You don’t get the show #13: Infinite Failure


We start the show discussing inappropriate place you might decide to do some gaming like a wedding or a funeral or the bathroom which people seem to think is just great.

Then we dive into our main story, the Epic fail of Call of Duty Infinite Warfare with its PC port splitting its playerbase between Steam gamers and those who purchased the game from the Microsoft Store leading to lackluster player numbers on both platforms.

Finally, with one day before the 2016 election we call for gamers to get out and vote.

The Obsolete Gamer Show: Anthony Gowland – Ant Workshop (Binaries)


Sometimes you don’t find your true passion until you walk away from the corporate world and start your own business and that is what our guest Tony Gowland did. He’s had a fruitful career working for companies such as Rockstar and Activision and then founded Ant Workshop, an indie studio that is set to release their game, Binaries.

We talk with Tony about his time working on AAA titles like GTA: Chinatown Wars and Red Dead Redemption and his move to creating his own studio and about his latest game, Binaries, a unique look at the PC puzzle platformer.

Check out Binaries on Steam – http://store.steampowered.com/app/435800/

 

The Obsolete Gamer Show: Actifail, The Game Awards Nominees

What do you do when 95% of your staff is playing Fallout 4 and not working on show prep and booking guests? You focus on your roots and talk gaming, gaming, and gaming.

First up we discussed a few little things Activision could have purchased with the 5.9 Billion dollars they spent on Candy Crush such as LucasFilms or Marvel for example.

Next up we received the nominees for the 2015 Game Awards and discussed each of the prime categories. The Game Awards will take place live on December 3, 2015 at the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles and will be streamed simultaneously on gaming screens globally via a range of partners, including go90, YouTube, Twitch, Steam, PlayStation Network, Xbox Live and TheGameAwards.com.

Now the nominees were pretty console and Triple A heavy as well with big names such as Bloodborne, Fallout 4, Metal Gear Solid V, Super Mario Maker, The Witcher 3 and Halo 5, but there were also some Indie games like, Ori and the Blind Forest, Her Story and Rocket League. However we felt there was a lot missing, but what can you do, it is the way of many gaming award shows.

Finally we talked some StarCraft 2, Legacy of the Void and got a non-spoiler review and opinion on the final campaign of the series from our friend and hardworking OG member Magnolia.

All in all a good show, very game heavy with lots of game footage from the nominees so check it out and as always let us know what you think.

Hunter

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 Hunter

So, its review a great game day. Superb. My choice, Hunter, on the Amiga 500. I couldn’t let this one slip by, as it is one of my most treasured and favourite games on my Amiga. First off though, a little side note. In my review I make the obvious comparisons to the GTA franchise, however, for those of you who have played Far Cry 3, you might have to indulge my imagination for a minute or two at the end…

Either way, onto my review, Hunter on the Amiga 500, a great game, and a pioneer.

Hunter Amiga

 

Publisher: Activision

Developed by: Paul Holmes and Martin Walker

Genre: 3-D Adventure, Strategy

Year: 1991

Hunter is a game that takes you into a world where mayhem and destruction can reign free on your enemies and in whatever form that takes your fancy. Having first played this on my Amiga I’ve been hooked ever since and it’s the main reason I’m a big fan of games such as GTA. Playing it through again brings back some great memories and is certainly a welcome addition to my games collection. Hunter can be classed as a 3D action, adventure and strategy game, developed by Paul Holmes and Martin Walker (music) and released in 1991 by Activision.

Hunter Amiga
We’re gonna need a bigger boat.

Hunter lets you play three different scenarios; MISSIONS, whereby you receive an objective and a deadline to complete it, once you have completed your mission you return to HQ to receive more orders. The objectives become subsequently harder and the time shorter to complete each mission. ACTION, your man in the field is given a long list of enemy targets, it is then up to you to use the map and log book to locate each target and destroy them. Once again you are racing against the clock to finish the list, but can destroy the targets in what ever order you like.

Finally the main scenario, HUNTER, is the trickiest of them all. You must track down and kill the enemy General by collecting clues from civilians, bribing enemies, and by using a number of objects, vehicles and weapons to help you succeed. The deeper you go into enemy territory and the closer you come to completing this scenario the harder it gets, you are racing against the clock and options can become limited if you aren’t prepared for battle!

The game is controlled via mouse and keyboard, or my preferred method mouse and joystick. The joystick controls the directional movement of your man as well as the stop and start in vehicles and moving them around (point to note, there is no reverse). The fire button is used for any form of attack, be it grenades, bazooka or your trusty pistol. The mouse comes into play with the strategy side to the game and is used in the selection of weapons and sundry items needed to progress (log book, flares, maps, weapons, money, food).

Some of the most common items  you will need to use are aerial observation units, parachutes, maps and radar, and the handiest item you can acquire is the enemy uniform (don’t go into your HQ wearing it though). Both control methods are easy to utilise, and when using the mouse to select from the pop-up menu the game conveniently pauses.

Hunter Amiga

Hunter has great game play interlaced with simple graphics (as with many other great retro games) and makes the most of its sweeping landscapes and 3D environment. Greens, oranges and blues make up your basic air, land and sea colours, in turn making buildings, vehicles and people easy to identify. Vehicles are well drawn and conveniently placed at your disposal around the map, whether it’s a car, tank, helicopter or bicycle (less said about the windsurfer the better) you’ll be glad of the free ride as walking can be slow and tedious. Vehicles run smoother and faster than you would expect and each have their own unique uses (cars are nippy, tanks are slower, but can also take some serious missile damage).

Helicopters are easy to fly after the initial trauma of take off but are a bugger to land, especially if in a rush, best to put down in a safe area and walk the rest of the way!  The variety of weapons and sundry items is impressive. You can use a number of explosives to destroy targets or just have some fun generally blowing stuff up. The player can use land and timed mines, sea to air missiles, bazookas, 80mm shells, grenades and all the while carrying your trusty sidearm. Aerial observation units and radar help you scope out and assess the landscape and can be useful in finding people, buildings and vehicles. The food and money collected is used to bribe and gather information and the enemy uniform to breeze into enemy territory without a care in the world.

Hunter Amiga
Helicopters. Fly, yes! Land, no!

Apart from the title screen Hunter relies solely on sound effects to create its ambience.  Across the landscape the player can hear gun fire, explosions and roaming vehicles, or a sultry seagull flying overhead, destined to make you its own special target (why else would it be following me…). The maps, a different one for each scenario, give the game a sense of vastness when you begin your mission, and in its quieter moments, especially when dusk has fallen (use flares to light the way, or turn the brightness up on the monitor), can be a little creepy and lonely without anything else around you. Hunter has few drawbacks, however walking everywhere will cost you time and time is of the essence in Hunter. Finding a vehicle can be crucial to success and sometimes its a long walk,  so by the end you’ll be thankful for that enemy disguise, or the fact the soldier who arrived to work that morning forgot to lock his bike up to his guard tower.

Hunter Amiga
Danger! Random objects haphazardly strewn on floor!

Hunter is a game (for its time obviously) with the freedom and almost limitless possibilities of any of today’s titles that fall into the sandbox genre (think GTA, but slower, and with simpler graphics). Hunter is a classic and still fantastic to play, its open environment and vast maps make it challenging, fun and atmospheric. This concluding sentence from Amiga Power (Aug 1991) really summed the game up for me and my own experience of playing the game back in the day. Jonathan Davies wrote in The Bottom Line “Hunter was a real all-rounder, there was something for everyone in there, all wrapped up in a believable 3D world you can get lost in for hours.”  You can read the full review here on Amiga Magazine Rack.

Hunter Amiga
Home Sweet Home, a rabbit in every pot and a tank in every garage.

Now, If you’ll indulge me a little longer, onto a more modern comparison. Far Cry 3 and Hunter both are set in an ‘open world’ environment and set across multiple islands, where the gamer can either play the linear story line, or just mess about as they see fit. You’ll come across friendly areas and characters, with ammo stores and resources to buy, alongside the clearly marked enemy territories and bad guys (even the enemies in Far Cry 3 are wearing red). A variety of vehicles are strewn around at your disposal, although as far as I can see there isn’t a hover craft or wind surfer in Far Cry 3… The comparisons in my opinion are pretty clear, Far Cry 3 ‘feels like’ Hunter, specifically from a game play point of view, right down to the ‘night and day’ effects and abundant wildlife in both games (although in Hunter you lose money for killing animals).

In this gamers opinion, I think Far Cry 3 is what a modern version of Hunter would look like. A pretty bold statement, but maybe something to think about.

Thanks for reading!

The only music in the game comes from the title screen, listen to it here  Hunter Main Theme.

To give you an idea of the game play check out the first mission(in the MISSIONS scenario) being played out. This video is over 6 mins and just gives you a feel for the game play.

Also check out the Amiga Longplay for the Hunter scenario (retrieving the Generals head)

DOTA 2: A Game for Crazy People?

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I played my first game of Dota 2 a week ago at the time of this writing, and am currently sitting on 34 hours logged. This is with two days spent out of town, away from my computer. 34 hours in 5 days, then. For a week, my computer has been little more than a Dota 2 delivery vessel. I am a man obsessed. Consumed, even. I dream of sick ganks and clutch ults. The distinctive sound of a stack of gold dropping, a reward for a last-hit, or the choir heralding my hero’s return to the battlefield, echo in my brain even as I write this. Any experienced Dota player will tell you that 34 hours is but a pittance, that I cannot even begin to plumb the depths of the game, much less attempt to relay them to you, the reader, but I feel I have no choice but to try. This is the first of hopefully several pieces journaling my descent into the madness that is Dota 2.

DOTA 2: A Game for Crazy People?

First, the absolute basics: Dota 2 is the “sequel” to Defense of the Ancients, or DotA, a free mod for Blizzard’s Warcraft 3. The original DotA is possibly the most-played mod in history, and is still actively supported. It spawned an entire genre pretty much single-handedly, the genre now known as MOBAs, or Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas; a  descriptor so vague as to be meaningless, but nevertheless the one we seem to have settled on. In MOBAs, two teams of 5 players face off in an enormous map. Their home bases are in the bottom-left and top-right corners of the map, and the map has three “lanes” running along the top, bottom, and middle. Each team automatically spawns minions, or “creeps,” periodically, which march unthinking down the lanes attacking whatever they see. The goal of each team is to break down the other’s defensive towers and ultimately to destroy the opponent’s Ancient, sitting in the middle of their base. Players gain gold and experience from killing creeps and other players, which are used to level up and buy equipment.

Dota 2

The main thing to understand about Dota 2, and the overarching theme of any discussion of it, is that it is fucking crazy. It is a mutant, an aberration of game design. Its mechanics seem to have been half-designed, half stumbled-upon, and never revised. In some ways, it is the essence of an RPG experience. You pick a character, grind low level mobs (“farm creeps” in Dota 2 parlance), and level up and load them out until you are an unstoppable force. Rather than take place over 40 hours or 40 days, the entire experience can be had in 40 minutes, and it turns out it is still massively satisfying. In other ways, it is totally unique, even alien. Sometimes, you want to attack your own creeps, so as to “deny” your opponents the full XP and gold from their death. Other times, you want to sit back and abstain from attacking anything at all, so as not to push the front line forward into enemy territory, where they have the defensive advantage. The game is loaded to the gills with idiosyncrasies large and small.

Dota 2

Dota 2’s title may suggest that it is a sequel, but in reality it is essentially a port of the original DotA into the Source engine. The Warcraft 3 engine had some particular quirks and features that DotA inherited by necessity, and they have been largely carried over into the new game. A new player may wonder, rightly, what the point of a full day/night cycle is. At night, units have shorter visibility, and there is one hero who is underpowered by day and reaches his full potential by night. A new player might wonder why, if you pull neutral creeps away from their camps for a crucial few seconds, exact replicas of those creeps spawn in their camp, leaving you with two identical sets of creeps to farm? These are minor features, arguably a bug in the latter case, borne of the Warcraft 3 engine. One might think that they might be streamlined or cleaned up. But no. “Streamlined” is not an adjective one should ever apply to Dota 2 under any circumstances.

Dota 2

This game has an info-density that would put any MMO to shame, and to be competent at the game you better be ready to absorb all that information, fast. At the time of this writing, there are 101 playable heroes, out of a planned 110, each with 4 abilities (unless they have 5 or 6!). Some of these may be active abilities, things like spells or techniques, while others are passive, meaning they are really more just a character attribute. Learning your own hero is feasible over the course of one match, but without some knowledge of your teammates’ and enemies’ heroes, you may be in for some unpleasant surprises, like being struck by lightning literally out of nowhere. Or perhaps a ghost pirate ship will come barreling out of the woods next to you and run you over. All’s fair in love and Dota.

Dota 2

These heroes are categorized by roles. Some of these roles are familiar to anyone who has played any kind of RPG, such as “durables,” a.k.a. tanks, or “nukers.” Some are completely unique to Dota, such as “carries,” who start the game underpowered and must be protected by other heroes, but grow in such a way that by the end of the game they are unstoppable. There are 15 (ish – it’s fuzzy and with lots of overlap) of these roles, and a hero may fill any number of them.

Dota 2

In addition to all of this are the items. There are dozens and dozens of items, which can have some fairly substantial effects on your character’s abilities. With the right loadout, you can even nudge a hero into a role they may not be primarily suited for, as befits your team composition. Items can only be bought at the shop in your team’s home base. Unless you go to one of the “secret shops” strewn about the map which have a separate inventory of items that can only be bought there. Don’t worry if you can’t get over there, though, because each team can also have a “courier,” a separate character that can ferry items from any shop to your character. You should coordinate with your teammates though, as each team’s courier can be controlled by anyone on the team at any time, (or killed by an enemy because, whatever! Dota!) and you don’t want any confusion.

Dota 2

So yeah, this game is fucking crazy. To their credit, Valve is trying their damnedest to lower the barrier to entry and improve the experience of new players. By far the most successful of these, for me, has been the game’s integrated guide system, which highlights the abilities you should be developing, in order, as well as presenting you with the items you should be focusing on for your hero. This has helped immensely, as the stress of having to learn what these scads of items do can be temporarily put aside while you focus on the already ludicrously daunting task of simply learning who these characters are, what they are capable of, and just what the hell is going on at any given time.  Make no mistake though, you will still need several tabs of Dota 2 wikis open at the start of every match to try to piece together what you are facing.

Dota 2

Even then, Dota 2 can be frustrating in a way that most other games would take great pains to prevent. Half of my games have ended with a character (usually for the opposing team) seeming so completely overpowered that I feel like they must have found some sort of exploit, that this cannot possibly be the way this game is meant to play out. But no, no, that’s just how Dota 2 is. There is also the ever-present threat of verbal abuse by your teammates. Dota 2 is a team game more than any other I’ve ever played, and if one member is noticeably worse than the others (or worse, drops from the game), the entire team will suffer dramatically for it. This genre is notorious for promoting discord amongst teammates, and Dota 2 is unfortunately no exception. Bring a friend, or four.

Dota 2

So why, then, am I doing this? Why am I submitting myself to the incomprehensible heroes, inexplicable random deaths and interminable abuse? It’s hard to know for sure what makes Dota 2 so compelling. I think partly it’s what I suggest above, that it can provide the satisfaction of a good RPG in microcosm, as over the course of one match your character grows from a fragile, defenseless creature to a fearsome force of nature. It is game as power fantasy, but this one makes you work for it, every time.

