enjoyed playing. There were some games like Bear, Orc, LuftrauserZ and some other Psytronik titles that I liked too, but I had to leave some out of the top 3 so it ended with these.

image source: Usebox.Net & Poly.Play

Jari Karjalainen

#1 – Sam’s Journey (Knights of Bytes/Protovision):
It definitely came close for not happening in time, but my vote for GOTY goes to Sam’s Journey, without a shred of doubt. It’s not only a logical continuation of new hardware exploitation from Prince of Persia made for EasyFlash, but also yet another thus far missing link between the old C64 games and 16-bit games from all platforms – impressive in every expectable manner, and definitely lives up to its hype.

#2 – Planet Golf (Antonio Savona/Aldo Chiummo/Gaetano Chiummo/Ilkka Sjöstedt/Massimilano ‘WiZkiD’ De Ruvo/Psytronik/RGCD):
If Sam’s Journey hadn’t made it this year, its place would have been taken by Planet Golf, which will now take the #2 spot. I thought the preview already was fantastic, and the full version is definitely one of the most intriguing, impressive and unique C64 golf games of all time. Definitely worth having in anyone’s collection.

#3 – Planet X2 (The 8-Bit Guy):
My vote for #3 was much more difficult to choose, since there were so many fantastic games put out this year – the Bear Essentials, Galencia, LuftrauserZ, Slipstream and Argus to name but a few, each very impressive in their own ways. In the end, I settled for Planet X2, because it represents a genre that hadn’t been explored on the C64 before, and rather well at that, too.

Frank Gasking

#1 – Sam’s Journey (Knights of Bytes/Protovision):
When playing Sonic 1 on the Mega Drive or Mayhem on the C64 that I remember the goosebumps first I had, experiencing something unlike i’d ever seen before. Although a predictable number 1 from me, Sam’s Journey this Christmas has given me just those feelings. Combining some of the best features from various 16-bit platformers, the game is a sight to behold, and it lives up to all the hype it has deservidely had.

#2 – Galencia (Jason Aldred/Team Galencia/Protovision):
I’m a big fan of single screen shooters like Galaga and Gyruss, so Galencia was a very welcome release to see this year. There are some wonderful touches throughout the game and little sub sections which make this one of the best games of its genre on the C64. It’s been great to see yet another ex-C64 developer come back to the platform too.

#3 – Planet Golf (Antonio Savona/Aldo Chiummo/Gaetano Chiummo/Ilkka Sjöstedt/Massimilano ‘WiZkiD’ De Ruvo/Psytronik/RGCD):
An extremely frustrating, but fun game, where any errors are your own fault and not the game. Deviously designed courses with some great gravitational effects on later planets make for a game that will keep you playing for a long time. The added polish of the crisp graphics/smooth animation and speech effects round off a great release.

….AND THE WINNER IS!

It is with great pleasure that we announce Galencia, by Jason Aldred and Team Galencia as the 2017 Commodore 64 Game of the Year, as voted by the Reset Magazine staff & contributors. A worthy winner, Galencia oozes quality from a coding perspective, as well as featuring the highest quality aesthetics and super addictive gameplay. It’s the perfect all rounder. The physical edition from Protovision was stunning and extremely high quality, everything from the beautiful art, labels, feelies, posters and that lovely green cartridge! Galencia also achieved the highest number of individual votes in this count and was a hot topic of discussion on social media and retro gaming forums for much of 2017.

Congratulations to Jason, the rest of Team Galencia and Protovision on your achievement!

image source: Jason Aldred & Protovision

Final Standings:
#1 – Galencia (Protovision)
#2 – Planet Golf (Psytronik/RGCD)
#3 – Sam’s Journey (Protovision)
#4 – LuftrauserZ (RGCD), The Bear Essentials (Pond Software)
#5 – Rescuing Orc (Poly.Play)
#6 – Argus (Psytronik)
#7 – Slipstream (Psytronik)
#8 – Frogs (Dr. Wuro Industries), Planet X2 (The 8-Bit Guy)

Honourable Mentions:
Platman Worlds (Psytronik), Sleepwalker (Psytronik), Petunia Pickle’s Pumpkin Preview (Pond Software).

