Thursday, 14 May 2009

Psytronik PREMIUM Range Released!

Greetings once again Retro Chums!

One of the most difficult things I've had to do since relaunching Psytronik Software is to find a good way to package C64 disks. The tapes were easy to do as people still use tapes and you can quite easily buy blank tapes and empty cases. Disks on the other hand were an entirely different matter. As soon as the first couple of Psytronik tape games appeared I received emails asking if disk versions would be available so it was obvious I needed to release the games on disk as well ... but how? I couldn't exactly walk into my local stationary shop and ask for some 5.25" floppy disk cases - I would have gotten some funny looks doing that in 2008!

My initial idea for the Psytronik disks was to package them in plastic wallets - the same as the ones US Gold and Melbourne House used back in the day. I thought as the packaging was quite generic something similar still may be on the market today ... I was wrong. After much trawling through the web and stationary catalogues I couldn't find anything even resembling the wallets. So I then moved onto plan B. I contacted a plastic manufacturing company and told them what I was after. They seemed to think they could help so I sent them a US Gold game case to examine. Good news! They had the equipment to produce similar wallets and sent me a sample which, although not perfect (their equipment would have to be calibrated to produce the proper sleeves) it was close enough. Enclosed with the sample was a price quote for supplying 200 of the wallets - it was almost 900 pounds!! This meant the disk wallets alone would cost almost £5.00 each (and that doesn't include the artwork, floppy disk, disk sleeve, disk label and instruction sheet).

C64 disk wallets - it's not cheap to produce these in 2009!

I abandoned that idea and resumed my search. As I had no luck finding plastic cases or wallets my helpful chum Dave (from Retro Software) pointed me to a site that sold cardboard packaging. I rather liked their white boxes and the internal measurements were just right to hold a C64 floppy disk. As the boxes were rectangular it meant I could use the same artwork that I used for the Psytronik tapes. With the boxes bookmarked I then searched for glossy labels I could stick to the boxes. I found some A4 glossy labels online but they were a tad pricey. As I was really keen on getting the disk range launched I took the plunge and ordered 200 labels. Fortunately, the labels were excellent quality. I designed templates that could be cut out and folded around the white boxes. There was enough room on an A4 page to also include a label for the back of the box, a Psytronik logo and the disk label! The Psytronik Deluxe Disk Range was born.

The Deluxe Range meant I could make disk games available at last.

The Deluxe range wasn't without its problems however. I hadn't taken into consideration how long it would take to produce each box. Every single box had to assembled, the artwork printed, cut out and applied to the front and back. Fiddly! The boxes were also a pain to package and post. They had to be reinforced inside so they didn't get squashed during transit - and I also had to include extra packing inside (along with loads of bubble-wrap) to protect them from the wrath of the Royal Mail. Still, the boxes looked cool though so I was willing to put up with the hassle of producing them ... but then disaster struck! In April 2009 the place where I bought the A4 glossy labels stopped trading. Aargh! A search for alternative glossy labels immediately ensued and I managed to find some A4 glossy vinyl labels. These were excellent quality, really nice to work with but were REALLY expensive. So now I had a decision to make ... do I increase the price of deluxe games or try one last time to find alternative packaging. I opted for the latter ...

With time (and glossy labels) rapidly running out I went back to searching for plastic cases. This was actually inspired by my office job in the "real world". We received an update for the accounting package we use and the CD came in a 5.25" plastic case just like C64 games used to use. "Aha!" I thought. If this company is using them then you must still be able to buy them. A more intensive search ensued along with emails to suppliers I used in my previous job ... One of my old contacts replied saying he could supply cases the size I required. I tentatively ordered a box of cases from him and waited for them to arrive. Not quite knowing what to expect I ripped into the package that arrived a few days later and my heart jumped when I saw what was inside. The cases I received were almost *identical* to the ones that C64 games were packaged in back in the day ... but these were brand new!!! Using measurements from an original C64 game sleeve as a guide I produced a template that I could use to adapt the existing Psytronik game artwork to fit on the new sleeve. A test inlay was printed and I was gobsmacked ... I has holding in my hand a *proper* C64 disk game in a plastic case! The Psytronik Software Premium Range was born.

You have no idea how long it has taken me to find these cases!