Dota 2

Beyond that, though, is the simple satisfaction that mastery of a complex system can give you. I, like many gamers I suspect, need to understand my games, to master their mechanics and bend them to my will. This, then, is perhaps the largest, most complex, most seemingly indomitable system ever conceived within the realm of videogames, and thus my greatest challenge. At 34 hours in, I have barely reached the point where I understand what is happening most of the time; where I am able to follow conversation between and maybe even play with those who are far more experienced and skilled than myself. Just getting to this point, overcoming the brick wall of confusion and frustration and negative feedback to arrive here, at basic competence, is already one of the most satisfying experiences I’ve had. The game’s runaway success may seem inscrutable given its absurd complexity, but having played it for just a week now, it seems unnatural that it is not the biggest game in the world already.

Dota 2

My previous experience falling deep down a gaming rabbit hole was with Starcraft II. Starcraft II, like Dota 2, is a game of almost limitless depth. It is also the exact opposite of Dota 2 in virtually every other way. Starcraft II often gets compared to chess. It may be asymmetrical, with three distinct factions with different fundamental mechanics, but Blizzard takes great care to keep things balanced, to make sure that every unit plays a core, elemental role in the overall game system, in pursuit of the perfectly balanced competitive experience.

Dota 2

If Starcraft II is a modern day chess, honed by game design masters, then Dota 2 is Cowboys and Indians, being played by a gaggle of eight year old boys, arguing over who missed whom and who is secretly wearing a bullet proof vest. If Starcraft is about a relatively small number of units and mechanics interacting endlessly to create new situations, Dota 2 is about implementing literally every idea that anyone connected to the game has ever had, in the hopes that if every hero is completely overpowered, it will all come out in the wash. The result is an experience that is at once sprawling, messy, disheartening, unpredictable, organic, empowering, and above all completely, endlessly, fascinating.

Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy

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Nothing like dangling a storm trooper over the edge of cliff using force grip or throwing him halfway across the map! ~James Hare

Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy

[infobox color=”blue”]Released: Sep 2003 (PC) Developer: Raven Software Publisher: LucasArts & Activision Genre: 1st/3rd Person Action Shooter [/infobox]

Decided to dust off Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy and see who still played it online, I was surprised to see quite a few people still do so I thought why not play through from start to finish. By the time I gotten to my favorite part of the game (choosing between the light path and the dark path) I realized I’d never actually completed the ‘light path’ version of the storyline. All done but I still prefer the dark side ending.

Either way I realized how well this game has lasted for its age, the game play is still as fun and exciting and the lightsaber combat second to none. I’m still in awe of the amount of customization you were able to do (back in the day of course) on your character in a game that is a first/third-person shooter and not an RPG. It was developed by Raven Software and published, distributed and marketed by LucasArts in North America and by Activision in the rest of the world.

Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy

You play as Jaden Korr, (a character you can customize to be male/female, human, twi’lek etc) a padawan who is travelling to Luke Skywalker’s Jedi academy on Yavin IV, along with other new Jedi hopefuls. Kyle Katarn, (the reluctant Jedi you played as in Jedi Outcast) returns as a mentor at the Academy and becomes your master. However your ship is attacked and crashes into the planet, leaving Jaden and one other student, Rosh Penin, to make their way to the academy on foot.

Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy

 

Story

The storyline revolves around solving several questions related to this attack at the start of the game. From here you take on several missions, mostly with Kyle to begin with to find these answers and soon discover that a dark jedi called Tavion (Dessans apprentice in Jedi Outcast) is behind the attacks. Tavion is attempting to resurrect the spirit of dark sith lord Marka Ragnos by using his sceptre to drain dark force energy from locations across the galaxy. On each subsequent mission after the training you set about finding out more about the cult, battling with dark Jedi, the remnant and a few bounty hunters along the way.

Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy

The options of customizing your character does not end at physical appearance, you are able to specialize and train in a selection of different force abilities, light and dark. You start out with eight core force powers; pull, push etc which are automatically upgraded every time you return to the academy after missions. There are also eight advanced force powers to choose from (4 on the light side and 4 on the dark) the light side abilities are; absorb, protection, heal, and mind trick. The dark side powers include life drain, force lightning, force grip, and rage. You receive a point when you complete a mission (each power has three levels of improvement) and you can distribute it in any of these eight powers at the start of the next mission.

Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy

Personally force grip and heal are the powers of choice to get up to maximum level, and whether you choose the light or dark path nearer the end of the game (each with its own ending) you can have as many of the dark side powers as you like. Nothing like dangling a storm trooper over the edge of cliff using force grip or throwing him halfway across the map!

Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy

Jedi Academy captures the excitement of lightsaber combat perfectly and not to far into the game allows the player to select between single, dual or a staff lightsaber. The problem with Jedi Outcast was the amount of tedious levels you had to play before you got your lightsaber, in this game you have it from the start and can customize it to your liking. I tend to favor dual lightsabers in green and purple, I have no idea why. After completing the single player I was actually surprised when I logged into multiplayer to find servers still running and being played online.

Usually by now they’ve been taken over by bots and the odd nostalgic gamer but these were very full and active. Good times. The game itself is relatively easy to complete (mainly due to the lack of good AI in the enemy) and even has the option of avoiding harder missions if you choose too. Some of the better levels involve locations or characters from the movies. The Hoth mission is particularly good and the fight with Bobba Fett is awesome (although I feel they could have done more with this level).

Star-Wars-Jedi-Knight-Jedi-Academy

Jedi Academy is a great game and still worth revisiting. It is still highly playable in single and multiplayer mode and has plenty to offer in the way of character customization and mission/weapon selection. I love the choice of the light or dark path nearer the end of the game as it actually evokes real emotions in the player and for the situation the characters are in.

All I can say is the dark side path isn’t easier by a long way. The sound effects, music and voice acting really add a great atmosphere to the game and an extra dimension to the characters. Jeff Bennett returns to voice Kyle Katarn and Jennifer Hale and Philip Tanzini provide the female and male voices of Jaden Korr, with some great supporting voice artists Bob Bergen, Kath Soucie and Cam Clarke.

[You can find Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy on Stream]

Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain

Release Date on PSN: September 10th 2009

Original Release: November 15th 1996

Blood Omen - Legacy of Kain

Story

Blood Omen is the first game in the Legacy of Kain series. As the name would suggest the story is centered on Kain, a noble who is murdered in the first few moments of the game, but he is given a chance for revenge by a Necromancer who brings him back to life or un-life as a vampire.

Blood Omen - Legacy of Kain

What really makes this game stand out is the quality of the voice acting, casting trained thespians as the characters was a stroke of brilliance and this is the best part of the game.

The way they use voice as makes you really invested in the story and gives you that push to keep you playing. Voice acting in games today could still learn a thing or two from this PSone classic, and at original release this feature was unheard of.

Gameplay

Blood Omen plays just as you’d think Diablo would with a directional pad. The controls are easy to get used to and rarely were there any issues with control except for a few jumping sections that can sometimes be confusing.

Blood Omen - Legacy of Kain

As you progress through the game you gain new abilities, spells and equipment, that range from raising your health and magic bars to learning how to become a werewolf and tear your enemies apart. Health as you would imagine is gained from drinking the blood of your enemies, if you hit them the right number of times they’ll hold this very Mortal Kombat “finish me” pose where you can feed. Also while traveling to villages you can feed on the locals before heading off to defeat one of the games many interesting bosses.

The difficulty isn’t too bad, but you’ll have to watch your resources carefully at some points, the learning curve is good, but you really get into the gameplay when you start receiving new abilities and equipment. All of which add some strategy to the game and make it that much richer.

Graphics

Blood Omen - Legacy of Kain

Although Blood Omen is a dated game, the 2d graphical style suit it well and the art direction in the game still make it immersive. Also some graphical decisions that were made (like having blood you drink from enemies spurt through the air into your mouth) make is still a gruesome game which was certainly surprising for a game of this generation. Graphically there is nothing spectacular but the attention to detail doesn’t make graphics a hindrance to the story.

How Blood Omen Legacy of Kain holds up today

Blood Omen Legacy of Kain certainly makes an impression on the first time player. This comes from the excellent voice work and gripping story that is so rare in games even today. The amount of time it takes to run through this game is also impressive. It took 35+ hours to complete and I was glued to my console for the duration. Graphically you’ll not be impressed but there are a few nice touches you’ll notice that Silicon Knights threw in that will keep it from being a problem.

 Blood Omen - Legacy of Kain

For the standard PSone classics fee of six dollars and with story elements and gameplay that keep you interested for 35+ hours, this gives you a great bang for your buck. I enjoyed every moment of it.

Highly recommended (if you have the time), and if you liked this one check out it’s sequel Soul Reavertoo.

9/10

Tomb Raider: Curse of the Sword

Tomb Raider- Curse of the Sword

Format- Gameboy Color

Genre- 2D platforming adventure

I recall the two Tomb Raider games on GBC getting a good reception by most game critics – I think the original even got 100% from one magazine, incredulously.

I never picked one up though, until now. And I can kind of see the appeal, even if age has tarnished its best feature.

Tomb Raider- Curse of the Sword

This is the second entry in the GBC Tomb Raider series, and it starts off in a fairly low budget fashion.

The opening cutscenes are all blurry still images, with some dodgy music in the background. After a few though, it’s straight into the game.

Tomb Raider- Curse of the Sword

You play as Lara Croft (i’m sure you knew that) and have been attacked in a friend’s museum and seen a rare artefact (I think it was a sword – the title would suggest so anyway), and have to get it back.

Irritatingly, you start off with no weapons, meaning you can be blocked off by bad guys who just stand in your way ominously, and hit you if you get too close. Those guys are real lazy – you can be jumping around, collecting keys, and they just don’t even move.

Tomb Raider- Curse of the Sword

So to start with, you’re merely climbing around, trying to find a way through the museum.

Instantly, you can tell a lot of effort has gone into the animation of Lara. For a GBC game the running, climbing and jumping is very fluid and quite impressive.

Tomb Raider- Curse of the Sword

It’s a game that has a similar style to Flashback and Prince of Persia though, in that your control of your character is very rigid. You can only move in set distances, and have to line up vertical jumps perfectly in order to get anywhere.

I personally find this style of game restrictive and not much fun, but I suppose it works for more considered platformers such as this.

Tomb Raider- Curse of the Sword

Eventually, after jumping and climbing your way through a few rooms you’ll get a gun. It won’t surprise you to find that using it is incredibly clunky, and firefights usually involve both sides taking unhealthy chunks of damage.

Fortunately health packs are everywhere, even though you do have to lean down to pick them up for some reason. You don’t even use them when you pick them up either – they’re stored on an inventory screen – so why you have to use a button to pick them up is rather odd.

Tomb Raider- Curse of the Sword

Save points, which are indicated by little diamonds, are also fairly frequent, meaning the game doesn’t get too frustrating.

Generally then, Curse of the Sword is a solid game, but hardly an incredible one. Many of its deficiencies are masked by the rather top notch graphics, but with age that advantage has faded. Worth a low priced punt, but not much else.

Sword Master

Sword Master

Overall Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Sword Master - NES

Activision may be best known for their Call Of Duty series, but they have been producing video games for decades across multiple platforms, including a hefty array on the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Although some of these cartridges were outright stinkers, like their renditions of Ghostbusters and Super Pitfall, other were decent or even good. Somewhere in the latter mix lies the side-scrolling action title Sword Master, developed by Athena Co.

Gameplay

Sword Master - NES

Sword Master is a side-scrolling action game in which one player controls the protagonist, the Sword Master, is an admittedly generic plotline revolving around rescuing a damsel in distress from the clutches of some evil dark lord who has resurrected an army of undead abominations with which he is now attempting to take over the world. Of course.

There are seven levels, each of which concludes with a boss fight, and typically has a mini-boss somewhere in the middle as well. This title can barely be considered a “platformer” in the literal sense; although there is jumping from surfaces to other surfaces of different elevations, and even some precision-jumping puzzles that involve pattern-oriented enemies, unlike traditional platformers like the Super Mario Bros and Mega Man series, the running and jumping movements are not the emphasis here. The combat system takes the spotlight, and shows some muscular depth.

Sword Master - NES

The player’s character does not move quickly and, in fact, jumps forward in a hop slightly faster than walking movement alone. The A button performs the jump, and the B button attacks with the sword, offering some options for attack depending on which direction is pressed on the D-Pad as well. Pressing Up with the strike will swing overhead, just hitting B along will jab forward with the blade, and holding Down will go to a crouch, offering a low blow with the sword from that position. Also, our hero can move forward while crouching, a neat touch.

Sword Master - NES

Additionally, the Sword Master himself also uses a shield as well. Holding Up will hold the shield up, while pressing Down steadies the shield straight ahead. Neither renders our character invincible, but make it possibly to block oncoming attacks from projectiles such as fireballs or the incoming weapon-swings of other warriors. This will be especially essential for certain boss fights.

The challenge, then, comes in trying to deftly deal with dexterous dastards ranging from leaping wolves, flying bats, floating eyeballs, dark knights, evil wizards, lizard men, and other medieval-fantasy tropes, along with some truly unique (note the flaming flying giant sperm beings in the village). This slowed-down, fight-emphasizing gameplay really turns this into a game of strategy over speed and tactics over tricks. Surviving the onslaught unscathed will require the player to master the swordplay involved; which is perfectly appropriate, given that the name of the game is Sword Master.

Sword Master - NES

This makes Sword Master a sophisticated choice, a gamer’s game, a hardcore old-school brutalization, a test that those saddled with ADHD are going to have a problem with. Now, that prior sentence makes it sound like this is a hipster’s classic, a true all-time great, and a vastly overlooked NES cartridge; however, do not misunderstand, there are certainly some flaws that prevent Sword from being a four-star game or better.

The game is very challenging. Not quite Ninja Gaiden or three-life Contra challenging, but a grueling, despairing gauntlet nonetheless. While difficulty alone is not a bad ingredient, and can even be a strong point, and may even be so here, there are undoubtedly some moments in Sword Master that merely amount to frustration, not tightly honed missives.

Sword Master - NES

Then there is the scroll mechanic. Many 8-bit video games had a scrolling threshold related to the position of the protagonist on the screen. If you play Super Mario Bros., you will notice that Mario tends to stay right in the center of the game. Others games have the character going slightly past the middle before the screen starts slowly. These are fine options, and allow the player time to react to oncoming stimuli. But in Sword Master, the player is punished for well-skilled efforts by having the screen scroll forward even if the Master is four-fifth’s of the way across the play field. This makes for some rather brazenly hard reaction-time conundrums, unless the player intentionally plods forward at a slower rate.

Sword Master - NES

Aside from the black-and-white flaws and strengths, there are a few elements that must be judged on a player-by-player basis. The foremost example may be the level-up system. As the player slaughters creatures and kills people, an experience bar increases, until filling up and gaining a level, which grants a couple more ticks on the health bar. This is an intriguing way of going about things, but later in the same, enemies are doing more damage, while the health pick-ups (a potion) still merely heal a miniscule amount. This discrepancy is questionable, even if nitpicky. One nice note: Enemies that take more than one hit to kill show a health bar of their own, an addition that would be much appreciated in many other NES games that otherwise withhold.

Sword Master - NES

Next for consideration is the transformation element. Yes, Sword Master has a transformation effect in play, after getting a cloak, in which the player can transform into a mage (that is a wizard, for you non-geeks out there) and press Start to bring up a spells menu, with available magics picked up from defeated enemies. The foursome ranges from a classic fireball to vertically oriented lightning bolt. Holding the B button powers up the spells before unleashing. But excited players must consider the cost: Every spell-cast chops down the experience bar, until the original Sword Master form is reverted to. This seems somewhat steep, especially since the mage has no shield and is thus more vulnerable.

Sword Master - NES

Oh, and there are five continues, and a level that entirely consists of projectile-dodging, and believe it or not, the instruction manual refers to the flying flame sperm enemy as “Fire Seed.” No kidding.

Overall, Sword Master is a meaty, well-developed, distinctive game. The sword-fighting takes some getting used to, although the acclimation process is very intentional, even if a total mastery will still lend some “what the-” moments of unexplainable enemy-interaction weirdness.

