Sunday, 7 January 2018

2017

I thought it would be nice to re-cap the year 2017, addressing some topics that did not quite make it into blog posts. Still, keeping to the theme of the blog, I won't flood this with personal notes and work-related stuff.

I'm usually able to maintain the twice a month pace with my blog. The most viewed posts are still the ZX sprites article years back, blog posts detailing Schneider EuroPC and Orel BK-08, and strangely enough, the piece about spaghetti western guns.

Although C64 and ZX Spectrum received most of my attention, Sinclair QL has re-emerged as another favorite, although a very challenging platform. I guess I'll be continuing with more detailed notes about QL in near future.

I'm also trying to expand the blog format with platform-specific pages, starting from a QL overview  that binds together relevant blog posts. I'm envisioning a kind of personal encyclopedia, but time will tell how this might develop.


Releases, coding, events

At the beginning of 2017, I revised my Multipaint paint program and released it as the Metal Edition. It's now beginning to be a usable software and I'm glad to see others have created great images with it.

I've received far more comments and queries about the software over the year than before. Most times I try to accommodate, but occasionally people ask for image formats that in my mind are out of the scope or spirit of the software (such as more modern RGB modes). The development continues and a new version can be expected in Spring 2018.

In addition I've created a few pics myself.

Earlier in the year, I contributed to Desire's Don't Mess with Texas TI/99-4A demo with a single picture. It was an interesting experience to make something with a "megagroup". Co-operating through a Slack channel and Facebook messenger, I found that the huge amount of comments, suggestions and discussions can be both a blessing and a bit of distraction. All in all it turned out good, but also reminded me how desperately Multipaint needs an aspect ratio switch...

The bottom is empty as it's the play area
The most recent work is the above half-image for the International Karate graphics competition at CSDb. I chose to do the Helsinki Cathedral in spirit of the original game graphics. The perspective is problematic as here the fight would take place on the stairs, and the bottom/top half joining cannot be resolved so well. I'll see if I still have time to make another piccy...

Similarly, I continued to create text art in the form of PETSCII images, all the time using Marq's PETSCII editor.

Although the logo for Hokuto Force's Sliced Blue is from late 2016, I'll mention it here.

2017 was the first time I made C64 "dir art" and pure C64 BBS graphics, which brought some more limitations to the PETSCII format. BBS graphics work with control codes and generally use a lower-case variant of the set, with black background.

With this experience I realized a BBS pic doesn't need to have the ASCII/ANSI/2x2 aesthetic I often associate with BBS art.

BBS graphics for the Rapidfire BBS, possibly a WIP image
One more addition was the graphics part of the tiny Vammala Party C64 intro called Nothing but Pet Ski. This animloop was fun to make, and PETSCII editor supports this kind of animation creation rather effortlessly.

I also co-edited a journal issue with the theme of Text Art with Marq, including PETSCII, ASCII, teletext, typewriter art and boundary crossings between "high" & "low" art, history and the present.

As another PETSCII/Text Art related thing, I rewrote some of my 2016 Fort Django code on the C64 and released a 1.1 version with a complete new map and soundtrack. (Ooh, another firstie: a published C64 SID track!)

I'm sitting on another near-finished Commodore 64 game, but I could not release it in 2017. I'll try to look for a suitable outlet for it. Expect even more lo-fi and PETSCII aesthetics and crappy SID tunes.

Zoo Party 2017 was one of the scene/retro highlights of the year, and I wrote a bit about it too. All in all I managed to contribute to many small compos, either online or remote, which I won't mention here.

During 2017, I observed that my 8-bit assembler (6502 and Z80) coding has advanced to the point I no longer need to rely so much on c bits to structure my programs, as certain coding practices and a good assembler facilitates most of the necessary things anyway. Releases are still scarce, as finishing projects tends to be far more difficult than starting them!

ZardOr
In a more modern track, I've continued with with Javascript web coding, adding some threejs webGL to the mix. Browser-based code is becoming more potent all the time, so you don't have to be a coding guru to make nice interactive stuff. One could even say HTML+JS is the "BASIC" of our time.

