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Nathan Strum

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Everything posted by Nathan Strum

  1. I'm working remote, using my own computer's monitor to view a laptop computer that I'm using to remote into my desktop computer at work. I keep forgetting which computer I'm using.

  2. Coming up with the ideas is always a 10. But yes, in this case I was referring to the technical challenges of executing the artwork, rather than coming up with the ideas. But I'll go over those a little bit as well, once the artwork is revealed.
  3. Once the other artwork is revealed, I can explain a bit more. But basically it has to do with the amount of detail in each illustration, the amount of shading (ie. not just flat colors), and the software I use to create the final artwork with. In the case of all of the above games, they started out with a digital (bitmap) sketch on my iPad using Procreate. This is great for roughing out ideas, but I don't use it for finished work, because I don't feel that I have enough control over the final image. So from there they went over to Adobe Photoshop to weed out errant layers and get converted to CMYK colorspace (required for printing). After that, they went into Adobe Illustrator for the finished illustration. I've typically used Illustrator for the line artwork, because Illustrator is a vector drawing program - not bitmap. So the artwork is infinitely scalable (and malleable) in a way bitmaps aren't. I can get super-clean lines and change characteristics of them in ways I can't do with bitmaps. Then I'd often take the line art back over to Photoshop for "painting" since it's well suited for shading, textures, gradients, etc. For artwork that doesn't have much shading (Zoo Keeper, Aardvark) I just used Illustrator for most of the artwork since flat colors are very easy to do (and again, very easy to change). Zoo Keeper has a bitmap for the brick background. Aardvark's background is fully vector. This time, I did nearly all of the final artwork in Illustrator (except for the backgrounds in UniWar S and Galaxian, which are bitmapped "paintings"). For Lady Bug Arcade, the shading was minimal, so it wasn't difficult to do. In Photoshop, you can just grab a big ol' brush and swipe it across an area to add shading. But to get complex shading in Illustrator (where it follows a shape, or you have a highlight and shading in the same area), then it requires more work to set up because you're not "painting" as such, but assigning values and parameters to objects. So with Lady Bug Arcade I started experimenting more with that, which required using multiple layers of different gradients with transparency, or setting up (what Adobe calls) Freeform Gradients. Freeform Gradients are relatively new and a bit twitchy (and not always predictable) to work with. But they're very powerful since you can create gradients of (almost) any shape and color combination. And again, you can edit them without "repainting" them as you would using bitmaps. You just change values and parameters. It's like sculpting, but on a flat plane. Once I'd gone through a learning curve on Lady Bug Arcade (which is part of the reason it's a "6", but also because I completely re-drew the entire label after the original version was well underway ), I decided to try applying those techniques in Illustrator to both Galaxian and UniWar S, which are both more "painterly" in appearance, and are the kind of labels I would have historically done in Photoshop instead. That's where the difficulty went way, way up, because I was trying to replicate the appearance of what I would have traditionally done pretty quickly in Photoshop, using a completely different method in Illustrator. There was a lot of trial and error in the process, but I was able to achieve the end results that I wanted. Perhaps even better than what I could have done in Photoshop. Certainly, there are some tools that vector graphics have (such as easily replicating and scaling objects) that makes repetitive tasks much, much easier to do. At the other end of the difficulty spectrum, Pac-Man Collection is pretty straightforward. Mostly flat colors and minimal shading. So the technical challenge of executing it was the easiest of the bunch. Pretty sure I'm not going to work on so many labels at the same time again though. Although it did help in the sense of having something else to switch to when I got frustrated or stuck.
  4. I should really subscribe to your blog. And I should order one of the new VecMulti's from Richard, too.
  5. Oh... and in case anyone was wondering: Apart from Gorf Arcade (which will be completed later in the year), I guessed pretty well on these. I'd probably give Lady Bug Arcade a difficulty of 7 though.
  6. Updates: 1-14-22: Final box/label/manual artwork for Pac-Man, Galaxian and UniWarS are now finished. Manual and box layouts are in progress.
  7. Updates: 12-29-21: Final box/label/manual artwork in progress for Pac-Man Collection 40th Anniversary Edition (7800). (Note: updated name, same game as Pac-Man Collection XM.) 12-29-21: Final box/label/manual artwork in progress for Galaxian (7800). 12-31-21: Final box/label/manual artwork in progress for UniWarS (7800). 12-31-21: Lady Bug Arcade now available in the AtariAge Store. Project moved to Completed Homebrews. 12-31-21: RobotWar:2684 now available in the AtariAge Store. Project moved to Completed Homebrews.
  8. I'm also eagerly anticipating a release of this game. Hope it's still in the works!
  9. Update: 12-26-21: Lady Bug Arcade final box, label and manual artwork completed. Box artwork previewed in forums.
  10. I want to go out and buy some classical music, but someone keeps Haydn my Chopin Liszt.

