Monthly Archives: August 2016

Looking to next year

The current plan for my game group at this moment is, I will be wrapping up this GURPS Cyberpunk game towards the end of October. At that point Bruce will run a short campaign through the end of the year, giving me a chance to play some. Chad is also planning to run a “Last Friday of each month” Traveller mini campaign.

It is at this point in time that I need to start planning my next campaign.Six to eight months is a pretty normal development cycle for me unless I am using a canned campaign. I have a couple of choices here;

First I have all of the Wizards of the Coast hardbound adventures, there are six of them and it would probably take me six years to run them all. This has some appeal to me, first it is very easy for me to do, very little prep time, second these will be the “Shared Experience” modules of the current generation of gamers, the games they fondly remember are being played right now with these modules. The downside of course is, anyone can buy them and cheat their way through.

Second, I can develop something from scratch, perhaps another sandbox game similar to the Edgewood campaign I finished up last year or perhaps a return to Caldoom, giving me a chance to update the world once again to make some new history in a campaign world with its roots spreading back 40 years of gaming.. This is far more time consuming, but I ultimately get more satisfaction out of these games and I think my players do too.

Third, Adventures in Middle Earth is coming out in September, this is the 5th edition adaption of The One Ring RPG by Cubical 7. This would give us the chance to answer age old questions like, how did Gandalf, a 6th level Magic User defeat a balrog by himself, or why did Sauron’s tower collapse when the ring was thrown in the lava. or how did two 2nd levels halflings just walk into Mordor. The answer to those questions is, “Something else was happening in the background”. Campaign premise; Fellowship of the Ring: The B Team!

Call from my future self

I got a call yesterday, the caller ID said it was from me. I assume this is me from the future trying to contact me in the present and provide me with some important bit of information like some lottery numbers, a hot stock tip or when the zombie apocalypse will start. I happened to be in a meeting and could not answer it. I figured future me would leave voice mail, what I found out is future me is as much of an asshole as I am, he didn’t leave a message.

RE: Thoughts on the Raspberry Pi

So just to show the justification for my actions. I spent the better part of all of my free time this last week trying to get Mame working on the Banana Pi with nothing to show for it. I also spent a nice chunk of time trying to get Doom to work. In less than than 2 hours I had the C64 emulator working properly, Mame installed and working, both Doom and Quake installed and working. There really is just no comparison between the Raspberry Pi and the other knock off boards, the online support alone makes a huge difference.

Thoughts on Raspberry Pi

I got into single board computers several years ago, starting with the Raspberry Pi. I found these little boards to be fun and interesting. I built the odd little project here and there and generally embraced idea. At some point I decided to try some alternatives.

First was the Beagleboard Black, the idea of more memory, better processor and built in storage was very appealing. There was a couple of things I did not like. First, the Linux distributions were substandard, missing key many features. Second was the reliance on a secondary 5 volt power source which made using it a bit awkward. Finally, the quality of these boards is very suspect, I bought 2 of them and both went bad after just a couple of months of use.

Next I moved onto the Banana Pi. Again, better CPU, more memory and as an added feature, its GPIO was Raspberry Pi compatible, what not to love. Again, though the Linux distributions left a lot to be desired, while it was capable of using the same distribution as the RPi, Raspbian, I found there to be many broken packages. Some would not install at all, some would install but then complain of missing libraries. Then there was the video drivers, I am sorry, but any video chipset designed in the last 10 years should be able to run 8 bit games without skipping a beat, not this thing, no hardware acceleration, none, zip, zero and the software rendering was so terrible, games that ran on my Commodore 64 beautifully, ran like garbage on the BPi, and don’t get me started on Mame. Even Doom would not compile properly this thing was so terrible.

So I am done with knock off boards. I am going back to the tried and true Raspberry Pi. I am hanging onto the BPi for the short term. They are good for projects that do not require much video, like breadboarding and Arduino development. It is just as well, the USB hub I had in my C64C case is un-powered and once I have the RPi 3, I can open it up again and rework the insides all at once.

Commodore 64 Part II

Okay, PezWitch needs to come home, I am obviously sick and cannot be trusted unsupervised. This one is a later model C64C, I got it even cheaper than the last one and this time, I made no effort to repair it. I simply gutted it and installed a Banana Pi into it

c64c-2

I actually like the looks of the C64C better than the original model, it is definitely more stylish and has a more “Cyberdeck” look to it. Although I will say this, the original case was really sturdy and rugged, while this case seems to flimsier in comparison.

c64c-1

As you can see, once I removed the motherboard there was plenty of room for the BPi. I had to deface the right side slightly with a knife so I had easy access to the SD card and the power jack.The Video lined up pretty easy with the rear cartridge opening. In the center is a neat little board that turns the native C64 keyboard into a USB keyboard, the cable on the outside connecting this board to the USB hub on the left was a necessary evil, because I wanted external access to the mode button on that board. The mode button changes how the keyboard is mapped, switching it between standard PC key mapping and Commodore 64 key mapping.

Commodore 64

Kind of a funny story. With PezWitch away, I am fairly bored, I can really only spend so much time reading the internet and masturbating. I was entering the long dark tea time of the soul. So to entertain myself, I bought an untested (meaning broken) Commodore 64 with the plan to gut it and put a Raspberry Pi inside and use it as a retro gaming console or a media center. $50 I got the computer, a 1571 floppy drive and two joy sticks. I thought I could use the floppy drive to house a couple of hard drives, the joysticks were basically useless, but what the heck.

I opened the system to pull the motherboard out and I noticed a broken solder point. It looked like not enough solder was used during the manufacturing and at some point it got bumped, which broke the connection. I am pretty good with a soldering iron so again, I said the heck, if it does not work, I am out 20 minutes of my life and 3 cents worth of solder. So I go at it, most of the time spent was waiting for my iron to warm up and what do you know, the thing boots up and I am feeling pretty smug. But of course now I feel guilty for wanting to gut it.

c64So now what? Well I happen to own a copy of Basic Computer Games by David Ahl and Creating Adventure Games on your Computer by Tim Hartnell. Both of these are books about programming games in Basic from the bad old days of the 80’s.
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But first I need a floppy disk, which begs the question, who has 5 1/4 inch floppies laying around. It just so happens PezWitch works at a computer store that has a vintage computing display and what do you know, they have an old floppy they are will to give up to my grand experiment. This works great, for about 20 minutes and the then the drive stops working, my first thought is, bad disk because well the disk is at least 20 years old. So next step is find and buy some unused floppies. I find an unopened box of 10 for $10, including shipping and a couple bcg_coverof days later, I basically find out that is not going to work either. So back to ebay where I find a used sd2iec for around $30, an sd2iec is a device that makes an SD card look like a really big floppy disk to the C64. So again, I wait a few days and I am in business again. Problem is, it does not work either. Now I am beginning to think it is the serial port on the C64, but when I try to access it, I do get a blinking red LED, which tells me it is communicating on some level. While I am researching the issue, I note, that some SD cards from certain manufactures do not work and the one I was trying to use, is one of those cards. I did not really want to use one of my 32 GB cards, but that is all I have so, I give it a try. AND BOOM, works perfect and I am in business.