Friday, 18 June 2010

Psytronik website down but not out!

You may have noticed the Psytronik Software website has not been working recently. Don't worry Psytronik fans, we currently have a team of boffins working on the problem and normal service will be resumed very soon. The actual website itself is fine, the bit that has broken is the all-important part that joins the domain to the website. As a temporary fix you can access the fully armed and operational Psytronik Software website by heading along to:-

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

It's time for a Plus/4 adventure!

Greetings fellow carbon units,

In the last blog entry I was talking about how exciting it was to add a new game to the Psytronik range - especially if it's for a system that I haven't supported before ... Well, it has happened again! Literally the same day that I had finished shipping all the Armalyte PC pre-orders an email pinged into my in-box with details about a new release for the Commodore Plus/4 called Adventures in Time. I duly fired up the Vice Plus4 emulator to give the game a whirl ... I was not prepared for what happened next ... !

If you go down to the woods today ...

The first thing that appeared was a neat comic-style intro with slick graphics and a seriously jolly tune - an intro sequence? On a Plus/4 game? NICE! The intro set the scene for the game nicely and told the story of our hero - a cute little yellow blob - who got lost in the woods while taking a stroll one day. He discovered some ruins that held something unexpected - a TIME SCRAMBLING MACHINE! Our hero pressed a red button on the machine that activated it and that is where his adventure begins. The game credits are then displayed before the music tails off with an almost Follin-esque flourish. All I could utter at this point was a rather Neo style "woah" ...

The title screen - complete with roaming Robin Hood & fireblobs!(tm)

The colourful game title screen then appeared and an appropriately jolly title tune began playing. The game beckoned me to hit SPACE to start playing and so I did just that. I was immediately impressed by the colourful bitmap graphics. But there was something else ... the music ... who had let Martin Galway into the room? The more I listened to it the more I fell in love with the music in this game - A ticking clock at the start, Galway style wibbles and nifty "tschak" type drums along with a darned catchy lead - is this REALLY coming from a Commodore Plus/4? You betcha!

Our hero leaps into the air - watch out for that goo!

The idea of the game is to safely guide your little yellow blobby chum through the screens while avoiding the assorted nicely animated baddies that inhabit them. The nasties include blinking eye-monsters, flamey fire-imps, ghoulish ghosties and, er, Robin Hood! The controls are nice and precise and the character-based movement helps you to land on tricky ledges. You can also move your character in mid-air when he jumps which allows you to steer around the roaming nasties in the game.

There's creepy caverns to explore - complete with eyeballs!

The game also features some neat animated touches. If you don't move your character for a while he goes to sleep (cute!) and if you get hit by a nasty our yellow chum keels over dizzily. He also sinks to his doom if you drop him into any of the pools of goo that can be found on some screens.

The title page again - but wait a sec, that logo looks familiar!

As you can probably tell I was rather impressed by this little platform romp and immediately responded to the email sent from the game authors about doing a Psytronik release. Work on the Psytronik release has already started and a version of the game has already been produced that features the Psytronik logo in the intro and on the title screen. Trevor 'Smila' Storey has also produced some excellent artwork for the Psytronik release of the game that captures the cartoony style of the game perfectly.

A sneaky peek at the cool Smila artwork!

Adventures in Time will be released as a special collectors edition on disk (and hopefully tape) by Psytronik Software for the Commodore Plus/4 (and expanded C16) in June 2010. If you would like to try the game you can download a free version from HERE. You can also see the game in action in the YouTube video below.

Thanks for reading, see you ... IN THE FUTURE! (Hey, that's kind of appropriate for this blog entry!)

Kenz /

Friday, 16 April 2010

Amstrad ACTION!

Greetings Humanoids!

It's always exciting when new releases get added to the Psytronik catalogue (well, I get excited about it anyway!) and it's even MORE exciting when it's releases for a new format that I haven't supported before. I was particularly pleased to add two titles for the Amstrad CPC to the Psytronik range this month as I've always had a bit of a soft spot for the Amstrad (and I'm not talking about the marsh at the bottom of the garden - Badum-tish!)

