Archive for the ‘indie games’ Category

Got ChipWits working on the Mac

May 19, 2007

Running under Adobe Apollo. Apollo is slick. It was a cinch to convert my Flex project to an Apollo project.

I gave one last shot at getting ChipWits running under MDM Zinc and it went off into a loop that was impossible for me to debug on the Mac. So I bit the bullet and converted it to an Apollo app.

Apollo isn’t ideal because it’s in alpha right now. The installation will be a hassle because a user will need to install Apollo first and then the ChipWits.air Apollo file. When Adobe rolls out the release of Apollo installation will be a one-step deal, but for now if a player doesn’t already run Apollo they’ll need to install it manually.

I got a Mac Powerbook off eBay a few weeks ago – a 1.5 ghz G4, which will be the low-end Mac we support. I picked this Mac as the target at the suggestion of Jay Bibby of . ChipWits runs a tad slower on the Mac than my PC of the same speed, which concerns me. I may hire a Flax/Flex animation guru to review my code to help me pump up the performance of the game. Flash isn’t the speediest game platform, for sure.

It felt good to see ChipWits running stably on a Mac again after 23 years.


Major New Build of ChipWits

May 18, 2007

The latest build of ChipWits is filled with LOTs o’ new features. I really pumped up the IBOL editor. The most important features are undo/redo and multi-chip drag and drop. Both features were requested in ’84 and are finally ready for your enjoyment. Since a lot of the player’s time is spent in the IBOL editor, making it slicker is a big win for the game.

I also changed the Subpanel system, letting players create as many named Subpanels as they need rather than just A-G.

I added the new Register operators to let ‘Wits do math and have addressable variables. The ChipWit can now drop a Counter object, which has a numeric value. I am going to create Register-based missions with a CounterLock – a door that opens when a Counter with the correct value is dropped onto it.

I also added the ability to add comments to chips. This will help a lot in making IBOL programs understandable.

I am going to wait a week to get some feedback before I hold a contest.

Until then I am going to work on the Mac version and start working on a full suite of tutorial missions.

Feels great!

Flex, my ChipWits dev platform, goes Open Source

April 26, 2007

When I looked for a cross-platform game development environment over a year ago Adobe Flex was just coming out the door. Margaret was comfortable doing animation in Flash, but I was sceptical of ActionScript. When I got a look at ActionScript 3.0 I felt comfortable taking the plunge.

I’ve really enjoyed working with Flex. Today’s announcement that Adobe is open-sourcing Flex gives me even more confidence I made a good choice of platforms. Scoble has some nice vids up of interviews with core Flex devs about Adobe’s open source move.

I’ve spent the past week working on IBOL editing in ChipWits. I’ve got undo/redo working well. Got copy/paste working last night along with the start of multiple-select. Tomorrow multiple-select drag & drop. Since ChipWits players will spend the bulk of their time editing IBOL code anything I do to ease editing will pay off bigtime.

Today I also got a Mac Powerbook which I bought off eBay. It’s a G4 1.5 ghz – which is going to be our base Mac target machine at the recommendation of Jay Bibby of Jayisgames . Having a Mac version of ChipWits ready when we launch is important to me because ChipWits came out first on the Mac in ’84. Apollo is still not ready for me to use to deliver Mac ChipWits ( and Mike Chambers suggests that Apollo will be following Flex’s example ) so I will be wrestling with the killer Zinc Mac bug.

Starting to run Contest ChipWits

February 6, 2007

Margaret and I are both under the weather. We worked our tushes off getting the new website up and killing bugs for playtesting.

So we are taking a day off. I’ll be running the contest entries through Greedville and posting the result late tonight.

We are then going to take a few days off to catch out breath. Next weekend we’ll announce the next contest, which will involve ZAPping ELECTROCRABs.

We are getting a few more visitors to the website, but aren’t going to shout out about the game until the end of the month, when our little game should be playable by people who didn’t cut their coding teeth on the original Mac, C-64, or Apple II versions.

Thanks once again to our great playtester/bughunters.

ChipWits is Open Source!!!

January 12, 2007

Mike and I discussed the future of ChipWits and decided the only way to go is to make it Open Source. That’s not quite the correct terminology – Open Format is more correct. The ChipWit and Mission data file formats will be open standards so that people will be able to exchange ChipWit files between our version of the game and versions others write.

Why is this important for a simple little game like ChipWits? People have been writing their own versions of ChipWits since it first came out. Two of the old ChipWit fans who are helping us with the revival each programmed their own versions of the game – Mark 12 years ago when he was a teen and Klaus has been working on his own version this year.

ChipWits is a programming game and it’s flattering that it inspires programmers to write their own versions.