 

Play Your Fave Retro Gaming Systems in Your Web Browser

Virtual Consoles – a recently launched website makes it possible to play legendary computers and consoles like the Apple II, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum and Super Nintendo (to name a few) right in your web browser.

The Virtual Consoles website offers its services free of charge: you can play on 9 old school gaming systems without installing any add-ons or plug-ins. Now that is pretty damn cool!

With the revival of retro gaming and the ever escalating costs, this site has come at the right time. “The site generally uses open-source development, so the use of emulators is completely free of charge. An up-to-date browser and an average desktop computer is all that is needed, although most of the retro computers offer good experience on tablets, as well”, says Kornel Kolma, founder of virtualconsoles.com.

Play with Spacewar! from 1962
Currently there are 9 online emulators available on the site: Apple II, Atari 2600, NES , Super NES. DOS, Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum. There are also some curiosities to be found in the collection, like the CHIP-8 interpreter which ran on microcomputers of the 1970s, and the DEC PDP-1, which was introduced in 1959 – making it possible to play the original Spacewar! game online.

“We only attached games to the emulated computers and consoles if they were freeware games or had gotten approval from the copyright owner. For most of the emulators we made it possible to upload games from existing collections. Our long-term goal is to come to an agreement with copyright owners of old games and make these games available in a retro gaming online store”, says Kornel Kolma. Kornel also added, “The short-term plan of Virtual Consoles is to launch additional emulators which will run in your web browser”.

With Virtual Consoles, the game is definitely not over!


 

Galencia Blasts Onto Your C64

Fire up your trusty Commodore 64 and grab Jason Aldred’s brilliant new shoot’em up Galencia.

For those that have been away on Mars and have just landed back on Earth, Galencia is a fast action shoot ’em up for the C64 in the mould of Galaga, but even better! Yes, it is that good that we reckon it is even better than Galaga – there, we said it.

Galencia features 50 action packed levels with asteroid fields, challenging stages, boss battles, ebb and flow difficulty curve and siren enemy with tractor beam for double ship action (Ed: oo’er!). The game includes gorgeous intro, launch and completion sequences, coupled with 6 unique SID chiptunes for your aural pleasure.

Blast-Off!

But wait, there is more! In-game options include:

  • Load, Save and Reset High Scores
  • Extensive CRT options including 3 levels of Starfield Brightness
  • 3 different Score Palettes
  • Tournament Mode
  • Music and Simultaneous Sound Effects or Sound Effects only
  • 3 selectable difficulty levels; and
  • Pause and Quit game options

There are many great people behind great games, just like the peeps that had a hand in creating Galencia. We can all thank these talented group of people for making such a wonderful and sublime game:

  • Jason Aldred: programming and graphics
  • Pulsebot: all music and some sound effects
  • Saul Cross: additional graphics and sound effects
  • Lobo: physical artwork including box and manual
  • Mark Hardisty: manual back cover illustration
  • Flemming Dupont: concept art
  • Jakob Chen-Voos: Protovison

Even the great Julian ‘Jaz’ Rignall gives his sizzling approval!

You can grab the digital version right now via itch.io for US$4.99 (which is an absolute steal!), or for the more traditionalists among us, Galencia will be available on physical media from Friday, November 17 via Protovision Games, just take a look at these tangible temptations:

  • Cassette (without box) €10.00 – comes on a green cassette with a j-card that can be flipped around for an alternative cover picture. The tape comes in a neon green jewel case (front side is fully transparent, only back is neon green).
  • Cassette (boxed) €30.00
  • Disk (boxed) €30.00
  • Cartridge (boxed) €40.00
  • Disk and Cartridge Special Edition (boxed) €50.00

All boxed editions of Galencia will come in a fully printed cardboard box with custom inlays to hold the disk, tape or cartridge, which will also include:

  • a full colour manual with 16 carefully designed pages (A5 sized),
  • Galencia coaster with a scratch free glass surface,
  • Bee key ring that can serve you as a trophy when you battle against vermin,
  • Big Galencia sticker that you can stick on your disk sleeve if you have the disk version; and
  • While stocks last – the first 200 boxed version orders will receive an additional small Galencia sticker!

