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The Rise and Fall of Radio F (Software)


Radio F Software

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The year is 1995. President Bill Clinton is currently on the DL with Monica Lewinsky however it would be a couple of years before that bombshell would come to light. SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron was a runaway success on the newly launched Cartoon Network however it was cancelled after its second season. Microsoft launched the wildly popular Windows 95 operating system and began their reign as the dominant OS provider.

 

I'm currently in grade school and while I guess you could say I was a "gifted student" who made high grades I was also constantly getting myself into trouble. Personally? I blame the fact that doctors at the time were (over)diagnosing ADHD and were completely oblivious to the autism spectrum which I most certainly was on. I made friends with a kid named Adam and we bonded over our mutual interest in Sonic the Hedgehog. We hung out often and when one of us was up to something we shouldn't have been the other wasn't far away. I remember spending many physical education classes in detention because when "run laps around the playground" day reared its ugly head Adam and I would instead just walk along the fence talking about whatever and the teacher hated us for that.

 

Adam and I used to entertain people at recess by telling jokes. Usually we'd just wind up roasting our classmates but we also drew humor from the video games we played. At some point one of us got the idea to start recording our routines to tape and before the end of the year we had produced "Justin & Adam's Stupid Stuff", a 50 minute cassette tape filled with our "greatest hits". We would pass the tape around to classmates for them to listen to and then return to us. This whole thing ran on the honor system. But what was a spoken word album without a group name to go with it? Adam named the group with the first thing that came out of his mouth when we pressed the Record button: "This is F.U.C.K. Radio". We actually wrote that on our first tape. It was constantly getting confiscated by teachers who would always tell us we should know better than to use that kind of language. Inevitably they would begrudgingly give the tape back to us after a period of time and we'd just add more to it and pass it around again.

 

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"Justin & Adam's Stupid Stuff", 1995 (2006 Digital Re-issue)

 

A couple of years passed and in 1997 Adam and I were still making nuisances of ourselves at school. Our first tape had been passed around and played so much that the first 15 or so minutes of tape were damaged and the audio pitch sounded way higher than it originally was. We decided it was time to retire the first tape and make another one. By now our classmates knew about the Radio F thing. Also in between 1995 and 1997 we retconned the group name to "Radio F" because that was more likely to fly under the radar and was something you could say aloud without getting into trouble. Our second tape was titled "Adventures & Shit" which entirely defeated the purpose of taking the sting out of what the "F" in Radio F stood for. Our content had evolved over time and now one of the bits we would do was talk about amusing hypothetical situations in video games. In a sense I guess what we were doing was akin to writing a purposefully humorous fanfic except we were relaying the content verbally. We did also write things down though as at one point we made a couple of issues of "Radio F Magazine" and passed them around school. Unfortunately none of these zines survived being handled and confiscated constantly.

 

Fast forward another couple of years. It is now 1999. Radio F is still around but Adam and I have done a lot of growing up. We're in high school and although our peers remember us for our comedy of yesteryear we are rapidly aging out of it. We decided to start recording one more tape before it was too late. There was no funny name for this one it was just the eponymous "F.U.C.K. Radio". We'd gone back to using the old name because this was high school now and we were basically grown ass men who no longer whispered profanities at the back of the classroom and got in trouble for giggling too loud. Now we'd gotten into pulling pranks on people. Our best prank was when I reverse engineered the block page for the school's NetNanny software and produced a fake error page that made it look like the school's own website was blocked for containing "child pornography". The IT department disabled the site filtering software for months trying to replicate the error which meant we could all go play games on Miniclip or whatever and not be denied access. In hindsight that prank was probably a little extreme.

 

Our third tape was passed around by classmates but the enthusiasm just wasn't there anymore. It was time to move on. Adam and I wound up having a major falling out toward the end of the year and we went our separate ways.

