In space, nobody can hear you scream…

posted in: Games | 0

ScreenDump26KEEPA nice little project that seems to be nearing completion at a good rate is Overlord.

Developed solely by Anthony Vaughan Bartram, Overlord is an upcoming shoot-em-up game where the player flies into the screen through a star field.

The game is in the play testing phase, with collision detection and some the mission aspects currently receiving some final tweaks prior to release.

Developed completely on a Raspberry Pi, Overlord will boast a number of key features:

  • Multiple playable missions
  • Screen transitions – collapse to centre, fade in/out etc.
  • 60 Hertz refresh in SVGA mode with double buffering
  • 3D/2.5D graphics via ‘Z-Scaling’

Written in BBC BASIC, Overlord uses Tim Player/AM Player for MP3 and sample playback. All the sound effects have been made specifically for the game, and the in-game music is all original and totals to around 45 minutes.

Compatibility-wise, Overlord looks like it will be compatible with all modern 32-bit RISC OS systems, Pandaboard, Raspberry Pi, Beagleboard, Iyonix etc. There’s been no mention whether the game will be compatible with 26-bit legacy systems like the RiscPC and A7000 but I can’t see it being a huge problem considering the game’s written in BASIC and doesn’t run off too many dependencies.

With release looking likely in the coming months, Overlord looks set to be launched on the Pling store – a price point is yet to be determined (no confirmation as to whether this will be a commercial or freeware release). You can keep track of the development of Overlord through this ROOL forum thread here.

Have a look at some development screenshots and some audio from the game through the below links:

Screenshot 1Screenshot 2Screenshot 3 – Screenshot 4Screenshot 4Screenshot 5Screenshot 6Screenshot 7Encounter AudioSurrender AudioHaven Audio

‘In a sense, Acorn did take over Apple’

posted in: Miscellaneous | 4

Sophie Wilson EPO13Although Acorn and RISC OS in general has been out of the mainstream for a long while now, our platform’s influence still lurks in the background even in times of constant and fierce technological advancements. The operating system and the bulk of Acorn’s hardware may have fallen to the wayside, but the ARM processor is advancing in ways that couldn’t have been forecast a decade ago.

A company that have had much success out of products powered by ARM technology is Apple, an outfit that seems to have taken over Microsoft’s role as the one technology company constantly in the limelight as of late, be it for positive or negative reasons.

Something I found quite interesting was award-winning Computer Scientist Sophie Wilson’s comments on how Acorn’s original work has allowed for a strong Apple stance in the technology markets, albeit decades after Acorn’s initial efforts with their ARM processors and accompanying hardware.

Sophie, a fundamental part of the initial team to develop Acorn computers, the ARM processor and programming language BBC BASIC, was interviewed in reference to the a lifetime achievement she received for her work as well as the milestone reached for 50 billion ARM chips manufactured.

Two decades ago, Apple and Acorn’s situations were quite similar, both in technology and marketing. In fact, Apple were close to succumbing to the same fate as Acorn on a number of occasions, after failing to succeed in the desktop computer market from a residential and commercial standpoint.

“I think we just didn’t have the marketing capability to match what the technology could do.” Sophie told The Telegraph, when asked about Acorn’s failing desktop computing strategy. Apple have both: marketing and technology. And that turned out to be much more useful.

“Acorn managed to manage to stem the tide for really long time. In a sense we did take over Apple; their technology is powered by ARM. Apple have licenses for ARM technology to build their own chips.”

Although Acorn computers themselves, despite initial success in the British education market, eventually died a death on the desktop front. The core of all Acorns, the ARM chip was in high demand through and was picked by Apple as a potential key to their advancement into the mobile computing market.

ipad-mini-3Acorn and Apple entered a partnership in 1990, and launched ARM, which both parties holding 43% shares in the company.

Fast forward to 2015, ARM do not manufacture but license their designs and processor range to a global market – largely dominated by mobile device manufacturers but also invested in by a considerable amount of desktop and embedded solutions companies.

It’s estimated that the average British household owns up to 50 ARM processors, from set-top boxes and phones to broadband routers and even burglar alarms.

It’s quite interesting to think that two companies in two very similar boats over two decades ago have branched out in such different ways. Apple, struggling to gain a marketshare in any technological field at one point, have expanded so rapidly in the last decade – pioneering the landscape of computing and the way we interact with technology in different environments, all powered by ARM.

Then you have Acorn, a company, just like Apple struggling to gain a decent marketshare all those years ago, ceasing the development and production of all desktop computers in late 1998 in order to concentrate on the development of Set-top Box and DSL solutions before renaming to Element 14 in January 1999, who were then bought out by communications giant Broadcom a little over nine months later.

Moonquake: Revived for Android

posted in: Miscellaneous | 0

Moonquake1There’s something instinctual about running around in a spacesuit blowing things up, it’s like it’s built into our DNA. Well, maybe not, but it’s fun.

We all remember Moonquake, it was one of those games that had found its way onto every Archimedes in every classroom in Britain, smuggled in on a floppy disk by a procrastinating little scamp, and played to show off amongst his mates when the teacher wasn’t looking.

Well the now 23-year-old title has seen a revival in the form of a conversion to the Android platform by Jit Games.

The game is pretty much a direct port of the RISC OS classic, apart from a few minor alternations to the main menu and the removal of the ‘Moon Quake’ branded screen borders. The graphics and sound have been taken from the original, and the gameplay is much the same as it was two decades ago, with its adaptation for mobile devices not hindering the game’s playability at all – which is quite nice to see when compared to other retro titles ported to mobile platforms.

Originally written by Paul Taylor all the way back in 1992, Moonquake was the first Bomberman clone to hit RISC OS that was not just playable, but actually made you want to keep playing.

