After spending quite a bit of time recently on various discussion forums on AtariAge and Facebook, it has really struck me more than usual how incredibly demanding our retrogaming community (and gaming community at large) is, and how entitled, as the title of this blog post states, some people come off as. This is of course nothing new, going back to the days in the late 1990s when MAME developers would get criticized or even threatened when someone's favorite game wasn't properly emulated, as if the monumental task of emulating what is now thousands of arcade machines, for free, wasn't stressful enough, or otherwise rewarding for the end user. It was the one game that was the deal breaker among the countless other games and the incredible accomplishment in and of itself.
Of course, this kind of criticism has continued since. In my reviews over the past few years of the Atari Flashbacks 3 and 4, Sega Classic Console, and other similar devices, the negativity around those releases from viewers was often frequent and loud. Whether it wasn't getting the sound quite right in the Sega stuff, or missing a personal favorite game in the Atari stuff, the vitriol flew fast and furious. This included statements like, "No game x? It's a fail," or "The sound isn't quite right so I couldn't possibly use it." That's fine - individually we can dislike things for any reason we so choose - but then going on to state that people are idiots for buying it, or why would anyone want it, etc., and then going on what seems like a personal crusade to criticize said device at every possible opportunity (and, as we know, the Internet provides lots of opportunities) shows a remarkable lack of perspective. Take the examples in this paragraph. You're talking devices with say, 80 built-in games and original style controllers that typically retail for just $40. Can't we consider that maybe it might be OK to accept a few trade offs for something so low cost that offers relatively so much? Not for some, because apparently that one missing game is a personal affront or that tinny sound makes it completely worthless. [Read more]
After seeing yet another topic on AtariAge about why the Commodore 64 (C-64), released in 1982, succeeded in both sales and software support, where the Atari 8-bit series, released in 1979, didn't, I thought I'd offer up my usual thoughts on the matter in a more formal manner. To my mind, it's pretty simple. While the Atari 8-bits had a roughly three year headstart, in those three years, Atari wasn't able to make much headway in the market despite having the best audio-visual potential of the time, bar-none. The missteps with the lovely, but initially flawed, Atari 1200XL, didn't do them any favors, and by the time the C-64 started picking up significant momentum in 1983 when its retail price started dropping to the point where no one was able to compete effectively with its value proposition and still turn a profit, Atari was already done, particularly since they lacked Commodore's supply chain advantages.
Certainly price was a factor in the C-64's success in the US, but in the rest of the world, particularly Europe, price was often the primary driver (e.g., long after the US standardized on reliable, but expensive disks and drives, Europeans were still using unreliable, but cheap cassettes and tape decks), making Atari's inability to produce a low cost 8-bit in a timely manner particularly devastating. The influx of talented European programmers to the C-64's software pool can't be underestimated as the Atari 8-bit line struggled to make it into homes there. It also didn't do Atari any favors that they had multiple models out in the wild with 16K - 64K of memory at that time, making it difficult to target the higher spec. We can't underestimate the value of every Commodore 64 having 64K from its first day on the market to its last, making ports to platforms without a significant user base of guaranteed 64K-spec machines less likely. [Read more]
Hot on the heels of the forthcoming Atari Flashback 5, Intellivision Flashback, and Sega Classic Game Console 2 pre-orders, described here yesterday, Toys "R"Us now has the ColecoVision Flashback available. Like the new Intellivision Flashback product line, AtGames has designed the ColecoVision Flashback to mimic the design of the original console, right down to the removable, backwards compatible controllers. There is also a limited edition set of overlays included, themed to the 60 built-in games. While there is no cartridge or SD slot in the ColecoVision Flashback, it's obviously still going to be something well worth supporting upon its late 2014 release. Note that the design on the front of the box will likely change to reflect the look of the plug and play console, not the original.
While we were aware of AtGames' plans for some time regarding the new Atari Flashback, Intellivision Flashback, ColecoVision Flashback, and Sega Classic Game Console releases, among others, for 2014, public details about these items have been sparse. It seems that with pre-orders now appearing on eBay and Toys "R"Us for a vague October 2014 release, some of these previously private details are now revealed.
The Atari Flashback 5 is another refinement of what AtGames started with the Flashback 3, and now includes an impressive roster of 100 games. While it can use wired controllers, it comes with the same wireless joysticks.