We at ChipWits Central ( yes, will go live by the end of the month) will, of course, write the coolest version of ChipWits so we’ll make lots of dough. And we will establish an online ChipWits gaming community, hold contests, and build a 3D ChipWits world.

So we want people to write freeware versions for the One Laptop Per Child , Second Life, Open Croquet …

Tonight I pick up my daughter and ChipWit artist, Margaret, at the airport and we will put in a hard fun couple weeks getting our ChipWits out the door as shareware beta.

Opening up ChipWits feels great.

ChipWits and The Mac

January 9, 2007

Mike and I wrote ChipWits in 1984 – the year of the Mac. We got our hands on one of the futuristic little beige toaster the first week they were available retail.

Old Mac running ChipWits

Within 6 months we had created one of the best games for the Mac, as certified by numerous year-end magazine Best Educational Game awards

The first time I saw ChipWits in a computer store was a real rush. I stopped in to check out an Apple store and there was my baby running as the demo on their single Mac. Proudly I buttonholed an employee and asked where the boxes were.

The dude got flustered and admitted that it was a pirate copy. He said that a friend who worked at Apple had given him the copy. Hope ChipWits sold a few Macs for you, Mr. Jobs.

Now, being rather poor due to my neural problems, I don’t own a Mac. But it is important to me to release a Mac version of ChipWits on the same day as the Windows (and I hope Linux) versions. So I’m at an old friend’s house in Minneapolis working on his Mac to get an OS X hqx bundle ready.

And I look forward to buying a new Mac with some of the first ChipWit bucks to roll in.

Love the Mac, but Amiga was the most fun computer to program for.

*Thanks, Senor Wences, for the photo of ChipWits running on an old Mac.

ChipWits on the Web

January 6, 2007

After we release our shareware standalone ChipWits we are going to dive right into creating an online ChipWits game community.

Margaret and I spent a lot of last year working on GODinabox to build a Flying Spaghetti Monster-centric* online game world. We did a lot of learning about online game communities and I got a good start on coding the guts of our game platform.

My last paying gig was as Demo God in Microsoft Research’s Virtual Worlds Group right before I became disabled 9 years ago. Margaret designed one of the first worlds that ran on the VWG platform.

So it’s going to be very cool to see where we can go melding my** first game with an online community.


* Bobby Henderson – the FSM’s Prophet – is a partner in GODinabox.

**co-created with Mike Johnston.

Archeological expedition into the Ancient Maps of ChipWits

January 4, 2007

Mike and I wrote ChipWits in 1984 in a blaze of inspiration and insanely hard work. After launching the Mac version in Fall 84 we produced the Commodore 64 version and the Apple II version in less than 6 months.

I didn’t keep the best notes. I’ve got a box of disks and printouts and sketches of IBOL ops and even the first drawing of a ChipWit (which I will scan and upload here). Nowhere can I find maps of the original 8 missions.

So I am playing the original game on an online Apple II Emulator (IE only for now, they are working on their Firefox emulator plugin):

Stymied by a impassable pastry

The majesty of Apple II Graphics: ChipWit #7, lacking ZAP or PICKUP, is blocked by PIE.

I wrote a keyboard-driven ChipWit so I could explore at will. IFKEY S->SKATE FORWARD, IFKEY X->SKATE RIGHT45, IFKEY Z->SKATE LEFT45.

Apple II Keyboard-driven ChipWit with a bug

There are 2 Bugs in this ChipWit! Spot ’em! Answer tomorrow.

The Apple II IBOL editor is pretty amazing. We did the Mac version first and were Mac zealots so not only did we port the game to the C-64 and Apple II but the cursor-driven menu interface. as well. Note that instead of a mouse, players had to use a joystick to control the cursor. Clunky but it works. Running in emulation the interface is even clunkier.

I wound up having to kill 2 editing-induced bugs before it ran.

I decided to spelunk in Octopus Garden first – the most challenging mission. The ChipWit always starts on a random square in a central room. There are 8 corridors running from that room, each terminating in a room containing a high-score DISK to PICKUP.

It feels very strange playing one of my own 22-year old games. I know that I spent endless hours working with Mike on the Apple code and all the sound-FX and silly little animations did a real deja vu number on me. It was fun when an electrocrab sidled up to me because my heart-rate did go up and I SKATED my guy out of the room ASAP.

I ran into 2 pies that blocked my path (fiendishly placed there by some devious game designer (me or Mike)). So now IndieBot (the CW’s new name (after I. Jones)) sports a ZAP chip to clear the PIE.

I’ll have all 8 missions mapped by tomorrow. If I survive the PIE.


Yesterday’s bug – The arrows from both bottom chips should point right:

IndieBot debugged