Preserving NZ-designed Games

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Preserving NZ-designed Games

Postby GamesArchive on Tue Dec 13, 2011 4:04 pm

Hi everyone,
My name is Shane ---- and I have joined this forum to let you all know about a preservation project that we're embarking on. The project is called Play It Again and the New Zealand Film Archive is partnering with Australian Centre for Moving Image (ACMI), Victoria Uni / Computer Science dept,Flinders University, Computer Spiele Museum (Berlin computer games museum) and several academics, in order to preserve Australasian computer games (primarily from the 1980's - at least initially).

There is some sense of urgency given the rapid obsolescence of computer /digital technology over time, and we believe there is a strong argument to be made for preserving (and making available) NZ designed computer games as culturally significant digital heritage.

There is a little bit of history here:- NZFA has a broad mandate to collect, preserve and connect NZ moving image material for & to NZers -- we tentatively began collecting examples of retro hardware/software in 2000 and we held a very popular exhibition in ''05 called C:/DOS/RUN - REMEMBERING THE 80s COMPUTER. That same year Andreas Lange (founder of the German Computer Games museum in '97) visited us and collaborated with Vic Uni on a project called NZTronix which developed a database of early NZ software, as well as developing programmes in their computer science dept (PhD program) for transcoding versions of Basic source code to Java-ready language to enable playback in portables (for example).

This project was pitched by our Aussie colleagues and will receive some funding from the Aust. Arts Council for 3 years (starts in 2012), but we at the Film Archive will continue to actively seek out NZ-designed games beyond the length of this project. We are hoping to make connections with collectors who are happy to share their story (some will be filmed as oral histories), and hopefully discover some of the original programmers and software designers. Ultimately our aim is to preserve the original game software, whether it be on a cassette or floppy or cartridge and the programme itself ---making this retrievable for future use (be it research, or streaming an emulation on our website, or simply to inform the public of this interesting pocket of cultural history).

We would be most grateful for any level of support and/or collaboration --- whether that be supplying info and personal recollections; promoting the project through collector circles /forums; or depositing games software (either permanently or a loan arrangement). NOTE that all deposits with NZFA remain the property of the depositor and can be uplifted at anytime. The Archive will never take over any rights or breach intellectual copyright (the NZFA has special copyright exemptions under the NZ copyright act ---- which actually works as a "win", given the current digital copyright debate,in terms of extending a retro game's effective life span).

I look forward to your feedback,
Shane
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Re: Preserving NZ-designed Games

Postby tezza on Wed Dec 14, 2011 6:06 am

Shane,

Does the project include educational games? I wrote a few back in the 1980s. I even wrote an article for NZ Bits and Bytes on one of them. Let me know if these qualify and I'll get in touch privately with the details.
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Re: Preserving NZ-designed Games

Postby GamesArchive on Wed Dec 14, 2011 7:55 am

Hi Terry,

Yeah most definitely ---- we are interested in all manner of computer games and formats. The only real criteria is that the programme was written by a New Zealander or modified by a New Zealander, and hence can be termed a genuine local (NZ) game.

While the focus of the 'Play It Again' project will be on games/software written in the 80's, the NZ Film Archive is also happy to receive NZ designed game material that falls either side of this decade, though obviously the older and more in-danger software will take preservation priority.
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Re: Preserving NZ-designed Games

Postby YetiSeti on Sun Dec 25, 2011 10:11 pm

Hi Shane,
well, I may be last to reply but let me be the first to put my hand up if there are any job vacancies on the project :) To set up that dream computer museum I have crafted a cunning work exit-plan that involves either winning lotto powerball or marrying the daughter of a media mogul or business magnate. The only flaw in the plan I can see is that I, myself, am too shy and bashful to sign up to http://www.seekingmillionaire.com/ and whenever I ask for a winning lotto ticket they keep selling me one that doesn't.

Anyhow, it's great to see this important aspect of NZ's history is receiving the higher level of attention it desperately needs. I think you've found a good site and community of enthusiasts here to post to, who if not busy in the present with all their own vintage tech projects, will at least find time in the future to contribute to the archive. In several years on trademe I have purchased items from many interesting individuals and some in the industry.

I hope you embrace some Web Spew.0 technologies in any website developed to facilitate connecting with the various communities and public in your project. There are great tools now for supporting online collaboration, communities and content creation (I'm thinking facebook/google+) and I hope your site will be open to both view and contribute information to. There are some very well supported overseas websites rich with user content (e.g. mobygames, lemon64, atariage etc) with established databases of software, hardware, scans, ROMs, reviews, user comment facilities etc. Will these be contributed to in any way?

I am interested in knowing how your project links to any more broader projects or national-level groups looking at preserving NZ's computing and gaming heritage. I have many books and magazines in my collection, and the information in these go hand-in-hand with the software and digital artifacts, especially with respect to the NZ publications.

