Posts Tagged ‘old-school gaming’

Sega Nomad Battery Mod

April 18th, 2013

A little over a year ago, I picked up a Sega Nomad on craigslist for $10. In case you’ve never heard of it, the Sega Nomad is a handheld system that plays full-size Genesis cartridges. They are semi-rare and I was lucky to find one so cheap. Next, I bought an NOS battery pack for it on ebay. I couldn’t wait to play Genesis games on the go.

Unfortunately, the battery pack was DOA. After doing a little research on the world wide interwebs, I found that all of the battery packs for this system are DOA because the Ni-Cd rechargable batteries inside just don’t hold up for over 15 years.

During my research, I came across a YouTube video that suggested a battery pack mod which would bring it back to life. I am the proud owner of a soldering iron and a foolish level of self-confidence, so I figured I might as well give it a try. After all, I took an Electronics class in high school. What could go wrong? Here’s a video of the result:

As you can see, it actually works like a charm! I used the same battery pack as the original youtube modder, a Sony NP-F550 and a cheapo charger, both of which can be purchased on Amazon for very little money. A fairly simple mod for anyone willing to risk $25.

Creating Bouncing Babies for iOS – Game Design Analysis

April 15th, 2013

Another post in my iOS game development series

Before I try to recreate Bouncing Babies for iOS, I thought I should take the time to do an analysis of the gameplay. This could prevent some wasted time during development.

First, I want to point out that the original game fits the definition of a Classic Arcade Game:

  • Single Screen Play
  • Infinite Play
  • Multiple Lives
  • Scoring and High scores
  • Easy-to-learn, simple gameplay
  • No story

The original game was shareware back in the DOS days (pre-Windows). I knew that the game didn’t use a physics engine (not even remotely possible with the computing power back then), but I wanted to get a good look at how it worked, so I pinched a gameplay video from YouTube and combined all of the possible frames into a single image:

bouncing babies game design analysis

The image shows all of the possible positions for the babies and the player firefighters. Note how the babies can actually occupy only a handful of positions. Even when you have multiple babies on screen at the same time, they can only be in these distinct positions. The speed of the babies can be slowed down by simply repeating frames.

The gameplay is simple. You control a pair of firefighters who must bounce the babies to safety. As you can see in the image above, the firefighters have only 3 distinct positions. There are 2 control schemes:

  • the left and right arrow keys.
  • the 1, 2, and 3 keys.

Either way, I thought it would be an ideal game for converting to touchscreen control. The firefighters respond to the controls with no latency – as soon as you hit the key control, your players jump to the corresponding position. This seems obvious, but note that it is unlike breakout or pong, where the player can place their paddle in almost any position and the challenge is getting to the correct spot in time. Bouncing Babies is much simpler. The challenge is simply to hit the correct key at the correct time.

Here is another image showing the positions of the babies when they hit the ground:

bouncing babies game design analysis 2

There is no collision detection system in the game. As you can see from the second image, when a baby reached the low point of it’s bounce, the player firefighters had to be in place to bounce it. If not, the baby went splat. Again, the game is all about timing. When the baby was just about to hit the ground, the game checked if the player was in place to bounce it. If yes, bounce the baby. If no, the baby hits the ground.

One interesting thing I noted when I created the images above – the third bounce arc is smaller than the second. It doesn’t just look smaller – there are fewer baby positions in the third arc than the second. This means that it takes less time for the baby to fly through the third arc. This makes the timing more complex than it would be if the second and third arc were identical.

I’ll be making some tweaks to the game design, but I don’t plan to make any changes to the actual gameplay – just the way that the code works. Stay tuned for more.

Don’t forget, you can follow my agonizingly slow progress on the github repo:
I’ve added the images from this post to the SOURCE folder in the repository.

Creating a simple iOS game – Bouncing Babies

March 14th, 2013

The first post in my iOS game development series

I like to create games that use interesting gameplay mechanics – things I’ve never seen before, or an interesting twist on a classic game. The problem is that new mechanics are difficult to code. If you want to make something standard, like a Super Mario clone, it’s easy to find a game engine that will do most of the work for you. But new mechanics often require modifying a game engine, or even creating one from scratch. This can be time consuming and frustrating.

I’ve been working on a conceptual game prototype for a while now and it has me pulling my hair out at the moment. To make matters worse, this is a “stripped down” version of a larger game that I want to create. I thought this light version of my concept would be easier to code, but it has turned out to be pretty complex too.

In the meantime, I’m interested in creating a game for iOS. So, I’ve decided to create a very simple game from scratch and blog about the entire process. I’ve never created anything for iOS, so I will have a lot to learn. I also plan to post all of my progress publicly on github, so anyone who wants to follow along can pull my code and see what I’m doing. Since this is a learning process, there will likely be a lot of bad code and blind alleys. And since I have a day job and a family, progress is likely to be slow.

With these constraints in mind, I’ve decided not to design my own game entirely from scratch because I will inevitably add some seemingly simple gameplay element that will derail the entire process. Instead, I’ve decided to remake a classic DOS game from back in the day…

Bouncing Babies was a deceptively simple arcade game that I used to play on my first PC – a Tandy 1000 (yes, I’m old). Here’s a video of the game:

Like all classic action arcade games, the gameplay is simple, but it’s surprisingly addictive. It was one of my favorite games when I was a kid and there are few good remakes of it. Considering my time constraints, this is a project that I might actually be able to finish in a reasonable time period. Additionally, the game code shouldn’t be too complex, so development shouldn’t require any weird hackery (famous last words). I can still do a full redesign of the graphics and animation, but the gameplay will be the same.

So, stay tuned for more updates as I dive into this. This whole project may go down in flames, but I promise it will be an interesting ride.

Here’s a link to the github repo I will be using:

Emulators Are For Chumps

February 13th, 2013

I have a lot of old-school game consoles and I wanted a way to keep them hooked up at all times without having them take up too much space. This my solution. Check out the video below for a look at my new gaming cabinet: