2002 News

TI-82 version of Mario v2.0 wanted
Posted by Sam on August 27, 2002
I would like to thank Guillame Hoffman, Frank, and Adam for sending me what they had of the ION version of the Super Mario v2.0 beta. Apparently, I forgot to include documentation when I originally posted the files on the web, which is unfortunate because if I ever get the chance to reupdate Mario, I really have little rememberance of what I actually changed. I fixed a few bugs, added a few new tiles, increased the size of possible levels, did something with the turtle enemy, and a bunch of other little things that are all a blur now.

So anyway, if there is anybody out there who has the TI-82 version, please send it Sam. It would be greatly appreciated.

For the person who requested it and anybody else, download the ION version of Super Mario v2.0 Beta here.

Super Mario v2.0 wanted
Posted by Sam on August 26, 2002
We're already starting to reap the benefits of having our Messageboard back online. Someone has brought it to my attention that during one of our numerous server switches, the Super Mario v2.0 beta is no longer downloadable from our site. We have scoured our PC's and found no trace of the files. I hope a few people out there downloaded the program, liked it enough to keep it on their PCs, and still have enough interest in calculators to visit a site like this. If you downloaded Super Mario v2.0 for ION or CrASH, please send Sam whatever you have. If you still have a zip file, that would be awesome, but I'll take anything. I need the Super Mario program, the level editor, and the readmes for both.

Got CGI?
Posted by Kouri on August 25, 2002
Since we moved to ticalc.org back in June, Void has been without CGI support and hence, no messageboard, guestbook, and .plans, which were the only interactive parts of our site, leaving many people wondering if Void was "dead". This has now been remedied, as we have purchased a hosting plan from netfirms.com. The address voidp.netfirms.com will now be a permanent backup address to void.ticalc.org, and allows us to run CGI scripts. So, hurray, the messageboard is back, and hopefully we'll have some good discussions going soon. To all our visitors, we apologize for the downtime, hopefully it won't happen again.

SaM released
Posted by Sam on August 17, 2002
I am releasing the SaM (Sprite and Mask) compression algorithm that I use in Zelda. It does not have much practical purpose (only compresses 12x12 sprites), but I know of a couple other people who use sprites this size, so a few will get use out of this. The algorithm behind the compression is similar SimpleText in that it takes advantage of repeating empty space. At the end of every row of a 12x12 sprite is an empty nibble, combine that with the corresponding empty nibble of a mask (or another 12x12 sprite) and you have saved a byte. Therefore, what once took 48 bytes to store, can be stored in 36 (25% compression). It's quite useful considering the huge number of 12x12 sprites in Zelda. Thanks to Kouri and Johan Cohen for the decompression routine and Wouter for Bin2Asm.

I'll try to post an update about Zelda sometime next week.

You can download SaM here: SaM Compression v1.0

SimpleText Compression released
Posted by Sam on July 21st, 2002
Someone recently emailed me wanting to know the types of compression I was using in such a large game as Zelda. For Zelda's maps, I am using Kirk Meyer's LiteII compression program which has fairly good results (on the order of 30-50%). For the sprites, I am using primarily my self-titled SaM (Sprite and Mask) compression and occasionally LiteII as well for additional savings. For the text, I am using a tool called SimpleText, titled because of the stupidity of both it's algorithm and coding. The person wanted the tools so I've decided to post SimpleText now, and SaM later when I get some free time to make a README for it.

SimpleText works by shortening down the ASCII table of 256 characters into 64 of the more commonly used characters. Thus, only 6 bits are used to store each character instead of 8, which creates an automatic compression percentage of 25% (or a little less) no matter what the size of the data is, whether it be 4 or 400. The tradeoff is that some of the commonly used characters cannot be used. In the version I use, the 64 compressible characters are A-Z, a-z, 0-2, 5, space, comma, period, question mark, quotation mark, and exclamation mark. I only need 0-2 and 5 as numbers in Zelda, if you need the others, then this program won't work for you. But, if you are just using the alphabet and basic punctuation in your text, then this is a handy space-saver.

