Siege Breakers Sessions #1: Star Citizen 2.0 & More

star citizen

Many moons ago we decided to create a podcast where everyone who contributed to Obsolete Gamer could come on and talk about what we loved, gaming. We got together at a local radio Miami station and began recording shows. Overtime, we started interviewing guests and then moved to our offices and changed to our Skype and YouTube format, but we always kept a podcast format as well because that’s where we started.

We wanted a podcast only show that was more gaming focused and so Siege Breaker Sessions was created based off of a group of gamers we play a variety of games with. These podcasts will cover mainly PC games, but we may talk some console games as well, however it mainly be about what we have played, what we are playing and what we are looking forward to in the world of video games.

In our very first episode we began talking about the game that all of us have been intrigued with since the beginning, Star Citizen and with 2.0 we were all dying to see what would be coming next. We went over some of the hopes and our concerns we had for the upcoming game.

We then moved on to Fallout 4 which took the attention of much of the Obsolete Gamer staff when it was released, so much so it affected the guest booking of the Obsolete Gamer Show. There was some discussion about how for one person it was not all they expected, but it turned out it was their own fault for the choices they made in the game.

Next, we talked briefly about the final StarCraft 2 campaign and the end of that series before talking a bit about mobile games and the strange celebrities that have showed up in commercials for them. There was a little EA bashing and disappointment over Star Wars Battlefront as well and with good reason as you will hear.

Finally, many of us got wrapped up when Blizzards, Heroes of the Storm was released. We played it a lot, but soon found ourselves returning to Riot games League of Legends, so we did a little comparison and discussed the differences and why we made the switch.

All in all it was a good first podcast and we think you will enjoy it so give it a listen and leave us a comment and let us know what you think.

Warning: The Siege Breakers Sessions Podcast is NSFW and and contains adult language, seriously if you get easily offended stay out.

You can find our podcasts at the following locations:

ITunes

Stitcher (May currently be having issues)

iPodder

Player FM

Digital Podcast

Pod Directory

MOGA: The Mobile Game Changer

MOGA: The Mobile Game Changer

Is your new year’s resolution to become an accomplished mobile gamer? To become an accomplished mobile gamer, you’ll need some precision control. Well, I think the MOGA Pocket Controller (MOGA) might be your weapon of choice.

MOGA - The Mobile Game Changer

All work ceased when the MOGA arrived in the office. We all just gawked at this beautiful sleek package on the desk. Who would be the lucky sod to crack open the controller and put it through its paces? Well, being the editor, there are certain perks and privileges that come with the job –  I wasn’t going to let anyone else get their grubby fingers on the MOGA.

 

Build Quality

MOGA - The Mobile Game Changer
The first thing that strikes you with the MOGA is its build quality – it is flawless! This little pocket rocket is one of the best looking controllers on the market. The piano black finish is gorgeous and the feel and control is akin to your PS3 and XBox 360 controllers, albeit a tad smaller for use on mobile devices (smartphones and tablets).

With dual analogue sticks, shoulder triggers and four action buttons, you will feel right at home when the MOGA is in your hands. The unit even has a ‘flip’ arm which secures your Android device up to 3.2in / 82mm in size – accommodating the market’s largest smartphones.

The MOGA draws power from two AAA (1.5V) batteries. You’ll get a fair few hours play on a pair of AAAs. We played with it for 6 hours and there was still lots of juice left in the batteries.

 

 

Compatibility & Games

MOGA - The Mobile Game Changer Let’s face it, what good is a controller if it can not be used on a myriad of games. Given the MOGA is for Android 2.3+ devices (we used it on a Samsung Galaxy S3), there are numerous games on Google Play that are ‘enhanced’ for the MOGA. Having said that, games that are compatible with the MOGA must run via its proprietary app, the MOGA Pivot App (don’t stress, it is a breeze to setup and use). Unfortunately, this means that your much loved retro gaming emulators can not utilise this controller. That aside, there are games being added to the library on a constant basis. You would be pretty hard pressed if you couldn’t find a swag of games that you could play using the MOGA.

 

Verdict

MOGA - The Mobile Game Changer
If you are a control freak and yearn for precision, then the MOGA Pocket Controller is for you. If you tend to play MAME or other retro system emulators, then you will need to look elsewhere. This is one great little controller that we highly recommend. 

6 Great Flappy Bird Clones

6 Great Flappy Bird Clones

Flappy Bird was the King of mobile gaming, but now the king is dead. Here are some Flappy Bird inspired Games that will fill that void in your life.