In a more general interest, I think the history of the various local distributors and manufacturers of game (and other types of) software and consoles is important to document, not just the natively grown software. And just as not all computers were sold here, not all software was sold in NZ. I'm sure the industry overseas lasted longer than here, so I reckon a fair amount of later 90s released software on the computers and consoles probably wasn't sold here. The end of the home computing era may be a story to be told by the importers/distributors/software houses here.

Every time I buy from trademe I am fairly confident I am buying into a snapshot and glimpse of NZ's computer and gaming past. I think there is a bigger picture of NZ's computing past that needs to be captured now and not a moment later as it will get harder to see with more people buying items from overseas and ebay to fill the gaps of what wasn't available here, or what is in limited supply now.

I like the idea that some people would have been among the few to own certain software titles, or own particular computers. Heck, if I knew they were rare then, I might still have my Commodore 64GS, Datapoint, Intellivision, or Compucolor II. Old-computers.com let's you list your collections and gives a good impression of computers were around and still in existence in a country. Some gaming site let you indicate that you own a copy of a software title. I would even go further, and cast my mind back to remember the hundreds of (original) titles I had across the various home computer platforms in the 80s (thanks Dad, RIP).

I saw C:/DOS/RUN when I was living in Wellington. I remember leaving that exhibition wishing I had a Nintendo Power Glove, or one of those arm computers from the TV series Ark II (http://www.crazyabouttv.com/arkii.html). I have since settled for a Master Replica Aliens Motion Tracker (http://www.alienscollection.com/review.html) - a single-handed computer, which single-handledly is the single-most expensive item in my collection. It cost an arm and a leg (Fly II ref.)

Cheers,
Clinton (yetiseti)

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Re: Preserving NZ-designed Games

Postby lizardb0y on Sat Dec 31, 2011 8:54 am

Andrew Bradfield and Harvey Kong Tin of Dunedin produced two games - Laserhawk and Hawkquest for the Atari 8 bit computers. I know Harvey from a computer club we both used to attend, and he has previously offered me some of his papers and disks from the 80s. I'll get in touch and see if he'd be willing to donate material to the NZFA.

On another note, I am a Wellington based vintage computing enthusiast, and have a fairly sizeable collection (about 180 computers and consoles, plus associated software, books and magazines) of early home computers with some software and magazines. Like Clinton I've always had the dream of exhibiting the collection publicly, so let me know if there's any opportunity to collaborate on something like this :)
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Re: Preserving NZ-designed Games

Postby GamesArchive on Sat Dec 31, 2011 3:50 pm

Hi Clinton,
great to hear you're supportive of some kind of computer museum to become a reality in NZ --- I imagine there will be heaps of fellow collectors who would endorse that sentiment.

The thing is it can only really happen if there is lots of collaboration between vintage computer collectors (sharing knowledge, resources, time & money to make it happen). I too would love to see this happen, but will just stress here again that the "Play It Again" joint project that the NZ Film Archive is involved in, is primarily focused on preservation of (NZ) gaming software, with an ultimate aim of making these accessible to the public via emulation or transcoding scenarios. There will be, to some extent, a little acquisitioning of selected hardware (micro's , consoles, table-tops, handhelds etc) ---- but this is not our main thrust, due to issues of storage space and lack of funding.

We will definitely be happy to work with collectors who are willing to exhibit their collections publicly ..... at least with a focus on the computer gaming culture that had such a huge impact on this country in the 80's, and we really want to work with collectors like yourself, who are happy to voluntary loan us gaming software or deposit games so we can utilise the program and make preservation copies.

Unfortunately at this stage of the project there are no 'job vacancies' as such, in fact we are not receiving any additional funding for our part in the project, and so the amount of time I will actually be able to devote to this apart from my regular Archive work has been carefully budgeted ahead over the next three years (to approx 1 day/week) ------ I hope this scenario might change with time if we can get some government interest/support in terms of future funding from MCH sector (but I'm not holding my breath on that). So we are relying totally on the goodwill of a bunch of collectors who are happy to freely give of their knowledge, time and from their personal collections to kick start this.

I don't know a lot about the subsequent website development details at this stage --- only that we intend to link the public info on this project to our main website, and I know we will be always open to suggestions for public collaboration and the sharing of info, so your suggestions of web spew.0 and online collaboration sounds definitely feasible, and we would like to hear more about that.

I agree about the importance of the history of the local distributors and game manufacturers --- and we plan to record some of that in oral histories as well as acquire the relevant documentation for the collection.

Cheers,
Shane
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Re: Preserving NZ-designed Games

Postby GamesArchive on Sat Dec 31, 2011 4:03 pm

Hi Andrew ---- that's really useful info thanks on those Atari games-- hope Harvey is happy to collaborate.