Graphics

Sword Master - NES

This game looks fantastic. This may sound contradictory, but the motions are smooth, even if the animations are a little stiff. One obvious graphic area in which Sword Master shines is in its background visuals. Oh my. These are among the slickest-lookin’ backgrounds on the console, top-notch stuff. Just check out the gorgeous parallax scrolling two-layer work in the initial forest level as an example, but even in the static background images of the village and the castle, the detail work is solid. Along with some fun turns at enemy design and minimal issues like the flickering and slowdown sometimes seen on other games, this is a decidedly visually appealing game.

Sound

The auditory department of Sword Master I intriguing. The sound effects, maybe for the best, are subdued, striking quick and quiet in their flourishes. But when the protagonist attacks, rather than hear the swish of a sword, the player hears a cheap little voice effect. Okay, maybe trying to be impressive, but any “ooh” or “aah” effect is lost when it is repeated hundreds upon hundreds of times.

Sword Master - NES

The background music is not bad. The sound-engineering folks at Activision & Athena show off their chops by demonstrating a thorough understanding of the NES console hardware limitations, using all available sound channels to the max, and working in some nifty effects. Yet, perhaps humorously, for all their technical prowess, the actual compositional strength is limited, as the melodies are not especially memorable and nothing here stands the test of time as a memorable NES classic background tune or stage music.

Originality

Sword Master is fairly distinctive. While other NES games may have a sword-swinging figure at their core, no other title quite emphasizes the swordplay workings as strongly as the Master. Even though the storyline is incredibly generic, at least the execution is respectable, and makes it clear that this is not a game that was ever supposed to be about the story, but about the gameplay. With some quirks intact, it remains a solid game, and is awarded a score of three and a half stars out of five.

Interstate ’76

Interstate_76

Interstate ’76

Oh yes, A lot of people that know me, tend to forget that I was once deeply involved in what I consider to be the dark ages of my gaming journey. The PC-gaming era.. It wasn’t all bad, it started great with the DOS/Windows 3.1 era where I didn’t have to worry about performance of games or anything, as I was still getting used to the simple factor of console gaming (I sold my SNES to put towards a 486 DX4 100Mhz with 8MB RAM, a 1MB video card and 540MB storage 1995), all I had to worry about was fuffing around with autoexec.bat and config.sys.

Interstate_76

As soon as Windows 95 came out and changed the way we played games on the PC, especially when developers started to make games to run in Windows, it was saying goodbye to command line interfaces, and hello to icon-doubleclicking. Interstate ‘76 was one of many titles which will always remind me of the better times of PC gaming. Even though I was trying to run a game which required a Pentium 90 with 16MB RAM.

Interstate_76

i76, released originally in 1997 was based on the same game engine used in Mechwarrior 2, which was yet another classic DOS series.

Interstate_76

The game is set in the mid 1970’s where there was an oil crisis in the United States. You play as Groove Champion, the main antagonist (who is set out to find out who killed your sister), alongside with your partner Taurus and the mechanic Skeeter. The story unravels more to find that the villains have a plot to destroy the main oil supplies across the US and Groove alongside with Taurus have to stop them.

Interstate_76

As I said, i76 is based on the Mechwarrior 2 engine, meaning you drive around in 70’s muscle cars armed to the teeth with guns/missiles/etc, with full customisation on what weapons are used as well as the working condition of them (as you get to salvage car parts from missions after destroying enemy vehicles).

Interstate_76

If there was one thing I was fearing before getting this game as of late, as well as back in 1997, was how on earth was I going to control a car with a keyboard? Well I was actually quite impressed with the controls considering that a keyboard is digital and well steering wheels generally are analogue. No, the controls are great in this game, I’m really impressed. Graphics were typical of what to expect from the late 90’s as shown below in the screenshots:

Interstate_76

The cutscenes are minimalistic yet adding a style which works for such a game.

Interstate_76

And the soundtrack is amazing, composed by Arion Salazar, who of course is the founding member of Third Eye Blind. Very funky and a strong 70’s feel to the music. Here’s an example of the Title song:

Interstate_76

The Nitro pack, which is the mission pack that comes with the i76 pack you get from GOG, puts you back further in time where you play as Taurus and Skeeter alongside Groove’s sister Jade before she was murdered, and in this mission pack it focuses more on the many auto-gangs in the desert.

Interstate_76

Considering the amount of levels you get, the customisability of your vehicle (for single player AND multiplayer), to get the Interstate ‘76 Arsenal pack for US$6.00 is, well.. there’s no excuses to not add this to the collection once again. This is a fantastic re-port of a classic Windows 95 title, which now works on XP, Vista and Windows 7 also. For this review, I ran i76 on VMware Fusion for OSX in a Windows XP Virtual Machine. End result was perfect and performance was not an issue on a 2GHz+ iMac.

Blue Stinger

Blue Stinger - Sega Dreamcast

Blue Stinger (1999)
By: Climax Graphics / Activision  Genre: Survival Horror  Players:  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega Dreamcast  
Also Available For: Nothing

As game systems get more and more powerful over the years it’s only natural that the games played on them will evolve to make better use of them too, and occasionally new genres appear. One such genre was arguably started by Alone in the Dark which appeared in 1992 for the PC but I don’t think anyone would deny it was the arrival of Capcom’s Resident Evil series which really saw it take off. This genre came to be known, of course, as survival horror, but it’s one that’s never really taken a hold of me. Despite this, I bought Blue Stinger at the Dreamcast’s launch and looked forward to exploring its world. Is that because it promised something more than existing survival horror games, or would I once again fail to be ensnared by this burgeoning genre?

Blue Stinger - Sega Dreamcast

In all honesty it was probably just excitement over the Dreamcast’s arrival which prompted the purchase of this game, but it does have a few differences to earlier games of its type. It’s set in the Gulf of Mexico in the vicinity of the Yacutan Peninsula. As we’re shown in the fairly decent intro sequence, this was the site of the immense meteor strike which brought to an end the age of the dinosaur. Fast forward to the year 2000 and a mysterious island is all that remains after a huge earthquake hits the presumed site of the meteor impact, and it becomes known as Dinosaur Island. It isn’t long before the island is occupied by a shady biotech corporation called Kimra. Nearly twenty years later, ESER (Emergency Sea Evacuation and Rescue) member, Eliot Ballade, is fishing in the area while on vacation with a friend when something falls from the sky, heading towards the island.
Blue Stinger - Sega Dreamcast

Soon after the island is struck by what appears to be a meteor, an energy barrier appears around it which traps Eliot’s friend, and almost capsizes their boat in the process. Needless to say, Eliot awakens on the island with only a blue, floaty creature called Nephilim for company. Urging Eliot to follow her, it’s at this point your adventure begins. To begin with you’ll just have Eliot to control but before long you’ll meet some friendly characters – Janine King, a member of the security force on the island who most of your contact with is via computer/viewscreen, and Dogs Bower, a resident of the island. From this point on you can select either Eliot or Dogs to explore the mysterious island with. Eliot is faster and more agile, Dogs is stronger and can take more damage. But damage from what, I hear you ask? The majority of Blue Stinger is a adventure game – explore the various buildings and other areas, solve simple puzzles or find items to progress, etc, but there are also some less-than-friendly creatures on the loose.
Blue Stinger - Sega Dreamcast

As you might expect from a survival horror game, the island is occupied by some horrifying creatures as well. Many of these used to be human by the looks of it, but I don’t think they’re zombies. Whatever they are, they waste little time in tearing chunks out of Eliot and Dogs if they get the chance. To begin with, your only means of fending them off is your fists but it isn’t long before you’ll start finding some more effective weapons. These come in two groups. Short-range weapons include the trusty baseball bat (do these things actually get used for playing baseball?), axe, even a light-sabre type device. Far more effective (and safer), but with finite ammunition, are the long-range weapons. These include the standard handgun and shotgun, a couple of more originals ones in the acid gun and plasma gun, and the supremely satisfying bazooka!
Blue Stinger - Sega Dreamcast

Some of these weapons can be found surreptitiously laying around, but they can also be bought at one of the various (automated) shops you’ll come across. It’s the same for ammunition, although this can also be found on some of the dead bodies you’ll periodically encounter. Eeek! Dinosaur Island is a fairly extensive place too. As well as the expected areas like the docks (which is where you start), warehouses, and research facilities, there’s also shops, banks, and all sorts of other places. It’s more like a town than a corporate headquarters – they even have their own currency – the Kimra dollar. This can be found in several places but your first source of it is a dangerous one – the terrifying monsters themselves!
Blue Stinger - Sega Dreamcast

Predictably enough, the hideous creatures increase in both strength and numbers as you progress through the game but it’s worth taking them on rather than running as each will explode in a shower of coins upon defeat! Whilst this does break the illusion a little, they are nonetheless invaluable sources of money which is needed to make decent progress. Money can also be found in a few other places, as can numerous other items. Some of them are useful but not very exciting such as keys, bank and ID cards, stamps, etc. Others are a bit more interesting but less useful such as an array of new t-shirts! Various foods and ‘Hassy’ drinks can also be found or bought which replenish your energy level to a varying degree depending on what you consume.
Blue Stinger - Sega Dreamcast

One of the biggest attractions of games like this is their realism which is probably why they, as a genre, were born relatively recently as a result of the ever-increasing power of home systems. After all, only so much realism could be achieved on the older and more limited cartridge and disc-based machines! Accordingly, considering it was one of the first Dreamcast games, Blue Stinger is a fantastic-looking game. The intro and cut-scenes are great (although the lip-syncing is a little ropey) and this was one of the first games on any system to feature a fully-3D game environment. The scale and atmosphere this helps to convey is pretty darn good and all the characters, especially the gruesome monsters, look superb. Some of the boss monsters are enormous and mightily impressive!
Blue Stinger - Sega Dreamcast

The various areas of the game have been well thought-out too and the attention to detail is top-notch. For example, the game apparently takes place near Christmas as there are decorations and jingly music around the shopping area! The voice-acting, whilst not cringe-inducing, is a little below-par but the rest of the music is of a high standard too. Some of it’s creepy as you would expect, but that Christmas tune is brilliant. There’s something very surreal about shooting the crap out of disgusting, mutated creatures while music as happy and jolly as that is playing! A vast majority of the game is viewed from a third-person perspective and, mercifully in my opinion, control over Eliot/Dogs is more akin to Tomb Raider than Resident Evil which gives the game a lot more immediacy and is greatly beneficial to the enjoyment of the game.

Blue Stinger - Sega Dreamcast
And enjoyable it is too. The graphics, sound, presentation, etc are all about as good as you could expect for a Dreamcast launch title and they still impress today but for one problem – the camera. Yep, it was a familiar story in the late 90’s. The view of the action is very good until you find yourself in a cramped corner or something similar, at which point it doesn’t seem to know where to go! That said, it’s not a game-ruining problem and it shouldn’t dissuade you from playing Blue Stinger. The story is engrossing and the interaction between the characters is superb with some amusing banter between them all. The shady Dogs rarely seems at ease with Eliot and even less so when Janine’s around (I suspect he’d be ever more incensed if he knew about the revealing pics Sega hid away of her on the game disc!).

Blue Stinger - Sega Dreamcast

Aside from the camera problem there really isn’t and bad points to this game. There’s a genuine urge to unravel the mystery and see how things end and there’s a good 10-15 hours of tense and atmospheric gameplay before you’ll get to find that out. There’s also enough secrets and small side-quests to encourage multiple play-throughs and it’s enjoyable each time. A survival horror beginner I may be, but I’d like to think I know a good game when I see one, and this is certainly that.

RKS Score: 8/10

Ghostbusters II

Ghostbusters II

Overall Rating: 2.5/5 Stars

Ghostbuster 2 - NES

In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, in the wake of the success of two blockbuster movies and a lengthy, high-quality animated series run, the Ghostbusters were a hot media franchise with the usual action figures, lunch boxes, and other tie-ins. A licensed video game on the most popular console naturally had to follow, and Activision delivered with the Ghostbusters title on the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1988.

But it sucked.

Ghostbuster 2 - NES

It was truly dreadful, for many reasons, and for those who loved both the Ghostbusters and the NES machine, it was an outright heart-breaking tragedy. A couple years later, Activision would publish another Ghostbusters cartridge, this time with development work done by Imagineering, Inc. As the first video game was based on the first movie, the second video game would be based on the second film. Would it be superior?

Gameplay

Ghostbuster 2 - NES

This is, indeed, a superior video game to the original Ghostbusters title on the NES, although the second iteration certainly has its shares of flaws. The gameplay engages six levels that very loosely follow the plot of the sequel film, which hinges on the antagonist Vigo, stuck in a portrait though regaining power as the collective evilness of New York streams in a gooey river toward the museum he is in, with the Statue of Liberty posing as the only symbol of hope powerful enough to stop him.

Seriously, that’s the plot of the movie. Go watch it. The original’s better, but II is still worth seeing.

Ghostbuster 2 - NES

The game accomplishes this by, for the most part, varying between two types of gameplay: Driving levels and on-foot levels. Oddly enough, both feature jumping by use of the B button and slime-shooting (good slime, not bad – again, go watch the movie) by use of the A button. The fifth level takes an odd departure from then norm, as the player takes control of the Statue of Liberty with all four Busters in tow, and in a genre-bending style that most closely approximates a good old-fashioned shoot-’em-up, must fire at pattern-oriented flying ghosts overhead, trying to survive long enough to make it to the final battle, which all four guys get to participate in. Ghostbusters II on the NES has a two-player mode available for selection as well, even if it is in the take-turns style and not truly cooperative.

Ghostbuster 2 - NES

The side-scrolling on-foot levels cannot even be called platformers, as there is no surface but the floor to run on. The enemies are crude as well, consisting of pattern-based apparitions that bounce up and down in place, or bounce across the screen. Some are not as pattern-based, flying around, but are able to be beaten with slime blasts. The other must either be dodged to avoid, or eliminated by use of laying a trap, which is used by pressing the Start button, oddly enough. Also odd is the lack of a pause feature. Furthermore, another odd thing is that nowhere in the game can you go backward on a level; while this makes sense on the driving levels somewhat, it would be at least a tiny bit helpful as a possibility for the footpath stages.

Actually, these are not oddies: They are flaws.

Ghostbuster 2 - NES

Depending on perspective, there are a couple other features of the on-foot levels that pose as a tremendous flaw as well, or perhaps they are innovative features. Namely, this is the control scheme for aiming the slime-blaster gun and the implementation of a time limit; the former by using up and down on the directional paid to aim the gun in angled increments for several possible shooting angles, the latter by a spider that starts at the very beginning of the level, just behind the player, and slowly follows. Each time the spider catches up, it jumps onto the player and gnaws at the angle, causing the loss of one life. That is not a made-up story, that is how it works.

Ghostbuster 2 - NES

Fortunately, every time the player collects a Ghostbusters II movie logo (again, not making this up), it goes toward a tally, as every 20 earns an extra life. Collecting most of them will mean getting an extra level about every other level. This is helpful, as the game definitely poses a difficulty curve. Some portions are very challenging; during the second on-foot level, there is a particular section where three red-hued ghosts, right in a row, in a close cluster, move across the screen. Incredibly enough, each poses a different jumping pattern, oriented to differing jumping height, motion, and timing. It is nearly impossible to avoid all three without knowing their pattern, which would seem rather hard to understand without repeated playthroughs. That is the true, underlying nature of Ghostbusters II on NES: The actual levels are fairly short, but in order to conquer them, the player must rely on repeated attempts, memorization, and other tactics of mastering the game, rather than honing true skills.

