Friday, October 30, 2015

Vorrak, Level Three that the third one?  I can't tell.  It's so small.  Oh, and... SPOILER ALERT: just go through the middle of the Stibnite Mine section and save yourself some of the hassle.  Love that part.  And so, that's about all she wrote.  The three levels of Rorschach...Vorrak.  We may never know if the extra two levels were added by Avalon Hill, or if the programmer of the original Zardon devised all three.  Perhaps he's out there right now, maintaining a JCobol database on a government mainframe, still waiting for that upgrade that'll never come thanks to government gridlock in D.C.  Or maybe he's now part of that stupid Paul Allen project to make another billion dollars off genome sequencing the human brain.  You know, the sexy world of video games.

Vorrak, Level Two

Oh, The Video Game Fanatic.  Can't you leave ANYTHING to the imagination?  Is there no whimsy left in your world?  Must every last detail be documented and stored on some hard drive somewhere?  Yes.  Yes it must.  For much like the "mine" depicted in Dvorak... Vorrak... it's all about data collection, and Information Retrieval.  And passing the savings on to the taxpayer.  All necessities provided, all anxieties tranquilized, all boredoms amused.
Speaking of which, level 2 of Vorrak looks a little bit like the first level.  So you're probably asking yourself, well, surely there's some sort of algorithm that can make the storage and retrieval of the maze shorter and faster?  Probably, but it probably didn't happen on the Atari.  There was no Zip utility as far as I know.  No simple, fast way to store something in a three-dimensional array, and they certainly didn't plan it so that you could save your game state to take it up later on during the day.  No, this was the barbaric old days where you had to power your way through a game the first time... well, then again, we did have the pause button.  Usually the space bar.  See, it wasn't all bad.  Boy, remember the first time you were able to pause Pac-Man?  Mind-blowing.  And besides, level two is so worth it, because you go from regular "Emerald" to POWER Emerald, which can get you about 100 more points!

Vorrak, Level One

All right, let's get this over with.  If there's a lesson to be learned from Vorrak, it's that security systems are pretty much useless once you learn their patterns.  Then again, that's the lesson from all them Pink Panther movies.  But isn't that the power of video games right there?  You get to be the rogue ship flying into enemy territory, circumventing the slipshod security systems of the ill-guarded lair.  Now, you take a game like "The Dreadnaught Factor"... THAT one gets much tougher with each progressive level.  Of course, The Dreadnaught Factor is programmed in machine language, and doesn't rely on Atari Basic at all.  Ever the tradeoff: Basic games are easier to program, but run orders of magnitude slower than machine language games.  It's theoretically a programmer's paradise these days with JavaScript, the perfect compromise language.
So, unlike Laser Gates, there's only you in the Player/Missile department, and there's no stopping for fuel.  Laser Gates is one of the only, and maybe it is the only, side-scrolling shoot-'em'up game where you actually have to make a stop for fuel.  All the others, you have to shoot fuel dumps in order to fuel your ship... convenient, but that never works with my car.  And I've shot up a lot of gas stations, believe me.  Nope, you still have to pump your own fuel.  What's that all about?  It's like it's some kind of valuable commodity or sumpthing.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Atari Emulator -> Wavy Navy

Oh damn.  It's one of those games where you've got different ranks for each level.  Must find out what each one is.  Welp, apparently, the highest rank you can achieve is President, much like Eisenhower did.  Of course, his Vice President, Richard Nixon, once said that there were offices out there higher than President of the United States, loftier positions to achieve and what not... I guess you'd have to think that if you left office in disgrace, with a trail of tapes in your wake.  Any political hack worth his weight in Himalayan pink salt probably wouldn't like this game, as you seem to stay at the President rank forever.  No term limits?  Lord knows we don't need another FDR!  Think how prosperous the middle class would be then!  And on top of that, you seem to have the same configuration of two mines and the occasional beeping missile.  I contend that the bomb-dropping plane's much tougher, but what do I know.
Anyway, it's Wavy Navy on disk 107... is it an ode to Space Invaders or Galaxian?  Alas, the many features and advanced graphics of Galaga were far too much for Atari to handle... Commodore probably could, the bastard.  Of course, Wavy Navy somehow lacks even the spontaneity, and organized behaviour of the bad guys in groups, of Galaxian, go figure.  And why do the planes splash into the ocean, then reappear in the sky?  Is it the same gaping plot hole / quirk of physics that they used in Pirates of the Caribbean 3?  Probably.
All right, enough of that.  On to the next game.