See my comment above to Clinton re. exhibiting collections .... essentially I foresee collaborative exhibitions like you suggest as a good way ahead to promote interest in retro gaming and prompt other collectors "out of the woodwork". Of course they will also raise interest in the vintage computer hardware and I hope draw attention to the pressing need we have in this country for a dedicated public museum of retro computing.

Cheers
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Re: Preserving NZ-designed Games

Postby lizardb0y on Sat Dec 31, 2011 6:17 pm

GamesArchive wrote:Hi Clinton,
great to hear you're supportive of some kind of computer museum to become a reality in NZ --- I imagine there will be heaps of fellow collectors who would endorse that sentiment.

The thing is it can only really happen if there is lots of collaboration between vintage computer collectors (sharing knowledge, resources, time & money to make it happen). I too would love to see this happen, but will just stress here again that the "Play It Again" joint project that the NZ Film Archive is involved in, is primarily focused on preservation of (NZ) gaming software, with an ultimate aim of making these accessible to the public via emulation or transcoding scenarios.


You may be interested in a project initiated by Jason Scott and being executed by the Archive Team to create a portable Javascript version of the Multi Emulator Super System (MESS), which would bring emulation of numerous old systems to any web browser. It's early days yet, but keep an eye on it.

My offer to help with anything related to this effort stands, and I'll let you know what Harvey says about his stuff.
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Re: Preserving NZ-designed Games

Postby Radar on Mon Jan 09, 2012 3:59 pm

lizardb0y wrote:Andrew Bradfield and Harvey Kong Tin of Dunedin produced two games - Laserhawk and Hawkquest for the Atari 8 bit computers. I know Harvey from a computer club we both used to attend, and he has previously offered me some of his papers and disks from the 80s. I'll get in touch and see if he'd be willing to donate material to the NZFA.


Some of Harvey and Andrews material may already be in the Otago Early Settlers Museum collection.
I think they were the very first museum to stage an exhibition of retro computing material in the early 2000's and I remember seeing Laserhawk running (emulated) with other material relating to it on display.

Be interested to know if the museum has much in its collection or if it was all just on loan for the exhibition.
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Re: Preserving NZ-designed Games

Postby Harvey on Fri Mar 09, 2012 9:14 am

I have been sitting on a small pile of 'stuff' which helps document the development of "Laser Hawk" and "Hawkquest" - New Zealand's first commercial computer arcade-style videogames - made entirely in Dunedin. To my knowledge - 1985 to 1989 - there was no one else? Who actually finished programming/designing their own computer videogame?
Stewart Lees in Wellington did write his own prototype/demo - which he kindly sent to me, a copy of - which was similar in style to Hawkquest/Xevious like game (ie. a vertical scroller).

Laser Hawk did feature at the Otago Early Settlers Museum exhibit "Monster to Miniature" The Personal Computer Comes of Age, in September 2002 - but it was only a small display. The emulation wasn't running 100% - it was kinda buggy. I felt that it should have been more prominent.

Andrew and I, were softly spoken guys who never sought the limelight - nor were we any good at public speaking, etc. When we completed the two games - we never thought of - hey! We should be on TV showcasing our hard work and effort. We already knew that sales of our games would not be significant, nor would they be on sale in New Zealand - at that time.
But I would like now - to ensure that our effort is fully documented - and because Andrew passed away in 2001 - it is up to me, to pass on the material I have, to someone who can record/keep it for the future... That it should never be forgotten, that a home computer enthusiast/hobbyist did write his own computer videogame - not just once - but twice... and he was self-taught. He was not enthusiastic about BASIC though - he could understand and write in Assembler. I designed the graphics for him - and was a general gofer/etc - and found the various editors, etc that I could design graphics with - and chased up the latest graphics routines etc wherever I could find them, that helped make Hawkquest extra special, because we knew it would be our last effort for the wonderful Atari 800 etc home computers.

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Re: Preserving NZ-designed Games

Postby lizardb0y on Fri Mar 09, 2012 9:48 am

Harvey wrote:I have been sitting on a small pile of 'stuff' which helps document the development of "Laser Hawk" and "Hawkquest" - New Zealand's first commercial computer arcade-style videogames - made entirely in Dunedin. To my knowledge - 1985 to 1989 - there was no one else? Who actually finished programming/designing their own computer videogame?


Hi Harvey - great to see you here on the forums! I've sent you a private message with Shane's contact details at the Film Archive. I think we're all keen to make sure that Andrew and your work on Laserhawk & HawkQuest is preserved :)

Do you still have Stewart Lee's prototype as well?

