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Three concepts from 1993 that didn’t get any further than Amiga/PC Deluxe Paint

Handemonium's at the top. I can’t remember what the deal was here. I think the hands were controlled with keyboard/joystick and ran and jumped around like spiders; a button closed the hand, which’d be used to grab things. Not sure if the gloves were purely attire or conveyed some powers. There was also hand-to-hand combat (aha).

Next is My Pet People, a sadistic twist on Activision’s Little Computer People. The idea was to look after these little people in a simple town-like setting and generally be unpleasant towards them. The black creature is a ferocious rat-like animal. The line of people along the bottom are caricatures of friends and colleagues at the time (I think I was intending to use them instead). I can see Andrew Wright, Gary Whitta and Stuart Campbell but I can’t remember anyone else.

The untitled project at the bottom used the (now mouse-controlled) hands as a means of playing with the pet people. You could also use special objects like balls, strings, spray cans, matches, etc.



I’m not too sure where I’m going with this yet (and I know the colours are a little gaudy), but I guess I was feeling a little sad about Brandon a few weeks ago and I wanted to do something for him and something gamey made the most sense, so I started doodling a sprite in my classic chunky pixel style and was quite pleased by how ‘Brandon’ it felt given the resolution, but it also had a kinda, I dunno, Chuck Norris vibe and got me thinking about Datasoft’s Bruce Lee and that led to me adding a few actions like running, jumping crouching, punching, flying kick, crawling and so on, and then some things to fight, like a zombie, a mummy, a werewolf, a clown, the grim reaper and Michael Gove; then I though Brandon might find a lost dog who’d, like, become his sidekick and sense danger and smell out and dig up hidden stuff and fetch sticks and be guided around and… Yeah.

I’m not too sure where I’m going with this yet (and I know the colours are a little gaudy), but I guess I was feeling a little sad about Brandon a few weeks ago and I wanted to do something for him and something gamey made the most sense, so I started doodling a sprite in my classic chunky pixel style and was quite pleased by how ‘Brandon’ it felt given the resolution, but it also had a kinda, I dunno, Chuck Norris vibe and got me thinking about Datasoft’s Bruce Lee and that led to me adding a few actions like running, jumping crouching, punching, flying kick, crawling and so on, and then some things to fight, like a zombie, a mummy, a werewolf, a clown, the grim reaper and Michael Gove; then I though Brandon might find a lost dog who’d, like, become his sidekick and sense danger and smell out and dig up hidden stuff and fetch sticks and be guided around and… Yeah.


History in the Making

Arcade archeologists assemble! Download these rose-tinted simulations of 1970’s technology for FREE right now on Android and PC…

FROM the same vintage vault as the classic Juggle! comes not one but eight new digital gaming artefacts, recently uncovered and dusted up with a view to perpetuating false memory syndrome in retronauts.

Introducing the Gazmo IV Classiques: two early TV game systems that never were, each featuring four games never released in the early 1970s. Accurately simulated, warts and all, in glorious Monochromatique CRTVision, you can at last enjoy these new old games only now revealed in all their fictitious reality.

The Gazmo IV consoles. The switches and buttons used to select games and options all have a lovely, satisfying tactility to them. A distinctive CRT hum and buzz are heard when you engage the power switch.

My intention here was to stick closely to the representation and limitations of Pong and its ilk to create similar games that I don’t recall existing back in the day. They are meant to be ‘of their time’, which means simple and shallow, rough and tough; part of a fictitious console with appropriate options, so don’t expect any fancy-schmancy Achievements and Leaderboards either, oh no; those you have to track yourself.

These ‘alternate realities’ aren’t precision simulations - more affectionate retro-reconstructions. The games, for example, use arcade proportions rather than the more pertinent ‘home’ ones (most are uprights, which wasn’t so viable with the family TV). I added some screen curvature, scanlines (thanks, MAME), glows, trails, burn-in and a vertical hold effect for good measure, partly for feel but also to fill the otherwise empty space. (I did think about adding the burn-in to more accurately reflect usage, but decided that’d be too subtle.)

Two of the Gazmo games: Balldog and Dodger.

The Gazmo IV Classiques were made more with touchscreens in mind, specifically Android because it’s far more convenient than iOS. That said, there are also perfectly playable PC versions if you don’t have access to Android devices or the wherewithal or whatever to install APKs.

