The Obsolete Gamer Show: Daryl Rodriguez and Jeanette Garcia

We sit down with the team behind the upcoming documentary on the history of Atari, World 1-1. Jeanette Garcia and Daryl Rodriguez are the creative minds behind the project and we talk about their Kickstarter campaign and all things retro gaming.

William Watterson tells us about the Atari Warlords Drinking Game

A clip from the Obsolete Gamer Show featuring our conversation with actor William Watterson. In this clip William tells us about a very special drinking game involving the classic Atari video game, Warlords.

World 1-1 Review

World 1-1 Review

World 1-1 is an amazing video game history documentary movie created by the team made up of Jeanette Garcia and Daryl Rodriguez, two awesome, young but thorough movie makers from Miami. Although World 1-1 automatically might make you think of the world start screen from Super Mario Bros., the film is actually about what I call the rise and fall of the original Atari (I would have probably called the film The Rise and Fall of Atari). The film covers the birth of video games from their origins in scientific labs, onto games being played on what at the time were time-shared supercomputers, to the creation of arcade video game machines, and onto the rise and fall of early video game consoles (video gaming at home).

world 1-1 movie poster

To say the film is thorough would be an understatement although the movie mainly focuses on arcade and console game development. Although I love this film a lot, I can criticize that it barely touches on what was going on in the home computer field, which although Nintendo saved the console gaming market (probably what World 1-2 will be about), home computers also saved video games and people’s interest in electronics and computers with great machines such as the Commodore 64, Atari computers, and later Commodore Amiga (much before IBM clones and DOS become popular).

Getting back to what makes World 1-1 so great, the film has many great interviews with not just most of the important people that worked in Atari and Activision but also many interviews by people who work in Microsoft (and other important companies) and many famous people in the video game world such as arcade specialists and many of what I consider to be experts in video game history. This movie is like entering a time machine and seeing what it was actually like to have worked at Atari. There are many great stories of crazy things that would happen or also recollections describing how many breakthroughs came about. Some of the interviews also talk about the important business decisions that took place both from the managerial perspective and how the engineers and the rest of the employees responded to such decisions. Just like everything in life all things must come to an end and the movie deals with the death of the original Atari corporation in a very classy and dignified manner.

I highly recommend you view the movie as part of what I call some of the best movies and shows in video game, internet, hacker, and computer history such as: Pirates of Silicon Valley, Micro Men, Middle Men, The King of Kong, The Social Network, TRON, Takedown, Silicon Valley, and Halt And Catch Fire. World 1-1 and those shows and movies are what I call to be essential to watch if you a true interest in video game history. Chances are that if you’re reading this you already have such an interest.

You can buy the movie directly from the creators’ website or you can even get it over at Steam.

If I have to give the movie a numerical score I would say it’s a 9.5 out of 10. Stop reading this and go watch it NOW! 🙂

Here is an interview we did with the creators from when they were trying to get the funding for the film:

Here is a further interview we did after it got funded. It talks more about the making of the film:

Gravitar

Gravitar

While it’s true that the first video games to employ the combination of a space vessel and a landscape with a fairly realistic interpretation of gravity came earlier than this one, the first one you could really call an actual game was Gravitar. Like the earlier Lunar Lander and Asteroids, it makes use of lovely vectors to create its landscapes and other bits and pieces, and this time they’re in glorious technicolor! Unsurprisingly for a ‘gravity game’, it’s also set in space and involves cleansing several star systems of the many gun emplacements, or ‘bunkers’, that are sprinkled across the surfaces of their various planets. Your ship is a small blue thing somewhat reminiscent of the craft in Asteroids and is controlled by five buttons. Two turn it left or right, one shoots its feeble but invaluable cannon, another thrusts its engine to counteract the gravity, and the last activates its shields.

Gravitar - Atari 2600

By making use of these buttons you’ll need to guide your craft through three solar systems and clear them of bunkers. You start off emerging from a portal of some sort from where you’ll immediately be drawn towards the nearby star. Getting too close will cost you a life so you’ll instead need to use the ship’s thrusters and head for one of the five planets that lie further out. Touching any of these switches the action to a side-viewed section of land featuring several red bunkers. Destroying one takes only a single hit but they’re constantly shooting as well so you’ll often need to be a very good shot! Once you clear the section of bunkers, simply head back to the top of the screen to re-enter the ‘home’ area and head for another planet. Do the same for all of the planets and you’ll move to the next ‘phase’ which has some new ones. If you manage to clear all three phases and you’ll then be transported to the next ‘universe’ where the same job awaits.

Gravitar - Atari 2600

It’s not quite as repetitive as it might sound though. Each planet has a different layout – one might feature a flat (though ‘bumpy’) landscape, others require you to go underground and take out the bunkers around tricky caverns, and one stage consists of what seems to be an asteroid with bunkers all around the outside of it. Each solar system also features a ‘red planet’ which contains a reactor at the end of a winding tunnel. The tough part is, you have to get to it, destroy it, and get back out within a tight time limit. Doing so will ‘complete’ that solar system. The planets also have different points values which indicate how difficult they are – not only in terms of bunker positions/numbers, but also how strong the gravity is and therefore how much fuel you’ll need to use, for your supplies are indeed finite and, unlike Lunar Lander, you don’t get more simply by inserting more coins.

Gravitar - Atari 2600

As well as the thrusters, fuel is also used by the shield so it can disappear quickly! Luckily, there are more fuel cannisters available on most planets which can be grabbed using your tractor beam (activated the same way as the shield). It’s worth bearing in mind, however, that the bunkers are pretty good shots, and enemy ships also appear now and then and zero in on your position, so hanging around to grab fuel can often be costly. It’s not an overly tough game though, at least in theory. Lives are lost often at first but the stages are well designed and control of your ship is well implemented too – it’s one of those games where mastering the controls makes a lot of difference and can potentially see your game last forever (almost). Like many early arcade games it does keep repeating too. There are four ‘universes’ in total – the second one reverses the gravity (which will mess with your mind big time), the third one features invisible landscapes, and the fourth one has both features, but if you complete all of them you’ll just go back to the first one.

Gravitar - Atari 2600

The only thing that changes for each universe is the time limit for destroying the reactor which gets smaller and smaller until it becomes impossible, but that can take a good while – the amazing world record score for this game was achieved over a continuous 24 hour (almost) period! I’m not sure I’d want to play Gravitar for that long even if I was good enough (and I’m pretty far from that – I can generally only last between 5 and 10 minutes!) but it is a pretty decent game. The sound is limited to a couple of effects but I’ve got no complaints about anything else. The vector graphics are as crisp as you would expect (and are even all glowy on the Xbox 360 port!), the ship movement and collision-detection is fine, and those controls, while initially a little confusing, do at the very least challenge you to do better. It may still be a bit too tough for some but it’s a challenge that I enjoyed anyway!

RKS Score: 7/10

Robo-Squash

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Robo-Squash

Considering the genre was one of the first ones ever created, there’s been surprisingly few innovations in the world of bat ‘n’ ball games, but Atari, the very creators in question, tried doing just that with this slightly obscure release for their own Lynx ‘handheld’ (snigger). The objective does not, however, include the usual block-hitting tomfoolery that I had initially believed formed the basis of the game. Robo Squash is instead a tarted-up version of the very first bat ‘n’ ball game of them all, and indeed the very first popular video game full stop – Pong! Instead of the simple left-to-right-to-left-again gameplay of the original though, this example asks you to do the same thing but from an into-the-screen perspective! There’s a bit more to it than that though, of course.

Robo_Squash_Atari-Lynx
Luckily your paddle is transparent…

Set against the backdrop of a rather peculiar political power-struggle of the far-future, you, playing as the champion of the ‘World Party’ must face your opposite number from the rival ‘International Party’ to decide the future of the world – eeeek! At the start of the game you’re presented with a four-by-four group of balls. Selecting one will start a round which consists of an into-the-screen view of the playfield. Your ‘paddle’ occupies the end closest to the screen, your opponent’s the opposite end. About half-way between the two in the middle of the screen is an assortment of bricks and a few other bits and pieces. The winner of the round is the first to score three ‘goals’ past his or her opponent or, less often, a quicker victory can be achieved if you manage to hit the elusive ‘mechanical spider’. There are several things that can make the process of winning a round a bit more complicated though.

Robo_Squash_Atari-Lynx
Frog attack! Oops, I mean ‘dragon’ attack!

For one thing, the ‘ball’ appears to be a tomato or something similar as it leaves a big red splotch on the screen if you let it get past you! There’s also a seemingly random sprinkling of yellow and blue bricks which act as an obstruction but give you bonus points upon destruction, and there are a few power-ups items nestled among them too. These include a mouth (lets you catch the ball and shoot it from wherever you want), a dragon (lets you shoot fireballs to create a fiery distraction, although it looks more like a frog), a spiral disk (makes your paddle bigger), and an eye (helps you to see where the ball will end up). As well as all this, the ball predictably gets faster and faster the longer it’s in play as well which, along with the various visual impairments (splats, explosions, etc) can make this a pretty tricky game, especially when played against the near-infallible computer opponent.

Robo_Squash_Atari-Lynx
Oops, a rather unceremonious defeat again!

There are four difficulty levels though, and control of the quite accommodating paddle thing is surprisingly intuitive. Besides, games like Breakout and all its derivatives are the ones for solo-players; Pong and similar games were designed for two players and so is the case here. Aesthetically the game isn’t too troubling – the colourful bricks, power-ups, and the ball along with its splats work well against the grey backdrop, and the scaling is quite good too, as we’ve come to expect from the Lynx. The basic sound effects and lack of in-game music are less impressive but I still had a bit of fun with this one, albeit only for a short while as it’s a bit pointless playing it alone! That makes its appeal limited of course – these days, the chances of finding another Lynx owner are fairly slim never mind one also owns this game. If you should manage it though, Robo Squash would make the encounter a mighty entertaining one.

 RKS Score: 6/10

All Atari Consoles and Computers

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All Atari Consoles and Computers

You can never get enough information and pictures of Atari computers right, am I right guys! Well here we have Imgur user zadoc with a information and images on all the Atari console and computer systems. It’s like porn for classic computer geeks like me!

Here is a sample.

1975 – Home Pong

Home Pong

Pong has a long history going back before the 1972 release of the arcade version which popularized video games. “Home Pong” is a game changer in the home console market, previously occupied by only the Magnavox Odyssey. Unlike Odyssey, this game has a microchip; it’s a computer and can keep score. Pong was ready to go in 1974, actually, but Atari could not find anyone to sell it. People thought it was too expensive and no one would want to play it.

After a year Atari agreed to let Sears sell it through their sporting goods catalog. That’s why the first version of Home Pong carries the Sears Tele-Games brand. In 1976 Atari was able to release it under their own brand, and that’s the version pictured here. Between 1976 and 1977 several variations of Pong consoles would be released by Atari.

Pong Doubles, Super Pong, Super Pong Pro-Am, Super Pong Pro-Am Ten, Ultra Pong, and Ultra Pong Doubles. All are variants on Pong, some are up to four players. It would not only be Atari to release a slew of Pong consoles.

Aside from 1972’s Magnavox Odyssey, the entire first generation of video game consoles would be almost nothing but dedicated consoles. Magnavox made a slew of Odyssey models, Coleco made numerous models, as did APF, and dozens of companies you’ve never eve heard of. The craze ended in the first video game crash, as everyone got sick of these things and it became apparent that “programmable” consoles were the future. We’ll look at non-pong dedicated consoles that Atari released, but not every single Pong variant.

Check out the rest here – All Atari Consoles and Computers

 

Iron Soldier

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Iron Soldier isn’t the greatest game in the world – put amongst the software libraries of the N64, Saturn or Playstation it’s positively mediocre. ~Simon Reed

Iron Soldier

A Jaguar exclusive, Iron Soldier also happens to be one of the most common titles on the system.

Fortunately it’s no disaster like Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (another common Jag title), but instead a fairly solid game that’s worth picking up if you’ve had a Jaguar inflicted upon you.

You take control a robot/mech, helping what sounds like a resistance group. There’s no real explanation of the over-riding plot, but it would be foolish to suggest that makes the building destroying action any less satisfying.

Iron Solider - Atari Jaguar - Gameplay Screenshot

At the start you have four missions to choose from (with 16 overall), which can be tackled in any order you wish.

Or at least, it seems that way. Some stages can be a real struggle if you aren’t equipped with weapons gathered from certain other levels.

Before you enter a mission you can tool up your mech with any weapons you may have, and you’re given a brief rundown of your objectives.

Iron Solider - Atari Jaguar - Gameplay Screenshot

This quick briefing has to be studied carefully – as not knowing exactly what you’re doing in a stage is suicide.

As soon as you enter a level you’ll probably be struck at how blocky the game is. If you needed any more evidence that the Jaguar wasn’t really 64-bit then here it is.

The next thing you’ll realize is that the controls aren’t the easiest to grasp.

Iron Solider - Atari Jaguar - Gameplay Screenshot

The simple task of movement requires you to press A and either up or down to start going forward or backwards respectively.

Once you’re moving (you can adjust the speed accordingly) you simply have to steer and shoot. Changing your weapons is tasked to the option button and – this took me a little while to realize – the numbered keys at the bottom of the pad.

Shooting is something you’ll be doing a lot as well, with endless streams of tanks and helicopters firing at you non-stop.

This is why knowing your objective is an absolute necessity, with missions being reasonably varied. Even if most basically just involve destroying stuff.

Iron Solider - Atari Jaguar - Gameplay Screenshot

The first stage, for example, sees you going around a city to destroy a warehouse. The second has you sinking docked boats, and another involves reducing a bridge to rubble with the use of grenades.

There’s no hugely complex action here, and the game is probably all the better for it.

Yes, the graphics may be ridiculously blocky, but the game still has some impressive explosions, and the way buildings dissolve into showers of cubes is actually rather charming, in a retro kind of way.

Iron Soldier isn’t the greatest game in the world – put amongst the software libraries of the N64, Saturn or Playstation it’s positively mediocre – but for the Jag it offers up some solid robo-destruction action.

Dragon Ball GT Final Bout

Dragon Ball GT Final Bout

So another week and another game of the week! This time around we have a very obscure classic that had a too little, too late release during the Playstation’s ending life time. Behold, Dragon Ball GT Final Bout! Why is it worth a mention? Just read on and find out!

Dragonball GT - Final Bout

The music is quite popular and unique for Dragon Ball games but this one is more of a hit n miss. There are some tunes that are quite catchy but other ones are just totally bland. It would’ve been real wise to bring the songs from the series into the game. I mean, it was a no-brainer. Overall though, you have a decent soundtrack and worth a remix or two if you are into that type of stuff. On the other hand, the voice acting is truly amazing as they had the real voice actors represent their respective characters. Makes you think, why not make the music from the series as well!

Dragonball GT - Final Bout

The game has very good graphics. The 3D is very detailed but of course it would’ve been a lot better with some more work. There are times where objects disappear but it rarely happens. The different battle fields are OK at the most. They do resemble parts of the anime series but somehow always fall flat. A little more animation would’ve helped a lot. Overall, just OK graphics and character animation is good at most. The voice acting does help but not as much.

Dragonball GT - Final Bout

The gameplay suffers a lot in this game. If you don’t have any patience then you’ll be looking to turn this game off as soon as possible. The game has a very odd control scheme but you can get used to it in time. The best part is when you go against the computer or a friend and battle it out with a button mashing power shooting extravaganza!

Dragonball GT - Final Bout

This game is always great when you have your friends over. It’s so crappy at times that you’ll want to get drunk in order to enjoy it even more. Believe me, you’ll enjoy it. It has a lot of other options such as a level up system where you can train your own Z fighter and then save the information on your memory card, take it to your friend’s home and use your memory card saved fighter data to go up against your friend’s created fighter. A little confusing? Nah, I don’t think so!

Overall, this game is a very good gimmick. You’ll end up enjoy it from time to time. There is a lot to love about this title especially in nights where you just wanna step back into the prime of the Dragon Ball series. The game has three different versions as well. There is the original that came out in Japan back in 1997, the release here in 1997, and the re-release which I believe came out in 2003. Get either one and you’ll be alright. Until next week!

