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!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

[Toyniverse Plot] A Toyniverse/Let's Experience Atari Computer Holiday Comic Extravasucksa Part 3!

This one is all plot no computer or present related stuff in it.  But I am keeping the same subject tabs just so I can keep the storyline all collated and stuff.

The comic is taking on a life of its own.  But I feel the need to let the story flow naturally as opposed to just speeding along with it.  There is another present to show, and this tale will take as long as it needs to.  It will probably just move over to the Atari 8 bit stuff eventually as I have plans.  But this specific story will go as it needs to.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

[Toyniverse Plot] A Toyniverse/Let's Experience Atari Computer Holiday Comic Extravasucksa Part 2!

This one is 95% informative as opposed to comic book silly toy fun.  Its more a part of the Let's Experience Atari bit than it is Toyniverse.  If you wanted to see toys behaving badly wait till part 3.

Oh yeah in case it wasn't clear: The pictures of the Atari machines in this installment came from Wikipedia and all looked to be under the Creative Commons License.   Because I don't own most of them and the ones I do are either broken, semi broken, under piles of stuff while being semi broken, or yellowed with age.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

[Toyniverse Plot] A Toyniverse/Let's Experience Atari Computer Holiday Comic Extravasucksa Part 1!

Its the holidays.  Holidays suck for me.  I did a Secret Santa thing on a very nice site full of lovely crazy people.  Here is my ridiculous unboxing comic that also ties into my long running Toyniverse Plot comic strip I have on a different site.

Friday, December 16, 2011

[Let's Play] Party Like its 1987! Let's Experience the Atari Computer! Part 4: DOS 2.5 and RAM

This has been long coming as I have been lazy and playing Fallout New Vegas.  However work has been going on behind the scenes.

First up, is the 1050 Floppy Drive and DOS 2.5.

Sadly the place I get my emulated versions of does not have an image of DOS so its screenshots from the monitor.  Don't worry its pretty minor.

As we have seen in my intro comic here is our Atari 1050 5 1/4 enhanced density single sided floppy drive that also needs its own power plug.  There was a further revision of the 5 1/4 drive family but its much rarer even if its design is more in tune with my XE series computer.  You flip the power switch in the lower left hand corner on.  The activity light above it comes on and will go out in under 10 seconds.

You turn the drive on BEFORE you turn the computer on.  It is important.

We then are going to pop in Atari DOS.  In our case the best official option, DOS 2.5.  There are later versions and optional 3rd party versions and even drive mod kits you can get.  But we are going traditional.  As I may have mentioned you can using single or double density disks in the drive and you have to notch each side you want to write to, flipping the diskette over.  The seller had already made a backup copy of DOS 2.5 and we will use it, keeping the original from wear and tear.

Once we pop the disk in and it locks, we turn the little lever down and the activity light pops on for a moment, letting us know if the disk is in general ok and ready to be used.  Once it turns off, we can then switch on the computer and our disk autoboots if its an Atari formatted disk with an autobooting program of some kind.  Like a DOS.sys disk or a game.

As I have a 128K system (hence the name 130xe, its little brother being the 65xe) it sets me up a 64K RAM disk as I boot to speed up operations.  Which is handy for programming or making disk procedures a bit snappier.  A second disk drive is even more useful though.  But one of those will run me a good 50 bucks or so right now.  More than I am willing to pay when for about twice that I can have an SD Card solution which loads ultra fast and won't require increasingly old and fragile magnetic disks or put wear and tear on equally old disk drives with motors and ancient belts.

In way less than a minute DOS and the RAM Disk is ready to go and we are at our Basic prompt.  Typing the letters above brings us to the DOS menu.