Here’s that link to the APKs and EXEs in case you skipped it earlier…

You can find out more about controls and options below, along with ‘behind the scenes’ deets.

A page from the Gazmo IV instruction manual outlines the available games.

This page from the Gazmo IV 2.0 instruction manual summarises its games.

Only two inputs are simulated: an analogue dial for movement and a digital button for serving and so on. I tried building them into the console but preferred the look of the central speaker, so instead I have a separate controller.

To use the consoles and play the games, use strokes and taps on the Android devices and, on PC, a mouse and its left-hand button.

The Gazmo IV controller.

As was the norm for these vintage consoles, option switches are in evidence.
  • SPEED affects the speed of the ball in each game.
  • BAT doubles the size of the small bat (from the default Pong arcade proportions).
  • BALL doubles the size of the small ball (from the default Pong arcade proportions).
  • MODE switches between two variations of each game.
Choose a game by pressing the relevant button at the bottom. Start a game by pressing the START button. BUT make sure the power’s on first!

To return to the console from play, tap anywhere at the top of the screen - well, in everything except Rally and Slalom on Android, which are slightly different because I tend to play with the tablet turned sideways and inadvertently touch that area to quit, so instead you need to swipe (either way along the length of the tablet) long enough to return to the console (there is a subtle colour warning in case you make a mistake and want to change your mind). I may yet change this to a ‘pinch back’ action throughout.

I found the best way to play is with friends and family, like we used to do around the telly all those years ago (only here taking turns to top each other’s scores rather than then competing head-to-head).

A Brief History of Revisionism
I first got the bug for making fake history back in the ‘90s. It was around the time I’d had enough of the overwhelming industry clamour for realism and bloat that started with the 16-bit machines and exploded with PC CD-ROM. I started to look back to basics to scratch my itches.

My combined disinterest and re-interest, suffused with a curiosity as to what make games tick, led to an obsession with minimalism. What was the simplest possible game? The smallest? The game with the fewest toys? The fewest rules? The least complex interface? And so on.

So I got busy and made up, like, a squillion different prototypes: one-button games; one-dimensional games; games using a single toy and no playscape; games using a single pixel… Some with more success than others. OK, few with more success…

There’s something so satisfying about working within such limitations. I had grand delusions of using reductionism to help identify the gaming equivalent of chords or mother sauces or basic ballet positions - practical repertoire rather than theory or rhetoric.

That led to the (still incomplete) Pong 101: a hundred-and-one distinctive variations of Pong (within reasonably appropriate constraints). The thinking here was to study the effects of (mostly) minor but always fundamental changes on a simple toy and rule set.

(I’m also intrigued by Ralph Baer’s ‘Chase Game’ or Fox and Hounds, but there only seems to be limited and conflicting information available.)

My self-imposed rules for making the Gazmo games include:
  • Keep game and product depth, structure and ceremonies to a bare minimum.
  • Screen proportions: 353 x 245 pixels (I think I got that from an old Pong simulator).
  • No object smaller than an 4 x 4 pixels. (But I ended up doubling everything.)
  • Everything rectangular.
  • Toy set comprises no more than bat, ball, brick and plausible equivalents.
  • Keep toy performances simple.
  • No gravity, cf: Atari’s Rebound (1974).
  • Counters capping at 15 and 255.
  • Simple audio synthesis. No music.
In the search for authentic jollies I got through over two-dozen different prototypes in the end, some of which I’m hoping to finish off for subsequent consoles. Racer, for example, has a nice feel to the speedy driving through busy traffic, while Pukka feels like it might have more to offer.

Racing with and against high-speed traffic in the Racer prototype.

Further consoles will also feature games for two, three and four players (some new; some versions of the established Gazmo games).

The Established Gazmo Games

Keep the ball alive in Rally Mode A.

With Rally I wanted to get the ball rolling with a basic Pong-alike and this variant in which you play with both bats seemed as good a place as any to start. This is one of only two of the games played in landscape, ie: with the television at its natural orientation.

To improve predictability and overall feel, the angles at which the ball rebounds from the bats are fixed, determined by where the ball hits along the length of the bat - and rebounding at a maximum angle of around 30 degrees (to the bat) because anything more shallow than that is annoying.