With the Disk and Cartridge special edition, both physical media will be in the one box with all of the above inclusions, plus a space amulet that is much needed in higher levels of Galencia, as it has been reported to promote good fortune!

Oh yeah, the game works on both PAL and NTSC C64 computers, with all physical editions containing the tape and disk digital images. If you don’t have a C64, then emulation is fully supported through VICE.

So what are you waiting for, go and pilot the 1981 Galencia Fighter to restore order, before it’s too late!

The game is never over!

The eyes have it!

Credit where credit is due

Tough choice – will you grab Galencia on cart?

On disk?

Or on tape? The choice is yours (you can’t go wrong!)

Time to squash some bugs!

Go on, get blastin’

image source: Jason Aldred – Galencia HQ

 

The Age Newspaper: Retro Gaming Revival

The ausretrogamer team was recently interviewed by Adam Turner for the Sunday Age M lift-out cover story which was all about the revival of retro gaming and the classic gaming area at PAX Australia!

If you didn’t get the chance to read the article in print, then you can read it all online right now on The Age website!

The full story can be read online on The Age website now

 

The Classic PAX Aus 2017 Ticket Giveaway

*** THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED ***

Wanna go to PAX Aus 2017? Do you want an easy way to enter a ticket giveaway? If you answered yes to both of these questions, then you are in luck!

Thanks to our great friends at PAX Aus, we have 3 x double passes for Sunday (October 29) to attend one of the biggest and best gaming events in the southern hemisphere. To score one of these double passes all you have to do is tweet us your favourite retro gaming item(s) – be it a console, computer, game or accessory, we want to see what tickles your nostalgic nerve. Don’t forget to tag us in your tweet and use the hashtags #PAXAus and #ausretrogamer.

It doesn’t get any easier than that! So get cracking on photographing those retro gaming items, as entries close on October 4th at 8:00pm!

If you need convincing of how great PAX Aus is, then check out last year’s event.

For those of you that like to read T&Cs, here are the finer details of this most awesome giveaway:

  • Entries open to Australian residents only
  • Entries close on Wednesday October 4, 2017 at 8:00pm
  • To enter the giveaway, tweet us your retro gaming photos with the appropriate hashtags (#PAXAus and #ausretrogamer) and tag @ausretrogamer and @PAXAus
  • Entrants must follow ausretrogamer (to receive a DM if you are the winner!)
  • Winners will be notified via Direct Message (DM)
  • Winners will receive their tickets in the post (via Australia Post)
  • The winners (if interstate) will be responsible in arranging their own transport and accommodation in Melbourne

PAX Aus 2017 is on from October 27 to 29 at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. Tickets / Badges are available here.

 

Making Of Reset C64 Intro

By Andrew Burch

While immersed in Syntax 2015 and beginning work on an intro for Hokuto Force (which went on to be released as “Technic” shortly after), I was approached by a familiar face. Unkle K sat down and we had a great chat about family, the C64, my intros and naturally, the Reset magazine. During the chat, he asked if I was interested in doing an intro for Reset64. Given Reset is an Australian magazine and I loved the work they put into it, how could I refuse? Time passes too quickly these days and it would be another 9 months before I’d start to form the basis of the intro. But once started, it came together quickly over the following weeks and I was pleased to be involved in the Reset #10 release with an intro and this write up to accompany it.

