8bitocket Diatribe July 8, 2008

iWoz never an Apple Fanboy
Back in the 80’s I was an Atari fan boy. The 2600 was the first video game system that Steve and I would kill for, and to this day I still play my Atari ST and 800 favorites via emulation. That being said, I always had an appreciation for other machines, especially the Amiga and the Apple IIe. The Amiga was designed by Jay Miner, the same person who designed the before its time Atari 800. The Apple II and Apple IIe were the first computers that I ever programmed on and they essentially started the home computer craze (in the USA). I had read some pretty interesting accounts of the 70’s home and hobby PC revolution in Hackers and various other books, but I never read a first hand account as fascinating as Steve Wozniak’s “iWoz – Computer Geek to Cult Icon”. I finished up that book this weekend, and I recommend it to anyone who is trying to create their own “magic” outside of the corporate realm. That’s pretty much all of us indie Flash developers.

Over the course of a 15 year career mired in corporate I.T., Web, game, and application design and development, I can wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Wozniak when he writes things such as, “If you don’t enjoy working on stuff for yourself – with your own money and your won resources, after work if you have to – then you definitely shouldn’t be doing it!“. I certainly enjoy creating my own things. Obvious to me is the fact that while Mr. Wozniak was simply a genius, I just want to make cool games (albeit in my own way). I don’t think my Flash games, rendering engines, etc will ever be confused with the type of magic that Steve was able to create in the 70’s. That’s not my point though, and neither is his. He had to work a day job to pay for his existence while he designed away at home on things like the Apple I, Apple II, and the first universal remote control. That’s pretty much that same situation for most of us. Note: I should point out that one of the first things Mr. Wozniak did when he finished building his Apple I was write a version of breakout to play on it!

One other fascinating insight from this book is the simple fact that Steve Wozniak was unable to design anything truly great (aside from the US Festivals and the afore mentioned universal remote) after Apple was turned into a Marketing company from a engineer centric firm. The exact same thing happened to Atari and HP. In the early days of all three, when the engineers were give then time to do R&D and innovate, the companies not only thrived, but created revolutionary products. When marketing took over they suffocated under its weight. (Apple III anyone?). I see the same thing happening at my day job and it kills me that engineering innovation is constantly trumped by market research, focus groups and designs by committee. It is Steve’s other favorite quote of mine that I will leave this subject with. It pretty much explains it all, “You’re going to be best able to design revolutionary products and features if you are working on your own. Not on a committee. No on a team. That means you’re going to have to do what I did. Do your projects as moonlighting with limited money and limited resources.

Steal This Game
With Flash games becoming more of a business everyday, and with individual developers just barely finding ways to squeak out a living, it is disconcerting to see that games are being stolen in brand new ways. In the 80’s, piracy of software (especially games) was considered the single greatest obstacle to the existence of home computers. Almost every failed computer from that era was blamed on software piracy for one reason or another. Those years are very similar to today’s Flash game market. In those 80’s, developers who could not make back their money on sales to stores and individuals had to quit their dream and move on to a REAL job. Computers without a selection of fresh, new games and applications faded in hardware sales, and then faded away completely. What’s funny about the new types of theft is that the games themselves are being GIVEN AWAY FOR FREE to the end users. It is the middle men and grifters, not the game loving pirates, who are stealing the games. Recently, two very interesting examples have cropped up.

First was the case of the www.gamingyourway.com‘s Law Of The West game being stolen by a site. The game sponsorship and Gamingyourway.com logo and click-through’s were in the original version. The game was available to ANY site for FREE as long as those two links stayed in place. I guess that was just too much for some idiot as the game was de-compiled, somehow DE-OBFUSICATED and put up on at least one site with the links and logos removed. nGFX and Squize are not just sitting around crying about it as they are investigating and creating new methods to protect their future games from this behavior. I encourage everyone to visit their site, read about the situation an lend a hand if you can (help test the SICO code, give ideas, etc).

The other even more blatant example of stealing is the case of Ringmania. It was literally ripped from the pepere.com site and placed on Mochiads. The game was updated somewhat by the thief, and actually won a Mochiads game of the week contest! I guess you shouldn’t steal and try to get away with it by putting in a place where it might win a contest because that is what alerted the original author to the theft! The real author, sietjp, has been compensated by Mochi, and to their credit, they have done everything in their power to right the situation. They have even targeted the copy with a pre-roll ad that gives seitjp full credit. That way, if rogue versions exist, they will be “tainted” with credit to the real author. How someone thought he could get away with something like this is amazing to me. These stories seem to be happening more and more often these days, and the developer community is starting to use new methods to protect themselves. Both Mochi and Gamejacket offer some level of protection against theft, but nothing seems to be stopping some of these guys.

Space Invaders Extreme DS

I helped Steve move this weekend and for my trouble he bought me a copy of Space Invaders Extreme for the DS. “Wow” is all I can say. I have never played a better retro evolved remake on any platform. I haven’t even had time to read the instructions, so I don’t know exactly what is going on but it sure is a wild-ass ride. It combines the best of many different retro games (Galaga, Galaxian, Pleides, Phoenix and more) and I have only been able to get by the first level so far. I highly recommend it to anyone who likes action/arcade games on the DS.

Unneeded Galaxy Coverage
What the F**K happened in the first half Friday night? The entire team seem to be thinking about finding seats for the post-game fireworks show and forgot to mentally tie themselves into the game happening on the field. The defense is an absolute joke. Able Xavier should have retired long ago, and there is no stopper in the central midfield. There are people out there who hate Pete Vagenas, but shit, he is much better in that position that Pires. What happened to Brandon McDonald? When they were winning, he was in the mix. Now that they are losing, he is absent? The second half was much better, but it turned out to be too little too late. I’m not quite sure how they prepare for these games, but whatever they did was not enough to beat Steve Nichols’ boys. The Galaxy is tied for first place in the west with the Chivas, but can you believe that if they lose in the Superclasico this Thursday, they have a chance to be SECOND TO LAST after the weekend is over. It’s time to package up Carlos Ruiz and trade him for an entire back line.

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