So, as the first day winds down, I thought I would toss out a few impressions of what I thought were the most significant announcements from the early part of the first day, which focused on Microsoft and the Xbox 360. Next, we should expect to see Sony's stuff and then Nintendo's major Wii U announcements, both of which I'll also discuss.
Two new articles (of five total to date) have been released that add new companion information to our latest book, My Xbox: Xbox 360, Kinect, and Xbox LIVE. Check out: Discovering XFINITY TV for Xbox 360 and Using MLB.TV on Xbox 360. The former covers using your console to replace a cable box and how to easily control movies and TV shows with your controller or Kinect, while the latter covers the ins and outs of the MLB.TV app. A third new article (sixth total in the series), authored by Christina, will be released shortly. Give them a read, and, as always, let us know what you think!
I sent the free sample of The Best of Creative Computing: Volume 3 (1980) to the Kindle app on my iPad 2, and I must say, speaking as both a historian and tech enthusiast, there are definitely some historical nuggets of genuine interest in there. The book was originally a 1980 release and collected more than 120 articles from the 1978 run of the legendary magazine. From the tone and content of the articles, you can definitely tell this was written for an unusually intelligent, sophisticated, and yes, geeky audience, which makes sense considering the type of individual who would be interested in computing in the late 1970s, and is a refreshing change from what tech magazines became from basically the late 1980s on as the potential readership expanded and the content had to be simplified accordingly.
Anyway, below you'll find a few select screen captures from the free preview, with a bit of commentary. I'll definitely be making this a purchase, since it's only $9.99 for the Kindle edition, and the original paperback often sells for upwards of $100+! Enjoy (and get the ebook!):
Cloanto has released the latest "R2" enhanced versions of their popular and easy-to-use Amiga Forever and C64 Forever 2012 emulators. This is great news for old and new fans of the greatest Commodore platforms, including all versions of the Amiga series (inclusive of the CDTV and CD32), and most of the 8-bit line, including PET, VIC 20, C-64/128, and C-16/Plus4. Around here, it's among our absolute favorite emulation packages and used as pack-ins with various devices, including the MCC, so you know it has to be great.
As an admitted techno-luster, I've been following the trend of 3D printing with intense interest, particularly as prices continue to drop from previously stratospheric levels. Gizmag reports that Solidoodle 2 has broken the $500 barrier--which puts it right in line with that sweet spot for home/hobbyist use. With that said, the output does look far rougher (particularly texture-wise) than I've seen from the more expensive units (which are double or more in price, though), but I'm sure that will improve over time.
Wouldn't you know it? After Christina posted earlier about our first author interview appearing on the Amazon Website for our latest book, My Xbox: Xbox 360, Kinect, and Xbox LIVE, we find out that the whole series in Que Publishing's OnGadgets&Hardware is available on their site. You can check out the links here (click on Podcasts) to each of the videos or watch the embedded versions we've included below. They're also available at iTunes and in audio-only versions. Thanks for the support!
I posted about this as a comment in another thread, but since this is such a big deal I thought I would whip up a quick front page blog post to give it its due. There's a new Kickstarter for an Atari 2600 version of Star Castle, a 1980 vector-based arcade game from Cinematronics that received an excellent port to the Vectrex home console in 1982. While the Atari 2600 can only produce raster, not vector graphics like the Vectrex, a recent port of the game was created by D. Scott Williamson, an original Atari programmer, albeit one who started working there six years after the 1982-release of Howard Scott Warshaw's Star Castle-inspired Yars' Revenge. Williamson was similarly inspired to create his Star Castle homebrew by Warshaw's creation, so he purposely limited himself to 8K of ROM for authenticity's sake, even though the cartridge hardware that he made could handle up to 64K.
Long story short, Williamson ended up wanting tens of thousands of dollars for his programming effort--a reasonable request if this were the platform's early 80's heydey. Unfortunately for Williamson, most homebrewers these days do it for the proverbial love of the game, so no one was willing to pay anywhere near that. In fact, in a convoluted AtariAge thread, his actions and subsequent reactions, not to mention that of the community's, eventually led to another homebrew programmer being himself inspired to create a version, which he released for free, here, and by all accounts is superb.
