Gamebase64 – instant C64 collection

If you had a Commodore 64 in your youth, or you’re simply curious about the games produced for the system then Gamebase64 is for you.

Gamebase64 is an effort to catalogue every single Commodore 64 game, along with associated media like music, tape or disk covers, adverts and magazine reviews

It’s huge! The latest version is V15 and was released in 2016 holding 25,700 games. The games themselves don’t take up too much data but the artwork, music, and associated material really take up a lot of room. The whole collection is available as 3 ISO files and an artwork zip file. You can find download links to all of those in this thread, but if you don’t want to download them you can browse the collection here (or here) too. You’ll need to download the GameBase frontend to view everything as well as the V15 database files. I use Vice to emulate the Commodore 64.

GameBase itself is a database frontend for Windows that supports multiple databases. Many systems from the Commodore Vic20 to the Amiga or the Speccy and Amstrad CPC range are covered. You can find links to them on the GameBase website as well as many other databases.

I mainly use a Mac so I use Gamebase64 Browser. It’s a very slick frontend but if you search around you’ll find frontends written in a variety of languages for various modern platforms.

Installation was as simple as copying everything out of the ISO files into a directory, installing GameBase64 Browser in the usual way and when first run, pointing it at the directory where I had copied everything else.

Single disk and tape games work perfectly fine but I’ve had trouble with multi-disk games. To play Retrograde I had to manually unzip both disks into a temporary directory and load them in Vice outside of GameBase64 Browser. Not difficult at all but worth remembering when your favourite game asks you to insert disk 2. 🙂

If you’re at all interested in retro computers then GameBase is definitely worth checking out!

Retrograde

Ah Retrograde, a Commodore 64 game released by Thalamus in 1989. The Rowland Brothers, of Creatures, Creatures 2 and Mayhem in Monsterland fame created this game and it shows. Presentation is top notch. Some would say that this is a repetitive shoot ’em up but I love it. Nice mix of flying around shooting aliens and then a bit of a break with the underground bits. I love the graphics and the sound is a delight.

The gameplay is very simplistic, especially underground but the flying weapons are super! Just make sure you have an autofire on your controller. My thumb was sore from two levels when I remember Vice can do the hard work for me. I’m also glad Vice can save a snapshot of the computer state to save my progress as this game takes some time to complete.

Here’s a video someone else made of it:

The Glorious Twelfth

Tim and Naomi of the Irish Passport Podcast visited Northern Ireland in July to experience the marching season in all it’s “glory” for their latest episode.

It’s a great episode, showing the stark contrast between the neighbourly and friendly people they met during the day on the 11th, and the hate fuelled crowd who descended on the area that night for the bonfire.

You’ll find lots of images of the bonfires that night on Google Images but this Dailymail article (yes, yes, I know) has lots of images and reporting.

I visited Northern Ireland in the summer and really enjoyed myself there. The people we met were friendly and welcoming but it was well past the marching season. Hopefully I’ll write a post about that sometime.

You Have To Win The Game

What game? No, that’s the title of a free game on Steam and on the Commodore 64!

The C64 version can be found here on CSDb while the Steam version is here. The Steam version works on Windows, Mac and 32 bit Linux! A comment on the original announcement post links to what could be a port to something called FreeBASIC which is available here.

The game is a very hard platform game where you have to collect all the items in the game to complete it 100%. The CSDb page has some spoiler comments so beware of those if you want to avoid them. Then again, this game came out in 2012 so you probably know about it already.

The game is great, but the the stand out thing for me is the flawless C64 port. It looks very much like the modern Steam version, with the same sounds and graphics which isn’t surprising as they’re fairly basic. The game plays the same, at least as far as I’ve got to!

Many people love this game for the CGA colour palette but it’s a reminder that the PC had humble beginnings comparable to the Commodore 64. The Commodore Amiga released in the mid-eighties blew away anything produced on the PC for many years.

The Firm: Serious Fun

The FIrm are “a novelty band” according to their Wikipedia page. They released fun, mostly silly songs in the eighties.

In the late eighties they released an album called “Serious Fun” which included a song most people who grew up in the eighties will recognise, Star Trekkin’.

My parents bought that album and I remember dancing around to that song so long ago. 🙂

There’s a bunch of other songs on the album too but unfortunately the album itself appears to be very rare and only a few of the following songs can be found online:

  • Star Trekkin’
  • Girls Got Feelings Too
  • Arthur Daley (E’s Alright)
  • Snookered
  • Heavy Metal Robot
  • Start Wrekkin’
  • Superheroes
  • Strawberry Ice Cream, Jelly and Cake
  • Monster Rap
  • Cash in Hand
  • Summertime on 42nd Street
  • Pop Stars

Lucky you, I tracked down most of them!

Your life is now complete.

Sony a7iii: AEL in Manual Mode

One of the Facebook groups I’m part of is Sony a7iii/a7riii setup Tips. It’s a relatively quiet group but it’s chock full of great tips for Sony’s latest cameras.
One of those tips was posted yesterday and Daniel Ockeloen, the group administrator, made a video of it which I have embedded above.