Maverick Bird (Web)

This Flash game was written by Terry Cavanagh the Indie Game legend behind VVVVVV, Don’t Look Back and Super Hexagon. It has great music and visual and is like Super Hexagon it’s super difficult.

maverickbird

 

[youtube id=”hOLUtI5mfX0″ width=”633″ height=”356″]

Link: http://terrycavanaghgames.com/maverickbird/

FLAPTHULHU (iOS/Windows)

This is a bit of a cheat as it isn’t out yet, but it looks amazing and is by Paul ‘madgarden’ Pridham. He has previously worked on Punch Quest, Sword of Fargoal (iOS) and forthcoming Death Road to Canada.

[youtube id=”tlRwzVlUzGI” width=”633″ height=”356″]

Link: Coming Soon

Flappy Doge (Web)

flappy-dog

If there one Internet meme even bigger (and possibly more annoying) than Flappy Bird, it’s Doge. Such Game, wow.

[youtube id=”NYQ6BVt06gg” width=”633″ height=”356″]

 

Link: http://www.dogetek.co/game/

Quack (ZX81)

quack!

If you require any proof of Flappy Bird simple gameplay, how about this conversation which is available for the 30 years old Sinclair ZX81 which boasts a whopping 1k memory.

[youtube id=”HLKXeRRFpxw” width=”633″ height=”356″]

 

Link: http://www.bobs-stuff.co.uk/quack.html 

Flappo Bird (Atari 2600)

Flappo Bird (Atari 2600)

If the ZX81 is too British and Obscure for you, how about this flipscreen version for the Atari 2600 instead.

[youtube id=”dEi7_4FTG18″ width=”633″ height=”356″]

Link: http://tacsgames.itch.io/flappo-bird

CrappyFly (Windows)

crappy fly

Finally there is this. I’ve only added the Windows only game because I made it for FlappyJam, which is a Game Jam for creating even more Flappy Bird clones to support game developer Dong Nguyen. They are now over 150 games and the jam doesn’t finish until February 24th

 

Link: http://glenmcnamee.itch.io/crappyfly

You can find even more clones at the FlappyJam.

Metal Slug 3

metal slug 3

Metal Slug 3 is at first deceptively slow but by no means easy. Certain levels have multiple paths you can take, affecting your mid-stage gameplay, though both paths lead to the same boss. Blasting through hoards of puking zombies makes the second mission particularly charming . If they land a hit you’re transformed into a slow-moving zombie yourself, reminiscent of the mummy affliction from MS2/X. Unlike the mummy, there is a definite upside to the zombie state. You maintain the use of your handgun and in lieu of bombs possess a graphic blood-vomit attack that spans the majority of the screen. Your movement is significantly affected however, so it isn’t prudent to intentionally afflict yourself with the zombie status…at least more than once.

metal slug 3
The third mission begins in a janky underwater area and the entire stage exemplifies the initial slow pace of MS3 in comparison to other titles in the series. The third mission’s boss is very easy and very generic, which does nothing to prepare you for the little stage of horrors that is the fourth mission. Our zombie friends are back, newly equipped with their own blood-vomit attack, along with Audrey-esque cannibalistic plants. This stage is hard, bloody, and will leave you begging for more.

Many people say Metal Slug 3 is the best game in the series, and I’d bet this is because of the final mission. Your initial character is kidnapped and you are automatically given the next in line from the Player Select Screen. You begin the stage in a vertical shmup setting, flying through asteroids and gunning down aliens. The 5th mission is the longest, most satisfying orgy of missiles and explosions this side of DoDonPachi. This stage feels like real Metal Slug with its fast-moving and detailed landscapes. Overall, MS3 epitomizes quarter-munching arcade fun, if you’re patient enough to hang on past the build-up of the first few levels.

SNK Playmore releases the classic NeoGeo game Metal Slug 3 onto Android

metal slug 3

One of the most awesome series on the NeoGeo, Metal Slug now has one if it’s best sequels on the Android platform. A lot of us are excited to try out the classic shooter where you go up again evil armies of man and alien.

Here is the scoop on the release:

– 2 game modes to choose from: Mission and Arcade

– A whole lot more Slug vehicles to command. More than the original game had.

– Multiple paths and routes to the end of the game with the branching map system.

– Co-op gameplay available via Bluetooth

– Comes with OpenFeint Achievements and Player ranking

There is much more coming from SNK regarding the Metal Slug series so stay tuned. For now, you can pick this up for 6.99 on the Google Play Store.

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.

Bust A Move for iPhone and iPod Touch

Puzzle Bobble App Store

Fans of the Bust-A-Move or Puzzle bobble series can now play this arcade classic on your Apple device. Today the Taito Corporation (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Square Enix Holdings Co., Ltd) announced today that the 1994 hit will be available on the App Store for $4.99 USD.