Anyway, I actually got into the Amstrad CPC kind of by mistake originally. Before I owned an Amstrad I was an avid ZX Spectrum user. I LOVED playing games on my Speccy and I can't imagine how many HOURS I used to wile away playing classic Ultimate games and various other Speccy related goodies - until one fateful day I went round to my friends house and played on his Commodore 64. My little computer-mad mind was blown apart by the beige wonderbox. I had NEVER seen a C64 in action until that moment. One of the games he showed me was Uridium and I just couldn't believe what I was seeing. Stunning bas-relief arcade style graphics, absolutely silky smooth scrolling and THAT music. And so started my love affair with the Commodore 64 and its awesome SID sound chip. From that moment on I was certain of just one thing ... I WANTED A COMMODORE 64! I lived and DREAMED about C64 games, I listened to C90 tapes filled with the latest Commodore 64 tunes that my friend compiled me and spent many a happy Saturday round at my friends house playing on his C64.

And then my Dad decided to buy me a new computer to upgrade my ageing Speccy. He obviously sought advice from Mr Computer Store bloke as to what computer to get me - and I can just picture the bloke in the store saying THIS computer comes with a colour monitor, a built-in tape deck, a better version of BASIC, stereo sound and MORE colours. You don't want to buy your son a Commodore 64, you want to buy him THIS computer ... Which was an Amstrad CPC 464 ... And so he did. Instead of zooming around in my Manta class starfighter blowing up dreadnoughts in Uridium what did I get instead? Roland on the sodding ropes!!

This is NOT Uridium!

BUT, before all you Amstrad fans start typing angry emails, fear not my retro chums. I stuck with this strange machine that my Dad had given me and after a while I discovered some real gaming gems were available for the Amstrad. I have many happy memories of playing delights such as Get Dexter, Tempest, Mercenary (faster than the C64 and higher-res too!), Feud (with THAT tune that blows away the C64 version), Knight Lore, Alien 8 and Head Over Heels (4 colour bitmap screens - NICE!) I even began to appreciate the AY-3-8912 sound chip thanks to the likes of David Whittaker and Dave Rogers who churned out some great tunes. It was those years spent dabbling with the Amstrad that game me a certain amount of fondness for the machine.

This computer is NOT s**t with sugar on top.
(see what I did there?)

Of course, all that came to an abrupt end when I eventually bought myself a C64 and sold my Amstrad, but the Amstrad love still remains to this day. :)

Now flash forward to 2010 and my little Psytronik Software label is churning out releases like billy'o. I received an email from Paul Koositra, an Australian programmer who was looking for a publisher for the 128K version of his awesome Star Sabre shoot 'em up and forthcoming title Dead on Time - both for the Amstrad CPC. I naturally jumped at the chance to support the Amstrad CPC once again and so we worked together on the Psytronik release of the games. Thanks to the wonders of email it was easy for Paul to send me Beta versions of the games but things got a bit more tricky when it came to actually mastering the games. The first obvious problem is that Paul lives over 8000 miles away from me. The second problem is getting hold of a supply of blank 3" disks - which ended up with me fighting in my PANTS on eBay over a box of the mythical (and rather pricey) 3" disks. The disks I received then had to have gooey labels removed (not a result of my pant-fighting, I might add), shiny new Psytronik labels added and then the disks had to be shipped all the way to Australia for Paul to copy the game onto them. The disks then had to be shipped all the back to the UK (a round-trip of over 16000 miles!) before I could add the Star Sabre disks to the Binary Zone store.

Only one other problem remained. I always like to test any Psytronik games before they go in the post. This wasn't a problem for Dead on Time becuase, in a moment of retro weakness, I had actually obtained an Amstrad CPC 464 with a colour monitor, and although it had been languishing in my shed for a while, it was nice to set it up once again so I could test the Dead on Time tapes.

My CPC 464 - no longer based in the shed!

BUT ... Star Sabre is a DISK game - and it's 128K only. So, in ANOTHER moment of retro weakness, I managed to win a CPC 6128 on eBay. A bit of a risky purchase I might add as it was an untested machine (and it cost me a tad more than I expected!) Luckily for me, the Amstrad itself worked fine. The built-in disk-drive didn't work however - but Paul warned me that the CPC drives were prone to the drive belts breaking. I followed the CPC Wiki guide to opening up a CPC in order to replace the drive belt, and sure enough, the belt had completely disintegrated! So after an hour of faffing about I managed to clear out all the bits of broken belt-belt, removed the gooey bits that were stuck to the spindle (what IS it with Amstrad disks and goo?) and I managed to fit a new drive belt. I reassembled the Amstrad, fired it up, inserted a Star Sabre disk and you know what happened? It only bloody worked!! This meant I could test the disks before they went in the post. Yay!

Red-hot CPC disk loading ACTION!