Balldog is a little like Frogger.

Balldog provides an obvious twist with the player toy, but I wasn’t so sure how exactly to control the ball. Change its angle? Change its speed? Its position? I like Ralph Baer’s English Button on his original tennis game, which seems to simply affect the height of the ball, so I’m doing something similar. Ish. Basically the ball is moved like a bat, only it regains its original direction when you stop moving it.

Keeping big balls at bay in Keeper.

Keeper is effectively a repeated pivotal Pong moment. There’s also a backstory that this game was originally built to assist the 1974 England World Cup squad with their training but they had second thoughts about using it - and, as history shows, failed to win. I like the focus of only three choices: don’t move or dive left or right - especially when I’m left feeling like an idiot for making a move when I should have made none. With practice you can end up feeling pretty cool using a tiny bat to deflect equally minuscule high-speed balls, particularly when the scoreline is tight.

Dodging balls from above in Dodger Mode A.

Dodging balls from above and below in Dodger Mode B.

Dodger is another obvious twist on the original Pong rules: avoid hitting ball for high score. This can get pretty manic and the audio effects end up sounding quite musical, almost like drumbeats. It’s loosely based on my old Crumble! game I did for the first Dundee Jam.

The original and delightfully simple arcade Pong instructions.

Chasing a moving brick in Target Mode B.

Target is pretty much reducing Breakout back to the core rules and toy set: one bat, one ball, one brick. Again the predictable ball rebounds can help you direct shots. You need to be careful with the low targets and approach them from a more shallow angle.

I tried a few different sizes of brick but eventually favoured this big one because it felt like I stood more chance of hitting it.

Weaving between moving hazards to cross the screen in Slalom Mode B.

In Slalom you have direct control over the ball, only this time with a different interface: the ball automatically falls diagonally down and pressing the Serve button pushes it up. It’s Bips! really, which had its origins in Fast Worm Slow, which itself was inspired by an old Spectrum game written in a single line of BASIC.

Using a large bat to keep three large balls in the air in Juggler Mode A.

Juggler is meant to be the juggling game that came out before Juggle! - but not necessarily its prequel. There’s no gravity affecting the balls - they move just like they do in Pong; the trick is in making the most of the predictable angles at which the balls rebound off the bat to keep a comfortable loop on the go.

Returning extreme ball service in Server.

Server is basically Keeper with the intensity of Dodger. It’s tough but not impossible to hit multiple balls with a single sweep, which is necessary to score high.

I’m still planning to add secret features as rewards for completing challenges (effectively Achievements). For example, Rally Mode B was originally a simple variation in which the top bat moves in a reverse direction, with the idea that you complete a challenge (say, score 20 points) to unlock Mode C or colour overlays or the inverse mode.

The current Rally Mode B has you aiming to keep the ball bouncing in order to wipe out blocks instead. The border is added here to emphasise the slight curvature and glow of the CRT TV effect.

The inverted mode (with rogue net in the centre).

Consoling Thoughts
For the console design, the norm for the time seems to be quite plain and black, sometimes with faux wood panelling. I felt more inspired by the cooler, cleaner, smoother, more retro-futuristic look of Nintendo’s Block Kuzushi, the Epoch TV Block, the Ping-O-Tronic and the Société Occitane d’Electronique OC 5000 and Occitel models.

The Gazmo IV 2.0 console as seen from all angles.

For the name I toyed with TV GameBrick, TV GameBlock, TV GameBox and TV HotBox, all in the spirit of those TV-centric classics. But in the end I settled for the ‘gizmo’ pun and ‘Classique’ because it sounds fancy and I like the ‘Q’ in it.

I’m wondering if it’s worth making these consoles for real, perhaps through crowd-funding support, but I suspect they wouldn’t be cost effective to make - certainly if I went as far as authentic packaging :D

Which reminds me: I still need to create suitable Gazmo manual and box cover illustrations (something like this) and a flyer (like some of these doozies).■



Man, the crap I hold on to… and share. Like stinky farts.