Now as the screenshots, show there will be no drastic changes to the classic gameplay that we are all used to. The game will function the same whereas the goal is to match three bubbles of the same color to burst them. However, there will be some additions to the game including new level types and a brand new control method.

In addition to the Tap Shot, in which a bubble is launched in the direction tapped and the pull-and-release Sling Shot control methods, a new attack was added, the Jump Shot. The Jump Shot offers the ability to launch a bubble over interposing obstacles, landing at a point chosen by the player. Skillful use of this technique opens up a new level of exhilarating play and clever strategy, allowing players to drop clusters of bubbles from the ceiling, etc.

This edition boasts a number of features intended to give players new strategic options, including the Hold ability to save bubbles that have been loaded into the launcher for future use and explosive Bomb Bubbles capable of wiping out surrounding bubbles.

Another new feature is the Game Over Countdown. While in previous editions of BUST-A-MOVE, bubbles reaching the bottom of the play field instantly led to a Game Over result, NEW BUST-A-MOVE offers a three-second countdown, allowing quick-witted players to save themselves from defeat. Particularly helpful for newcomers to the series, the Game Over Countdown adds an additional dimension to play that can also be appreciated by veteran players.

In addition to the classic level style, this updated version includes a wide variety of stages that operate under different rules. The game combines the familiar bubble-bursting fun with new gimmicks and quirks that enhance the experience.

BUST-A-MOVE’s 80 Story Mode stages are divided into a number of themed areas, each concluding with an intense boss battle. Collecting special bubbles also reveals challenging hidden stages, adding to an already-packed game.

BUST-A-MOVE also includes a total of 55 Achievements that may be unlocked by accomplishing special in-game goals, creating another level of depth to keep players coming back for more.

To go along with this launch Taito will also be offering Bubble Bobble Double for only $2.99. This offer is good until February 14th.

POD: Crystal Defenders

Crystal Defenders Logo
Crystal Defenders Logo

Crystal Defenders is the tower defense game based on the Final Fantasy Tactics series from Square Enix. The game is very fun and easy to learn. In a nutshell, monsters will come in through one area and make their way down a set path. You job is to place characters along the side of the path to kill the monsters before they reach your crystal. You can place characters that do damage or slow the monsters among other things and you can pause the game in order to plan your defense.

The game itself has been on mobile phones for a few years now and was ported over to the PS3 and Xbox 360. Now the game is available for Android users. CRYSTAL DEFENDERS for Android will have two versions: W1, an introduction of the game, and W2, in which players can utilize the Power Crystal feature to play more strategically.

The cost of the game will be between seven and ten dollars. The pictures below are from the Ps3.

Ten Questions with Envizions

Gamebox logo
Gamebox logo

Envizions

If you need more proof that mobile gaming is becoming a large part of the gaming industry, look no further than all the innovations being released for the Android mobile platform. Gamebox is one of those newest innovations, created by Envizions it allows gamers to back-up and store their games. Not only can you store you mobile gaming save states, but you can also back-up documents, videos and music.

In order to bring you more information on this new product Obsolete Gamer conducted an interview for our Ten Questions segment.

Obsolete Gamer: Can you start with telling us a little bit about Envizions as a company?

I started Envizions in 2004. I along with four co-workers pooled our money together to self fund the company. The EVO console created such an amazing buzz that it excited new co-workers and each person pooled $5 per week to fund the company.

Obsolete Gamer: In a nutshell what is the Gamebox?

GameBox is a back-up storage for games, but can also be used to back-up documents, videos, and music.

Obsolete Gamer: What was the EVO beta market study and what did you learn from it?

We learned that we were ahead of our time with in terms of utilizing technology like voice recognition, PC, DVR, content, social and convergence and being that these advance were being presented by a startup company hurt us a bit. We constantly see things from recent consoles that our CES 2007 EVO already employed. Our testers gave us great feedback on what they liked about the system and what needed to be improved on. We sold all of our initial systems and now everyone is requesting one? Go figure (Lol)

Obsolete Gamer: For those that don’t know can you tell us about cloud and cloud-based games and storage?

The cloud has many meanings but our meaning is storing important and valuable data in secure locations. GameBox will also employ some basic game streaming similar to concepts your readers have seen from current companies.

Obsolete Gamer: So gamers will be able to save their game data including saved states like is done on some console emulators?

Yes.

Obsolete Gamer: Give us some more information on the cross-device usage and how it will apply to high definition televisions and networked-based games?

