Tuesday, 18 October 2016

COMMODORE FORMAT #2: BACK FROM 'PUTERS TO PIGS

Nope, I'm not a week late with this issue of Commodore Format despite what the blurb said in the first edition and you can read the explanation in my previous post by clicking here.  But yes, it wasn't the 13th of October 1990 this bright and breezy second issue arrived, it was on this day a whopping 26 years ago.  Unlike the fully painted first cover and indeed the similarly classic covers to come, this was a more simple affair but nonetheless effective.

Bit garish in places but the 80s had just
finished after all

Celebrating the review of the Corker-winning Rick Dangerous 2 the cover was certainly a departure from what I became used to when I joined from #14.  Now, starting at #14 a year later is a key point to make here as I introduce a couple of nice surprises within the first pages.  As I've mentioned before I wrote a fun blog based around the classic Oink! comic of 1986 to 1988, and while doing so I discovered (as I'd completely forgotten beforehand) which issue had originally been my first only when I read it and recognised things I'd seen before.  As coincidence would have it that first issue had also been #14.  So my first ever comic and my first ever magazine share that.  I'm also writing about each issue a similar amount of years later; 27 for Oink! and 26 for CF.  But that's not all.

A very small Sample of a brilliant artist's work

While this may not be a commissioned piece of art for Commodore Format it no less got my attention when I was collecting together what I'd scan in for this issue's coverage.  I recognised the work straight away but couldn't place it.  However, I knew it was Oink!-ish and so I asked fans and creators at the Facebook group and lo-and-behold they were able to point me in the right direction.  Paul Sample worked on a couple of issues of the piggy comic but the only one I covered was the second Holiday Special which included this superb cover:

If you're just scanning the pictures there's no less than four
coincidental reasons this is here.  Read the post!

Hopefully that brings back some fond memories for some of you too and you can check out the full issue by clicking here.  Back to CF though and Paul's "contribution" is actually from a leaflet advertising one the computer shows featured in the Network 64 news section, but it still stood out to this fan.  Then a quick turn of the page and all the coincidences above culminate in this issue's PowerPack covertape!

Nothing at all like the comic but apparently a
very good game in its own right

I wouldn't have usually taken much notice of this, after all why would a game called Pig Tales with some average graphics call out to me when I didn't get the cassette with this issue?  Well, I've played this PowerPack before and upon loading the tape the Oink! game is there for you to enjoy!  The whole thing, including the correct title.  To this day I still haven't the foggiest clue as to why it wasn't referred to as Oink! in the magazine.  If the title screen of the game had been altered I may have simply concluded it must've been down to copyright issues, but nope it's all there including references to the four characters it's based around: Pete & his Pimple, Tom Thug, Rubbish Man and the comic's editor Uncle Pigg, including a full-screen C64 rendering of the rotund porker for the title.

Strange indeed.  If you'd like to know more about the game I covered it twice on The Oink! Blog.  First of all I wrote about the special edition of Spectrum magazine Crash which had a special issue of Oink! packaged inside it and an interview with the three editors, and I covered the game a little bit there too.  Also, there's a post about a lesser C64 magazine's special feature on the creation of the comic and the game too here.  Enjoy.

For now though let's get back to the nitty gritty of the sophomore edition of my favourite magazine of all time.  Something which set Commodore Format apart from its rivals at the time was a design aspect which we pretty much take for granted today.  Instead of just a long review about what they thought of the game, where they'd also try to explain it as best they could, CF gave us tremendous box outs and in-depth analysis of gameplay through much better use of the page layouts and loads of screenshots.  They really took the time to make sure we knew exactly how the game played.

While many reviews would rely on the main body of the text to do this they still differentiated themselves from the other magazines by their writing style.  As I covered last time they could mix opinion and facts about the game together in such a way that you'd be well informed but not lectured, and could make up your own mind.  This was, however, something which upon reading these first issues must've actually evolved over time which I became aware of the more I read these early CFs.  I'll go into that in more depth next time but for now here's a perfect example of what I was saying above about the design and how they utilised the space on the pages to the fullest effect.  This box out below took up half a page of a double-page review and with a selection of screenshots and carefully chosen words, writer Andy Dyer manages to give us a good feel for the play mechanics of the game; informative while maintaining that entertaining and playful style.

