40 years after the final game in the SwordQuest series was canceled, Atari is finally about to release the long-forgotten AirWorld chapter.
A teaser video showing gameplay shows that the game appears to be keeping with the style of the first three chapters, EarthWorld, FireWorld, and WaterWorld. Whether that’s good or not is debatable, but the gameplay does look like it’s a little better than the entries that preceded it, and I do have to give Digital Eclipse a lot of credit for keeping the style of the Atari 2600’s crude system limitations.
The Swordquest games were rather cryptic and not all that enjoyable to play, and not exactly worth the time to play them today, apart from as a historical curiosity, but were part of a massive contest held by Atari in the early 1980s, which helped them to attain a legendary status.
Apparently it goes on sale November 11th, as part of the Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration collection, on “all major platforms”. I take it to mean that there will not be a cartridge version of the game playable on the original Atari VCS hardware.
Velma as lesbian is safe, tame, expected, obvious.
I think originally she was written to be the nerdy, bookish, smart one on the team, and was written to give representation to nerds so they could feel empowerment.
Sexuality for children’s cartoon characters wasn’t a thing. It was taboo. If you drew the Scooby Doo gang naked in the late 60s, they’d look like Barbie and Ken dolls — no genitalia.
Of course it’s fine for humans to be sexual beings, since that’s what we are, and it’s no different with cartoon characters, and if you grow up and you’re still interested in Scooby Doo, and now you want to think about them sexually, go for it.
If you grew up crushing on one of the characters, I’m not going to shame you for it. If there was anyone in the group who appealed to me, it was Velma. You could tell under that thick turtleneck she was hiding an amazing body, and she had a restrained energy about her that was just waiting for its awakening.
If the writing team that’s handling the Scooby Doo property wanted to be bold, making Freddy gay (or bi, what’s wrong with bi?) would definitely be the way to go. Freddy was presented as being the masculine, strong, leader type. Making him a gay or bi character without changing that would be amazing. None of the usual gay stereotyping, but still a hint of it in his ascot.
People *want* Velma to be gay, because they want to watch her doing girl-on-girl porn, the way straight men love their fantasy lesbian porn. But people aren’t ready for Freddy to come out, and that’s exactly why he should.
Meifumado was a good–looking indie game with detailed 16-bit style pixel art and smooth animation that OldBit pitched on Kickstarter earlier this year. It reminded me of a hit indie game from a few years back, Shank, but with a samurai theme and setting.
Meifumado was a good looking indie game with detailed 16-bit style pixel art and smooth animation that OldBit pitched on Kickstarter earlier this year.
Today Kickstarter took down their project page temporarily pending resolution of a copyright dispute from one of the project’s contributors, who claims they have not been paid for the music they contributed, which was used in the trailer video.
Description of copyrighted material: The music in the trailer is created by me , but I havent received any payment and cant reached the creator and devs of the game. I dont know the developers personally and only had briefly contact during the creation of the trailer music.
Several backers are asking for an update, but receive no information, like me. This comes off as a scam.
Under the section “Team” I and my music are mentioned and linked too.
Bc of this situation I am asking to be removed from the text and campaign page and further more ask the kickstarter team to look into the situation.
I am very saddend and disappointed by all of this, esp. for everyone who supported this project. Everyone has been very patient, but I worry a bit that the frustration at some point might be redirected at me, as its seems I am the only “real” and reachable person.
Backers have not heard from OldBit since the project achieved its funding goal — no updates from the project team in months. Meifumado’s twitter account has been silent since April 1 of this year. The project had a page on Steam, which also appears to have been set up and abandoned not long after.
It’s looking more and more like this project was a scam, or fell apart due to poor project management or bad business practices. Kickstarter is not returning funds to backers at this time, and likely will not do so per Kickstarter’s terms of service.
Some indie dev teams are made up of non-professionals, complete amateurs, and skilled kids who can collaborate despite lack of formal business structure, and based on the account given above by Moritz, and its lack of proofreading, it seems like that must have been the case with the Meifumado project.
