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MicroReviews for April 1994 Micropendium
by Charles Good
GAME WRITERS TOOLKIT by Mark Wills of Abbots Software
Last month I described software that may cause some of you to dust off a long unused bit of TI hardware, the cassette cable. This month I am reviewing software that uses another little used piece of TI hardware, the Mini Memory cartridge. Many of us have one of these cartridges gathering dust since it was purchased in 1983 or 1984. You may be suprised to learn that your Mini Memory's battery may still work. I have two Mini Memory cartridges, both with working 1983 batteries.
Game Writers Toolkit is assembly software that you load into the Mini Memory, either from disk using the Load and Run option or from cassette tape using Easy Bug's Load option. Once loaded you can put your master disk or cassette tape away because the software stays in the Mini Memory's battery backed memory. The software provides numerous functions that can be CALL LINKed into any TI BASIC program. That's right, I said "TI BASIC". The Toolkit adds many of the important screen display capabilities of TI Extended Basic to the TI BASIC environment and allows you to do some things that are not normally possible in either of these BASIC versions.
Because many of these enhanced TI BASIC capabilities relate to sprites, the product is called a "Game Writers" Toolkit because sprites are most often found in games. However many of the Toolkit's features will find uses in non-game TI BASIC software. You can play with 32 sprites at a time. Extended Basic only allows 28 sprites to be simultaneously displayed at one time. Anything that can be done with sprites in XB can also be done in TI BASIC with the Toolkit.
The demo programs that come with the Toolkit are really incredible! Over the last decade I have seen many graphic display demo programs designed to run on our computers, so I have a pretty good idea of what the old 99/4A is supposed to be capable of graphically. I was astounded by the Toolkit graphic demos. I have rarely before seen on our computer screen objects change color and shape so rapidly. I had no idea this sort of blinding graphic speed was possible from a BASIC environment on the 99/4A. And the code for all of this is in easily understandable single line TI BASIC statements.
In addition to sprites, here are some of the other things you can do with the Toolkit using the appropriate CALL LINKs. You can define a portion of the screen as a window and then scroll everything in the wondow up/down/left/right very rapidly independent of the rest of the screen. You can increment the color set number by one in all the 16 color sets sumultaneously, defining how many times you want to increment the color set and how long a delay between color set changes, using any number between 1 and 65535! This produces absolutely blinding kaleidoscope effects. Color sets can be made to change so rapidly that either the scan rate or the phospors on the inside of my Commodore 1702 monitor's screen can't always keep up, resulting in whiteish flikering screen objects that never stay one color long enough to actually show that color.
You can capture part of the screen (or the whole screen) and store it in the Mini Memory. Later you can retrieve this image and display it anywhere on the screen, not just where it was originally positioned. You can display the retrieved image normally or distort the image in various ways. A true lower case character set is available as is a larger than normal set of digits and upper case letters. XB's POS statement is emulated. So is DISPLAY AT, but the Toolkit's version of this is better because you can display a string of up to 255 characters. You can draw any rectangular shape positioned anywhere on the screen outlined by any ASCII character. You can play chimes and you can exit to the title screen from a running program. (BYE normally only works from command mode.)
I hope this product isn't too late on the market to be significant. A lot of effort obviously went into developing the Toolkit and the author deserves some recognition in the form of purchases. Unfortunately, most routine user programming these days is in XB and many 99/4A owners who acquired their systems after 1983 do no have a Mini Memory. The Game Writers Toolkit is commercial software distributed by Mike Goddard Computer Support, "Sarnia", Cemetary Road, Rhos, Wrexham, Clwyd LL14-2BY, United Kingdom. It costs $10 (cash, or international money order) which includes airmail delivery.
BRUKINGOLF by Brukin Software
I have seen several public domain extended basic "aim and shoot" golf games for the TI. With these games you see a generic golf course on the screen along with the location of your golf ball. You then point golf club in the desired direction, hit the ball, and hope for the best. Brukingolf is much more than just "aim and shoot". Many options are available and you play golf holes mapped from actual golf courses. One to four players can play. You need a SSSD disk system, a joystick, and extended basic.