Ultimate Golf from Gremlin

Ah remember those golf games?  All grids of squares making up each hole, which we'd patiently wait to redraw after every swing?  Would we still have the patience for something like that today if we removed the rose-tinted glasses and tried a putt?  I still love the slow pace of Pebble Beach Gold Links on the 3DO from the mid-90s and prefer it over the (albeit immensely fun) Mario golf games and the like.  But going right back to these 8-bit golfers today I'm not so sure of.  But I'd love to give it a go.  So you never know.

Back to the main topic of conversation from last month now.

An impressive launch line-up
certainly

As with any new console the list of games being announced for its launch period is crucial to its initial success.  Although there's usually two truths about such lists.  The first is that none of these are usually fully confirmed and could just contain games which could get launched if the machine proves a success.  The other is that there's usually a bunch of lazy ports involved; games which don't take into consideration the unique features of the console and instead are the publisher's way of getting themselves onto the machine just incase it's a huge money spinner, without actually risking much.

Even with such games in the list above, and there are plenty, the idea of instant loading and multiloads no longer creating long pauses between levels must've felt like a good enough incentive to begin with.  The C64's games were by this stage smashing the ball out of the park if the creators put the effort in, but the slow cassette and relatively-slow disk formats were still putting people off when compared to the carts of consoles from Japan.  If these initial C64GS games could show there was an appetite for Commodore games on cart then we'd begin to see the more complex games arrive surely; the games that simply wouldn't be possible on tape.

Unfortunately Only Ocean and System 3 really pushed the carts and most of the games above would appear on the standard formats instead.  For the full lowdown, if you haven't already glanced over it, head back to my take on the whole Commodore 64 Games System story from last month.

But the GS was only one small part of the Commodore 64 story and this issue decided to teach its new readers a little history lesson on where their brilliant computers had come from.

Have a read of this article, it's
good stuff

I know as a new C64 owner of the time I'd have loved this as an introduction to my new computer.  Brilliantly written it sums up what's great about this little machine and the long journey Commodore had been on to reach the point of creating what would become (and to this day remains as) the world's best-selling home computer.  While also cheekily listing the games everyone should avoid!  I learned about the 64's history in bits and pieces as I went along, but CF was a new mag on the block and had a raft of new readers to aim itself towards.  People who had become disenfranchised with the competition splitting coverage between their machine and the fancy new Amiga, younger brothers and sisters who were being handed down their older sibling's 64s and of course people like myself who were still buying the micro in their hundreds of thousands as the best introduction to computing and computer gaming.  It had so much still to give and CF was here to show it hadn't gone the way of the 80s.

Reading articles like this now alongside others in these early editions which introduce many other features beyond gaming to the new-at-the-time audience is a joy.  I'm rediscovering the machine all over again myself and so it feels right to be going through these issues for the first time at this point, almost as if I was being introduced to the C64 for the first time now.  It feels like a fresh, clean start for me in a world where modern gaming just doesn't really appeal.  I've gone back to my roots and I'm loving it and CF is filling me in on what I not only missed out on first time around, but what I've been missing out on by not keeping my 64!

As we'll (eventually!) cover, CF really was the catalyst, in the UK at least, for the home-brew scene which came out of the end of the commercial lifespan of the computer.  I'm acquainting myself with the 64 in the modern world, where that home-brew time has grown into a fully-fledged Commodore 64 scene all over again, run by and for fans.  These magazines may be over two-and-a-half decades old but they're still serving as the perfect intro to the 64 for me even today.

One tough old bird

A few months after I got my original 64 my parents bought me my disk drive and within its packaging were eight full games spread across two compilations.  One of the most memorable ones was definitely Midnight Resistance and it was a pleasant surprise to see Commodore Format had been about when it was originally released.  It would only be about a year after this review that it'd be on that compilation so I didn't expect to bump into its original full-price release review.