It remains to be seen how this will resolve.
Update: Meifumado’s kickstarter page is back up, apparently the copyright issue must have been resolved. But there still has been no update from the team since the project hit its goal. There is virtually no chance that the project is still being worked on at this point.
I’m using a walkthrough, because I can’t remember how to solve all the puzzles 42 years on, not that I ever DID solve all the puzzles back in the day anyway!
I was all of 8 or 10 years old when I first played Zork, I think, in 1982 or ’84, on a PC at a friend’s house that I didn’t have infinite time on, so give me a break. I also had a Choose Your Own Adventure-like book adaptation of the game, which I “played” through many times when I was the same age. It wasn’t published by the CYOA people, but it was the same concept — Choose Your Own Adventure stories are basically a print form of the text adventure computer game in many ways, although a bit more limited in the choices the player can “input”. Zork was one of the most popular home computer games in the early 80s, at a time when tabletop role-playing games like Advanced Dungeons & Dragons were at one of their early peaks in popularity. Together these games created the cornerstones of the geek subculture, a movement which has blossomed and thrived since then, particularly as the internet took off in the 1990s.
DALL-E is a text-to-image AI developed by OpenAI, that uses natural language inputs to generate high quality images. It’s been growing in popularity in recent weeks as the internet has begun to discover and share the images created by it. A twitter account @weirddalle is worth a follow, if you like that sort of thing. (Which, who possibly couldn’t?)
I’ll be feeding the text of Zork through DALL-E as input, and the results, will be the images that I tweet along the text from the walkthrough on the twitter account for the project.
I get rate limited to 50 posts every 23.5 hours on DALL-E, so each time I hit my limit, I’ll have to take a break. Accordingly, it’s expected that this will take maybe a few days or weeks to complete. It’s also possible that I could run afoul of DALL-E’s anti-abuse filters with some parts of the game, and if that happens I will failover to CrAIyon, the DALL-E Mini AI. It doesn’t generate as good images, but it’ll do as a backup.
I’m really pleased with this project, it’s so simple and the execution is easy, but it’s fun, and I feel like a creative guy just for having the idea to do it. Simple ideas really make me happy.
To put Zork, one of the earliest PC text adventures, which was released some 42 years ago, into an AI-based text to image generating system, and see what it outputs for illustrations seems like the funnest, coolest thing you could do, and a great way to tie the cutting edge of technology to some of its early roots.
Not all of the images DALL-E will generate will be accurate to the game, and that’s OK. It’s fun just to see what it comes up with, using the sparse descriptions that the game gives. Most of Zork took place in your imagination, and so we get to see what an AI might imagine.
The downfall of this process is that DALL-E will not remember from one run to the next all the context from the previous events in the game, so it will in many cases forget things that it should be aware of, resulting in some odd continuity. But that’s not the point, of course. The point is to do something fun with technology, playing with it to see what happens.
If you want to play Zork for yourself, you can do that! It’s free to play in your browser through an embedded DOSBox emulator.
DALL-E has been getting a lot of my attention lately. I signed up for the wait list to become a user and got an invitation a few days ago. DALL-E is much more capable than DALL-E mini, later renamed Craiyon, that I had played with previously. It generates images higher quality images, faster.
I’ve been using DALL-E like a bad graphic artist’s client, pestering it every few minutes for free concept art with the promise of “exposure” as its own reward. DALL-E doesn’t seem to mind, though. And we love each other. I ask it for whatever comes to mind, and it seldom disappoints me.
I decided to ask DALL-E to create box cover artwork for Mega Man, since why not. It occurred to me that this would be a good John Henry competition, pitting the new machine up against the mightiest artist to ever lift a colored pencil, to see who was better.
It turns out that DALL-E was more than up for the challenge.
I mean, none of these is exactly good, but all of them are awesome.
