Well, it must be said it's been an embarrasingly long time since I put finger to keyboard in order to update the Psytronik blog - almost TWO ENTIRE YEARS in fact! Oh dear. Fear not my friends, I'm alive and well and the cogs of the mighty Psytronik machine continue to turn, albeit at a slightly slower pace nowadays. The reason for the lack of Blog posts and updates is all down to a lack of time on my part.
Basically, everything to do with Psytronik has to take place in my extremely limited spare time, so I'd rather dedicate that time to actually working on developing new Psytronik releases rather than spending time writing about them. Interestingly, these sentiments are mirrored in this interesting and RARE (heh!) interview with Tim Stamper that appeared online in August 2015.
2015 has been an incredibly difficult year for Psytronik for one reason or another. I've been hit with setback after setback, each one seemingly more insurmountable than the last. But despite all this I've somehow managed to overcome each obstacle in turn and Psytronik still lives on as we march relentlessly on into 2016. So to bring you up to speed I'll detail the lows and highs of the last year along with a retrospective look at the Psytronik releases for 2015 and a look ahead to what will be happening in 2016!
Let's start things off with the low-lights before we get to the good stuff. The first massive obstacle that was thrown at me in 2015 was when the Binary Zone RetroStore ground to a stop in January 2015. I suddenly started receiving a lot of worrying emails with the heading ALERT: PayPal Express Checkout Error which made me realise something had gone very wrong with the store. It turns out PayPal had implemented a change in their payment system that required me to update the store software. Not a huge problem you may think, just update the store and then business as usual ... But this was not to be. Despite all my best efforts and a LOT of headscratching the store software would NOT accept the update. Even though the store itself updated with no problems it just flatly refused to import the original store database with all the customer details, past order info etc. etc. After a while I then realised the only way to get around this would be to start again. From scratch. Completely. Aaaargh! So I duly installed the very latest store software and then began the arduous task of keying in every single Binary Zone / Psytronik product all over again. Despite this being a huge incovenience (thanks a bunch, PayPal) it did give me the opportunity to have a good old clearout in the store and to also ensure all the relevent pictures / links / videos were working. The store initially fell on it's ar*e on January 13th 2015 and I received the first order from the new store on Feb 5th 2015 so that's not a bad amount of down-time considering the size and complexity of the RetroStore.
With the Binary Zone store now up-and-running again it was the turn of the main Psytronik site to crash and burn in a scene reminiscent of the spectacular opening frames of the Terminal Man comic strip (Techno-Trivia: I actually own the original Oli Frey painting of this page which is currently hanging proudly on my lounge wall):-
The Arcadia crashes and burns in the Terminal Man comic
in a style similar to the Psytronik website in 2015!
It turned out the old Psytronik site framework I was using had "issues" and the only way to get around these problems was to rebuild the whole site. From scratch. Completely. Aaaargh Pt II! So yet again I had to laboriously recreate an entire website due to no fault of my own. And yet again I used the opportunity to tidy up all the code on the site and to make sure all the relevant pics / links / videos were all up-to-date and functional. This wasn't quite as urgent a task as the Binary Zone RetroStore as a placeholder page pointed people in the direction of all the Psytronik games in the BZ store so I took my time rebuilding the site. The new Psytronik site is now fully operational and can be reached via the original URL www.psytronik.net or the new URL www.psytronik.website.
The new, improved and fully operational Psytronik website
(Check out the snazzy fading banner / logo on the new site!)
The next spanner thrown in the works came in the form of the changes to the UK VAT laws regarding the purchase of digital downloads. Digital downloads have always been a bit of a problem for me as my store software can't handle digital purchases automatically - so each time I received an order for a download I had to manually send the purchaser a link with the download. Unfortunately, if I was away from my computer for whatever reason then there was a delay before the download link was sent out - which isn't good in this modern day and age when people are used to the download arriving straight away once they have made their purchase. So as soon as these new fangled VAT changes were announced I decided to not get involved in the resulting admin nightmare and scrapped the digital downloads completely. Ho hum.
The fourth (and thankfully final) setback of 2015 was when I attempted to re-stock the 5.25" disk cases that I use for the Psytronik Premium Range. If you've followed the Psytronik blog in the past you will know what a struggle I had obtaining these cases (you can read the whole story HERE). So you can imagine my dismay when I discovered that the company that manufactured the cases I use for the C64 disk releases had gone into liquidation and was dissolved in October 2014! Aaaargh Pt III! As they were the ONLY suppliers of these cases it pretty much meant the end of the Premium range. As I had a limited amount of the cases remaining it meant I could keep Premium range running for a short time but now only a few Premium titles remain in stock and they won't be around for much longer. So an alternative way of packaging disks had to be found (yet again!) - and the solution came in the form of A5 sized plastic cases, that were quite similar to the Premium cases - only slightly thinner and a bit taller. This meant a redesign of the Psytronik disk artwork template to accommodate the new cases - and the result was the Premium+ range. Three new releases are now available in the new style packaging, with another four to follow early in 2016. Click HERE for details about the new Premium+ range.
