Applesoft Portal FAQ

This project turned out way more popular than I expected. Usually I make a silly video, forward it to a few friends, and maybe send it to hackaday (or adafruit if it involved a raspberry pi). Rarely do I get more than a few thousand hits.

I'm too lazy to make an account on all the sites that covered this, so here's a bunch of responses to questions that came up.
  1. Why was your announcement click-bait? This isn't a fully playable 3-hour long game!

    I was exagerating for humorous effect, as I really didn't think this would get quite so out of hand popular. The game definitely is playable, though I guess I should have called it more of a "demo" than a "port".

    Also, it's not really traditional click-bait, as I'm not getting any ad revenue from this.

  2. Have you tried a BASIC compiler?

    The hackernews commentators seem to understand this best.

    The challenge/fun of this project was trying to take something modern and reimplementing it in a medium that seems impossible (see the con-tiki project).

    Using a BASIC compiler or using assembly language would definitely make the game run faster/better/allow more features, but at the same time then the project just becomes a standard Apple II 2-D platform game (of which there were many, the pinnacle probably being Prince of Persia which is frankly amazing for the hardware it was on).

  3. Wow your IIe platinum looks amazing. Did you retrobrite it?

    No. I should post a picture, but shielded parts of the case are definitely much much whiter than exposed parts. It's just compared to the tan of non-platinum IIes it looks original.

  4. Was it cool being interviewed by theregister?

    Yes, though mildly disappointed I didn't get referred to as a "boffin". I did find their "The cake is a IIe" tagline particularly inspired

  5. Is the Apple II's hires mode as bad as you make it sound?

    Worse actually. BASIC typically hides most of the complexity from you. I was being difficult by trying to get colored output using the DRAW/XDRAW shapetable support which is a silly thing to even attempt. You'll note in the code I cheated a bit to accomplish this.

    I won't admit how much time I wasted trying to get the colors right on my VMW logo on the title screen. If you'll look closely you'll see I had to compromise on at least one of the pixels.

  6. You said that it took a week to put this together?

    Yes, though I had some pre-existing tools (for example the pcx to hgr converter, the shape table compiler, and the disk image writer) that sped up the process. Though they also slowed things down as I wasted time re-writing (and re-indenting) the code as it was old and much of it is coded really inefficiently.

  7. Do you really code your webpages by hand?

    Yes. Using the nano editor. You don't even want to know how I check my e-mail.

  8. What's the workflow for how you made this?

    I edit the text on a Linux box, using a text editor (nano). I use a custom BASIC tokenizer and a dos33 utility to put the files in a disk image (a Makefile handles all this). Then I run things under the Linapple emulator to test. Once it all works I transfer to a USB key which I hook up to the CFFA3000 disk emulator inside of my IIe. If I want to transfer to a floppy I use Copy II plus to the floppy drives in slot #5.

  9. This is your second Applesoft game conversion. Do you plan any others?

    No. That doesn't mean it won't happen though. Only certain kind of games map well to this kind of project, and it has to be a game I enjoy playing enough to get a good feel for the gameplay. A certain amount of procrastination is involved too.

  10. Why is the disk image called glados33.dsk?

    It was an obscure joke due to the fact that the disk image is in Apple DOS 3.3 format.

  11. Did you like the Portal games?

    Yes. Though I might be alone in thinking this, but I really didn't like the Portal2 Wheatley character much, I found him really annoying.

  12. Why is there no cake? Was it a lie?

    It turns out to be really hard to draw a convincing cake, either in ASCII art or in pixel form. After wasting a long time perfecting the companion cube I decided not to bother.

  13. Why is the video so grainy in the "Still Alive" credits?

    The Apple II's "NTSC" output was a bit nonstandard at the best of times, even when in 40 column mode. The composite to VGA scan converter I am using can barely display this, and it doesn't really handle the higher-bandwidth 80 column mode well at all. Yes, I was too lazy to find a CRT for purposes of making this video.

  14. Why does the title screen imply it has been "cracked"?

    Growing up many of the Apple II games I played were from floppies of dubious provenance. To me it feels traditional for there to be some sort of cracked copy protection notice on the title screen.

  15. How do you make your videos?

    A cheap Canon camera and a tripod. I edit things together with kdenlive which crashes a lot but mostly works. The biggest issue I have is trying to record my desktop for the emulator scenes, as I can never get the Linux microphone support to work well.

  16. Where did you get your time machine?

    Well I traded this crazy looking guy some plutonium...

    No, really, I just like blinky LED lights and it's the perfect project if you like that kind of thing. I was vaguely trying to get it all finished for the BTTF2/2015 anniversary and it was mostly working but I had grand plans to put it in my car for a while but that never happened. You can find out more here.

    There are plans and mostly enough info to build your own copy if you want. A few people have tried, but I've never heard back on any successes.

  17. Has Valve sent you a cease-and-desist letter yet?

    Not yet.