I'm including it here as the game itself brings back a lot of memories, even if this issue for some reason only uses a handful of screenshots from the first level.  It was a very tough game but surely they got further than that.  Well from reading Andy's review it would appear he did, though I'm sure he probably cheated!  For the reviewers on CF they'd always try their best at a game first, spending many hours of the day and at home playing the titles fairly.  But deadlines are always looming.  I know this as I'm currently on the brink of another late night due to my own deadline.

To meet them, devices such as cheating cartridges which could furnish players with infinite lives would be used to enable the reviewers to get further into the game in time for the review.  Personally I remember playing through level one of Midnight Resistance with ease, but then even with Colin's Action Replay cartridge we'd come to a grinding halt on the second!  You'd stand on a small platform which would take you up through the trees, so your movement was already severely restricted.  But add in buzzsaws and many other flying enemies whizzing about all over the place, leading you to jump over one only to hit another, or to miss the platform on your fall back down again and it was virtually impossible.  Even with the cheats enabled it could test anyone's patience.  We eventually beat the level and then the following ones, while still a challenge, were much easier a lot more fun.  The whole game was brilliant fun to play except that one section if memory serves.  So much so that it became a chore and it really bugged me at the time (hey, I was a teenager, things bugged us) that the greater later levels were hidden behind that tree climb.

As such the game wasn't played as much as others in the compilations and on reading this review I'd say I'd mark it down a little further.  But maybe if I were to purchase it today with more patience(!) maybe I'd be more kind to it.  So I think it's probably a fair score.

Now, these days a week doesn't seem to go by without a gaming show being announced.  They're huge affairs these days; monstrously big shows full of loud music, celebrities, acres of bright screens, realistic graphics on almost cinema-sized displays, queues for days and huge announcements that get mainstream press coverage.  Back in 1990 they were a bit of a different affair though.  Commodore Format's editor Steve Jarrett took readers along (via a disposable camera - remember them?) to the Consumer Electronics Show in Earls Court in London for a quick walkabout and compared to today's undertakings it all feels... a bit quaint.

Nintendo wouldn't get away with THAT as their mascot today!

When publishers today spend millions upon millions in marketing one single game, for Steve to boast that Commodore's stand (with an almighty number '1' made up of its different hardware pieces including the C64GS) was "rumoured to have cost well into six figures" it just goes to show you how far the industry has come since then.  I'm not making any comment on quality here and indeed up until the end of the Wii and DS I was all about modern gaming, especially with friends, but no one can deny the sheer scale of video gaming today in comparison to this above.  These events were rightly seen as huge back then, but it was mainly about "computer gaming" rather than the "video games" and no one knew just how much things were to change over the next decade.

But I digress.  I do that.

A regular feature of the early issues was The Gauntlet, where the team would invite two readers to battle it out in the actual CF offices on C64 games, with the winner going on to the next issue's challenge.  They'd even pay for you to get there.  Well, if you lived on "mainland Britain", a phrase we youngsters in Northern Ireland grew to hate as it usually meant we couldn't take part in certain competitions on TV and in mags such as this, or that we had to pay extra for postage when ordering such games.

Just to digress again, for all you eBay sellers charging a certain price for "mainland UK/Britain" it doesn't cost more to send stuff here!  It never has, even back in the 90s.  You're fooling no one.  Ahem.

Anyway, I thought I'd include this issue's Gauntlet for a bit of fun.  It was a unique little feature which unfortunately didn't last too long but while it was there we could cheer on the current champion (or the underdog, it was up to you) while we read the article.  Written in a sports commentary kind of style long before GamesMaster came on TV, they were great fun and today also give us a chance to look back at some of the crazy fashions of the time.  But to us at that age any photos which showed us a glimpse into the world of the CF offices were always worth perusing.  Long before the 'net and social media made it easy to do so, these guys and gals felt really close to their readers through the clear personal styles of their writing.  We felt like we knew the team and so to actually see photos of them and the absolute mess they worked in just made them all the cooler.  If they could create such a professional publication in all of that, then our bedrooms didn't seem so bad after all.

I shouldn't make fun.  I had a shell suit around this time.