Rather than just put a bunch of things on screen, I like to focus on the design of my intros so the effects fit with the music and there is a smooth flow to the experience. Because I have so few SID contacts to help with the music, I begin most of my intros using sidplay2 and HVSC (High Voltage SID Collection) to look for existing tracks which I think I could design an intro around. Often I have an idea of how much memory I want to allocate to music, so this means I can focus on SID files of a certain size. I have a simple script that digs through the HVSC folders looking for SID files under (or between) a certain size and then copying them to a separate folder. I then create a play list from that folder in sidplay2 and explore for suitable tracks. This allows me to create a short list of music, which I will then listen to on repeat as I begin designing the flow of the intro. For this intro, I ended up settling on a track from ECO (Raik Picheta), which I had been wanting to create an intro around for quite a while. I’ve used a few of Raik’s tracks now and love what he creates.

My goal was to create the biggest (and hopefully best) Reset intro to date. I wanted the intro to be more than just a simple greets list, scroller and logo. This meant it had to have multiple parts instead of a single screen. The chosen music track suited a multi-part intro, so I was keen to flesh out something larger than the normal intro that accompanies each issue of Reset. Because this is a milestone release, the intro should celebrate the previous releases in some form and also acknowledge the Reset64 staff. A nice transition of some kind from the start screen to the intro is always a must for me and something I would incorporate into the intro. When designing the flow of the intro, I don’t necessarily know exactly how each part will appear on screen. Mainly, I focus on what each part will represent and build on that. With these few things in mind, and the music track selected, I came up with the flow to use:

  • Transition from BASIC to intro
  • Introduce Reset intro
  • Reset team credits
  • Show logo
  • Intro credits
  • Final part (continuous play)

With some design down for the intro, I now got cracking on writing the code. With every intro I’ve done, I always have multiple parts under development at the same time. I find it a good way to avoid getting stuck on a certain bit for too long and it also helps give an early idea on how well the implementation matches what I envisioned. Each part is developed within its own assembly file, which helps avoid working in large files. For some of the larger parts, I will even split them into smaller assembly files and code each sub effect first before bringing them together. For example, the final part which has a logo swing, cycling text, scroller and border sprites started life as four separate “effects” which were eventually brought together with their own transitions into a single assembly file, which then got merged into the final release file. I’ve found this method allows me to tweak and tune parts and their transitions easily before considering them complete and ready to move into the intro. It also makes it easier to sort out bugs before intro parts are merged together. An added bonus to this is it means I can quickly test each piece in both PAL and NTSC modes too. The final intro file will contain a small section at start up that detects NTSC mode (by peeking at the value in $02A6) and adjusts some variables & instructions to improve stability under that mode.

The assembly files won’t run themselves though and need to be compiled. My choice in compiler is win2c64 which was written by Aart Bik. There are more flexible cross assemblers around, but I found Aart’s to be very easy to use and haven’t had a reason to switch. For code writing I use Sublime Text 2 and a custom syntax colouring scheme I wrote (which I could not live without!). I make use of several common C64 cross development tools like Timanthes, CharPad, SpritePad, Sidplay2 and of course VICE.

Another tool I make use of is Beyond Compare 4, which is great not only for comparing source code changes, but also comparing images. I used this in the Reset intro where I had run the logo data through some conversion routines and wanted to make sure that the before and after output was the same. So before and after screen shots were taken from VICE and fed into Beyond Compare, which can then highlight pixels (bottom panel) where my conversion had faults.

A final piece of software I make frequent use of is Fraps. This tool allows me to capture the intro running in VICE to a video file for playback. This is extremely handy when graphical glitches occur on screen and you can then go back and watch them frame by frame to help diagnose the cause. This was used a few times on the Reset 10 intro where the transition code between parts had some conflict, which resulted in brief graphical glitch flashes and some cases where rasters were flickering. I often find the cause is usually raster interrupts fighting or a timing issue.