R-Type Dimensions

r-type-dimensions

If there was one thing I would not expect to do on a next-gen console, is to play games from the older generation. Boy was I wrong! Even though I do own a SNES and a Master System 2, I still happily play old and new titles on my Xbox Classic, the 360 and the Wii. The 360 and the Wii offer access to their exclusive online stores, and amongst the titles on there are a lot of old games from the older consoles. With that said, a lot of companies lately are remaking classics (and doing quite a faithful job of it as well!) Enter R-Type Dimensions.

r-type-dimensions

My past experiences with the R-Type games weren’t overly immense. A brief stint at a Timezone in Sydney back in the 80’s , the rental-to-almost-purchase on the Master System 2 in the early 90’s, and a sequel on the SNES (R-type 3). A frustratingly hard game? Some could say that, but I’ll go with exuberantly challenging. For those who don’t know what R-Type is, it is a side-scrolling shooter, think 1942 but with a side-on perspective. The storyline is that there’s the evil Bydo empire invading the universe, you are a pilot of a small ship sent to stop this evil.

r-type-dimensions

Okay, not much to it really, but this is the kind of game, where the storyline doesn’t mean a thing, and gameplay is where it matters. R-Type Dimensions is a faithful remake to the original game on the arcade. The graphics have been enhanced to a more modern (3D) feel, and I’ll be honest, they (IREM who were the original creators of R-Type, Tozai, and SouthEnd) did an amazing job of keeping the remake faithful to the classic, also by including an option to swap between HD and Classic graphic mode flawlessly, as the High-def visuals were rolled over onto the originals (Plural, yes, it includes R-Type I & II).

r-type-dimensions

The game was, and still is very challenging, getting to the point that many levels can not be passed easily unless you have 1-3 seconds of invincibility after you die, and a new ship appears. You have multiple power-ups, one of them infamously is your satellite, which is mounted to the front or rear of the ship, and can be jettisoned at will and returned back to the front or the rear of the ship. With the usual speed-ups and missile power-ups, you will find interesting methods on attacking the hordes of enemies, and figuring out how to defeat each end-level boss without losing 50 or so lives.

r-type-dimensions

Speaking about the lives, there is also an infinite mode, meaning you have unlimited lives to plow through the game with. The challenge there I suppose is to see who can finish the game with the least lives. There is also a co-op mode which would be beneficial for plowing through such a hard game.

On the XBLA for 1200 Microsoft Points, some would argue that the price for title like this is questionable. R-Type Dimensions is definitely a title for those who appreciated the original on just about any platform since it’s release.

4.5 out of 5

Pros:
– extremely loyal remake to the original
– ability to swap between new and old graphics
– challenging

Cons:
– Price may be questionable
– Plenty of moments where you could lob your controller across the lounge room from frustration

Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale

Dungeons & Dragons - Daggerdale
When I originally previewed Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale I was pretty excited about it, what with it being the first DnD 4th edition CRPG to hit PCs and consoles; an interesting choice supported by its advertised modular system and episodic, thus manageable, lenght. Then the first reviews came -hitting sites a few days before the review copy hit my door- and they were less than stellar. Everyone complained about something and I decided to stop reading before actually playing the game, though the damage was done.
 Dungeons & Dragons - Daggerdale
I installed the PC version of Daggerdale with the lowest of expectations, only to have them sink further when I was asked to either join or log into gamespy. Now, I’m not a multiplayer fanatic, but I have come to expect to enjoy such overtly social modes of gaming without having to sign up with any service. Always thought that Steam was more than capable and more than enough for this sort of things, and seeing Daggerdale run via Steam yet still requiring me to remember one more password, well, I simply couldn’t be bothered. Then again, in CRPGs it’s the solo experience that counts, isn’t it? Of course it is dear.
Dungeons & Dragons - Daggerdale

On to the single-player campaign it was then and I went on to choose among the four available characters (a Halfling wizard, a Dwarven cleric, an Elven rogue and a Human fighter), customize him/her and go on and travel to the Dalelands of the Forgotten Realms. There I would get to explore the catacombs of Tethyamar under the Desrtmouth Mountains (I’m not making those names up you know; and, yes, I haven’t played any proper DnD for years now), where a dwarven community is having troubles with goblins, undead things, an assortment of nasties and the malicious deity Bane. So far, so generic, I know, but playing through this story felt oddly refreshing and reminiscent of the things a seasoned DM would come up with.

Dungeons & Dragons - Daggerdale

 The game itself is a pure hack-and-slash affair sporting some great combat mechanics, deeper character customization than one would expect and -impressively- some lovely and pretty varied graphics. What’s more, the thing is properly entertaining and really addictive, meaning that, yes, Daggerdale did manage to endear itself. At heart it’s a great action-RPG with some good ideas and an apparently powerful engine behind it. Even the lack of a proper save function doesn’t completely destroy the experience, despite it being incredibly frustrating.
Dungeons & Dragons - Daggerdale
The varied bugs, visual glitches, lack of overall polish and shoddy camera, on the other hand, do border on infuriating and keep Daggerdale from becoming the game it could be, which is frankly a shame, especially considering it gets so many things right. Then again, there’s always hope that the first patch will fix things up considerably… Oh, and the game’s length is longer than I expected, without it ever becoming boring.


Verdict: A traditional hack-and-slash CRPG that’s too buggy for its own good. Definitely worth a try if you are into this sort of thing and don’t mind the generic plot.

Gauntlet

Gauntlet_Atari

Gauntlet (1985)
By: Atari Genre: Maze / Run ‘n’ Gun Players: 1-4 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 20,332 (starting with 2000 health)
Also Available For: Master System, MegaDrive, NES, Lynx, PC, Amiga, Atari ST, Apple II, Atari 8-bits, MSX, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum

I suppose it was only a matter of time before the ‘Maze Games’ feature here at Red Parsley arrived at the Gauntlet series for a review but the decision to return to it wasn’t a hard one. This is mainly because it’s one of my favourite games but I’ve actually spent surprisingly little time with the arcade original. The decent conversion for the Spectrum occupied much of my time in the late 80’s before the fantastic Gauntlet 4 arrived on the MegaDrive (basically a conversion of the first game but with tonnes of extras) and occupied much of my time in the 90’s as well! The series certainly has its detractors, though, who argue that it’s repetitive and frustrating. I definitely didn’t agree with them back then but perhaps time has dulled the appeal of Atari’s classic. Henceforth, I shall find out…
Gauntlet_Atari

The basic gameplay of Gauntlet (and Dandy – see below) must surely be known by near enough all gamers by now but for the benefit of those who have somehow missed it, it works like this: between one and four players can play simultaneously but first each needs to choose a character from the four available – Thor the Warrior (who has good fighting strength), Thyra the Valkyrie (who has strong armour), Merlin the Wizard (who has strong magic), and Questor the Elf (who is the quickest). From then on, your party (or maybe just you) are faced with an unending series of overhead-viewed dungeons filled to the brim with malevolent beasties intent on shortening your adventure! Whether they do or not is entirely up to you though, as each coin you insert gives your character health points and you can insert coins, and therefore play, forever if you want.
Gauntlet_Atari

There are six types of enemy altogether – Grunts, Ghosts, Demons, Sorcerers, Lobbers, and Death. All of them except Death are created endlessly by generators placed all around the maze-like stages which have three strength levels with each monster they create being of the same level. The generators can be destroyed in the same way as the monsters they produce – either by shooting or fighting them one at a time or by collecting potions and using magic which clears some or most enemies on screen in one go. The strength of both of these attacks depends on the character chosen although special potions can also be found occasionally which boost an aspect of a character’s abilities – extra shot power or extra armour, for example. Watch out though – a pesky thief appears now and then and it’s these abilities that he’s most keen on stealing. Deaths appears in smaller numbers than the other enemies but they can only be killed by magic – otherwise they’ll drain 200 health points before disappearing. Grrrr!
Gauntlet_Atari

The stages themselves are each around two screens wide by two screens tall, although some loop instead, and they are usually designed in as maze-like a way as possible. Most include several paths, some of which are often dead-ends. There are usually many doors blocking off sections that must be opened by finding keys and some stages feature teleporters which move you to the nearest similar device. Treasure chests for bonus points are abundant but far rarer are special medallions that grant temporary invisibility (the enemies home in on you as far as possible otherwise) which are a welcome, albeit brief, reprieve when they are encountered. Each player character gradually loses health points as the game wears on anyway but contact from enemies does of course reduce them much faster so it’s a good idea to keep an eye open for revitalising food which comes in two forms – cider, which can be shot, and what looks like roast dinners, which cannot.
Gauntlet_Atari

As original and distinctive as it seemed at the time though, the concept of Gauntlet may not have been entirely born in the futuristic labs of Atari’s secret underground bunker. Ed Logg, credited as designer of Gauntlet, may or may not have had one eye on an Atari 8-bit game called Dandy, released two years previously, while putting his game together but the two titles certainly have some similarities. Whoever was responsible though, Gauntlet was the game which rose to prominence and it’s one that’s attracted and maintained a sizeable fan-base over the years. There could be many reasons for its enduring popularity but the simple fact is Atari’s game was available to a much wider audience, and arguably came at a much more convenient time as well.
Gauntlet_Atari

Another reason for Gauntlet’s success over that of Dandy could simply be that it was better. It has a huge number of stages for one thing – a hundred unique dungeons which appear in random order from the eighth one onwards, and after the hundredth stage they start repeating as well so it’s a game without end! The cast of characters, both heroes and villains are also very memorable too. The differing attributes of each – shot strength and speed, magic power, fighting ability, armour, etc – meant that everyone had their favourite even if the differences between them became purely cosmetic once a few of the special potions had been collected which each boost one that character’s attributes accordingly. The relentless onslaught of enemy creatures pouring from their respective generators meant that you rarely get a minute’s peace too!
Gauntlet_Atari

The enormous abundance of evil creatures to slay may make Gauntlet a tough slog for the most part but it’s rather impressive from a technical point of view. All sprites, objects and pieces of wall and floor take up one square on an unseen grid of 15 x 15 which makes up the visible play-field so everything is more-or-less the same size. This doesn’t take much processing power with regards to the inanimate parts of each stage of course, but the sprites are all animated, detailed, and there are absolutely masses of them nearly all the time. It’s still pretty impressive now so you can only imagine how mind-blowing it was at the time! Of course, this did present a challenge to the talented programmers charged with converting the fab game to home systems but even then the results were mostly spiffing!
Gauntlet_Atari

Sadly, the audio here is almost silent though. There are a few simple sound effects but no in-game music which is hard to get used to since the fantastic MegaDrive conversion that I’ve played so much has had an equally fantastic soundtrack added. Breaking the near-silence now and then though, is the famous voice of the unseen dungeon overseer who offers occasional advice and support. He may sound a little ropey today but back then he was a revelation and his many comments have proved to be almost as enduring as the game itself! Indeed, despite the inane wafflings of the many naysayers, Gauntlet is still great fun and a highly enjoyable challenge. Yes, it is repetitive, as most games in the early years were, but not many of them offered four players the chance to unite and fight evil monsters to the death! Even for the solo-player, the lure of seeing new mazes or achieving a new high-score is enough to keep you playing. A timeless classic that offers a near-unlimited helping of simple, addictive adventuring. Still hate those bloody Lobbers though. Grrrr!

RKS Score: 9/10

Donkey Kong: The start of a collection

Donkey Kong: The start of a collection

It may appear that we are going somewhat off-topic with this post. Strictly speaking, Donkey Kong, the game that is Mario’s birth-ground, does not seem an appropriate subject for a blog titled beforemario.

But it is not too farfetched, to state that without Donkey Kong this blog would not exist. And it is therefore more than appropriate to put a spotlight on Miyamoto’s premiere master piece; the start of my fondness for Nintendo, as well as the start of my collection.

With that in mind – let’s dig in.
Donkey Kong collection

It is not my intention to introduce or explain Donkey Kong. That would be silly. Unlike many of the Nintendo toys and games featured on this blog, I can safely assume that you know all ins and outs of the game’s origin, have played its four levels a zillion times, and watched The King of Kong more than once. Right?

What I would like to show you instead, is my first – ever – Nintendo game. The first piece of what would become a mountain of games. The first snowflake of an eventual collecting avalanche.

Here it is: the actual first Nintendo item I bought, almost thirty years ago.
Donkey Kong collection

Let us rewind three decades of time, to the Summer of 1982. For months, I had been pumping quarters (well, actually, guilders) into Nintendo’s arcade revelation Donkey Kong.

Donkey Kong collection

I did not own a video game console at the time, and got all my pixelated kicks at the local arcade.

Now, I must admit that I had never really liked the Atari VCS 2600, which was the big home video game daddy around that time. I had played it occasionally, but could not get over the difference between its game play and what was on offer at the arcade. As a result, it never made it to my ‘must have’ list.

I remember seeing Atari’s home conversions of Space Invaders and especially Pac Man (two of my favorite games at the arcade) and not warming to these versions at all.

Then one day, I walked into a toy store, and saw a stack of brochures laying on the counter. It featured a new game console about to be released: CBS’s ColecoVision.
Donkey Kong collection

The scan shown above is from the actual copy I picked up that day, thirty years ago. Given the many times I have thumbed through it (and drooled over it), in the months that followed that moment, it looks surprisingly fresh.

The main selling point of the ColecoVision was a mouth-watering home conversion of Donkey Kong. A screen shot of it was put prominently on the front of the brochure. With the yellow high-light behind it, it stood out more than the actual console itself. And with reason. This was its killer app.

Donkey Kong collection

Inside the brochure, three pictures told a clear story, with a simple side-by-side comparison of the three home versions of Donkey Kong, for the ColecoVision, theAtari 2600 and the Intellivison.

Donkey Kong collection
Never mind that Coleco had handled all three conversions, and possibly given the version destined for their own hardware platform maybe a little bit of extra attention and TLC. The difference in quality, foremost visually, was staggering.
Donkey Kong collection

The ColecoVision version of Donkey Kong was no pixel-perfect conversion either. The first level, for instance, was missing one platform (it had five, instead of the original’s six). And more was missing, as I would soon find out. But it was close.
Donkey Kong collection

So, long story short: desire swelled up in me. I had to have it.

And after months of saving up, I became the proud owner of a ColecoVision.
Donkey Kong collection



Unlike in the US, where Donkey Kong came packed with the console, in Europe you had to buy it separately. Which I did, obviously.

Donkey Kong collection
A magical moment. Look at it. Hours of fun, packed in a black piece of plastic.
Donkey Kong collection

I slotted the cartridge into the machine and started playing.

Donkey Kong collection
Initial amazement at the feast of color and sound was suddenly replaced by confusion. After three levels the game started again at the first. Wait a minute… where is the factory level?

After some moments of disbelieve, and re-reading the manual, I had to take in the truth: there was no factory level. My favorite level had been sliced during the conversion process. Alas, no running on conveyor belts. No jumping over pies.

Donkey Kong collection
After recovering from that somewhat disappointing news, I was still very happy with my own home arcade, and played Donkey Kong for hours on end.
Donkey Kong collection

After this first Nintendo purchase came another, and another, and another, and another. But thirty years on, this one remains one of the most special.