For those wondering about Zelda, it's coming along slowly. I did have shoulder surgery on June 18th, which put me in a sling for 4 weeks and made working a keyboard rather difficult. I've also been doing some travel. The week after the surgery, I went to Virginia to see relatives for a week. The following week, I left for Paris for 8 days. Tomorrow, I leave for a week in Chicago. My goal is to get Zelda done by the end of the summer, but I cannot promise it. The fact is that the remaining work just is not any fun. As it stands now, Zelda simply doesn't fit in the memory. I'm spending my time playing with ways of trimming and compressing bytes from the maps and sprites and optimizing the game engine. The most frustrating thing is having to debug the optimizations when a bug pops up a day or two later. More often than not, I was half-crazy at the time of the optimization, sifting through what Patrick Davidson calls "kludge" programming is quite time-consuming. Frequently, I have to resort to line-by-line comparisons with the most recent source code backup. Needless to say, I'm making backups every other day. My apologies on the delay...

You can download Simpletext here: SimpleText v1.0

Server Change and State of Affairs
Posted by Sam on June 4th, 2002
In light of all the recent turmoil at our former location on the calc.org server, we have decided to move back to the stable confines of ticalc.org. The final downtime was the last among many that we experienced during our time there. It is a tribute to our loyalty to Adam that we stuck with that irratic server as long as we did. We wish the new maintainers of the calc.org the best of luck reestablishing the credibility of their website.

As a result of the server change, some features with which you have been accustomed have been taken down temporarily in accordance with the ticalc.org policy about CGI scripts. Therefore, the guestbook, messageboard, and .plan pages are gone while we work to host these features remotely from our main site. Another minor change is that Sam's email has been changed permanently to his Duke University mailing address, samuel.heald@duke.edu. In the future, we will try to establish a backup site as well as a domain name of our own that will always point to a working website. If you have any suggestions having to do with our site, please send them in to either Kouri or Sam.

Unfortunately, aside from news about The Legend of Zelda (see below), Void Productions is going to be a little quiet this summer in terms of z80 programming. Harper Maddox is spending his summer studying abroad in Europe. Sam Heald is having somewhat significant surgery on his right shoulder at the end of June, so he'll be typing one-handed for 4 to 6 weeks afterwards.

Many of you are probably wondering about the The Legend of Zelda release. The release of April 22nd could not be met because we had no website from which to launch it. In all honesty, I (Sam) lost my motivation to work myself late into the night when it became readily apparent that the ambitious deadline that I set for myself would not be met on time regardless. I regret to say that the Zelda release has now been downgraded to "soon" rather than a specific date. I really hope to get it done before my surgery, but we'll see. Before the website went down, the title screen contest was pending. I'm still deciding how I'm going to close it. On a side note, because I'm now home for the summer, working on a non-XP machine (how I loathe thee, Windows XP), I can use Kirk Meyer's screenshot utility. You can find some new animated shots of the engine in motion on the website. More information on the project will follow in the coming days on the The Legend of Zelda website so stay tuned.

CalcText Online
Posted by Kouri on April 8th, 2002
About a week ago, I was contacted by Guillaume Renard of france83.com, who asked me if it was okay if he made an online version of CalcText, the program needed to make text files on your computer into TxtView files that you can send to your calculator. I thought this was a great idea, as I've received many e-mails complaining that CalcText is too hard to use. A few days later, he came up with Text To Ti, or TTT, which is programmed in PHP. Unfortunately, the site is in French, so I created my own version here (it is rediculously easy to convert C programs to PHP, btw). However, Guillaume's site has a little extra feature that allows you to archive your TxtView file there so that other people can download it. This could be useful to students who would like certain notes on their calculators, such as formula sheets or whatnot, but don't want to take the time to type them all up. Hopefully Guillaume will create separate English and French archives and get an English version of the TTT site up in the near future.

