Bacioiu Constantin Ciprian, known online as “Zapa”, was born in Buzau, Romania, in 1991, not long after a revolution overthrew the communist regime there. He loved technology as a kid, but it was expensive and hard to get. And soon enough, he realized how much he loved Apple products – especially those around his youth.
Now a longtime resident of Bucharest, he designs and develops games to run on old-fashioned equipment. And get a load of the retro setup!
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“I’m a game designer and developer, and I run my own business called Bearded Giant Games,” he said. Cult of Mac after we saw his retro computer setup pictures online. “I specialize in fast game prototyping for modern systems, porting to Linux and, when time allows, indie game development.”
The headline at the top of his website says, “Hi 1994 – it’s good to have you here.”
Ciprians’ pre-vintage Apple era
Ciprian’s parents traveled abroad when he was a child. They would often bring back catalogs of technical products and clothing.
“I was in love with the technology from the 80s and 90s, as I could see in them, where one of my earliest technical memories was a Commodore 64 in a German magazine offering a huge discount on it. So I grew up with wanting those computers, ”he said.
But money was not plentiful enough to get that kind. By the time his people scraped together enough money, they could only get “a standard beige box Wintel machine with Windows 95 and a Pentium processor.” As Ciprian put it: “It is safe to say that Macs were [not] even remotely available in Romania, and if they were, we would be three or four mortgages away from being able to afford one. “
Goodbye Windows, hello Linux – and game design
Around 2006, Ciprian got to know Linux and dropped Windows “then and there,” he said.
“When I was growing up, I was interested in designing and making games, and that was where I put my focus,” he said. Cult of Mac. “I think I started making game jams early before I even finished high school, and got my foot officially in the industry in 2010 as a game designer at Gameloft in Bucharest.”
Over the years, he created his own commercial games and freelanced. In 2017, he started his own company to focus on developing indie games. He continued to freelance to make ends meet.
Mac: first contact
As recently as 2019, Ciprian had never had access to a Mac. He had only read about them. But then he got a concert designing and developing games for iOS. So he borrowed a 2014 MacBook Pro and got to it.
After about eight months of hard but lucrative work, he used his earnings to buy a professional workstation for iOS development – “A decently decorated iMac Pro, and after buying it, I fell in love with Apple,” he said.
His build times for “hypercasual games” dropped dramatically. He got a few a week, he said.
Ciprian’s first vintage apple
In line with earnings, Ciprian was able to buy some of the technology he had always wanted – like the things his father brought home in catalogs in the 1990s.
“One of my first purchases was a Commodore 64, I always wanted one. I bought it, made a hacked setup that involved an LCD and an RCA-to-VGA-to-HDMI converter, ”he said. Got my fingers in an SD2IEC converter so I can put games and software on an SD card. And for a while I loved it. I spent 8 to 10 hours a day writing games for my clients and 4 to 6 hours of learning to code for retro platforms. But the itch was not itchy yet. “
What Ciprian really wanted was to emulate the development processes of the 1980s and early 90s.
“I grew up reading about John Carmack, [John] Romero and Rebecca Heineman, and I was a bit of a designer crush on Jeff Vogel, as they were all extraordinary game developers talking about game development back then, and I wanted to follow in their footsteps a bit, ”he said.
Vintage machine with power for game developer
His C64 lacked the power for game development, but he tried anyway. Realizing he needed something with more profits, he searched local markets and came across a Macintosh SE for around $ 300. He loved its compact design. Although released in 1987, it reminded him of his iMac, he said – so he got it.
“The first startup of System 6 was a mix of shock and wow,” he said. “It was so fun to see how modern Mac OS (Catalina at the time) still has many of the quirks introduced 30 years earlier. You could take screenshots with CMD + Shift + 3, the Finder panel at the top had similar options as a modern Finder. Many principles still apply. “
Ciprian, however, had a problem. He had no option to get software for SE so he could work on development. Modern computers and floppy disks cannot write Macintosh-formatted disks to drives that read 800K disks. And then the pilling began.
“I grabbed one of my Raspberry Pi’s, installed Linux on it, and set it up to mimic a DialUP ISP,” he said. ‘I bought an Asante Ethertalk box that would allow me to get SE on the network (via localTalk) and a 30 meter long Cat5 cable (do not ask me why I had 30 meters of Cat5 at my disposal) and Macgyver’ ed a solution to bring software into it. “
Ciprian pointed to a YouTube video showing the “janky setup” that allowed him to transfer files from his iMac Pro to SE.
Game developer on vintage Macs
Before long, he was fully working on the setup and started developing games for vintage Macs. He said his first project, a first-person 3D Dungeon Crawler, “would have impressed people back in 1987.”
