CAYNE

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Developer: The Brotherhood | Released: 2017 | Genre: Adventure, Isometric

This was a free expansion to STASIS, or a standalone DLC if you like. It took place in the same universe and had much of the same gameplay, graphics, atmosphere and mechanics. It too had static isometric screens that flipped to the next by the exits. A lot of PDA diaries, a quantum inventory, mostly on my own…

A lot of it was indeed more of the same.

This time I was in control of Hadley, a young woman pregnant in her ninth month, as she woke up in a sinister laboratory. Like in STASIS, I had to find my way around the dilapidated facility with almost no one around. This time I did meet a couple of humans on my way, but mostly I was on my own – except for a dark voice in my head. It didn’t take much pondering to figure out where that voice came from.

While the atmosphere and the story was still good and most of the puzzles were logical, I must say that I didn’t enjoy this one nearly as much as STASIS. It had a big font that looked uninspired, as if it had merely been slapped on in a hurry. A few puzzles also crossed logical boundaries that STASIS for the most part honored. Especially a blueprint puzzle by a locked door was quite the stretch.

STASIS

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Developer: The Brotherhood | Released: 2015 | Genre: Adventure, Isometric

This game had the most excellent sinister atmosphere with a great background soundtrack to go along with it. It reminded me of both SOMA and the old In Cold Blood – both great games to be associated with.

It also felt quite oldskool, like it belonged in the same time period as that latter game. The lovingly detailed isometric screens were static and flipped to the next by the exits. A quantum inventory could be brought up from the bottom left corner, and it even had manual save games. Pointing and clicking was as simple as doing just that. Sometimes I could view a PDA, or a console with a few commands (or a puzzle).

The story took place on a dilapidated spaceship, almost abandoned, with skinned corpses to be found and bloodstains everywhere. You probably know the drill. As the flappable protagonist John, I woke up when a stasis tube broke. I was slow and prone to a cardiac arrest. After getting fixed at a medical bay close by, I could run when double-clicking the exits. John had a wife and a kid. Where were they?

Time to go searching for them.

Lili: Child of Geos

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Developer: BitMonster | Released: 2014 | Genre: RPG, Third Person

This was learning towards being both a kids game as well as tablet first, both of which normally doesn’t sit well with me, but it was so damn cute and charming that I couldn’t help myself completing it anyway.

It also felt very much like a spiritual successor to Zanzarah.

I was in control of a girl with glasses in third person, running around in four areas collecting flowers, kicking vases or chests for coins, unlocking doors with keys bought with flowers, and solving quests. There was also a shop for better equipment and even simple level-up stats. Sometimes a mailman flew down from above and offered a letter for me to read – usually from her dad.

Wolfenstein: The New Order

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Developer: MachineGames | Released: 2014 | Genre: FPS

Late to the party as I pretty much always am these days, I was pleasantly surprised by the “oldskoolness” of this FPS from 2014. It didn’t have the modern nuisances such as only carrying two weapons at a time and no HUD. It leaned more towards the style of yesteryear regarding those things, and I liked that a lot.

There was a prologue in 1946 that lasted more than an hour. Hardcore action hero Blazkowicz was on a war plane dashing for objectives such as putting out fires, dumping cargo, turret shooting, even jumping to another plane in mid-flight. Soon I was on foot dual-wielding rifles against Nazis, mostly on my own but sometimes in a group – like rope climbing a wall with Nazis shooting out of windows.

I never saw a timed task or a dependency, and the Nazis were easy to kill – so far so good.

Composing in SID Factory II, Part 4 – Instruments

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This is part 4 in a series of tutorial blog posts about how to compose a SID tune in SID Factory II. It will be about making instruments, the ADSR, waveforms, and how the wave table works. Click here for part 1.

Composing in SID Factory II, Part 1 – Introduction

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This is part 1 in a series of tutorial blog posts about how to compose a SID tune in SID Factory II. It will be about the music editor of choice and an optional tutorial about hexadecimal numbers.

The only prerequisite is that you’re at least acquainted with the SID chip in the Commodore 64. If you have heard many SID tunes and would now love to try making your own, you’ve come to the right place.

Question: I haven't, but I'm curious. What is a SID chip?