Ghostbuster 2 - NES

The driving levels provide more examples of this phenomenon. Controlling the iconic ECTO-1 vehicle in a side view, the player can change to any of four lanes, even while shooting slime and jumping. The lane-changing is essential in order to dodge fixed obstacles on the road, and especially to hit the speed boosts necessary to leap large gaps in the street.

On the first level, the player notices three barricades blocking three of the lanes. Now, by their height, it could be supposed that they look low enough to jump over. This would not be an unreasonable guess. However, they are impossible to jump over, resulting in the loss of a life for a player trying that tactic. So then, now knowing to dodge those particular sorts of barricades rather than try to hurdle them, the player immediately comes across another interesting sight: Three more barricades, and the fourth lane, the free lance, has a speed boost on it. The natural inclination is to take the boost. The problem is, if the player does so, he or she will immediately slam into another set of barricades, in the form of yet another trio that leaves just one open lane. That is two lives lost, right away, on the beginning of the second level of a game. For a video game that gives the player only three lives to begin with, this seems rather harsh, even remarkably so, in light of the fact that these two deaths are practically unavoidable for a new player, despite their skill in any other genre or game.

Ghostbuster 2 - NES

Graphics

Perhaps oddly enough, Ghostbusters II is actually a pretty darn good-looking game for the NES. The on-foot stages are rendered in adequate detail, animations run smoothly, and weirdly impressively, the slime gun can fire something like nine projecticles on screen at a time without posing flickering or slowdown issues, an unusually high number not really seen in many other NES titles. The cutscenes, though usually just a single screen with perhaps some text, are a pleasantly nice touch, enjoyable and enhancing to the relevant plot. But it is the driving scenes that show off the true potential of the visuals, as buildings are shown in a gorgeous, comic-book-style skyline, complete with great use of perspective, and not resorting to lazy one-color washovers but instead really digging into the windows, lighting, etc. The drive through Central Park is fun as well, with the lust green scenary accompanied by picnic tables as the ghouls torment the driver.

Sound

Ghostbuster 2 - NES

The music is skillfully composed, offering a rendition of the classic Ghostbusters theme, along with watered-down 8-bit background version of the “Higher, Higher” track featured in the film. There is another theme or two at work as well, which is already a huge step up from the original game, which only had the one theme that played over and over and over and over and over and…

The sound effects are an improvement as well, even if not exactly mind-blowing. The slime-blasting is fleshed out well, the trap is bizarrely quiet, the car crashes sound grindy, the enemies remain astoundingly quiet. Okay, maybe the sound is not great, but it is there, and beyond the buzzy oddity of the original.

Ghostbuster 2 - NES

Originality

Speaking of original, how does one score Ghostbusters II on creativity and innovation? For the pros, we have near-unique weapons implementation in the on-foot levels, an interesting idea for posing a time limit, the always-interesting challenge of combining different styles of play in one cartridge, and inventive use of the source material in transferring to a video game.

But with its flaws in questionable game design choices (no pause, death-trap cheap tricks, very flaccid no-platforms, no-frills gameplay in either fashion) and the status of having a difficulty curve but not practicing it fairly, this cannot, and typically is not, be considered a good game. Then again, it does look pretty good (and, once again, especially in comparison to the original), offers a legitimate beginning-to-end experience, and is not nearly the worst of license titles. For offering a decent game perhaps worth mastery from true Ghostbusters fans or true NES warriors, this middle-of-the-road (literally) cart earns two and a half stars out of five.

Call of Duty: Finest Hour

 call of duty-finest-hour
Though it may be overshadowed by it’s Modern Warfare and Black Ops big brothers, I still regard it as one of the better WWII shooters out there and fine addition to the Call of Duty series.
 call of duty-finest-hour
I think my favorite catch to this game, is that it goes to all major sides to the Eastern front. You take control of Soviet, American, and British troops. All them have their memorable moments, weapons, and areas such as Germany, Stalingrad, and North Africa. I think my favorite mission is the one with the Russian sniper lady with all the Nazis coming to attack the building she was in.
call of duty-finest-hour
I suppose it might get a little lost in the WWII crowd, and wasn’t greatly reviewed, but it was one of the first enjoyable WWII shooters for me. Though I do have to say the multi-player was crap, though only available through the PS2 and Xbox version which I’m sure have been shut-down.

Skylanders: Giants

Skylanders-Giants

Whoever came up with the concept for Skylanders is a marketing genius.  The recipe is so pitch perfect it’s hard to believe it took this long for someone to execute:  Take the elemental centered and “gotta buy them all” appeal of Pokemon, mix it with the addictive RPG leveling and character progression that almost every game utilizes today, and then pair it up with a plethora of collectable figures that you can transport both between and across consoles.  The results are a franchise that has already grossed upwards of 500 million dollars between two releases with zero signs of slowing down.  But is the game any good or just a flagrant cash grab aimed specifically at children?

Skylanders-Giants

Actually it isn’t half bad.  I spent the majority of this past Saturday playing this with my nephew Jacob (he’s 8) and really enjoyed myself.  The game is akin to many dungeon crawlers like Diablo and Baldur’s Gate except it takes place in the uber-colorful and child friendly world of Skylands.   The interface is very simple and easy to understand; almost anybody could pick it up and play with little instruction.  Character leveling is extremely balanced and it has the familiar “just one more level” appeal as you constantly unlock better powers and upgrades for each of your individual Skylanders.   Jacob spent the better part of our lengthy session saving up hard fought treasure for a battle-axe made entirely out of bees for his favorite giant Swarm, and his joy upon finally earning the weapon was completely palpable.

Skylanders-Giants

Each Skylander represents one of eight different “elements” like fire, wind, technology, or undead.  The levels are divided with multiple gates and hidden areas that can only be accessed by certain elements, meaning in order to fully unlock everything the game has to offer you must own at least one character from every element.  If you are defeated, the only way to continue the level is by swapping out figures on the fly, making the game near impossible with only the starter set, but very manageable with a stable of Skylanders figures at your disposal.  (Defeated characters can be used again on the next level but not before)  The aforementioned starter set only comes with three characters, the game disc, and the necessary Portal of Power; so more characters must be purchased (Hey Mom!) in order to fully experience and enjoy what the game has to offer.  Some Skylanders are also much rarer than others (especially some of the newer Giants) making collecting these things highly addictive.  Again, sheer marketing brilliance.

Skylanders-Giants

Skylanders: Giants is also compatible with all of the toys released for the original game, and the level cap is increased from 10 to 15 for all of your previously purchased characters.  There are also new Series 2 versions of the original Skylanders that have more effective powers and different poses than their original counterparts, a very wise move by the developers to keep fans of the original excited about the sequel.   I’d be absolutely shocked if a third game wasn’t released this holiday season, right now the game has legs, something that Activision is notorious for exploiting on a yearly basis with all of their other major franchises.

Skylanders-Giants

It is also interesting to mention that the first game was titled Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure, featuring popular gaming icon Spyro the Dragon who has appeared in almost twenty other titles.  Spyro never speaks in either game however, and doesn’t give you any sort of advantage over any of the other characters.  It almost seems like the developers were hedging their bets to get the game off the ground with a mascot familiar to the intended demographic.

If you are looking to enjoy some gaming with one of the younger people in your life you could a lot worse than Skylanders: Giants.   The title is certainly geared towards children but contains many of the familiar trappings of an addictive video adventure; I certainly didn’t grow bored playing it as I have with many other games.  Just plan to shell out a lot more than the initial seventy-dollar investment if you want to see everything in the game or actually get through it successfully at all.

Subscription fee for Call of Duty Multiplayer?

Here it seems as Mr. Pachter is not clear on the history of FPS games nor the current climate for subscription based MMO’s.~J.A. Laraque

Subscription fee for Fee for Call of Duty Multiplayer?

How many of you remember playing games like Doom, Duke Nukem and Quake online and enjoyed hours of “free” play time. Not only could you play online for free, but there were maps that were created by players as well as mods that you could enjoy all for free. A game like Quake 2 could be played for years because of this and with LAN support we were in a golden age of multiplayer.

pay-to-play

Well it seems if Michael Pachter had his way we would all be playing a subscription free to play today’s multiplayer games like Call of Duty Black Ops 2. You can read the source article over on Gamespot, but here are some of the key quotes.

“I know the game sells billions of dollars. Activision did a bad thing with Call of Duty from a profit perspective,” Pachter said. “They trained gamers that you can buy a game and play it all year, ten hours a week, forever, and you never have to pay again. You just wait for the next Call of Duty. I promise you there are plenty of people, numbering in the millions, who play one game, which is Call of Duty, and they never stop.”

This is interesting as it makes me think of a drug dealer who gets someone hooked then raises the price. He is right in that many people are really into their COD multiplayer and many would pay for the service. We already see the awful premium service you can sign up for to receive new maps.

The mention of training gamers is important as well, just like many gamers became used to paying a certain monthly amount for MMO’s many gamers still remember old FPS games you could play online with hundreds of maps all for free and most of us would not accept a pay service. However, newer gamers and admittedly, those who may not actually be shelling out the cash, may be more inclined to pay such a free.

Callofduty-black-ops2

Pachter also said:

“That’s just like the people who play World of Warcraft and never stop, yet the World of Warcraft guys are paying $180 a year, and the Call of Duty guys are paying $60. So who’s got a better model?” he said. “This multiplayer thing being free was a mistake. I don’t think anybody ever envisioned it would be this big. It’s a mistake because it keeps those people from buying and playing other games.”

Here it seems as Mr. Pachter is not clear on the history of FPS games nor the current climate for subscription based MMO’s. First, FPS online games, or a game with an online component, has always been popular and though the Call of Duty series did set records it should not have been a big surprise that people would navigate to a good online FPS and play it. He mentions World of Warcraft, but if you look at games like EQ2, Conan, DC Online, Star Wars Online and many other MMO’s that started out as a paid service they are now switching to free to play.

It seem as if to many companies point to WoW and believe they can be next incarnation, but reports show even WoW is bleeding members and is heading toward a free to play model of their own. Then you have games like Guild Wars 2 on the MMO side and Tribes and Planetside 2 on the FPS side and the question you have to ask is, how can a move to charge for multiplayer do anything but hurt the brand?

Pachter pointed at juggernaut Activision about their upcoming titled rumored to be called Destiny and said it will be subscription based adding; “Activision’s going to try it, because they’re greedy pigs, and they’re bold,”

activision-bungie-destiny

I did not know greed is bold but I digress. We do not know exactly what Destiny will bring and even if it does cost monthly there is no guarantee it will be successful, just ask SOE. We as gamers will put up with a lot more than we claim we will. Many of us screamed when Everquest raised their subscription rates and yet we still played. However, we can only take so much and as we get older and money is tighter the same thing that happened with MMO’s will happen everywhere else. We will pick and choose a game that works for us and our budget and dump the rest.

In the end, the hopes of people like Pachter is to “train” the upcoming generation to be used to these fees. Many are used to paying for small things in F2P MMO’s and used to paying small amounts for mobile games and music, so what is a few extra dollars a month for Modern Warfare 4? COD is a powerful title, but it does not stand alone and I am sure other FPS games would love to take advantage of a move like this if it is made. I guess the only question that remains is, if this was done would you pay?

Video of the Day: God Hand: Press O to Spank

God-Hand-Spanking

God Hand: Press O to Spank

This video should go under the weird game files, but honestly God Hand itself was a pretty normal if not comical action game developed by Clover Studio and released by Capcom for the PlayStation 2. The game is a beat em up where you play a martial artist that uses the legendary God Hands that can save the world from Demons. In the game you can create long and unique combo attacks kind of like what was used in Killer Instinct. However, what makes this the video of the day is the spanking finishing move that you can only use against female enemies.

You got to love the Japanese.

David Crane speaks on the triumphs and pitfalls of his multi-decade career

David Crane

The first video game boom period of the late 1970s and early 1980s created many superstars that are still known today, from the hardworking Mario to the still-hungry Pac-Man. It also saw a handful of game designers reach the superstar level themselves, including David Crane.

Starting his career with Atari on titles including Canyon Bomber and Outlaw for the Atari Video Computer System, Crane was among the founding members of Activision in 1979. Since that time, Crane has been the driving force behind game titles that made an impact on several generations of gaming, from Pitfall! to NES cult-classic A Boy and His Blob to the controversial Night Trap.

The original Pitfall!, which just reached it’s 30th anniversary, was a literal game changer according to Crane.

“Even during development, we knew we had something special,” he said. “The platformer game genre opened up worlds of new games. In fact, there were hundreds of platform games developed after Pitfall! blazed the trail through the jungle. When the game held the number one spot on Billboard‘s chart for 64 consecutive weeks, a record that I don’t think has ever been broken, we knew the game had legs.”

Today, three decades after it’s release, Pitfall! is among the classic video game titles still found on t-shirts and modern console releases. Crane states that this was not something that he considered the future would hold.

“I would have never predicted the classic gaming movement where people continue to play their favorite games 30 years later and who bring in a new generation by exposing their kids to the classics,” he stated. “Sure, we tweaked the games to a fine point and we felt those games were the best games on the market at the time, but it still surprises me when classic gaming enthusiasts tell me that for pure game play, modern games fail to live up to the standards we set back in the day.”

A Boy and His Blob, Crane’s 1989 title for the Nintendo Entertainment System, began as a tool-using adventure game concept. After recalling a cartoon character creation from his childhood, Crane altered the game’s toolkit into that character.

“When I try to explain the concept and story of A Boy and His Blob people look at me like I have two heads,” Crane said. “As the explanation goes on they become sure of it, ‘So… after collecting all of the underground treasures, the Boy spends it all on vitamins? Then he turns his Blob into a rocket and flies to Blobonia where he vanquishes an evil king with a Vitablaster? Are you insane or just on drugs?’ I assure them that I am indeed sane, and that my drug of choice is peanut M&M’s”

In the decades since Crane’s early success, the video game industry has grown to include various publishing levels. The veteran game designer notes that modern publishers should take notes from the history of the industry.

“In the eighties games were published on ROM cartridges. That was a huge barrier to entry, requiring hundreds of thousands of dollars to publish a single game,” he said. “In the mid-eighties there was a crash, brought on by 30 companies trying to cash in on Activision’s success but without quality games. By 1985 there were 20 bad games on the market for every good game. Consumers were lost.”

“Today there is no barrier to entry,” he added. “Anyone with $99 can pay Apple to publish a game, which explains why there are 100,000 games in the App store. One on hand the optimist will say that this makes it possible for indie developers to make something fabulously new and original. The pessimist points out that there are 1,000 bad or derivative games for every one jewel. Games in the eighties sold for $40; that indie designer who makes the jewel is lucky to net 40 cents on every game he sells. That is not enough to sustain a game development business, so it becomes unlikely we will ever see a second jewel from that designer.”

“The industries of then and now couldn’t be more different,” he continued. “But today’s glut of bad, derivative, or just plain indifferent games has some similarities to the conditions in 1985. Back then that glut precipitated a major crash in the business and it took years for the video game to regain it’s popularity. Hard to say if that will happen again, but those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.”

Crane recently turned to Kickstarter in an effort to create a new Jungle Adventure game as a follow-up to his 1982 classic. The project failed to catch on enough to reach it’s goal, however, despite Crane’s hope that supporters would like to be part of the game development process.

“Ask any game publisher if they would like the e-mail address of everybody that is going to buy a game before the game is published,” he said. “That could be a valuable resource for those times where the designer is struggling with game options. I suspect that my Kickstarter project didn’t get traction because the masses are not ready to commit to a game until they know what it is. Those that understood what I was hoping to achieve backed it enthusiastically, and went out as evangelists to try and recruit others.”

After 35 years in the video game industry, Crane states that he will continue to be part of it for some time to come.

