Wednesday, 27 July 2016

My Gaming History - Part One - TV and Tabletops....



It occurred to me the other day while I was writing that post about my game designs, that I've never really shared my early experiences with video games on the blog....

I've mentioned that the Spectrum was my first computer, but I didn't get my first one until I was about 12 years old, and I'd already been gaming for at least six or seven years before that! So where was I getting my gaming fix from until then?? 

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Well, it all began in the early eighties with the T.V. Game you see the box for above...The Binatone TV Master Mk IV! At least I think it did...the mists of time have fogged my memory, and I no longer have the machine, but I'm pretty sure this is the right one, and conferring with my brother he seems to think it is too, so it probably was...


There were loads of different TV games you could get in the late 70s / early 80s, but they were all clones of the classic Pong with a few variants added to keep you playing a bit longer. You just connected them to whatever TV you had at the time via the aerial socket at the back, and rotated the analogue controllers to move the bats up and down the screen. It didn't matter if you hadn't a colour TV either, which a lot of people still didn't actually have when these things were released, because the games were all in black and white! 


Talking of which, I've just this second remembered that although we were lucky enough to have a colour TV, it was only because we rented it from Radio Rentals, and it kept blowing a fuse or going wonky every so often and we had to get a TV repair man to come out and fix it! Hehe..crazy! Anyway, back on topic...

Fun as these TV game things were, they were very limited, and by the time we actually got one, games had moved on to have a lot better graphics and gameplay. And it was with the weekly visit to the local Asda to pick up the groceries, that my peepers focused on the next gaming wonders that I wanted to get my hands on....
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At Asda, y'see, they had set up an area near the entrance to the shop where all the tabletop games you could buy were switched on for the kids to play! So my parents would leave my brother and I with all the other kids who'd been dumped there, and we'd take turns to play all the different games while the adults carried on with their shopping in peace! It was a set-up where everybody won! Even Asda was happy, because after playing the games the kids would pester their parents to buy them so they could carry on playing at home! A bit different from when I was in Asda a few years back when they had PS3 and 360 demo pods switched off, because they were concerned about all the kids lurking about around them...Isn't that the point??

Anyway, the games that I can remember playing at this oasis of video game wonderment, included.....

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CAVEMAN (Grandstand)


One of the very first ones I tried, and one I never ever actually owned but coveted for years! In this one you play as a Caveman trying to steal eggs from a dinosaur to take them back and feed his family!


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SCRAMBLE (Grandstand)


Another one that I never owned, so only got to play in Asda or just before the school holidays, when all us kids were allowed to bring in toys on the last day! This was based on the arcade game of the same name but had different gameplay as no scenery was generated. I always found this one a bit too confusing for some reason....

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TOMYTRONIC 3D (Tomy)


These were the ones I could never persuade my parents to buy! They cost way more than the other games, mainly due to them being the closest thing to a VR headset you could get back then! Nintendo basically stole the idea when they came to make the Virtual Boy too! ;)

 I'm still in awe of these things and have still to get my hands on one of my own....there were loads to choose from though!


Holding them up to your face and peering through the binocular-style eye tubes transported you into your own personal game space! Being the only one who could see what you were playing felt really cool, and I can remember getting quite frustrated when someone else was hogging a new one as I wanted to see what it looked like for myself...


The box artwork on the Tomytronics was pretty groovy too!


Here's some gameplay of a couple of the titles....



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Eventually, through shear harassment, I managed to persuade my parents to get two or three of the various other handhelds that were on display, so lets have a look at the ones I actually owned!


MUNCHMAN (Grandstand)


The design of this Pac-Man clone was amazing, being somewhat similar to Pac-Man, sorry...Munchman, himself! I still own my original unit of this, and it still works as I had it fired up only a few weeks ago for a quick bash at it!

If you don't know how Pac-Man plays, then...wow! But gameplay is a bit weirdly-different with this due to the fact that you need to be facing the dots to eat them, but you only ever face one way, which means you sometimes have to pass the dots then go back the way you came to munch them down! See the gameplay video below if you have no idea what I'm talking about....


Basic though the game was, I somehow managed to play this for hours until the score couldn't get any higher and, if I remember rightly, reset itself! On the Amateur setting at least....never really played the Pro mode much....

