Retrogaming: 1977

As I mentioned, I’ve been making videos on classic games for each platform for each year. I decided to start with 1977 as the launch year of the Atari VCS, even though it’s not really one of my own gaming memories – while I had a 2600 as a kid, these games came out the year before I was born.

Arcade Games

The first things that strikes me is the lack of color. But don’t let that fool you – with a lot of these games, the color was part of the screen overlay and not the digital display.

The games are otherwise as simple as you’d expect, mechanically speaking. There’s usually one primary control scheme that serves as the focus of each game – something admirable, really, though implementation varies quite a bit.

Depth Charge and Destroyer are the most complex games, and the ones I found the most fun.

Atari VCS

Now these games I was more familiar with. By the time I was old enough to understand even simple games, it was the mid-eighties and you could find most of these at garage sales for under a dollar… I remember the Atari 2600 – what the VCS was called after 1982 – being sold in stores for $25.

They were old even then, though – it wasn’t too long before the next generation games were coming. Air Sea Battle and Combat were the ones I recall best, though the others feel familiar enough that I’m sure I played them at least once or twice.

I find it difficult to really call any of these games a favorite, though if I had to I’d probably say “one of the games that can be played single-player.” Many of them can’t be, which is unsurprising but a consideration that doesn’t really have as much weight in 2019. Made them difficult to evaluate solo, which is the whole point of the Classic Games video series – content I can produce on my lonesome.

Retrogaming: Blown Cartridges

I’m an author, game dev, podcaster, and all-round creative professional, so I don’t have a lot of time for hobbies that are just hobbies. I also don’t have a lot of free time to hang out with friends unless I make a project out of it.

So I did. A buddy and I started a retrogaming YouTube channel as an excuse to get together and hang out. Once every other weekend or so we meet to record ourselves riffing on video games that we’ve played, record it, and upload the resulting video.

Check out this boss channel trailer we made.

It’s fun. I follow the development of the channel and its increasing subscribers out of habit more than anything else – seeing that people care about our nonsense warms the heart – but really it’s just about reconnecting with an old friend and swimming in the nostalgia of the games we used to play.

I can’t just leave it at that

I’ve been at the creative professional game for seven years now, so I can’t bring myself to just upload the videos and leave it at that. No. I have to build a platform for what is ostensibly not a professional project, because if I don’t do my due diligence it nags at me. So of course I need to make a twitter for the channel.

You know, to announce new videos.

And a facebook page. And a linked Twitch account, so we can stream the games as we play them.


And, of course, a single video every other week is no way to grow a channel. I had to come up with more content, so naturally I go and make year by year and platform by platform videos of the classic games released each year.


Anyway, this is my latest project, so if you want to hear two old-ass gamers ramble on about old-ass games, make funny voices, and complain about the good ol’ days consider subscribing to the channel or tossing a dollar into the Blown Cartridges Patreon.

Because of course there’s a Patreon.

No Mo Blank Page devlog 3

A few changes before the initial rollout.

  • Instead of tapping a button, the user can tap anywhere on the screen to generate a new title.
  • Expanded vocabulary list
  • 30% more sentence structure options
  • Minor cosmetic changes

This is all we need to go live with version 1.0, so I’ve opened up beta access to my $3+ supporters on Patreon. As soon as Google has verified my address and enabled the inclusion of ads, I’ll take it fully live.

Here’s a short promotional video I’ve worked up for the app store.

No Mo Blank Page – Devlog 2

Spent much of yesterday figuring out how to make the loading screen less boring, then coming up with a visual theme.

No Mo Blank Page will be a free ad-supported app with a non-intrusive little banner at the bottom of the screen. Maybe I’ll offer a paid version for people who don’t want to deal with it, maybe throw in a few new features like generating multiple titles at once as they, quite often, don’t make a lot of sense.

The app is largely done; I’ve put it in the hands of my $5+ Patrons to betatest. If all goes well I’ll tweak the word-lists a bit and throw it up in the Google Play store.

Murder by Clockwork – Devlog 1

Getting into this, here’s the current state of the game.


I’ve been writing and publishing novels for seven years now, and in that time I’ve managed to figure out a lot about how my process works, how fast I can write, how long it takes me to finish each stage of the novel-writing process – pre-writing, drafting, editing, revisions, etc. This helps me plan my production schedule, work up a marketing calendar, and to know approximately when I should start browsing about to find a cover artist.

Games are different. There’s no single formula to determine how long it’ll take to produce one, so before tackling an entire interactive novel in Twine, I decided to start with something novellete length that would let me work out a scale-able workflow adapted from my process for writing static fiction.

