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Jun 12th, 2023

I just can't get enough of these simple games, created by just an Average Joe, plunking away on his C64 in his basement or bedroom. I don't know what it is about those simple, rudimentary games you typically find published in magazines and on those monthly disk mags; but I enjoy them to bits. Many of them can be difficult to play, simply because of broken or slow controls. Or, the code is typically not as efficient as it could be; espcially when programmed in BASIC 2.0.

But this doesn't really matter to me. In fact, in many of the cases, it just adds even more amusement to the game for me to enjoy. I really can't pin point as to why I find these sort of games so amusing. Maybe it's the feeling of having a closer connection to the individual who wrote the game. Usually these sort of games are created by just one person, who probably isn't someone you would consider to be a “professional” game developer. But, rather, it is just an ordinary person who had an idea for a video game, who decided to sit down at his C64 or C128 and bash out some code. This is what made the early days of home computing such an amazing phenomena, at least to me.

You've got everything you need, in your 64 or 128, to make just about anything you can dream up. And to sit there and play these simple, but (for the most part) very unique games, created by a regular guy is just a fun thing for me to do. It find it even more enjoyable when the author chose to program his game in BASIC. Not only does this make the experience even more personal, but I might actually even learn something from it. They didn't use special editors on more advanced systems, or “construction kits” like they do today. It was just a guy with his 64 and 1541; which is why I guess I consider them so special.

It's also why publications like Loadstar and Uptime were so important. They provided the ability for these “basement” game makers and application writers to connect with the C64 user base, along with the potential of making a bit of money from their creation. Let's not forget, there was no Internet through which to share your games back then. Not everyone had the resources to produce and distribute their own floppy disk packages to the mass market. But Loadstar and Uptime filled that gap and helped the home programmer prosper, which allowed some really great software get into the hands of eager C64 and C128 owners. The other thing that set these disk magazines apart from regular retail game publishers is their determination NOT to use copy protection. Readers were encouraged to examine and learn from the code that went into the programs they published. For some of their programs, they even encouraged people to improve upon them and resubmit their results for publication.

Anyway, here are two of those kind of games I have enjoyed, from the disk mag “Up Time”. They are, “Rocket Man” and “Neutron Man”. Now, neither of these games would have won many awards. However, when I compare them to some of the games I've seen published by the likes of Mastertronic, I'd have to say I enjoy these more than something like their game “Magic Carpet”.

UpTime Volume #2, Issue #6, "Rocket Man"

Rocket Man.d64

Written by Mark Pakerski, in 1988.

It's a simple Scramble clone with bit of a twist; you can only fire one missile at a time and, when you push left on the joystick, you halt your advancement on the screen. So, if you wish to hang back and clear up the baddies on the screen, without just flying by them, you can do so. The real challenge to the game is the one missile at a time limitation. If you miss your target, you must wait until your missile travels across the screen before firing again. Oh, and you only get one ship.

It's not a very complicated game, but not so bad I guess for being published on a disk mag. I found the short launch sequence of your ship when you launch amusing.

UpTime Volume #2, Issue #7, "Neutron Man"

Neutron Man.d64

Written by J.C. Hilty, in 1988.

This game was a bit of a surprise in regards the approach the creator chose to develop it. Fundamentally, it's a multi-stage, multi-load game written in BASIC, with some hi-res graphics interlude screens used between each of the levels.

The game-play is pretty much the same between levels: avoid the aliens and their projectiles, while firing energy bolts to destroy the aliens. The difference between each of the three levels is pretty much just the direction you're flying/facing.

Because it's BASIC, the joystick controls are hampered and slow to respond. Movements are somewhat slow and jerky, too. But, even with all of this taken into consideration, I still found the game more engaging than games like Magic Carpet, The Last V8, or 1985: The Day After.

This sort of game isn't for everyone and it's not very technically advanced, when compared to what can be achieved on the system today. But, what amazes me is that it is something achievable (and playable) for someone with just a C64 and a floppy disk drive, and the creativity to sit down and make it. I think that kind of freedom to create is wonderful. This really was the grassroots of what they consider today as “indie publishing”.

Composed with ArcheType on my C128

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blog/2023-06-12.txt · Last modified: 2024/03/09 22:05 by David