Most of these don’t feel like Mega Man, but they all have a pretty good Japanese Giant Robot vibe, which is just fine. Mega Man is a small robot, not a giant robot, of course, but that hardly matters — instantly, my imagination is fired by the idea of a 1960’s or 1970’s Mega Man anime imported to the US in the 80s alongside shows like Star Blazers, Mobile Suit Gundam, Mazinger Z/Tranzor Z, and Macross/Robotech, and Diaclone/Transformers… What a “What If?” to think about! So the nostalgia factor for this alternative Mega Man that never existed is powerful.
It makes me think that if I got back into game development, I’d use DALL-E to give me the initial inspiration, concept art, cover art, what have to get me going.
I have so many questions about DALL-E.
Why does it get the title wrong? Megan? Meggian? Megman? It can’t be hard to get the exact text out of the description I entered and replicate it in the image. Is this a deliberate nerf on the part of the developers to prevent users from creating meme captions that could be offensive?
Due to the way DALL-E can’t seem to get the words right for the titles, a lot of what it generates reminds me of this hilarious meme from years ago, which parodied corporate fast food logos by turning them into dada-ish nonsense. Which makes it unintentionally (or not) hiliarious and entertaining, but it also limits its usefulness for creating images I want to actually use.
It’s exciting to be alive at this time, getting to see these developments in AI. I don’t get the sense that DALL-E is truly intelligent, but what it does is impressive nonetheless. The images it creates are often quite good, and about as often are complete nonsense. But frequently this “nonsense” is either hilarious or entertaining, or has a superficial feeling of artisticness to it. If I knew a human had created some of these “artistic” images, I would be more inclined to ascribe creativity or meaning to them. But what when DALL-E does it, it feels more like it is holding up a mirror to our culture’s human-created art, as though it put the conceptual ideas of art and design into a blender, and reassembled them for us, not quite at random, but according to rules that don’t quite work yet, but still give the impression of… I don’t know, “something going on in there.” Often times the results it spits out give me the impression that I’m looking through a window into an alternate reality; as though, the many worlds theories of physics are true, and DALL-E is somehow extracting images of alternate realities from one of an infinitude of alternate universes in our multiverse. And from an information theory standpoint, perhaps that might as well be what it is doing.
When the images are purely visual representations, the impression of intelligence at work is more effective, but when the images contain words, it’s clear that DALL-E is just throwing shit at the wall to see what sticks, following rules of some kind, but not intelligently, not with deliberation or intent. We get nonsense words that are a jumble of letters that the DALL-E parser decided it thinks we wanted it to put into the image. And sometimes we get strange alternative glyphs, as though from some alien alphabet.
Much of the time the images DALL-E creates could be used to stimulate human creativity, to give a human creator a spark that they could use to work from, an initial inspiration. That’s a valuable thing in itself. And I’m sure the potential is there for it to continue to develop its abilities, and I expect that in time AI development will give us more capable AI. That seems almost a given.
Seeing what DALL-E would create was so fun that I asked it to create alternative cover art for many of my favorite games. There were many that I thought would be fun to share.
Legend of Zelda
Super Mario Bros.
Super Mario World
Ms. Pac Man
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Bad Dudes vs. Dragon Ninja
These are amazing, especially considering the amount of human effort it takes to create them — literally just typing in a few words and clicking a button. They are so fun to look at, to anticipate what DALL-E will come up with while the progress bar fills. Each one is as interesting for how it fails as it is interesting for how it succeeds. Each seems like an alternative universe’s version of the game title. The art style varies — some of it looks like the illustration on a children’s cereal box, a lot of it looks like the cover of a paperback book or movie, while others look like the box a board game is stored in. Tetris appears to have strong links with Rubik’s Cube, and here and there I can pick up hints of other influences. It’s especially fun to see when DALL-E “knows” the game title, and picks up on stuff that is recognizable from the game, and uses it in the images it composes.
The company that calls itself Atari these days is releasing the fourth and final game in the SwordQuest series, as part of the brand’s 50th Anniversary Celebration. Atari was founded in 1972 by Nolan Bushnell, Al Alcorn, and Ted Dabny, making 2022 the 50th anniversary of the brand’s existence.