At the beginning of each player's turn you see a map of the course along with the location of the player's ball. Using the joystick you aim your shot for a particular point on the course by moving a cursor to that point. If your aim point is off the screen, the screen scrolls up/down and left/right to accommodate you. Nine holes the course map are in memory at one time for viewing and aiming. You play the front nine and then load the back nine for additional play. Screen graphics are sort of blocky, but everything is proportioned properly on the maps and it is easy to figure out what all the screen objects mean. When aiming you have to realize that the ball may not land at your aim point. First of all you are likely to hook or slice on long shots. Also the wind, whose direction and approximate strength are shown, will affect where the ball lands. You also have to take into consideration trees. Balls may go over or (rarely) through trees (depending on tree size, club used, and distance from tree), or hit a tree and come to rest under the tree. Water hazards, roughs, and sand traps also exist, each with specal characteristics that may limit your next shot in some way. These all have to be considered whem aiming shots.
Once a shot is aimed you select a club. There are 16 choices of woods, irons, and wedges. Your choice is mainly determined by how far and high you want to hit the ball. At various times you have the option to take a "chip" shot instead of a regular shot. With long puts you have the option of aiming directly for the hole and risking greatly overshooting the hole, or aiming to be just near the hole for an easy second putt. If you want to pretend to be a super talented golfer you can optionally give yourself enhanced capabilities in any or all of these areas; power, putting, chipping, and accuracy. These enhanced capabilities can also be used to balance play between individuals of different skill levels.
My only complaint about game play is that you have to keep turning the Alpha Lock on and off. You need it off to aim the ball with the joystick, but you need it on to properly select a golf club since club designations use upper case letters.
Brukingolf is shareware. The regular registration fee is $5. If you send Brukin $10 they will send you by return mail the latest version of the game and notify you of future updates. Multiple copyright dates on Brukingolf and on Widget (described below) suggest that these games have in fact been upgraded several times in the past. Send your registration to Brukin Software, 7919 Mitchell Farm Lane, Cincinnati OH 45242. If you just want to try the game before registering, I will send you both Brukingolf and Wiget on one SSSD disk if you send me $1. This pays for the disk, postage, mailer, and my Florida vacation fund. A sample 18 hole course is included on the Brukingolf disk. If you are a registered owner you can purchase directly from Brukin maps of additional golf courses that can be loaded into Brukingolf. These include Augusta, Merion, Oakmont, and "The Toughest 18 Holes in Golf". You get all four of these for $8.
WIDGET by Brukin software
This is an all text free market business simulation game written in TI Basic. It resembles a somewhat similar public domain game for the TI called Hamurabi. In Widget from 2 to 6 players act as corporate executives, competing against each other in an open market simulation purchasing the same raw materials and trying to sell the same products.
The computer starts the game by giving each player the same amount of starting capital and listing quantities of raw materials available for sale. Each player in each game cycle first writes on a paper secret bid prices for raw materials. These are then simultaneously revealed and entered into the computer. The computer adjusts the price of the available raw materials based on the bids, and sales are made only to those who bid above the computer's calculated minimum price. Each player them assembles the materials into products and secretly writes down an offer to sell these products at a specified price and quantity. These offers are simultaneously revealed by all players and entered into the computer. The computer then decides on a maximim price it will pay and all offers at or under this price are accepted. The game lasts for 5 years (60 cycles) and the object is to accumulate the most money.
A number of adjustments to game speed and parameters are possible. These are spelled out in detail in the on disk game documentation. You can specify the amount of time (in minutes) allowed for each player to decide bids for raw materials and products. The minimum amount of product and and raw material that results in stable prices can also be altered prior to the game.
If you enjoy the world of business and markets then you may like this game. It is shareware, and the requested registration fee is $5. If you are interested in trying before buying I will send it to you for $1 along with Brukingolf, as detailed above.
I look forward to recieving your software for reviewing in this column. I especially look forward to meeting many of you personally Friday evening May 13 and all day May 14 at the all TI/Geneve Lima MUG conference. My address is P.O. Box 647, Venedocia OH 45894. You may send internet e-mail to me at [email protected] and you can phone me most evenings at 419-667-3131.
Charles Good, P.O. Box 647, Venedocia OH 45894.
Internet email [email protected]
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