The Year 2016 in review

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The Year 2016 in review

     The year 2016 A.D. was great for EagleSoft Ltd! Let's review the highlights of the year.

     2016 started off with the mess of the end of 2015. During my final college semester in fall 2015, unfortunately, my old laptop and development machine, the venerable HP ProBook 4540s that I purchased in 2012 from part of a one-time scholarship of $1000 for school supplies, died. She served a good 3 years. Although the computer itself died (boot issues), the HDD and RAM sticks were fine. Also during this semester, I started a 2D Unity fighting game called Colonial Combat.

    The year 2016 started out with finally earning and saving enough funds to get my new gaming/development replacement machine, the almighty HP Elitebook, in February 2016. I found this used, but wonderful video gaming/development machine on eBay for an affordable $300, and was able to transfer everything from the old laptop's HDD to the new machine. Among many bells and whistles, this high end mobile workstation laptop has:

  • Windows 7! (Microsoft's last great OS)
  • Autodesk-certified dedicated graphics card (the NVidia Quadro K2000M, great for CAD work and gaming)
  • 16GB of RAM installed
  • A BD-ROM Super Multi optical drive that I installed
  • Backlit keyboard
  • ExpressCard/54 slot
    •  Bought an Analog HP TV Tuner for the slot for video game recordings
  • DisplayPort out
  • HAV feature
  • Stereo mix feature
  • Many other powerful features
   Unfortunately, I got so excited when I opened up the package with my laptop, that I accidentally held the AC power brick by the wrong end, the detachable plug came out, and landed right on my Android device that I use for Android development. The screen cracked, and it is now impossible to see any pixels. I still need to eventually order a new screen and replace it. (Not that I do very much Android development anyways, mostly to test any Android ports of Unity3D games I make.)

Five steps forward and one step back...
(Crack on bottom-right side of Android device)

   During the beginning of 2016, I also began work on a new project, Socket the Hedgeduck, a Sonic 1 mod for the Sega Genesis with levels/assets from a game called Socket/Time Dominator. For my latest birthday, I bought myself a Sega Dreamcast from the local retro video game store and a DC-SD Adapter online. I will be looking into Dreamcast homebrew development and game modding for this awesome, powerful, homebrew-friendly console.

     In August, I finished Colonial Combat. Also during this time, I ordered online a GQ-4X multi-chip programmer and other electronics supplies, to be used for future embedded development and to make repros for any retro video game homebrew titles I publish, and uploaded a demo of Socket the Hedgeduck to the Steam Workshop for the Sonic 1 DLC of the Sega Mega Drive & Genesis Collection. In October, I submitted both Colonial Combat and Sonic CD Breakout #3 to SAGE 2016, both to mixed reviews. Lastly, in November, I submitted Socket the Hedgeduck to the Sonic Hacking Contest 2016 and found myself a NES lot at a local Salvation Army (in very good, working condition). Unfortunately, Socket the Hedgeduck also received mixed reviews, and the contest entries were quite underwhelming this year. I neither earned any community or judge's trophies (but was close for a few), but had fun anyways. I am currently still working on Socket the Hedgeduck, and hope to finish it by mid-2017. As for the NES, I am looking into homebrew and ROM hacking development for the system.


   The TL;DR version summary of 2016:
  • Hardware
    • Got
      • An Elitebook laptop
      • Sega Dreamcast with DC-SD adapter
      • NES
      • GQ-4X Multi-chip programmer
    • Lost
      • Android dev device (needs repaired)
  • Projects
    • Finished Colonial Combat
      • Submitted to SAGE 2016 event
    • Started Socket the Hedgeduck
      • Put mod onto Steam Workshop
      • Submitted to Sonic Hacking Contest 2016
    • Sonic CD Breakout Demo #3
      • Submitted to SAGE 2016 event 

Tentative Plans for 2017

 2017 should be yet another big year for EagleSoft Ltd! I tentatively plan on developing/doing the following

  • Sega Genesis Projects
    • Continue work and (hopefully) finish Socket the Hedgeduck by mid-2017
    • Resume work on, (hopefully) finish, and publish physical and digital releases of Ultra Air Hockey (Sega port) online.
  • Ultra Air Hockey DX
    • Order a one-time purchase for a Steam developer license
    • Work on a v2.0 version, add online multiplayer support through Steam, publish and sell Indie game on Steam.
  • Other things
   Overall, 2016 was quite busy, with the finishing and release of Colonial Combat (my largest, most complex indie video game yet), beginning work on Socket the Hedgeduck, participating in both SAGE 2016 and the SHC16, and obtaining some new hardware. I am looking forward to more video game development fun in 2017!