Along with the software mentioned, I also have a library of Lua scripts I have developed over the course of my C64 projects which are used to export and transform data into a state ready to be used in one of my assembly files. This includes things like data exporters for sprites, fonts, music, logos and scroller message formatting. There are some days where I spend more time tweaking and improving my tools than I do coding intro parts, simply because of the benefit they offer to the current and future projects. My choice in Lua is simply because, at the time I got back into C64 coding, I was working in the games industry on PS3 & X360 games and used Lua daily. So I found it quick and easy to get my early script library together. I’ve not yet had a reason to switch to something stronger.

I always like to see a transition in an intro from the start screen as I think it’s a nice presentation touch and starts the intro off nicely. For this intro I settled on fading each line of the screen to black (in a pattern), while leaving a nice bright RESET tag in the lower right corner. I use a colour table to ensure that the fade to black looks reasonable no matter what the colour ram, background and border colours are at the time the intro is run. It does however make an assumption the colour RAM is consistent across the screen. You’ll note that the border colour for each 8 pixel high character line also fades out with it, which requires raster interrupts all the way down the screen. It’s actually the same interrupt repeating all the way down, with each row containing its own indexes into the colour table. It’s a simple transition, but gets the intro off to a nice start and something I felt lacking in previous Reset intros.

With the transition done and the intro now starting, I wanted to include something that acted as an “intro to the release”. Reaching issue 10 is a nice milestone for Reset and something for Unkle K and the team to be proud of. I thought it might be good to look back at the previous releases, to see the important dates in their journey so far and then acknowledge their latest release date as part of that. There’s nothing too tricky in terms of code in this part, although originally the dates were not animated using the hardware scroll register. I added the animation to give the screen a little more life as each date fades in and out.

I wanted to dedicate a part of the intro to the team behind Reset who put it together for us to enjoy. It can be thought of as a shout out to the guys who “power” Reset64. This part went through a few design changes before the final was settled on. Originally it started a lot darker, with the scrolling text lit up using white and greys. The colour cycling was also intended to be more of a light source, circling around the text. The names were always going to glow in colour and it was hoped the darker background would put strong emphasis on the name. But the lack of colour felt dull and the “lighting” effect not as good as I imagined it would be. The light source was changed to cycling the colour RAM and brighter colours added. The scrolling “RESET64” text is achieved by rolling character data left and right, which is more efficient than using the hardware scroll and actually scrolling 12 lines of screen data. It leaves plenty of cycles free to scroll the colour ram instead. The top and bottom borders are also open, with sprites waving within. This is actually a really easy trick to perform, and requires you to switch the screen mode to 24 row mode just before the bottom border begins to render. This tricks the VIC into thinking the border is already being rendered, so it doesn’t bother starting it at raster line 250. You simply need to restore it to 25 rows somewhere in the next screen update (I usually do this as part of the frame set up in the top border).

The intro was really starting to come along at this point and I was in need of a logo. Unkle K put me in contact with Shine. This was excellent as I had been looking forward to working with him for a while. Because I wanted to swing the logo (along with bouncing it with Flexible Line Distance), I was keen for a 3 colour logo that could be converted to a character set. Keeping it at 3 colours means the colour RAM does not to be updated during the swing effect. This allows me to spend time doing other things on screen. However, this then places an annoying limit on any artist, but Shine did well to put together a logo (40×8 characters).

The logo arrived in the form of a bitmap, which I then wrote a conversion script for that converted it into unique character data and also a display matrix that could be used to render the characters to screen. This resulted in a set of 194 unique characters for the logo. Part of the conversion process was to also standardise the use of the character colour and the two multi colours. Because the logo started as a bitmap, the multi colours and character colours were not uniform across the logo. An inspection (and adjustment) of the bits for each character byte was done as part of the conversion to ensure the colours were standardised. Beyond Compare was very useful here to verify the output against the original and would highlight where bits had not been converted properly.

Although the logo would be bouncing and swinging across the screen, it wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to give the logo a little more life and decided to add some animation to it. Getting another colour on the logo might be good too, so I added sprites that flash across the letters and Shines tag. I also decided to animate the stars that appear in the top left and right of the logo.