Saturday, October 24, 2015


Oh, Zardon.  So out of it.  Only a God would think it's a good idea to come back to modern-day Manhattan and be reborn into the body of Sigourney Weaver's child... no, wait, that was "Half Moon Street," if memory serves.  Anyway, I went to all the trouble to download this thing, so let's try it out.  300 Baud, from an Atari Bulletin Board... just joking.  But those were the days, weren't they?  Oh, if only I thought to get an Atari modem.  I could of ... have been, like, an extra-nerd!  But I didn't, so I'm not.
But the similarities are many and immediately apparent.  The level seems to be the same; font's a little different, though.  I hand it to Avalon Hill: they didn't just buy the game and repackage it, as-is.  They gave it a few good tweaks, with all due respect to original programmer John Bell.  But giving the players the option of choosing cruising speed and the number of lives was indeed very generous of Bell.  But Avalon Hill's got a slightly better sense of showmanship.  For example, when you get to the Emerald section of the maze, the font changes.  In "Zardon," this includes the shape of your bouns ships in the lower right hand corner of the screen!  They change from ships to sine waves!  What the deuce!!?  There's something to be said for a fresh pair of eyes, because programming the thing's hard enough as it is, and Lord knows the programmer doesn't want to change anything.  You know, the God-like power of programming.  Avalon Hill also tweaked the fonts a bit, probably for the better.  But, you know, dodging the lasers that shoot BOXES at you, it's pretty scary.  The sound's basically the same, and the cave walls look like they're the same.  I can't help but think of my old girlfriend Angelina when I pass through that Magnesium Mine.
Of course, when I refer to fonts, I mean the old Atari fonts.  This is, after all, a Graphics 1 game, and you get 128 characters to tinker with, and only uppercase letters.  They were 8x8 in the old Atari kingdom, but they look a bit rectangular.  Graphics 2 was also 8x8, but taller and closer to an actual square shape.  And in an act of sheer bravery, the maze retained the original Atari colors!  Except for the blue, of course; that was a bit darker.  Blue is the only color that doesn't kill you... I mean, start you over at the beginning of the level.  And the pinky-red stuff is the only color of stuff you can shoot... I mean, zap with your phaser, and barely at that.  Sometimes if you zap one edge of something, it doesn't get destroyed, and you can rack up the points, if only briefly.  Now, where Vorrak underestimated the gaming prowess of those who attempt to conquer its three levels, Zardon rather completely OVER-estimates the gaming patience of its enthusiasts.  I mean, ... FIVE-HUNDRED THOUSAND POINTS??!!!!  Now, I'm no expert... incidentally, the "Expert" settings of games like Shamus 1 and 2 and Zeppelin... those go way too fast for mere mortal players.  I'll bet even the best of Gods might have a hard time, especially if they had to use a mere keyboard to play.  But I think "Space Klutz" is a much better rank than "Ground Gripper."  Really?  Seriously?  GROUND GRIPPER?  First of all... ah, skip it.
Oh, what other brilliant observations did I have?  Oh right, I remember now.  Now, I'm a pretty patient gamer, if I may say so myself... but that's arguably open to conjecture.  But I think I found a flaw in Zardon.  See, I finally made it out the other side of this whole cave thing, fully expecting to graduate to the Power Emerald levels 2 and 3.  So I get to the end and boom!  I merely start over at the beginning!  And I'm like, what the deuce?  But this old dog learned a new trick, because I just recalled the "Break" key on those old Ataris.  See, when you're in Basic and you type the "List" command, I swear you used to be able to hit the "Break" key to get it to stop someplace.  I know, I know, but I have no patience for, like, "List 1-1000"... or do I?  Maybe I should try it sometime.  I also tried drawing in Graphics 8 again!  Ah, the good old days.  Anyway, so I got this SECOND chunk of code, and I tried to look for something about levels 2 and 3... no.  Wonder if I could?  That's probably too much, even for me... nope, didn't work.  I broke it.  I tried getting into the old Atari DOS and list the Zardon files, but no such luck.  So I tried changing line 12 to load "Zar2.asm."  It's the only file name that seems to be for the levels.  Alas, it wasn't meant to be.  So did Avalon Hill concoct levels 2 and 3 as well?  I hate to think so!  But whatever.  A toast to the good old days when one guy could conquer the gaming world single-handedly.  Nowadays it's a bunch of companies, and cartels now, too!  Video game cartels.  Imagine that.  And they're almost as ruthless as drug cartels, but apparently they only go after video game reporters... which is one of the reasons why I generally don't do new stuff.  Speaking of which, I was getting a little misty about "FarmVille."  But it's been 20 minutes and the little yellow ""Loading..." bar isn't done yet.  It's just too unwieldy now.  Imagine if that were chess.  You'd have a second board, 4x4, with a second type of pawn or something... hey!  That actually sounds kinda fun!  And pieces that shoot lasers?  How krunk would THAT be?  ...BASTARDI!  Already done.  Boy, Max Peltier was right!  Everything HAS been done already!