The SwordQuest series was an ambitious, ahead of its time, puzzle/quest game, intricately tied into a real-world contest to solve each game. The first three games in the series: EarthWorld, FireWorld, and WaterWorld were released, but the final game, AirWorld, was never developed and was canceled amid the 1983 video game crash.
Each game was packaged with a comic book which told the story and held hidden clues which the player would follow while playing the game to try to discover the secret. Players who solved the puzzle were entered into a contest where they could real jewel-encrusted gold prizes, worth $25,000 according to Atari: a scepter, a crown, and a cup. I think the plan for the fourth prize was a sword, but like the game you’d need to beat for a chance to win it, it was never made.
The games were very cryptic, and would have been suitable for older (teenage and up) gamers. As a 7 year old, I didn’t really understand what was going on in these games, but spent hours wandering around, trying to collect the objects from the rooms to figure out what they did, and what you were supposed to do in the game, but never really understood that the game required the comic books in order to solve the real puzzles and beat the game. You controlled a man who ran around a top-down “overworld” which consisted of mostly empty rooms with doorways to each of the cardinal directions. The only difference between the overworld rooms was their color, and sometimes items that were found there. Many of the rooms had a challenge that you had to overcome before you could enter. This challenge consisted of one of a selection of mini-games where you had to evade obstacles in order to pass from one side of the screen to the other. Typically if you fail the challenge, you get knocked back and have to start over, or you can give up and back out. EarthWorld, FireWorld, and WaterWorld had color schemes and graphical themes corresponding to their respective elements, as well as tie-ins with things like the Zodiac.
The mini-games were challenging enough, and were fun enough, when they weren’t infuriatingly unfair.
EarthWorld and FireWorld are very common, but WaterWorld is a rare cartridge. It was produced in limited numbers and I think it was only available by mail order or some kind of limited time special order offer. A friend had a copy, which I was fortunate to be able to play when I as a kid, and I never realized that it was so rare. As a result WaterWorld is an expensive collector’s item, although as a game it’s not really any better than the other two, which, apart from their contest allure to win real-world gold prizes, are not really great games by modern standards, barely worth replaying now.
Not much is known about AirWorld yet, but we can expect it will likely be similar in format as the first three, but perhaps more refined, than the other SwordQuest games. We do know that it will play on the 2600, and that it was not a re-discovered unreleased game, but was developed only recently. I’m actually curious to see what it’s like, and looking forward to playing it, just to be able to complete it. A re-issue of WaterWorld that I could buy at a reasonable price would be nice, but Atari’s re-releases of 2600 games have been priced at $100, which is about what a loose copy of WaterWorld is worth. There’s no word as yet on whether there will be a new contest with a big-ticket gold prize, but I’m not holding my breath.
When finally released, SwordQuest AirWorld will set a record for the longest time between initial announcement and release — about 40 years — beating Metroid: Dread (16 years) and Duke Nukem Forever (15 years) by over a decade. (Of the three Duke Nukem Forever was supposedly under continual development, and was never canceled, making it the longest continual game development project.)
DALL-E mini is a scaled down implementation of DALL-E, a neural net AI that can create novel images based on natural language instructions. I’ve been having fun trying it out.
I like pugs, so I have told DALL-E mini to make me a lot of pug pictures of various types. A lot of the results look at least halfway decent.
The twitter account @weirddalle posts a lot of “good” (amusing) DALL-E results. Most of which I think are safe to say are novel creations, not something you would expect to find many (if any) examples from a google image search (although, who knows, the internet is a really big, really weird space).
And then I asked DALL-E mini for “a great big pug” and the mystique unraveled for me. I could recognize a lot of familiar pug photos from Google’s image search results page. I tried to go to google to find them, but the current results it gives me are a bit different; I’d guess that the images in the screen cap of DALL-E, below, would have been the top hits for “pug” in Google Image search several years ago.