Next I thought about how I could introduce the logo onto the screen. When it appears in the final part of the intro, the logo will swing across onto screen – so that one is easy. But I want to introduce the logo earlier, right after the Reset team credits have been shown. There is a perfect part of the music where this can happen and from the first time I heard the track, I had a mental picture of a logo vertically scrolling up. I settled on using a small “trick” of the VIC hardware, which stops rendering colour and simply renders black if you have both multi-colour and extended colour modes enabled at the same time. Putting this together with a Flexible Line Distance effect, I could make the logo begin to appear from half way down the screen. This was then finished off by rendering a line which the logo could appear from, bounce on and then disappear behind again. You’ll notice in the final intro that the word “MAGAZINE” appears in the bottom half of the screen in a wave pattern. These are sprites and are not affected by the multi-colour + extended colour “trick”.

This trick was used again for the intro credits part, but this time it also hides sprites by having their colour set to black. This way the role and credit can appear from the line in different directions. One is hidden by multi-colour + extended colour being enabled and the other is simply sprite colour changing at a certain raster line. To make the sprites appear, their y position is simply updated. The text appears by again using FLD (Flexible Line Distance) to push the character data down.

With all these parts getting to their completed state, I was able to begin creating the “final” assembly file. This is where all the parts get merged together for the final release of the intro, which means I now need to think seriously about memory layout. For this sort of intro, memory size isn’t an issue – I’m not going to run out. But I’m forever conscious about what memory I’m using and where it makes sense to compress or optimise things. The code will start at $0810 and I’ll have exomizer prefix it with an auto run block on the final build. I’ll be using memory around $0b00 to $0fff for sprite data and some table data. Music will live at $1000 and the logo character set at $2800. The main 1×1 font will live at $3000 and is made up of 64 characters. The larger 1×2 font will live at $3200, followed by animated characters used in various parts. I know I’ll need to allocate a little more space for sprites based on my estimates, so will set aside some memory here for those too. I want all graphics data sitting before $4000 so I don’t have to think about bank swapping. I built in some buffers to each of the key areas to allow for change right up to the last minute. In the end those buffers will either compress right down using Exomizer, or I’ll juggle some data tables around to fill them. The rest is free for code and data tables. With that decided I create a new assembly file with the above memory mapped out, ready to start merging parts together.

Merging everything and their transitions together can be tedious work. It can also be rewarding as you see the intro finally coming together in its final form, but it can be slow going as you realise the transitions you’ve created don’t gel well with the previous part, which then requires some juggling. Or new bugs get introduced, which can be “fun” to hunt down. I’m also more mindful at this stage of memory alignment with certain code blocks and where some bits best fit together. As I bring each piece together I test both PAL and NTSC modes. This way I can see early on where there is flicker (usually in NTSC mode) and do my best to get both running well so by the time the intro is completely together there are minimal changes required to have it run under either mode.

At this stage the intro was really flying along, but I still need to code up the final part. The final part will remain on the screen until the system is rebooted. This screen will contain a few different effects, all happening at once. It’s probably one of the trickiest parts to get complete as you not only need to get each effect running, but they have to run side by side with everything else going on screen and everything needs to transition in smoothly. I manage this with some raster interrupt juggling as each effect transitions on screen until finally it just loops forever.

When designing this part, I knew it had to have the logo and it would swing and bounce (using FLD and the hardware scroll register). This would take up the first 10 rows of screen display. When using FLD to bounce the top section of the screen, you need a second FLD effect further down to balance it out. As the top FLD increases in height, the lower FLD decreases. That way the lower section of the screen remains stable all through the bounce.

In the bottom section of the screen I wanted to put the scroller and settled on a 4×4 scroller. Instead of taking up more memory with a new 4×4 font, I wanted to dynamically create a 4×4 version of the 1×1 font already in use. Creating a scroller like this isn’t too difficult (I’ve created a tutorial on my site www.0xc64.com for those that are interested). It requires 16 characters, which make up every combination of 2×2 pixel data. Then using a bit mask and some shifting as each 2×2 bit block is processed, the scroller code creates an index into those characters to build the required 4×4 version.