The last few weeks have been spent producing new artwork for ALL the Psytronik Premium titles. The good thing about re-doing all the artwork is I was able to *improve* on the game artwork in places ... It was fun adding little things like having the catalogue number on the spine, moving the Psytronik slab logo to BELOW the fist logo (I have no idea why it was above on the tape spines!), fitting FOUR screenshots on the back of the disk inlay and for the final embellishment - a nice gold (or silver) PREMIUM EDITION logo now proudly adorns the front of each inlay.

Psytronik Premium Disk Releases - Now that's what I'm talking about!

I'm really pleased (and relieved!) to have finally solved the problem with the disk packaging. The Premium Psytronik releases look exactly how I wanted the Psytronik disks to look originally - just like proper C64 games from back in the C64's heyday! You can now order ALL the Psytronik disk games in the Premium packaging (CLICK HERE) and don't worry if you've already bought budget or deluxe versions, you can upgrade your existing versions to Premium Versions! (CLICK HERE).

The new Premium range - it's all spiralling out of control! :)

Please note that I will be discontinuing the Deluxe Range as soon as I've used up my last few labels and cardboard boxes - so if you want any Deluxe titles for your collection you'd better be quick! :)

Thanks for reading!

Kenz /

Monday, 4 May 2009

Armalyte blasts off once again!

Greetings once again fellow retro-beings!

Can you believe it has been over 20 years since we returned to Delta-space to do battle with the H'siffian Khanate?! Well, now here's your chance to re-live that epic battle as Armalyte has now re-launched for the C64.

I've spent the last few days finishing off the packaging for the Psytronik 2009 re-release and I must say it has turned out rather neat. One of the things I enjoy doing with the Psytronik releases is improving on the original release where possible. For example, I typed up the disk instructions using the original Thalamus instructions as a guide. When I reached the SCOREBOARD section I was surprised at how poor the illustration was that depicted the status panel functions. To remedy this for the re-release I used a screen-grab from the game along with red arrows to point out the various functions. Have a look at the pictures from each manual below to compare the difference!

The 1988 scoreboard pic - not gorgeous!

The 2009 manual - mm! gorgeous!

Another thing that I improved for the 2009 instructions was the SHIP ENHANCEMENT section that detailed the power-ups. The original version was text only and the generator power-up had been omitted completely! For the new version I included images of each power-up so you know what you are collecting and included the generator power-up in the manual. I know it's not really vitally important to include these things to the manual but it's nice to be able improve on things where possible ... :)

And talking of improving things, I received the completed disk menu from Jason 'TMR' Kelk yesterday. I really liked the disk menu that came with the original disk version of Armalyte (I loved those colour cycling rasters in the original) so I thought it would be neat to feature something similar in the re-release. As side 1 of the disk contains just the actual game there was no need for a disk menu there - but side 2 is a different kettle of fish entirely (who exactly keeps their fish in a kettle by the way?) Anyway, as side 2 of the disk contains lots of goodies (the loading screen + music, two Walkers Warbles music demos, three rare Armalyte game previews and a demo of the unreleased Armalyte 2) I asked TMR to produce a menu for side 2 done in the style of the original menu - and he did just that!

When I received the menu the first thing I did was prod number 1 to try out the loading pic. But nothing happened! So I tried all the number keys and nothing loaded ... umm! The penny then dropped and I tried moving the joystick - and the cycling colours moved! Pressing fire then loaded the desired program. I didn't actually realise you could use the joystick to select a file on the original C64 version - I've always used the number keys (and to think I've owned the original disk version for over 20 years! hehe!) Anyway, I asked Mr Kelk if he could also add keyboard select to the menu and he did just that, what a nice chap!

Anyway, now that the disk contents are ready and the packaging and instructions are complete the first wave of Armalyte deluxe editions are now ready to launch. Here's a photo of a few of them in all their shiny loveliness! These will hit the Royal Mail this week so if you've pre-ordered the C64 disk version you won't have to wait long now.

And now some exciting news for those of you looking forward to the PC remake of the game. Smila has uploaded a video featuring footage from the PC version of the game. I nagged him to include the Philip Glass music as it gave me goosebumps when I watched the video while listening to that music! Obviously we can't use this particular track in the PC remake of the game but I'm hoping the in-game music will be inspired by it!

You can order the 2009 C64 Edition of Armalyte NOW from the Binary Zone Interactive store (click HERE for details). You will be also be able to pre-order the PC version soon as well (keep an eye on this blog for details).

Until next time, per aspera ad astra!

Kenz /