BUT, the CPC game saga didn't end there! Star Sabre was originally meant to be packaged in a 5.25" disk case - and I actually produced an inlay to fit inside one of these cases. As Dead on Time was a tape game Paul asked me if the game could be packaged in one of those clear twin-tape boxes that were popular with 8-bit games back in the day (I'm not quite sure why exactly so many single-tape games were released in double tape boxes, but I'm pretty sure it's just because they looked cooler on the shop-shelves). Anyway, when I put the two Amstrad games together it looked a bit strange having them in mis-matched packaging - but as a 3" disk will easily fit into a twin-tape box I decided at the very last minute to re-package the game so it would match Dead on Time. Phew!!

And that, my friends, is how the Amstrad CPC titles were added to the Psytronik range. It involved a heck of a lot of time, a lot of faffing (that's my word of the day) and a lot of cash outlay which I totally don't expect to get back with the sales of the games. But hey, that's not what Psytronik is about. It's putting those nice packages containing shiny Psytronik releases into the hands of retro gamers that makes it all worthwhile. :)

One last thing ... If there's anyone based in the UK who would be willing to duplicate some Star Sabre disks for me, please get in touch - ... It would sure make things easier than sending the disks 16000 miles to be duplicated! The first batch of Star Sabre disks have now sold out but as soon as I sort out a way of getting more disks duplicated I shall make the game available in the Binary Zone Retro Store once again.

Thanks for reading, see you ... IN THE FUTURE!

Kenz / (16/04/10)

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

One Man & His NEW Mic

Greetings once again Retro Chums!

Now that Armalyte is almost ready to be released for the PC I've been spending time working on some extra bonus goodies that will be included on the Armalyte CD-ROM. As I will soon be doing a second series of One Man & His Mic retro music podcasts I decided to make a special show devoted to Psytronik Software that will be included on the CD-ROM.

It has been over a year since I last did a podcast so my first job was to set up all my recording gear once again. One of the reasons that I haven't actually done a podcast in a while is because my old mic broke! This gave me the chance to try out my shiny new gold Behringer mic that I received as a Chrimbo prezzie (thanks Nan!) After a bit of crawling around under my desk to plug in various leads I was ready to rock and roll. But straight away a strange problem reared its head. I couldn't record any sounds internally on my PC! For some reason any internal recordings were really, REALLY faint and for a while I couldn't figure out why. But then I found the problem. My new mic is actually a USB device and when it's plugged in it takes over ALL the recording settings on my PC. Not really a problem - I only actually need the Mic when I'm recording my talky bits for the show so I unplugged it and I could then record stuff internally. Sorted!

Here's where the magic happens - in the recently re-painted Psytronik HQ!

My next task was decide what tracks to feature in the show. As the show is going to be about the history of Psytronik software I arranged the Psytronik releases chronologically and then chose two tracks from each game - one for the main track and one to use as a sound bed behind my talky bits. Once I had selected the tracks for the show I then recorded any of the tunes that I hadn't already recorded previously. I then dropped the tracks onto the multi-track editor in Cool Edit leaving a 30 second gap between each one for my talky bits. Each One Man & His Mic show is 1 hour long and luckily enough the tracks I had chosen from all the Psytronik games perfectly fitted into 1 hour! Here's the tracklist for the show:-

One Man & His Mic - Psytronik Software Special!

01. Sceptre of Baghdad Intro (DJ Skitz)
02. The Sceptre of Nu Baghdad (Kate Z).
03. Archetype - FZ vs JMJ Remix (FeekZoid).
04. Nukenin & The Ronin Title (TMR) [C64].
05. PsykoZone Intro (FeekZoid) [C64].
06. Sub Hunter Title (Maniacs of Noise) [C64]
07. Escape from Arth Title (FeekZoid) [C64].
08. Mayhem in Monsterland Title (Tonka) [PC]
09. Creatures Remix (Infamous)
10. Creatures 2 Redux (Infamous)
11. Joe Gunn in-game (Laxity) [C64]
12. Armalyte Loader (Martin Walker) [C64]
13. The Path Of Destiny - Knight 'n' Grail Subtune #2 (Project N.A.)
14. Knight 'n' Grail - Good Ending Orchestral Arrangement (Hans Axelsson)
15. The Last Amazon Title Tune (Richard Bayliss) [C64]
16. The Wild Bunch (Jon Wells) [C64]
17. Star Sabre in-game tune (Targhan) [Amstrad CPC]
18. Armalyte Title Tune (Infamous) [PC]

The next step was to jot down any notes and bits of trivia that I want to mention about each game and then record my links. I plugged in my new Mic and set to work waffling about each Psytronik game in turn. The sound quality of the mic was excellent - much better than my old mic - nice one Behringer! I always try to keep my talky-bits to around 30 seconds so you never have to wait for too long for the next tune to play when you listen to the show. I also try to record each link in one pass to give the show a kind of "live" feel - although some links took a few attempts when my tongue got tied in knots or when I remembered something else I wanted to mention. The links are then normalized and hard-limited to make them nice and clear and are then dropped into the editor between each main track. The soundbeds are then tweaked and arranged in the editor to play behind my talky-bits at a low volume.