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FIREFOX F-7 (Grandstand)


I loved this as a kid! It was your basic shoot-the-aliens type blaster, but had different waves that did different things and different music at the start of each stage, a lot of which was stolen from Star Wars! The sound effects were pretty amazing too and it gave it a surprising amount of atmosphere...


It's another that I still have the original unit of, but unfortunately my dad "customised" the battery compartment to run off of some homemade adapter, and so I can't use batteries with it anymore. I should be able to get it working if I manage to find a Grandstand adapter though!

Here's a vid of someone playing their game so you can check out just how groovy it is!


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BMX FLYER (Grandstand)


Loved this too, and sadly this one seems to have gotten lost somewhere so I no longer have it. In this game you ride your BMX over dangerous terrain whilst avoiding vicious competitors, and bombs which are being dropped by an angry man in a helicopter, who I can only assume is the boss or something of the other riders? To get rid of the riders that are chasing you, you can kick dirt back at them...


Every now and then your girlfriend will appear flying by in a balloon, and you can jump up to catch a quick snog for extra points. Collecting fuel cans along the way will also help...


Rather than a video for this one, I'll direct you to this excellent Flash version of the game (click here) so you can play it for yourselves! Remember to press down when you come to a dip or wheelie over the shorter ones, and also to wheelie over the spikes..I'm sure you'll be able to work it all out! Enjoy anyhoo.....then come back and read the rest of this post! ;)

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GAME & WATCH (Nintendo)



There were loads of these in Asda too, but the one that I managed to pick up was Donkey Kong! Taking control of Mario, you had to jump over the barrels, make your way up to the second screen and steal one of the keys holding up the platform where Donkey Kong was standing. Do this four times and Donkey Kong would fall and crack his chin, letting you get a kiss from Daisy before it all started over again!


I took this game everywhere with me, as it fitted very handily into a pocket and was protected by the cover.. a design Nintendo would return to for the Nintendo DS years later! I also used its handy alarm feature to wake me up for school quite often, although I'd usually still be late getting ready due to then playing the game after it had woken me up! Hehe...


Again, rather than a video, I'll give you a link to this excellent site (click here) where you can play Donkey Kong for yourself, along with a whole host of other handhelds!

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Galaxy Invader 1000 (Grandstand)


This one wasn't actually mine, but my brother's...but it still holds many fond memories as I obviously played it a lot too! It's a Space Invaders clone, but a pretty damn good one!

Here's another Youtube vid of someone checking it out...


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So yeah, that was my first experiences with video games! Well that and popping to the arcades every now and again to marvel at all those waaaayyyy better games, but that'll be covered in the next Gaming History post, which should appear soon-ish! Hope this has kindled up some nice retro-gaming memories for some of you in the meantime...

;)


Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Appleseed Booklet - Free with Super Play magazine




Another random-box-find set of scans today...this time it's a booklet about Masamune Shirow's manga Appleseed  that came free with an issue of Super Play Magazine, probably to promote the Super Nintendo game based on the series...

Although it looks like bits of it haven't been scanned in properly, any missing words or cut-off pictures were absent in the original book. It seems they just copied it from another source and didn't worry about the missing bits...Still, it's a cool wee random thing to have!

Anyway, here it is for posterity....

(click to go big...)












Saturday, 23 July 2016

Games That I Never Made - Cosmic Speccy Specials!


It was probably inevitable, given my huge love of games, that at some point I would decide to try and create my own. Right from when I was playing the old Grandstand tabletop games I had big ideas about the types of games I would design to make use of the hardware.

It wasn't until I got my ZX Spectrum +2A in 1989 that I properly started to consider actually doing something with those ideas though. With Spectrum Basic, you could type programs straight in to the machine, and after 10 minutes of reading the manual you could already have your Speccy printing text, beeping tunes or drawing things on the screen!

And so my brain went in to overdrive and I started coming up with hundreds of ideas for different types of games that I could make for my new computer! Unfortunately, I was soon to discover that I'd rather be playing games than doing maths, wrestling with machine code, fixing errors, etc...and so I never ever got any of these games finished.

I thought it was about time that I shared the ideas for some of these games though, so you could all see what wonders you could have been playing back in the day if I had just got my act together!

(As always, click the pics to make them go big!)


One of the very first games I tried to make, was the one at the back of the +2A manual....a Breakout clone where you had to destroy bricks with a ball and bat. After messing around with the graphics and adding a bit more of an intro screen, I changed the game to one called Centigrubs! I actually finished this one, but the tape I save it on got chewed up a long time ago, and I never ever tried to type it out again.


