Pinball Construction Set - Your Thoughts on the BudgeCo Title

Bill Loguidice's picture

I've been doing some work now on the Pinball Construction Set chapter for the book and would love to hear some of your thoughts on this "software toy" construction set. Bill Budge's title, first published through his own BudgeCo company in 1982, was of course later picked up and published by Electronic Arts (one of their earliest titles that helped put the company on the map), starting in 1983, for Apple II, Apple Macintosh, Atari 8-bit, Coleco Adam (this release is overlooked by nearly every online source, by the way), Commodore 64 and PC. While I'd love to hear about your experiences with Budge's title and titles like it, I'd also like to hear about even some of the more hardcore construction sets or mainstream development tools, like, for instance, Penguin's The Graphics Magician. Every thought and tangent is appreciated. Thanks!

Comments

Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
Collaboration
Matt Barton wrote:

When the book is done...Bill and Mark--I think the three of us should get together to create our own text adventure. I've been wanting to propose that for some time but lacked the courage, but I'm feeling more confident now. Mark and I have been discussing a potential concept, and I think the three of us could really do something special.

Well, we can take maybe a week or two off, then we have to start in on the book for Hiive, so I don't know how much time I'll personally have. Also, I think a group text adventure would be rather tough to coordinate. I would think something a bit simpler like a quirky platformer or something (preferably in Game Maker 7, which I have a full license for and how-to book) might be an easier initial choice, then tackling something that requires more well oiled and experience hands, like a text adventure. That's just me, though. I suppose a text adventure would work if there was sufficient organization, i.e., each area of the game was mapped out and documented, for instance, there would be a map drawn of the location first, then each location would be filled in with a general description and items, etc., then the story kind of worked around all that. Anyway, I think you get my point.



Wii: 1345 2773 2048 1586 | PS3: ArmchairArcade
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

n/a
Mark Vergeer
Mark Vergeer's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/16/2006
I am game!

On the text adventure part - I can say I am game - I will be finishing training as psychiatrist in the end of October and I will have a whopping 2 months of 'freedom' before I start working as a psychiatrist in January. So I will have a little bit of time on my hands. Perhaps even travel a bit - visit the US? Who knows?



Editor / Pixelator - Armchair Arcade, Inc.
www.markvergeer.nl

n/a
Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
Dev
Mark Vergeer wrote:

On the text adventure part - I can say I am game - I will be finishing training as psychiatrist in the end of October and I will have a whopping 2 months of 'freedom' before I start working as a psychiatrist in January. So I will have a little bit of time on my hands. Perhaps even travel a bit - visit the US? Who knows?

Well, if you do come to the US and are in my neck of the woods, you and the wife are welcome to stay a little while at our house in the spare bedroom. No pressure, just an open invitation.

As for the game, a text adventure might work, but I still think something simpler that we could finish quickly and get used to working with each other might be the best way to go. Again, I suggest we use Game Maker 7, not only because I own a copy (and it's cheap for anyone to purchase), but it allows development drag and drop style as well as code, so it's the best of both worlds: http://www.yoyogames.com/make

I think the sense of accomplishment and getting a good working methodology would give a big boost to then being able to tackle something more complex like a text adventure. Of course, it could always be a short text adventure. Regardless of what it is though and what it's on, it's probably best to do a detailed design doc, so there's no confusion, etc. Up to you guys though and I certainly don't have to participate.



Wii: 1345 2773 2048 1586 | PS3: ArmchairArcade
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

n/a
Rowdy Rob
Rowdy Rob's picture
Offline
Joined: 09/04/2006
Schooled!
Matt Barton wrote:

Good god! I'm glad we have Rob on onboard. That man is a technical master.

I'm afraid "Calibrator" schooled me on the technical workings of the Apple II graphics system! Although I will say this (Calibrator, if you're reading)... I recall an Apple II programming whiz I knew back then who was programming a "Galaxians" style game with the Apple, and he used routines that he either bought or typed out of a magazine that made GFX programming easy (or easier). My impression back then (I was no Apple II whiz) was that it wasn't that hard to handle color graphics with the tools available. I do recall, however, that the built-in OS routines had trouble even drawing lines... the lines would end up broken at certain angles.