Many years ago before I had spam filters, I had to manually remove unwarranted shit from my inbox, One day I decided to recycle it and started stringing together the subject of each spam mail with the idea of making some stupid poetry out of it. This appears to be as far as I got, some lines better juxtaposed than others…

My name is Nadezhda
I wish to find the prince
I want to get acquainted with you
Where are you my prince!
I want to get acquainted with you
Meet that someone special today
The favorable offer for you

Set love energy to max
Unlimited power in mating
Fulfil your full potential in bed
Do it like a Cazanova
She wants your ideal loveing machine
No silly exercises needed to add inches to your manhood
Wet and ready for you all night

Russian ladies for any taste.

You want me? Come to me.
I want you now, tell me reciprocate and get me!
I will be glad if you write to me

Hi cool man!
I wish the good and sated day!
I wish to find my second half
I’m lonely woman
I want only love
I wanted to write
I do not know what to write to you
I can find that that I search
To handle me, use your heart.
I will wait for your reply fast
I’m single and looking for a good man
May be we are for each other
I hope you are also interested
Rolex please

Hi handsome man
I have decided to get acquainted
I want to get acquainted with you
I am a very nice and interesting person
I want to find new friends
I really want to find my true love
I want to know you better!
Do you want to know me better?
Perhaps you could be my new friend
I hope that you will consider
I’m out of my mind, but feel free to leave a message.

Hello my new friend
I received your mail
I have decided to write to you
You were great
Why did you leave early?
I never got acquainted the first with men

People judge you from what you wear
Stop settling for less
You no longer have to watch your diet
No more belly fat on you today
Lose weight without moving a muscle
Don’t be the only guy not using these
You Will Be Glad If You Choose Our Soft.

You don’t know me
I want to love
Impotence will never come back into your life!

Get the Royal Treatment Here!
New job
Get more for your work
More paid, less work

A talk required
Need a serious talk

How many orgasm can man do?
How many orgasm can man do?
How many orgasm can man do?
How many orgasm can man do?
More orgasms.
Satisfy your lover.
Satisfy your lover.
Satisfy your lover.
Can she have multiple orgasms?
Can she have multiple orgasms?
Can she have multiple orgasms?
Can she have multiple orgasms?

Re: Impotent info
You got no strength any longer to satisfy your loved one?
When you feel that your manliness is already dead, contact us
We know how to destroy even the most destroying ache

Re: Take care of your manhood
Make sure your bulge is significant
The longer your love instrument is, the longer the pleasure lasts
Your tremendous penis will always be on her mind
She is bound to lose her mind over your great size

Tired of having a peanut in your pants?
Be the largest man around
Enjoy the delicious taste of having a monster in your pants.
Your perfect mega beast will be 10 inches at least
Women love making love with monsters even when it hurts.

Having pack of this in pocket means having success with four or even more girls a night
Become virile like a rabbit!
More drive for in-out sticking
Gain more steadfastness

Heat in your pants
Your excitement will break ceilings
Fulfill your true organ growth potential
Reveal your full male power

Its time to focus on something new
The bedroom doesn’t smell like intimacy anymore? Change it.
Your bed is empty? Maybe you should enlarge your little friend.
The night is a time to have fun in bed. Make this fun lasting!
Make her come triple tonight

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Donkey Kong: the alternative ending.

Donkey Kong: the alternative ending.

You go, girl! Jumplady seeks Man in role reversal.

You go, girl! Jumplady seeks Man in role reversal.


Feel Fit

GOOD FEEL IS RARE. Feel is in the eye (and all other senses) of the beholder; one person’s meat is another’s poison. So much is ‘red hat’. But ‘Feel’ can mean the difference between remarkable and unremarkable.

Take the iPhone and the Nexus One. In terms of first impressions – visual engagement – the iPhone exudes class before you even touch it. It’s visually stimulating and inviting. Its smooth, shiny façade is dark and mysterious and runs right up to the edges: a smooth, shiny silver frame. It has an attractive symmetry and no clutter: just a small slit at the top and an indented spot at the bottom.

The Nexus sports a banal grey surround, a tiny trackball and buttons that already look worn through use. It all looks rather… meh.

To the touch the Nexus feels cheap. Its matt plastic casing has an odd, almost greasy feel to it. The first time you use the Nexus you have to remove a panel at the back to insert the battery. This act not only feels wrong and unnecessarily invasive, it makes the unit feel more vulnerable.

