Wargame Dork

A blog about tabletop hobby and or strategy games, with a side order of electronic turn based goodness here and there. Now with tons of retro gaming content both electronic and tabletop. Also with 20% more self loathing douchebaggery!

Monday, July 18, 2016

A Little VOTOMS Gift!

See back in the dark ages of VHS tapes one of my boxed sets of the early 80s mecha anime ARMORED TROOPER VOTOMS had a promotional mini game printed on postcards to promote the upcoming tabletop RPG that was being made (and no it wasn't HEAVY GEAR although I could understand the confusion..).

I haven't ever heard mention of it and having found it and wanting to scan it for a friend, I present it as scanned by my old enough for the color ink cartridges to be only carried in value packs at actual stores printer: (Click image for full size.)

I hope this is of fun and service to folks!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

[Retrocomputing: Why Bother?] Shadowcaster, DOSBox, and Making Old Games Play Better

  Back in the day games were young and controls weren't set in stone.  Many games just didn't have well thought out or even remotely ergonomic control schemes.  And now we have better control devices with more buttons while having gotten used to modern controls and control schemes.

(All praise Thresh for WASD mouse look.  PRAISE HIM!)

Which leads us to our game, Shadowcaster:

Shadowcaster is an early 90s hybrid of FPS, Adventure Game, and RPG.  Developed by Raven Software with some Id Software engine and coding help it was published by Origin Systems.  (My release is the CD version from the EA Classics line of budget rereleases.)

In this game you play a character who can transform into different creature forms, each of which with their own inventory, abilities, and experience levels.  Play is done with a mixture of mouse and keyboard controls which cannot be remapped in any way.  That is played in real time.

The automap you will be swapping into a lot if you are me.

If you want to follow along, you can see the controls here:  http://replacementdocs.com/download.php?view.802

Now some controls aren't quite explained in the manual but there are a number of keyboard keys as well.  But take a look!  See how the right hand side of your keyboard plus your mouse which for most of us is also right hand controlled.

It.. isn't exactly comfortable to control games like this.  Back in the day many games used the Numeric Keypad or the Arrow Keys for almost everything.  And while some titles could be mostly played with the mouse, in real time games this is nearly unplayable and makes these games much less fun to control, especially when you have spent nearly 20 years used to our modern default PC game control schemes.  And even turn based titles end up being slower, clunkier, and much less fun.

However as a modern gamer playing PC games in DOSBox or other titles in emulators for other platforms or even titles that run natively on our modern machines we have many many options to make our games play much better. 

It is time to show you fine folks what I did.

First we need to realize my keyboard, which has the bonus of being plugged into my PC with two USB cables because it is huge makes moving it for the simplest solution of moving the keyboard to the left so I can rest my left hand on the numeric keypad simply isn't happening, not even taking into account the limited desk space I have.  It is nearly 20 inches wide and 7 inches deep.  It takes up a heck of a lot of space!  So the laziest solution just isn't going to work.

Thankfully my mouse comes with built in software to remap keys.  As the game uses left and right mouse buttons already I leave them alone, thanking Cthulhu that Logitech's software lets me still use some buttons as default for a mouse.  I set the middle button to switching between normal for the age computer mode that shows a bit more of the game interface and info and the better looking large size window.  I am always needing to see the automap so it gets the button normally used for on the fly DPI (Dots Per Inch. Basically how sensitive the mouse is when moved.).  The two thumb buttons are used for the primary and secondary ability actions that would otherwise involve moving and clicking icons on the screen while trying to fight or move.  Now it is done with a single button press!  AWESOME.

I could also do things like messing with DOSbox' keymapper but it is clunky and not exactly useful in the long run.  I am lazy after all!

 I think about maybe using JoyToKey to turn a joystick into a movement controller, or even taking a modern dual stick control pad and making it both mouse and keyboard, which is something this program can do.  But.. its a bit slow and annoying to set up for that much.

But an idea I had that was mentioned by some folks in IRC that made me realize it was one that had merit involved me buying a USB numeric keypad designed to be an add on to laptop computers or some of our more modern mini keyboards.

10 bucks at Best Buy got me one.    But if I rest it where my hand naturally wants to be I will practically have my arms stretched out to an absurd amount.  So long term that needs to be done lest I want to angle and move the number pad around or rest it on my leg.

 Sadly my 2005 iMac keyboard is only a tiny bit smaller.  Not remotely enough to move or unplug the main keyboard just to play some old games.

 But.. I have a Bluetooth keyboard for my Ipad Air.  And look at it!  It is cute and wee!  But I need to get a Bluetooth dongle because my machine doesn't have Bluetooth.