“I design and program games every day,” he said. “I have been compared to Charles Schulz, who drew the Peanuts cartoons every day of his life for 50 years. By that analogy I have at least 15 good years left. I am comfortable in the fact that I know how to make games fun, and that is what keeps me going.”

The Classic Gaming Birthday Round Up

The Classic Gaming Birthday Round Up

Over the last two weeks a number of iconic classic games have had birthdays. The following is a grouping of those postings from Patrick Scott Patterson.

August 27

Super Mario Kart celebrates 20 year anniversary today

The original Super Mario Kart, perhapsNintendo‘s biggest 16-bit classic, turns 20 years old today.

The classic racer was first released in Japan on August 27, 1992 with a North American release just days later on September 1. Developed by game industry legend Shigeru Miyamoto and directors Hideki Konno and Tadashi Sugiyama, Super Mario Kart came about in an effort to create a multi-player racing game that improved upon the single player experience of Super Nintendo launch title F-Zero.

The game proved to be one of the strongest titles for the Super NES and Super Famicom, selling 8 million copies during it’s lifespan, a titanic number for that generation of gaming. Sequels and follow-up titles continue to this day, including Mario Kart Wii, the second best-selling game for the successful Wii game console with almost 32.5 million copies sold to date.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcTIk19Lcms[/youtube]

Many fans of the original still look back upon it today.

“At the time of the games release, I was actually into go-kart racing,” said Mario Kart fan Josh Jones of Killeen, Texas. “This was a way for me to experience a whole new way of racing and battling at home. Nintendo did a supreme job incorporating it’s characters into a fun filled game which still has a fan base today.”

The multi-player aspect made an impact on the household of another fan of the game.

Super Mario Kart was the game that settled all the sibling disputes in my household,” said P.J. Stanton of Bordentown, New Jersey. “When my brother and I couldn’t agree on something the winner of argument was determined by a quick race or battle. Of course, by the time we finished playing we usually had forgotten what we were arguing about. My brother and I are estranged now, yet every so often we’ll talk on the phone and the conversation will always lead back to who was the better player.”

August 30th

Original Street Fighter arcade game turns 25

It has now been 25 years since the originalStreet Fighter arcade game first saw the light of day.

Capcom introduced this one-on-one fighter to arcades on August 30, 1987 in two different cabinet styles. The first featured two pressure sensitive “punch” pads while another marked what would be the first-ever six button layout on a fighting game.

While the original Street Fighter was only a modest success, the impact of the game on video game history cannot be fully stated in a short article. Street Fighter II, first introduced in 1991, became the biggest arcade hit since Pac-Man and spawned an entire generation of fighting games. Today, the Street Fighter franchise is one of the most competitive scenes in all of professional video gaming.

“I actually grew up with Street Fighter on arcade back in the day,” said fighting game fan Teri Otis Redding of Australia. “Loved every Street Fighter made pretty much. I think I’ll always remember the arcade experience I had when I was growing up.”

The continued success of the franchise seems pleasing to the maker of products for fighting games.

“Street Fighter has been almost a benchmark for standards on all upcoming games,” said Doug Johnson ofFoeHammer Custom Joysticks. “We love it when they launch a new one because the hype is tremendous.”

August 31st

Arcade classic BurgerTime turns 30 years old

Yet another household name in video game history is celebrating a major milestone this week as BurgerTime turns 30.

August 31, 1982 saw the first public appearance of the game, originally called Hamburger during it’s initial Japanese release. Created by Data East, the game made a big splash at the 1982 AMOA trade show where Data East showed off the title for it’s DECO Cassette System (an early interchangeable arcadesystem) as well as a licensed version from Bally Midway.

BurgerTime featured a chef named Peter Pepper, doing battle with living eggs, hot dogs and pickles who are trying to stop him from making the biggest hamburgers in the world in a multi-level platform. The game gained a loyal following in both coin-op form as well as home console versions from Mattel Electronics.

BurgerTime is one of the defining eighties games,” said Ohio’s J.D. Lowe, holder of the third highest BurgerTimescore ever with 6,109,500 points. “Easy to learn, hard to master, with music that sticks in your head and a design that is hard to replicate.”

Many of the remaining original BurgerTime arcade cabinets have landed in the hands of collectors, including Rhode Islands’ Brian Diamonti, who says he will hold on to his machine regardless of the offer.

“I had a buddy offer to trade me his Joust for myBurgerTime and I had to turn him down,” Diamonti said. “BurgerTime is too much of a staple in gaming roots to trade off and my girlfriend would be too pissed at me.”

BurgerTime made a national television appearance in early 1983 as one of the game titles used in a gauntlet on That’s Incredible. Players had to quickly reach a scoring threshold on the game to move advance to the next game. Texan Ben Gold, who won the televised contest, only had a short time to learn the game.

“I had three weeks to learn it and only one arcade to practice at,” Gold recalled. “Todd Walker was by far the best player on this game and the irony is that his mistake on it is what allowed me to beat him in the competition.”

Numerous sequels to BurgerTime have been released over the past 30 years, including last year’sBurgerTime World TourRay Almeda from MonkeyPaw Games, the company who released the 2011 follow-up, notes the unique concept of the game as a reason for it’s longevity.

“Anybody who plays BurgerTime instantly gets hungrier and hungrier the longer and longer they play,” Almeda said. “Even to this day, Peter Pepper still remains a lovable chef that builds the planet’s biggest burgers. Who would have thought you’d be running from food in a video game? It doesn’t get any more addicting and iconic than that, even after 30 years.”

September 6th

Activision classic Pitfall! reaches 30 year anniversary

The iconic Pitfall! has now reached the 30 year mark.

Originally released on September 6, 1982, this early Activision title was designed byDavid Crane and became an instant best-seller. First released for the Atari Video Computer System (later known as the Atari 2600), Pitfall! sold 4 million copies, a huge number for a game at that time and held the top on best-seller charts for an incredible 64 weeks.

Perhaps the first hit game to popularize the side scrolling style that became a staple of gaming later in the decade, Pitfall! gave players a limited amount of time to overcome in-game obstacles such as pits, crocodiles and giant scorpions in an effort to reach the treasure at the end.

The popularity of the game transcended the title itself with the character of Pitfall Harry at the helm. Pitfall! was one of the video game titles featured in the first season of CBS Saturday morning cartoon series Saturday Supercade. A young Jack Black appears in one of the television commercials for the original game as well.

Pitfall! was our first chance to game as a proper adventurer,” said Jayce Stokes of England’s ConsoleNinjas podcast. “The way it combined maze elements in with the platform staples of timing your jumps and avoiding hazardous drops was unmatched back then.”

As an early example of a game with a finite ending point, completing Pitfall! proved to be a badge of honor among gamers, many of whom say they had a love/hate relationship with the cartridge.

“Who doesn’t love Pitfall!?” said Stockton, California’s John Lopez. “I played it until I thought I’d break my joystick as a kid. The gameplay was great; a running man grabbing the vines, swinging over the pits and quicksand, jumping logs, climbing into the underground caverns, jumping scorpions and collecting treasure. It was one of the coolest games.”

A new version of Pitfall! was recently released for iOS devices, while the original game designer recently opened up a Kickstarter project in an effort to launch a new jungle adventure.

Activision Classic Anthology available now for mobile devices

Retro gamers that like your classic gaming using your smart phone now have more choices for your gaming pleasure thanks to Activision Anthology. Check out the official press release:

Experience the best retro classic games from the 2600 era with the all-new Activision Anthology App for tablets and smartphones! Available for the first time on iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and Android devices, gamers can play the original games that started it all. Activision Anthology gives gamers KABOOM!™  for FREE and access to 45 Activision and Imagic games including: PITFALL!™, RIVER RAID™, THE ACTIVISION® DECATHLON, BARNSTORMING™, STAMPEDE™, PITFALL II, ENDURO™, DEMON ATTACK, and many more!

activision anthology

Activision Anthology features multiple control schemes so gamers can choose a play style that suits them. Activision Anthology has Game Center and Facebook integration including leaderboards and achievements to share and compete with friends!  Players can also earn digital versions of the renowned Activision game patches offered in the 1980’s. Original cartridge and box art, game manuals, tips and strategies from the original game designers are also included.

Download some Activision nostalgia now!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ma4qQBQWZDU[/youtube]

Activision Anthology is available for the iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and Android devices for free (includes Kaboom!). Players can purchase four additional bundle packs with 11 games each at $2.99 or collect all 45 games for a special limited-time introductory price of only $6.99.

Activision Classic Anthology

App Store Link: goo.gl/JFnNB

Google Play Link: goo.gl/pTRL4

Bomber Raid

Bomber_raid_cover

Bomber Raid (1988)
By: Sanritsu Denki / Sega  Genre: Shooting  Players: 1  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega Master System  First Day Score: 78,100
Also Available For: Nothing

Bomber Raid - Sega Master System - Gameplay Screenshot

As much affection as I have for the Master System, it didn’t really fare too well anywhere except Europe (and Brazil), and its paltry but loyal core of proud and loyal owners were enveloped by the congealing mass of NES owners in Japan and the US. A testament to its failure in the two most important markets is the fact that this very game represented the final official release for the console in Japan, and at a time when the system was only just becoming established here in the UK! Bomber Raid was released exclusively on the Master System too so there’s a good chance a lot of American and Japanese gamers missed out on it altogether, but did they miss much? And perhaps more importantly, was it a fitting farewell for the lovely little console in its native territory?

Bomber Raid - Sega Master System - Gameplay Screenshot

Taking its cues from Capcom classic, 1942, and a few similar games to a lesser extent like Flying Shark, Bomber Raid is a WWII-set vertically scrolling shmup which takes place over both land and sea. It’s interesting that the front cover of this game depicts an SR-71 Blackbird dropping a load of bombs as the actual game sees you piloting a far older and less sophisticated plane and any bomb-dropping you do is restricted to the three ‘cluster bombs’ your aircraft is equipped with! The game takes place over five stages, or ‘missions’ (you’ll receive a short briefing before each), all of which are filled with enemy aircraft, tanks, boats, submarines, and other associated vehicles, including of course much larger and more powerful bosses at the end of each stage.

Bomber Raid - Sega Master System - Gameplay Screenshot

Amidst all the usual military-type enemies, you’ll frequently encounter spinning pods which release power-ups when shot. These include speed-ups, upgrades for your feeble main gun, and can also see smaller drone planes join yours and produce fire of their own, although they are just as prone to enemy fire as your main aircraft too, and you can also unleash the aforementioned cluster bombs which are screen-clearing smart bombs as you might expect. No, the arsenal isn’t particularly huge or impressive but even with the pretty limited resources available here you should make pretty good progress through the stages. The difficulty curve is just about right and there’s few overly tough parts that you’ll get stuck on.

Bomber Raid - Sega Master System - Gameplay Screenshot

In fact, probably the biggest challenges offered by the game, at least initially, are a result of graphical issues! They’re pretty good, if lacking a little in variety, but the enemy fire is small and moves fast so it’s often hard to spot it, and the same can be said of some of the enemies themselves. Your own bullets, too, are practically invisible to start with making the acquisition of power-ups even more of a necessity! There’s also a bit of slowdown and flicker now and then too but aside from that, this is a decent enough looking game, and indeed a decent enough game generally. It was actually one of the MS games I always wanted to play but I never got around to buying it, so this is my first encounter with it, and happily it’s been a good one. It’s not perfect and it’s certainly not the best vertical-scroller on the Master System (Power Strike retains that crown) but once you get used to the slightly confusing visuals it proves to be an enjoyable and addictive blaster, and a decent farewell for the Japanese incarnation of this great console.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ncUcqF82FCc[/youtube]

RKS Score: 7/10

Freeway

FREEWAY, designed by David Crane (Activision). I remember actually looking forward to games by Crane, who I still consider the greatest of all time.

Freeway_Cover - Atari - 2600 - Gameplay Screenshot - 1

Freeway is a pretty simple game. Either 1 or 2 players control a chicken who is trying to get to the other side of a multi-lane highway filled with speeding cars. Unlike Frogger, the chicken can only be moved up or down. When struck by a car, the chicken is knocked back a couple of lanes, which may put you in the headlights of another vehicle….

Freeway - Atari - 2600 - Gameplay Screenshot
You have exactly 2 minutes and 16 seconds to cross the road as many times as possible, or get 1 more than your opponent in 2-player mode.

Overall, I like the game. The graphics are nice and colorful. The bright, yellow chicken moves its little feet quickly across the road. I say “little”, but it’s about 5 foot long. I like to pretend it’s escaping from KFC ‘s Double Down assembly line. The many cars look different, with unique shapes and sizes. A neat little animation of the chicken getting knocked backwards is a nice touch.

Freeway - Atari - 2600 - Gameplay Screenshot
The sounds of cars and trucks speeding by are solid, and the horns will beep to warn you they’re speeding through, because no one in the city is going to stop for poultry.
This game is a nice little time-waster. Fun and easy to pick up and play.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYjZ88RAGN8[/youtube]
I’d give this a 6/10 for the 1-person game, 8/10 for 2 player, which is great for smack-talk.

Old Game Reviewer reviews classic and retro games, you can check out more of his great work on his blog here – Old Game reviewer.

The Interview: Dr Peter Favaro

Dr. Peter Favaro was the man behind the excellent Alter Ego life-sim and also one of the few psychologists deeply interested in the Internet (think Tendrilmedia) and video gaming. What follows is quite obviously an interview with said gaming legend regarding both the past and the future. Have fun reading it and feel the retro gaming nostalgia …uhm… feeling.
Alter Ego disk
It’s been quite some time since Alter Ego hit the shelves and impressed the press. Have you designed any other video games since?

Well, Alter Ego was to be followed by a game called Child’s Play -a humorous simulation about raising children, but Activision fell on financial hard times and had to be scrapped. The project manager was someone named Brenda Laurel, whom everyone first referred to as “The Lizard Queen” in the early days of the Internet.

Since then I have had some game ideas. One is finally coming to fruition. It’s Internet based and code named K-OS.

K-OS? Will it be an MMO sort of game? Could you describe it briefly?

Only briefly. People purchase computer generated DNA. They feed, train and teach the creature that forms from it. The creatures meet in a virtual world on line, fight, consume each other’s attributes until one becomes most superior. You know, the kind of touchy feely activities psychologists are known for.

Any idea when it should be available to psychologist adoring masses?

Well a lot depends on how much time I can slice from my media business which is doing quite well right now. My guess would be Winter 2007.

So, back to the old days, if you don’t mind. Alter-Ego. How would you describe it in a couple of sentences?

Alter Ego was a life sim, written in a tongue in cheek style which permitted people to explore the consequences of their decision making. It was built on a foundation of hundreds of interviews I conducted with people about their most memorable life events. Combined with stuff I just made up!

AlterEgoBoxBack

And how did you decide to undertake such an apparently mammoth task? What was your inspiration? Your PhD in psychology perhaps?

Actually, it was the other way around–it was my love of game design and the prospect of making some money. Psychology was a way of breaking out of the pack of other designers.

Hehe… A cunning plan indeed!

Well, its more than that, although I am cunning. Technology is by nature an exploitative enterprise. You have to strike while the iron is hot and you need to innovate in order to achieve that. That is what juices me up about working in this business and that’s why I rarely sit in a room with people who tell me about their anxieties.

Alter Ego, despite being critically acclaimed, didn’t sell very well. Why do you think this happened?

It sold well enough to buy me a house and a car. However, it did not sell like Mortal Kombat.

Why? Well, the egoist in me thinks it was before its time. It was developed during a period of gaming that did not know what a game activity was. It came after the initial shoot em ups and after some Zelda like stories, but was quite different than both. People have been begging me for years to re-do it.

Actually, should you re-do it, it would still be innovative and unique… Creativity in the mainstream gaming media seems to be at an all-time low… Or not?