The four in the upper right corner look especially familiar to me, as though I’ve seen those four images in that arrangement many times before (as I believe I have from searching Google for images of pugs many times.) I feel very confident that I have seen images very close to all nine of them before. Of course now, in 2022, if I search google for images of pugs, I get different results. But I’ve been a frequent searcher of pug pictures for 20 years, and I’m pretty confident that perhaps 5 or 10 years ago, most of the above 9 images were first-page results in Google Images for “pug”.
So, this makes me wonder, is DALL-E merely a sophisticated plagiarist? Is it simply taking images from Google and running some filters on them? For a very generic, simple query, it seems like the answer might be “maybe.”
DALL-E’s source code is available on github, which should make answering this question somewhat easy for someone who has expertise in the programming language and in AI. But I probably don’t have much hope of understanding it myself if I try to read it. I can program a little bit, sure, but I have no experience in writing neural net code.
My guess is that DALL-E does some natural language parsing to guess at the intent of the query, tokenizes the full query to break it up into parts that it can use to search for images, very likely using Google Image search. Then it (randomly? algorithmically?) selects some of those images, and does some kind of edge detection to break down the image’s composition into recognizable objects. We’ve been training AI to do image recognition by solving captchas for a while, although most of that seems to be to help create an AI that can drive a car. But DALL-E has to recognize whatever elements form the Google Image Search results match the token in the query string. Once it does so, it “steals” that element out of the original Google image, and combines it with other recognizable objects from other images from other parts of the tokenized query string, compositing them algorithmically into a new composition, and then as a final touch it may apply one of several photoshop filters on the image to give it the appearance of a photograph, painting, drawing, or what have you.
These results can be impressive, or they can be a total failure. Often they’re close to being “good”, suggesting a composition for an actually-good image that would satisfy the original query, but only if you don’t look at it too closely, because if you do, you just see a blurred mess. But perhaps if DALL-E were given more resources, more data, or more time, it might make these images cleaner and better than it does.
(Mind you, I’m not saying using the set of data that is Google Image Search results is the cheating part. Obviously, the AI needs to have data about the world in order to apply its neural net logic to. But there’s a difference between analyzing billions of images and using that analysis to come up with rules for creating new images based on a natural language text query, and simply selecting an image result that matches the query and applying a filter to it to disguise it as a new image, and then call it a day.)
So, when you give DALL-E very little to work with, such as a single keyword, does it just give you an entire, recognizable image from Google Image search results, with a filter applied to it.
Is it all just smoke-and-mirrors?
I guess all of AI is, to a greater or lesser degree, “just smoke and mirrors” — depending on how well you understand smoke and mirrors. But the question I’m trying to ask really is “just how simple or sophisticated are these smoke and mirrors?” If it is easy to deduce the AI’s “reasoning method” then maybe it’s too simple, and we might regard it as “phony” AI. But if, on the other hand, we can be fooled (“convinced”) that the AI did something that requires “real intelligence” to accomplish, then it is “sophisticated”.
I really enjoy playing around with DALL-E mini and seeing what it can do. It is delightful when it gives good results to a query.
I would proudly hang any of these cubist pug paintings in my house.
Message: Hello friend! I saw your posts about Dungeons and Doomknights and I was wondering if you could send me a copy of the rom?
I know this is a bit blunt however I can’t find a digital copy of the game anywhere including for purchase. I am a really big fan of the creators and would really love a chance to play the game. Thank you!
I’m not at liberty to share the ROM. It is a copyrighted work.
If you’re a big fan of the creators, you should want for them to be paid for their work. This will enable them to create more games for you to enjoy. $14 is not a lot of money to pay for a game such as this.
I think ripping ROMs and sharing ROM files for abandonware titles is an ethically very-light-grey area, and would like to see copyright law revised to make it fully legal. But please do not hurt developers, particularly small indie and homebrew developers, by asking around for ROMs for recently released commercial products.
It’s one thing if the creator/rights holder releases the game for free, it’s quite another to go about asking reviewers for an unauthorized copy. If you understood how much effort was taken to create the work you’re seeking, you would appreciate how little they are asking for a legit copy.