 Look at it!  PERFECT!    So now I need a 14 bucks online Bluetooth USB dongle and I will have the best and easiest solution to comfortable game playing for 100s if not 1000s of old games over many platforms!

 In emulation on a good modern PC various programs and all our modern devices can make games that were iffy back in the day to play and nearly unplayable today nearly sublime!

Monday, June 6, 2016

[Retro Gaming] Old School Portable Games Update

It has been a while without me posting anything, hasn't it?

  And well I did need to update some collection pictures of portable games, especially given an utterly idiotic discussion on Something Awful involving old portables.

  You see, I dared defend the N Gage as a system that wasn't complete garbage without a single worthwhile game.  The thread utterly missed my point about how there are great and interesting games on nearly every platform and how popular opinion isn't always if ever correct.

  The point was missed, mostly with people considering me to be considering the N Gage a superior machine than the Game Boy Advance while ignoring that I also mentioned the Neo Geo Pocket Color as a device I played as well as the N Gage "When Nintendo's offerings were full of kiddie license IP crap".

  I INTENDED this to mean there were a great many dry spots in the Game Boy Color/Advance release schedules where it seemed like the vast majority of titles were licensed games normally based on things with children's appeal.

This is a sad fact about videogames in general.  Stuff based on existing IPs just.. SELL BETTER.  Some companies like Ocean in the UK made a lot of money doing this, effectively fleecing children and their parents of their money for games of questionable quality at best.  Sometimes some game systems and game distributions at certain stores are seemingly nothing but.

  Does it mean all games on a platform are such?  No.  Heck, there are even some that aren't just fun for fans of that other media but fun games in general!

  This out of the way, here are some of my portables and the games that play on them!

(Commentary to follow.)

Friday, February 5, 2016

[Retrocomputing: Why Bother?] Machalla Part 5: System 7.5.x Color Emulation File Management

  This next installment is heavily based around getting both the Basilisk II and unstable versions of Mini vMac to run Mac II system roms so I can check out color in Macland and get Stuffit 5 to expand stuff.

  Oh, and while no photos, beginning the long thinning of the herd on the Mac Plus to have a nice and happy machine.

Well the first thing is that Basilisk II does not cotton to inserting disks.  Basically you have to use HFVExplorer, cut and paste from your files into your hard disk image which is sometimes easier than how I set up things in vMac, other times much much more annoying.  Especially because Basilisk crashes constantly on me.  But after a point I got the bloody thing working.  Ish.

Well with the options I had selected I think the machine is running quite fast.  

However in vMac trying to be an actual Mac II we have this sort of specs.  And as it's wont, it thinks the .dsk isn't a SCSI hard disk but instead a very large floppy disk.  Which is slow to my modern eyes.  I get a lot of this irritation on the actual Plus while I did tons of game loading and file management.  At least emulated I can go into turbo mode.

Double Hard Disks do make for easy transferal of files.  However depending on how you have things going one OS will interfere with the other.  And vMac oddly enough ignores some OS7 options Basilisk does not.  On the same hard disk OS image to boot.  They both are very weird with audio.

This gets very annoying because a great many games demand one of the color modes (you get to in MONITOR, not Colors oddly enough!) and you have to keep switching modes.  Kind of like some games did in Windows 95 but more frequently but with less trouble and no restarts.

So many .sit archives to bring over to the OS7.  Some of which then unpack into .dsk or .img files that you get to put back on your main computer afterwards.  WHAT FUN.  And many of these archives are mostly blank.  Why I am unsure but honestly with so many working programs unless its one I can't play any other way it doesn't much matter to me.  I will still end up with plenty of games to play.

See you need to use this here Basilisk GUI to load up all your options.  And 2 OS Hard Disks cause it to be cranky so you use one of Basilisk's easier file bits in HFVExplorer to make a small virtual HD image you throw files into, drag em over, then get rid of that image.

 See current Mini vMac isn't too thrilled and is unstable with it's Mac II emulation so you have to request a compile of the current more unstable code and they give you a place to look for it in a day or so.
 The Mac II 1 bit color isn't really anything better than the Plus.

But a 68020 Mac II is technically much faster than the Plus.  But 256 color mode is a tad slower.  

Diagnostics say the Mac II is a 3 compared to the Plus at a 1.  I really need to see or try SE and Classic/Classic II machine benchmarks to see if I want to bother getting any of those rigs to replace the Plus which I should be able to sell for a small profit or to at least have the same amount of money it would cost to procure those somewhat to much more capable machines.  Moderate disk access speed ALONE is a reason for that!