It's been a fun issue with plenty of variety in its contents, a great feeling of the team bedding into their new creation and yet, while no one would've known if it would even be a success at this stage, it reads like it's still in its introductory days.  Almost like they knew they were going to be around for a long time, so they were taking the second issue to bed in some history and educate the readership on more of the basics of owning this great computer, what it could do and showing off what was to come.

The C64 gaming scene had already been around for many years.  These days to launch a new magazine in a console's eighth year would be unheard of.  Heck, to have a console go beyond four or five years before being completely dropped for its replacement is unheard of.  Yet reading these preview pages the feeling is of great enthusiasm, of hundreds more games to come and many more years of enjoyment and new titles for those who wished to come along for the ride.  Indeed, what about a ride through Mega City One on Judge Dredd's Lawmaster bike?

A possible preview for this very blog!

I'm including this because I'm a fan of the Judge Dredd character and his universe, it must be said.  Before my read-through I didn't even know there had been a game for the 64 based on his 2000AD adventures, so it was a delight to see this pop up.  But I behaved.  I didn't rush on to the issue containing the review to see what the game was like, I kept reading in order and awaited with baited breath for the score.  You'll have to too, Dredd-heads.

But it nicely illustrates my point.  As I go through the entire run I'm jotting down my wish list of games and reading the previews feels a bit like they did back in the day.  I have that anticipation of whether I'll be buying them or ignoring them if I see the listings on eBay.  I could race forward when I see a preview, I could simply look over the issues out of order and see what I want, I could look at lists online of the CF review scores.  But I won't.  Just like I did with Oink! I'll let Commodore Format and its talented team guide me through the years 1990 to 1995, with its additional occasional look back at classics in special features, one month at a time (without the weeks waiting in-between mind you as I do so), with the previews whetting my appetite for what's to come.  I want to experience this the way we would've back then, just with the addition of hindsight.

With that in mind, what could I be writing about next month?  Who knows?  Maybe there's some clues in here?

Sounds tempting, but when?

Ah.  No actual release date.  That's handy.  Maybe they knew they'd messed up with #1's and were still awaiting confirmation on exactly which date the issues were going out on?  Maybe they had been on the money with the date for #2 but the first issue had been held back a week?  I simply don't know, but neither this nor the next issue give definitive dates.  So what to do for the blog?

Simple.  Taking what I worked out for this issue, then glancing forward until the fourth or fifth when dates appear again I simply worked backwards.  Enough gibbering, you just want to know when the next issue's goodness will be dissected.  Try Tuesday 15th November for size and see how that fits.    


Wednesday, 12 October 2016

NOT QUITE COMMODORE FORMAT #2

Well it appears Commodore Format #1 had a slight error when it hit the shelves in September 1990.  It stated the second issue would be out on 13th October, which felt a bit rushed to me as it was only three weeks after the previous issue.  They wouldn't have had the premiere edition on the shelves for a shorter period of time like that.  Indeed back in that year the 13th would've been a Saturday, however every issue in the first year was released on a Thursday.  Going by the following dates on a contemporary calendar it's easy to work out issue two was actually released on Thursday 18th October, so while I've been busy working on the write-up (including two surprising and coincidental references to my previous comic blog, Oink! fans!) it'll have to wait in draft form until next Tuesday.

So come back then y'hear?


Thursday, 6 October 2016

A WHOLE WORLD OF WINTER WARMERS

Okay, so try not to get too jealous here but I really do have the greatest of friends.  Previously on here I've shown you the Hunchback games kindly donated to my collection, as well as the first Commodore 64: a Visual Commpendium book and the Jaws game I received for Christmas last year, just like I would've received Commodore goodies back in the day.  Well, the kindly gentleman by the name of Kevin who bought me that latter favourite of mine has really outdone himself this time!

He decided he was going to buy me a game or two from eBay and asked if there was anything I'd particularly like.  My mind instantly flashed up with dozens of titles, so he was going to surprise me but upon looking at the mass of games on the auction site he decided in the end to ask me what I already owned.  Seeing as how my collection is in its infancy that definitely made it a lot easier.  What I didn't expect was for him to arrive at my house last week with a backpack stuffed (and I do mean that) with boxes of games.  My collection has effectively tripled in size.  So what has he added to my Commodore library?