The Sonic Hacking Contest 2016 is here!

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The Sonic Hacking Contest 2016 is here!

   The Sonic Hacking Contest 2016 is starting this week, and will be running from this Monday to this Sunday, November 7-13 2016! What is the Sonic Hacking Contest, you ask? For those who don't know, to summarize the event, it's an annual event where various members from the Sonic the Hedgehog ROM hacking communities submit and showcase their Sonic the Hedgehog video game ROM hacks in order to compete for trophies and for publicity. The normal trophies are decided by and selected by a board of judges, while the community trophies are decided by public vote. Full details about this year's contest on the hacking contest website's about page, and at the Contest's SSRG thread.

   There are a whopping 54 entries this year for the contest! Come join the fun this week at the contest website, where the hacks will be made publicly available for play on Monday, where there will be streams of this year's ROM hacks, and where other various fun activities will take place during the week! I submitted my own v0.3 demo of Socket the Hedgeduck for this year's contest; we'll see how it does.

Let the fun begin!


Socket the Hedgeduck: v0.3/SHC16 release!

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Socket the Hedgeduck:
v0.3/SHC16 release!

   After a little more than a month of work, a v0.3 demo build of Socket the Hedgeduck has been released, as both an IPS patch and on the Sega Mega Drive & Genesis Classics Collection on Steam Workshop! You can download the patch or subscribe to the mod page under the "releases" section on the updated project page. Among many other changes, Antiquity Zone and High Speed Zone 5 have been added and a lot of nitpicky polishing and bug fixes were made.

  In related news, over last week and last weekend a lot of legitimate Steam Workshop mods for the SMD&GCC were falsely flagged and taken down, Socket the Hedgeduck was one of them. After submitting a Steam Support ticket explaining the situation, I was luckily able to get the illegitimate ban lifted and reinstate the mod. Socket the Hedgeduck has also been submitted to the Sonic Hacking Contest 2016, which will be taking place on November 7th, where it will be privately and publicly judged to compete for some of the Sonic community's hacking trophies! Come join for the live streams and festivities during that week!

-Tamkis (aka GenesisDoes)

SAGE 2016 is here!

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SAGE 2016 (Sonic Amateur Games Expo) is here!

   After being cancelled for 2015, SAGE (the Sonic Amateur Games Expo) has arrived for 2016 at their website! (SAGE 2016 info here). It is an annual, online convention where members of the Sonic fan community showcase their Sonic the Hedgehog and other personal indie video game projects for public exposure.

   EagleSoft Ltd has submitted both Colonial Combat v1.1 and Sonic CD Breakout Demo #3 as booths. There are also a lot of other fun fangames there for download and play (approximately 54 entries this year), and there will be gameplay streams of the event's booths and many other fun activities during the event (Oct 15-22 2016). If you are bored this week, go play some fun Sonic fan and other indie games, or join the streaming and other festivities this week!

-Tamkis (aka GenesisDoes)

Socket the Hedgeduck Progress: AZ & HSZ5

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Socket the Hedgeduck Progress: AZ & HSZ5

   I recently finished most of the development of High Speed Zone (HSZ) act 5 and acts 1 & 2 of Antiquity Zone (AZ), for Socket the Hedgeduck, a mod ("hack") of Sonic 1 with Socket/Time Dominator levels/assets. A v0.3 demo of the mod will be available as usual as a standalone IPS Patch, as a Steam Workshop item for the Sonic 1 DLC for the Sega MegaDrive & Genesis Classics collection, and also as an entry into the Sonic Hacking Contest 2016 before the contest deadline.

Shown with the development video below are vertical speed booster subtypes for HSZ, a few custom platform subtypes for AZ, a torpedo enemy object for AZ, and other things.

I am looking forward to finishing AZ3, ironing out the bugs, and polishing the hack for a v0.3 demo release (especially for the SHC16) online in October!


SAGE Returns (for real)!

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SAGE Returns (for real)!

   As mentioned many months ago in this and that EagleSoft Labs blog post, Demo #3 of Sonic CD Breakout was originally slated to be entered into SAGE 2015 Act 2. SAGE (Sonic Amateur Games Expo) is an annual event hosted by the Sonic Community at Sonic Retro to showcase various community members' Sonic the Hedgehog and non-Sonic the Hedgehog related fan/indie games. Unfortunately, SAGE 2015 act 2, originally slated to be from December 18-24 2015, was postponed to Spring, and then never happened. Fortunately, SAGE is back for 2016, specifically from October 15th through October 22nd, 2016! You can read all about the event's details at Sonic Retro's post

  With the new date/event, Sonic CD Breakout Demo #3 is being resubmitted for the event, and Colonial Combat is being submitted too as booths! These booths should help in bringing in public exposure to EagleSoft Ltd projects (something which, I admit, has always seemed to be lacking here). This is EagleSoft Ltd's first time in participating in some type of Indie game convention (albeit online), and I do plan for more of this type of thing in the future as EagleSoft Ltd grows.