Looking for higher performance and faster speeds, Ciprian read about accelerator cards used to speed up old Macs. He joined the 68Kmla forum for vintage Mac fans and met a German enthusiast who became a great help.
“[He] makes new versions of old Mac equipment, from accelerators to cache cards, to adapters and network interfaces, ”said Ciprian. “A Wozniak of Modern Times [who] uses a modern soldering iron as a Renaissance painter. Within days of meeting him, he sent me a 68030 accelerator for my SE, which not only gave me a better CPU, but also helped me break the 4 MB RAM barrier on it. “
The forum also taught Ciprian a lot more about caring for and feeding vintage Macs. To his girlfriend’s dismay, he said, an avalanche of new-old hardware began to appear on the doorstep.
“Soon enough, I had upgraded SE myself to the maximum,” he said. “I could not fit more upgrades into it. I kept hearing how the SE / 30 (its successor) was all that SE was, only better. As an M1 Macbook vs its Intel equivalent. I had to “to get one so I can streamline development even more. After all, it was called ‘the king of the compact’.”
He snatched a SE / 30 from a Romanian collector. It contained an elusive graphics card that allowed a different screen. And it gave much more speed than his SE with 32 times RAM.
Then he went back to his German friend, who sent him upgrades. And that’s not all. With several purchases and some hacking, he got SE / 30, released in 1989, with macOS 8.1. He found that he could run Photoshop 3 along with many more programs.
But he did not know everything. Old systems have a hard time seeing the modern world online.
Getting on the Internet
SE / 30 was on a local network and the Internet via a Raspberry Pi. But on the Internet, 90% of websites would not work due to modern HTTPS and SSL standards, Ciprian said. But then he found an aggregator, 68k.news, that allows old browsers to see Google News. And a search engine called FrogFind! formats search results that work in Netscape and other old browsers.
Ciprian wrote his own HTTPS stripper and hosted it on his Raspberry Pi. It worked well for online text, but not for most images. But an HTTPS proxy called WebOne served as a useful Internet relay in that regard. He reached a point where he could even watch YouTube clips on his SE / 30.
“The fact that so much of the Internet was usable on a 40Mhz computer was both amazing and sad,” he said. “Great because it could run things that did not exist when it was created, and sad because so much of the web is shut out to old hardware due to advertisements and ‘modern standards’.”
Always more to do
Around now, it looks like Ciprian’s setup is done. But he did much more. He was close to having what he wanted to make small games for vintage platforms. He added a Color Classic II from Japan and planned to take advantage of its 33Mhz 030 processor and color screen at game stops after the pandemic.
Then came the upgrades. Then came the urge to play more complex games, and then more upgrades. His dependence on the German vintage Mac peaks continued as he made his machines worthy of playing more modern games. He wrote a hack that tricked them into thinking that his monitors had high enough resolution to handle them, which they did not. He showed it off in a YouTube video.
And even then, work on SE / 30 continued. Soon it had two CPUs that Ciprian could switch between, a graphics card and ethernet. But the SE / 30’s LCD screen killed him, Cirprian said, so he set about getting a “beautiful” Macintosh Portrait Monitor. Months later he had it.
And that’s how SE / P04rtrait – Ciprian’s nickname for the system – was born. And is it done? Probably not. He has a laundry list of possible upgrades.
The post-vintage era
Ciprian hopes to release the game Ebony Spire: Quest for Compact Macs sometimes in early 2022. He collaborated with BitMap Soft to produce a physical release of the game with a box, manual and floppy.
Ciprian also has plans for yet another new game for vintage Macs.
“It takes at least three compact Macs (or any Mac with a modem port) to play it, with each Mac having a specific feature like a Starship computer. One handles navigation, one weapon and one has the view and can accommodate up to four players, “he said.” The release of Cowboy Beebop Live-action series on Netflix sealed the deal for me to do this as they have vintage Macs everywhere. Vintage Macs look great in a sci-fi environment. “
Buy these items now:
With vintage equipment, it is not always easy to find the exact items. Some links are provided. And maybe you can find others using Ciprian’s descriptions below.
Vintage and custom computer equipment:
- Macintosh SE / 30 running macOS 7.5.3
- SCSI2SD for storage with a 128 GB SD card
- Custom 68040 Carrera clone at 40Mhz
- 68030 PowerCache 50Mhz CPU socket for cloning motherboards
- Custom TwinSpark Adapter clone with Ethernet
- 64 -> 128 MB purple RAM from Silicon Insider
Vintage display, sound and storage:
Network and web hosting:
Other Apple Business Equipment Used:
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