And now we have our DOS prompt with all your options, most of which and the selections afterwards being really simple and self explanatory, with more info in the Drive/DOS book.  K and L are for hardcore programming bits.  A disk format takes about 2 minutes, and Duplicate Disk sadly shows that all my working floppy disk games have copy protection so I can't make nice working backups and am forced to use my live disks.  Which frightens me.   But remember this is the 2.5 DOS.  In 1984.  Its already more advanced than what the Commodore, Apple 2, or MSDOS machines had to work with.  Commands in a nice menu system all ready to go.

That's just quality.

My only issue is that instead of showing bytes or kilobytes of disk space it uses sectors.  And our enhanced density is 999 a side.  Its like Microsoft Points math but 21 years early!

As to other disk games?  In general they load pretty quick, from 30 seconds to around 2 or so though some titles have multi loads where one bit loads, reach a menu, something else has to load.  But its not so much the Atari's fault.  Most of the Atari software only needed 8K till like 82, 16-32K in 83, and 48K for the rest of the system's lifespan.  There were games and apps that needed more or less during these timeframes but in general developers always coded for the lowest machine because there were more of said machines sold.  Obviously more RAM equals faster loading (once the initial boot was complete anyhow.  Kind of.), more complex games, and better looking games.

Officially these are the number of titles using each level of RAM according to Mobygames and the 726 listed titles they have on record, 299 of which have their RAM requirements recorded:

8K   : 10
16K : 62
24K : 11
32K : 39
48K : 158
64K : 20

Its a pretty wild array, with 48K being the most popular, and 16K the second most.  The Atari machines had a variety of different RAM builds with 2 active machines for each of the 3 lines (well 3 in the final if you count the XEGS which had the same RAM as the 65XE) and some easier to install more than others.

But really if you want to play the most programs a 65XE, 130XE, or a XEGS will cover you with their 64, 128, and 64K of RAM.

The original 800 and 400 had 8K each (400 originally intended to have 4 but RAM came down in price) with the 800 having slots for more RAM and eventually being shipped with 48K by the end of that line's life.  The 400s eventually came with 16K options and Atari Service Centers could even bring them up to 48K as well.  (Though the 800 with its better keyboard and plug n play memory and monitor outputs was still the more expensive albeit more desirable choice.)

The XL series had 16K for the 600XL, 64K for the 800XL, and 64 for the 1200XL which was quickly phased out due to massive incompatibilities with older software.  (The X00s still had some incompatibilities but not as many and a Translator Disk could fix some of them.  The XEs have the same issue.  I may have run into 2 titles already that aren't listed as incompatible that are.  As is I can't buy GORF or Demon Attack until I foot up for an original X00 series machine.  I may have found a place to get one cheap though.  We will get to that when we can.)   What is kind of funny is the 600XL while missing some of the output and port options of the 800XL can actually have MORE RAM than its big brother.  A 64K memory expander was made for it that does not work with the 800.  So it can reach 80K while the 800XL cannot!  (There was a plan for memory packs for it and a box to hold multiple expansions that never came out.  Atari was BIG in the early 80s for coming up with cool kit that never made it out of prototype stages.)

We can sort of see why lower RAM amounts were used and even why 64K wasn't that common.  When most of your customer base has a lower spec machine you want to go for them so you get the widest possible base of people capable and willing to buy your product.

Heck, even the 810, and 1050 drives weren't all that common for a while, with users, especially those poor European folk settling for cassette drives.  (The 410 and 1010 being Atari's drives.  Most European computers till the 16 bit era used tapes as defaults and most of the software is available as such.  When it even was available on disk the price was usually 50% greater.  A 10 Pounds Sterling Commodore 64 game on tape was 15 pounds on disk.  Or going by the rough 1 Pound to 1.50 US Dollars we see a 15 dollar tape game or the same game on disk for 22.50, ignoring inflation.  Keep in mind floppy drives cost an insane amount, usually 2-3 times the cost of the machine and its easy to see why Europe just dealt with the 10-20 minutes most tape programs took to load and all the hassles tape brought with it.)