Around the same time I was buying lots of Spectrum magazines, and they all had free cover-mounted cassette tapes that came loaded with games. That inspired me to make my own compilation tapes, with at least four games on one tape. 

Unfortunately, only information for one of the other games I was going to stick on the tape along with Centigrubs survives, and if you check below I'll write that out so you can read it a bit better. It was a text adventure called The Madhouse!



"CENTIGRUBS

You are CECIL CENTIPEDE! You and your wife have just had children. She has gone out shopping and left you to babysit. BUT (SHOCK, GASP, HORROR!) the naughty little bu**ers have climbed over to the other side of the garden wall. YOU will have to bring them back by breaking the blocks on the wall! And you'll need to be quick because it won't be long until the missus comes home."

(*There's more text after this, but it got ripped off so I'm not sure what else it said...something about "but Beware!")


"THE MADHOUSE

You have been locked in an asylum. But you are not mad. You are surrounded by mental people. Tonight, you must escape! So, armed only with a revolver, (how anyone in a loonybin is meant to get a gun, I dunno!) a rucksack and your toothbrush, off you go to fight guards, loonies and even a watchdog! Watch out though....you might go MAD with the strain!"

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The next Gamestape I was going to make had Reporter, a game that was to be a bit like Cult Games speccy game Software House only in a newspaper office instead of a software publisher....and Revenge is Sweet, which was going to be an action adventure platformer!


" REPORTER

You are an ace reporter... ...in your dreams! You are actually a crap reporter and your boss is threatening to fire you if you don't get a good story to publish. At the beginning of the game your boss will give you a list of stories you can choose to cover. Press the number of the story you want to look at and if you think it is good enough, buy it and show it to the editor. If he likes it he'll publish it, if not you'll need to find another job!

Controls

Follow the On-Screen Prompts


REVENGE IS SWEET

You're dead. Yeah, you really are pushing up the daisies in this game. You see, your business partner, Bob Thevalog, wanted to be rich and own the whole of your company. He tried to persuade you to give it to him, but you didn't. So he got his heavies to kill you! Now, you're back from the dead to get your revenge. Make your way up to the top of the building to Bob's office and push him out of the window. But watch out! Bob's henchmen are in the building guarding him. he thought you would come back and has equipped them with special weapons for busting ghosts. Also watch out for all the robots and other electrical stuff has bought with all his cash.

Controls

Q = Up
A = Down
O = Left
P = Right
SPACE = Fire

Or use a Sinclair Joystick in Port 1"



There was also a title for another game, DOMAIN, but no details...and three more are mentioned...Jailbreaker, Horace Hedgehog and Noman's Land...but again I can't remember much about those..

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Another of my very first ideas was a game called Jeremia And The Dead Duck (pronounced Jeremiah), which was to be a Gregory Loses His Clock style adventure. The game was to begin with Jeremia opening his door to find a dead duck landing at his feet, and then he's have to use private-detective-like skills to work out where the duck had come from and who had killed it.......

As you can also see, I had come up with a name for my very own software house...Speccy Specials! This was very short lived however, as I reckoned somebody else would probably have come up with that name and I needed something a bit better. I came up with the name Cosmic Software, and planned to combine that with a comic publisher of the same brand....(not an ambitious kid at all, was I?) 



One of the first games and comics I was going to do for that was Knackashibushi, a very heavily manga and anime influenced ninja-type thing! This never really got very far at all, with only the above card and a few other drawings of characters done.....

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Eventually I started doing proper inlays for my imaginary games, and as usual spent far too much time planning those rather than actually learning how to code and make the bloody games....

Here's the ones I could find... 
Cool Dude, a platformer where you have to collect objects to perform "cool tasks"...
Warfie, where you played an exterminator wandering around a castle getting rid of nasties....
Bazooka, which was a shoot-em-up that had you crossing a desert and fighting mutants..
and Dead Fred and The Curse Of The Sacred Nappies, which I really can't remember much about at all!


"COOL DUDE

Instructions

Perform 12 cool tasks and then you can go to the disco and try and get down to some serious dancing.