The iPhone is a solid, sealed unit (arguably a ‘Convenient’ Fail when it comes to changing the battery). It feels streamlined and evolved – an object worth holding and stroking even when you aren’t using it (as people seem to unconsciously do). It’s a good size and a pleasing shape. It has a good weight and balance appropriate for its form. The iPhone is such an even, refined object. It’s almost natural, like a pebble polished over geological time – or curiously unnatural, like an alien artefact from a past vision of the future.

The Nexus feels fake. Its trackball seems extraneous and in use it feels too loose and cheap and slightly gritty, like the ball’s rolling over dirt. It feels like someone’s used, abused and broken it before you.

Sliding between ‘pages’ on iPhone feels good enough to do without reason. It’s all in the details that are so easy to overlook. When you slowly, slightly slide the icons they move smoothly; there’s a slight acceleration, deceleration and momentum. If you let go, the icons snap back with a reassuring speed and, most importantly, a bounce when they hit the edge of the screen. Not only does all that feel good, it makes the icons feel like they exist. (This also reinforces an emotional attachment to the iPhone.)

The Nexus icons move with a disconcerting judder. They start and stop immediately and the whole thing feels uncomfortably jerky. It feels like it doesn’t matter how delicately you stroke the Nexus, the icons move at the same speed.

On the iPhone, however, the speed of the icon motion depends on the speed of stroke. This analogue quality again reinforces a sense of substance. (And the fact that the iPhone acknowledges how you use it in this way is an ‘Alive’ overlap.)

On the Nexus, if I attempt to pull, say, a list of contacts down when I’m already at the top, nothing happens. On the iPhone, there’s a bounce – a tactility sadly missed on the Nexus. To a strict ‘white hat’ wearer this is unnecessary; there’s no point in being so… playful. To those of a sensual disposition, this is essential.

None of these ‘Feel’ Wins make the iPhone any easier to use – any more convenient – but they do make it feel better to use and give it character (an ‘Alive’ overlap). Most of the time convenience is most important, but it’s easy to forgive and forget inconvenience if the feel is strong.

In terms of aural stimulation there’s little to hear. The iPhone’s few basic default sounds are as rounded as the device looks; the Nexus noises are more sparkly, prickly. The sound of the Nexus camera firing is scary, aggressive – so much so that I almost dropped the Nexus the first time I used it to take a picture. The fanfare reinforcing the Nexus shutting down is clipped, which feels clumsy.

Making something feel awesome – so good it’s used regardless of context and purpose – can take time. The something in question needs to be repeatedly used and refined and it can be challenging to identify where the feel might be improved, let alone how to improve it. Making something feel at least ‘not shit’ is a good place to start.

The senses need to be engaged in a consistent manner otherwise not only is feel undermined, the overall illusion is too. To the eyes, ears and touch, a battle tank should feel substantial, like it means business, like it’s capable of fulfilling its known role. (There’s overlap with ‘Drama’ and ‘Convenient’ here; the tank is dramatically enhanced to accentuate its presence and needs to be obviously a tank.) A tank that looks too pretty and fragile, that sounds like a clockwork mouse, that doesn’t handle like it has substance – it isn’t plausible – it isn’t a tank.

The aim is to create the illusion of substance from light. The virtual isn’t real but it needs to feel like it is. The better the feel, the better the connection to the intangible; the more you care and the more likely ‘like’ or indifference turns to love.


Boost Your Quarrel Word Armoury

I threw together a spreadsheet that Quarrellers might find useful.

It’s all the two- and three-letters words you can make in Quarrel (124 two-letter words and 1,292 three-letter words, stat pervs). You owe it to yourself to know the best of these as they can help you earn prisoners, slay giants and even turn a whole match around. Why, the mere knowledge of their meaning (definitions not included here BTW) may even enrich your life and make you see the world in a whole new light.

The words are spread over two sheets in tall columns and sorted by score (I couldn’t think of a better way to arrange them). You can always re-sort the spreadsheet.

  • SHIFT-click column headings A and B to select them both.
  • Select Data > Sort Range from the options up top.
  • Click the Data has header row box.
  • Click + Add another sort option to add a second sort option.
  • Change the sort by and then by order to what you want, remembering to ensure that A > Z or Z > A are consistent.