This is why so much software was available on cartridge, especially from Atari itself.  From a collector's standpoint this is pretty awesome though.  You could just buy the main machine and grab one of your Atari 2600 controllers, hook it to your TV, and still have plenty of games to play back in the day.  And now.  Plus given that cartridges are VERY durable and the worst even old ones need is a quick cleaning you have a machine that will be fun out of the box and less worry for the durability of all the moving parts in a floppy drive and the equally if not moreso fragile magnetic floppy disks that can be damaged in dozens of ways.

Hell, I have Amiga and DOS PC 3.5 disks that died merely being stored in my bedroom!

This is another reason I chose the Atari 8 bits over going back to the machine of my youth, the mighty Commodore 64.  There was TONS of cartridge games released and no need for worrying about all the PAL and probably incompatible with a US machine anyhow tape games, or hunting down a working 1541/1571 Floppy Drive to run American games.  The C64 didn't have nearly the amount of cartridge games.  And unlike the C64's Europe only Game System version, the XEGS actually got a strong software release catalog on cartridge for it.  (And was actually a full bore computer instead of the stripped down thing Commodore made.  And came out in the actual 8 bit era and didn't try competing with the Genesis and SNES.)

The Atari was mainly a US system and was THE gamer's computer from around 1980-1984.  Its' games and popularity was usually the winner in Electronic Games magazine reader polls month after month.

Now we have gone through the main hardware I have at the moment (don't worry I have more to get!), we can get into collecting and controllers!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

[Let's Play] Party Like its 1987! Let's Experience the Atari Computer! Part 3: Basic and System Self Test

Just a video this time, taken from the Altirra emulator.  I almost did a comic version but here I think the video and the few captions I added do a good enough job.  I like the fact the machine has a self test so you can check some basic things out yourself.  Provided its working enough to turn on mind you.

Next time a we do DOS 2.5!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

[Let's Play] Party Like its 1987! Let's Experience the Atari Computer! Part 2: Video Ouput Solutions

Well we are back with our second installment, this time with some options for video.  As I say in the comic installment, photos were taken of a 13" 80s monitor and a modern 32" HDTV.  Results are close to in person but not 100%.  But its the best I can do and it is really the only way to show the differences in output.

An emulator certainly wouldn't and I doubt a capture card would either.  Plus my modern computers and the Atari are at least 15' away and it would be unfeasible to run cables anyhow. 

(Remember this fact as it WILL come up in this project later on.  Certain hardware solutions elude me because of this.  I simply do not have the workspace to run the Atari next to the PC or the Mac unless I wanted one of my modern computers to go where the Atari is, which then means moving a screen to the floor any time I want to watch TV on a TV.  Or play modern consoles.  Its easy enough to move the monitor you will soon see but its small and wee.  Putting an imac on the floor not so much!)

Another couple options we could have tried:
(As both of these will become increasingly irrelevant over the next few years I am merely mentioning them for completeness sake though I may go back and try them out later for laughs.)

1: Video out through a DVD or VCR.  Best Electronics recommends this one.  Its adding yet another stupid thing to be powered on and plugged in.  I can't be bothered.  And my DVD player is my PS3 with all its HDMI goodness.

2: RF or S Video through an SDTV.  S Video and an SDTV would probably be ideal but my SDTV with S Video is halfway down a flight of stairs in a hall with no power source.  And it weighs a good 100 pounds or so as its a console type and 25".  My 19" SDTV only has RF and it is in an awkward place for anything outside of a Gamecube stacked on top of a DVD and a VHS player in some unholy Tower of Hanoi configuration.  (Its like the Lament Configuration but with Mario.  "I've-a got so much to show you-a!  Except for Earthbound!  We-a don't talk about that game.  Don't worry, we can play "Imagine Babiez!"

And to wash that image out with another one, here is a bit of extra info on our aged and yellowed keyboard:

I am working on a solution to the yellowing too.  It just depends on finding a UV Lamp, a lot of Hydrogen Peroxide, and a safe container to use both in.  Have you played with toxic liquids today?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

[Let's Play] Party Like its 1987! Let's Experience the Atari Computer!