Loading Instructions

48k owners type LOAD""
128k/+ owners use LOADER

Controls

Sinclair Joystick and Keyboard

Q = Up
A = Down
O = Left
P = Right
SPACE = Pickup / Jump / Fire
S = Abort
Enter = Status Screen

(*Back cover) You as Cool Dude must live up to your title. First do as many cool things as possible before the final level, The Disco.

Credits

Everything by Wolfie, T.C. and Alf

No.1 in the Cosmic Collection

1989 Cosmic Software"

(*Wolfie and TC were both me, Alf was my mate Alan whose photocopier I was going to use to print out the labels if I ever got round to finishing any of the games. You can see where he's put Manager to try and make his role in the operation a bit bigger!)

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WARFIE



"WARFIE!

"HELP!" cried Eric, the local popstar, as he spoke to you on the Tele-Varnwarp,
"I've been invaded by demons and ghosts!!"
You, Warfie, do your duty as Exterminator and go to kill all the nastys in Eric's castle."

(*Then there's some pictures of the various things you'll come across, and a note saying there are other things we don't know about in the castle too. There's also a hasty cover up doodle hiding a mistake with a note saying to take no notice of it as it's just there for "fun"

Then there's the usual loading instructions and my address so you can send back faulty tapes..)

"Controls

Use a joystick in Port One or these keys...

Q = Forward / Up
A = Back / Down
O = Left
P = Right
N = Pickup Food + Ammo + Other Equipment
SPACE = Fire"

(*Then there's an ad for another text adventure called The Evil Eye! You might notice that demons seem to feature quite heavily in a lot of these game ideas..That's because I felt I was okay at drawing those! Hehe!)

(*Back Cover)

You are Warfie, an exterminator from the planet Worvor.
One day, you were sitting in your office when the Tele-Varnwarp beeped. On the screen appeared Eric, the local Popstar. "Help!", he said "I've been invaded by demons and ghosts!"
So armed with your Phaser and toothbrush, you go to Eric's Castle to kill ghosts, demons and other nasty people called Dave!"

Credits 

Game Design : Ewen Kirk (Wolfie)
Manager : Alan Kay (Well, we need to give him credit for something!)
Idea : T.C.
Teamaker : Mumsypoos
Music : Wolfie (again)"

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BAZOOKA


" The Story Of Bazooka

The year is 2965. The Korinthian War is now over but it has left horrible, slimy mutants.
Not everyone was turned into mutants. You weren't, and neither were the Corinians.
The Corinians (or City People) live in a city many miles from the Mutant Desert. You lived in the village to the North of the desert, but when you came back from the war, there was nothing left.
During the war you lost your arm, and went through surgery to have a Bazooka fitted in its place. It is a highly advanced version of the weapon.
So off you set into the desert towards the city, in order to start a new life there...


Loading

48k owners type : Load ""
128k/+2/+3 owners : Use Loader
Send faulty tapes to.....

Mutants

Many different mutants will try to stop you. Some you can easily blow away, others aren't so easy!

Sand Beasts

Occasionally you will come across a Sand Beast, large disgusting creatures that swallow their victims whole and leave them to die inside their acid filled stomachs..

Controls

Use Joystick or these keys..

Q: Forward
A: Back
O: Left
P: Right
N: Pickup
SPACE: Fire

Food

If you are touched by mutants, they will drain your energy.There is only one way of regaining this, By eating food. To eat food, walk over the box and press ENTER.


Travel through the Mutant packed desert to the city, as your village was destroyed in the war. You have a Built-in-Bazooka where your arm should be, so the journey will be a little easier.

CREDITS

Game Design: Wolfie 
Idea: TC 
Manager: Alf
Music: Wolfie "


(*There's also a bit in that inlay that mentions games coming soon, which have the titles 

SPLURCH
BLACK KNIGHT II
HIGH NOON
and BACKWHEEL BURNUP...

Again, I'm pretty sure these were just ideas and in some case just titles, but I seem to remember some prep-work on a Black Knight II inlay...)

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Yeah, don't remember what type of game this was going to be...don't think Dead Fred got much further than the inlay above....

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The design document below is for Pratt-Face and the Big End-Of-Level-Nasty-Thingies! which was to be a huge side scrolling platformer where at the end of every level you'd have to fight a massive end-of-level baddie! 

Unfortunately, a lot of this is missing due to a tear in the page, but you can get the idea of where I was going with this game....