SID is short for Sound Interface Device and is the sound chip inside the Commodore 64 – a home computer that was very popular especially in the 80’s.

SID chip

The SID chip was ahead of its time. Although it only had 3 voices, it offered oscillators of 8 octaves, ADSR, four waveforms, pulse width modulation, multi mode filtering, ring modulation, and hard synchronization. It was like a tiny synthesizer, and you could even make it play digi samples along with the SID voices.

If you’re already familiar with chiptunes, you can think of it as the most advanced of this kind. It can sometimes sound like chiptunes with a little bit of extra effects, at other times surpassing chiptunes with incredible sounds of its own. The limitation of only three voices makes composing for it quite a challenge, but that’s what we SID composers love about it. It’s fun to see how far we can take it.

If you’re new to SID music and would love to listen to a few of these, I recommend visiting my site DeepSID. When you’re there, click the link in the top named RECOMMENDED to see a list of composers, then click one of them. Now click one of the rows in the left side to start listening.

But whether you know what SID music is or you’re new to it, I will try my best to guide you through how to make SID music. There are many music editors for composing SID. Some run directly on the Commodore 64 itself (or at least in a C64 emulator) while others run on your modern computer with the aid of a built-in SID emulator that is very faithful to the original sound.

In this tutorial series, I will be using an editor called SID Factory II. Click the link to download it.

I’m kind of biased here since it’s a music editor a team of three is developing, and I just happen to be one of them. But even if I have to be as objective as possible, it’s still a solid music editor with an abundance of features, and it was created by a legendary C64 composer that started in the 80’s. It doesn’t take up a lot of memory or CPU time – in fact, it has been used for several top notch C64 demos.

So what type of editor is SID Factory II? It’s a cross-platform application that runs directly in Windows, Mac or Linux. To produce the SID sound, it makes use of the renowned reSID emulator. It’s the same emulator that has also been used in several other popular music editors, players and C64 emulators.

It may look intimidating, but it’s a great tool for making SID music. Don’t worry, I’m not going to overwhelm you by going through all of its sections first. I will take it easy and only bring up the new areas as you need to know about it. It’s going to be the equivalent of “Hello, World” – and then I will be going into the more advanced features as the parts go by.

Tutorial: Hexadecimal

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Hexadecimal is a numeral system commonly used by computers. For example, when showing information from its memory in low-level programming languages such as C++ or even assembly language. In other words, whenever you get really close to the metal.

But it’s not just used in programming languages. Some software editors may also visualize all the data in hexadecimal values to present the information. This could be because of displaying a chunk of memory or a hard disk sector, or because you are editing data at a level where it just makes more sense due to the way the individual bits of these numbers are grouped by the hardware registers of a computer.

We humans are used to base 10 numbers. We are so used to it that explaining how to count from 0 to 9 then from 10 to 19 seems so very obvious. But for a computer, base 16 makes a lot more sense. Here you are counting from 0 to 9, continuing with A to F for values 10 to 15, then only bumping to 10 at that point. At this point, 10 means 16. It can be confusing, so low-level programmers added a designation to clearly differentiate hexadecimal from decimal. This can vary depending on the language and the origin. In old home computers, hexadecimal 10 is typically shown as $10. In C and C++, it is shown as 0x10.

But why does it make sense to use base 16 instead of base 10?

You Do Not Talk About SID Club

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Having been part of the big demo scene on the Commodore 64 in the 80’s, coding a popular music editor and making music on it, I’ve been entangled in this hobby for years before taking a break for decades and then returning to make both more music as well as a web site to play SID music.

Craving to keep myself updated on this very specific hobby, I’ve been scouring through lots of web sites, editors, players and social media every day to find interesting news, and some of this has even been used to good effect at my site. At one point I even considered adding a WordPress blog to this site with SID news presented as blog posts – and maybe even allow guest posts for other SID aficionados to write.

But as the years went by since my comeback, I have been repeatedly disappointed by the lack of buzz going on in this area. Considering how many really skilled composers there are hacking away at the SID chip these days, it’s astounding how little they actually talk about it.

In fact, it’s a tendency that eventually caused me to kill my WordPress plans entirely.