I was an Atari GFX guy, and even stumbled upon a "trick" that allowed multicolored graphics in hi-res without resorting to "display list interrupts." I think I mentioned this technique in a post on the old AA site, and to my knowledge, no one else to this date has posted a similar method for the Atari 8-bits. I intended to document this technique in an article at some point (with sample images and programs), but never got around to it because I no longer have an Atari 8-bit to work on.

Matt Barton wrote:

I didn't play PCS, sad to say, and didn't really get into the construction set stuff until Visionary for the Amiga. That got me hooked, and I even made a complete adventure/RPG text game with it. The game sucked, but it was so much fun making it! I loved every minute of it.

That sounds really cool! I hope you've saved the game in some form.

I didn't do much with "Visionary," but a company I was semi-involved in way back used "AmigaVision," which I think was similar to "Visionary," for three separate projects. One was an in-store video display for "Shop Rite" supermarkets. That project went nowhere, although the lead "Amigavision" programmer found many bugs in the program that allowed Commodore to upgrade the program. The VP of Commodore even flew down to meet him personally! (I wish I was there!) I did some artwork for the display, including a recreation of the "Shop Rite" logo that was drawn "by hand" on the computer; I didn't have a scanner. I didn't see a dime, but was quite excited to be involved even at a minimal level.

The two other projects the programmer did with AV (which I wasn't really involved in, but I was sort of a cheerleader and "playtester") were semi-gaming related. One was an interactive "South Carolina Hall of Fame" Kiosk for the convention center, where he used the Amiga 1200 with a "touch screen" and a laserdisc. You touched the screen on a "Hall of Fame" member, and the laserdisc kicked in, playing a video documentary of that particular individual. The "gaming" part was a trivia game based on the "Hall of Famers." We set up the kiosks at the convention center (I was involved with that part; heck, even I could hook up cables!), where they ran for several years.

The other AV project he worked on was similar in setup (touch screens, laserdiscs, etc.) Video gambling was very big back then (until South Carolina banned video gambling), and a company wanted to create a "horse racing" gambing simulation game as an alternative to Video Poker. The players were to insert their money, choose a horse, and the laserdisc kicked in, playing random clips of live horses racing until one of them "wins," and the player got some money (or more likely lost money).

Essentially, my friend was creating a laserdisc "coin-op" with Amigavision! Alas, this project went to ash (my frustration was that the "money men" didn't seem to understand what they were seeing, particularly the flaws).

I think such "construction set" programs are of great value to "non-programmers." I think it's the best approach to give game-creating technology to the masses! If you guys create a game, I think you may want to seriously consider one of the "adventure creator" construction sets! It would be a fun project, and the "construction set" would allow all of you to be equally involved without having to go the "deep egghead" programming route.

qoj hpmoj o+ 6uo73q 3Jv 3svq jnoh 77V

Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/16/2006
Games
Rowdy Rob wrote:

I think such "construction set" programs are of great value to "non-programmers." I think it's the best approach to give game-creating technology to the masses! If you guys create a game, I think you may want to seriously consider one of the "adventure creator" construction sets! It would be a fun project, and the "construction set" would allow all of you to be equally involved without having to go the "deep egghead" programming route.

I agree. If nothing else, these tools make it easy to make a mock-up of a game that could, if someone was so inclined, be developed with a custom engine.

With the older text adventure game I made for the contest (seems like an eternity ago), I did it mainly as an exercise to learn C++ programming. I wanted some kind of project to work on besides boring stuff, and didn't feel advanced enough to handle graphics yet.

I think one valuable thing we could do here is have a regular...uh, thingie where we each took a different tack on accomplishing a certain programming goal. We could start simple (say, make a block that you can move around the screen using the arrow keys), and then discuss how we did it and compare notes. This could eventually lead to more advanced projects, but I think it's critical to take it in baby steps. I know I get lost quickly if I'm not constantly trying to figure stuff out on my own, fed only small increments of info at the time.

n/a
Calibrator
Offline
Joined: 10/25/2006
Apple software development
Rowdy Rob wrote:

I'm afraid "Calibrator" schooled me on the technical workings of the Apple II graphics system!

