April 26, 2017

A new Speccy is coming! The "ZX Spectrum Next" is live on Kickstarter


The ZX Spectrum reborn: a new machine, fully compatible with the original computer, and packed with improvements and expansions.

That's right folks! A brand new ZX Spectrum called the "Next" is coming in early 2018. I would assume most people that are interested in this system are already aware of this project and the Kickstarter, but I'm excited to be getting one and thought I'd share the links to help promote this awesome new Speccy.

Keyboard/Case design by the legendary Rick Dickinson

The project goal was successfully funded in less than 48 hours(which is amazing and awesome!), so it's a go from this point forward. I have been keeping my eye on the project the past year and am very excited to see it coming along so nicely.

"And it also does extra good: part of all revenue generated by the project, in perpetuity, will go straight to the Royal National Institute of the Blind. We owe big thanks to the Amstrad / Sinclair brand holders who granted us the right to use their IP in exchange to this donation for one of the greatest charities around."

 I think that's great too! If you're interested, please check out the links and read up on this amazing new system.

Cheers!

LINKS:

Project Website
Facebook Group
Kickstarter


February 21, 2017

Diamonds in the Rough: Random Atari 8-Bit DIY carts


I considered throwing these in with the Lost Gems posts, but really... They're more like Diamonds in the Rough! I'll explain a bit further down.

Most of the projects I have gotten myself into the past few months have been cartridges, as I've mentioned in the last couple of posts. This time I'll showcase a few Atari 8-Bit carts I've made recently.

For Sinistar & Space Dungeon, I used Maxflash 1mbit flash cartridges. If you buy 5, they're only $20 each, which I feel is very fair for the capability these carts offer. Both games are too large for the 8KB/16KB Pixels Past circuit boards and the Maxflash Studio Software allows users to bypass the multicart menu option and load single roms directly. I just really love that feature for one-off carts that I enjoy making for myself and they handle a nice variety of file types as well, it seems. Both games play great using these flash cartridges.

Sinistar has been a lot of fun, but it's not super polished. You can read a nice write-up over at AtariProtos, which goes into detail on this A8 version. I did use a fixed AI rom that was posted at the AtariAge forums and felt like the AI was challenging enough to keep me on my toes. My thanks to the guys who did that. Also, I absolutely love old console games that are Voice-Enhanced! Beware I Live! Super awesome!


Space Dungeon is an Atari 8-Bit conversion of the 5200 game, that was done by the famous " Glenn the 5200 Man" years ago.

Space Dungeon
I really wanted this on the A8 and was determined to have a cart for myself, lol. It's pretty fun, but the controls are a bit funky, since the original 5200 version was designed for a pair of 5200 controllers that would mimic the arcade controls using one stick for ship control and the other for firing. In this conversion, each time you fire, it pauses the ship, which adds extra challenge to an already difficult game. Other than that, I'm still really happy to have it in the collection now and it's been fun to play.


Ahh... Montezuma's Revenge. The game I wanted so very badly in the 80's and could never find! When I finally got a copy years later, it was for the Colecovision and I was really disappointed with how difficult it is. I mean... Seriously, it's crazy hard. After learning this, I started looking at the other available versions and pretty much stopped at the Atari 8-Bit version. It looked graphically in-league with the Colecovision port, but was only released on diskette. I don't have any problems playing diskette based games, but prefer cartridges most of the time, if they're available. Well, during my search for unreleased cartridge games, I found a version that was never released for the A8 and decided to make myself a cartridge of it. It's a 16KB file, so I was able to use a dedicated Pixels Past PCB and it works great! My first impressions on this version was "Wow! It's a lot easier! and about half the speed of the CV version!". I can actually get decently far along in this version. I haven't finished it yet, but it fits my play style a lot better than the Colecovision port. They did have to cut some extra things from the disk version to fit the 16KB cart, such as the intro screen, etc. Again, a nice write-up can be read over at AtariProtos for this game.

Montezuma's Revenge
Finally, we arrive at Satan's Hollow. A much deserved port for the Atari 8-Bit. I don't know much on the history of this version, other than it was unreleased and I wanted to play it on my 800XL! It's a pretty solid version really. I'm sure this could have sold some copies, so I can't help but wonder if the marketing over at Atari decided it had a bit too much evil for parents in the 80's or something, lol. It has difficulty selection, some nice sounds and explosion effects and so far has run without a hitch for me. It's not as nice looking as the released Commodore 64 disk version, but for a 16KB cart, I'd say it's pretty dang slick!



Well, there ya have it folks. Some fun Atari 8-Bit carts that never were. I hope you enjoy and check them out. If you're interested in making any of these yourselves and need some help, let me know. Always happy to help fellow gaming hobbyists!