April Fool's Day
Posted by Sam on April 2nd, 2002
As many of you surely summized, a little April 1st foolery happened yesterday. Derrick did not take over the Void Productions website and turn it into a music production group. I assure you that he retired on the best of terms with Void Productions, as did we with him. With the premise of a Derrick takeover, Kouri and I had a series of brainstormings about what the TI world was like circa 1999 when Derrick retired. Except for the quick reference to my Zelda titling snafu, pretty much everything refers to things that happened around that time. I'm sure the majority of these "old-timer" or "inside" jokes were lost upon many of you, but I'm glad some people thought they were funny. The website you saw was pretty much an exact replica of the Void Productions site before we moved to the current layout of which we have Harper to thank (and Kouri for constantly keeping up to date). All of the images from the lava lamp'esque background, to the cartoon of a devil "loving those guys", or the cartoon of a monster being snipped by scissors, as well as my favorate, the cartoon of crayon impaled head, came from the creative genius that was our co-founder, Derrick Ward. To say that he brought character to the site and to the community as a whole is an understatement. Hard to believe he's now a graduate student, several years removed from it all.

On a related note, we at Void Productions would like to give Adam Berlinsky-Schine, formerly of our generous hosting site, calc.org, a fond farewell. If we had known he was leaving, we would have made mention in our nostalgic post of Dimension-TI, the name with which he helped bring the site to prominence. Adam will be missed. For those who wish to walk down memory lane a bit, the old site will remain up for a while at void.calc.org/oldvoid.

To anyone who might have been offended at anything in the April Fool's Day site, I apologize. I am sure Bryan Rabeler has long since gotten over that ticalc.org fiasco. Poking fun at Patrick Davidson's strong open-source beliefs might have been a little too "inside humor", but I think that I looked worse than he in that little blurb. Andy Poes (aka Doniguan) is still a close fan of Void Productions, and I really do encourage you to download and listen to music from his website. I can't make a definitive claim about whether or not you'll like the stuff you'll find there, but I can tell you that he has put quite some effort into it and he would really appreciate listeners and positive feedback. Numerous other inaccuracies were bound to be in there, but it was the April Fool's Day site, afterall.

In honor of the occasion, I'm offering a reward to the the person who can most closely correctly indentify a few of these references. Winner gets Zelda earlier than everyone else (82/83 on calc, otherwise you'll need a ROM). Submissions are due to Sam (me) by April 15th, 2002.

Eleven questions: (some are multiple parts)
1) If you clicked the link to his song about TI-ASM, you would have heard a smaller clip of his "TI-ASM" song. The longer version where the chorus are sung more clearly and frequently has been put online in MP3 format here. Please identify the lyrics as close as possible and try to explain them as well. Every line is somewhat related to TI calcs, I assure you.

2) Who is Adam Sonnanstine? Name some things that he has done in the TI community.

3) Sadly, the former big 3 TI site, TI-Files, has become pornography like so many other internet sites. Other than Void's Harper Maddox, who else founded the site?

4) In Kouri's email about Ryan Schonhoff, he mentions how Schony proved that you didn't have to know very much to program. In Schony's brief TI career, he released 3 programs, 2 of which can be found on ticalc.org. What was the name of the 3rd program that was too vulgar for Bryan Rabeler to post?

5) If you clicked Derrick's name, you were brought to a picture of him flipping the bird, what was the occasion and approximate month that this photograph was taken and unveiled to the public on Void's main page?

6) Three people mentioned in the article lived in the same state. What was the state and who were those people?

7) Which Void member used to go by the chick-magnet handle, "Geori"?

8) Names of Void Productions games that have been pirated or planned to be pirated by Hays?

9) Who must you always remember to listen to?

10) For how many days did Void Productions reside on the ticalc.org server?

11) What was the very very first name of Void Productions when it was started by Derrick and Sam? For what occasion was the name changed?

BONUS QUESTION: Now that Adam has left calc.org, and his name is still the only one on the staff page, who is running things?

For those who missed yesterday, you can find the article here

*UPDATE 4/03: It turns out that Dines Justesen is neither Swedish, nor Dutch (it was typo: I meant to say that he wasn't "Danish" because I mentioned Copenhagen in the article). In fact, he really is Danish: proof of how long it's been. Subconsciously, I guess I remembered. My logic for article was that Denmark somewhere on route between Sweden and Belgium (where Wouter is from). My apologies to all of Europe.
*UPDATE 4/04: Corrected the misspelling of Adam Sonnanstine.
*UPDATE 4/08 (Kouri): Nitpicked some spelling/grammer.