Well, a project like that needs some cash behind it. It would have to go through a big developer like Sony. It would also have to be multimedia because that’s what turns people on -and well it should be- better for the nakedness and the killings and all. However, large developers wisely stick to their franchises–sports games, carjackings, and war themes. I don’t know if it would make it past the funding stage.

Then again, the Sims did it… And it was the only truly successful spiritual child of Alter Ego.

Yes it was, damn it. Can’t do the Sims again though; it would be me imitating an imitator of me.

AlterEgoScreen

How surreal and psycho-confusing….

Thank you. If someone would toss a few million my way, I am sure I could come up with something.

Which reminds me, have you played Timothy Leary’s game? Actually met the man? Helped him with his game?

Only by phone. Tim was an interesting sort of fellow. Lots of ideas about technology but no real clue. On the other hand, I don’t like people mucking about with my stuff, so I learned programming from the ground up. I am actually quite a technical person.

But where did you learn game-design and coming up with intuitive and never before seen interfaces?

I think game design is a function of a person’s idiosyncratic way of living. To some, life is just one big game. HA!

Wow!

I just realized what that implies about Alter Ego.When I was younger I used to make up games to amuse myself and to torment my little sister.

Did you ever hit her with an Alter Ego manual, then?

No, she was already too old and strong to mess with.

Sisters, tsk… Like reviewers really. Remember any of the reactions and/or reviews back in the day Alter Ego was released?

We all grew up in Brooklyn and had to learn to street fight relatively early in life.

Oh people loved it, the reviews were excellent with the exception of two guys from Compuserve who hated it because it relied on manipulation and was nothing more than a simulation based on psychology. Imagine! I laughed my ass off when I read that review.

Besides laughing at reviews, what else did you enjoy from the Activision era?

Well, also, loved the perks. Activision was big on treating their designers like rock stars. It was hilarious that when we showed at Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas we were always right near the porn stars!

Now, one final question. Which games did you recently enjoy?

I like the online multies. World of Warcraft is a good game -causing quite a stir with parents who say their kids are too involved in it

Well, parents can be funny, but WoW is a huge and all consuming time sink….

Sure, but you can expect more of the same. People are becoming more vegetative, and the more they veg, the more they will be looking for these kinds of activities.

Now, that I’ve never thought. Quite the vicious circle really…

There’s a reason televisions are getting bigger and bigger, and if you listen to Bill Gates everyone of them will have a web browser built in in just a few years.

Actually, quite a few anarchist believe that a color TV equals a black ‘n’ white life…

I can see that, but what’s going to stop the deluge? Nothing.

I see. Now, care to add anything else?

Well, only that there will always be a fascinating interplay between people and the widgets they keep themselves occupied with -and in that there is still a lot to learn, explore and exploit.

Thanks so much for the interview. Oh, and good luck both with K-OS and Tendrilmedia!


Zork: Grand Inquisitor

Zork - Grand Inquisitor - PC - Gameplay Screenshot

In 1996, Activision released Zork: Nemesis, a visually-stunning game, but with an overtly dark theme and a serious – even intense – game atmosphere, very unlike any other game in the Zork series.  (So dark, in fact, that the Infocom label was not included on the box!)  Nemesis was a great game, but something had to be done to bring back the humor and irreverence of all things Zork.  And so, a year later, in 1997, Activision released a new game in the Zork / Enchanter series, set 580 years before Return to Zork, and with an eye to bringing the series back to its roots – Zork: Grand Inquisitor.

Zork - Grand Inquisitor - PC - Gameplay Screenshot

The story behind Zork: Grand Inquisitor was fairly basic: magic has been banned by the merciless Inquisition, and the Dungeon Master has been trapped within a trusty adventurer’s lantern.  The player is called upon by the Dungeon Master – “I shall call you ageless, faceless, gender-neutral, culturally ambiguous, adventurer person. AFGNCAAP for short. ” – to restore the magic outlawed by the Inquisition in Quendor.  To do so, AFGNCAAP must locate the lost Zorkian magical treasures of the Coconut of Quendor, the Skull of Yoruk, and one of the Cubes of Foundation, with which a torrent of magic will be released, defeating the plans of the Grand Inquisitor and his minions.  Sounds easy, right?

Zork - Grand Inquisitor - PC - Gameplay Screenshot

The technology used by Zork: Grand Inquisitor was a modified version of the Z-Vision game engine first used in Zork: Nemesis.  A full lateral sweep of 360 degrees was available to the player, but not any vertical movement (with a couple of exceptions based on unique scenes at GUE Tech and at the Flathead Mesa).  Human characters were portrayed by actors in full motion video, while non-human characters, such as Marvin the Goatfish, were clay models which were then digitized and animated.  Zork: Grand Inquisitor used lighting effects to draw the eye of the player to explorable areas, permitting the player to spend more time engrossed in puzzle-solving rather than the standard mouse click-fest and hunt-and-click routines of many adventure games.

Zork - Grand Inquisitor - PC - Gameplay Screenshot

The voice acting was superb, with Hollywood-class talent giving life to the various characters, which included Michael McKean (as the lantern-trapped Dungeon Master, Dalboz of Gurth) and David L. Lander (whom many will recall played Squiggy inLaverne & Shirley, as the font of ridiculous proclamations, the Voice of the Inquisition).  Some of the actors involved who had both visual and audio parts included Dirk Benedict as Antharia Jack, Rip Taylor as Chief Undersecretary Wartle, and Erick Avari, as Mir Yannick, the pompous, over-his-head but desperately attempting to fake it, Grand Inquisitor.  The effect was to improve the gameplay, especially during cutscenes, which can be excruciating when players are forced to watch the programmer’s second cousin who once acted in a school play gamely work their way through a script. *shudder*

Zork - Grand Inquisitor - PC - Gameplay Screenshot

Zork: Grand Inquisitor received good reviews (PC Gamer Magazine gave it an Editor’s Choice award and scored it at 88% in its May, 1988 issue, while GameSpot scored it as a 8.0 “Great”).  The biggest fault that reviewers agreed upon was that it seemed too short, and a longer visit in this archetypical gamer universe was wished for.  Now that’s a complaint any developer would like to hear!  It was released for both Windowsand Macintosh platforms, and played the same on either one.  Also, a DVD version was released in 1998, which also included the full version of Zork: Nemesis as an added bonus.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=82fq5ylrOgg[/youtube]

Never forget who is the boss of you. ME!  I am the boss of you!“  Combining the visual appeal of Zork: Nemesis with the humor of the original series, Zork: Grand Inquisitor was a laudable addition to the Zork milieu, and certainly a worthy entry into this Game of the Week series.  Bluntly put, this game is well-worth a playthrough, especially if you are a fan of the Zork series!

Magisterrex has been gaming since the days of Pong and still owns a working Atari 2600. He tends to ramble on about retro games, whether they be board games, video games or PC games.  If you’re into classic old school gaming check out his blog here

Zork

One of my earliest gaming memories involves spending long nights playing Infocom’s flagship game, Zork on my family’s Circle II – an Apple II clone – computer.  This was a text-based adventure: no graphics, no digitized speech, no musical score; just vivid descriptions of another world that still resonate in my memories today.

Zork

Gaming history tidbit! Zork was originally entitled, “Dungeon,” but as soon as the lawyers at TSR, Inc. found out, a quick “thou shalt not” trademark violation letter convinced its creators to call it “Zork” after a MIT slang for an unfinished program. I doubt if anyone would associate the word “zork” with anything but text-based gaming today, so perhaps this is an example of how gaming language changes over time.  But I digress…

Who could forget Zork’s opening: “You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door.  There is a small mailbox here.”  The text-based parser would respond to your directions, such as “Open mailbox” or even just “open”.   Actually, the parser was quite advanced for the genre, as it was able to handle conjunctions and prepositions, such as “open the mailbox and read the leaflet,” and had a wide array of verbs and nouns that it recognized.  Of course, if you tried a command that it didn’t know, the parser would just respond with, “I don’t understand that” or a pre-programmed witty response if you tried something the programmers anticipated you would, like typing in “jump” and getting “Wheeee!!!” as a response.  For fun, type in any of the following: zork, win, repent, yell, and see what the parser says back.

Zork

 

After a brief search of the area you find a way to enter the house, and from there, the entrance to the Great Underground Empire.  (Incidentally, this game is responsible for teaching gamers that although a sword is wonderful to have, a lantern is even better.  Lose your lamp and expect a grue to feast your poor lost soul.)  Many of the locations in the Great Underground Empire (G.U.E.) found their way into other games, such as the spectacular Flood Control Dam #3.  Did I already mention the magnificent prose used in this game?  These locations were described in such a manner that gamers could close their eyes and visualize their environs…and the danger they were in.

By the way, you’re not alone down there in the remnants of the G.U.E.  Besides the ever-present danger of a grue coming across you, there’s a troll blocking your access, and a damn Thief randomly appears throughout the game.  He’s looking for treasure, and considers you a nice low-level random encounter.  In other words, run into the Thief and he’ll steal you blind.  He might even take your lantern (and that’s a bit of a problem).  A winning strategy is to avoid him until you’re armed and dangerous with the nasty knife, and then take him out (but not before saving the game first; he’s a tough guy to take down).

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgIwEnlMcbw[/youtube]

Finding the original disks is a serious challenge these days, thirty years later, but there are several emulations available to anyone looking to play this classic retro game.  You can download the first three games here: http://www.infocom-if.org/downloads/downloads.html or just jump right into a game here:http://thcnet.net/error/index.php You can also play the original Dungeon game complete with a game map, here: http://almy.us/dungeon.html

Go on – enjoy a little classic oldschool gaming with one of the games that started it all!

Find Makarov: Operation Kingfish

Call of Duty-Modern Warfare 3-Find Makarov-Operation Kingfish

“Find Makarov: Operation Kingfish” is the seven-minute sequel to the fan-made, original film, Find Makarov. The real life movie reveals a key moment in Modern Warfare history as Soap recalls one of his most memorable Task Force 141 missions. For more information visit findmakarov.com.

[youtube width=”600″ height=”480″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afs8lcfBY7Q[/youtube]

Created by We Can Pretend, Meteoric, The Junction VFX, and Stealing Time
Director: Jeff Chan
Executive Producer: David Fradkin
Producer: Evan Stasyshyn
Stars John Morgan as John “Soap” McTavish

Keystone Kapers

Keystone Kapers, designed by Garry Kitchen (ACTIVISION).

keystone_kapers_cover
The object of the game is for the player, who controls a keystone cop (equipped with a billy club), to catch a convict (dressed in b&w stripes). You’re in a 4-story department store, starting in the bottom right corner, and the convict has a bit of a head start. He will try to reach the roof, and if this happens he gets away. You have 50 seconds to reach him, and there are escalators and elevators to help. Also, there are many obstacles in the way that you will have to either jump over or duck under. This includes radios, bouncing balls, and toy planes. A hit from a plane takes away a life (you get 3), and other obstacles take off 9 seconds. If the timer reaches 0, you lose a life. The game potentially could last forever, because there is no true end to the game. But, the pace gets rather fast and hectic.

Atari - Keystone Kapers - Gameplay Screenshot

You can earn a “Billy Club” patch with 35,000 points. Back in the day, you were able to take a photograph of your TV screen, send it toActivision, and they would send you an “achievement” patch for a job well done. Points are earned by time left on the clock after capture, and the occasional bag of money picked up while running.

Overall, a very fun game. The officer and convict look cool, and the animation of him running with the billy club is funny.

Controls work well, although sometimes I have problems lining up with the elevator.

Not too much audio or sound effects, just some footsteps and a sound when you jump or run into something.

Atari - Keystone Kapers - Gameplay Screenshot

The game is very repetitive, but the pace picks up after a few rounds. I find myself not even blinking after a couple of minutes of game play, worried about what is in the next “room”.
It’s a game that makes me want to get right back into it to improve my score.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jeY1ML0d3CI[/youtube]

Overall 8/10

Zenji

Zenji - Colecovision - Gameplay Screenshot

One thing I always loved about the Colecovision is how beautifully bright the colors were, compared to the Atari 2600 and Mattel’s Intellivision. I played all 3 as a kid, and always thought the CV was the best console, even though the Atari turned out to be my long-term favorite, mainly because of the quantity of titles and a quality controller. Having said that, I was playing Zenji today, a puzzle/maze game (Activision 1984) that plays/looks as well (maybe better) on the Colecovision than any other console or computer.

Zenji - Colecovision - Gameplay Screenshot
At first glance, Zenji seemed to be a simple ‘kiddie’ game, with easy gameplay and cutesy graphics and background music. Then as I played more, I realized it was much more than that.
The screen is filled with yellow and blue hexagons, within them are white pathways. You are a rolling white ball with a smiley face (don’t ask me why). As you roll on the paths from hex to hex, you can rotate the hexes 90 degrees at a time, turning the pathways green and eventually connecting them to make one continuous path. After completion of the pathway, you’ll move on to another level, larger with more dangerous hazards. Seems simple, as I said, but a couple of things are in your way: First is a time limit, 30 seconds for a smaller maze, up to 60 for a full-screen…..that is not a hell of a lot of time to connect 42 (6×7) of these things!

Zenji - Colecovision - Gameplay Screenshot

Secondly, roaming fire (think Donkey Kong) will try to kill you. Just when you think you can outsmart them by rotating out of their way, blue fire will appear and start shooting at you! What kind of kid’s game is this?!?
The gameplay is fast, addicting, and will challenge your reflexes and brain……because I think the pieces will only fit one way.
You score as you connect the pieces, and whatever time is left after level completion. High scores are kept (Yay!).

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C8uGGs2ZKxc[/youtube]
I’ve always been a fan of this genre, and I easily think this is one of the better games I have ever played. It’s much more than just connecting pipes, a game I’ve seen done a million times. Frankly, any time I have the chance to play the Colecovision without using that damned keypad, I take it. Zenji is a must-own for the console.

The Whine List

whine motivational poster

Gaming forums are not a good place for the faint-hearted, but just recently there seems to have been a lot of whining and misplaced angst. While there are easy targets – Sony’s poor handling of the PSP Go – there have been some misguided campaigns of hate that deserve to be shot down in flames, ridiculed and dispatched to the darkest corners of the Internet.

Nintendo have regularly been updating the system firmware of the Wii, most notably to include SD card support (a feature the gaming community was calling for, no less). But when the most recent update was found to “brick” a small number of consoles, even rabid Nintendo fans were up in arms. “How can they do this to us?” came the protests, as the update designed to prevent homebrew and such esoteric mods as the USB loader working took hold. While I applaud the ingenuity of the hackers, the fact remains – modifying a console like this is illegal and opens up the possibility of piracy. Obviously Nintendo cannot allow that, and are well within their rights to stop modified machines working in a way they were never intended to. This was a cheap whine.

Similarly, I read a plea to get rid of software licensing agreements and to stop people having to click/push buttons to get past them “because no-one ever reads them”. Again, the companies would be within their rights to prosecute someone modifying their software or making illegal copies. More fool you if you fail to read the small print. (It does remind of a bizarre paragraph in a standardised licensing agreement that told me not to use graphics editing software for the Commodore 64 in the running of a nuclear power station, but I digress…)  This is a low-quality whine, blended from different varieties of gamer.

When Valve announced a sequel to the best-selling Left 4 Dead, you would imagine that the fans would be ecstatic. But no, a developer once renowned for being slow was putting out a sequel too quickly, and worst of all was the perception it would be “abandoning” the original and plans to release new content for it. Signing a virtual petition against Left 4 Dead 2 was a daft idea. But the campaign hit new lows when two leading objectors were given the chance to see the game at Valve’s headquarters – suddenly the two in question were “traitors” and Valve was brainwashing them into liking the game. This is vintage whine, distilled from the finest sour grapes and labelled fact-free.