In manual mode, the AEL button can be used to maintain the exposure while you change settings. With AEL activated changing the shutter speed will change the aperture and vice versa. In effect it’s the same as going back to Aperture or Shutter Priority modes but it does allow more flexibility since AEL can be deactivated and you get full manual control again, with the same exposure.

Do other cameras do this? My Canon 6D doesn’t. Apparently Pentax cameras have a hyper-manual mode which operates in much the same way, but others have been saying for a long time that manual mode is manual mode and you don’t need auto exposure.

Jedininja

Sometimes you accidentally dive down a rabbit hole of your own making.
I came across the Retro Computer Scene search engine a few days ago and  accidentally clicked on a link to a Commodore 64 disk image. Those files are small at 175KB so I decided to keep it and look at it later.

This morning I did and found Noice Driver v3.0a, a music disk for the Commodore 64 released in 1993. There are some great tunes on there but the name JEDININJA leapt out at me. It’s a good tune too!

The filename of the disk image is sb130978-1fbef9.d64 so I guessed it might have something to do with Scene Base. I downloaded their metadata list and found it there in the c64disk set!

You can find JEDININJA on csdb and a later version of the music disk there too: Noice Driver V3.8c.

It’s quite amazing the amount of digital history that’s out there. I’m only scratching the surface.

High Sierra and coreutils

Since MacOS High Sierra has been out for a long time this is probably old news to the tiny minority using coreutils. When you upgrade you might find that “df” and other commands don’t work properly.

Every time I opened a terminal after upgrading I saw errors saying commands had been aborted. When I ran “df” it would abort immediately.

I thought the upgrade had damaged my filesystem, especially since it introduced APFS. I ran “First Aid” in Disk Utility several times, both live and in recovery.

It then occurred to me to try the MacOS df in /bin/. It worked!

Coreutils is the package that includes lots of command line tools like “df”. I installed it using brew so the following fixed the problem:

brew reinstall coreutils

I noticed it put everything in /usr/local where my original commands were in /opt/ so changing the PATH in my .zshrc was necessary too. Everything was back to normal again! 🙂

EDIT: Some other commands were messed up. “find” had changed, but then I realised it probably isn’t in coreutils and I was using the MacOS version. This page led me to the right package names and the following command line:

brew reinstall coreutils findutils gnu-tar gnu-sed gawk gnutls gnu-indent gnu-getopt --with-default-names

The “–with-default-names” parameter restores the original filenames, removing the “g” prefix. Everything outside of the coreutils went in /usr/local/bin/ which I made sure was added to the path too.

My Favourite C64 Intro Music

The version of Super Snake Simulator I used to play on the C64 was a cracked version by The Wanderer Group. I loved the game but the music in the intro was an infectious tune.

Listening to it in a Youtube video doesn’t have quite the same impact. It cuts off a bit too early as well. Perhaps rose tinted glasses and all that? It does  bring back memories of typing “left arrow” L to load games from a tape and “Turbo Tape by Jeff”, the tape loader used to pack more games on to one cassette. Piracy was rife on the C64, but I still have a box of (original) game cassettes and disks in the attic.

Want to hear the original “Wanderer”? It was originally recorded in 1961 and reached no 2 in the US charts!

Super Snake Simulator itself was a lot of fun too. It’s still worth checking out!

Lots of C64 Intros

Vice – autostart with a directory

Vice, the Commodore 64 emulator is a cross platform emulator that works on Windows, Linux, MacOS and other operating systems. It also allows you to emulate the Vic 20, C128 and other early Commodore machines.

Double clicking on a Commodore d64 disk image file will load x64, the Commodore 64 emulator and load the first programme on the disk image.

LOAD”*”,8,1

Quite often I want to look at a D64 image directory listing instead of running the first programme on the disk.

You can do this by unchecking the “autostart” box on the file open box of course but it’s not as convenient.

So, last Friday I asked on Twitter if it was possible to drag and drop a D64 image onto Vice to display the disk contents. Logiker replied and helped me by DM to handle double clicking on a C64 disk image.

What I needed to do was load the disk image and then feed the directory listing command to the C64.

LOAD"$",8
LIST
LOAD”$”,8

Getting MacOS to accept the command line was harder to achieve. In Windows you can change the start up parameters for a programme. In MacOS it should be possible to modify the emulator “package” with a script that calls the real executable but I couldn’t get that working.
In Linux I would have just created a shell script that called the emulator. 🙂

What did work in MacOS was using Automator. I created a “Run Shell Script” action and filled it in with the following. If you want to follow along at home you’ll have to change the path to x64.


/Applications/Vice64/x64.app/Contents/MacOS/x64 -8 "$@" -keybuf load\\"$\\",8\\nlist\\n

I saved that as a new app in ~/bin/ called “Vice64”, and associated all D64 images with that application. Now double clicking on a disk image shows me a directory listing!

It doesn’t work unfortunately when I have an Action Replay cartridge loaded. Maybe I need to add F3 or F7 to the keyboard buffer?

One of the advantages of looking at the directory structure is the directory art some demos have. Here’s one from Pearls for Pigs, a D64 I happened to use while testing this but there are loads of them. I saw that Logiker has a page dedicated to directory art!

Happy times! 🙂