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volume 1, issue 24

Today in loonygames:

New!! The Archives have been cleaned up, fead links fixed, and printable versions restored! Also, don't miss the new comments on the front page!

Livin' With The Sims: theAntiELVIS explores the wild and wacky world that is Will Wright's The Sims, asking the inevitable quesiton, "is The Sims the first step toward a virtual life where everyone is Swedish?"

Pixel Obscura: Josh Vasquez on Omikron: The Nomad Soul.

Real Life: Check out our newest comic strip, Real Life! Updated daily!

User Friendly: Updated daily!

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Mechanical Evolution (part 1): Part one of Matt Gilbert's look at next-generation console programming.

T-Shirts: Stylin' loonygames t-shirts from Berda Compugrafix!

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Pixel Obscura: Josh Vasquez's regular look at the convergence of film and videogames.

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Behind the Curtain:
Mechanical Evolution (part 2)

 

 

 

 

 

By Matt "Thraka" Gilbert

"Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!"
The Wizard, The Wizard of Oz

  see itís crunch mode time for a lot of the regulars here. I just came up for air from my own dose, though no doubt Iíll be back in the thick of it soon enough.

Iíve been following the emulation mania lately, and I must say, I dig it. I donít condone the piracy aspect, mind you, but there are a number of really cool possibilities that occur to me, not the least of which is the possible revival of very old games. Newcomers may scoff, but oh, man, how I would love to be able to crank up M.U.L.E. again, just for nostalgia. Hereís hoping the legal shitheads donít wreck this opportunity for us all to revel in our heritage. And, hey, lest I give the impression I think making a buck in this business is somehow immoral, itís not like that. Iíll drop ten bucks for some of the old classics, for sure. But the problem now is that, due to legalistic bullshit, I cannot legally get much of this stuff at all. Where do you go to buy games made for the C-64?

Oh, man, I can feel a rant coming on, so Iíll save it for next issue and give it a full treatement. Iíll leave it at this for right now.

Here is a special request, for any of you who are deep into the emulation thing. I did a game for the Genesis called Scooby Doo a few years back, and I would really like to be able to break it out once in a while and show it to people. Problem is that I have only the one copy, shrink wrapped, and I am loath to rip into it, and I donít have a Genesis anymore, anyway. If anyone knows how I might get an emulator and a copy of the ROM, I would be in your debt.

Mechanical Evolution, Part II

So, your next generation console product finally shipped, youíre back from Vegas, and itís time to get back to work. What next?

Obviously, you have a certain investment in the console you already know. You have a pretty good idea of its capabilities; you know which animals or congresspeople need to be sacrificed to the machine to achieve the desired results. And, of course, you realize there is still untapped potential lurking within that silicon. You know where you took shortcuts to make things work within the often crushing limits of the schedule. You know there are graphics modes that have yet to be explored.

If you were smart and thought ahead, you have in hand a working skeleton for your console at this point. You have standard initialization routines to boot the machine, initialize various hardware and interrupts, set some sane values in i/o devices, and pass over control to a main game loop. Your old graphics engine is probably going to be overhauled, so, while you have display routines, you also have some ideas on how to do things better this time. The bar is a little higher for this project, for any number of reasons: developer A did something you didnít think of, so it will be expected of you, this time; the end user has already seen the old stuff and wants something more whiz; and, frankly, youíre better at your job this time around. The time you spent reading through arcane tomes learning about the newborn console will now be available for refining your methods, experimenting with new techniques, etc. This is, frankly, as close as you get to the PC programmer, who has the wealth of years of experience with his machine to draw upon. So you only have a couple of years to compare; oh, well, the PC programmer has his own special heap of misery to wallow in: yours happens to be the ephemeral nature of your platform. That being said, the task is not all that different from what you did last time.

Suppose, however, you just dropped into this scene? Maybe you were programming the PC, or some competing console. Whatever the case, your life just got a lot tougher, for obvious reasons: youíre now competing against a field of developers who have, relatively, a huge edge over you. Well, hey, who said this life was easy, bro? If you have a pet, get someone to drop by and feed him once in a while; youíre going to be otherwise occupied. If you have a spouse, I hope your relationship is a good one, because the hours will put a strain on it.

My friend Shawn, who is just starting work on the N64, put it rather succinctly: "When you come in early, you canít wait to get your hands on it. When you come in late, you just want to get the hell away from it."

Coming in cold to a late stage console project is a bit like starting a calculus course mid term. You know that people are getting the answers somehow, but you missed the classes where they learned the foundation for the work they are doing now. You have few choices here: you hit the books, and, if youíre lucky, you have a coworker with some experience to guide you through the rough spots. If not, thereís always Developer Technical Support.

 

(Continued on next page)

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Credits: Beaker's Bent logo illustrated by and is © 1999 Dan Zalkus. Behind the Curatain is © 1999 Matt Gilbert. All other content is © 1999 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited, so don't do it. And ignore the man behind the curtain. He's just got a shotgun aimed at your head...nothing to get alarmed about.