Undeterred, Williamson decided to take his case to Kickstarter, which you can see here. It's a genuine soap opera (one that I'm not even sure I have sorted correctly), albeit one within a niche of a niche within our industry. It will be interesting to see how this Kickstarter works out for Williamson. I'm certainly intrigued by the cartridge with flashing lights timed to the gameplay and admire his engineering effort, but $100 for a complete, boxed copy is a bit tough to swallow. Maybe with a bit of time I'll reconsider...
What are your thoughts on this mess? Obviously Williamson can charge what he wants for his work - and it's up to the market to decide what they'll pay (and they didn't pay the first time around; maybe this Kickstarter will be different) - but is he out of touch with the realities of the homebrew market? After all, even the best homebrews can struggle to sell 250 boxed copies at well below his $100 boxed copy asking price...
For several years now I've had a theory percolating that seems to have borne itself out one too many times not to now instead be considered a fact--videogame players will not support anything financially en masse outside of an actual videogame. What do I mean by this? Well, TWiT.TV's newest show, Game On!, is just the latest in a series of examples of videogame players failing to support something that on the surface should have been right in their wheelhouse. Game On! was slickly produced, had an attractive, personable and knowledge hostess in Veronica Belmont, and a similarly competent, over-the-top co-host in Brian Brushwood. Several days back, TWiT poobah and host extraordinaire, Leo Laporte, declared that the show's initial 12 episode run (it actually came to 13 official shows, counting the final episode, plus some test pilots) would be its one and only due to being too expensive to produce (it was easily the most elaborate TWiT production) and not gaining enough traction quickly enough. According to Laporte, without at least 50,000 regular genuinely engaged viewers/listeners, no one in the videogame industry would even consider advertising, making it financially prohibitive to keep running.
Now, I won't blame all of Game On!'s failings on the audience--after all, it was very me too and stereotypical on many levels, with fast cuts, silly skits, and loud noises seemingly targeted to the dated idea of the ADD teen hipster gamer, but in Laporte and crew's defense, he claims a previous attempt at a more thoughtful videogame show that also failed, arguably even more spectacularly (I never saw it/listened to it, but I'll take Laporte's word for it). Now, obviously, being one of the co-founders of Armchair Arcade and considering my own body of work, it's pretty clear which side of the fence my interests fall, but it may be a simple fact that no matter what your approach--crazy, intellectual, pandering, going-your-own-way, etc., it's never destined for anything more than niche success. It's great to carve out that niche, but when you try to go "big," the end result is the same--failure.
I often wondered why it was so darned hard to get a mainstream publisher interested in a videogame book. It took me years to really understand why--while you can usually be guaranteed several thousand sales of a good videogame book, that's nothing in comparison to other books on technical topics that can easily sell double or triple that amount. The economics just don't work out (in solidarity, most bookstores that still exist got rid of their videogame book sections long ago). Same thing with us lamenting the change in original vision of both G4 and TechTV, for example, in merging into the monstrosity that is now simply G4 and has only the slightest hint of videogame or technology coverage, instead featuring generic content targeted solely at a similarly generic 18-34 male demographic that is sadly far more valuable to advertisers. If gamers really supported these networks at even 25% of the levels they support the latest, hottest videogame, we'd still have the pure content ideals we all seem to crave. The fact is, not enough of us support these things with our eyeballs, ears, and pocketbooks to make a difference, and I'm not sure if the truly collective we - which based on the latest industry sales figures is a theoretically monumental force to be reckoned with - ever will.
Bill does a quick unboxing of the Kinect Rush Xbox 360 House Party kit from www.houseparty.com. He also quickly mentions his latest book, My Xbox. Filmed by Christina Loguidice on an iPad 2, where it was also edited and uploaded via the iMovie app.
The reviews are starting to roll in for our new book, My Xbox: Xbox 360, Kinect, and Xbox LIVE. You can see a few of the reader reviews from the Amazon link, listen to the Lautering Bytes Podcast segment discussing it (starting at ~18:12 mark; great comment: "...the manual you wish came with your Xbox..."), and a Game Vortex review. Of course, we can't forget Matt Barton's mention of the book at the end of Matt Chat 137, which covered Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. As more reviews come in, we'll of course keep you posted.
My Xbox: Xbox 360, Kinect, and Xbox LIVE is available from booksellers everywhere in both paperback and ebook formats. If you have a copy and posted a review, let us know, or just sound off in the comments below. All feedback is much appreciated. Enjoy!