Electrocop

Electrocop

Electrocop (1989)
By: Epyx / Atari Genre: Maze / Run ‘n’ Gun Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Atari Lynx First Day Score: 15,475
Also Available For: Nothing

Electrocop

Atari’s mighty Lynx was a funny machine. It was a ‘handheld’ which was rather too big to be comfortably used as one for starters, but it was a powerful piece of kit for sure. It soon gained a glowing reputation for the surprisingly faithful arcade conversions which formed the bulk of its software library, but there were a few original releases too. Many of them were by Epyx, the co-developer of the Lynx itself, and most of these appeared at or soon after the machine’s launch – presumably they were developed especially for the occasion to give the system a slightly more varied line-up. One of these was Electrocop. It gained a decent reputation at the time but it never seems to get mentioned these days any time the Lynx is mentioned. Has it dated that badly or has it been unfairly neglected in the intervening years?
Electrocop

It’s certainly quite an unusual game. It’s set in 2089 and casts you in the titular role which I guess makes you a robot and we all know what temperamental oafs they can be. This one will need his (or its?) wits about him, however, as he’s up against the formidable (and somewhat conspicuous-sounding) Criminal Brain. This is presumably also a robot, or perhaps a computer-based artificial intelligence like Skynet. Hmmm, well, whatever form it takes, it apparently has influence over the physical world as it’s kidnapped the President’s daughter – oh nooo! In order to retrieve her safe and sound, you must penetrate the ‘technoid stronghold’ know as the ‘Stell Complex’ in which the Criminal Brain is hiding, and you’ve only got an hour to do it.
Electrocop

Although not constructed in an especially unique way, it’s how the game presents your exploration of this complex that makes Electrcop unusual. The action, you see, is viewed from a third-person perspective with each of the complex’s twelve maze-like levels consisting of a series of corridors linked by doorways, some of which are blocked by locked doors which require a code. Mr. Electrocop can run left and right along the corridors freely and can pass through doorways by moving into or out of the screen at the appropriate locations which sees the game scale your view back or forth accordingly. Each (or at least, most) corridors are patrolled by enemy droids called ‘Walkers’ of which there are four kinds – the Yellow Jacket, Blue Bird, Viper, and Red Disruptor, which all vary with regards to their speed, armour, and weapon power.
Electrocop

In addition to these, the heinous Criminal Brain has also installed a few other surprises throughout his complex including sections of electrified floors, mines, and other weapons such as wall-mounted cannons and concealed mortar-launchers. All of these deplete our blue automaton’s energy reserves. Fortunately, he comes equipped with a default laser of his own and there are a few other weapons available, including more powerful lasers and disruptors. All of them can be used freely, some even simultaneously, but can get damaged during combat if you’re not careful, and they all have a limited ‘charge’ which determines how frequently you can use them. The more powerful a weapon is, the more charge it will use per shot. All weapons recharge automatically but trigger-happy players should probably save the more powerful weapons for times of crisis!
Electrocop

These weapons can be acquired from special panels located here and there on the walls and similarly there are also computer terminals which offer many things including the ability to run several programs. Probably the most important of these is the ‘Ice Breaker’ which is essential for cracking the door codes but others include ‘Stasis’, which can temporarily disable all the droids, as well as ones to repair damaged weapons or refill your energy-meter. Surprisingly, there are even some mini-games available to play via the terminals too including Meteors, Out Break, and Letter Puzzle which are simple clones of Asteroids, Breakout, and one of those slidey tile games. Their inclusion might seem strange but the Ice Breaker program often takes a while to ‘crack’ the door codes so the games merely offer a convenient way to pass the time. Very considerate.
Electrocop

A different way to kill a few minutes that’s probably not so advisable is to further explore the levels, perhaps looking for more weapons or something. This is something that’s only recommended if you’ve taken the time to make maps, lest you get lost and not even be able to find the door whose code you’ve just cracked! Indeed, there are over thirty doors through the whole game, although the amount per stage varies from one to the next, so there are lots of very similar-looking corridors to run up and down. Obviously, the further into the game you get, the more complicated and therefore difficult the levels get but your objective is always the same – look for the door (or one of them), crack the code, and get out! It can get pretty repetitive too, but that’s not the game’s biggest problem.
Electrocop

It’s quite clear that Electrocop was always intended as a launch game – technically it’s mighty impressive and shows off the Lynx’s talents well. The music is unmistakably Lynx-ish but the various tunes are terrific, and the graphics aren’t half bad either. The circuit-board and metallic backgrounds on each level are decent, although there’s very little variation, but it scales the stages back and forth very nicely, even altering the colour of the droids according to the ‘plane’ they’re on compared to you. The main character is pretty big though, and moves fairly quickly too, which means you’ve often walked into danger before you’ve even seen it, whether one of the many droids or an increasingly common (and annoying) section of electrified floor. The easiest solution to this is to just run along permanently shooting. That kinda takes the enjoyment out of it somewhat, but it’s that or get angry, and often.
Electrocop

One thing that could’ve reallyruined this game is regenerating enemies so I was very pleased to find that the metallic cretins here explode when shot, and with their constituent atoms remaining scattered for good! Even with this bonus though, it’s unfortunately far from perfect. Playing it either takes the form of a repetitive run ‘n’ gunner or a frustrating arcade adventure depending on how you play it. It was originally intended as a 3D sequel to Impossible Mission and it’s quite clear why, but it’s also clear why Epyx ultimately decided to dissociate Electrocop from their legendary franchise as well. There are some good ideas here and its technical wizardry must’ve made people eager to see more of the Lynx when viewed at trade shows and such, but as a full game warranting hours of solid play, sadly it falls some way short of the mark.

RKS Score: 6/10

Animated Nintendo Controller Evolution

Controller Evolution v.2,

Animated Nintendo Controller Evolution

Here is a very nicely animated history of some of Nintendo’s controller designs. I remember switching from the classic Atari controller and thinking the NES felt so boxy. Personally, it was the SNES controller that did it for me and to this day it is one of my favorites. The video was animated by Chris Koelsch with music by Heath McNease.

[vimeo width=”560″ height=”420″]http://vimeo.com/55697069#[/vimeo]

Berzerk

“Intruder alert! Intruder alert!”

atari_2600_berzerk_gameplay screenshot

You are that intruder. You play as a “humanoid” trapped in an unlimited amount of single-screen mazes, chased (very slowly) by Cylon-looking robots with lasers. I have no idea why you are there, and why the robots hate you so much, but they are constantly shouting orders like “Kill!”,”Destroy!”, and “Attack!” via speech synthesis, a rarity in 1980 arcade games.

atari_2600_berzerk_gameplay screenshot

I remember being addicted to this game back in the day
simple to learn, difficult to master. With one joystick (to move/shoot in 8 directions) and one button (laser), your objective is to survive as long as possible by shooting the robots that are blocking your way to the exit on the other side of the each maze-screen.

Everything has an “electric” feel to it, from the laser shots to instant death from brushing against a wall. You receive points by destroying the robots, but you can’t hang around too long before escaping or “Evil” Otto will quickly be on your ass. Otto, a body-less smiley face, is the “Smoke Monster” of video games. A true indestructible enemy that will chase you down like a heat-seeking missile.

atari_2600_berzerk_gameplay screenshot

Simple, but addictive, gameplay kept my quarters flowing in the early ’80â€Čs, always wanting my shot at Otto
but it was not to be. One of the more underrated “villains” in video-game history, he was always taunting me and I could do nothing about it.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gb4gWvqbsYA[/youtube]

Highly recommended if you get a chance to play on MAME.

8/10

Nexus 2 The Gods Awaken Q&A

nexus2-the-gods-awaken-1

Nexus 2 The Gods Awaken Q&A

Nexus 2 The Gods Awaken is an ongoing Kickstarter project to create a true sequel to a fantastic space tactical game, Nexus, The Jupiter Incident. If you haven’t played the original you can find it on Steam, but it is a must play for any fan of space based games. As said this project is ongoing and needs the assistance of fans and gamers alike to put it over the edge.

We had a chance to chat with Vincent Van Diemen, producer on the project about the thought and development process of the game as well as his background in gaming.

Can you start with telling us about Nexus: The Jupiter Incident for those who might not be familiar with the game?

Nexus is a tactical real-time space game in which you command a fleet of ships through an epic campaign set in an original universe in the near future.

Nexus does a lot of story-telling in all its missions and the way you control your ships is a mixture of micromanagement (especially when you work on the detailed loadout of the ships prior to the missions) and fleet control.

For each and every one of you who don’t know Nexus and want to know more about the actual gameplay (and story), there is a series of play-throughs on YouTube under the title ‘Let’s Play Nexus’. All in 1080p and each episode featuring one single mission of the game. It will take you a full weekend to watch all the episodes, but it’s time well spent.

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

Give us a general breakdown of Nexus 2?

Nexus 2 is a true sequel to Nexus: The Jupiter Incident. The story picks up 25 years after the events in Nexus 1 and we’ll continue that very story with new developments, new races appearing on the interstellar horizon etc. A new phenomenon is the Psi. These are humans with supernatural powers.

If you know the story of Nexus you know that an AI called Angel disappeared at the end of the game. But where to? The answer lies in the Psi that play an important role in the new story. Because of their extraordinary abilities these Psi are good to have around, and if you can’t have them, then you better make sure your enemies don’t have access to them either.

In terms of gameplay Nexus 2 will stay very close to its predecessor as well. With many improvements of course and some interesting enhancements.

What will the UI in the game look like?

The UI was not the strongest elements of the original game, so we are looking at it very seriously. But it is very hard to say a lot about this. As with many elements of game development we will be trying a lot of stuff, designing it, prototyping it, then refining, redesigning, prototyping etc. Whatever I say about it now, you will probably see something different in the final game.

NĂ©vtelen-1

Where did the idea come from for the ship designs?

The creation of the ship designs is a complex process. On one hand there is the story. It partly inspires the design of the races. Then a creative mind – such as a concept artist – starts to draw. Then with rough sketches there is interaction between the two disciplines and then the artist moves on (or starts over). If the concept artist has a special source of inspiration is not known to me. I find it an amazing process and I am a big fan of concept art. But the creative part of it is a big black box for me.

As far as controls what can we expect as far as changes in Nexus 2?

Controls will be similar to the original. In fact it’s the same as with the UI. We look at the original game, we discuss what was good and what was bad about it. We redesign whatever we think can be improved and start prototyping it. But – same here – we will not have a groundbreaking new way of ship control. Overall it will stay close to the original, but tweaked.

As far as mission design to you expect it to be linear or more open or perhaps a mix of both?

Simple answer. Linear. We have some ideas about creating some freedom, but story-wise it needs to be linear. Like in Nexus 1 we want to tell a story, we want it to be interesting, a bit like a good sci-fi book. For that we need it to be linear. And we’ll prove once more that linear doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

As far as customizations particularly weapons, can you tell us about how this will be handled in Nexus 2?

Weapons as such cannot be customized. The loadout of ships will be an important task between missions. And during the campaign you will be provided new weapons and utilities to enhance your ships performance in each and every possible way.

nexus2-the-gods-awaken-concept-art-2

Tell us about the modding that you will allow for the game?

There is a fantastic modding community for Nexus 1 and we know what this did for our game. We are still amazed by what some of these modders did. Really impressive. So, for Nexus 2 we will not only continue to support the modders, but in fact we want to create an even better moddable game. With more and better tools, easier access to parts of the game that were hard to mod in the original. If all goes as planned we will be using the Unreal tech for Nexus 2 and one of the reasons for this is that this tech does allow us easy support for the modding community.

What is your vision for the multiplayer aspect of the game?

Multiplayer will also be similar to Nexus 1, but it’s too early to say too much about it. Multiplayer still needs to be (re-) designed. We have the high level concept ready, but the actual design will probably bring some new ideas. We will see if we have enough time and resources to experiment with these and bring you guys the best multiplayer experience possible.

Are there any specific features that you hope to put in the game?

I am excited about all of the new ideas and features for the game, but these are not mine. I am the producer, not the designer. I am also cautious. Some of the new features may look great on paper, but will they actually work? Is implementing them not too much of a pain (sometimes a single feature breaks a dozen others that were working perfectly before). So, well. That is my job. I definitely have some favorites and I also have some ideas, like for the music. But let’s not get carried away 😉

nexus2-the-gods-awaken-concept-art-1

Can you tell us about your gaming background?

Once upon a time I had a glorious career in ICT. But in 1993 – the year CD-ROM was introduced I decided to go all games. So, I quit my job and opened a games shop in my home town. Since 2000 I have been working as a producer and I have produced close to 20 games on 5 or 6 different platforms.

As a gamer, I go all the way back to early tabletop gaming devices. My first computer was a Sinclair ZX Spectum. On that machine I learned how to program and I also played many games on it. After that I owned an Atari ST, partly because I was experimenting with electronic music (midi). So, I wrote my own midi software, but also created some games that were distributed in ‘public domain’. Since my ST ended on the attic, I am a PC gamer. I only played GTA4 on the X360, simply because it was not available on PC at first. But a mouse and keyboard are my gaming devices.

Was there a space based game that inspired you before you began working on your own game or perhaps a book, TV series or movie?

You would have to ask the lead designer of Nexus 1, as well as the mission designer(s). I think many of them got their inspiration from books and movies. The lead programmer I know was huge fan of Stanley Kubricks ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’. Next time we’ll ask more members of the team what inspired them


What is your favorite classic game?

Ah, now that is a tricky question. Game, not gameS, right? Well, I am answering it only if I am allowed to mention 2.

Fallout 2 & System Shock 2. Old grumpy guy here J

So there you have it. Be aware this project is ongoing so be on the lookout for more information. Also, if you have a question about the game post a comment and we will put them all together for our next Q&A.

Battlezone

atari_battlezone-gameplay-screenshot

Ahhhh
Battlezone. This game really takes me back. A 1980 Atari product, and a fine one it is. I can remember when this beauty of a cabinet showed up in my arcade. I had never seen anything like it. Not only did it have some pretty cool side art and marquee, but the controls looked outer-worldly. With the dual-joysticks and the periscope viewer, I felt like I was actually a tank-gunner. Battlezone was always lined with people awaiting their turn, so I spent more time with the Atari 2600 port (awesome on its own), but I was always willing to shove a couple of quarters to try and be all I could be (I normally failed miserably).

atari_battlezone-gameplay-screenshot
For the few of you who haven’t played Battlezone, it’s a 1st-person, vector tank-shooter set on the freaking moon, of all places. Although gravity doesn’t come into play anywhere in the game, so they could have just set it on Earth. But, two aspects of the game probably will explain why they did it this way; One, the background is constant black, giving it a “30 Days of Night” feel to keep you on edge, but I’m sure the reason for this was for the bright green vector lines would show better. Two, they decided to throw flying saucers and tank-sized guided-missiles at you as an extra slice of variety of just shooting other tanks. Anyway, it works well and I now wouldn’t want it any other way. The HUD is all in red, which has your score, number of tanks left, and most importantly, a radar showing you exactly where the next tank is. When it appears directly behind you
.MOVE YOUR ASS!! This brings me to
..

atari_battlezone-gameplay-screenshot

..The object of the game is to manuever your tank around huge geometic shapes, like squares and triangles (that can also be used as shields), all while avoiding tank-fire and setting yourself in a perfect line of fire to blow your cannon up the dirty Panzer’s caboose, making a splended looking explosion of green line-segments. Manuevering takes some time to master, which was difficult to do in the arcade days, having a line of other pimple-faced kids wanting to stick their sweaty, greasy foreheads on the same viewfinder I was using. The dual-joystick controls were designed to move the left and right tank treads. Both forward to move forward, both back to move back, then a combination to veer left or right.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zo4bSrD4ZDQ[/youtube]
Points were earned for the destruction of the other tanks, with special bonuses for the flying saucer (which doesn’t shoot back and always scoots on the ground..never really flies) and the “appear out of nowhere” missiles, which you had better shoot before they get on you.This game was ported almost everywhere in those days, so if you never had the arcade experience you may have picked it up on the many consoles and computers in the early ’80s. The arcade version is also on Microsoft’s Game Room, which plays very well with the dual-joystick 360 controllers, and can be picked up for just a couple of bucks. Well worth it. Happy hunting!

Overall 8/10

The Gamers of Origin PC

Team Origin

The Gamers of Origin PC

One of the questions I was often asked during my time at Alienware was, are you guys really gamers and do you play games at work. I can tell you originally pretty much everyone at Alienware were gamers, just check out our interview with co-founder Alex Aguila and our gamer profile for Nelson Gonzalez., you can also check out our interview with Arthur Lewis. When I started back in 2001 most of us were avid gamers and would often have Lan parties at HQ or meet up to play games.

In our editorial where we asked, do you have to be a gamer to be in the industry? My opinion was that you do not need everyone in the company to be a gamer, but it does matter to have key people who at least understand the culture. When we talked with Origin PC not long after their launch it was clear the management understood games and gaming culture. It is also clear they are all gamers check out the gamer profile for CEO, Kevin Wasielewski and COO, Hector Penton. If you need more proof perhaps we can show a picture of their arcade games cabinets and Mr. Penton’s wall of PC game boxes.

In the meantime, here are some gamer profiles from Origin PC team members and if you want to game with Origin PC you can find them on Raptr and on Steam.

final fantasy 7

Name: Erika Mckinster

Gaming background: Final Fantasy series, Goldeneye, DOOM, Quake, Halo, Mass effect Trilogy, World of Warcraft, Diablo trilogy; too many to name!

Favorite classic game: Final Fantasy 7

Favorite modern game: Mass Effect

What are you playing now? Torchlight 2 & Borderlands 2

quake 1

Name: Fabian Santiesteban

Gaming background: As a child I was an avid gamer from the Atari 2600 while working my way up to the Sega Genesis to the PC’s of today.

Favorite classic game: Quake – Quake may be the most influential game of all time. Not the best game, not the most innovative, but the most influential. Nothing beats a god old fashion First Person Shooter.

Favorite modern game: MMORPG – My gaming preference roles have changed. Today I am a big fan of EVE Online – Age of Conan and The Secret World.

What are you playing now? I am currently playing Diablo 3 and looking to level up my toon to 60 so I can start my paragon levels. I am looking forward to the incoming patch that will give you the opportunity to group up to 8 players which will make it much more interesting.

mists-of-pandaria-world-of-warcraft

Name: Daniel Ovalle

Gaming background: I’ve built my own computers since I was 18 and was immersed into hardcore gaming while working at Alienware.

Favorite classic game: Quake

Favorite modern game: Too many to name.

What are you playing now? World of Warcraft, Mass Effect, SWTOR, Civ5, Guild Wars 2, Diablo3

counter-strike

Name: Jorge Percival

Gaming background: First ever encounter with gaming was an Atari 2600 that my parents had, though I was very young they tell me I wouldn’t let go of it. After that I can happily say I owned most consoles to date mostly for exclusive tittles. The fall of 1993 was when I really began paying attention to PC games when my uncle purchased DOOM for his PC, I was completely hooked on that game. Consoles introduced me to gaming the PC has kept me here.