This is gonna be a multimedia, multiformat thing that goes beyond any mere Let's Play. 


A mixture of blog, images in the comic format I am genuinely GOOD (ish) at, and sometimes video from an emulator just to show things at their clearest.

Some games will get played to completion.  Others will merely be a couple quick minutes or a few comic pages in coverage.  My thoughts on these games and ponderings on both collecting and playing them will happen in a loose review style as unburdened by either nostalgia or modern gaming biases as I can manage.  ( I never grew up with this brand of computers so that helps make it fair.  I was a Commodore man.  Which was the best 8 bit computer to own.)

I am sharing this experience because its fun to talk and interact with folks and create something.  I may even learn tricks to improve my video or writing as we delve deeper and deeper.  I may end up spending entirely too much money (oh wait already happened).  I may end up turning a few of you into retro Atari gamers.

Let's get this going and I hope everyone enjoys my descent into 1980s computers!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Rant on Communication

This is something I have wanted to say for a long damned time, and as my posting has been quiet this month it makes sense to use now as the time for saying what needs to be said:


This also goes with not wanting someone to continue to play in your group.

I get it I mean I do.  People are passive aggressive wusses who are too afraid of any form of confrontation ever.

So doing things like just not responding to scheduling emails, or when someone talks to you about a game and you aren't interested you just delete the message and act like the game never happened, or if someone is a complete tool you do the RPGnet approved "Lie and say the game isn't taking place" because that can't ever come back and cause more trouble than your chickens(*& self thinks you are avoiding by rightfully telling someone they are being a douche and you don't want them there any more is what everyone does.

(Its not just gaming.  Its why "I'll call you" in dating circles really means "Thanks for the sex but I never intend to talk to you again but I am what I just got out of you last night and can't be honest with you".)

This is enormous jerkfacery of the highest level and its GOT TO BLOODY STOP.

If you are interested in a game but upon hearing more details and it doesn't sound like its your bag its OK to say "Sorry, its not my thing.  Good luck and I hope you have fun".

This is both POLITE, and nice.  You can in fact think its the worst idea for a game in the history of ever but its not like you have to say that.

Just letting the person know you won't be participating is good enough.

But nobody does that do they?  As I mentioned, RPGnet even ENCOURAGES this sort of rude, wussy, passive aggressive handling of things.

Instead all you really do is waste other people's time as they prepare for games they won't be playing in or have people show up for, which is VERY GODDAMNED RUDE.  These days it seems like we all have less and less free time.

Your bitch ass deciding to in the middle of the game claim your wive/husband/dog/ect needs you at home and you run out never to be seen again is the height of dickery.  Outside of the most mentally unbalanced person, who is gonna care if you say "Sorry I don't think this is working out" and then leave?

Or if you are that afraid of personal confrontation about pretend Elf and Space Marine games, just finish that session, and make a phone call or email the next day saying you will no longer be playing.


I've seen so much of it over the years both as a passive and active participant in someone else's inability to be polite.  I refuse to engage in it.  If I think a game sucks and I am quitting?  I almost always let the group know as I leave for the day so they know not to waste any more of their game time on me.  The few times I just leave after a game?   I STILL make sure someone in the group knows I am not coming back ASAP.

Even if I utterly loathe the game or people I now know to avoid at all costs I still respect them as human beings and show them basic decency.

The game groups where I see this sort of behavior constantly done always end up terrible and its usually a sign to run like hell.

So show respect to your fellow human beings and if you aren't interested in playing or continuing to play a game you have already started interacting with take that whopping 2-5 minutes and make a phone call or send an email saying so.

Heck, if you have enough gusto to (respectfully) say why you are leaving/don't want someone else to play?  They may learn from their actions and correct bad behaviors, if not with you, possibly in the future.

