Archive for the 'Retrogaming' Category

Patrick Jean Pixels

A cool video from French director Patrick Jean where 8 bit game characters invade our world :

Keyboard Issue: Playing Elite C64 on a Mac with the Cocoa Vice Emulator

Elite was THE space exploration game of the 80s and probably one of the best games ever written at the time. Ian Bell and David Braben, the two programmers who created it managed to fit thousands of worlds in the tiny RAMs of the computer of the time (the planet data were actually generated randomly).

There are many versions of elite and you can download a good few of them on Ian Bell‘s site. Being a former Commodore 64 aficionado, I would recommend, for the ultimate 8 bit experience, to grab a copy of elite C64 here. You can also grab a copy of the doc here thanks to Project C64. In order to run elite C64 on a Mac, I advise to use the Vice emulator from here. The cocoa version is well adapted to the Mac. Note that with the File -> Smart Attach Disk/Tape… menu entry, you can read the downloaded zip file directly. After some loading time (even this is emulated, you have to be patient) and pressing space bar a few times (don’t get put off by the garbled screen, it does work after some loading time) answer ‘N’ to “Loading new commander?”.  At this stage press space and F1 (Fn – F1 if your mac has the brightness control on the F1 by default) and you should be in outer space [if you are not, you need a stronger drink]:

C64 Elite Screen Shot

One thing is really problematic on the Mac though, it is the keyboard configuration as it quite differs from a C64 and a number of keys are rather “funnily” emulated. As you can see from the Project 64 documentation, there is a lot of functions associated to individual keys as it was often the case with games from that era.

Two of them are rather important if you want to succeed in docking into a space station (see below) and detailed in the documentation from project 64:

Note: these controls can only be used when the game is frozen

 Keyboard recentering toggle A
 Keyboard damping toggle     Run Stop

The question is: How do you freeze/unfreeze the game on a mac and where is Run/Stop?

Well it took me a while to find out but these are the keys on a US Keyboard equipped Macbook Pro:

  • Freezing is obtained by pressing backspace
  • Unfreezing is obtained by pressing Fn and the left arrow simultaneously (!)
  • Run/Stop is Esc (don’t press § while the game is frozen, it will bring you back to the beginning)

While the game is frozen you can press esc and or ‘a’ (lower case) to activate/deactivate the keyboard recentering/damping for the ship’s control (you will hear a little ‘blip’ when either of these options is activated/deactivated). The ‘damping’ is particularly useful as you can ‘block’ the rotation or the up/down movements of the ship on a given position without the cursor going back to the center. It is then relatively easy to get the same rotation speed as a given space station and align to the entrance. Anyway you can now experiment to see what is easiest for you…