Favorite classic game: My favorite classic game will always be Counter strike (pre source days) this was my real introduction to competitive gaming and the first game I truly took serious. I followed all the pro’s and tournaments I would fully engulf myself in the scene and what was going on during those days. Quake comes a close second.

Favorite modern game: My favorite modern game


.. would definitely have to be League of Legends, this game shows how great gameplay is still at the heart of a good game. We all love graphics but the game needs to have good mechanics and gameplay to continue to grow past its release. I am also a huge fan of RIOT as a developer they do great job of interacting with their community and are supporting the e-sports push here in the states.

What are you playing now? Right now I have lowered the amount of games that I play at a time (mostly due to League of Legends lol). League of Legends, Torchlight II, Borderlands 2. Those would be my top 3 in that order.

Quake 2 - Rocket Arena 2

Name: Tony Berry AKA Miztic1

Gaming background: Started gaming on C64/Atari 800XL then moved to the NES and all other consoles where I got hooked on gaming and once I got my first PC I discovered Wolfenstein 3D then eventually Doom and Quake 1 and those sent me over the edge of the gaming abyss.

Favorite classic game: Tossup between Quake 2: Rocket Arena 2 and Ultima Online. Consoles would be Legend of Zelda on NES.

Favorite modern game: This is a tough one, I would have to say WoW

What are you playing now? WoW, Diablo 3, torchlight and league of legends.

destruction derby

Name: Alvaro Masis in game (Propane)

Gaming background: Have been playing games since Lode Runner and have played on multiple platforms favorite PC by far

Favorite classic game: Favorite classic game would be destruction derby for the Commodore 64

Favorite modern game: Eve Online

What are you playing now? Guild Wars 2, Eve Online, Torch Light 2

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.”

Amagon

Amagon

Overall Rating: 1.5/5 Stars

Amagon - NES - gameplay screenshot

In 1989, developer Aicom created a video game for the Nintendo Entertainment System console called Amagon, published by American Sammy. It was a one-player platform game that revolved around the idea of a Marine being stranded on a tropical island and having to fight his way from one side to the other, using his trusty rifle. However, there were a couple twists: The island features quite an eclectic variety of enemies from native wildlife to robots and aliens, and the Marine, Amagon, can occasionally transform into his alter-ego Megagon, a much more powerful version of himself with a punch-blaster form of weapon that outperforms the rifle by far.
Amagon - NES - gameplay screenshot

On the NES, a preponderance of platformers already existed, and Amagon tried to separate itself from the pack by incorporating a somewhat unique storyline and the transformation feature. However, in the end, the title ends up playing like a slower-paced, less-polished version of Adventure Island, which was released two years prior. In what may have been a noble intent spoiled by a lack of any remarkable, spectacular replay value, Amagon collapses under the weight of its lackluster experience.

Gameplay

Amagon - NES - gameplay screenshot

The protagonist, Amagon, is a battle-ready Marine with a limited amount of ammo that must treak across the island he has wrecked upon. This means the actual play style is fairly basic: One button fires, one button jumps, and Amagon instantly dies if he makes contact with any of the various creatures or projectiles.

Considering the patterned movements of many of the enemy obstacles, this already creates the inherent issue of requiring the player to undergo trial-and-error gameplay techniques in order to conquer the game, which provides a very repetitive, unenjoyable time. Even when Amagon is able to transform into the much (much, much) more powerful Megagon, it is still for a limited time, and ultimately a cartridge cannot rely solely on a single appeal in order to make a great game.

Graphics

Amagon - NES - gameplay screenshot

The looks are fairly decent, but nothing extraordinary. The animals are animals, the plants are plants, and the bare-chested, Hulk-like Megagon carves an intimidating presence on the screen. While the appearance is a step up over earlier, cruder NES gaming renditions, and are competently developed, they are still pretty average overall.

Sound

The music is actually not bad, and can even be somewhat catchy at portions. The sound effects themselves are serviceable but, again, nothing too groundbreaking or newsworthy.

Creativity & Innovation

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8GkpRdg8S4[/youtube]

The idea of a platformer sporting a character that must traverse a hostile island was not original, even dating back to the Pitfall series that began on Atari systems. However, the transformation of Amagon into Megagon was certainly the innovating draw here, and perhaps a prescient one when considering later classic such as Altered Beast for the Sega Genesis.

Overall though, Amagon is bland, and not worth too much playtime. Perhaps it is a worthy challenge, as it does have a steep level of difficulty, so gamers may derive some satisfaction with a long session of trying to beat it. Otherwise, though, there is no truly lasting attraction. For being a “meh” platformer on a system already inundated with platformers, Amagon gets one and a half stars out of five.

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 Tour. Ray 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.

The Atari Lynx

The Atari Lynx - 1

The Handy from Epyx, was the brainchild of David Morse, Dave Needle and the legendary RJ Mical. All three were the masterminds behind the Amiga. The collaboration of the device was done on a napkin in August 1986 – well before anyone else had thought of a portable gaming device like this. The Handy was the first full colour, 16-bit portable device. There are arguments till this day about how many ‘bits’ this device had. For me, it was, and still is 16-bit.

 

Epyx, not having the finances to take the product to market themselves were planning on selling the technology to Nintendo. Little did they realise, Nintendo was already working on their own portable device, the Gameboy.

The Atari Lynx vs The Nintendo Gameboy

When the Nintendo deal fell through for the Handy, Epyx approached none other than Jack Tramiel, owner of Atari at the time. Atari had attempted to create their own portable device (the Atari 2200), however, they could not get it right, so the Handy was perfect timing for them. The Handy became the Atari Lynx and the rest as they say, is history.

 

The Atari Lynx was released in the US in 1989 (1990 in the UK). The price of the unit was $100 more than the Gameboy. This price disparity, and the fact that Nintendo bundled the killer app Tetris with their unit, basically killed the market share for Atari’s new portable device. The original Lynx unit was bulky and also suffered from a short battery life – it chewed the 6 x AA batteries in no time when compared to the Gameboy. This just added to the woes of the Lynx.

The Atari Lynx Games

Atari eventually released the Lynx II, which was half the price of the original unit and was also smaller and cheaper to manufacture. The Lynx II introduced stereo sound and a pause button. This newer version also had longer battery life – a relief for avid fans.

 

As Atari thought they were on a winner with the Lynx II, along came Sega’s Game Gear in 1991. Although the Lynx was far superior than the Game Gear, it could not compete with Sega’s vast advertising budget and resources. The Game Gear was also backward compatible with the extensive library of Master System games.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eKXScEpZ94Q[/youtube]

 

Even though Atari’s Lynx was relegated in the portable device market by the Gameboy and later by the Game Gear, it was still home to some awesome games and arcade conversions like: Chip’s Challenge, Klax, California Games, Blue Lightning, Rampart, Lemmings, Roadblasters, Paperboy, Rampage, STUN Runner, Xenophobe, Xybots and Zarlor Mercenary.

The Lynx fate was sealed in the early 90â€Čs, not due to inferior hardware, but to better and smarter marketing from the likes of Nintendo and Sega. The device enjoys a cult following till this day in the retro gaming realm. So, do yourself a favour, grab a Lynx II. You will not be disappointed.

Crystal Castles

I usually praise developers for bringing me something unique, and this game can be categorized as such
or maybe “odd”
”weird”.

Crystal Castles - Gameplay screenshot

A 1983 Atari product, Crystal Castles is a game that stands out. From its crazy-detailed cabinet art to its glow-in-the-dark trackball, you wouldn’t be able to miss this in any arcade. But, how does it play? The “Crystal Castles” are 40 isometric levels given a 3D look. You play as a goofy-looking bear wearing Dorothy’s ruby slippers. Throughout the pathways of the castles are scores of gems and jewels. Your mission is to collect them (for points) as quickly as possible. The trackball moves you around and there is a jump button, as well. To reach the different levels of the screen, you’ll use ramps, stairs, elevators, and secret passageways.

Crystal Castles - Gameplay screenshot

To stop you in your mission are a multitude of creatures: There are wormy things that eat the gems, taking points from you. You can avoid them or (only while they’re eating) run into them, which kills them. There are killer trees (that chase you?!?), which if jumped over will freeze them for a short time. Also, skeletons and ghosts, which should be avoided. One of the bonus items you may capture for points is a pot of honey, but you’ll have to watch for the swarm of bees protecting it. Lastly, every so-many levels is an ugly Witch (I think these are her castles from which I’m stealing), who you can avoid, but will probably need to kill because she’s hanging around gems you’ll need to complete the level and move on. So
.there’s this silly little hat that you can find and put on, making you invulnerable for a short time
and the only way to kill her.

Crystal Castles - Gameplay screenshot

As you can see, this game is a little f’ed-up, but it has quick, intense gameplay. The levels will be more difficult as you progress (as usual), but there are “cheats” in form of level-warps, if you choose to use them. A couple of neat additions to the game: Whenever you get killed, a word balloon pops over the bear’s head, usually a comic-book curse word (#$^!). Also, the importance of being careful on each level, but still having to maneuver quickly. As you delay, your gems are being eaten, costing you points
and there are bonus points for who/whatever grabs the last gem. If a creature gets it, you’ll go to the next level, but lost out on the bonus.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MoUJYWJ6KQ4[/youtube]

I do find it odd that the bear’s motivations are stealing money, and the honey is a bit of an afterthought
.and why does he need to wear clothes on his feet and head? It’s hard to tell, but he may actually be wearing a thong. Also, why would the Witch ever want to stay at her castles when they’re clearly overrun by ghosts and goblins? There is also an actual ending to the game, which I’ll never be good enough to see (lack of continues). But, if someone knows what it is, please let me know. This was truly a lot of fun, and will always get my recommendation if someone is looking for a “different” kind of retro game.

Overall 9/10

Did you know: Vol 1

did_you_know

Did you know

There is a lot of random trivia and facts about classic video games. Some of it has historical content while others are just interesting to know. To continue spreading retro gaming knowledge we begin a new series that will showcase random classic gaming facts. Some you might already know, but we hope to surprise you from time to time.

Nolan Bushnell created Chuck E. Cheese

Nolan Bushnell and Chuck E Cheese

Depending on how old you are and where you lived you might know about or have gone to a Chuck E. Cheese. Chuck E. Cheese was a pizza restaurant that featured video games, prizes and a dancing mouse. It was the place to go for a kid’s birthday during its hay day as it featured everything a young child would want. It is no surprise the founder of Atari would create a place that showcase food, fun and video games. I personally went there for my thirteenth birthday and had a blast.

Steve Jobs created Breakout

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak

There is a little more to this story. With the success of Pong, created by Nolan Bushnell, he and Steve Bristow came up with an idea to create a single player version of Pong and so the concept of Breakout was born. Steve Jobs was tasked with creating the game and brought on Steve Wozniak to help engineer the game. After a lot of sleepless nights and other adventures the project was done. Now in the end Atari had to do some reworking to Wozniak’s design before the final product was released, but overall that is why Steve Jobs got the credit for the creation of Breakout.

Jack Black Stared in a Pitfall Commercial

Jack Black and Atari Pitfall

Funny man Jack Black long before we ever saw him on screen was in an Atari Pitfall commercial. It was in 1992 that the then 13-year-old Black appeared in the spot. Jack Black is counted among the notable celebrity gamers and here we see his history with classic games went way back.

Porn and Video Games go together

april o neil

For many a gamer, porn and video games go together like Cheetos and Mountain Dew, but did you know one porn star got her name from a video game? Adult actress, April O’Neil got her stage name from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles own reporter and turtle confidant, April O’ Neil. In addition, April loves gamer geeks specially for their video game knowledge. Google search in 3
2
1


There is an Atari 3600 version of Halo

april o neil

Yes, the classic Xbox shooter, Halo has a version created for the Atari 2600. Ed Fries former vice president of game publishing at Microsoft showed off his creation in 2010 at the Classic Gaming Expo in Las Vegas. In the game you control Master Chief in an adventure type game where you explore 64 rooms shooting enemies and eventually encountering a final boss. Unfortunately, only about 100 cartridges were made so good luck getting your hands on one.

Just a Taste

There is a lot more history, trivia and weird facts and we will bring you more in the next installment. Until then tell us about classic gaming facts and history you know and perhaps we will feature it in a future article.

Atari’s Greatest Hits: Free Games for Mobile Devices

To celebrate Atari’s 40th anniversary you can now get all 100 of their greatest hit games from their mobile app.

atari

Relive the Golden Age of Gaming with a collection of the most popular retro games from the 70s and 80s. This extensive catalog pays homage to each of the originals, with controls designed to mimic what Atari fans remember from 30 years ago! For those who love the classic gaming experience, this handheld breakthrough is sure to guarantee hours of fun.

You can download the app on tunes or from here – http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/ataris-greatest-hits/id422966028?mt=8

Joust

I have a huge list of “favorite” arcade games from when I was a kid, and JOUST has to be near the top.

In 1982, Williams produced this hit with unique game play, and has been ported a number of times since, and most very well done.

You play as a knight who rides on a FLYING OSTRICH! It seems the regular horse-jousting games were sooooo 1981, they decided to pull that crazy idea out of their butts. Somehow, it worked.

joust-atari 7800- gameplay screenshot

The object of the game is to get through as many levels/points as you can, and like most arcade games, there is no true end. With one joystick to move your bird, and one button to flap the ostrich’s wings, you need to lance all of your other flying opponents. The faster you “flap”, the faster your knight will rise, then use gravity to lower yourself. Unlike most games, where you can start and stop on a dime, Joust tries to add a little realism
.if you can just get past the original concept, of course. Wave after wave of knights appear, and you take them down by hitting them with your lance just a little higher than theirs. If vice-versa, you lose a life. After you hit them, they turn into a huge egg, which will bounce around the floating rock platforms, but eventually stop. Running over these eggs gives you bonus points and is essential, because eventually they will “hatch” new riders and remount.

Other enemies include the pterodactyl, who will show up if you take too long to complete a wave. It’s very quick and relentless, chasing you around the screen with an unbelievably annoying battle cry. It can be killed, if hit just right, but only the advanced players are able to do this, me not being one of those. I prefer to avoid.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1itbuQM3oug[/youtube]

At the bottom left and right corners are lava pits, which will swallow bouncing eggs and if you get too close, a FREAKING HAND reaches out and grabs you!

The difficulty ramps quickly, and if I get to 40,000+ points I figure I had a nice game. Visually, it’s as fantastic a game as you’ll find for that era.

Another bit I wanted to add is this is a very fun game either solo or with 2-players. In 2-player mode, you can work as a team, or “accidentally”(hehhehheh) knock out your buddy.

I’ve never been able to figure out where this crazy place is supposed to exist, not Arthurian for sure. It really seems like the developers just threw a bunch of crap together to see what would happen, but it turned out to be a masterpiece.

Overall, 10/10

Star Raiders

I remember getting Star Raiders for a present back in 1982. The first thing that comes to memory was how the box was a bit bigger and heavier than most of the 2600 carts we had bought. When I opened the package, along with the game and manual was a giant touch pad. I thought, “How cool is this?” After I started the game and realized I had to have at least 3 hands to work the joystick, red button, and pad, I knew I was in trouble.

Star-Raiders-Atari-Gameplay-Screenshot
Star Raiders was originally released a couple of years earlier for the Atari 8-bit computers. An original 1st-person space sim/shooter that took advantage of the keyboard to do many things such as commanding shields, weapons, warp drive, etc
 This is the reason for the touch pad, and it was a pain in the ass. Don’t get me wrong, I love peripherals, but if I can’t play an Atari 2600 with 1 joystick/1 button
I don’t want it.

Star-Raiders-Atari-Gameplay-Screenshot
The game itself is a bit boring. Just a grid “Galactic Map’ and the 1st-person space view with the target reticule in the center. The “stars” flying past you are a nice touch, and they’ll move as you do, left and right (or in space, there’s no such thing as left or right, I guess).

Star-Raiders-Atari-Gameplay-Screenshot
Ships will appear as you reach their grid quadrant, but seem to just randomly appear. Sometimes, the only way you know they are there is when they shoot you. When this happens, there is the typical 2600 sound-effects, but cool red flickering to let you know you have taken damage. You can repair and replenish your constantly-draining energy. Keep your close eye on the energy numbers dwindling at the bottom of the screen, because if it gets to zero
game over.