I'm sorry if I come across as being anal on this subject but I think if one understands these technical details he will understand why certain games just don't work well on one platform and are more appropriate for another. Things like hardware scrolling for example generally don't work well on an Apple while they are really fun on an Atari or C64.
Take for example "Boulderdash" (maybe a fine game for a certain book...):
The original Atari version and the good conversion on the C64 allow for player and enemy movement while the screen area scrolls around. This is not only possible because both computers have hardware support for this but because they use a character graphics mode that use only a single KB while the Apple has to use his standard hi-res mode with 8KB (an no hardware scrolling). Because of some very tight 6502 code the Apple manages to scroll the screen without too much pain for the viewer but it can't move the shapes around at this time.
This gives the game a completely different feel.

Quote:

Although I will say this (Calibrator, if you're reading)... I recall an Apple II programming whiz I knew back then who was programming a "Galaxians" style game with the Apple, and he used routines that he either bought or typed out of a magazine that made GFX programming easy (or easier). My impression back then (I was no Apple II whiz) was that it wasn't that hard to handle color graphics with the tools available. I do recall, however, that the built-in OS routines had trouble even drawing lines... the lines would end up broken at certain angles.

Yes, the Apple graphics modes were hard to understand but once you have a grip on them you can use them without too much hassle.
Just don't use the "shape graphics" routines of the Apple firmware - they are way to slow and ugly for (good) games.

In consequence the Appe II was probably the first computing platform for the home user that had middleware for games development (I'm not sure that it was the very first but I think it is possible). There were several packages for graphics packages, shape animation, character generation and even 3D graphics (still primitive wireframe of course but fit for animation and usable from Assembler and BASIC in your own programs).

In fact a software called "The Graphics Magician" which could be used to design and run the graphics for adventures (and some non-tile-based RPGs like SSIs "Rings of Zilfin") was _the_ standard for several years. There are several reasons for this:
A) It was powerful and probably the first to draw pictures and not simply load them (this saves lots of memory and therefore allows for many more "rooms" in a game). It had a very effective fill routine to make that possible - very intelligent stuff!
B) It was complete: You have an editor to draw and save the data and it has a separate runtime that you can attach to your source code that loads and draws the pictures.
C) More importantly: You didn't have to pay royalties to it's company Penguin (later "Polarware" because of a certain book publisher).

This brought a flood of graphics adventures for the Apple II.

Quote:

I was an Atari GFX guy, and even stumbled upon a "trick" that allowed multicolored graphics in hi-res without resorting to "display list interrupts." I think I mentioned this technique in a post on the old AA site, and to my knowledge, no one else to this date has posted a similar method for the Atari 8-bits. I intended to document this technique in an article at some point (with sample images and programs), but never got around to it because I no longer have an Atari 8-bit to work on.

Which is a pity as I also was an Atari guy back then and would like to read more about this machine (though my heart beats for the Apple right now ;-)
I've seen several demos for the Atari on Youtube that show thing we didn't even imagine back then and changing the graphics mode in the middle of a scanline is interesting to say the least.

Quote:

I think such "construction set" programs are of great value to "non-programmers." I think it's the best approach to give game-creating technology to the masses!

That's 100% my opinion!
The same goes for 3D editors for popular 3D shooters or the Thief games which have a superb fan mission support for nearly *10* years now! Those guys even adapted the games for modern hardware because the shiny new graphics cards don't support certain graphics modes anymore and enhanced the game by publishing hi-res textures, better 3D models, better sounds etc.
Which of course greatly extends a game's life.

Quote:

If you guys create a game, I think you may want to seriously consider one of the "adventure creator" construction sets! It would be a fun project, and the "construction set" would allow all of you to be equally involved without having to go the "deep egghead" programming route.