That left the middle of the screen empty to do something with. I thought it might be nice to show off what features would be appearing in the release. Originally this was just a blue background with colour cycling over the text. It felt too dull and as always I wanted to put more on screen. I ended up with a parallax starfield, which was split in the middle of the screen. This had stars rolling left on one side and right on the other, keeping the flow of the colour cycling on the text. Because the new issue would contain many features, I rotate through new features every so often. With the old feature being hidden with blue colour. The update code detects this and then begins to render the next feature while the colour ram and background colours match. This way the next feature smoothly transitions on to screen.

As a final touch for this part, I opened the top and bottom borders again and added some sprites with a subtle wave to give them some life. Once all the pieces of the final part were brought together (with their transitions), it was added to the final release file.

Quite often as parts evolve, I have to juggle where updates and transitions occur, as adding more things to the screen takes up more raster time. I use a simple method of changing the border colour using an inc and dec on $d020 to see roughly how many scan lines certain update / render routines are taking up. In the screen shot below for example, the final part has several interrupts performing update and rendering for various things going on in the frame. The big gap at the top is reserved for the music, frame prep and top border sprite set up. As you see down the screen, the border changes colours at certain spots, showing the rough start and end raster lines for different routines. Often these will increase and decrease depending on what code is executed in the update. Where I have routines that execute on alternating frames, I can combine these into 1 block to try and get more effects into each screen.

At this point, the intro was ready. The scroller text and feature text are placed right at the end of the intro, which makes them easy to update. I always put these sorts of things at the end since they are variable in length and I don’t want to have to shuffle code or data around if their length exceeds what I had allowed for.

Working on the intro for Reset #10 was a great experience. It came out better than I had planned and certainly hope everyone can enjoy it. Congratulations to Reset for reaching 10 releases and let’s hope there are many more to come.
One part that you’ll never see in the intro is this one. Originally it was going to form the basis of the final continuous play part of the intro. A parallax star field, with a huge vertical logo on the right. It was intended the logo be made of multi-colour sprites, which could be moved around separate to the starfield. Text would be displayed on the right, acting as the scroller. It was ditched as I wanted to do far more on the screen and felt limited by the design. The white lines at the bottom is the raster time the star field animation is taking up.

Pre-order the latest issue of RESET C64 right now from Binary Zone!

 

Neohabitat Reawakens Lucasfilm’s First MMORPG

It seems that we may have been living under a rock all this time! We are the first to admit that we aren’t massive fans of adventure or RPG style games, but when the C64 is involved, we always sit up and take note!

Now cast your mind back to 1986 when Lucasfilm Games (LucasArts) began previewing their new online game Habitat (developed a year earlier) in magazines of the time. If you are lucky enough to remember, you’d recall that the game looked bloody amazing, a cross between an adventure game and something akin to an online chat room. If your recollections are a bit fuzzy, then think of a multiplayer SCUMM game before Lucasfilm were anywhere near releasing Maniac Mansion! Then, the game went into a closed beta and didn’t see the light of day till 1988, when it was scaled back as Club Caribe. Ah, you would be forgiven in thinking that the game was lost to the sands of time. But wait, there is a new ending to this story.

Before we get swept away by the nostalgic tide, let us give you the good news – Neohabitat have reawakened the original Lucasfilm Habitat server, which is now available for anyone and everyone to play online – for free! How awesome is that! It will feel familiar to those accustomed to the SCUMM-like interface, complete with cross hairs with a modern twist, which ain’t a bad thing at all.

Who would have thought that we’d be playing an MMORPG in 2017 that was made over three decades ago! It is indeed a great time to be a retro gamer!

source: Bobby Blackwolf on YouTube

Concept art for the box cover of Lucasfilm’s Habitat game. Source: Wikipedia