Star-Raiders-Atari-Gameplay-Screenshot
Depending on the difficulty you choose, you may have to defeat as many as 40 ships to complete your mission. The ships are the basic 2; one that looks like a Klingon Bird-of Prey, the other a Tie Fighter turned on its side. You have phasers and photon torpedoes at your ready, unless you take specific damage to them, then repair (at starbases) will be necessary. This game is a bit repetitive, and the difficulty is ramped high, with special mention in the “Activision Decathlon Hall of Fame of Joystick Snappers” as you wrench on it to try and keep the alien ships in your sights.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_VDM8nC9sM[/youtube]
Overall, I appreciate what Atari tried to do here, and I had fonder memories of the game before I tried to play it again. I respect the game for being a pioneer in the genre, but I think it tried to do too much, taking a lot of fun out of it. I need more action and less Starfleet Academy work. Not a bad game, just not a very good one either.

5/10

Sigma Star

So here we are finally back with another entry of Retro Game of the Week. This time around we have a very interesting title. Not only is this an RPG, but it’s a shoot ’em up with RPG elements. You can’t get any better than this!

Sigma Star - Gameboy Advanced - Gameplay Screenshot

Music

The music fits the game with its sci-fi soundtrack. You get the feeling that you are playing a game with weird unknown worlds and awesome action gameplay. The game does deliver great sound effects as well as very dramatic tunes. There is not much more to say about the music except that it fits the game just right.

Graphics

Sigma Star - Gameboy Advanced - Gameplay Screenshot

The graphics are GBAs standard. The usual SNES feel of the game in a portable game delivers with success. You get to fly around with scenery similar to R-type and enjoy the beautiful scenery. When you are not on your ship, you are walking around exploring the beautiful planets during your missions. The graphics aren’t the most groundbreaking but they are sure pretty.

Gameplay

Sigma Star - Gameboy Advanced - Gameplay Screenshot

The gameplay is quite enjoyable. The main idea of the game is to fly with your ship and shoot down other ships. In the process, you gain experience and eventually level up. This is very important as you will make your ship more powerful as you level up. The game works as an RPG since you walk around exploring different areas when you are suddenly summoned to your ship in order to battle a swarm of enemies. Once you defeated all of them, you are sent back to where you were in your mission. The game develops quite well and keeps you interested in a story involving a soldier betrayed by his own people only to join forces with the enemy. There is a lot more to it that I don’t want to spoil as usual.

Replay Value

Sigma Star - Gameboy Advanced - Gameplay Screenshot

As with all RPGs, you are left with a story that you’ll eventually finish and try to give it another shot. The point is that to replay this game might be a good and a bad idea. The good is that you can play this game at your own pace while the bad is that you get to play the exact same game over and over. Do you really want to do that? That is the weakness of playing RPG games, especially long ones. It’s all up to you.

Conclusion 

Sigma Star - Gameboy Advanced - Gameplay Screenshot

To conclude, this is a game that will make you want to pick up more shoot ’em up titles especially if they are combined genres. The RPG elements helps it keep interesting and as weird as the game may play, it ends up working in really good ways. The game is fun, interesting, and very well worth it. I suggest you pick it up and give it a shot! Until next week!

Gyruss

Gyruss-NES-Gameplay-screenshot

Gyruss

Overall Rating: 4/5 Stars

In early 1989, Konami released an 8-bit video game cartridge for the Nintendo Entertainment System console under their Ultra Games label that would prove to a singularity among the typical shoot-’em-up choices available to a player: Gyruss.

Gameplay

Gyruss-NES-Gameplay-screenshot

Gyruss is a one-player game. Although it exists within the shooter genre, it neither scrolls horizontally nor vertically; instead, this is a “tube shooter,” somewhat like the classic title Tempest, with a fixed viewpoint that provides a faux three-dimensional feel. The player controls the ship by rotating it around a ring formation, always facing the center. Enemy ships not only move around in circles also, but also at different depths, sometimes as far out as the player-ship, while other times so far away they appear as just a couple pixels in the center of the screen.

Gyruss-NES-Gameplay-screenshot

There are two control modes offered, A and B. Control Mode A ensure that pressing Right on the directional pad always moves the ship to the right, no matter which vertical half of the screen the ship is on. In other words, if the ship is at the bottom center of the screen, and the player presses Right until the ship is fixated at the three o’clock position at the right center of the screen, the ship will stop there, at which point the player must start pressing Left to continue the ship’s movement rotation around the screen. While it is nice that the game provides a steering mode that prevents the cognitive dissonance of a D-Pad direction only being “correct” half the time, the effect of each pause halfway up the circle is jarring, and Control Mode B is preferred, in which a continual, smooth motion of the ship is achieved, and pressing a direction on the D-Pad will always go clockwise if pressing Left and counter-clockwise if pressing Right.

Gyruss-NES-Gameplay-screenshot

Of course, there is much more to this video game than simply providing the tube shooter experience, though it is significantly notable for that accolade, considering it is the only example of such a game for the NES. The loose plot, explained in a single frame if allowed past the title screen, only says “Mankind must rid the universe of evil. It’s a death defying risk, and only a hero can succeed.” A foreboding, humanoid figure appears in the background against the starfield as a backdrop to this ominous text.

Gyruss-NES-Gameplay-screenshot

Play proceeds throughout the solar system that human beings are familiar with. Beginning with Neptune, and proceeding through each of the other planets (even Pluto, which must be during a portion of its orbit that takes it inside Neptune’s), the player is aiming to arrive at the Sun for the final showdown. Each planet has a few fairly short levels, that conclude with a boss fight, and then a bonus stage afterward for points.

In order to defeat each “warp” or wave of enemies, the B button fires the blaster cannon, with a maximum of two shots on the screen at a time. Earning a weapons upgrade enables double-fire, which is obviously a great boon to success, and can be achieved by blasting the two side barriers off a bonus orb before hitting the orb directly. The A button fires a special weapon, of which the player only has a limited amount and most slowly earn more throughout the game. This blast plows through everything in front of the player, towards the middle of the screen, and includes eliminating certain objects and projectiles that the normal blaster cannot get rid off.

Gyruss-NES-Gameplay-screenshot

The majority of the obstacles to victory consist of groupings of enemies that fly in, dance around in some form of pattern, then make their way to the middle of the screen. Much like Galaga, a handful of groupings will all form together, and should be dealt with before they begin coming back and dive-bombing toward the player. In fact, similar to other shooters such as even Sky Shark, shooting down all the crafts in a particular squadron before they reach the middle garners bonus points.

Besides the alien spacecraft are other challenging deterrents to deal with, such as asteroids and solar fireballs to dodge, along with the lasers and other weapons fired by various enemies. Some weaponry utilized, like the homing solar flare fireballs used near the end of the game, actually slightly veer toward the player as they come from the center of the screen, placing an enhanced demand on reflexes and reaction time.

Gyruss-NES-Gameplay-screenshot

There are about forty levels in all, with a brief ending afterward before a “second quest” begins. The Konami code is intact, if the player wishes to begin with 30 lives, instead of the usual three extra. Thanks to the deft programming skills of the development staff at Konami, Gyruss proves to be a slick, fun, very enjoyable 8-bit video game. As a shooter, it is a very distinctive title, and although not as tortuously difficult as some, with or without proper endings, still offers a worthy playthrough for shmup fans. That being said, this is not a game for everyone: It is so different that many will balk at its strangeness and simply never quite “get it.” Gamers have tastes, and some may fall in love with this selection.

Graphics

Gyruss-NES-Gameplay-screenshot

Gyruss is a good-lookin’ little vidya game. The action is frenetic and fast-paced, complete with Konami’s signature visuals, even down to the small yellow-and-orange circular-oriented explosions that can be seen elsewhere in such NES cartridges as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game. Solid ship designs and fancy beam weapon visuals aside, what may be most admirable of Gyruss is the crazy amount of sprites, for an 8-bit hardware machine at least, that it manages to juggle on-screen all at the same time. Granted, this comes with some flickering issues, but surprisingly minor, and without slowdown. The bosses are honestly a letdown at times, being somewhat small and not quite intimidating, but the strictures of the characterization were likely limited by the tube theme—which, in itself, is a graphical feast that mostly makes up for other nitpicky flaws. There is something very appropriate about a shoot-’em-up that strives to make the player feel as though they are shooting through space toward an ultimate destination.

Sound

Gyruss-NES-Gameplay-screenshot

The soundtrack is great. Really, it is a Konami work, so the usual high quality can be expected, complete with the familiar Pause sound effect. The background tunes get away from the period rock of something like Base Wars or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project, and settle into a motif more apropo of the setting at hand, fast-paced enough to keep adequate adrenaline pumping, with skillful composition that will never distract by its badness.

Originality

If one were to look too closely, one would have to frown and conclude that Gyruss is not entirely innovative: The “space shooter” trope has been endlessly retread for decades, down to the spacey designs of pattern-flying enemy squadrons that dive-bomb at a double-firing protagonist against a shooting-starfield background effect. It is, almost exclusively, the tube element that makes this an original, creative entry in the NES canon of gaming.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9BF4img_CyM[/youtube]

The most critical of observers could also say that Konami did not seem to try as hard with this one; the level-by-level execution is fairly straightforward, even with some quirky variety at points like the level without enemies where the player only needs to dodge incoming objects. The ending consists of a modest animation and one line of text (note: to be fair, the version on the Famicom Disk System is longer and less stripped-down). However, to purely take on a gaming perspective, that of a fan of video games, that of a human being with a controller in hand ready to take on the villains of the galaxy, that of purely sitting down in seeking a fun way to pass the time, Gyruss deserves its rating of four stars out of five. The five-word review goes like this: This is a great game.

Atari’s XE Game System

A lot of notable anniversaries in video game history will take place during the course of the year.  Others may not be as notable, as we’ll learn about today.

Atari XEGS

The Atari XE Game System (XEGS) turns 25 years old this year, a date that most industry experts might not notice.  Thanks to the efforts of Nintendo and a series of new hits in the arcades the video game industry had come roaring back in 1987.  Former industry king Atari wanted a piece of it, and tried in several different ways.

After re-releasing the original Atari 2600 as a value priced system and shipping the previously cancelled Atari 7800 product from warehouses, Atari introduced the XEGS in 1987.  Little more than a redressed Atari 8-bit personal computer, the XEGS aimed directly at Nintendo in television commercials, touting it’s own lightgun and items such as keyboard, disc drive and joystick.

The XEGS also boasted of a huge library of games available for play due to backward compatibility with previous Atari products.  While technically true, the game library was deeply aged by the time the XEGS hit store shelves.  Most of the XE branded games in stores were simply repackaged Atari computer game titles while others were translations of other home computer licenses as Nintendo had exclusive deals signed for almost every other arcade hit.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xZ2xuoSkv2Q[/youtube]

The Nintendo Entertainment System had gained more than 90 percent of the market by 1988, leaving the XEGS in the dust along with Atari’s other product.  It wasn’t the last time Atari took aim at Nintendo, however.  Years later Atari would introduce it’s own handheld system, the Lynx, to compete with Nintendo’s GameBoy.  In 1993 they also introduced the 64-bit Jaguar, the last new console released by the legendary Atari.

Despite a short run, the XEGS and games can be found on eBay and other online sites fairly easily today.

iCade 8-Bitty

iCade 8-Bitty

ICade has been pretty awesome at creating retro gaming hardware that you can use in conjunction with your iPad, iPhone and Android device to play retro video games pretty much anywhere. Check out our first look at the iCade arcade cabinet from CES 2011.

Recently iCade released their 8-Bitty, a retro gamepad that looks and feels like the classic NES game pad. The device is wireless and uses blue-tooth connectivity allowing you to pair your pad with your Apple or Android device. The pad features four buttons and the classic D-Pad and it fits in your pocket. The 8-bitty runs on two AAA batteries and has a power saver mode so you are not always replacing them.

Now the pad will work with all iCade games and comes with the Atari Greatest Hits app, which features over 100 games, however you only get Missile Command for free, but can purchase all 100 games for $14.99.

We hope to bring you a hands on review soon, in the meantime check out the product page here.

The Interview: Nolan Bushnell

This was originally posted on Twin Galaxies and is reposted with permission of Twin Galaxies and writer Matt Bradford. You can see the original Interview here.

Nolan Bushnell

Nolan Bushnell hasn’t worked a day in his life. At least, there are very few he’d consider “work”. From his early days at Atari, to launching Chuck E Cheese, and now his current adventures at the forefront of interactive entertainment and education, the aptly titled “Father of the Video Game Industry” has led a life rich with innovation, excitement, and most of all: fun.

So how did he find time to talk to us? We have no idea – but you can bet we took advantage of the opportunity. Join us as we pick Nolan’s brain on the future of gaming, why it pays to remember the past, and what it is to be a gaming icon.

 

 

nolan-bushnell-image

Let’s begin with one of your most recent achievements; your British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Fellowship Award. What did this mean for you?

Well, what was really nice about that is [gaming] was being represented or thought of as a truly creative endeavour, and that really is sort of a transitional point in some ways from being a hobby and just about games. I mean, I’m not sure if Monopoly—as wonderful a game as it is—ever got a BAFTA [laughs].

It was a nice win for gaming. When do you first recall video games receiving that level of recognition?

I’d say probably in the very late 80s or early 90s. One of the pivotal games that I’ve always felt represented a big shift was Doom. Somehow, the graphics, the immersion, and the ability to feel like you were in another world…I think it was truly excellent. And then, to add to that, do you remember Myst and those kind of games?

The point and click adventures…

Right, the point-and-click adventures. One of the things that happened with those is the graphics and the sound and the experiences were so compelling; like, I felt like I visited those islands. So all of the sudden, there became an ability to really capture the emotive experience of being somewhere else. Of course, movies give that to you in the abstraction—one’s interactive and one’s passive—and so I kind of think that was where I felt it was really good. Before that the technology was so rough, the best we could do was sort of a cartooney view of the world, which was not immersive.

Are modern games hitting that mark in terms of immersion?

Absolutely. Now it’s almost de rigueur; you do that all the time. It’s not novel or new to be immersed in a strange or fantasmagorical world.

You hit on a topic that sometimes polarizes the gaming community; that is, the idea that modern games don’t offer the same degree of immersion or skill level as some of the more classic games. What’s your take?

I think that both camps are right. I mean, let’s face it, in some ways the early classic games are much more finely tuned and in some ways better produced because we could not rely on graphics to steal the show. We really had to make sure the challenge was right, the timing was right, and the difficulty was right at every level or else the dog didn’t hunt, as they say.

And in some ways the arcade world—the coin operated world—was a very, very good development world because each quarter was a vote. We as developers got immediate feedback from our customers as to what they liked and didn’t like, what they found objectionable, and when they would quit putting quarters in the machine. That feedback mechanism was very, very good for the early days.

In reality, very often graphics can actually cause fuzziness in the gameplay. For example, I play tournament chess. We wouldn’t think of playing on anything other than the classic wood, knight, queen, king, and bishop chess set. There are brilliant and wonderful chess sets, but to have to worry about whether what you’re moving is actually a bishop or actually a rook because the design is kind of funky…that’s not part of what chess is. Chess is about no ambiguity, and often times really good graphics will introduce a level of ambiguity when it’s not wanted or not needed, or is actually destructive to the gameplay. If you go back to game theory, sometimes you want to introduce abstractions and sometimes you don’t. It depends on what the creator or director of the game wants. Gratuitous abstractions are not good.

Can you think of games that demonstrate both extremes?

The one that harkens back for me is a game called Zaxxon from the early days of the coin-op business. That was very, very confusing to a lot of people. In some ways, though, Tempest had a level of abstraction that was quit obtuse, which people found very, very compelling.

Today, Portal is a game in which there’s some abstraction that are really wonderful integrations to the gameplay. As for games that are using gratuitous abstractions, there are a few of the Zynga games [Farmville], but that seems to be working for them!

To be called the Father of Arcade Industry is a huge honor, and a lot to live up to. How does it feel to carry that title, and how are you keeping that moniker alive?

Actually, to tell you the truth, I don’t focus very much on the rear view mirror. I’m always focusing on what I’m doing, and right now while I’m doing some help with Atari on the 40th Anniversary, my real drive is to fix education using some of the things I know about how to immerse kids and how to addict them to activities that can be educational as well as entertaining.

Does that involve game theory? Are you drawing on your experience as the founder of Atari?

Massively. We know for a fact that video game play increases the IQ. There’s been study after study after study, and it’s absolutely true. What happens though, is video games are, in fact, addictive and people who play an excess amount of video games find that they end up being able to creatively problem solve, but they’ve got no data to fall back on. They’re what we call “processors with no memory”. I think that it’s important to keep a well balanced life.

You’ve been in the gaming world for quite some time. Who else do consider an unsung hero of the video game industry?

I think Steve Meyer doesn’t get talked about a lot, but he was absolutely pivotal in a lot of the creative thought that Atari is known for. Ed Rothberg [Battlezone] is another one who did some wonderful stuff. Joe Decuir in the later stuff in terms of being a brilliant coder. That’s kind of the early days. Of course, I’m a big fan of Will Wright [Sim City], and I think John Carmack from Doom has done wonderful things too. He’s not necessarily unsung, though.