If this project is to be completed in a short time span it's your only chance. Using a modern, very powerful "interactive fiction" programming language like Inform is overkill for this (though it can be fun to tinker with it).

take care,
Calibrator

n/a
Rowdy Rob
Rowdy Rob's picture
Offline
Joined: 09/04/2006
Anal GFX Nerds like us!
Calibrator wrote:
Rowdy Rob wrote:

I'm afraid "Calibrator" schooled me on the technical workings of the Apple II graphics system!

I'm sorry if I come across as being anal on this subject but I think if one understands these technical details he will understand why certain games just don't work well on one platform and are more appropriate for another.

It didn't come across as anal at all to me, and was actually quite informative and fascinating! For the record, probably everything I post here probably comes across as anal (and not like the somewhat "Rowdy" guy I am in real life), but I'm enjoying myself. :=) I hope I didn't come across as accusing you of being "anal."

Calibrator wrote:

Take for example "Boulderdash" (maybe a fine game for a certain book...):
The original Atari version and the good conversion on the C64 allow for player and enemy movement while the screen area scrolls around.

Boulderdash looked and played best on on the Atari, in my opinion. The C64 version had poorer graphics and sound FX/music. Both blew away the Apple II version (of course). It was a good example of "converionitis." (BTW, there was a "Boulderdash Construction Kit" released for the C-64, to bring this back on topic!)

Calibrator wrote:
Quote:

I was an Atari GFX guy, and even stumbled upon a "trick" that allowed multicolored graphics in hi-res without resorting to "display list interrupts." I think I mentioned this technique in a post on the old AA site, and to my knowledge, no one else to this date has posted a similar method for the Atari 8-bits. I intended to document this technique in an article at some point (with sample images and programs), but never got around to it because I no longer have an Atari 8-bit to work on.

Which is a pity as I also was an Atari guy back then and would like to read more about this machine (though my heart beats for the Apple right now ;-)
I've seen several demos for the Atari on Youtube that show thing we didn't even imagine back then and changing the graphics mode in the middle of a scanline is interesting to say the least.

There was a "horizontal display list interrupt" technique that I read about in "Antic" magazine, but it was too technical for me.

For the record, my technique did not utilize DLI's or "page flipping" on the vertical blank to simulate more colors. There was no flicker in my technique. I will say, though, that DLI's would have added even more colors!

Daggone, this thread has fired me up to recreate my old graphics technique and release it to the world, although 25 years too late! A bit of belated fame is better than nothing, I suppose.

Which brings me to the comparisons between differing 8-bit gaming platforms. The Atari/C64 platforms had higher resolutions, better smooth-scrolling, and better sound capabilities than the low-life Colecovision! ("Pipsqueak sound" was a comment I read in a review of the Colecovision back i the day). Sorry, Bill! :-)

Man, these forums are addictive! There's not enough time in the day. I gotta get to bed.

qoj hpmoj o+ 6uo73q 3Jv 3svq jnoh 77V

Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
Memory and memories
Rowdy Rob wrote:

Which brings me to the comparisons between differing 8-bit gaming platforms. The Atari/C64 platforms had higher resolutions, better smooth-scrolling, and better sound capabilities than the low-life Colecovision! ("Pipsqueak sound" was a comment I read in a review of the Colecovision back i the day). Sorry, Bill! :-)

Man, these forums are addictive! There's not enough time in the day. I gotta get to bed.

qoj hpmoj o+ 6uo73q 3Jv 3svq jnoh 77V

Again, just to play devil's advocate for a moment, the ColecoVision hardly had "pipsqueak sound". It had a full three channels and could actually be quite effective. Regardless, it was at least competitive with the C-64 and Atari systems, though of course the main RAM of the ColecoVision was lacking, which was rectified in the Adam, which at least on some level - though too short-lived - showed the full potential of the architecture. For instance, some of the arcade translations on the Adam, like Super Donkey Kong, were pretty much the only complete (all levels, high score saves, etc.) versions of the games you could get for a long, long time.

All-in-all, you put a master programmer in front of the Adam, C-64 and Atari 800XL, and I think you'd be impressed by what could be achieved on each. We've pretty much seen masterworks developed on each of the respective platforms (say, Alternate Reality on the Atari 8-bit and Creatures on the C-64), save for the Adam, which again, simply didn't have the time on market to really show off (some of the unreleased stuff that became available in the Adam public domain began to hint at the system's potential). The MSX 1 platform was probably the closest we'd get to showcasing what could have been accomplished on a long-lived Adam.