Legend of Zelda: Illusions of the Past Website
Posted by Sam on March 18th, 2002
Congratulations to calc.org for getting us back online!

        Taking a break from my life and Zelda, I decided to make a page dedicated for the Zelda project. You'll find the old demos, older as well as new, unreleased screenshots, the storyline, and more! A release date has been set for the TI-82 version. The website can be found in the Projects section or you can go to it directly from this link: "The Legend of Zelda: Illusions of the Past" homepage

        On a related note, Zelda title screen contest submissions have been moved to the new website. The contest is still open and I strongly encourage submissions. The contest will close on April 15th, 2002.

        On a personal note, it seems as of late that Void Productions has come under attack on our messageboards. "Void is dead" the banner cry. Our talent, products, and productivity among other things have come into question. Suggestions have been made that we add additional members to increase productivity, quality, and "news" in general. I am not going to refute claims of Void Productions' ineptitude, everyone is entitled to their own opinions and we encourage free speech on our boards. I just want to take a moment to express a Void Productions state of affairs and why we are not going to add new members.

        Void Productions is not a company. We do not get paid by our followers, nor do we expect to. We are merely a group of friends who share or have shared the common hobby of programming Texas Instruments calculators for fun. There are no deadlines to meet, quotas to fill, save those set by ourselves. There is no President, merely active and inactive members. The bonds of friendship were formed years ago when the TI community was smaller and we all wrote on the ticalc.org mailing lists (you check the logs and laugh at how long ago that was and how naive we used to be). Why don't we fired less productive members like Ahmed or Derrick and hire new members in their stead? Because they are or were friends, original members of this website. We have history together, and we will be history together. We are not in this for the "long-run", we are in this for our run. Five years from now, I would hate to see a Void Productions website with a different layout, new members, and still active. I don't want to look back and say "I used to be a part of THAT group". I want to say "I was a part of THE group." I don't mean "the" as in the best, I mean it as THE Void Productions, one and only with Ahmed, Harper, Wouter, Kouri, Derrick, and myself. Each member's personal run in the TI Community might be slowing to an end at different rates, but we are not dead. I hope to live at least into my late 80's; the programmer's interest in TI programming will wane long long before that time, but the person will remain. As for recent productivity (everything since Super Mario last June), we have not been as idle as some of you may think. Ahmed and Derrick are retired and have been officially for some time, but the rest of us are still with you, our fans. Last summer, Harper, Kouri, and I were under the employ of Texas Instruments to write 16K Flash Applications for the TI-83+ Silver Edition. Kouri's can be found here. We did not publicize these at the time due to our contracts, and we have not spoken of them since because they really did not matter to us all that much once we were paid. This reflects are "non-company" demeanor, our primary concern with this site is tell the world about the projects that interest us, not for what has been demanded of us or paid for. Wouter has been working hard on his Nucleus weblogscript, free of charge. Perhaps we should be publicizing this more, but this is primarily a z80 site and he has a website dedicated to it and its news. In recent months, Harper and I have been working very hard on our RPG projects, and readers of .plan pages would realize that. I wrote Baseball '99 in a day, SubHunt in less than a week, but RPGs take much more time and effort. We have lives outside of this website, we are all enrolled in higher education instituitions. I still enjoy my hobby, and I hope my hobby still brings enjoyment to some of you.

RPG Alpha 2 Released
Posted by Harper on January 10th, 2002
This delayed second release features an overworld map. It is a simple 12x12 tilemap, but it should look good because the tiles are quality. The tileset and maps will improve once i design a map editor. I may be working on this for a Video Games class at Georgia Tech. This site shows some information about what we plan on doing. As always check it out and put your COMMENTS on the Message Board

Download demo version(s) of the RPG here:
RPG Demo Alpha 2 (Flash APP)