FOSSPicks

Orca

Orca is something special. But before you realize this, you need to overcome a serious learning curve. Even in the esoteric world of music sequencers, Orca is unique. It's a console application that bills itself as a "programming language designed to create procedural sequencers," and there are definitely elements that could be described as being a programming language. There are operands, loops, counters, conditionals, and registers, for example. But each of these is represented by a single character on your keyboard, from a all the way through to z, with * and # thrown in for good measure. A few more special characters are used to handle input and output, and Orca can talk to both MIDI- and OSC-compatible software and hardware devices.

However, you don't type any of these character objects into a text editor, save the file, and run it through an interpreter/compiler. Instead, Orca is also a kind of visual development environment for its own language. It starts with a cursor that you move across the default blank canvas of the background. The + symbols on the background break this canvas into smaller grids, and you move the cursor around these too break down into smaller squares, with dots marking the magnified grid in the background. You can effectively zoom in and out of this grid using the square and curly brackets. You then use any of the aforementioned keys to create the object you want at the cursor position, using the grid as a reference to help you position things in musically meaningful places.

A sequence starts with the creation of an operator by pressing its designated key. The letter D is a good place to start. This is a delay function. When it's created, dots appear in positions to its left, right, and bottom. In Orca, these directions are known as west, east, and south, respectively. If you press the spacebar, a counter on the lower screen border starts continually incrementing. Each value here is a frame, or click, where an event can be triggered. At this point, the delay operator's south position will start showing a * every eight clicks. This asterisk is known as a bang, and it's the character used to generate output. To change its timing frequency, you enter a single digit in the operator's east position, and you can use any hex value. The operator uses the modulo of this to generate the bang. The position to the west of the operator is used as a modulation source from other operators, so you can build huge chains of operators and even encapsulate these into functions that you can copy and paste across the canvas – all running concurrently and generating output.

The final step is to add an output operator east of the bang being generated south of the delay. The colon (:) sends a MIDI note. When you create this, five dots appear to its right, which hold values for channel, octave, velocity, note, and length. Don't worry, you don't need to memorize all these special locations, as there's always a hint at the bottom to explain where your cursor is. Provide values for these, and your MIDI synthesizer will play something. Congratulations! We've made a sound, but barely scratched the surface. Which is why Orca really is something special.

Orca feels like the evil musical hybrid of an assembler language, NetHack, and Conway's Game of Life.
Your entire performance can be saved or even inserted into a completely new project.

Project Website

https://hundredrabbits.itch.io/orca

Old games emulator

ScummVM 2.1

ScummVM is a little like Blender, in that it's been around for a long time, and most people are aware of it. It's the game engine that first allowed us to replay those old 8- and 16-bit era LucasArts games like Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge and Maniac Mansion. In fact, the SCUMM in ScummVM represents the original games engine used to write these games, the Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion (SCUMM). But if you don't follow the project closely, you won't realize just how many games, and gaming platforms, it's grown to support in the almost two decades since its first release. There are dozens, including the entire King's Quest and Space Quest series, Simon the Sorcerer, Discworld, Starship Titanic, Zork Nemesis, Eye of the Beholder, Broken Sword, and Myst.

This release is no different, but it does add support for a very special PC Windows game that dates all the way to 1997. It's the game Blade Runner, which was a point-and-click adventure inspired by the famous film and developed by Westwood Studios while it took a sabbatical from its Command & Conquer franchise. But the game was far more than a rehash of Ridley Scott's classic. It was a game that ran in parallel to the original storyline, and was figuratively drenched in the same atmosphere and philosophical duplicity of the film, thanks to its wonderful graphics, reinterpreted Vangelis soundtrack, in-game AI, and compelling multifaceted endings. But it also expanded on the film's themes to add new aspects to the story, all within what felt like a living and breathing dystopian future vision of Los Angeles 2019 as seen from 1982. It was also a game that remained very difficult to play on modern hardware, thanks to it being a Windows-only title. But that limitation is finally over – thanks ScummVM!

It's fitting that in the year the film Blade Runner was set, ScummVM has added support for this hugely enjoyable and influential PC game.

Project Website

https://www.scummvm.org/

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