Note for Premium Disk fans: During the rebuild of the Psytronik site I bolted on a new INLAYS section that contains hi-res downloadable inlays for most of the original Premium Range titles. This means that if you buy the budget disk from the BZ store, supply your own 5.25" case and print out the inlay you can make your very own Premium Edition of the game!
Despite 2015 being an incredibly difficult year for Psytronik it wasn't all doom and gloom however. I still somehow managed to release five new titles for the Commodore 64 - which is the same number as releases I managed in the relatively trouble-free 2014. So now let's take a look back at the year that was 2015 ... !
(Released on Feb 4th 2015)
Psytronik rocketed (heh!) into action in 2015 with some shooty fun in the form of Rocket Smash EX. Based on one of the ultimate jetpacking games known to man (if you know what I mean) the idea of the game is to assemble and fuel up your rocket ship while avoiding meanies that roam around each level. Featuring excellent detailed graphics, catchy soundtracks, digitised speech and super-smooth gameplay this was a nice way to start the year - and was also the debut release for the new and improved Binary Zone RetroStore (for techno-buffs who are listening) and also the last game to be released in the original Premium Range.
(Released 2nd June 2015)
I'm a big fan of the Kung-Fu Maniacs games by Alf Yngve, they're packed with beat 'em up ACTION and a wry sense of humour to boot. I wanted to do something special with their release on the C64 and what better way than to make them one of the debut releases in the new Premium+ range. The larger plastic cases were perfect to showcase the fantastic Oliver Frey artwork that adorned the cover. The compilation features all three Kung-Fu Maniacs games (the third of which is a two-parter complete with intro and end sequences!) Richard Bayliss and Jon Wells provide the suitably oriental tunes that accompany each game and bitmap loading pics were pixelled for this release by Carl 'Mase' Mason and little old me.
(Released 2nd June 2015)
The second in the June release triple-whammy was the super-slick puzzler Gravitrix from Nils Hammerich. Featuring a massive 120 levels to solve and some very smart visuals and sonics this was a very nice addition to the new Psytronik Premium+ range. The artwork produced for the RGCD cartridge release was re-worked for the disk release and worked very nicely in the new taller plastic disk cases.
(Released 2nd June 2015)
The third C64 release in a very prolific month for Psytronik came in the form of X-Force from Richard Bayliss. I was very impressed with this sideways scrolling shoot 'em up that from Richard and thought it was definitely worthy of a release on the Psytronik label. The final release actually features THREE different versions of the game - a version with atmospheric soundtracks by FeekZoid, a slightly revamped version with pumping trance soundtracks from Richard and a 'crazy hack' edition that allows you to muck around with the game 'til your heart's content. The cream on this particularly tasty cake came in the form of the stunning cover art from Oliver Frey. Originally
featured in the ZX Spectrum game Delta Charge the shooty sci-fi action depicted in the artwork was perfect for the game and rounded off the package very nicely. Carl Mason also supplied a new loading bitmap for the game based on the Oli Frey artwork and did a superb job converting the original pic into C64 pixels. Top stuff!
(Released 2nd November 2015)
2015 was rounded off in style with the release of the Knight 'n' Grail Ultimate Edition box set. Knight 'n' Grail is one of my favourite ever Psytronik releases and is a game I always thought was worthy of more than just the standard disk release. After a lot of work putting together the contents of the box set (it took a whole year to produce the huge map for the game alone!) I was very pleased with how the final package turned out. It includes a soundtrack CD that contains all the music by Hans Axelsson from the games Knight 'n' Grail and Fairy Well along with a selection of preview tracks and 'musical sketches' to show how the C64 soundtracks evolved. You also get some bonus tracks in the form of C64 demo tunes produced in the days when Hans was also known as TDM / Triad. The box set also contains a stunning super-glossy A3 poster of the amazing artwork by Hakon 'Archmage' Repstad, a selection stickers, a neat pin badge and a double-sided KnG key-ring. Packaged in a sturdy box with eye-catching front and rear stickers this is a must-have item for fans of Knight 'n' Grail. Don't worry if you already own the game, it's available as an UPGRADE kit that features all the box-set goodies minus the actual game itself! Only 100 of these LIMITED EDITION box sets have been produced so make sure you order yours before they are all snapped up!
And that's it for now! A big thank you to everybody who has supported Psytronik in 2015 and for all your patience while waiting for the problems with the websites to be ironed out. I'll TRY to update this blog more regularly but I won't make any promises as, like I said at the beginning, I'd rather spend my time actually working on new Psytronik releases, rather than writing about them.
Have fun, keep it RETRO and I'll see you all ... IN THE FUTURE!
Kenz / Psytronik 17/12/15