My shiny new mic with the OMAHM show on the screen in the background.

Now the show is really taking shape! DJ Skitz delivered a very cool Sceptre of Baghdad intro jingle (complete with a loud mother-hubbard of a breakbeat) which I slotted into place at the start of the show. When I'm using the multi-track editor I can usually edit a complete One Man & His Mic episode using just four separate tracks. One for the main tracks, one for the sound beds, one for my talky bits and a spare track for any twiddly stuff or crossfades. The picture below shows how the edited show looks in Cool Edit.

With everything in place I then created a mixdown of the show which I test out in my mp3 player while I'm travelling to work. While I'm listening to the show I make mental notes of any sound levels I need to change or if I have any ideas for gags or extra audio snippets I can sneak into each show. The show is then finished off with me adding or changing any bits that I thought about when I tested the show. A final mixdown is then created along with a high-quality mp3 which will be included on the Armalyte CD-ROM.

I'm really pleased with how this show has turned out. It's nice and varied as it contains some cool remixes of music from Psytronik games (there's some real treats on there for Knight 'n' Grail fans!), a nice selection of Commodore 64 tunes (recorded from a REAL Commodore 64 of course) and I'm also happy that there's an Amstrad CPC tune included in the show which adds to the variety. As well as being included on the Armalyte CD-ROM the show will also be released online later this year as part of series 2 of One Man & His Mic - so keep an eye on for details about series 2!

And that's it for now. Thanks for reading and I'll see you ... IN THE FUTURE

Kenz /

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Retrovision 2010

Greetings Programs!

Firstly, an apology for the lack of blog updates recently. This has been due to various factors - some personal, some mundane (including repainting the Psytronik office which took a MONTH due to all the retro stuff that had to be moved around!) All this resulted in the Psytronik releases being put on hold for a while and, unfortunately, this meant the games I was hoping to release just before Christmas (Armalyte PC & Star Sabre 128) were not completed in time. But don't worry folks, work has now resumed on these releases and both games will soon be available.

So what has been happening with Psytronik Software recently I hear you cry. Well, I've just got back to the Psytronik HQ after attending the awesome Retrovision 2010 event and I thought I'd better type up a report of the event while it's all still fresh in my mind! So are you sitting comfortably? Then I shall begin ...

My epic voyage to RV2010 began on Friday February 5th 2010 with me pointing the Kenzmobile(tm) in the direction of Milton Keynes. I was being accompanied to the event by my good buddy DJ Skitz (of SlayRadio fame) and in order shorten the journey a tad I crashed at the SkitzHQ after some tasty pizza scoffage (a Dominos "big smoky" - for techno buffs who are listening).

Me & Skitz zzoomed off to Oxford on Saturday morning and arrived at the event venue (The Folly Bridge Inn) just before noon. We would have arrived a bit earlier had it not been for a slight navigational error. I noticed I already had "RV guesthouse" programmed into my TomTom but what I didn't realise was it was actually a different place we stayed at a couple of years ago - so I was expecting it to navigate me to the White House View Hotel opposite the Folly and we ended up somewhere else completely! Nyeeeeeuurrrrrr!


Anyhoo, once at the Folly a quick recce revealed the main room to be pretty much set up and operational (and stuffed with an amazing amount of retro-tech, the most I'd ever seen at an RV event in fact!) Me & Skitz unloaded the car and got the Binary Zone / Psytronik stand set up and running. This was the first time I had taken three separate systems to an event so I had a bit more setting up to do than normal.

The Binary Zone table crammed with Psytronik goodies!
(Photo by VinnyM)

My table featured a Spectrum 128 +2 complete with audio CD loading system and supa-clear SCART TV lead, the Specadore 64 (I couldn't NOT bring that along as it always proves to be popular at these events!) along with my new addition to the Specadore family, the 1541 MK II Microdrive (okay, it's a 1541 drive sprayed black complete with Speccy stripes to match the Specadore!) I also took my PC with me in order to demonstrate the full PC version of Armalyte for the first time - and this proved to be VERY popular.