But this is me hoping people show common courtesy and respect for each other and that's just silly talk.  All you have to do is see cigarette butts and garbage strewn all around, or shopping carts laying about in parking lots as opposed to the minute it would take to put them in their proper places to know we as humanity don't have any courtesy whatsoever.

And that is terrible.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Bad News for 4e D&D and Other Ponderings

Over at the Something Awful forums there is an over 1300 PAGE thread on their Traditional Games subforum to the normal Games forum called Grognards.txt.  In general its a bunch of smug 4th edition D&D fans bashing anyone butthurt over 4th edition.  "Nerds angry at nerds angry at D&D" is what I call it.


There is a LOT of good game theory and plenty of examples of terrible RPG players in that thread.  (And its not the two times I have been uncredited quoted as being a grognard either.  I'm on page 1 and in the 1130s.  Neither quote is particularly good or bad really.  When you read the thread and some of the sheer creepy, horrible, and just plain WRONG things gamers on the net say and talk about their campaigns me at my most anti 4e aint doodly squat.  This depresses me greatly.  People never disappoint at disappointing..)

Recently there has been the discussion of people saying 4e "ISN'T D&D" and a topic I have probably blogged about before on the lethality of classic D&D and how it sucks.  What follows is both a fellow I am quoting, and my own thoughts on both the lethality, and if 4e is D&D or not:

Guilty Spork posted:

The one thing I have really and truly never understood about D&D is why the paradigm of ridiculously fragile PCs lasted more than a month or so. Having wizards who can't be scratched to death by a single housecat somehow equates to having totally consequence-free play like in an MMO that only exists in grognard's minds.

I honestly say this is what really killed RPGs. Not videogames being easier to get into, not MMOs.

It was kids and preteens in the 80s with thoughts of He Man, Conan, Thundarr, and Lion O in their heads. (And maybe a couple of girls with She Ra or Red Sonja)

Then they get to the table and bring their character into battle. Only to die in the first or second fight.

Ok fuck this let's go play Atari 2600 instead. (Even moreso with the creepy sex deviants who have been ruining everything ever. The Internet just gives sickos a group to talk about how they want to see Rainbow Brite having "group relations" with the Carebears or something. Human sexuality is a terrible thing.)

Its not the effort involved. Sure it might be a lot of work but if its your thing, you won't mind the work.

Some people love to fix and repair their own cars. You have nerds spending 100s of hours painting their wargaming minis. People who love sewing.

But when so many cards are stacked against RPGs as is, the sheer lethality of RAW TSR D&D is just a giant turnoff.

And even beyond the creepy players, what about the PVP parties who think backstabbing a fellow player is FUNNY? That sort of crap drove people away from online games like Diablo and Phantasy Star Online in droves. And basically the PVP flag alone is what helped Everquest beat Ultima Online regardless of what a few hardcore say. Even though in nearly every other way UO was tons more fun.


Going back to IT IS ITS NOT D&D: Well, for a load of people 4e isn't D&D as they know it.

If people were happy about it, would this news have ever happened?

D&D has pretty much always been the Number One RPG regardless of quality.

It keeps losing out or at the very least has shed marketshare.

Compare the style of game you played from 74-99 to 3 and 4e. It really feels completely damned different.

(As much as the 3e fans would like to say otherwise, it really is a transitional phase between TSR D&D and 4th. Its sort of a well intentioned mutt that got overdesigned somewhere in the middle. My least favorite version of D&D. 4th Essentials and a house ruled Basic are my go to D&D branded games, with a houseruled Castles & Crusades my preferred D&D game PERIOD, X-Plorers coming in a close second.)

Sure WOTC says what the brand is on, but ask any Godzilla fan what they think of the 98 movie and its creature is called "GINO" (Godzilla in Name Only), Deanzilla, Sh&*zilla, or similarly childish names. The Godzilla owners ended up calling it 'Zilla and having it get completely smacked down by a Godzilla closer to what people love.