Copying all sorts of stuff over from OS6 drive to 7 took a good 5-10 minutes.  Lots and lots of files.  Eventually I will be taking my Mac Plus HD image once its pruned down and bringing it over once more (after backing it all up of course!) and then making a smaller HD20.dsk image.  I also honestly think the larger drive image is also making the Plus go a bit pokier than it would otherwise be.  

And oddly enough some archives turn into auto extractable archives.  WHO ARE THEN IMAGE FILES ARG ARG ARG.

  But yes, I have spent more and more time playing with file management than actually playing games.  My current Plus work is mostly just checking which games work or even properly exist once I unstuff them as opposed to playing them.  

  Things are getting better and better.  Next week I should generally be done with anything other than testing games to see if I want to even play them.  


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

[Retrocomputing: Why Bother?] Machalla Part 4: Organization and a Few Games

  Well now we have a working Macintosh Plus and we can now move software from the PC to the SD card and thus be used by the computer.  Let us do exactly this and see some games and a bit of other things while we are at it.

Star Wars plays generally great though it is just a tad too slow, even in limited system boot which I will get into.  According to Low End Mac Benchmarks the Plus is just a bit slow and a Classic would net more ideal without being TOO FAST results.  The Classic however seems to be just a bit better while not being out of line.  The SE is slightly weaker performance but better looking for the original Compact Mac line.

Now should I pay 125-200 bucks for one of those two for a bit more performance?  Probably not no.  But if I could get one of them for around 50 bucks with mouse and keyboard it would be a no brainer and the Plus would get flipped for a bit of a profit.  They also can fit more RAM and have built in cooling fans which while it would make them no longer silent it would make them capable of having said RAM and not getting warm like my Plus does with only 2.5 megs.  (I recommend in normal 60-75 degrees F environment not having the machine on for more than 3 hours at a time because it does get mildly warm to the touch after a while.  At 76-95 probably not more than an hour or two, and beyond that I wouldn't recommend having it on at all.)

Sadly like most of the computer ports of Star Wars from the late 80s you can't shoot the gun ports on the trench walls though at least in this version there is a bonus score for not actually firing until Han tells you that it's clear and thus you merely avoid fireballs instead of shooting.

Its generally a solid port outside of the color loss and the speed drop in the tower section.  Some music and voices were lost however.  A shame.  Its close to the best way to play Star Wars Atari in the home including MAME.  (Excepting owning an actual arcade cabinet with the flight yoke of course!)

One way to get more speed out of some of your Mac games is putting them as a bootable disk or .dsk image in your floppy drive emulator with whatever System and File files came on the original disk or disk image.  If I put said things back on this disk the game could self boot.  Some games REQUIRE this and don't even load into the OS at all!  It helps a tad, especially if you want to push your 68000 Mac with System 7.  Or if the game doesn't cotton to System 7 at all.  (Star Wars doesn't even run on this machine in S7 with 2.5 megs of RAM.  It always crashes.  In Mini vMac which has 4 megs it doesn't however.)

Always try to turn off your machine properly with the correct shutting down and all.  Though with crashes and the like you might just have to use that Reset button to reload the OS and properly shut it down.  Just to be safe eh?

One of the many System 6 Hell Shareware/PD games.  Like most of them THEY SUCK ASS.  Checkers is interminably slow to the point even though I was winning by the end I gave the hell up out of boredom.

This is no Scorched Earth.  And absolutely no Worms Armageddon.  And like another artillery game on the Hell Collections two player only.  Not even an AI I could find.

Battleship sucks in any form always and forever.  And its not just because I suck at them.  I suck at Reversi/Othello but I still like and respect it as a game.  SO DULL.

A Breakout clone.  Better than another one on these disks but still kind of bleah.  Arkanoid is available anyhow.  Plus I have an Atari TV/Game Paddle with gobs of the Atari paddle games on them, the 7800 and Atari 8 bit computers with an actual paddle controller, the SNES Arkanoid game with the mouse, AND the NES Arkanoid with Vaus controller.  If your Breakout clone doesn't bring its A game I just do not need it.

YAY PONG.  Don't really care as I have tons of other ways to play good or even graphically improved Pong.  Including some official remake/reboots.

With some fingernails unchopped I managed to strip that Boston Edison plate off the top.  This is how yellowed this machine is.  It may have actually been a "Platinum" color release!  RETROBRIGHTING MUST BE DONE.  FOR TEH EMPRAH!