Armalyte on the PC complete with a packaging mockup next to the screen!
(Photo by VinnyM)

This was the first time the FULL version of Armalyte had been on show and it gave people the chance to play the later levels of the game - which caused some "ooo-ing" and "aah-ing" as the beautiful graphics by Smila went scrolling past. I also demonstrated some of the bonus goodies that will be featured with the game including the mix-e-load music demo, the artwork "making of" demo and the jukebox (although anything music-related was pretty much drowned out by all the other retro noises in the room!) The PC conversion of the game is now pretty much 100% complete, I just need to finish off some of the bonus items that will be featured on the CD-ROM. (The game will be officially released and shipped in April 2010 - in case you were wondering!)

Frank "Games That Weren't" Gasking blowing up stuff on Armalyte!

One of the great things about these retro events is that you meet various people from the retro scene and retro forums. It was great to see lots of familiar faces from the YakYak forum, some new faces from the Retro Gamer forum, people I've met at various events and people I've known for years thanks to my retro related shenanigans! The atmosphere at RV is always really friendly and there's always people you can chat too and play classic games with. The namebadges also help to put faces to forum ID's!

Alex Aris battles the H'siffian Empire

The rest of saturday was spent playing games (Trashman on the Speccy! Yayy!), drinking Guinness (double-yayy!), playing MORE games and drinking MORE Guinness! As well as being able to demonstrate the Psytronik releases on the screens I also took along some prototype artwork from forthcoming releases - some of which was exclusively unveiled at RV. The picture below shows the first ever Psytronik Compilation which was inspired by the famous They Sold A Million compilation released back in 1985. Despite not quite selling a million the Psytronik compilation features four cracking Psytronik games, will fill four disk-sides (or two tapes) and will be released in March 2010 - you heard it here folks!

The first Psytronik compilation COMING SOON!
(Photo by VinnyM)

A herd of us then ambled off for a curry at Chutneys (shouldn't that be "Chunteys", Speccy fans?) - who (after keeping us waiting for a yonk outside) managed to accomodate over 30 retro fiends and I was soon replete with a surprisingly hot madras curry which made me hiccup somewhat.

More Armalyte blastage - this time with Piku at the helm

The evening was rounded off back at the Folly with a bit more retro gaming before the racket from Rockband was starting to damage my brain (it was very hard trying to play Bugaboo the Flea with all that din!) so I ambled over the road to the hotel to entertain DJ Skitz with lots of curry induced windypops.

RV2010 - It was just a blur!
(Photo by VinnyM)

And then all of a sudden it was SUNDAY! The very nice people at the White House View Hotel (plug plug) laid on a scrummy cooked brekkie which energized me & Skitz for another day of gaming FUN! I always like Sundays at RV as it's a great chill-out type day. I spent Sunday alternating chatting with RV peeps downstairs in the pub and gaming upstairs. A deelish Sunday roast was then consumed before me & Skitz began dismantling the Zone for the long journey home.

The brill Armalyte artwork demo runs in the background while
the main game runs happily in Windows 7 on the laptop.

And so that was Retrovision 2010 - an excellent weekend! Before I go, I'd just like to do a few shout-outs to various peeps at the event. Due to brain addledness I can't remember everyone I chatted with but special menchies go to:- My most excellent travelling companion DJ "Zer0page" Skitz, Vinny "C64 Endings" Mainolfi (thanx for the photos!), Frank "Games that Weren't" Gasking (thanx for the VIC warez), StarshipUK, VintageMatt, PsychoRob (thanx for the great event!), Amy & Piku, Dungeon Dave & Dawn (I'll bump into you in Malvern ONE day!), the awesomely awesome Bog (good luck in the U.S of A, old friend), Markie (there was no way I was gonna let you miss an RV dude!), THE Jon (not just any Jon), Bane, Alex Aris, Beerman, Mayhem, Jools, MadHippo, Juice, Paul "RG" Drury, Rinoa, SirClive, Renegade Si, Dave Moore & the RS gang and the RCM posse (see you guys in May!) ... Special thanks also for the staff at the Folly Bridge Inn for looking after us (or should I say "putting up with us") and for filling us with copious amounts of lovely food and drink. Sorry to everyone I forgot to mention here - blame the guinness!

If you would like to see the complete set of photos that I took at RV2010 CLICK HERE!

And that's yer lot for now. In the next blog entry I'll be detailing the making of one of the extras that will be featured on the Armalyte CD-ROM. And just to whet your appetite I can tell you that a certain One Man will be setting up his NEW Mic in order to record something very special for the Armalyte CD!

See you ... IN THE FUTURE!

Kenz /