PRATT-FACE AND THE BIG END-OF-LEVEL-NASTY-THINGIES

Level One - Object - Travel from your house to the launch site.

Screens = 10
Areas = 4

AREA 1 ENEMIES = Milkmen, Policemen, Hippies, Old Bags
AREA 2 ENEMIES = Skinheads, Cool Dudes, Old Bags, Bullies
AREA 3 ENEMIES = Drunks, Old Bags, Postmen, Killer Postboxes
AREA 4 ENEMIES = Bikers, Teachers, Bullies, Weeds, Scientists, Manic (*gets cut off...Miners maybe? Was I planning a cameo from the Speccy's most famous hero? Think the end of level baddie here might have been a giant security guard or scientist)

Level Two - Object - Search for Spacecraft with X symbol. Pick the wrong Spacecraft and you'll explode!

Screens = 4
Areas = 3

ALL AREAS ENEMIES = Monkeys, Scientists, Mice (haha!) Astronauts, Venus Flytraps,

(*No idea what the end-of-level-nasty was here??)

Level Three - Object- Fly the ship to Mars just for fun, and collect more fuel.

Screens = 12
Areas = 4

AREA 1 NO ENEMIES = (Just dodge satellites, space stations and other space junk)
AREA 2 ENEMIES = Aliens
AREA 3 ENEMIES = Aliens (Also dodge all obstacles)
AREA 4 ENEMIES = Martians, Robots, Martian Mutts, Flying Bananas, Zombies
END-OF-LEVEL-3-NASTY = The Biggest End Of Level Nasty You've Ever Saw!

Level Four - Object- Fly the ship back to Earth

Screens = 9
Areas = 3

(Repeat of Level 4 except backwards)
(*Dunno how I thought this could be a repeat of level four with less screens and enemies?)

END-OF-LEVEL-4-NASTY = Henry, The Space Policeman

Level Five - Object- You crash land at the North Pole! Start walking home!
Areas = 4
Screens = 10

ALL AREAS ENEMIES = Penguins, Polar Bears, Eskimos and other things
END-OF-LEVEL-5-NASTY = Mummy (Yours that is!)

(* I think the screens were per area, so for instance in the last level there'd be four areas of 10 screens each! Might have been a bit ambitious for a Speccy game, but at this point I probably realised I was never going to actually make any of these and was just giving my imagination a treat!)

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Another thing I found whilst hunting out these game ideas was this list of objects from either a text adventure or a Dizzy-style collect-em-up adventure....no idea what the actual game was, but again the list of objects gives you an idea of the sort of thing it would have turned out to be!


OBJECTS:

A Broadsword
A Long-Barreled Gun
A Box Of Multi-Coloured Farts
A Squashed Hedgehog
A Sticky Bogie
A Chesney Hawkes Album
An Ancient Record Player
A Rope
A Cake
A Harley Davidson
A Petrol Can (Empty)
A Petrol Can (Full)
A Box Of Dynamite
A Detonator
Harley Davidson Ignition Keys
A Fluffy Liccle Bunny Wabbit
A Shotgun
A Pair Of Wirecutters
A Dustbin
A Big Spiky Ball And Chain
A Bottle Of Mrs. Smiths Home Made Soup
A Spare Tyre
A Batch Of Magic Mushrooms 



(*Bizarrely, Chesney Hawkes now currently follows me on Twitter! Yes, the actual one-and-only! No idea why....guess it's just proof of the infinite weirdness of the internet!)
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This last design scrap is the map of the first level of a Rastan style hack-em-up platformer I wanted to make called Purgatory! Rastan was one of my favourite games of all time, so I had big plans for this...

You'd have to fight all the enemies, avoid traps and free prisoners on your quest. A couple of things are missing from the map that I had planned for the level, like a breathing device in the top left of the map so you could go under water to kill the demon boss, and then he'd drop something to let you call down the big flying lizard to take you up to the end of the level..

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So there you have it! I hope you've enjoyed this look at games that never were! I really wish I'd learned at least some sort of machine code or got to grips with a games making utility and actually made some of these! My brother did with games like Zombo and Dead By Dawn!

Anyway, I'm sure I've got more stuff hidden away in a box somewhere, so if I ever get round to finding that, I'll maybe do another post! And if anybody else has stuff like this with games they had planned to make, or can even just remember the ideas, I'd love to hear about those too...so leave a comment here or on the many places I'll probably link to this post from!