What about some of the indie developers coming up. Any on your radar?

Yeah, the guy who made Minecraft, this Markuss “Notch” Persson. I just think that that is brilliant in its simplicity. There’s this rule in gameplay: maximum richness, minimum rules. He’s kind of done that, and created this very, very compelling world space.

It’s seems right now there’s a lot of gameplay innovations vying for domination. You’ve got motion controls, social gaming, graphical enhancements, and all that. Is there anything you see as coming out victorious in the next couple of years?

Oh yeah, for sure. We all know the direction; we all want to have essentially an artificial universe. Whether we’re talking about the Holodeck or Westworld, we want virtual experiences that are real. I’m not sure if we’re ever going to get jacked in like Neo.

It’s funny, I just finished a science fiction book that will be published in a few months, Video Games 2071. It’s set a hundred years in the future from the first video game. I timed it from Computer Space, and I sort of let my technology mind run wild as to what I think the ultimate video game would be.

Which is almost the Matrix, right? Being unable to separate the video game space from the real world?

Yeah. It’s kind of a reverse turing test.

Do you see us getting to that point?

Getting close. I think we can get real close. And with what I consider the technology to be, that is not just possible, but probable…and probably sooner than what I postulated in my book.

We’re talking a lot about future trends, and Twin Galaxies lives in the more competitive domain of gaming. Do you think competition is still going to play a key role in the video game experience going forward, or is that going to be replaced by social and cooperative experiences?

No. I see a lot of signals that say competitive gaming is going to explode. I predict that within two years there will be several television channels devoted to nothing but watching other people play video games.

Understand that what happens is players become audiences. People watch basketball and baseball because they played it as a kid, so they know the rules intimately, and in some ways they project their aspirations from then onto the players now. That mechanism is part of our psyche, and that’s going to happen in games. You have to have enough of the audiences, and you have to have the right games, and the right dynamic. I believe that someday somebody will put it all together in a very short while.

There was a time in 70s and 80s when that appeared to be happening, but it never fully took off. What is different now?

The games were not designed for viewing that well. The field of view was constrained. I think in some ways they should almost design a game sport that is designed for third party watching.

Assuming competitive gaming does take off as much as you predict, will there be a need for score keeping organizations like Twin Galaxies?

Not only that, I think there’s going to be opportunity for Video Game Halls of Fame for great players– which clearly are score based, and all kinds of those things. Remember that what we have is a social phenomena, and surely as there’s walks of fame and a lot of these things, once it becomes a social phenomena, people want to experience it aspirationally.

You’ve give us a lot of insight into what’s the come, but what about what’s already happened? Looking back, what has been your proudest achievement?

My family of eight children, being married to my wife, and having a really nice home and support structure. The most important thing is really your family and friends. All the other stuff is window dressing.

The reality is, am I proud of things that I’ve done? Absolutely. But, you know, they were a vehicle for creating an interesting life for myself and my children in some ways. I’ve had really, really fun life. I haven’t worked a day in my life. Well, actually, that’s not true. We all want these ideal jobs, but there are times like [at CES] where the last thing I wanted to do is go down to the consumer electronic show and fight the crowds, but yet I was curious. So is that work? Is that play? I don’t know.

Speaking of your career, it seems far from over. Aside from the educational initiative and your continuing work with Atari, what else is keeping you busy?

I’m also on the board of a company, CyberSecurity, that I really love. I get involved with companies that are doing important and interesting things. Right now, part of the thing that I really like is I don’t have to be CEO. CEO is really a hard job. It’s all consuming. I think as I’ve got older, I’ve found it’s really fun to not be CEO [laughs]. It’s really fun to—I don’t want to say dabble—but to have an impact on a broader set of issues.

I am absolutely, in my core, an existentialist. The journey is the reward.

Are you playing anything right now?

I still play Go. I am playing some Portal. I am playing a lot…an awful lot…of the Atari Greatest Hits on the iPad. It’s a wonderful articulation. It brings me back and, you know, it’s almost like a time warp. I was playing Lunar Lander today and just having a ball. It was like time travelling back to 1976 or whenever it was. I got the Atari joystick and button thing for the iPad for Christmas, and I’ve just been having fun playing Missile Command.

What about your work in the industry? Anything up your sleeve?

I’m actually doing work on a truly interactive movie. Imagine, if you would, 100 people in a theatre playing an interactive movie. I’ve got a design, and one I think would be spellbinding. I’ve driven the cost out of it, and I think that it’s possible the first few interactive movies can make 20-percent of what Avatar did with the fraction of the budget.

You know, a lot of people think that it’s horrible to give away all your secrets, but I’m almost the opposite. I like to bounce those things off people. I’ve found that an unproven idea you can’t give away, let along have somebody steal them [laughs].

People don’t realize how bumpy the road to innovation is. Could any of the thousand companies come up with the iPad? Absolutely. And I think some people did. You know, people were talking about Apple Computers and that five years before, but what you have to do is execute properly. A lot of people don’t realize how hard it is to execute properly.

And that was Steve Job’s genius.

Exactly. And in some ways it was Atari’s genius. At one point in time, we had about a 90% market share. That’s really, really hard to do unless you had the secret sauce. Anybody could have done what we were doing, but we did it first and best.

That said, the Fairchild Channel F was out almost a full year before Atari. How did Atari succeed where it failed?

This is going to sound very dismissive, but…they were really crappy games [laughs]. Quite candidly, the technology was not extensible. It was viewed a tiny little step on the pathway to a multi-game, which is where everyone was going. Everyone wanted to do a multi-game. Once you have a multi-game, it has to be good enough, and [the Fairchild Channel F] just wasn’t. The Magnavox Odyssey, they basically had huge returns, and actually in some ways—and i hadn’t realized it at the time—but kind of poisoned the well for consumer games going forward.

How so?

When we took the Atari Pong to the Toy Show, we sold none. Nobody wanted to touch it, because there had been enough people that had heard about Magnavox and some of those things, and so they just didn’t see it. If it hadn’t been for Sears, I’m not sure if we could have gotten it launched. Of course, it turned out to be one of the most successful consumer product launches for ages, but it was a real, real struggle. When you look at it, what was the difference between Pong and Ping Pong games. You could say, well, “was there really that big of a difference”. And it turns out it was massive.

Yeah, you could say that. 

—–

Twin Galaxies thanks Nolan Bushnell for his time and for laying the foundation for what TG staff and members enjoy on a daily basis. Look for Nolan in our Trading Card Series and keep watch for his next big projects.

Site of Last Starfighter, birthplaces of Mario and Lode Runner added to registry

Three new additions have been made to the Registry of Historic Gaming Locations, a project aimed at preserving the stories of locations that have historical importance to video gaming.

The Last Starfighter

The project, which started last summer, now lists a total of 26 locations with plans to add more on a monthly basis.

The newest crop of inductions include:

– Rio Cafe & Grocery in Santa Clarita, CA – The food store where the hotshot gamer in 1984 film The Last Starfighter strutted his stuff.

– Early Nintendo Warehouse in Seattle, WA – The site where the struggling Nintendo of America built the Donkey Kong machines that saved them from bankruptcy in 1981.  This is also the warehouse owned by Mario Segale, the man rumored to be the inspiration behind the naming of Nintendo’s iconic mascot.

– Former Broderbund Software HQ in San Rafael, CA – The place that brought Lode Runner, Choplifter, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? and Prince of Persia to life.

Some of the other 23 locations previously inducted include competitive gaming birthplace Ottumwa, IA, the original testing locations of classics such as Donkey Kong and Defender, arcade locations featured in films such as Tron, The Karate Kid and WarGames, former headquarters locations of companies such as Atari and Bally Midway and the famous landfill that saw millions of unsold Atari game cartridges dumped in 1984.

In a short time the Registry of Historic Gaming Locations has received press coverage across the world, including recent stories in Japan and Brazil.

The full Registry list, including the newest three entries, can be found at PatrickScottPatterson.com.

 

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: Johnathan Wendel: Fatal1ty

Johnathan Wendel -Fatal1ty

I’m sure everyone who has played an FPS, RTS or even PVP game in a MMO sees themselves as a pro gamer. Johnathan Wendel, better known as Fatal1ty, is not only a true professional gamer, but also a business man and philanthropist. Last year you saw his gamer profile and Obsolete Gamer had a chance to ask him some questions.

Tell us about your early days of gaming. What was your first video game experience?

First video game experience was playing games like Microsoft Flight Simulator on PC and some Ikari Warriors on the Nintendo.  I did mess around with Atari, but I never owned one.  Mostly played it when I went to friends’ houses, etc.

At what point did you realize you had the talent and want to become a professional gamer?

I guess when I was 18. One of my good friends, Eric Paik, who was a pro gamer and traveled a lot, told me I was very talented and should definitely go to a tournament.  You will win money for sure!  So I saved up about $500 and went off to Dallas, TX and won a qualifier and took 3rd at my very first pro tournament winning $4,550.

Johnathan Wendel -Fatal1ty

So your first professional match was playing Quake 3, what was it like your first time playing competitively? 

Exhilarating!  I was amp’ed every second and wanted to play to my full potential.  It was a do or die experience for my gaming career as I was putting all my money on the line.

Tell us about how you train and prepare for tournaments?

Play about 8 hours a day in the virtual world working on my movement, timing, strategies, fighting skills and hearing the sounds of the game.  I want to be so knowledgeable about the game that if I hear a pin drop or an item picked up from anywhere on the map, I know exactly where my opponent is at all times and where he could be in the next 5 seconds.  Predicting your opponent’s moves is very important.

Personally, what differences do you notice between playing in a tournament solo versus with your team?

I’ve done both extremely heavily but I feel, in a solo environment, you can only blame yourself if you lose.  When you win, you know you won and when you lose, you know you lost.  I enjoy it the best, when the game is in my hands to win or lose.

Johnathan Wendel -Fatal1ty - Motherboard

Tell us about a day in the life when you were actively entering tournaments?

My routine was to play 4 hours, go run 2-3 miles, have lunch, play another 2 hours, relax and play another 2 hours before 4 AM so I could wake up and repeat it the next day.

Many people still don’t understand professional gamers, are there any myths or stereotypes you would want to address?

Most professional gamers are actually in shape and have a pretty good social life in their virtual and real life.  We mostly come from some other competitive sports that we played forever as kids and we’re able to use our skills of hand eye coordination and out thinking our opponents just like we do in our traditional sports.

Which game did you like competing in the most?

PainkilleR was a great game to play because we had a full season where we traveled for almost 18 months, continuously playing all over the world and winning loads of money.  It was also the biggest payday of my career in competitive gaming, taking home $150,000 for the World Tour Finals in NYC.

Johnathan Wendel -Fatal1ty

Do you still have people trying to challenge you to this day?

Yes, I actually go on tour promoting my products to distributors and buyers in different regions of the world, and I do exhibition/show matches for the crowd/press at these events.

What made you want to start Fatal1ty Inc?

I wanted to create a brand that a gamer who lived in the battlefield understood what competitive gamers wanted and needed in order to experience their game at the highest level.  When people shop at the store or online, I want them to know that when they buy a Fatal1ty product, they’re buying a Gaming product.

Thanks for the interview and game on,

-Johnathan ‘Fatal1ty’ Wendel

What are the best-selling video game consoles of all time?

gaming-consoles

With the holiday season upon us, it appears each modern-day video game console is primed to do more big numbers.  While this is nothing new to video gaming throughout most of the past three decades, the sheer numbers are telling of just how much the industry has grown and how much more it may grow before it levels off.

The original “must have” game console was the Atari Video Computer System, later called the Atari 2600.  While it didn’t catch on right away, the 2600 was the clear sales leader of the early generations, selling around 30 million units in it’s lifetime, six times more than competing consolesIntellivision and ColecoVision sold combined.

Even with such numbers, however, the lifetime figures of Atari’s classic console have been beaten many times over.  While 1996’s Nintendo 64 failed to catch on like retailers had hoped, it still managed to outsell the 2600 in the end my almost 3 million units.  Nonetheless, it was tagged a failure by Nintendo compared to previous consoles.

classic_video_game-consoles

The biggest Nintendo console for some time was theNintendo Entertainment System, which moved almost 62 million consoles in it’s lifetime, saving the video game industry in North America.  Only recently did Nintendo manage to defeat it’s own sales record with the Nintendo Wii, which has now hit the 90 million unit mark.

The NES may come down the lifetime charts by the end of some other console runs, however.  The XBox 360 is nearing the 58 million unit mark with Sony’s PlayStation 3 not far behind it with over 55 million units sold as of this writing.

Even though it is in last place in the current console generation, the PlayStation 3 may still reach the top five selling consoles of all time by the end of it’s run, giving Sony three of the best selling consoles ever.  The PlayStation 2rules the roost with a whopping 153.5 million units sold, a mark that beat Sony’s own record with the originalPlayStation, which shipped over 102 million consoles.

While this article isn’t including handhelds it is interesting to note that the Nintendo DS has sold 149 million units (not including the 3DS model), a number that means it’s already trumped the unreal sales numbers of the original GameBoyhandhelds that had ruled the market for over a decade.

classic-consoles

Here is a list of the top selling consoles of all time, according to Wikipedia.  Where do your favorite systems rank?

1.  Sony PlayStation 2 (2000) – 153.5 million

2.  Sony PlayStation (1994) – 102.49 million

3.  Nintendo Wii (2006) – 89.36 million *

4.  Nintendo Entertainment System (1985) – 61.91 million

5.  Microsoft XBox 360 (2005) – 57.6 million *

6.  Sony PlayStation 3 (2006) – 55.5 million *

7.  Super Nintendo Entertainment System (1990) – 49.10 million

8.  Sega Genesis (1988) – 39 million

9.  Nintendo 64 (1996) – 32.93 million

10. Atari VCS/2600 (1977) – 30 million

11. Microsoft XBox (2001) – 24 million

12. Nintendo GameCube (2001) – 21.74 million

13. Sega Dreamcast (1998) – 10.6 million

14. NEC TurboGrafx-16 (1987) – 10 million

15. Sega Saturn (1994) – 9.5 million

* = Console still in production as of press time.

Holiday Hardware Guide

pile-of-christmas-presents

Do you remember getting your first console system or computer? The feeling inside must have been great, so much so that you most likely did not realize how much your parents suffered to get it for you. Check out my tale about one Christmas and the NES hunt.

You would think that you could not replicate that feeling once you are buying your own gifts, but that isn’t true. When I purchased my black Xbox 360 I felt just like a kid again even though I was spending my hard earned bucks and the same can be said for games like Batman Arkham City and the upcoming Star Wars, The Old Republic.

So you may have purchased your gifts this year and if you are lucky you have others buying gifts that you know you will love. Here at Obsolete Gamer, we look at modern games and systems that can also have a Retro twist to it, but in the end will bring smiles to our faces when we open it.

Genesis Desktop System: Origin PC

origin-pc-genesis

Here is the simple truth, you can build your own system or buy similar systems from any of a thousand retailers, but like the sexy MILF next door told you experience counts.

The Genesis is the premier desktop system offered by Origin PC and what makes this system and the company great is the different configurations they offer and the service and support they provide. You can go with an Intel P67 or X79 or even AMD. You can select the case you want and have multiple choices for everything you put inside. Best part is if there is something you want to add that you don’t see, ask them and they can hook you up.

Sure, you can have a nice house that looks like everyone else’s home on the block or you can create your own masterpiece by custom designing your rig with paint, artwork, lights and more and since pretty much everyone at Origin PC has been a gamer and in the business for over a decade or more you know when you need help you will get real answers.

The key for the holiday shopper is you don’t have to spend 5K on a system, you can build it to exact specifications and remove anything you don’t need guaranteeing you get exactly what you want.

You can check out the Genesis here.

iCADE: ION

I got a chance to see this system at the last CES and was impressed of how well it played using an iPAD. Now we all know you can find classic games on emulators, downloads and even in flash, but there was just something about using the arcade style joystick and buttons that made the iCade really fun to play.

Now currently it only runs Atari classic games which you can find more on the App Store so for Apple haters this might not be for you, but for everyone else this is a really cool device to have in your office or wherever you might game and for just under 100 bucks it won’t break the wallet.

You can check out the iCade here.

Siberia Headset & Sensei Mouse: SteelSeries

SteelSeries-Sensei-Mouse

Everyone has their favorite devices, for me it is all about comfort, control and durability. Having played pretty much every type of game and game system I learned what works best for me. For instance, I like the Xbox 360 controller the best because it works for me and the same is true for the mice I have tested and use from SteelSeries.