Catch everybody at the event (online) this October! Looking forward to all of the fun fangames that will be there!


Socket the Hedgeduck: v0.2 Release

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Socket the Hedgeduck: v0.2 Release
    A ton of work has been done on Socket the Hedgeduck, a Sonic 1 mod for the Sega Genesis using Socket/Time Dominator levels and assets, since its first v0.1 demo build in April. Mostly bug fixes, new levels, and improvements have been made to the mod since then. A new v0.2 demo is now released on both the website and now on Steam, as a Steam Workshop item for the Sega Mega Drive and Genesis Classics collection for the Sonic 1 DLC. You can download the mod either as a patch or for Steam at the links at the project page, and see the changelog there.


Socket the Hedgeduck progress: Stone Age Zone

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Socket the Hedgeduck Progress:
Stone Age Zone

I'm still chipping away at progress on the Socket the HedgeDuck ROM hack, an advanced Sonic 1 hack with Socket/Time Dominator levels and assets! Stone Age Zone (SAZ) acts 1 & 2 have recently been worked on, with a few unique object gimmicks created. Bridges in this zone can be destroyed by pressing buttons, lava geysers fly up from the lava, and OOZ Balls in this zone are destroyable and painful. The acts are mostly working, albeit with a few minor VRAM issues and bugs that need fixed.

Video of SAZ1 & 2

After finishing SAZ3, fixing some bugs in my bug/todo list backlog, and adding some minor game improvements, a demo v0.2 should be available soon this summer! Stay tuned for more progress at SSRG and at the blog.

Socket the Hedgeduck Progress: High Speed Zone 1

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Socket the HedgeDuck Progress: High Speed Zone 1

Progress is still churning along on the Socket the HedgeDuck ROM hack, an advanced Sonic 1 hack with Socket/Time Dominator levels and assets! Recently, I've added a new special stage feature, where Big Rings now take you to normal platforming levels (High Speed Zone acts) instead of stock Sonic 1 special stages. If you complete the level (hit the signpost), you are awarded a Chaos Emerald and shown the SS Results Screen, while if you die in the level, you are just shown the SS Results screen. Both actions will then return you back to the next level in the normal playthrough sequence. Also added are some more animated objects for HSZ, and diagonal springs!

More news as features and levels are developed!


New Dreamcast Section!

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New Dreamcast Section!

 As revealed back during my Birthday Bash, I recently picked up a working Sega Dreamcast, both to play old classics and homebrew and for future homebrew development. Not only that, but I finally received last Wednesday my Dreamcast SD adapter from China! It works very well with my SDHC Card and with DreamShell (although the adapter chassis did receive some damage in transit)! I should have a quick video review of the device once I bootup my Nerdology YouTube show.

 Although it will be some time until I tinker around with Dreamcast development (I have too many other ongoing and unfinished software projects I would like to wrap up first), a new Dreamcast section has been added to the website.


Socket the Hedgeduck progress: EFZ

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Socket the Hedgeduck progress: EFZ

  It's been about a month since I have worked on "Socket the Hedgeduck", but today I have a short preview of Emerald Forest Zone (EFZ), Acts 1 and 2. Act 1 is a relatively short, simple level, while Act 2 is a maze with some hidden passages. Both have some challenging sections. Also, I am beginning to fix some user bugs and design issues including having better Socket music ports and other bug fixes

Pics n' vids

  More progress coming soon!


Birthday Bash! (Not a dead hobo yet)

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Birthday Bash!
 (Not a dead hobo yet)
    Somehow, I managed to survive to age 24 and not die as a hobo (yet). What with a difficult and challenging senior year, I still do not know how I survived college and graduated with a B.S. Software Engineering.
    Having earned ~$600 a week before my birthday (~$390 from my shrewd Uncle Sam via a tax return and ~$200 from a bi-weekly paycheck at the job) and having <2 months left until I get hit by my evil, Satanic college bills, I figured I could spend some money to celebrate surviving another year, in the worst-case scenario I do not find a real programming job by then, default on my loans, and end up as a financially broke hobo. Last year, I ordered an EDMD for my Sega Genesis and its add-ons, in order to play old games and test homebrew software I write. What did I purchase this year?