The Intellivision Flashback features 60 games, representing approximately half of the original library. The console itself will be small and reminiscent of the original Intellivision's styling. In addition, two new wired controllers, again modeled after the original with just a few modifications, are included (and yes, the discs provide all 16 movement directions). These should work with original Intellivision consoles that feature removable controllers, though that still needs to be tested. As you can also see, a limited edition set of overlays is included, which is a great bonus for collectors.
Unfortunately, the ColecoVision Flashback is not yet up for pre-order. This is likely due to its packaging being finalized last. Without giving away too much, expect a similar package as you see with the Intellivision product.
The Sega Classic Game Console 2, like the name implies, is a refresh of the first Sega Classic Game Console, which itself was a refinement of previous products. A full roster of 80 games is included, and, yes, there's still a cartridge port and two wireless controllers. Wired controllers are still supported. Expect details on other Sega-related products to be revealed soon.
ANTIC The Atari 8-bit Podcast Episode 7, entitled Disks & Paul Nurminen, hosted by Randy Kindig, Kevin Savetz, and Brad Arnold, mentions our books, CoCo: The Colorful History of Tandy's Underdog Computer, Vintage Game Consoles, and Vintage Games near the beginning of the show. As always, the whole podcast is well worth checking out.
Our friends over at Good Deal Games have a big discount on select homebrews in the Homebrew Heaven section of their Website. The deals, which are good until December 15, 2013, and in limited supply, include the following:
Ever since I got my Atari 800XL I've been slowly expanding on my 'LEFT cartridges' containing all sorts of arcade ports. It's a bit of a weak spot of mine to try to get all sorts of classic arcade ports on various machines I own. The Atari 8bit line is no exception. I play each cartridge until the 1st game over and this results in about 50 minutes of video. Hope you guys enjoy this one as well.
I must say I just ordered a good microphone on Amazon.de, so things may be looking up on this end sound-wise.
This week features a retrospective of Lucasfilm Games' The Eidolon, a 1985 game that builds on the fractal routines introduced in Koronis Rift and Rescue on Fractalus!. Unfortunately, this game requires a manual to understand, so many of us pirates back in the day couldn't make head nor tails of it. The story, detailed only in the manual, has us strapping into a sphere called The Eidolon and zapping off into the unconscious, mystical realm of the mind (it just gets weirder from there). The fairly complex gameplay has us shooting and collecting four different colors of balls, each with different effects on creatures (if shot) and ourselves (if hit or collected). It also boasts some of the best artwork at the time, especially animation.
Download the mp4 here.
I'm back this week with part 2 of my interview with Sandy Petersen. In this episode, the maestro of pen & paper games talks about how people like him are better qualified to make videogames than those who jump straight to pixels. In short, the answer is diversity--paper games have it, videogames don't. Sandy also talks about Elf Quest, which he considers a failure, and Ghostbusters, whose innovative system inspired the Star Wars RPG (though unacknowledged). We also chat about his early computer games for Microprose, including Lightspeed and Hyperspeed, and why Sandy turned to the dark side.
Download the MP4 here.
What do you think about Sandy's argument? Would you like to see as much variety in the videogame market as we see in pen & paper games? Sound off below!
As mentioned previously, I've been going great guns in an attempt to make my overly large collection of 400+ videogame and computer systems more accessible and immediately usable. In other words, figuring out how to waste less of my precious time setting up this stuff and use more of that time actually using what I want to use. Part of that initiative is to take the most "important" computer and videogame systems and put them front and center - and ready to go - in various rooms. I'll discuss the classic videogame consoles in more detail in another post, but basically I've set up a 32" Sony Trinitron CRT to supplement the other basement TV and can now plug in various consoles in that area quickly and easily, though I've changed up where (and how) I'll be making the actual systems themselves accessible. Anyway, where last we left off, I couldn't get my Amiga 600 or 1200 to work, which left me to choose between my Amiga 500, 1000, or 2500HD (with 8088 Bridgeboard). I chose the latter.
With the above in mind, it was of course bugging me that neither the 600 or 1200 were working, so I resolved to address the issue within my limited skillset, and of course when time permitted. Long story short, the 600 is dead, but the culprit in the 1200 was a deceased 40MB hard drive, which was easy enough to remove and replace with a Compact Flash adapter and card with the OS and additional software. In the mean-time, I also got a PAL Amiga 1200, stock, with its own Compact Flash adapter and card with the OS and additional software.