From turn around blind shots in FPS games to fast scroll movement in RTS games the SteelSeries mice have the precession and comfort that makes gaming and everyday tasks a breeze. I still use the XAI mouse I tested some time ago today and have no plan to replace it and the new Sensei mouse is now married to my gaming laptop.

Now as for headsets I fell in love with the Siberia because of its comfort and sound quality and the black and gold edition is pretty bad ass. Check out the full review here. I have been impressed with Steel Series products and their price point doesn’t leave you in debt after the holidays so for the people in your life that need computer accessories they are a great place to shop.

You can check out SteelSeries products here.

M.A.M.E. Arcade Cabinet

Northcoast Custom Arcades

Before the anti-pirate people come out the woodwork there are plenty of legal ways to play classic games on a M.A.M.E system including owning the original game. Honestly, one of the best ways to play M.A.M.E is on a full size arcade cabinet which you can have built or build yourself.

Personally, I never owned one, but I know a few that have and they built them themselves and it is pretty awesome. Pretty much the hardest part is knowing how to cut the wood and put it together, the wirework is not too hard, and there are a ton of websites that can show you step by step how to do it or you can search for several companies that will build you a system.

If you are going to go with a builder go with a professional like Northcoast. Just check out the awesome arcade cabinets they have already built and see images from customers. You also know they do good work because they were featured on the DIY network. Sure, these can get pricy, but it is worth it and if you are going to spend the cash make sure you get the best.

Just keep in mind this is a full size arcade cabinet so if you live in your dorm or small apartment you will quickly find yourself out of space, but if you have the room this is just an incredible addition to the classic gamer’s game room.

Check out NorthCoast arcade cabinets here.

Supaboy: Hyperkin

SupaBoy

So I first heard about this product on the Jace Hall Show page and knew I had to try one out. This handheld system plays original SNES carts and plays them on a 3.5 inch display that can even be connected to your television and two original SNES controllers.

Sure, you can get these on phones or pads or your PC and consoles, but there is something about having the original cartridge sticking out while gaming. Well, at least to me it is cool. The SupaBoy can be picked up for only 80 bucks which isn’t bad especially if you have a large SNES collection. I’m thinking Retro Stocking stuffer!

Check out the SupaBoy Portable SNES console here.

Get to shopping!

Now there will be more to come, but for now check out these products and see if any of them fit into your holiday gift giving plans. We also want to hear from you. Suggest to us some great holiday gaming hardware and we will bring a review to you.

Classic Games you would give as gifts today

Video Game Stocking

True story, I was in a Kay Bee toy store several years before they closed and was looking for some discounted games. An older woman comes in and asks about the Playstation2 which was brand new at the time. The guy behind the counter tells her the Atari Jaguar would be much better liked for her son and showed her a wonder bundle of games and told her he could give them all to her for one special price.

Well, if you know anything about the Atari Jaguar you know any kid would not want that over a brand new PS2. Now yes, I could have said something, but I was an evil teenager at the time and I was hoping to be there after the holidays when she would have to return it in a panic.

I was thinking about that story the other day and with the holidays almost here I thought about great games that would make great gifts today. Now of course if you gave most people an old game instead of something new like Call of Duty or Skyrim they would freak. However, what if it would be appreciated, what classic game would you proudly give as a gift?

Sonic 2

Sonic 2

For me this was Sonic perfection, the level design the music and everything in-between made this a great game. Even today it is the type of game you can load up and enjoy a quick run through. It may not have the graphics of today, but people are liking Sonic Generations and its look back to classic Sonic so as a retro stocking stuffer this game would be received well.

Super Mario RPG

Super Mario RPG

When you mix the fun world of Mario with the RPG nature of the Squaresoft games you get an adventure that stands the test of time. Super Mario RPG had it all, a good storyline, great characters, wonderful music and a fun battle system with boss fights and secret areas and the game was pretty long to boot. Compared to later games like Final Fantasy 7, it may seem lacking, but in its time it was ahead of its day and led to many great Paper Mario games.

Final Fantasy 7

final-fantasy-7

Speaking of FF7, most people crown this game the king of the series and even though you might get tired of seeing people pretend they are Sephiroth or horrible cosplay of Tifa, the game itself was a masterpiece. Again we have the perfect combination of story, characters, gameplay and music and all were rated five stars. Many gamers still want a remake and not the one on the PSP. No doubt the painted ground and other outdated graphics might look strange to today’s gamer, but for a classic game this must rank as one of the all-time greats.

Super Castlevania

Super Castlevania

How many of you have played this in some form in the last year or so. For many it is like going to church, you do it once or twice a year. Super Castlevania is one of those games that every once in a while you have to play through because of how fun it was and I have to toss  STON in there as well because they were both so well done that even with outdated graphics the game is still awesome. The point is that great games are great games regardless of their outdated look. Castlevania was fun to play and it did not matter if that bat looked more like a dust bunny or that the whip was seriously pixelated. Once you saw someone playing it or a video or even a mention you most likely loaded it up yourself. Come on, you know right now you are thinking about it.

Stocking Stuffer

Now obviously there are a ton of great games I missed, but that is for you to tell us. In fact we will make it a contest. Tell us what classic game would be worth giving as a gift this holiday season and the best written one will be featured in an article and you will win a prize. Detail is the key here and the better you make your case the better your chance to win. Even if you do not want to participate in the contest we want to know which game you think should be on this list.

Lode Runner

Way back in time, when I was gaming the night away on my Apple II clone (a Circle II), all things Zork ruled my gaming existence.  But when I needed a respite from adventuring in the Great Underground Empire, Lode Runner was the game that took its place.

Lord Runner - Apple - Box

Lode Runner was an arcade hit published by Broderbund Software in 1983.  The game’s backstory was that a vast fortune in gold bullion was heisted by the Bungeling Empire, and it’s your job to recover it.  Some of the gold sat around waiting for you to pick it up, and some was carried by various agents of the Empire –  which required a slightly more creative approach.  Essentially the only way to get their gold was to bury them alive, and wait for the gold to pop out once they were crushed to death.  Your Lode Runner was able to blast the dirt to either side of him (and more than one square, if needed), which would eventually automatically refill.  The trick was to make certain that an Agent would fall into it, and be unable to get out in time before the hole refilled.  Blast too soon and the hole would refill long before the Agent arrived; blast too late and the Agent would either climb out of the hole and expunge your Lode Runner from virtual existence or the hole would not open at all.  Timing your blasts, and knowing when to kill your Agents off, was the point of the game.

Lode Runner - Gameplay Screenshot

Lode Runner for Apple II screen

Yes, it was simple. What 1980’s game wasn’t?  But it was fun.  And clearly many, many gamers thought so, too, as Lode Runner was released on multiple platforms, including: Apple II (1983), Atari 400/800/XL/XE (1983), Commodore 64 (1983), MSX (1983), PC Booter (1983), VIC-20 (1983), Macintosh (1984), Nintendo Famicom (1984), ZX Spectrum (1984), PC-88 (1986), Nintendo Entertainment System (1987), Amstrad CPC (1989), and the Atari ST (1989)
among others!  That’s a lot of systems, a large audience, and a reason why Lode Runner remains a classic gaming memory.

Lode Runner - Sierra - Box

Lode Runner: The Legend Returns cover.

Like any classic game, Lode Runner had its share of updates and sequels, again a sign of a game that has a classic appeal.  The list is impressive:

  • Load Runner’s Rescue (Commodore 64, 1985)
  • Hyper Lode Runner (GameBoy, 1990)
  • Battle Lode Runner (TurboGrafx, 1993)
  • Lode Runner: The Legend Returns (DOS/Macintosh/Windows, 1994)
  • Lode Runner Online: The Mad Monk Returns (Windows/Macintosh, 1995)
  • Lode Runner 2 (Windows/Macintosh, 1998)
  • Lode Runner 3-D (Nintendo 64, 1999)
  • Battle Lode Runner (Wii, 2007)
  • Lode Runner (Xbox 360, 2009)

Lode Runner has been considered a classic for some time. It made #80 on Computer Gaming World’s 150 Best Games of All Time list, and was mentioned in 2003 as one of the best games of all time by Gamespot in their The Greatest Games of All Time series.  The creator of Tetris, the classic puzzle game that all puzzle games are compared to, was quoted in a 2008 interview with Edge Magazine that he considered Lode Runner to his favorite puzzle game for many years.  There was even a 1986 Lode Runner board game created by Donal Carlston (the creator of the still-popular board game, Personal Preference)!

Lode Runner - Online - Box

Lode Runner Online: The Mad Monk Returns cover

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2jnRWMvxb7o[/youtube]

Back in 1983, a big bowl of salt ‘n’ vinegar potato chips, a jug of chocolate milk, and an afternoon of wiping out agents of the Bungeling Empire was a recipe for good times.  Now that I’m older (married with children, no less!), there’s no more chocolate milk nor salt ‘n’ vinegar potato chips, and my afternoon gaming has now been replaced with late evening gaming. But Lode Runner will always hold a special place in my gamer heart, and if you’ve never played it, find one of the updated versions and have great time!

Steve Jobs 1955-2011: Technology pioneer worked in the early days of Atari

Steve Jobs

Mankind has lost one of the greatest inventors and visionaries of all time, as Apple has confirmed the death of Steve Jobs, the founder of the company.

Most famous for his role in pioneering the personal computer industry and reinventing technology with products such as the iPhone and the iPad, Jobs also had a role in the earliest days of the video game industry.

In 1974, an Atari receptionist came to video game pioneer Al Alcorn to tell him of a long haired young man in the lobby.

“We’ve got this kid in the lobby. He’s either got something or is a crackpot,” the receptionist told Alcorn.  After giving an interview where he’d exaggerated his electronics knowledge, an 18-year-old Jobs became Atari’s 40th employee, working for $5 an hour to tweak and finish an early handheld game called Touch Me.

Atari Touch Me

A short time later, Jobs invited his friend Steve Wozniak to show off a homemade version of Pong he’d developed, impressing Atari so much that he, too, was hired by the young video game company.

Jobs and Wozniak would later pair up to work on Atari’s 1976 release Breakout, the ball-and-paddle brick-breaking game that has been cloned a million times over, from 1987’s arcade hit Arkanoid to countless Flash-based clones on the internet today.  Offered a bonus by Atari if the number of chips that could be eliminated from the machine, Jobs offered to split the bonus with Wozniak, who worked for days on end to reduce the design to such a degree that Atari was unable to figure it out and had to redesign the circuit board over again.  Despite the fact that Wozniak did the work, Jobs took most of Atari’s bonus money for the project without Wozniak’s knowledge.

Jobs and Wozniak would then go on to form Apple Computer, the company that brought the computer into the home.  Almost ironically, the iPhone and iPad would become popular devices in the modern day for playing video games, putting his contributions to the industry at both the start and end of his historic career.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IpVIufJ4qoU[/youtube]

Jobs was 56 years old.  “Steve’s brilliance, passion and energy were the source of countless innovations that enrich and improve all of our lives,” read the statement from Apple that confirmed the passing of Jobs on the evening of October 5.

 

R-Type available today for Android devices

r-type

Fans of classic space shooters rejoice because R-Type is coming to your Android phone starting today from DotEmu.

Pilot the R-9a Arrowhead, the last hope of human race in its war against alien invader! Your mission is clear but not so easy: blast off and strike the evil Bydo Empire!

Initially developed and published by Irem in 1987, R-Type has become an essential game on arcade cabinet, Amiga, Atari, Amstrad, Commodore 64 and PC. Today this masterpiece is ported and published for Android devices by DotEmu SAS.

R-Type for Android is a real diving in your youth and will include all the features you enjoyed in the original game:

  • A large amount of items and powers-up to collect through various and sharpened sets.
  • Strong enemies and bosses at the end of each level (8 altogether).
  • The famous « charge shot » for more power!
  • Share your results with your friends with OpenFeint!

R-Type for Android will come along two difficulty modes and a new intuitive control system – full touch mode – to directly control your spaceship. Get your hand on a real blast from the past and (re)discover all the hype from the 80’s!

R-Type for Android is compatible with devices running on OS 2.1+ and with a screen resolution of 480×320 HVGA or above. Supported devices will include Samsung Galaxy S / Google Nexus S, Motorola Xoom, Samsung Galaxy Tab, etc.

Also great news for fans, R-Type Android is officially Xperia PLAY optimized providing the best user experience!

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

R-Type Android is now available for $2.99
Android Market: https://market.android.com/details?id=com.dotemu.rtype
And soon for Amazon Appstore.

Pirates of Silicon Valley movie review

Pirates of Silicon Valley movie review

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates

If you care at all about computers or technology or business or the future, this is a movie you MUST watch. The movie goes hand in hand with other amazing technology business movies such as Micromen and The Social Network. This movie shows you how the megacorps we know as Microsoft and Apple started, according to writer and director Martyn Burke. It was also based on the book “Fire in the Valley” written by Paul Freiberger and Michael Swaine. I’m not saying it’s exactly what happened, but it’s close enough. I used to obsess as a kid wanting to know the exact details of the true history of something but I’m not a time traveler so such details no longer bother me.

It’s easy to watch the movie as they have multiple copies of it on youtube.

The movie shows two camps: Apple with its technology loving engineers and hippie turned businessman turned devil and Microsoft with its college nerds who love to play poker and jocks turned executive geniuses. You get to see Steve Jobs go from this rebel non-conformist into him signing over his soul to the devil to then becoming the devil himself. Gates is just ambitious from the start and his ambition never wanes.

Like all pioneers, nobody at their time took them serious or understood what they were trying to do. They were creating a revolution in technology, in the way we live our lives (especially if you’re a computer person like me). Think about where we would be without the personal computer. Even the things that came after, like cell phones, smart phones, laptops, mp3 players, the internet, social media… none of that would be possible without the work of engineers and businessmen such as these. I’m not saying they were the definite cause for all this but they were major contributors. We must also accredit other people such as all the fine people at Altair, Commodore, Atari, Nintendo, IBM, Sega, Sinclair, Acorn, and more.

Back to the movie… The movie shows both sides eventually doing whatever it needs to get ahead. The movie is not called The Super Nice Nerds of Silicon Valley, it’s The Pirates. Yes, they WILL cut your throat if you are in their way to success. Now, I’m not saying they’re as evil as wall street or the banks that just robbed the world, but they’re no saints!

A recurring theme in the movie is to get people to want what they don’t really need necessarily, which you might not even have yet but you want them to want it, creating demand (and getting the money to get it made).

One of the most important scenes is at the 1977 tech show when Gates tries to talk to Jobs, explaining what they were doing at Microsoft, only to get blown off by him, which in turn starts part of their war against each other.

The best part of the movie is probably when Microsoft sells DOS to IBM. I’ll let this clip speak for itself:

The other best scene of the movie is when Apple gets the GUI from Xerox. I couldn’t find a video of that clip to post here. It is also really interesting when an Apple employee confronts Gates telling him that instead of Apple thinking IBM is big brother that they don’t realize that Microsoft is their true enemy. He points this out to Jobs while he was trying to woo the Apple employees during a conference by showing them the famous 1984 Apple commercial.

Microsoft had the foresight to see that without software the hardware did nothing. Sure, you could have the most incredible monster machine but if nobody can do things with it, who would buy it?

Gates reminds me a lot of myself. He is characterized as being a very good poker player, the kind who will never let you know how good or bad of a hand he has and will make you make the wrong decision. Especially in the beginning, he uses a strategy of making you think that he has many business deals going on, when in reality he had none. Both sides did that actually. He got in trouble with the law, especially speeding (that’s me!), and doing other crazy things (not so much me, well, actually…) such as wrecking his friend’s car. Throughout the movie and in real life, he is a very competent negotiator.

Steve Jobs was just evil to me all throughout the movie. In real life, I still don’t like him, which is funny because I hated everything Microsoft for many years when I was younger, but in reality I didn’t like how he reacted to being informed at the number of record suicides at the Foxconn factories, which make a LOT of Apple products. The transformation this movie shows goes from stoner hippie to egoist pioneer to evil business genius. I just think he’s a real asshole. Through the movie he kept denying that his daughter Lisa was actually his.

Throughout the movie, the characters I enjoyed the most were Steve Wozniak (the Woz) and Steve Ballmer. I felt bad for the Woz because he just wanted to create and then he had to deal with all the drama and bullshit from Jobs, as well as seeing Jobs putting down people and destroying the Lisa. Woz was always trying to do the right thing, like not fuck his friends out of stock or treat employees like subhumans. I felt terrible for him when he quit the company after Jobs had pretty much created a civil war inside Apple (Macintosh vs everything else). Ballmer was just a total trip. He was this crazy jock that would always have the common sense, especially when it came to getting girls, that Bill Gates and Paul Allen did not have.