Pre Writing

I do a lot of pre-writing as an author. I develop characters, I design settings, I beat out the entire story, I make complicated relationship and character arc maps. Interestingly enough it doesn’t take me much longer to pre-write a novel than a short story – the primary difference is how many story beats I hit and how many reversals there are. The actual writing itself is quick.

When I plot out the story beats, the basic unit of fiction I use is the scene. Each scene defines three things: What the protagonist wants, what’s in their way, and how things end, leading us to the next scene. Branstorming involves listing all the possible ways a scene can end and then picking the most interesting.

When adapting this to interactive fiction, I can select the few most interesting possible outcomes based on player choice, but the process is otherwise the same.

Look, a clue!

Murder by Clockwork being a mystery, I had an advantage in that an investigation does have a certain deliberate structure; there are clues, and when you find them, they lead you to new scenes. Our players’ freedom is provided by giving them multiple clues and letting them choose which to investigate in which order.

Visually we allow this with a map of London.

The story nodes manifest as physical locations our detective Wainwright can travel to, appearing and vanishing as clues lead us or dry up. The map is our first major departure from “bog standard Twine game” and it took a bit to figure out the implementation, but it feels much more satisfying than a textual hub would have been.

Choices within the Scene Structure

Each scene is written with an eye for choices the player might choose to make. As a preference I’ve tried to keep each individual passage short, ending in either 2-3 choices or a prompt to continue. For the most part I define these inter-scene choices as I write them rather than during pre-writing, simply because they get fairly tangled.

Where We’re At

  • Pre-Writing: Done
  • First Draft: 90% complete

To Do

  • Line editing and proofreading
  • Add more footnote popups
  • Playtesting
  • Polish CSS look and feel
  • Maybe scrape up some royalty free art

As always if you’re interested in playtesting the beta when it’s released, I’ll be sending copies to my $5+ patrons on Patreon.

Starting from just above scratch

While this is the point at which I’m starting to document my adventures in game development, I’m not entirely unfamiliar with the process. In grade school I had a habit of picking up microcomputers at garage sales and teaching myself whatever version of BASIC they used… I remember having a TRS-80, an Atari 400, and a TS1000 while in grade school, and a Commodore 64 in high school.

I don’t really remember the details, but I made some kind of graphic-mode action games, as well as designed a text adventure parser capable of interpreting two-word command phrases.

In high school I discovered that someone had done most of the work for me, and I began to dabble with game creation toolkits like SSI’s Unlimited Adventures and TADS and the Adventure Game Toolkit. It was never enough for me, though, I always wanted to do more than the programs would let me, I always dug deep into modifying what I could and working around what I couldn’t.

After high school I majored in Computer Science, taking classes in HTML and COBOL and such, ostensibly to get work resolving the Y2K issues, but really just because I wanted to make video games.

It’s a lot easier these days. We had communities in the past – forums and usenet groups – but nothing like it is now, with Game Jams and game dev discords and everything else. The tools are better, too, more user-friendly, with better support and third-party libraries and many more options.

Current Projects:

So I’m not really starting from scratch. In fact, I’m involved in a few projects right now.


Wayfarer is a work of audio interactive fiction I’ve been working on for Burning Brigid Media. It was supposed to be a fairly quick demo, but midway through last year I ran into a problem with app permissions, and I’ve been taking Android Development courses to figure out what I need to do. I’ll likely start it over as a native Android app.

Murder By Clockwork

Murder By Clockwork is simpler – a Twine game I’m creating for my Patrons, set in the world of the Galvanic Century steampunk mystery novels that I write. But I couldn’t make “just a Twine game,” oh no, I need to fuss around with image maps, javascript, and CSS.

So I’ll be working on Murder By Clockwork, Wayfarer when I’m at the point where I feel confident in the Android Dev lessons I’ve been taking, and other, shorter-scope side projects as we go along.

No Mo Blank Page – Devlog 1

A few years ago I wrote a random title generator in JavaScript. It takes a bunch of titles from old Weird Tales magazines, jumbles up the parts of speech, and recreates them using common title structures.

I’m taking the data and turning it into an Android app. Going from JavaScript to Java is a little complex, but I’ve got the base code working.

The Prototype

Screenshot of the prototype build

As you can see it’s still very barebones. Nothing is styled, and I haven’t even come up with a serious layout yet. Still, it’s functional – press the button, and you get a random title.

I don’t have a lot of plans to innovate beyond this point, as it’s meant to be a very simple app. I’ll polish the visuals a bit, maybe add a donation link or about page, maybe a splash screen.

Still, I’m happy that it’s working and that I didn’t run into any major bugs during the few hours it took me to develop the thing.