Heck, ask horror fans about how they feel on the Friday the 13th, Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Nightmare on Elm Street Remakes. They are almost universally rejected by the fanbase.

Doesn't matter if its good or not. With consumer products its the fanbase that has some control over the property.  (Though having seen the Halloween remake I can safely say its only slightly less terrible than Halloween 5 and 6.  But only the parts where its not trying to be an actual Halloween remake.  If they removed the remake bits it would actually be an interesting look into a child who murders most of his family and his inability to be rehabilitated in a mental institution.  Once the remake part properly begins it sucks ass.  Lots and lots of ass.  Epic Ass Sucking Time is what it becomes.  Apparently its sequel is even worse.  How you get worse than a movie whose Chud.com review scored it as a "F*&K YOU out of 10" I do not know.)

Change is good, but if you change too much too fast and don't keep enough of what people love it will get creamed unless you find enough of a replacement audience.

Games Workshop was lucky when 3rd edition 40K did a massive shift. Rackham games with the final version of Confrontation was not. WOTC is getting hammered similarly.

(I would say Transformers survives and thrives with constant changes in style and scope because it never really throws away the previous. Hate the idiotic Bay movies? Well IDW makes Generation 1 comics in a modern style and even reprints the old. Are a kid? Transformers Animated and Prime are right up your alley. Heck, they have a line and upcoming show JUST for the 3-6 year old set who probably would cry trying to transform the main line's deluxe class figures.  I've bought the Optimus Prime from this line for my cousin's 5 year old for Christmas.  Its so adorable I kind of want one for myself.)

And I do find it a shame because there is a LOT to like about 4e once you don't look at it as how you would TSR D&D. And its a load better than 3.x.

But I doubt the improvements of 4th will carry to 5th. Class balance, streamlining, pick up and play, not swetting the spergy details? These will all probably be ignored next edition and its a Cthulhu damned shame.

I'm enjoying the 4th ed campaign I am running, I enjoy Encounters when I get the opportunity to play, and I even have an open invite to a Friday game I will finally get to play in for at least one session soon.

WOTC dropped the ball, and a LOT of it has to do with changing too much too fast, hosing over Paizo during the change, and the suits (WOTC and Hasbro most likely) trying to sell RPGs to make Magic the Gathering profits. Which just can't happen.

And I doubt anyone outside of accountants wanting RPGs to sell on a CCG business model.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

[D&D 4e Castlevania Campaign] The Myth Cycle Part 1

For every fantasy world with magic and divine powers, one ought to have a basic mythic history of the world.  Its nice to have a little background for these things.  For my Fantasy Earth this is mine:


In the creation of our universe 3 sisters were born of the Primal Father.  Locked in battle with the destroyer of the last, the Chaos Bringer, the One, they died.  Their deaths recreated the universe and the Primal birthed three children to make the new creation better than the last.  Yet the One had his way as well and spawned 4 brothers.

Our universe was truly created as the 3 battled the 4, eventually sending the Son of War, the Son of Death, the Son of Intrigue, and the Son of Decadence into another dimension, their punishment being to power and warm reality.

Upon having a source of power to create and bring forth life to this new universe the first sister, Celes, made countless suns to warm and bring light everywhere.

The second, Terra, made planets of earth, where her sister's suns would help things grow and life to bloom.

The third, Luna, brought moons to track time and to keep forces on planets in check, and to bring night so that there would be periods of rest.

Then, they slept while the worlds came to life, the beating of their hearts and the breaths of their mouths setting a pace to reality.

When the 3 awoke, they found countless planets bringing forth life.  It was then they brought forth their own children to help watch and protect them.

It was then that the 4 made their move...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

[Let's Play] Fun in Mystara! Let's play Order of the Griffon Part 24: Bend it Like Bauer.

Today I finish this project on time, on schedule with only a single week where I failed to keep it (not counting the hurricane week, which I caught up with, getting both installments out ASAP).

It is complete.  Yay me.  Boo game designers for slacking it.


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