Its mixture of puzzles and repetitive sequences saw it grow in popularity since its initial release on a December 1992 Archimedes World cover disc, before giving birth to Marsquake a few years later.

This isn’t the first time Moonquake has been ported from RISC OS to more mainstream platforms, the game saw a conversion over to Nintendo’s Game Boy Advance by David Sharp, the port kept all of the original graphics and sounds in-tact and despite having no multiplayer mode, played quite well from cartridge.

Moonquake saw another resurrection a few years back by Sedoe, who developed the entire game from scratch for Windows PCs, using the RISC OS version only as reference as well as the original sound, this version had all new graphics; except the menu screen background, the in-game bombs and the title image.

Unsurprisingly, the game is situated on the moon, where a meteor impact has damaged the moon base. You’ve been assigned to clear away the debris that has fallen, which turns out to be far harder than originally anticipated. Armed with an infinite collection of bombs to blast away rubbles and other nasties, there are 10 levels to be beat in all.

Moonquake2The nuclear reactors around the base have been left online and if hit one too many times they wipe out everything on the level. As well as navigating your way carefully through the map while keeping the nuclear reactors in mind, you also have to worry about malfunctioning security robots, which wander aimlessly around the levels, killing you on contact.

By destroying the fallen rocks, extra blast fuel can be uncovered and picked up which gives your bombs a greater range and kill threat.

Mystery boxes left under the debris can have various effects, including setting you to auto-bomb-drop, freezing the droids, making you invincible or causing all unexploded bombs to detonate instantly. There is a two-player mode in which the players go head-to-head, trying to trap each other with their bombs.

The Android version is available on the Google Play store and is free of charge to download, which is a nice touch. Compatibility-wise, there’s no official documentation as to what the game will and won’t run on, but it’s run fine on my Sony Xperia Z1 – no lag or unexpected crashes, and no horrible memory leaks which is always a worry with direct ports from other platforms.

You can get the original MoonQuake for RISC OS here, unfortunately it’s not compatible with 32-bit computers such the Raspberry Pi, Iyonix etc. but works fine through an emulator. Also available from the same link is a web-based Java version of the game.

It’s revamp time!

posted in: Miscellaneous | 5

As you might have noticed, the blog has gone a little to the wayside as of late. The stream of content has been irregular for a while, the last post was back in January and in general, the content had got a bit lacklustre. This wasn’t the intention when I set the blog up a few years ago, but a combination of laziness and lack of time has seen the blog fall short of what I’d like it to be.

Given that sites like the RISCOSitory and RISCOSCode are already doing a very good job with informing the community of news and events in the RISC OS world, I thought I’d take a new stance on the way the blog is run.

Instead of focusing mainly on news items and just regurgitating excerpts from Newsgroup postings I thought I’d concentrate more on features and writing opinion articles. Reviews and Show Reports will remain, and news items will be catered for in a regular ‘Round-up’ style article.

Under this new format, I hope we’ll see more of a sense of regularity and order to the site.

What I would really like to see going forward is reader submissions too, you can submit articles via the contact email address advertised on the site or I’d be more than willing to setup contributors profiles so you can login and submit content for yourself.

Rather than having the blog separated from main website with the ‘Welcome’ and ‘About’ pages, the blog is now the main homepage with other pages branching off of it. This adds a bit more consistency and overall looks a bit nicer and easier to navigate. I’ve moved the whole site across to a server (still hosted by GigaTux – who were very generous in offering free hosting when the blog started a few years back). The site is still organised much in the same fashion as it was, I’m keeping the layout very clear and simple so that it doesn’t look too cluttered and it’s still viewable on the majority of RISC OS web browsers.

I’ve moved away from the old blog, which can still be found under I feel it was time to get away from the blog being separately hosted and generally, I think the new blog looks a bit nicer and adds more of a professional touch that the old blog lacked. All old content will still be available on the old blog and will still be linked to through the main website.

An idea I’ve been toying with is posting content that isn’t quite RISC OS related, but will appeal to the inner-geek of the majority of people reading this blog. Although this won’t constitute the bulk of content on the blog, I’m hoping it will add an interesting side to the site that we haven’t quite seen before. A good example of this is an article that was posted a while back on the original blog about ViewDNS, a nice web-based website troubleshooting tool that – although not RISC OS related – is quite a handy article for people to read.

All in all, we’ll see how everything pans out but I’m hoping this will provide more benefit and value to you guys reading the blog than previous content on here has been in the past. As always, any feedback is welcome, just drop a comment below or drop me an email.

Website troubleshooting with ViewDNS

posted in: Miscellaneous | 0

Troubleshooting website connectivity issues is not a nice task, but sometimes it has to be done. A tool that I’ve come across that helps a great deal and pretty much gathers every tools required into one accessible place is ViewDNS.

ViewDNS is a web-based collection of troubleshooting tools listed on a single page, as well running your usual run-of-the-mill pings and traceroutes, the website gives you the ability to see if your website can be accessed behind Chinese or Iranian firewalls, perhaps not useful to everyone, but still a nifty little tool.

The site also gives the ability for users to see if a site of their choice is down through ‘Is My Site Down‘, essential for troubleshooting DNS or IP issues as regards to website accessibility. The tools runs ping requests, port scans and checks DNS resolution all in one go, screenshot at the bottom of this article.

You can run a Port Scanner, Ping and Traceroute tests to check for any connection specific issues, so a handy test using a traceroute through would be to compare that with a traceroute from the command line as well as your default gateway.

Beyond that you can check to see if your IP address is on any Spam Block lists or find the geographic location of an IP address.

Although all the features on the site are nothing new, it’s definitely worth a bookmark if you ever need to run any website diagnostics without having to go digging around for each tool manually.