As a movie critic I give this movie a score of 7 out of 10. As a computer geek I give this movie a 9 out of 10. I think Micromen was a much better movie, about a similar topic. The music selection throughout the movie is excellent and I was really shocked by this as this was a made-for-TV movie. Noah Wyle as Jobs just blew my mind, which you might know as the science teacher from Donnie Darko. John DiMaggio was great as Ballmer, which is a real treat because he is usually known for his voice work in cartoons such as Futurama and also voice work for many video games.

Go watch it.

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

Video of the Day: Game Deaths

Classic video game deaths

This video is just to awesome not to share. This video shows death scenes from various classic games to a great remix tune. Enjoy.

[youtube width=”600″ height=”480″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJ6APKIjFQY[/youtube]

(Dir.: Rob Beschizza, BoingBoing. Music is Rob’s MIDI homage to “Mad World,” by Tears for Fears, and you can download the MP3 here:http://www.boingboing.net/2011/03/28/game-deaths-mp3.html and buy their original song here [MP3]: http://tinyurl.com/4wzqgry ).

Yars Revenge

Yars-Revenge-Atari-2600
Backstory on Yar’s:
It’s a simple game, really. A Yar is this giant, flying insect. Its enemy is the Qotile, who hangs out on the right side of the screen. It’s protected by a shield, which can be shot or eaten by the Yar. Once there’s a “hole” in the shield, you can use the Zorlon Cannon, which appears on the left side of the screen, to kill it. There’s also a small, slow-moving missile that can kill you. It follows you relentlessly, like the Terminator. There’s a “neutral zone” in the middle of the screen, which will save you from the missile, but not the Qotile’s main weapon..the deadly “swirl”. The swirl is like a can of Raid. Kills Bugs Dead. At certain intervals, the Qotile will turn different colors and periodically shoot out toward the Yar. A really cool feature (and one you will NEED to use) is that Yar can fly through the top of the screen and “pop” out of the bottom, or vice-versa. The missile or swirl cannot do this.

OBJECTIVE: To reach 1,000,000 points, turning the score back to zero, and getting the revenge for the Yars.

I fire it up, and it still has that cool background music. Sounds a bit like an old refrigerator droning on and on before it dies.
Yar moves around very quick and smoothly, controls are nice.
You get more points for eating the shield than shooting, so I’m going to get in close as much as possible.

BLEEPBLOOP!
ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED 40 G- COOL HAND
(Eat 50 pieces of shield)

After there’s a hole in the shield, you have a couple of options: You can continue eating the shield for more points, or get right to the BIG points. It’s 1000 to shoot the Qotile while he’s sitting there; 2000 to wait until he turns into the swirl; or 6000 points to shoot him while he’s shooting toward you. The risk/reward of shooting him in mid-air is the way I like to go for a big reason: This is the only way to get a “free man”. You will max out with 9 lives, but you’ll need them.
Yars-Revenge-Atari-2600

I’m out of practice a bit, but I opt to eat a little shield, head back towards the left side of the screen, then wait for the swirl to turn red. After the color change, he’ll “swirl” in place for a second or two (2000 points), then attack. I have to time the Zorlon Cannon just right, then move out of the way so I’m not hit by it (Yes, you can kill yourself with your weapon)
.AARRRGGHH!!!!! Got me! I am a little out of practice.

BLEEPBLOOP!
ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED 30 G- MAN IN BLACK
(Go Down in a Burning Ring of Fire)

After I get the hang of it, and the timing down, I hit my first flying swirl for 6000 points!

BLEEPBLOOP!
ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED 50 G- JUST LIKE SHOOTING WOMP RATS
(Get your first moving kill)

There’s a lot of repeating until you reach 70,000 points. This is when the shield will turn from orange to blue. Now, the swirl will come at you 3 times more frequently. The missile will continually get faster and more relentless throughout the game, so now you have to use some skill.
I get on a roll and start knocking them out.

BLEEPBLOOP!
ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED 50 G- KESSEL RUNNER
(Destroy 2 swirls in less than 12 seconds)

This continues until I reach 150,000 points. The shield turns gray. The good part about this milestone is the swirl will go back to shooting at you at its normal frequency. The bad news
it now acts as a guiding missile, taking a 90 degree turn toward you.
The strategy here takes quite a bit of skill and hand/eye coordination. I mentioned before about using the top-to-bottom “gateway”. You’ll have to now or you’ll never survive. The idea is to be at the top when swirl shoots, then go through to the bottom. When the swirl turns straight down towards you, fire your cannon to time a direct hit. Don’t forget to move right quickly to avoid the 3-way collision. After I get the pattern down, it becomes fairly easy.
Yars-Revenge-Atari-2600

BLEEPBLOOP!
ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED 100 G- MAVERICK, YOU HAVE THE NEED FOR SPEED
(Reach the quickest level of gameplay)

At the 230,000 point mark, the guiding swirl remains, but the frequency is back up the 3 times normal. It’ll stay that way for the duration of the game.
It feels like I’m going to break my joystick, but I zig and zag this way for a while.
I lose a life on occasion, but after about an hour or so of game time, I finally turn it over.

BLEEPBLOOP!
ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED 200-G YOU ARE THE LAST STARFIGHTER
(Singlehandedly wipeout the entire Qotile fleet)

Nice to see I’ve still got it.

I grade on a 0-2 scale in 5 categories, with a max score of 10.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pvjajVf3BEc[/youtube]

GRAPHICS/VISUALS:2
Pretty fantastic, with bright colors and a cool-looking, flying Yar. The explosion after a Qotile hit is a full-screen death-rainbow.

AUDIO/MUSIC:2
Background sounds are ominous. Unique sounds for Yar eating, swirl shooting, and explosions.

CONTROLS:2
Yar moves fluidly and easily with just a simple joystick. 1-button to fire.

FUN FACTOR:2
Off the charts for me personally. Insect vs. alien combat for universe supremacy.

REPLAY VALUE:2
I could pop this game in for a while every day. Even after you’re good enough to turn over the score, the fun factor makes this one of the best 2600 games ever produced.

Champions Online: Free for All Update

The free-to-play superhero MMO has added a bunch of new features in their latest release. Let is the rundown:

Hideouts:

 

hideout

Every hero should have a place to call home and get away from it all. Hideouts come in four themed sets—Basement, Cave, Moon and Sanctum—and allow you to customize, socialize and create a unique space all to your hero’s own.
In this first Hideouts release, you can choose from among these Phase One thematic options:

  • Mom’s Basement
  • Industrial Cave
  • Sci-fi Moonbase
  • Mystic Sanctum
To learn more about Hideouts, check out screens and watch the Hideouts Preview Trailer, visit the Hideouts info page. You’ll also find instructions there on how Gold Members can claim their FREE Phase One Hideout, as well as how to purchase additional Hideouts and customize them to fit your hero’s tastes.

 

Aftershock Comic Series Finale:
 

The final issue of our Aftershock Comic Series is now available! Issue 6: The King is Dead puts you face-to-face with the Kings of Edom in a struggle to prevent the Earth’s catastrophic destruction. To find out how it all plays out, log in and play this final issue of the series. Don’t miss out on special Comic Series Rewards and Item Drops as you play through the exciting conclusion of Aftershock!

 

Dark Ages Fantasy Costume Set:
 

The age of chivalry is back! Your hero will feel like fashion royalty with this medieval costume pack. And as an added bonus, this fantasy set includes the Medium Blade Rapier and Heavy Weapon Royal Scepter. Now available to purchase in the C-Store.costume
If you’re interested in becoming a Gold Member, please visit our online store.Thank you for your continued support and we’ll see you soon in Millennium City!- The Champions Online Team

 

Totally Tiny Arcade

totally tiny arcade

Totally Tiny Arcade is based on the rather brilliant idea of combining WarioWare styled mini-games with a classic arcade aesthetic. Or is that the idea of revisiting Lazy Jones while liberally remaking some of the best known arcade cabinets ever? Well, we’ll never really know I suppose, but what actually matters is the simple fact that Totally Tiny Arcade is, despite its flaws, a truly great offering for us ageing retro gamers.

Set in a visually pleasing and distinctly 80s arcade, the game has players rush through more than a dozen imaginatively remade classics chasing after a nefarious virus and trying to beat a pretty strict time-limit. Beating the game, leads you to a brilliant boss stage -played in front of a most obtrusive audience- that will in turn unlock a short and lovely finale and -happily- a new arcade venue to tackle. Do this another couple of times and the game is pretty much over and a few extra modes become available.

totally tiny arcade defender

The main attractions of Totally Tiny Arcade are of course the arcade remakes themselves. Impressively, there are more than 20 of them available, each sporting excellent, chunky, retrotastic graphics and some equally impressive sounds, with each game spanning four levels. The games are inspired from an impressive variety of titles including Space Invaders, Spy Hunter, Pac-Man, Joust, Frogger and even the Atari 2600 version of E.T., though -unfortunately- not all of them are equally good. For every two or three excellent remakes there’s a dull or even a completely unsuccessful one, but admittedly the brilliant and imaginative games far outnumber them mediocre offerings. After all, not all arcade games were that good, even back in the day.

You can grab Totally Tiny Arcade (or of course try the hefty demo) via its very own, very retro official site. Oh, and here is the trailer, that will hopefully clear things up.

Verdict: Retro and indie gamers will love it. The rest should first give it a try. Gnomes should indeed instantly buy the thing.

Cryptic Studio Has Moved On But Have Their Games?: Star Trek Edition


For those of you eagerly waiting for this review after the sudden ending of the previous portion of this two-part article, I apologize. I wasn’t having problems with time or just pure laziness. No, I had problems with how to word my feelings towards Star Trek Online and how best to give an honest review without completely belittling the game. I know, I know. You’re used to that kind of response from me but I decided to be a bit more delicate with how I explain the faults and pluses of STO.

So here goes


It is laughable to think that Cryptic Studios thinks of STO as an MMORPG. While all the big boys in the room strut their stuff with content, gameplay, character growth, and easily defined instructions, Star Trek Online stumbles and fumbles around the room like a drunk teenage girl at a frat party. At the end of the night, the only ones with a grin on their faces are the real MMOs while STO is dabbing off semen from its face with wet naps.


Wow
 I feel uncomfortable reading this. I’m going to just-

What could possess me to attack Star Trek Online in such an unrelenting manner? Is it because I could barely give the game a shot beyond level 4? Yes, it is! I got to level 11 in FF XIV and that game is the equivalent of dining on Indian food , beautiful to look at but horrible to digest. I have never been unable to hit at least level 10 in an MMORPG but Star Trek Online managed to prove me wrong.

That sounds horrible, Mr. Khan! Why was it so god awful?

That’s an easy question to answer, Little Timmy. The game’s initial tutorial manages to be not only fast paced but slow at the same time. There’s a ton of jargon thrown around that doesn’t make sense to begin with and there isn’t much of an explanation as to what any of it means. All I got from the tutorial was that I could shoot lasers and photon torpedoes when I’m in my ship and when I’m on a ground mission I can shoot laser beams and “backstab” the enemy when I attack from their blindside. There really isn’t a clear definition in the beginning what role your class plays or what kind of ships you are able to command. I was certain I was limited to Science Ships since I chose the Scientist profession but I later found out from a friend that I could pilot any ship. Oh, that’s fucking fantastic to know.


For those of you who enjoy looking at your character and face stomping the enemy while adoring how badass you made your Vulcan or Custom Alien, sorry to disappoint but the game is lacking in ground missions and you are spending most of your time viewing the ass tail of your ship. How engrossing! Yes, you can customize your ship but the differences aren’t that vast aside from size. The ship customization is as in-depth as the shape variations presented in a Lego Kit. Everything is a block except some are half a blocks! Whoop-dee-fucking-doo!

From a game with such an absorbing avatar customization, it’s a shame that you spend your time running slow naval circles around enemy space bandits. As far as I could grasp the tactic was to go half speed and adjust your acceleration and deceleration to complete this amazingly slow circle strafe around your enemy to knock out their shields and ass fuck them with photon torpedoes. Combat got repetitive quickly.

The game’s missions were probably the most bland I’ve ever seen in an MMO post 2006. “What was that, Ensign? There’s no one in the quadrant? I guess everything is
 Oh my god! Space Bandits out of fucking nowhere!” That was as in depth as the missions got at level 4. They didn’t want to showcase more early on maybe because there wasn’t anything left to show.

The ground missions were probably the worst part about leveling. I should be excited to see my captain running about shooting bitches in the face and parachuting off planet sized drills like in the movie, right? Too bad! I was limited to picking up resources on a planet and randomly getting jumped by “Unknown villain #3” and then transporting back to the ship. Oh wait, I forgot. There were more options. I was able to go to a mining site to speak with a couple of diggers to see how they felt about their jobs and report back to their manager. Yup! They called in the space fleets special forces to settle a dispute about a broken holodeck in the break room.

"Come on, Team! Lets pick up some rocks!"

Now, I understand I have been harsh on the game and there is a reason for that. If STO were a free to play MMORPG, I would dress it with every accolade known in the universe. A free to play space RPG? Sign me up! Let me have fleeting moments of fun!

Unfortunately, the game isn’t F2P. It’s Pay to Play and it’s $15 a fucking month. This game has a huge pair of balls to even consider charging people. Cryptic was fortunate enough that people even purchased fucking the game. It has the depth of a game developed for a smart phone.

STO lacks the environment, quests, gameplay, and depth of games like World of Warcraft, Everquest 2, and even City of Heroes. Quite a bold statement coming from a level 4 Lieutenant, right? That’s why I’m not saying for people to keep away from this game. Play it if you like, it’s your money. I personally don’t see the justification of this game being $15 a month. You’d probably find more fun in Runescape for a cheaper price.

Perfect Worlds purchased this title when they acquired Cryptic Studios. What potential they see in this hunk of shit I will never know. The game is an MMO-abomination and is better served on a free to play model or simply a box sale model like Guild Wars. Then and maybe then it would be worth the time it takes to patch and login. Until that unlikely day comes about, STO will remain uninstalled and far, far away from my computer.

Cryptic Studios Has Moved On But Have Their Games?


For those of you in the dark about the current state of Cryptic Studios, the group that created mega super hero sensation titles like City of Heroes and… that’s it, their sugar daddy decided it was time for a split. Apparently MMO’s cost a lot of money to produce and maintain and ones that fail to meet an expected revenue end up emptying the wallets of publishers. Cryptic Studios made two games that fell short of those expectations. One, Champions Online, fell flat on its face while another, Star Trek Online, didn’t have the staying power to hold subscriptions before another mass MMO exodus ate the expensive IP dry. Sure they have a healthy population for the amount of content they offer but it is not enough to earn back the losses suffered by Atari, the previously mentioned sugar daddy.

What does Atari do now? They decided continue to maintain Cryptic Studios projects while they put up a professional Craigslist ad for someone to buy them. Who went to grab them? Perfect Worlds did! Yes, Perfect Fucking Worlds! Not knocking the company that released amazing games like Torchlight and… that’s it, but this move shows how the company is beginning to make strides into the US online gaming market.

So, did Perfect Worlds make a worthwhile purchase? I decided to suffer the pain of what could possibly be the equivalent of removing my arm with a blunt saw to find out so you don’t have to!

First up, I decided to try out Champions Online. Awhile back I did play Champions Online when it was in Beta and then during release and I wasn’t exactly satisfied with the flow of the game and the cluster fuck of their free form power system. Was I going to suffer the same kind of fate?

No, I did not! Champions Online has made some great improvements to help with the disaster of their free form system. First of all, with their free to play model you can’t go with the free form system and are limited with a couple of premade archetypes that have to fill out a certain role. Why is this a positive thing? Before, everyone just made whatever they wanted and just blew everything up. There were barely any real tanks or healers and it promoted uber recommended builds rather than true individuality. With its current archetype system, you get some diversity but not full free reign.

As for content, the game originally released by throwing you into a city wide disaster during a Qularr invasion, handing you a key to the city, and then shipping you the fuck off to a desert or to the Canadian Wilderness. Nothing makes a hero feel more welcomed to the world than being kicked out of the city and immediately transported off to regions they have no interest in. Now after 3(?) content packs and a revamped quest line where you start your adventures in the city for a good amount of time before being sent away, the game has everything you might want to find in a super hero MMO.

With so many costume customization options for your characters, a decent trade skill system, and powers and goods that can be purchased from the C-Store, the game really excels when it comes to being free and a pay to play.

Is it really worth it as a viable free to play model? Definitely! With heavy customization, a decent amount of content that can be expanded through the C-Store marketplace it runs on a great free to play model with an amazing community that will keep you there for a decent month or two.

Now is the game worth $15 a month? I would say yes! With all the features previously mentioned topped with a great community, someone who is active with the players they game with will find Champions Online engrossing enough to stick around for a month or two as well.

End of part 1. Part 2 to conclude with Star Trek Online.