    1. GoldLeader


      Well, You've got to go Bach and get a Handel on the situation...Schumann, get outa here, if you don't have a car,  take Debussy...

  11. Not gonna happen unless you print your own. At one point I'd thought about doing a monthly Artie calendar. 12 episodes would be doable. Probably should theme it somehow. Like "Artie's Snarkiest Strips", or an all "RetroVGS" calendar, with nothing but word balloons. I also have over 100 Artie avatars ("Games we're better off without...") that I've made over the years. Haven't changed the current one in awhile. One of these days I'll throw those together into a collection of some sort. I once suggested to Albert that he publish a homebrew calendar using some of the label/box art that have graced various games over the years. I think that would be pretty cool.
  12. Artie's Index has been brought up-to-date.
  13. "Secret"? I thought it was pretty obvious. James and Tanya (and Atari) - you have my heartfelt condolences. Pets are family members, and it's never easy to say goodbye to one. You have great memories though, with many of them captured forever on video and in the wonderful photos you shared with us. Thanks for sharing Pixel with all of us for these past few years. - Nathan
  14. In case you're wondering where the inspiration for the recent return of Artie the Atari came from... As I've posted before, I collect Super Impulse's Tiny Arcade series of arcade games. While they haven't released any new arcade cabinets this year, they did release something else recently – a Tiny Atari 2600! It even comes packaged in an authentic 70's living room! Unfortunately, to get everything out, you have to basically destroy the packaging. So much for the wood paneling and shag carpet. They did a nice job capturing the look of a four-switch 2600 and vintage console TV. And this really lives up to its "Tiny" moniker - the 2600 is only 1 3/4" wide! The red "cartridge" is actually the Power On/Reset button (the 2600's "switches" are so tiny they'd just break). The details are pretty nicely done. There's even a non-functional switchbox on the cord. Even though the wires aren't entering/exiting where they should, it's a nice detail to include. Clearly, someone was paying attention. The joystick, proportionately, is comically huge. But if it were scaled down to match the console, it would be unusably small. One minor quibble: the ring on the joystick is painted white (not orange). With the work they put into the rest of this, I don't know why they missed that. Still, the joystick actually works pretty well. It's not something you'd want to play Track & Field with, but it does the job here. The little handle at the bottom of the TV screen lets you angle the screen a little for better viewing. It's really a smart idea, since you tend to look down at it from above (and all of their arcade cabinet screens are tilted by design). But I usually leave it closed flat when not playing it since it looks better. So... how about the games? Well, you can find YouTube videos out there showing them, so I'll leave it to you to dig those up. But here's what's included on the console: Asteroids Breakout (misspelled "Breakouts" in the menu) Centipede Combat Pong Millipede Missile Command Tempest Warlords Pac-Man (listed on the packaging as a "bonus" game) Only Combat and Pac-Man are "2600" versions. The rest are all "arcade" versions. Note that none of these are original arcade or 2600 ROMs. This isn't an emulator. These are re-creations running on system-on-a-chip hardware. You can't dump these and play them in Stella or MAME. Even though this is supposed to be a 2600, I can see why Super Impulse used the arcade versions of these games. At this scale and price point ($19.99 at Target), there's no pretense that this is anything other than a cute toy, and any semi-functional version of these games would've been acceptable to the casual impulse buyer (pun intended). They already had most of these games in their Micro Arcade series, so repurposing them saved the expense of creating 2600 versions, and certainly Atari wouldn't care as long as they got paid licensing fees. Plus Super Impulse can repurpose them for their Tiny Arcade series, and sell them all over again in dedicated cabinets. I'd buy 'em! Of course, the downside of using