--
Andrew
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Re: Preserving NZ-designed Games

Postby GamesArchive on Fri Mar 09, 2012 9:50 am

:D This is fascinating history Harvey, and exactly the thing that we are keen to document and preserve. So glad you have held on to this material -- having the foresight etc etc & recognising it's importance in the scheme of things.
I'm really keen to hear more and help you to get this history duly recognised.
When you say that the game was poorly emulated in the OES Museum exhibition, was that a flaw in the emulation system used? Just wondering if it has since been emulated in a more satisfactory way. We would be keen to preserve it from the source code, and work from the original computer program if that's still around.

Shane
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Re: Preserving NZ-designed Games

Postby Harvey on Fri Mar 09, 2012 6:53 pm

The exhibition at the Early Settlers Museum was extensive and large - I was trying to say that the Laser Hawk display was small, but that is what happens when you have to let someone else set up the display, etc. I know about setting up displays, etc as I did work in the display department of a department store, and have set up my Atari 800, etc at some computer expos, etc.. The emulation of Laser Hawk was running on a PC, just barely running at full speed, and there was a graphics glitch present - I would guess the Museum could not afford a faster PC at that time... I did assist in the write up about Laser Hawk, etc for the exhibit - and do not have a copy of that text now.

I am always disappointed that when some people reminiscence about their days back in the 80s' - they may comment how they could have written some computer game back then - but never got around to it. There is a very good reason why so few people have completed a videogame project - because it involves a lot of very hard work - especially for any game that is graphics intensive.
The obvious reason why people were attracted towards the Atari 400/800 home computers - can be put down to the one game - "Star Raiders" - this 8K game cartridge, actually features low-resolution graphics - but it is a real-time action simulation, as if you were in some kind of Star Wars space fighter battling other such craft in outer space. No other computer had such an equivalent to this - which is like putting you into a Star Wars movie. I think Star Raiders came out about a year or two after the Star Wars movie?

The reason why the Atari Home Computers failed to be popular in Australia and New Zealand, would be due to the pricing and how they were distributed here. Ozisoft the importer - I think? - could not get wholesale purchasing of them. Going by the final pricing, it appears that they purchased their stock at retail prices, and then added their markup on top of that. In the first few years the Atari Computers were on sale - they were horribly expensive - and it's videogame cartridges were also highly priced. Quite a number of years eventually passed, by which time it was realised that competitive pricing (and lower prices) helped create the mass market for these home computers and that people could spot a turkey (aka Vic-20) when they see one... even though Capt. Kirk endorsed it.

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Re: Preserving NZ-designed Games

Postby Harvey on Thu Mar 29, 2012 8:24 am

The Otago Early Settlers Museum here, have contacted me and said they'd like to include Laser Hawk again, into some computer display for when the museum reopens --- it is undergoing a major upgrade redevelopment at the moment. I think the best way to show off the Laser Hawk and Hawkquest, is to have a continuous video running (say off a Media Player device, off a USB flash drive - with no moving parts to break down) - and if they wanted it interactive as well, then include the game running off an emulator - and it being fully playable, as per the original.
As far as the history record goes - Dinky Kong may well be New Zealand's first computer arcade game - with that Vic-20 game completed a few months prior to Hot Copter (Laser Hawk) - but when these games are seen side by side - I think Laser Hawk will be New Zealand's first Coin-op quality computer videogame with it's more sophisicated graphics running - and Hawkquest can be New Zealand's biggest 8-bit computer videogame - being 360k in size overall... although it runs with a minium of 48k on an Atari 800.
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Re: Preserving NZ-designed Games

Postby lizardb0y on Thu Mar 29, 2012 8:38 am

Harvey wrote:The Otago Early Settlers Museum here, have contacted me and said they'd like to include Laser Hawk again, into some computer display for when the museum reopens --- it is undergoing a major upgrade redevelopment at the moment.


That's great news! Please pass on my contact details to them - I'm happy to help in any way I can :)

Harvey wrote:I think the best way to show off the Laser Hawk and Hawkquest, is to have a continuous video running (say off a Media Player device, off a USB flash drive - with no moving parts to break down) - and if they wanted it interactive as well, then include the game running off an emulator - and it being fully playable, as per the original.


I had a good experience running it under Atari800 on Linux, which can even generate fairly realistic looking RF artifacts and scanlines. I tried to get a video capture from the emulator, but found I couldn't get reliable sound - I'm still working on this. Sadly I'm nowhere near good enough to play the game all the way through yet!

Harvey wrote:As far as the history record goes - Dinky Kong may well be New Zealand's first computer arcade game - with that Vic-20 game completed a few months prior to Hot Copter (Laser Hawk) - but when these games are seen side by side - I think Laser Hawk will be New Zealand's first Coin-op quality computer videogame with it's more sophisicated graphics running - and Hawkquest can be New Zealand's biggest 8-bit computer videogame - being 360k in size overall... although it runs with a minium of 48k on an Atari 800.
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