Well Kevin did know I was intending to collect all of Codemasters' Dizzy tapes after reviewing one of my favourite games from the original C64 days and then buying the first of the franchise.  So he set about finding a few and these are what he came up with.

So it begins...

Excellent.  (Please note lack of an egg joke there.)  I've now got the first four adventure titles in the (free) range.  (Dammit.  Sorry.)  Plus two of the puzzle games, one of which I believe is a Klax clone and since I liked that game I'm looking forward to giving these a go.  I know the non-adventure games in the Dizzy series weren't reknowned for getting great review scores, but reading them in Commodore Format I'm keen to see what I think of them myself.  Plus I want the set!  Plenty to keep me busy here without even taking into consideration everything else he brought me!

This box alone has several weeks of entertainment in it!

Next up is this rather spiffy compilation and I was overjoyed when I realised what was in it!  I bought Elite the last time I had a 64 but believe it or not never got around to playing it.  I know that was sacrilege but I'll make up for it this time.  Also on my list of must-haves from reading my magazines is The Sentinel, which is reknowned as an absolutely classic strategy game with an almost infinite amount of levels, atmospheric 3D graphics and a highly intelligent A.I. and all within a single load!  The word "classic" is bandied about a bit too much these days when people discuss retro games, but this is one which apparently earned that status and I can't wait to get stuck in for a good cerebral challenge.

Starglider I've heard of but don't know an awful lot about, but I did read a brief review of Ace 2 from the pages of Roger Frames in CF and it got a great score.  He did say it was basically the first game again with an added two-player mode, but that both were excellent in their own right anyway.  I'll soon find out.  Also in there is Tetris which doesn't need anything in the way of an explanation but it does seem oddly out of place in this collection.  Nevertheless it's been many years since I've played the original game, though that was on the Game Boy as I'm sure it was with most people first time around, so I'll boot it up to give it a go.  I follow @retro_gaming on Instagram and recently she's been going gaga over Tetris and its many and varied sequels and remakes, so now I have it I'll see if it grabs me in the same way.

More classics, including some favourites of mine.  Bonus!
This next selection includes some I've heard of but never played such as Rampage which seems to be fondly remembered by many, especially Spectrum owners.  Antiriad is another game which has had brilliant reviews in the past and I do recognise some of the screenshots but beyond that it's another classic I'd never crossed paths with before.  The same goes for Star Control (a demo of which is on the Commodore Format PowerPack) though I always loved the look of it on the 3DO, as well as the arcade hit Ghosts'n'Goblins and Bomb Jack on the Best of Elite cassette, which also includes Battleships in another weird addition in the same way as Tetris.

But the two other games above I spent plenty of time with as a teen and it's exciting to see them here again in the flesh, so to speak.  Paperboy is known by everyone, surely?  My fellow C64-owing friend Colin at the time let me borrow his and I remember it taking a while to get into, but once it clicked I was hooked.  Grand Prix Simulator plays fast and loose with the term "simulator" like most of Codemasters' similarly-titled games, but it was a right hoot!  Static racing tracks viewed from above, the cars were so small they were simply tiny rectangles with a couple of white pixels for a windscreen, but my god did it work and the gameplay was hilarious!  Colin and I used to play it for ages at a time, the small shoeboxes screeching through handbreak turns at top speed.  Brilliant fun!  So much fun in fact I'm nervous about how it'll hold up today with the rose-tinted glasses off.

To round off the backpack came the following games, many of which are brand new to me.  Trivial Pursuit I did own as part of a disk compilation and I think it was used a couple of times instead of the board game and obviously there's certain others here that I've either heard of or at the very least I'm familiar with the name.  Cast your eyes over these.

Haven't a baldy notion about most of these, but hey-ho it'll be
fun finding out

So there we have it.  It appears Santa Claus came early this year and there's certainly so much here that I doubt I'll have fully playtested them all by the time he makes his next trip in a couple of months.  But I can tell you now I'll give it a damn good shot!    