 

Time marched on in a world without the inappropriate wisecracks of Radio F. In 2003 the game Robot Arena 2: Design and Destroy released. I've always been a huge fan of BattleBots so I bought the game day one and couldn't get enough of it. I immersed myself in the online community that surrounded the game and after only a couple of months on the market the game was blown wide open with the revelation that it was incredibly mod-friendly. Players started making new parts to build with and new arenas to fight in but I focused my attention to the game's roster of AI opponent robots. The first AI mod dropped some time around September 2003 that replaced all of the stock enemies with brand new harder designs. I was inspired to design an AI mod of my own so after teaching myself basic Python skills I churned out a mod of my own. But who would it be attributed to? I couldn't think of a good name at the time so I fished "Radio F" from the gutter and tacked "Software" onto it. The Radio F Software AI Pack for Robot Arena 2 launched to... lukewarm reviews.

 

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A pirated copy of Robot Arena 2 pre-patched with The RFS AI Pack. (2005)

 

I didn't push the envelope enough like the first guy did. If I wanted to get recognition for something I was going to have to go real big. In the Robot Arena 2 game you can have up to six robots in your team but the AI teams were limited to only three. A friend I'd made through the BattleBots community hypothesized that you could somehow change the AI's team limit from three to six. With some tinkering he figured it out and since we were friends he gave me permission to roll out this tweak in the follow-up release to my AI mod. The second installment of the mod doubled all of the AI team rosters while keeping the designs from the first version playable. Nobody had ever done this before. This was the big thing I needed to get the attention I wanted from the community. But I didn't stop there. I found out through my own code exploration that there was nothing stopping you from increasing the total number of AI teams from 15 to theoretically anything you wanted. I released a third AI mod update that increased the number of opponent teams from 15 to 30. There was now 180 AI opponents you could fight in Robot Arena 2 if you were running my AI mods.

 

The Radio F Software AI Mod for Robot Arena 2 soon became the most downloaded mod of all time according to the download trackers on the website that hosted all of the known mods for the game. Someone once sent me a screenshot of a popular torrent download of Robot Arena 2 that came pre-patched with my AI mod. The AI mod was eventually dethroned as the "most downloaded" when more experienced programmers arrived to completely overhaul the game.

 

I was at the top of my game so I decided to branch out into other ventures because there was realistically nothing more that I could expand upon within Robot Arena 2. In 2004 I opened the website Radio F Software Headquarters (or the impossible to remember "RFSHQ" for short). Programming stuff was cool and all but I was starting to miss the days of being a comedian so RFSHQ would be my place to host writings on various topics that amused me, usually bad video games though which for 2004 was very much era-appropriate for the internet. I also (re)joined AtariAge because I'd lost access to my original account that I'd signed up with a few years prior. The account I'm using today to post this blog entry is that same account from 20 years ago. With my own website at my disposal I was able to essentially recreate the "Radio F Magazine" of old in a new digital form. My first post went live on May 9, 2004 and was a snarky review of The Adventures of Bayou Billy for NES. Concurrently with writing content for RFSHQ I was also learning how to decompile Atari 2600 games and modify them. I hacked up a number of games but the first one I ever posted about was Pineapple 2000, released on September 13, 2004.

 

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"Pineapple 2000", 2004 (Radio F Software)

 

I was very much enjoying myself and having fun online. I was in my element. What's that meme? "Moisturized. Flourishing. Relaxed. In my lane." That was me. But the good times were not destined to last. I ran RFSHQ sort of like a bootleg version of Something Awful and my sense of humor very much aligned with the talent on that website (I had actually applied to be a columnist on Something Awful multiple times but was turned down every time). I made a lot of enemies online because the type of person I portrayed online was still that of the mindset of Radio F in 1995; I would take pot shots at people and places except rather than the targets being people I went to school with now it was things that had an online presence. They could also strike back. The forums on RFSHQ wound up becoming a hot spot for web drama and over the years this slowly ate away at my nerves.

