Pirates vs Ninjas


In 2013 I thought it would be cute to make a "pirates vs ninjas" joke since "pirates vs. ninjas" was a popular meme at the time.  

The idea of this joke (not an actual recommendation to behave a certain way!) was that you could stop software piracy by going dark and not bragging about it, which unbelievably, a lot of people still do.

Okay, it's not the best joke.

But!  I was at a party where a person responsible for Microsoft licensing and reducing piracy saw my shirt - she interpreted it as, "Stop software piracy by being a super cool ninja that tracks down piracy and stops it."  Which I think is a legit interpretation.  

Disneyland Pirate - 2007

In 2007 I was very excited to have a camera that could sort-of see in the dark.

Now, most camera phones can see in the dark, and in full color.  


"Applying Game Design to Virtual Environments" - 1998

A colleague at work, HH, found this article I wrote in 1998!


It was originally a chapter in a book Digital Illusions.

My weenies blog post from 2000 (and amazingly the picture links work):


I could never find a definitive way to spell weenies.  


Caesers Palace Gameboy - MIDI

To the best of my knowledge, the following is the first keyboard performed music in a console, and in this case, a hand-held console, the Game Boy.

I'm digging way back in my memory on this one.  It was early days for me at Virgin Mastertronic (as it was known) and I didn't know anything about the game business.  One of the producers that Graeme Devine had recruited was Seth Mendelsohn.  I'm not sure how we ended up talking about computer music.  I think I'll write to him for his memory!  But basically he had MIDI equipment and I think Cakewalk 1.0 as did I.  We needed some music for the Caeser's Palace game and the approach at the time was to hire someone that had a music player which would playback hex-encoded tunes.

I wasn't interested in that - I wanted more natural sounding music.

We needed a title track and "walking around" music.  The first portion above is the title music followed by the walking around music which looped.

(BTW, computer games - not on consoles - used MIDI all the time in 1991.)

Seth composed the music in Cakewalk, and then I used the Cake2Asc program you could get from Twelve Tone Systems to convert it to ascii.  Ed Magnin, who coded the entire game, wrote code to convert the ascii file into binary for the Gameboy and a relatively simple music player.  He also had to set the "instruments" - which consisted of tweaking some internal registers to modify the sounds slightly.

And voila!  Music in game!


Pickels and Peppers

I have some performances by Max Morath on vinyl from approximately one billion years ago.

One of the pieces is a mashup - yes, a mashup, from 1907! - called Piano Rollin Rag.  ChatGPT says,

Max Morath did not compose "Piano Rollin' Rag." The song was actually composed by James Sylvester Scott, a prominent African-American composer and pianist who lived from 1885 to 1938. "Piano Rollin' Rag" was published in 1907 and is one of Scott's most well-known compositions. Max Morath, who is known as the "King of Ragtime," is a performer, composer, and music historian who has helped to preserve and promote ragtime music. While Morath did not compose "Piano Rollin' Rag," he has recorded many performances of the song and other classic ragtime tunes.

All this time I thought he did.  But at any rate, the performance I have on vinyl with Max Morath and his band is terrific.  The mashup has some Scott Joplin and a portion that sounds to me like a ragged version of Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.  I wondered for years what that tune was, and I finally found it - it's part of Pickels and Peppers by Adeline Shephard.  My clue was a google search in 2020 that found this tiny reference in a book:

The performance above of Pickels and Peppers is really good!  See if it sounds to you like a sort-of drawn-out version of the main theme of Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah toward the end.

Oh, look, here's Max's version of Piano Rollin' Rag on YouTube, with the Pickels and Peppers theme at 1:58:


Caesars Palace Gameboy - one bit

I have a story to tell about the Caesars Palace Gameboy game - one of the first games I produced, if not the first game.

I wondered if my original Gameboy would turn on.  Yes!

The screen has some issues but otherwise it works!

There were two versions of Caesars Palace for the Gameboy.  The one shown above was published by Arcadia, a label within Virgin Games (then Virgin Mastertronic).  That version had a tiny bug not found during testing - if you doubled your bets over and over, and happen to win, eventually a money counter would overflow.  The fix was literally a one-bit change to an instruction to handle overflow differently.

Nintendo told us we would need to recall all the games and fix them.

We said, "this bug is extraordinally difficult to get to happen, and requires incredible luck."  Nintendo relented, thank goodness.  We fixed the bug for the next run of cartridges, and if someone did hit the bug, and called us, we'd send them the fixed cartridge after telling them, "Congratulations!  You broke the bank!"

Of course, in testing, nobody considered to double down on every single bet, and even if they did, also win enough times to overflow, which is why the problem wasn't found before it shipped.  But once a hundred thousand cartridges were purchased and played, not just by the person that bought it but by friends and family, someone was going to try it, and succeed!  So a few people hit the bug.

You can tell the original version because the cartridge says "Arcadia" while the fixed version says "Virgin Games."

Yup, one bit in an add instruction.

p.s.  Why isn't it Caesar's Palace?  Is it full of Caesars? 


Sunflower Slow Drag

Scott Joplin is the greatest ragtime composer ever.  He re-became famous when his music was featured in the movie The Sting.  Around 1900 he became the first musician to sell a million copies of sheet music for a single tune.

Sunflower Slow Drag is a complex piece which I reduced to two notes at a time and programmed into my Alf-9000 music synthesizer, which was an add-in card for the Apple II.

(Wikipedia says it was called the MC1 but for some reason I recall it as the Alf-9000.)

I later wrote a program that converted the "M:" files, as they were known, into ascii, which was then turned into a Cakewalk .wrk file by a program you could get from Twelve Tone Systems.

Here is an mp3 of the data I entered into the Alf program rendered I think using the midi player on a PC since it cuts off early (ugh).  Remember - the original rag is fairly complex (you can find performances on YouTube) and this was reduced down by me to just two notes at a time - one for each hand.


Jungle Book Rag - MIDI

I found the source file for The Jungle Book Rag.  It's a Cakewalk ".wrk" file so I saved it out as a MIDI file for increased accessibility.

Here it is!

Jungle Book Rag (Slow)

It says "slow" because when I played the midi file on my PC it played back really slowly.  I suspect this is because there is no tempo command in the MIDI file.  Cakewalk lets you set the tempo outside of the MIDI track and that's probably what I did.  As a simple piano file, it probably went into the SNES and Genesis without much change, and the playback speed was set there.  (Or, maybe I did play it really slowly so there was a better chance it would line up in terms of quantization.  I think I did.)

It will also cut off before the end - that's because (at least on Windows) the MIDI player doesn't bother to notice the length of the last note; it stops playing when there are no more notes, which is wrong.

But you can load it up into your favorite sequencer and make it behave properly if you are so inclined.


Jungle Book Rag

When we made The Jungle Book game for Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis we needed some opening title music and I was recruited to play it.  I believe I had already arranged a rag version of The Bare Necessities for my own amusement sometime in the preceding years which is why the team thought of it.

Super Nintendo Version

Sega Genesis Version

I love how things like this have been archived and saved for posterity.

Does this make me a million selling musical artist?



My wife and I were in Monroe last week in a coffee shop with a piano (how rare is that?).  She talked me into playing a little.  I played the piece I always play when playing "cold".

If you're masochistic, here is the MIDI file, which might play on your computer.