For those who do not keep up with gaming forums, for a long time EA were the baddies. Now it seems the focus has switched to Activision, thanks in no small measure to the press statements of Bobby Kotich. After the rumoured pull-out from PS3 development (which never happened, given the recent PS3 price cut, and was unlikely anyway), further statements about what fans would buy and the future for the company after its merger with Blizzard did little to quell the online flames. Another bizarre boycott, asking fans to only buy Activision’s games second-hand, would seem to do more harm to the gamers themselves than to the company.

Sure, the price point for certain peripheral-based titles may seem high. The bizarre Modern Warfare 2 bundle with night vision goggles comes across as a company expecting fans to buy anything because of the name on the box (and the game it contains… hopefully). But, like EA before them, Activision are a company that have given a lot more than they take. Few could argue that the Guitar Hero games do not give hours and hours of gameplay for the money. And while it may seem strange to launch more expensive games in the midst of a recession, that money is going back to a company that works well with developers. So, this is another vintage whine, one that should be put on the shelf and left until there is genuinely something to complain about.

 

Could Blizzard’s Next MMO Titan really be a Halo MMO?

Let me preface this article with a warning.  Everything I am about to post could be considered rumor or coincidence but that doesn’t mean it is not true.  Ever since Blizzard’s Product Slate was leaked and showed the name “Titan” with an anticipated release in Q4 of 2013, people have been speculating about this new game.  We already know that Blizzard is officially working on a new “secret MMO” project.

Blizzard Game List

First, let me give you some insider information that I received over a year ago from someone inside the gaming industry.  This person does not work for Blizzard but does have a career position at a major gaming company.  This person told me three things that he knew about the game that he learned from friends inside Blizzard.

1.  It will be an FPS based MMO (at minimum in part).

2.  It will most likely be set in space.

3.  The design has a “cyber-punkish” feel.

First, I know what you are thinking.  WTF is “cyber-punkish?”  I know, I thought the same thing and honestly it could mean an infinite number of things.  However, this information could be useful in the conspiracy theory which I will explain below.  Let me also point out that this information is definitely second hand to me so take the above with a grain of salt.

The Conspiracy!  Is Blizzard’s new MMO ‘Titan’ really Halo MMO?

 

Ok, let me go through the slew of coincidences that we have.

1.  The original Halo MMO that was being designed by Ensemble Studios was code named ‘Titan.’  Also, Ghostcrawler (Blizzard Game Developer) happened to be a former employee of said company.  Blizzard’s secret MMO is titled ‘Titan.’  Coincidence? Maybe.

2.  In February 2007, an episode of 30 Rock entitled Hardball aired and in the credits it said, “Promotional Consideration Furnished by Blizzard Entertainment.”  What makes this interesting is that no Blizzard products were featured.  No Warcraft.  No Starcraft.  No Diablo.  No World of Warcraft.  However, Halo was featured in the show!  So Blizzard was advertising for Halo in 2007?  This was right before word got out that Blizzard was working on a brand new MMO and they started hiring “Science-Fiction Texture Artists.”  Coincidence? Maybe.

3.  As we know Bungie and Activision (now Activision-Blizzard) are in a 10 year partnership and some terms of the agreement were not disclosed.  Coincidence? Maybe.

4.  Jeff Kaplan, a Blizzard employee was quoted as saying “All of those combined” to the following question in an MTV Multiplayer Interview:  Will the next Blizzard MMO be “sci-fi, near-future, post-apocalyptic, or historical?”  Now, all of the above would definitely apply to Halo.  Coincidence? Maybe

 

Taken one at a time, these are just mere coincidences.  However, combine them all and you have a legitimate conspiracy on your hands!  So?  Are all of these mere coincidences? Is Blizzard planting these seeds to troll everyone?  Or maybe, just maybe, the secret is out and Blizzard’s new MMO is a Halo MMO!  All I know is, what my insider friend told me matches all the conspiracies listed and goes hand in hand with a potential Halo MMO.  For now, only those in Activision-Blizzard (and maybe Bungie) know the truth, but we are free to speculate.

Titan Halo

I want to give credit to GBTV and CrossEyedGamer for their investigative reporting which I made use of in this article.  Keep up the good work guys.

Classic Sierra PC Game site will return

Police Quest 1 screenshot
Police Quest 1 screenshot

Since 2009 the folks over at Sarien.net have been hosting classic Sierra PC games such as Space Quest, Police Quest and Kings Quest where fans of the classic series could log in a play without fee or ads. However, when the owners decided to optimize their site for use on the iPad it caught the online presses attention and attracted Activision.

With Activision owning the rights to the Sierra, titles and their wanting the option to see App store versions of the popular games in the future, Sarien.net received a cease-and-desist letter from Activision’s lawyers.

The site was shut down and when replying to the lawyers to let them know they complied the owners asked if there was anyway the site could continue.

“The next day I received a kind reply from Activision’s law firm, and I actually do mean ‘kind,'” Kool writes. “This new letter I received contained a proposal.”

The proposal was to allow Sarien.net to reopen and publish the first game from any of the series he had before in the multiplayer mode they had built for the website, except for Leisure Suit Larry, which is a Codemasters license. In addition, they are to provide links to the digital versions of the game where fans of the series could buy the original if they like.

Score one for classic gaming sites and fans who love them and score one for Activision who will get some good press from this and may add interest to launching app versions of classic Sierra games.

Black Ops Bugs and the action taken by Gamers’ Voice

No Bugs
No Bugs

Perhaps you recently played the newest Call of Duty Black Ops game and have and continue to enjoy it. I personally played through the game and though it did not blow me away, it at least played well on my Xbox 360. However, that has not been the case for many gamers from the US and the UK that has had to deal with crippling bugs on their PS3 and PC versions of the game.

After receiving many complaints about the game, Gamers’ Voice, an independent pressure group representing video and computer gamers in the UK that seeks to act as a conduit to make all gamers voices heard in the government and mainstream media said this about the issue on their website.

The view of Gamers’ Voice is that it doesn’t matter how big a game is, it should not be released ‘unfinished’ or with bugs that make the game unplayable, which are words we have seen in a lot of emails to us recently.

Gamers’ Voice accepts that bugs do slip through the net as it’s impossible for developers to find every single bug. We do not accept however allowing entire sections of the PS3 and PC gaming community appearing to be used as game testers for an extended period after a game’s release, yet being asked to pay for the privilege. This is not a tenable way to treat consumers of video games.

This week GV will be filing a formal complaint to the UK consumer protection agency on this issue. Obsolete Gamer was able to get into contact with Gamers Voice UK chairman, Paul Gibson, to get more information on the issues and the actions being taken.

Gamers Voice UK logo
Gamers Voice UK logo

Many US games had no idea about the problems with CODBLOPS especially on the PS3 and PC can you tell as a little about the larger ones?

That’s not what we’ve heard! We’ve had quite a few emails from American gamers who have experienced the same issues as us in the UK. In fact, despite us being UK based, we’ve had emails from people across Europe and Australia too. The main complaint we receive is being not being able to connect to servers online, and there are a whole host of bugs that cause PS3s to freeze and need resetting, as well as similar issues with the PC edition. We seem to be getting new emails every day with a new game-wrecking bug found – we even got a link sent to us from NextGenTactics concerning this.

What was the initial response by Activision on the bugs?

We wrote to them a while ago, but didn’t even get the courtesy of an acknowledgement.

When did you first begin receiving feedback from fans to take action?

Almost as soon as it came out. We’re quite a new group, but we already have a big following on facebook, so people knew there was someone to turn to when their own complaints fell on deaf ears.

What action have you and will you be taking?

We have contacted the government trading standards body in the UK to request their involvement, and beyond that we have a few ideas we can’t discuss just yet.

What would be the response or action on Activision’s part that could solve this issue?

To fix the bugs! The dominant theme of many of the email we gets is one of frustration. It’s a fun game but only if you get to play it. If you can’t get online to play with your friends, or if you console or PC freezes mid-game (we have heard of isolated incidents of damage being caused to PlayStations due to this, although they are not confirmed, yet) then for many the whole game is ruined. If Activision simply ended their silence and said they are working on it, it would be a step in the right direction.

In your opinion do you think that with the legacy of having gamers beta test MMO such as Everquest and World of Warcraft coupled with the availability to patch on consoles and PC that more game companies are slacking off on bug testing and quality control?

That’s not for us to say, although there does seem to be a trend of games with fatal bugs being released recently. This might simply be due to the increasing complexity of the games and their size.

GOG unleashes several classic titles from Activision

Zork Anthology
Zork Anthology

The classic gaming gurus over at Good old Games have added a number of awesome Activision titles to their line-up with more coming in the next few weeks. For those of us who loved to play the non-cape and cowl type of detective will be able to enjoy GOG’s bundle of Police Quest games, which includes part 1 through 4 for only $9.99.

Next up is the Zork Anthology for the adventure fan in us all. This bundle will offer six classic text adventures going back to the golden age of gaming in the 1980’s. With the GOG.com bundle, you will get the first five Zork games as well as Planetfall for only $5.99

So if you pick up these titles and you should, tell them Obsolete Gamer sent ya!

GAMES COMING OUT FOR CONSOLES: NOV 9TH 2010

Call of duty Black Ops release date
Call of duty Black Ops release date

You’re finally coming down from the sugar high ready to get back to gaming, so, let’s get to it. We are in a lull period between holidays and it seems with the election the push of top games have been lessened. This week will be the shortest console preview in Obsolete Gamers short history as only one game gets the nod for purchase.

Call of Duty: Black Ops

First let me start by saying that I was not happy with many of Activision’s decisions involving the COD franchise, especially when it game to network and multiplayer support. In addition I was not pleased that the common wisdom of pushing out a Call of Duty game in one form or another every year was now a company requirement. There have been debates across the internet questioning if Call of Duty is the best modern warfare game out there with games like Medal of Honor stepping it up. However, if there is one thing that’s for certain it’s that they know how to get you hype for a game from its trailers to the information I have read on the game.

Call of Duty Black Ops adds a little something new with the good parts of something old. The over the top firefights are still there (for better or worse) and you have new features such as varied weapon modes. Anyone who knows the term Black Ops knows it means covert top secret missions, normally where if you are caught you are out of luck. In this installment the game takes place in various time periods and locations from Russia to Vietnam and more.

The single player mode has been enhanced with small things done within missions like controlling troop movements from a plane high above the earth and it really matters where you send them. Also little things like the banter between the NPC’s and your player who actually have a voice and opinions and uses them.

Variety is the spice of life and what has made Call of Duty so much fun for me was the various ways you completed your mission and Black Ops continues giving you more, even more than Modern Warfare 2. In the single player you will find a mixture of stealth using the element of surprise to make your way through the enemy’s base. You can snipe your enemy from far away or move in for the silent kill using your knife or the crossbow.

On other missions you have the run and gun that Call of Duty is known for, repelling from Helicopters in a hot zone and calling in airstrikes on buildings just across from your position is a staple. Sure, the fighting might not be realistic, but when you breach a building and see the slow motion camera kick in before firing an explosive arrow into the gut of the bad guys you we be glad realism was checked at the door.

Single player is great and all but it is multiplayer that can determine whether a game will be a hit or a quick rent and beat. Treyarch has kept many of the multiplayer aspects from Call of Duty that we like and add in a few new things and one of the coolest ones is the wager match.

Anyone who has played the newer Call of Duty games knows you level up using experience points and there are tree’s you use to unlock new weapons and accessories. While the EXP leveling system is still there you also earn CP which is the equivalent to cash. In some matches you earn CP and XP and in others you earn only one or the other. So let’s say you have a lot of CP but not enough XP to buy that new gun, well now you can purchase it using CP. Now you might ask, how do you end up with way more CP than XP? Well, one way is the wager matches.

In wager matches you can enter into specific maps where you bet your CP points on who will be the winner. The winners are the top three people in the game but everyone has to bet. One can either quickly win or lose CP but at least you can’t lose XP. The match types for wager matches are pretty cool to including a game called One in the Chamber, where you only have three lives and one bullet. You have to kill someone to get their gun and hope he didn’t waste his ammo. In another match you start with a handgun but as you kill someone with it you get another gun. There are 20 total guns and you have to kill your opponent with each to progress, but here’s the kicker. If you are knifed you lose a level and the gun that goes with it which will make for some interesting online games I can imagine.

Now for you newbies to Call of Duty this might seem overwhelming but fear not because in Black Ops you can train against the AI in multiplayer tactics to learn how not to get owned. You can go up against the computer in various scenarios to give you a feeling for the game. Now of course there is no substitute for a human player but at least this lets you get your feet wet before your head does.

Once you are out in the field you can view how you did in the theater. For Halo fans you will be used to this section. The game automatically records your game and you can decide to keep it to see how you did and what you did wrong as well us upload and share footage with your friends and enemies alike.

Speaking of enemies, you can make custom emblems and logos within Black Ops and place them on your gun for the world to see. It’s a pretty good customizer too so you can make clan symbols or just something to make you stand out in a crowd of bodies. Also, you can even customize your reticle so when you kill someone and they view your screen they can remember it’s you and maybe get some revenge.

Of course there will be a ton of new multiplayer maps from various missions you’ve played as well as multiplayer only maps. You will also get a number of new weapons to use including shotguns, crossbows and even a user guided missile.

Overall from what I have heard, read and watched it looks as if Call of Duty Black Ops will be a pretty good game. Honestly if you are a fan of the franchise it is a must have and the additions to multiplayer will give it a longevity that is important to many gamers in hard economic times. If you need a break from Halo but want that same high paced action on planet earth then COD is your game. You can pick up Call of Duty Black Ops pretty much everywhere on November 9th.

See you next week!

The Interview: William D. Volk

William D Volk

To say that William D. Volk has had an interesting career in gaming would be an understatement. From playing video games in high school to having his first gaming related job in college, to creating a number of great games. Volk began working with Avalon Hill starting off in quality assurance. In time he began working on his own titles including Conflict 2500, Voyage 1 and Controller.

Obsolete Gamer was able to get insight into his career working with various companies including Activision where he was VP of Technology has his technical direction over Return to Zork. We were also able to get his opinion on some of the events in his life including the video game crash, the Philips CD-I and mobile gaming.

Avalon Hill logo
Avalon Hill logo

Obsolete Gamer: Would it be fair to say you did not grow up playing games but once you were into your college years you found your love of gaming?

William Volk: I was playing games at the arcade in High School.  Pong showed up in the early ’70’s.

Obsolete Gamer: What was the first video game that you were exposed to?

William Volk: Probabily Pong.

Obsolete Gamer: What was the first video game that hooked you?

William Volk: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Wars On a PDP-8 at University of Penn … original Startrek  and the Classic Adventure.

Obsolete Gamer: How does the process for transferring a strategic board game to computer software work and what was it like testing these games?

William Volk: Very few of Avalon Hills Computer Games were based on the board games in 79-82.  I wanted to tackle “Iron Men and Wooden Ships” but by then I had taken a position with Rising Star.  I also proposed an online version of Squad Leader.

Conflict 2500
Conflict 2500

Obsolete Gamer: Any gamers today have never seen much less played a text game, can you give us a little insight into how text base games were at that time?

William Volk: Everyone was hooked on the Infocom games.  You can still play them today.  Lords of Karma was Avalon Hill’s best text adventure IMHO.

Obsolete Gamer: During your work with Avalon Hill you began to create your own titles, can you tell us about the thought process of coming up with a game and then trying to create it?

William Volk: Conflict 2500: I was renting a place in Baltimore during the summer of 1980 and was a huge fan of Star Raiders (Spaceship Yamato).  I had played the Startrek game and wanted a more complex version of that.