I think I still have some carts for other systems I might be posting about in the future and I am also looking into PCB design currently, so hopefully in the not-so-distant future, I'll be extending my cart making to other realms.

Until then, thanks for stopping in! Cheers

December 31, 2016

Lost Gems: "Frantic" for Colecovision

Now that the holidays are almost over and Christmas has come and gone, I feel like I can share a project I've been keeping under wraps for a couple of months.


Several years ago, Scott Huggins and Joseph Kollar teamed up to create a game called Frantic for the Colecovision. Loosely based on the Berzerk sequel Frenzy, Scott and Joe hoped to create somewhat of a Super Frenzy for the Colecovision. Adding in things like rescuing hostages, zapping laser turrets, power-ups and a cool communicator sequence between levels. All the while maintaining the spirit of its predecessors.


"THE STORY

5 words took 240 hours to travel across space. "Landing party captured on Mazeon" was all it said but it only took 5 hours for the mission to get started. This was the third Interstellar Organization ship to go to Mazeon to try and establish an embassy with the Automazeons but it seems to have suffered the same fate as the first two. Capture and imprisonment at the hands of the Automazeon robots called Eviscerators.

Based upon your skill and rank you've been picked to lead the rescue mission in prison complex Rallok 96. You're equipped with a hand laser and teleportation tags for the prisoners. Blast open the prisoner cells and tag the prisoners to immediately teleport them to the rescue ship in orbit around Mazeon. There are 25 rooms spread out over 5 levels in Rallok 96 and you'll need to get all 3 keys to exit a room after saving the prisoners. You can leave prisoners behind but you'll be sacrificing them to the Eviscerators. There are five generations of Eviscerators guarding Rallock 96 on the various levels. The IO recuse ship will communicate with you between levels regarding your progress."
- Scott Huggins


I really enjoy Frenzy as most of my friends know, so I was of course interested in this as soon as I had learned about it. I did all the reading I could on its development and to my dismay, eventually learning of its abandonment. I couldn't imagine living without this on cartridge after knowing about its existence. I asked around, but finally gave up hope on seeing it released.

I guess the guys just got busy with life and had to let the project slide. Time passed and a little progress would be made, but finally, development came to a halt. I'm sure lots of us have been in a similar situation at some point in our lives. I know I have. In fact, it's taken me maybe 20 years to finally have the means and know-how to begin making myself and others game cartridges.


Well, now that I'm more confident in my creations, I decided it was probably time to tackle making Frantic into a physical cartridge. I had boards fabricated by Elecrow, received the clear shells from TeamPixelboy and decided to top it all off with laser printed clear labels.

I created 4.5 of these cartridges(yes, one copy is still sitting on the bench!). I gave copies to my two friends Mike and Tom and a copy to Mr. Scott Huggins. This coincided with the holidays encroaching, so I chose to give Tom and Mike their copies for Christmas. I love giving surprise gifts out of nowhere, so it was really fun for me hearing the responses I received.

As far as the game being "unfinished", well... I have spotted a couple of small graphic glitches, but haven't gotten far enough to know if you can complete all 25 rooms in this version of the ROM. I believe you can and it also feels complete enough for me to really enjoy playing it.

The game is really fun and it's an interesting take on the Berzerk/Frenzy franchise. Frantic totally deserves to be finished and given an official commercial release.

So far, I have gotten to I believe the 7th or 8th room. I find it very challenging, but Scott assured me it's not that difficult, once you learn how to use the power-ups to their maximum potential. I'm not all that great at Berzerk and Frenzy, so it's not too surprising! I will fight on!


I think most people that tried this game out, most likely used an emulator or Atarimax Ultimate SD Cart, but that wouldn't do for me. I needed to give this game a proper place in my gaming library, thus the need for the cart.

I am very thankful to everyone above and everyone that helped me out in some way or another in this endeavor. It's great I was able to get into contact with both Joe and Scott. Being able to give Scott his own cartridge was a good feeling. I really believe it's important to show gratitude in this life and although Joe politely refused his copy, it's nice to know he is aware of my appreciation.

And not to toot my own horn, but before anyone sends me an email asking if this cart is available for purchase, sadly the answer will be no. I have no plan to sell any copies of these, unless I get an email from the Scott and Joe saying they'd like to see that happen. My suggestion, if you're interested in a copy for yourself is either making your own or figuring out some way to finally get this finished and given an official commercial release.

The original thread on AtariAge can be read here and it should have everything you need to get going.

Take some time to check it out! Happy Holidays!

Cheers

Besides handling the game graphics and level designs, Joseph Kollar also designed a box cover.