We want to take that approach we did with the first EVO with convergence, but expand on that concept further with mobile, tablets, and television. Once we are closer to finishing, we’ll have a few more secrets to share.

Obsolete Gamer: You will also offer Gesture Controlled Gaming; can you tell us more about that?

Not much. We have something very special planned. And I mean special. “We want this system to come alive…literally!”

Obsolete Gamer: Now developers will be able to sign-up and receive unlimited storage and access to tools for only $9.95 per month?

Yes, but we plan to do other special things for our partner developers.

Obsolete Gamer: What does it mean to be the first crowd source and social participation console?

Users will have control on where we release the system first, the design, the color, the game controllers etc. When the Rock says “I’m the people’s champ.” GameBox is the people’s system with Envizions providing a small assist.

Obsolete Gamer: What is your personal view on mobile gaming now and in the near future?

I have loved gaming since the Nintendo era. I have beat several games on that system. Now we have mobile gaming and I love it also. I can see this being huge as we move forward.

Bubble Bobble Double

Bubble Bobble Double
Bubble Bobble Double

Finally a Bubble Bobble game on the iPhone that doesn’t come from an emulator. Taito recently released Bubble Bobble Double which allows players to play the classic arcade game Bubble Bobble and a brand new puzzle game featuring the famous dinosaurs Bub and Bob.

Classic Mode

Bubble Bobble Double
Bubble Bobble Double

The classic Bubble Bobble game plays just like the original. The same graphics are there as is the music and gameplay. It is pretty much a perfect port. The only difference is using the virtual joystick with the iPad. As with most games the virtual stick feels a bit off. Sometimes it feels like the controls are too loose and other times it feels as if you don’t have the quick twitch action that you need in later levels.

The other small issue is they place the game in a smaller window and on the iPad this is not really an issue, but on the iPhone I can see that it would be way too small. Honestly besides that the game is fine and is fun to play and especially on the iPad you don’t really feel a major difference.

New Mode

Bubble Bobble Double
Bubble Bobble Double

The new mode has your favorite dino floating through space as waves of enemy’s approach him. These enemies are the same from the classic game and just like the classic game your job is to capture them in bubbles. You do this by tapping them with your finger and that will trap them no matter where they are on the screen. Then you can either tap them again to pop the bubble or flick them with your finger to send them flying and bouncing around the screen.

So why would you want to flick or pop them? Good question. The enemies come out in different patterns, sometimes they are bunched together and sometimes they are apart. When you burst a bubble it also damages enemies around it whether they are inside a bubble or not. However, when you flick them you can hit other enemies that are farther way or to hit incoming enemies.

As with the original game when you pop the bubbles the enemies turn into tasty treats that give you points. The more chains or combo’s you pull off when killing enemies the higher the values of the fruit. In addition power ups will randomly appear on the screen offering additional abilities or augmenting your basic ones.

The Verdict

I have played both versions for quite a while on my iPad and they are a lot of fun. The original is spot on and the new version is addictive with enough of a challenge to keep me interested. The visuals especially in the new version are impressive with a mix of the classic sprites and the new age neon backgrounds. The same goes for the music with the classic tunes with the old and modern engaging music with the new.

At $4.99 at the iTunes store it is worth a pick-up if you are a fan of Bubble Bobble especially, but also if you are a fan of puzzle games in general.

Melissa Burns: The Museum of Mobility History

Museum of Mobility History logo
Museum of Mobility History logo

Name: Melissa Burns

Company: The Museum of Mobility History (MuMoh)

Profession: Principal, Mobility Public Relations

Favorite Classic Game: Pitfall on Atari

Quote: Pitfall Harry entertained me for a week straight in the early 80’s while I was stuck at home trying to deal with the Chicken Pox. Even at a very young age I loved the thrill of completing a task under a tight deadline, and collecting all those treasures while timing the hazards just perfectly was the ultimate in entertainment. It kept me hooked well after I recovered from the pox.


The Interview: William D. Volk

William D Volk

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

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

Avalon Hill logo
Avalon Hill logo

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

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

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

William Volk: Probabily Pong.

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

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

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

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

Conflict 2500
Conflict 2500

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PlayScreen logo
PlayScreen logo

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

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

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

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

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

Controller
Controller

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Return to Zork
Return to Zork

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Manhole box art
The Manhole box art

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TEENAGE BOYS SHOW LITTLE INTEREST IN  ANTHROPOMORPHIC  TURTLES.

Activision logo
Activision logo

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

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

Obsolete Gamer: What was your favorite classic game?

William Volk: Choplifter.

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

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

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

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

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