TL;DR Last year, a few dudes on the internet made tiny games for retro game systems, and it was awesome. Planning to do it again (though I’m building something physical this time). You should join us! #HardDare
This is a story.
Near the end of 2014, I started researching how to program the Commodore 64. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time. The Commodore was the computer I grew up with as a kid, but as a kid, I only ever wrote lousy BASIC programs on it. I never made anything that truly utilized the hardware.
But once I stumbled across this video, there was no turning back.
After getting some test code running on a C64 emulator, I set a goal. Since the Commodore 64 was the gaming machine of my childhood, to make things that much more interesting, I decided: In the final days of 2014, I would make a small game based on something I wanted to make as a kid.
After digging through my sketches, doodles, and notes, I chose to do something with these:
This was me from the early 1990’s, probably when I was 11 or 12 years old. I used to draw pixel art and game maps on graph paper (I painted on my Commodore 64 too, but I don’t have backups).
In the 20+ years since then, I have learned a bit about drawing. I’m not great, but I have improved. So I decided to re-create the character.
Using some of the excellent free tools available for Commodore 64 dev, I made sprites.
And after a bunch of work, I got this running in an emulator.
Before finally getting it running on an actual Commodore 64.
(NOTE: I stole the SID music file, but it’s playing for real on the C64)
At the end of the day, there wasn’t really much of a game there, but I was extremely proud to have finally make something that ran on the Commodore 64. That machine meant so much to me as a kid, and this something I’ve wanted to do for such a long time.
Want to hear something interesting? I wasn’t the only one.
A couple friends on Twitter were also playing with little retro projects for old game hardware.
Ryan made a game run on the Nintendo Famicom (NES).
Tim made a game run on the Atari 2600.
As you can see, we were sharing Vines of our progress while we made them. It was really cool seeing the progress videos. So cool, I had to message the guys recently just to say how cool that was. 😀
And you know, I think we might be doing something like this again (I know I am).
Me, for 2015, I’m planning to dabble with hardware.
Some weeks back, I ordered some old sound chips. Chips such as the MOS 6581 (AKA the Commodore 64 SID), Yamaha YM2612 (Sega Genesis/Mega Drive), and an AY-3 (other). I’m going to try directly interfacing with those sound chips using either an Arduino or Raspberry Pi (still deciding).
I ordered them via AliExpress, which means China, which means shipping can take a month+ to get to me. That’s why I’m bringing this story up now, a good month+ in advance in case anyone else gets inspired.
* * *
This isn’t a Ludum Dare event, or an announcement for a new Game Jam. We’re not planning a structured event. This is merely an invitation. It’s me saying hey, some of us will be doing cool things with hardware in December, and maybe you want to too.
Maybe you too have a few spare days before the end of 2015 to do something. I usually have a few just after Xmas and Boxing Day. I’ll be doing my little project then.
Unlike software, hardware requires that you have what you need on-hand. December is often an extremely busy time for mail, and since folks may want to order things (Arduinos, Raspberry Pi’s, ICs, Flash carts, etc), you may want to do it sooner than later.
I suggested to the guys that we should come up with a common hashtag (not sure what it should be yet, feel free to make suggestions). That way, it’s easier to find the stuff we’ve been up to. Photos, Videos, Vines, maybe a wrapup blog post. But this isn’t a structured event. Just a casual intent to play.
That’s the plan. You’re welcome to join us.
EDIT: I’ve been using the hashtag #HardDare, a pun on Ludum Dare and Hardware.