Sunday, 2 October 2016

FROM PIGS TO 'PUTERS: NEW C64 OFFICE SETUP!

The exclamation mark at the end of the title is very deliberate, as I'm stupidly excited about my new bunker!  As I've shifted my focus from writing about a superb classic comic to writing about a superb classic computer I felt a change was needed in the office area I have set up at the rear of my living room.  It's resulted in a new found excitement at what's to come in my Commodore 64 journey and reinvigorated my love of both playing it and writing about it on my Mac.

Not that my love of the C64 needed reinvigorated, I've only had it a year after all and it's only been out of its packaging for nine months, but let me explain by showing you what I mean.

Between April 2013 and the end of 2015 I wrote a really fun blog called The Oink! Blog which you can access via the link in the right-hand column there.  In it I read each issue on the date of their original release in the same way as I am at the minute with Commodore Format on here.  During that time I've moved house (twice actually) and when I moved into my current abode I knew the living room was long enough to dedicate an area at its rear to my computer desk, complete with tall shelves full of Oink! and the other comics I'd collected such as Marvel UK's 1980s/90s The Transformers and a handful of others I'd either kept since childhood or collected again to cover on The Oink! Blog.  Despite my father being adamant on moving day that I'd never fit it all in, this was how it looked for the first year in this house.

Yes, yes, it's an unfortunate photo of that Titanic
book.  I couldn't have planned that if I'd tried!

Simple enough set up and I was very happy with it.  With a view down the living room to the main TV, a window behind me for natural light and the kitchen door to my right for easy access to coffee it was pretty much perfect.  All of the reference materials were to my left, with some even on display as you can see.  To my right as well was what I had originally intended to be the dining area; you know, for dinner parties and the like.  Well, in the three years I've had my dining table and chairs I think I've used them once to eat food off of, instead they've become everything from a base to build a model Aston Martin 007 car and sort comics to simply a huge storage unit to dump basically anything I brought into the house on until I found room elsewhere.  With the arrival of the 64 though it took on new life.

The 'Mystery Door' is just a cupboard I don't use
and I needed the space for the 64
With it pushed up against a wall (well, door) to make room for the little display table, I'd pretty much confirmed it wasn't going to be used by many people to eat on anytime soon.  But for a while now I've had the idea to buy a second desk identical to the one I have in order to make a large area where the C64 and Mac Mini could reside together, instead of being estranged neighbours.

There's also actually some logical reasoning behind the idea too.  I'm playing with and learning on the Commodore, then writing about it on the Mac and I want to increase the content of this blog massively.  There's also writing opportunities coming up for me (some have already happened, or are happening and will be covered here as soon as I can) and a big project I'm going to be dedicating a lot of time to over the next two months.  All writing.  All centered around the 64.

It was important to have the two systems side-by-side for the most part for these reasons, but conflictingly I also wanted a more comfortable set up for playing long gaming sessions.  While we may have done it as teens, sitting on an office chair (albeit a very comfy one) for hours at my age and with my back isn't ideal.  Also, piling up my Commodore Formats and books in that small display table above was only a temporary solution, especially with the limited amount of space for games and let's face it we like having our Commodore 64 collections all on display, don't we?

So here's my new set up I'm so excited about, starting with that large alcove under the stairs where the dining table/desk was previously.

My new bunker is the perfect hiding place away from the world

That chunky CRT TV was sat in my bedroom and hadn't been used in a year or two but I've always kept it for watching VHS tapes on.  Well, one specific series of VHS tapes in particular: Babylon 5.  Quick tangent.  Any fans of the show will know that the DVD transfer of B5 wasn't great.  In short, all the SFX shots weren't filmed in widescreen and the original computer files were destroyed when a storm broke through a Warner Bros building, so they couldn't be redone for widescreen (or upgraded for HD) which had been the original plan.  The real-life stuff was filmed in a HD (for the time) format in widescreen years before it became the norm.  It was forward-thinking of J.Michael Straczynski and no one could've forseen what would happen, but it resulted in DVDs of beautifully filmed live-action scenes and grainy, blurry, cropped SFX shots.  The best way to watch it is still on VHS then (oh if only Warners would release it on DVD in a cleaned-up 4:3 instead) and that's why the TV and the VCR were kept.  End of tangent.