One of the different Trek games on the disks.  Its not bad but honestly the Keypunch disk on the Commodore 64 has my favorite versions of that old 70s minicomputer classic.  

Might and Magic!!  It might not be in color but it looks nice and pretty.  Plus I own the Gog.com collection so if I wanna play 1 and 2 in 1 bit color I can dammit!  Hell, I own 2 TWICE.  Because I have the Genesis cart boxed and complete.  SO THERE.

Originally I decided on my Mac going in the kitchen with a little space made next to the microwave.  But this put the two devices on the same outlet which is kind of bad.  And the microwave right next to the sink which could be bad if water splashed the wrong way.  And the Mac a bit too close to the oven.  Again, not a good idea.  Probably nothing to genuinely worry about but I am a worrywart so let's take all my silly crap off the microwave and move it over to the other side and do some tweaking of space!

Now my iCade is over on this side, giving me a couple extra inches (LOL) of space for the Mac to not be right next to the stove.  I can keep the mouse and mousepad on top of the machine when not in use, have the iCade for iPad Air stand when I wanna watch youtubes while playing Mac games and keep my light chargeable stuff as the only things to share the power outlet with the Mac.  However the Microwave is still technically on the same circuit as the Mac but its only a 700 watt and as long as I am not plugging everything in at once for hours I am totes cool.I have moved a couple of those minis by the keyboard into the iCade cubbyhole.  And if I am still worried about the stove splattering my computer I can just move it over a little bit while I cook and then put it back when cooking time is over.  Plus you know, I can actually (kind of) pay attention while something is cooking, thus preventing my nice flat top stove from getting dirty.  

Now back to getting MORE STUFF onto my Mac.  Sadly many many disks online just either don't like System 6 (or 7 instead), or are in a more advanced Stuffit archive than the one System 6 handles.  Or cases like this where you can either just use it as a bootable disk and hope it isnt a locked disk you can't save to, or manually drag all the files over and hope it doesn't have some hidden ones.  

Well BALLS.  Need 7.1.1 for Stuffit 5.  Let's take one of my HD images and update the OS and see if I can avoid making a Color Mac VM because all this nonsense is eating my free time more than Youtube does!

System Update is a thing as is the various System OS installers.  I think System Update is supposed to allow Mac Pluses to go to 7.1.1 but it won't let me.  This won't matter as much as we shall see.

Again its pretty easy to install.  In general Macs are designed for computer illiterates so as long as you can properly wipe your own ass and tie your own shoes you should be alright provided you aren't drunk or high off your ass.

(Though most potheads I have known are amazing at computer hardware and programming.  THC improves SQL skills?)

Until I figured out how Mini vMac handled settings (see below) this is the defaults for it.  Which makes it like mega speed ZEO TURBO RANGER MAC PLUS MEGAZORD GO! Which makes some games nigh unplayable.  But as a way to do installs, file management, or if for some insane reason you want to do productivity retro style its rad.

I still cannot figure out why some disks do this.  Maybe I need this Disk Copy malarkey I have read about?  Or perhaps I just need to rock out the Mac 2 or a Quadra emulated build to get all the worky bits done?  Because Stuffit 5 also wants 8 megabytes which the Plus won't do even emulated.  (Though compared to the sheer insanity of Amiga options in Amiga Forever even the longer lived line of Macs seem sane in variants.  Well, sane ISH.)

CTRL H brings up the options you actually NEED for Mini vMac.  Sadly speed only has multipliers so you can't just go say 1.10 speed or 1.25 or anything.  1, 2, 4, 8 from what I can tell.  Why these aren't just in the normal window options?  Good question!

  But, it works well enough I suppose.  Beggars cannot be choosers and all that.  I made multiple folders to put various file types so I could keep track of what turned into vMac images, what required actual Stuffit 5 type formats to extract, documentation, and so forth to make all of this easier.  Plus putting the hard disk image I was working with in the same folder I was working with as to save lots of clicking folders time.  I would guess I am about a third to a half of the way "complete" with what I want and or NEED to get done to have the Mac Plus in a proper and solid state so I can just use it no fuss and muss until something internally breaks but as it is I have a good useable setup and have been playing some games.  I still sort of wished I had made the drive image ONE gigabyte as opposed to two but I am too lazy to change it now even if it would save me a few minutes here and there.  But at this point it wouldn't really save me enough time to bother with I don't think.

  Next time it should mostly be a game feature as I show and talk a bit about Andrew and Robert's project.  Hardcore retro gamers might even know what I am referring to!


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I like to play nerd games! I am a nerd! Join our nerd ways at https://www.facebook.com/groups/112040385527428/