the arcade versions is that it really hurts the authenticity of this for us actual Atari 2600 fans (especially with the vertically-oriented TV screen). I wish they'd used 2600 adaptations here instead (except Tempest because the 2600 version is awful). And of course the 2600 library is so vast there are countless other titles they could have tried licensing, but given the price point of this, that seems incredibly unlikely. Again, it's a novelty and should be taken in that context. If the lack of more 2600-ish re-creations is a deal-breaker for you, save your 20 bucks for pizza. So... how do the games actually play? Once turned on, the games are accessed through an onscreen menu. A few have game options, and Tempest and Millipede even include the starting level select. The fire button on the joystick starts the game. Pressing the red "cartridge" on the console resets back to the menu. There's no volume control, which is unfortunate given that they included knobs on the TV. Some games save High Scores. As is typical with Tiny Arcade, playability varies depending on the game. But here's a quick breakdown: Asteroids - Plays pretty well. The auto-fire really helps. Although you're using a mini-2600 joystick rather than a proper 5-button layout, so expect accidental hyperspacings. Breakout - It has options for speed and paddle size which are welcomed, but the whole game feels sluggish and I have yet to be able to change the angle the ball bounces off the paddle even once. Centipede - Quite playable, although the tiny graphics are pushing the limits of what's practical on such a tiny screen. The 2600 version would have looked just fine. Maybe better. Combat - Needs better contrast in the Simple and Open mazes, but the Complex maze looks good. They included a number of gameplay options and a dumb-as-a-post AI opponent. The 2600-ish graphics lend themselves well to the tiny TV though. The "piano" sound effects of the shots bouncing around the maze are pretty funny, if inaccurate. Pong - Also sluggish like Breakout, but unlike Breakout, you can change the direction of the ball. The AI is as dumb as Combat's. (I have to keep reminding myself this is more of a novelty than something that should be taken seriously as a polished game.) Millipede - Plays about as well as Centipede, but most of the insects become indistinguishable from each other at that size. The reduced resolution of the 2600 version would have fared better here. Missile Command - This plays remarkably well, despite the lack of a Trak-Ball. Controls are smooth, graphics look good (again, the 2600 version would've been just fine here). "The End" is missing from the end of the game though. Bummer! Tempest - Well... I suppose it's admirable to attempt it. Actually, on the surface it looks pretty good. The controls are acceptable, although because of the control scheme (where "down" is the Superzapper), you'll trigger a lot of accidental Superzappings. This would work a lot better in a dedicated cabinet with two buttons. The fire rate of your player is half of what it should be, and a lot of iconic sounds are absent. But it's still better than the actual 2600 version. So there's that. Warlords - This actually plays really well. You can only play as the lower left Warlord, but the controls work well and multiple fireballs and fireball capturing are both included. This is one of the standouts in this collection of games. The AI isn't brilliant here either, but with three enemies vs. one, at least you have some more work to do. Pac-Man - This is the other 2600-ish game, and somehow they managed to make it worse than the original. The game feels sluggish and they went to great pains to make it flicker as badly as the original. On a screen this small, with colors that don't contrast well to begin with, you often can't tell when the power pellets wear off, or even where the ghosts are at. But it feels the most authentic of the group, 2600-wise. As with the rest of the Tiny Arcade line, the Tiny Arcade 2600 is a collectible, more than it is a serious game. It's a novelty that you can turn on and play games with. It's a cute, fun, desktop conversation piece and accoutrement, and a nice nod to the 2600. If you take it for what it is, it's worth the 20 bucks.
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