Friday, October 23, 2015


Super Cobra.  Caverns of Mars II.  Vanguard... Vorrak?  Well, they're all "side-scrollers," as a turn of a phrase would have it.  Defender doesn't count because you can control the velocity at which the background scrolls by.  One thing that sets it apart is that it relies on the Basic cartridge to play... I probably should've put "Atari emulator" in the headline as I usually do, but I mean... it's Vorrak, man!  Vorrak.  It's an Atari thing; non-Atari people wouldn't understand.  Also, it's like the games of J.D. Casten or something: being a rock star game despite the severe Atari constraints.  Normally, you can barely do anything with Basic, but for those able to master the combination of Basic and machine language, well... the world was their oyster at the time.  Now, some of you originally played this as a game called "Zardon" or something stupid like that, but not me.  Besides, even Broderbund took the occasional "Spelunker" and "Landscape" and turned them into slightly better games.  So did Avalon Hill with Vorrak... I frankly can't vouch for any of their other titles, although I understand there are a lot of them, and I will look them all up on atarimania dot com someday.
Anyway, Vorrak is one of those annoying games... I mean, one of those classic games with that annoying feature of different ranks depending on what score you get.  While we may never know what an "Eradicator Honc" is, I'm older and wiser now and have the power to deduce that it's a truncated version of "Honcho."  You know, like the time Milhouse van Houten played "Bonestorm" using his gamer name, "Thrillhouse."  Now, we may never know how many ranks there are in Vorrak...
...why, there it is right there!  Alas, I couldn't do that with, say, David Lubar's "Pastfinder."  So we got "Ground Gripper"... whatever.  We got "Co-pilot"... I'm sorry, I mean "copilot".  We got "Shuttle Pilot"... hey, those can be tough jobs, man!  Of course, I'm not actually a pilot.  I guess that's how pilots rib each other.  "Ooh!  There's a kite for you to fly!" said the ace pilot to the novice, mockingly.  There's Fighter Pilot, Interceptor Ace, Eliminator Ace, and Eradicator Honcho.  Clearly, the makers of Vorrak underestimate the gaming prowess of their fans.  I scored 10,000 the other day, and I wasn't even giving it my all!  Imagine what I could do if I cheated!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Emergency Bug Report -> Candy Crush

...still?  Good Lourdes.  What is it with me and that game?  Anyway, I found a bug, so I've decided to not keep it to myself.  Actually, they've already gotten about 80,000 emails complaining about it, so who cares.  So, on level 1295, there's apparently a conflict that the programmers never thought would come up... surprise surprise.
And I actually never knew this before!  So, you've got the Frogtastic frog, and it can ride around on those conveyor belts.  Never happened before... (I'm pretty sure)  BUT... you might ALSO know that chocolate can't grow onto the conveyor belts!  So level 1295 begs the obvious question... say you've got growing chocolate next to the conveyor belt, and the Frogtastic frog comes by.  Will the chocolate grow over the frog, even though it's on the conveyor belt, thereby causing the whole system to grind to a screeching halt, leaving you with the only recourse of pressing the red Abort Game button?  BINGO!  I know, I know, I must hate those poor overworked JavaScript programmers over there at "King", but I'm confident that at least the most senior one will find a way to patch that all up.  Worth every penny, those people are.