So now the TV has taken on a new lease of life.  That beanbag chair usually sits in the living half of the room as a spare seat, but the idea is it can now be moved when needed to relax and play C64 games instead of the office chair for those lengthy sessions.  It's incredibly comfortable and supports my back brilliantly, so when the itch to play Creatures 2 (or get back into B5) occurs this is where you'll find me.

I'm also considering the purchase of a second 64 to put above the VCR shelf, where you can see K.I.T.T. and not just so I don't have to constantly disconnect and reconnect it.  Currently any screenshots you'll see have been taken from my curved CRT screen which results in an equally-curved photo.  It's all lovely and retro but I'd much prefer to use the flat screen of this bigger TV and in all honesty that was one of the main factors in hauling this monster down the stairs in the first place.  So with a second 64 I'll be able to play games between both set ups, one handy for short bursts, coding and creating, the other ideal for longer periods of play and taking the all-important screenshots for the blog and elsewhere.

According to a friend these are my "Shelves of Nerd"
I really need a steadier hand for panoramic photos

My CFs are now proudly on display in magazine sleeves I had used for 2000AD when I collected it (now focussing solely on reading Judge Dredd from the beginning instead) and the C64 shelf in particular is a treasure trove of fun waiting to be used.  Saying that, a friend has just treated me to a huge selection of games from eBay so a bit of reorganising... well, a lot of reorganising will have to take place but still, I'm happy with it all being out for people to see.  (Careful now!)

Elsewhere I've my Mac User collection as a guide to getting the most out of my Mac, Straczynski books for getting the most out of my writing, then my shelf of classic comics, modern small press comics from Oink! creators and my 3DO Magazines and, yes, that's the entire 80s/90s Transformers collection down on the bottom there.  I had to spend a long time one afternoon sorting them out again after tearing through it all to get scans for a blog post last year and seeing them all neatly displayed like that is enough to make me want to go back and read them all over again!  But at the moment I've far too much Commodore goodness on my plate.

Finally, what about the other half of the bunker, the actual desk area.

Bunker complete and it's bliss

My Blu Rays and DVDs have moved down beside the TV, them and my books proudly on view either side of the fireplace and this then left all the room I needed to finally set up the ultimate space for Commodore 64 writing.  I love it.  Okay so my Apple Watch is usually on my wrist (you can see it there at the far corner of the Mac's desk) but for photograph purposes that's where it charges for an hour every evening.

A friend did recently ask why I've got the small Apple keyboard and not the one with an additional number keypad, or even a split one.  This being the one I was given when I first received my Mac Mini was the initial reason, but it really is ideal.  After all I grew up with the 64 and then laptops and iPads.  I've actually requested a number-keypad-less keyboard in work as I find the mouse is uncomfortably far away otherwise.  I've become accustomed to it and absolutely love it.  Apple's keyboards are all a joy to use I find (to such an extent that the PC keyboards in work feel incredibly clunky), but this smallest one in their range had a lovely old-school and, dare I say it, C64 feel to it because of its layout.  With the 64 and the iPad Pro's keyboards also having the numbers along the top and the large amount of use both of them get, it's just far more comfortable for me to stick with this kind of layout.  I'm a lot more productive with a more compact keyboard and the use of the number keys along the top believe it or not.

So there's my complete 64 hardware set up, my Mac Mini set up (plus scanner on the floor just at the bottom of the screen under a few Mac bookazines) and my iPad Pro on hand for extra handy duties, all stationed at the rear of my living room, it's a lovely blend of classic and new tech.  I love it.

So there you go, the bunker is ready.  But ready for what?  Ah, you'll have to wait and see.  In the meantime look out for more regular posts on the blog and a lot more of me whittering on about my 64.  Now if only I didn't have to go to work in the morning, as this desk is far more exciting than the one I have to use in order to pay the bills!