I also made first time PHP code, which was a lot more straightforward than I thought. Certain needs also forced me to write a few Python scripts, which I also found quite amusing.


Games, Films, Books, etc.

I'll be quick with games, as I don't play that much. I probably spent most time with Larn at larn.org, and Clive Townsend's Saboteur 2 remake was also a very welcome diversion. I occasionally play through Ultima IV and this also happened last summer.

This year, I've watched less westerns than before, and even those were not that memorable. I'd say re-watching Dead Man was one of the highlights. On the western front, I'd rather revisit the classics than continue scraping the bottom of the barrel, although that will probably go on too. I tried to read a few western books but to be honest they didn't quite grab me.

The one stand-out fictional work of 2017 for me was Twin Peaks: The Return 18-part TV series.  Lynch/Frost et al. managed to create something emotionally so devastating, that the imagery and mood of the series lingered in memory weeks after it had finished. It simply made any other TV work seem stale and formulaic in comparison. The somewhat tough pre-requisite was the watching of the original series and the Fire Walk With Me film.

Time and Time again
Doctor Who continues to be one of my favorite series, although it might be said the last season was a bit overstaying its welcome. A few years back Peter Capaldi's more mature doctor (well, in appearance anyway) was a welcome turn for the series, but now the writing has struggled a bit and the showrunner/writer Steven Moffat has perhaps used up his box of tricks. Then again, as far as I know the ratings have been suffering for a few years and the problems may have resulted from trying to revitalize the series' popularity. With the oncoming 2018 season, I'm now expecting at least season 5 scale reboot, on with the new doctor!

At the movies. Valerian was a bit better than I expected. The world-view and the plethora of alien races are whimsical and Valerian-like, and the theme of technological/institutional/corruption versus "natural" harmony is also present. Casting wasn't as awful as I envisaged, but the characters have been rewritten as silly jerks and the charming dynamics between them in the original comics, has been lost. Also, a lot of time is spent on chaotic action scenes and awkwardly falling through floors / walls etc.

Blade Runner 2049 was stylistically interesting, but story-wise it felt a bit empty. With Interstellar/Arrival-style production and Hans Zimmer soundtrack, they were maybe playing it a bit safe. It was still quite gorgeous experience at the cinema, I'll admit that. Harrison Ford's involvement and the appearance of certain character from the original film could have been scrapped in my opinion. Unlike in the 1982 film, the bad guys were a bit poor show.

Coincidentally or not, I've been re-reading Philip K. Dick. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?  was a much forceful work than I had remembered, and although the story lacks some of the film's crowning moments it also has some superb material that the film rejects. What motivated Deckard to have such a dangerous job? Well, he wanted to buy an expensive animal for himself. Although some aspects of the new film may have been influenced by the book, I am surprised they did not mine the original more for ideas. Oh, and the book mentions 3D-photographs :)

I read Frank Herbert's Dune for the first time, one of the last really major sci-fi works I had not experienced before. Sure, I've played the Amiga game a bit and seen the Lynch film years and years back so I kind of know what it's about. I enjoyed the world-building aspects of it, and can easily see how some themes found their way to Star Wars. Yet the story has quite silly bad guys, and some of it reads like a teenagers wish fulfillment fantasy, of how special and world-changing an individual can discover himself to be.

We put a dune in your dune so you can.... nevermind
Speaking of Star Wars, I also saw Last Jedi. Count me in with the "meh" crowd. The new film attempts at undermining of the Star Wars and Jedi mythos, without necessarily giving anything substantial in return. An enjoyable ride nonetheless.

Instead of the common criticisms, I'm more worried about the haphazard structuring of the new films and a general disregard towards the coherence of the originals. Characters simply appear as force ghosts, holograms, disembodied presences and whatnot. Whatever character the creators want to bring in, can be brought to the screen at any moment by some contrived device. The distinct, simple physical spatiality of the original Star Wars universe seems to be gone.

2018? More of the same I think!