(11/1/'15, Sunday, 5:40pm) Just checked... nope, still haven't fixed it.  Or maybe I'm just using an older, previously cached version of the game.  Yeah, that must be it.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Andromeda... the Motion Video Game

I never did Andromeda?  Never even used the word?  Shame on me.  I swear, someone's got my password and is deleting stuff from this bog.... blog.  Anyway, as Wikipedia tells us, Andromeda was the Roman god of... galaxies close to the Earth.  Something like that.  Or maybe it's for pretty galaxies.  That Andromeda galaxy is a damn fine and pretty one.  Or maybe we're just lucky it's tilted the way it is in the sky.
Again, that's not the point.  The point is, in video game form from Gebelli Software, it's like Innerspace in game form, or Fantastic Voyage, more like it.  The rules are perhaps a little too simple, there's no clear goal, and any stuff you eat will eventually reappear.  So why the large game board?  I guess to give that Atari 16K a real workout.  Anyway, here's a more complete map of the game board.  Sorry, I didn't quite finish it, but frankly I think I put far far too much work into it already.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Kroger Feedback

...Kroger Feedback?!!!!  THAT's not a video game!  Well, you're right, but the odds of winning something tangible are slightly better.  Owtch.  Not by much, arguably.  But God bless me, I'll keep on trying.  As for Safeway, well... they're a bunch of tools now.  Only one entry a month, my ass.  Well, they're still better than Taco Bell.  One entry every six weeks, my ass.

Windows upgrade

...notice anything different about me?  Me neither.  Actually, world events have conspired to get me to my local computer store for an upgrade.  Well, it's been about nine years... but my Western Digital drive's still going strong.  Suck it, Maxtor and Seagate.  That's right.
Anyway, I'm still testing to see which browsers are best for what.  Well, this being Microsoft, the first option is, of course, their browser.  Now, I've heard that they're phasing out "Internet Explorer."  Which, for Windows Vista, definitely for the best.  But now they've got a new browser they're phasing out called "Edge."  So I start testing Zynga poker with it.  So far so good.  But then.... yup, it's about as slow as the previous computer.  So, I go to check out the Task Manager and... Zynga Poker's using one gig of ram?  How is that even possible?  Even Chrome only ever used about 500,000 K.  Time to try Chrome... yup, it works best so far.  I'm not even going to try Mozilla.
Kewl!  Just won the 2nd round... see, they have this Shootout deal in Zanga Poker, as my dad calls it.  I made the last big hand, and typed "gg" in the chat window.  The other guy typed "fy" back... well, first of all, it's "F.U."  So I tried to type "Follow the leader, dude..." and Zanga Poker told me "No swearing!" ...I'm still trying to piece together that one.  George Carlin's list of seven is falling, and the word "follow" is rising?  I guess that makes sense, in our American leader-obsessed culture... God, I kinda hate this place.  Anyway, time to move on to a little Tetris Battle, for some reason.  I feel the need for speed, Chuck!  Ah, they always keep up with the holidays............ okay, it's sticking a little in Chrome.  Or maybe I'm just too damn slow.  Sure, others beat me in Tetris Battle... but I can still hold my own, and in a totally classy way, too!  Nyaah!!!!

(Sunday, Oct. 4) - Welp, just tried Tetris Battle in "Edge."  It started out fast enough, but towards the end it started gumming up.  And I'm pretty good at it, too.  This isn't the mere complaints of a player who sucks, like Tonya Harding and her faulty shoelaces.  Oh well.  Better get to my other fish to fry.

(Wed., 0ct. 14) - Guess I should of... have known better.  I need a faster PROCESSOR.  I mean, all I've got is a 3.5 GHz one.  It's an AMD A6-7400K Radeon R5.  Also, I just put in 16 gigs of RAM.  And yet... none of that can find its way into making Google Chrome any faster.  And Microsoft Edge, well... you've got TWO strikes against you now.  You can only go back and forth one page at a time, you're ABSOLUTELY NO USE if you want to play Tetris Battle with it... what's the third kludge-y thing about you?  I can't wait to find out!
Also, Tetris Battle itself has lost functionality.  I mean... didn't I use to be able to tell how much time til my next "health point" or whatever the f... ficus plant it's called.  I'm almost tempted to get the Visa card out, even though I'm sooooooooooooooooooo broke.  Well, gotta live up to the blog's name, right?