This year, I ordered the following for my birthday:

  • NIB M-Audio 1x1 USB MIDI interface
  • Sonic the Hedgehog T-Shirt (on sale at JCPenny)
  • Sega Dreamcast!!
    • DC-SD Dongle! (Arriving soon)
    • 1st-party controller
    • 1st-party VMU
    • RCA AV-Out
    • Power Cord
    • NBA 2k2
    • Crazy Taxi

   One thing I am bad at when making video games is creating my own music. I have no experience with playing a piano, and am planning on soon learning how to, in order to compose original music. Originally for my birthday, I was planning on finally retrofitting an old Yamaha Portasound PSS-470 piano I picked up for a bargain $10 at a garage sale during summer 2012 with MIDI capabilities, by installing a UMR2 kit from Highly Liquid. According to a thread on the HL support forums, somebody was able to install the kit successfully into the PSS-470. The PSS-470 is an older, but cool Yamaha piano that uses a YM3812 chip (same one used in old SoundBlaster ISA cards) for FM synthesis. The chip supports 9 FM voices and uses 2 operators for the FM synthesis (OPL2).

(The 8-Bit Guy discusses about the PSS-470
and similar "SoundBlaster keyboards")
   Once installed, through MIDI, the UMR2 Kit gives certain keyboards the ability to be used to compose music on a computer (by sending MIDI Note On events to composition software on a computer), and to be used as a sound module. As a sound module, a PC can send MIDI events to the keyboard to make the keyboard play music automatically. Due to how the UMR2 works (by sending signals to simulate a keypress), to my knowledge, as a sound module, the PSS-470 would only be able to use one individual voice in serial at a time for up to 9 duplicate MIDI Note On events. I was hoping to eventually hack the UMR2 or find an alternative method to feed raw data to the YM3812 chip to use it like a SoundBlaster chip as a sound module, by playing several different voices at the same time (for fun).

   To prepare for a UMR2 retrofit and to interface MIDI to my laptop, I found and ordered on eBay a M-Audio 1x1 MIDISport USB MIDI Interface. Luckily enough, not only did I find my particular unit to be the cheapest available on eBay at the time ($25), but the seller was selling these in large quantity, NIB, so of course I took advantage of the opportunity! From online reviews, it is a well-made USB2MIDI interface, which, compared to those cheap, shady, Chinese USB2MIDI interfaces that plague eBay, has low MIDI latency and is reliable. As the name suggest, the M-Audio 1x1 MIDISport has 1 MIDI IN and 1 MIDI out port. Unfortunately, by the time I was going to order MIDI cables, a UMR2 kit, and male MIDI jacks to install onto the UMR2, the only online wholesaler who was selling the UMR2 at this time sold out. Due to this, I plan on doing the retrofit (and if necessary, hacking the retrofit to play 9 different voices at once) at a later time.

Cheap, shady, Chinese USB2MIDI cable
(with high latency)

    With the UMR2 being unavailable and not knowing if/when supplies would be restocked, I decided instead to purchase a few other things. I found a Sonic the Hedgehog T-Shirt on sale for $12 to wear, since I am such a Sega nerd.

  Speaking about Sega nerdness, I finally decided to take a trip to the local video game store and purchase... a Sega Dreamcast, with power cord and RCA Out, a 1st-party controller and VMU, and copy of NBA2k2 and Crazy Taxi!! The NBA2k2 copy came free with the console, with Crazy Taxi half off ($5). Everything cost $70, which although is a bit high for the console, due to the store being brick and mortar, at least allowed me to test the system and accessories in person instead of taking the word of a seller on eBay. The controller and VMU are in working condition, the system is in rather good condition, and this Dreamcast unit is alive and still thinking.

    According to the sticker on the bottom, this unit was manufactured on December 1999 (probably a happy child's Christmas gift) and is a revision 1 model, which means the hardware does not have protection against the MIL-CD exploit. This exploit allows one to run software using properly formatted CD-Rs instead of proprietary, obsolete GD-R/GD-ROMs. I also have a DC-SD adapter (promo price of $15) coming in the mail soon. This unit allows one to run DC software (such as homebrew) through the serial port on the DC's back through SD cards. Although there are plenty of better, alternative ways to run software on the DC without original GD-ROM discs (bootable CD-Rs via the MIL-CD exploit, hard-to-find and expensive GD-EMU and shady USB-GDROM, and even an HDD hack for the daring), I ordered a DC-SD adapter because it was cheap, could be used to quickly play software (although compatibility problems do exist), and could be used to quickly debug future homebrew I create on real hardware without burning a ton of CD-Rs. (DC Emulation is getting better these days, but not 100% accurate yet). It will be used to test/play homebrew (because I don't promote piracy).

   Overall, I had a good birthday, and am really looking forward to learning about homebrew development on the Sega Dreamcast!

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