Voyager I: Saw a maze program on an Apple II.  At UNH in 1981 I did a class project using a random maze generator that displayed a solid wall 3D maze on some incredibly expensive Textronix terminal.  The game was kinda based on the end of the original Alien film.  The getting off the ship because you set self-destruct part.

Controller: Was working at a video game store in Portsmouth NH and the owner (Frank D Kelley) had been an air-boss in the navy (controller).  He wanted a simple game to land aircraft.  Reagan fired the air-traffic controllers and Avalon Hill picked up the game.  I KICK MYSELF for not porting that to the iPhone on day one, given the success of Flight Control.

Obsolete Gamer: What was the atmosphere at Avalon Hill like?

William Volk: Very congenial.  There were people who had started there in the 1950’s!  The board game people were absolute experts on military history.  I would have conversations with a WWII vet who worked there and had witnessed a ME262 attack on a B17.

PlayScreen logo
PlayScreen logo

Obsolete Gamer: How did it feel to see the work done at Avalon hill released to the public?

William Volk: Funny, I was in Baltimore for a meeting last week.  Had dinner in the harbor area about 200 ft from the location of a shop (probably not there) where I saw Conflict on a shelf for the first time.

Obsolete Gamer: You were able to avoid what is called the great video game crash when you moved to Epson and was offered a great position, what were those years like moving forward as many other companies and the industry as a whole suffered?

William Volk: I felt compelled to take a ‘real’ job in 1982 because I had been in college and grad school for almost 8 years by that point.  So when I showed some folks at Epson my little 3D rendering system on the Atari 800 they referred me to Rising Star in California.  I was hired at the COMDEX show in Vegas in Nov. 1982.

Rising Star was great but leaving independent game development was one of the biggest mistakes of my life.  It did teach me about technical management and the Val Draw program I wrote was probably my greatest technical achievement.  A full 2D drafting system in 58 kilobytes of FORTH.  Lines, arcs, splines, associative dimensions, virtual memory, zoom, snap, automatic parallel lines … the stroke font was packed into a byte per stroke.  I don’t even know how I pulled it off.  In real dollars I made more $$$ in 1984 than I may have since, but I really should have just continued building games as an independent.  I didn’t realize that I was doing pretty good and I had some nice stuff I wanted to do.

Controller
Controller

Obsolete Gamer: The Pyramid of Peril was a 3D adventure inspired by some of your previous work and Raiders of the Lost Ark, can you tell us about the creative process when developing that game?

William Volk: Obviously based on Voyager 1.  Pyramid shaped puzzle.  David Barrett helped with the writing.  The Mac was new and exciting.  The entire game from concept to heat shrinking the boxes – 30 days.  Coded on a 128kb Mac.

Obsolete Gamer: Completing a project of the scope of “Pyramid” in 30 days was impressive, how was it done so quickly?

William Volk: I had the maze generating and display algorithms from Voyager and people to help on the artwork.

 

 

Obsolete Gamer: Most people know of the fate of the Philips CD-I, but can you tell us your thoughts on why in the end the company failed?

William Volk: Delayed launch to add MPEG Video.  AIM (American Interactive Media) decided that they didn’t need the video game industry to back the system.  EA and others, who had spent serious money building development systems, abandoned it because of the delays.

Obsolete Gamer: When you became director of technology and began pushing for Activision to publish “The Manhole” how did you know this would be the right move?

William Volk: I could see true greatness in the creativity of Rand and Robyn Miller (Cyan).  The User Interface was just breakthrough.  I was also a bit pissed at the delay of CD-I and wanted to send a message about that.  Activision was recovering from the video game crash and wanted something that was ground breaking.  Finally Stewart Alsop suggested that the Manhole would be an ideal CD-ROM title.  He was right.

Obsolete Gamer: What were the main challenges in moving away from the Midi format to actual recordings?

William Volk: We didn’t want to use CD-Audio tracks on the Mac (first) version, because we wanted to be able to pull data from the CD, we had to … because of Hypercard.  So we had to come up with a way of paging in 8 bit, 22khz audio chunks.  The CD-Emulator said it wouldn’t work, so we burned a test CD ($500 at that time!) and it worked.  Using live musicians was very cool.  I believe $20k of the budget was just for the music.  Russell Lieblich composed most of the music.

When we did the PC CD-ROM title we had our own engine …. MADE (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multimedia_Applications_Development_Environment) so we could force a cache of data in a scene and use CD-Audio (redbook) tracks.

Return to Zork
Return to Zork

Obsolete Gamer: What was it like behind the scenes at Activision during its troubled time of the late 80’s?

William Volk: Fall of 1989 was one of Activison’s good years: Mech Warrior I, Death Track, Ghostbusters II, The Manhole, etc… The financial mess started in 1990 with the judgement on the Magnavox patent case.  Funny thing in 1990 is we coped with massive Nerf Gun wars and RC car ‘racing’ (consisting of running RC10’s into each other at 40mph+ … each car … in the parking lot).  In a strange way the coping made the place very fun to be at.  I still have a scar on my head from playing that game from “Sam and Max” where you hit full beer cans with some sort of post-nuclear-apocolyptic club.  Yeah, Fizzball http://samandmax.wikia.com/wiki/Fizzball Other local companies would come and watch us play this at lunchtime.

It wasn’t fun to see everyone go though.  Down to about 13 when we made the move to LA.

Obsolete Gamer: What was your feeling of using full motion video in games?

William Volk: It was clever but got overused eventually.  I do think we were heading in the right direction with RTZ’s emotional response system and intricate conversation interfaces.

Obsolete Gamer: Can you tell us about the interface you created for Return to Zork?

William Volk: The Diamond Reverse Parser was inspired by an article Eddie Dombrower had seen from MIT.  I just used Taxicab Geometry with diamonds because it made the hit-detect faster.  We had used this sort of hit detect trick on “Tongue of the Fatman”.   So the idea you could use any object on any object and have the reverse parser show you what the action was came out of the disappointing reception we got with LGOP2.    We wanted INSANELY DIFFICULT and UNFAIR puzzles.  Yes, there really was a “Chris Lombardi Memorial Puzzle” in the game (internal object name), dedicated to a writer at CGW who had panned LGOP2.  I believe it was the sliding stone – sentences puzzle.

It’s not clear how we came up with it all the character interactions, but we were trying to make the video more than just “Interruptible Media”.  So the idea of being able to ask characters about objects, pictures, and even what other characters had to say … that was the goal.

The Manhole box art
The Manhole box art

Obsolete Gamer: How did it feel to save a company with the release of a great game?

William Volk: Great, but frustrating that we couldn’t get the studio to just let us run with that UI and style.  Everyone wanted to copy Myst.  Ironic, when you consider I helped to get Cyan their first publishing gig.  I am very proud of RTZ.

Obsolete Gamer: What are the differences in your feelings about mobile gaming from then to today?

William Volk: Well, Mobile Gaming from 2001 to 2007 was very much like games of the early 1980’s.  Very small games.  Then the iPhone shows up and we now have one of the most innovative sectors in gaming.  Just playing Match 3D (Sherri Cuono’s design) game is Sci-Fi like with the multitouch interfaces.

We haven’t even begun to exploit augmented reality, social interactions and other possibilities.

Obsolete Gamer: Of all your time in the industry do you have a favorite story about that time?

William Volk: Yeah.  Producer (John Skeel) goes to comic show in NYC in 1989 or so.  Likes a new comic book so he negotiates a deal to get the video game rights for $20k.   Activision does a weekend focus group on the concept with kids, soda and pizza.  The result?

TEENAGE BOYS SHOW LITTLE INTEREST IN  ANTHROPOMORPHIC  TURTLES.

Activision logo
Activision logo

Obsolete Gamer: Overall what was your favorite computer or game system?

William Volk: The FM Towns.  Really.   The Amiga a close second.

Obsolete Gamer: What was your favorite classic game?

William Volk: Choplifter.

Obsolete Gamer: Was there a game you had in your head that you wanted to release, but never did/could?

William Volk: I seriously wanted to release a Wing Commander type game … where after hours of play, many missions and incredible skill you would end up crashed on some planet (otherwise you would be killed) … and then end up in an elaborate adventure involving learning how to interact with native people … and have us DENY THAT THE ADVENTURE GAME EXISTED.  Like only 1 in 10,000 players would stumble upon that game within a game.  Yeah, that sounds crazy, but it’s what I wanted to do in the early 1990’s.

Obsolete Gamer: If you could rerelease any game you’ve worked on using today’s technology what would it be?

William Volk: Return to Zork in a “Grand Theft Auto” type engine and fairer puzzles.

Currently William Volk is the co-founder and CEO of PlayScreen and an avid cyclist.

Chris Waldron: Cartoon Network Game Studios

Cartoon Network logo

Name: Chris Waldron

Company: Cartoon Network Game Studios

Profession: Game Production

Favorite Classic Game: Barnstorming

Quote: In trying to get all the patches that Activision gave out on their games, this was the one I could never get. I’m not sure it’s so much my favorite, as the game from my childhood that haunts me the most. I tried soooo many times, but could never get the qualifying score for that Flying Aces patch


GAMES COMING OUT SEPTEMBER 2010 FOR CONSOLES

Halo Reach trailer
Halo Reach trailer

Ah September the time when many go back to school and fall is just around the comer. Nah, forget about that, you can’t tell the seasons are changing if you are locked onto your television screen now can you? This month there is actually a good reason to succumb to your gaming addition.

Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep

Fans of the Kingdom Hearts saga can rejoice the Square Enix hit is back. Here’s the story: Long before Sora was chosen by his Keyblade, the worlds’ safety lay in the hands of the true Keyblade Masters. Three youths – Terra, Ventus and Aqua – have been training long and hard under Master Eraqus to prove that they, too, exhibit the Mark of Mastery. But they will soon find themselves in the middle of a crisis affecting worlds far beyond their own – just as another Keyblade Master, Xehanort, goes mysteriously missing. Three friends, three destinies. Everything will link back to the beginning. I really was hoping to see some Marvel characters since Disney acquired the studio. Maybe next time.

Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions

Quick, what’s better than Spider-man? If you said four Spider-men then you are correct. Activision releases Shattered Dimensions which has Spider-man fighting to reassemble pieces from a shattered tablet and along the way he runs in the different versions of himself. Hey, as long as it’s not as bad as that awful clone saga this one could be interesting.

Halo: Reach

Seriously, what can I say that hasn’t already been said about this game? Simply put, if you like any of the Halo’s you are getting this game and if you don’t well I guess this awesome trailer will mean nothing to you.

Dead Rising 2

So there is this gameshow where you battle against a city full of zombies and if that isn’t enough other human players. Dead Rising 2 is a zombie slayers wet dream and with thousands of ways to take out your undead foes it is guaranteed to keep you interested this fall.

Now there are more games being released, but honestly with a line-up like this you are going to be booked this month. Don’t worry though October is looking good to with games like Castlevania: Lord of Shadow so stay tuned.

The Obsolete Gamer Show 4

J.A. Laraque and Ignacio/honorabili from Obsolete Gamer

This week the production value on OGS has gone up 100%. The boys of classic video gaming are back with a brand new podcast featuring an interview with Origin PC co-founder Hector Penton.

We started out the show looking back at a clip from the previous week then dove right in to the OGS question of the week which was, “When was the golden age of video gaming.” We weighed in with our own thoughts and briefly discussed the great video game crash of the eighties with our producer Joe Cassara.

Our Gamer profile of the week was from Michael Jorgensen of Zombie studios and his take on XCOM UFO defense and how it was far from the easy mode of many of today’s games. From there we moved onto a developing story within a story.

During Obsolete Gamers gaming profile of Alienware co-founder Alex Aguila he talked about a Tecmo Bowl challenge between himself and current Alienware president Arthur Lewis. After playing the clips it was clear the rematch has not yet taken place and we hope to make that happen soon.

Our first interview was with fan, writer and long time gamer Paul Hernandez. We talked with Paul about StarCraft II and fact that Acti-Blizzard does not allow LAN play for its game and discussed the worth of the collector’s edition.

In our main interview we talked with Origin PC co-founder Hector Penton on his days at Alienware and starting Origin PC. From there the topic turned to gaming where we asked what game he would play if he was sent to hell and could only pick one. All in all it was a great interview with a lot of laughs and some good information to boot.

We will be back next week with an all new show, until then let us know what you think.

Cataclysm Closed Beta Begins

World of Warcraft Cataclysm logo
World of Warcraft Cataclysm logo

The beta for the next major World of Warcraft expansion has begun. Players who were picked for the Beta will be able to help Blizzard test out the new world finding bugs, exploits and give them a heads up on what is to come.

Cataclysm will reshape the world of Azeroth changing many of the areas from what is known as “vanilla” W.O.W. In addition there will be new areas, features and an increase in levels from 80 to 85. Oh and did I mention two new playable races?

We don’t expect to see Cataclysm until this winter but there is sure to be a ton of “leaked” information forthcoming so stay tuned.

Today in Video Game History – June 9th

Activision logo black and white
Activision logo black and white

The company that has brought us Guitar Hero, Call of Duty and tons more went public on June 9th 1983.

Here are some key dates for the company thanks to Fundinguniverse.com

1979: Activision is founded.
1980: Designs and sells its first Atari 2600 game series, Pitfall!
1983: Company goes public.
1988: Activision becomes Mediagenic.
1991: Robert Kotick and Brian Kelly acquire Mediagenic.
1992: Company is restructured, reincorporated, and again named Activision.
1997: Revenues hit $189.2 million, 119 percent over previous year’s $86.6 million.
1998: Revenues snowball to $312.1 million.
1999: Revenues top $436.5 million; income increases by 193 percent to $15.3 million.

News Bits from the Modern World #1

News on games and the gaming industry brought to you in anti-TLDR format for the morning of April 12, 2010.

Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare logo
Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare logo

We learned over the weekend that CODMW3 is in production which isn’t a surprise to many critics who believed that Activision would now be pushing to release new versions of their game once a year. Though Activision is not saying exactly when it will be released we can wager a guess that it will be just in time for the holidays. The question is, will people be willing to buy a COD game every year and will releasing these sequels so quickly lower the overall quality?

Gears of War logo
Gears of War logo

First Conan now Jim Fallon, GOW3 was to debut on Light Night, but it was spoiled when Microsoft confirmed the titles release for April 2011, oh well at least he still has one of the best house bands out there.

Blizzcon 2010 Announced

Blizzcon 2010 logo
Blizzcon 2010 logo

You don’t have to be a fan of World of Warcraft to enjoy Blizzcon, (Though it helps). With games like StarCraft 2 and Diablo 3 on the horizon this year’s Blizzcon should be pretty interesting and hopefully informative. You might remember the rumored news that Blizzcon would be hosted in Las Vegas, but alas it was not meant to be. Yesterday Blizzcon 2010 was officially announced and surprise, surprise its back in Anaheim.

Here is the report from Blizzards website:

If you’ve been holding your breath waiting to find out when and where the next BlizzCon would be held, then… you’ve probably passed out by now. But if you’ve just been patiently watching for an announcement, then we’ve got good news for you: BlizzCon will be returning to the Anaheim Convention Center on Friday, October 22 through Saturday, October 23! Just as in years past, BlizzCon 2010 will feature an exciting mix of discussion panels, tournaments, hands-on gameplay, contests, and much more. Check out the announcement press release, and keep an eye on www.blizzcon.com in the months ahead for further details, including ticketing information.

I am sure over the next coming months more information with be released about who will be appearing and what will be talked about and for you World of Warcraft fans I know there will be some talk about Cataclysm. The Obsolete Gamer team will be there (at least one of us) so we hope to see you there and maybe we will have some goodies to give out. As more information is released I will bring it to you.

You can check out all the current Blizzcon 2010 in here.