Wii: 1345 2773 2048 1586 | PS3: ArmchairArcade
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

n/a
Calibrator
Offline
Joined: 10/25/2006
Sounds like chicken
Bill Loguidice wrote:

Again, just to play devil's advocate for a moment, the ColecoVision hardly had "pipsqueak sound". It had a full three channels and could actually be quite effective. Regardless, it was at least competitive with the C-64 and Atari systems, though of course the main RAM of the ColecoVision was lacking, which was rectified in the Adam, which at least on some level - though too short-lived - showed the full potential of the architecture. For instance, some of the arcade translations on the Adam, like Super Donkey Kong, were pretty much the only complete (all levels, high score saves, etc.) versions of the games you could get for a long, long time.

The Colecovision/Adam use a SN 76489 soundchip which was an off-the-shelf chip but not a bad one.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texas_Instruments_SN76489

I would rank it slightly lower than the Atari with their custom POKEY sound (much more flexible, especially for noise generation)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atari_POKEY

and quite a bit lower than the SID from the C64 which has different wave forms and can produce much better sounding music.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MOS_Technology_SID

For true arcade conversion the TI chip was often totally sufficient, though, as it was used in contemporary arcade cabinets and the listener is probably used to their direct (sometimes brutal) square wave sound.

Quote:

All-in-all, you put a master programmer in front of the Adam, C-64 and Atari 800XL, and I think you'd be impressed by what could be achieved on each. We've pretty much seen masterworks developed on each of the respective platforms (say, Alternate Reality on the Atari 8-bit and Creatures on the C-64), save for the Adam, which again, simply didn't have the time on market to really show off (some of the unreleased stuff that became available in the Adam public domain began to hint at the system's potential). The MSX 1 platform was probably the closest we'd get to showcasing what could have been accomplished on a long-lived Adam.

That's exactly my point: Know the differences - exploit the strengths, avoid the weaknesses.

The Japanese have had some great MSX/MSX2 titles - for example the Metal Gear series originated on the MSX2 system and was later ported (& toned down) for the Famicon (NES). Not even mentioning RPGs...
A tidy MSX2 system is really neat, even if the CPU is a bit underpowered ( Z80 at 3,5 MHz ) in comparison its competitors. The speedy "MSX turbo-R" systems were never launched outside Japan and it's not really a "standard" as only one company produced two models (AFAIK).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MSX

take care,
Calibrator

n/a
Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
MSX

Well, there was only one MSX machine ever launched in North America, and that was the Yamaha CX-5M, which was sold in music stores as a music computer. I have that, along with a Sony HB-F1XD MSX2 system, from Japan, along with lots of Japanese software and a little bit of European software (the only American software I have is the music stuff for the Yamaha).

I remember very distinctly when there was a big deal made in the 1984 timeframe about the MSX "invasion" from Japan, particularly in the pages of Electronic Games. Obviously this never came to pass for, I believe a few reasons. One, The Great Videogame Crash made market entry difficult at the time, and two, the Commodore 64 had pretty much locked up the low end computer market with its cut-throat pricing. Even though the MSX standard increased in power through several revisions, it was not going to be able to compete with the Atari ST and Amiga, and it was far too late by the time the PC rose to prominence.

It's an interesting architecture and one of only two platforms that the fourth game in the Phantasie series was ever released (both Japanese). In my book, that makes it's a must own (though I still have yet to try either the original or the fan-made English conversion on my system, but I do plan on converting the latter to disk and giving it a long overdue go!).

Obviously the TI-99/4a was part of this same class of system like the ColecoVision/Adam, MSX, and Spectravideo SV-318/328, but so was the Tomy Tutor, which actually had some impressive games of its own released by the end of its life, but again only in Japan (the system was obviously released here - I own several - but not the higher end games).



Wii: 1345 2773 2048 1586 | PS3: ArmchairArcade
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

n/a

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.