 

But there was another more nefarious thing in my life whose presence was growing rapidly. There's no appropriate way to phrase this without sounding like a freak so I'll just be out with it, Spyro the Dragon was my first real crush back in 1998. When I wasn't writing content for RFSHQ or working on Atari games I maintained a secret double life on sites like VCL and FurAffinity. It was not feasible for me to be an internet bad ass while also maintaining a presence in the burgeoning furry fandom. It was the one thing people I made fun of could nail me back with that I'd have no recourse to deflect. I kept things under wraps for as long as I could but by the time 2008 came around I was also becoming quite the notable person in the furry fandom under my alter ego (whose name I will not disclose and I've worked extremely hard to erase from the internet). Something had to give and in June 2008 things reached a breaking point. I retired from RFSHQ. I made the decision to pursue a presence among the furries full time as I thought this was the higher road that would lead to a better life. I revoked my administrative status on my own website and handed the keys over to my best friend Dan who had helped me work on RFSHQ over the years.

 

Radio F Software died on that day but I don't think that ever really sank in until much later.

 

RFSHQ hobbled along for several months before the website was gutted for its database of users which would go on to form the base of the newly formed TrackMill Games, a company spearheaded by my friend Dan that would see immense success for several years as one of the first "social gaming" websites on the web. All of the content that existed on RFSHQ such as the articles, comics, and videos were discarded without any consideration for what value they once had. I went on to become a very prolific writer within the furry fandom which led me to securing invitations to some of the largest conventions in the country to speak on panels as a guest. I was invited to private room parties. Publishers wanted manuscripts from me sight unseen. I rubbed elbows with the fandom's elite. I let all of this get to my head and I believed myself to be invincible, that I had outgrown my rank as a lowly internet comedian into something far greater.

 

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Self Portrait, 2011

 

I got a big head about things which culminated in a very humbling moment years later. Without naming names and going into details I was visiting someone very well known. Other noteworthy people were present. The owner of the property then brought out something that was highly illegal. Like, felony illegal. It was at that moment I realized I was not in good company. None of these people were my actual friends. I was surrounded by hedonists whose only aspiration was to chase thrills and highs. Everything I'd invested myself in over the past several years led me to this very moment and in that moment I wanted nothing more than to be anywhere else. I did not partake. The moment I returned home I opened every profile and portfolio I maintained online and blanked them all. I phoned in every single favor I was owed to get webmasters and other people to unperson me and make it appear that I never existed. There is no trace of me on the Internet Archive whatsoever which was no easy feat. Most would consider the lengths I went through to disappear outrageous. To me this was a matter of self preservation. I vanished so quickly and so wholly that most people assumed I had died. I took that as a compliment.

 

I've spent nearly a decade in and out of therapy including several stints in psychiatric hospitals. Only last year in 2023 did I really start to make progress getting over what happened and move on with my life. Today I am working with my doctor to wean myself off of my psych meds to see if I can handle being on my own for the first time in nearly a decade. Things are looking good. For the first time in what feels like forever I feel like I am going to be okay. I lost a significant chunk of my life, all of my 20's and most of my 30's, and I regret that I didn't get to have the life experiences of a "normal" person and likely never will. I'm almost 40 now and I have a lot of catching up to do.

 

I wronged a lot of people. I'm still making amends to this day. Radio F Software may have died on the altar of depravity but its legacy lives on. Remember the AI mod for Robot Arena 2? There was meant to be a fourth expansion but despite my best efforts I was never able to see it through to completion. After 19 years in development hell The Radio F Software AI Pack v2.0 for Robot Arena 2 released on February 18, 2023 -- the twentieth anniversary of Robot Arena 2's release. There is a special Easter egg for skilled players to find in the form of a selected anthology of some of the best work from RFSHQ. F-Sides, a collection of techno music that was originally released in 2006, was remastered last year and reissued online with physical copies to follow later this year. Gator Love, a romhack whose origin can be traced back to the year 2007, is now my current project and its connection to Radio F Software history won't be left out. I still have the original tape masters of Radio F skits that were recorded in the nineties. Despite their damage and age I am working on remastering them and next year I will be releasing "This Is F.U.C.K. Radio: The 30th Anniversary Collection" on physical disc in very limited numbers. Later on down the road I'm planning on working with my old friend Dan from the RFSHQ era to bring an archive of the website's content back online for its upcoming 20th anniversary.

 

For a media label that's been defunct since 2008 there sure is a lot on the horizon for Radio F and I for one can't wait to experience it again.

 

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Radio F, 1997

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