I love Free/open source software, but not everything is. And that’s OK.
Respect creators. By paying them.
“Dean” wrote back to me, to let me know that he tried to purchase the ROM from Hero Mart, at the link I provided, and the purchase failed. He wrote to their customer support and they confirmed that the ROM is no longer for sale, and Hero Mart have since taken the item off their site.
I do think it’s unfortunate that they chose to discontinue sale of the game so quickly. I can’t understand why they would want to do that. It’s their choice, but to me it runs counter to the spirit of the homebrew community, which is trying to keep old systems alive.
Update 2: rom and cart are back on sale https://www.heromart.com/collections/dungeons-doomknights-collection
Dungeons and DoomKnights, a new NES release in 2022, dropped last week. I didn’t kickstart it, but I did pre-order it about a month ago. Unlike just about every other thing I’ve pre-ordered in the last 10 years, this one arrived quickly — not two years later than announced, but just a few weeks after I paid for it.
I put about an hour into it today. I haven’t gotten very far yet, but I’ve made a little bit of progress. So far, I’ve managed to lose and re-gain my Axe, collect two Heart Containers, and befriend an attack Pomeranian, who can reach some areas that I can’t fit into.
I’m not entirely sure what else I’m supposed to do, or where I’m supposed to go next. The level design is non-linear, allows backtracking (to an extent), and doesn’t give you a lot of indication about what you’re supposed to do, or where you’re supposed to go next (although there’s some tantalizing spots where you can see an area that you can’t get to due to some obstacle, and the primary challenge of the game seems to be to find objects that will grant you an ability that you can use to clear the obstacle to get to the next area.
I’ve managed to find two keys, and there’s been a few switches that you can flip to open doors as well. It’s that sort of game. So you have to experiment and figure things out. Oddly, there doesn’t seem to be a pause feature, nor are there any functions to the start or select buttons.
My impressions so far are that it’s decent, if not great. I find the controls feel on the stiff side, not necessarily a good thing. Your primary attack is an overhead axe smash, which can hit slightly behind, above, and in front of you, as the axe passes through its arc. You don’t have a lot of range with it, meaning any time you’re close enough to hit an enemy, it’s also pretty close to you, and if you’re not careful you’re likely to blunder into it and take some damage. Due to the stiff controls, it usually seems like you should have been avoided most of the damage, if only they controls were a bit more fluid. Also, if you’re approaching from above, your attack hitbox will put you at a disadvantage, and so far I haven’t found too many solutions to compensate for this weakness.
Enemy AI is very rudimentary, but very much on par with what you’d expect from a NES game. Enemies basically move around in a simple pattern, not really reacting to your presence. They don’t sense your presence, and don’t deliberately attack you, they just follow a looped set of actions and if you’re in the way, you’ll take damage. Accordingly, although there’s enemies pretty much on every screen, they’re not terribly interesting or challenging to deal with. Certainly they’re no worse than many other games from the original NES era.
The game has a lot of nostalgic cultural references and callbacks to the NES, for laughs. It’s pretty cheesy, but if you grew up in the 80s, you’ll probably appreciate and understand most if not all of the references.
On the plus side, the graphics are really great. For a NES game, they did a excellent job of creating good looking pixel art for the background tiles and character sprites, using the palette limitations of the NES to good effect to create a legible visual language that is fairly easy to pick up. At times you can be fooled by what’s dangerous when touched and what you need to walk up to to talk to, though. And some of the entrances to caves can be a little bit non-obvious – basically if you see a big black hole in the wall, it’s a doorway, unless it’s not. Usually it is though. This was probably more obvious back in the day, but more recent retro games made for modern platforms tend to be a little less ambiguous.
Dungeons and DoomKnights was built with NESMaker, and (as far as I’m aware) it’s the first NESMaker game I’ve played. If you liked games like Wizards & Warriors or Rygar this is probably a worthy pick-up. You can purchase it, while it lasts, at their web site.