They say hindsight is 20/20. (Actually, I think it's more like 10/40, but what can you do?) So, if you found yourself suddenly zapped back to the dawn of the videogame era, what choices would you make? Which systems would you rather have had? And what impact do you think these changes would make on your personality today?
Of course, most of us back then could only afford to support one, maybe two systems (assuming one was older). It would have been nice to have enough money and time to have all of them.
Now that I'm older and hopefully wiser, I've put together a list of the systems I wish I had had, and roughly when. I'd very much like to hear your thoughts and see your lists.
1977-1982: Apple II. There's really no doubt about the importance of this system during this period (and beyond), but it saw the birth of countless genres and franchises. Ideally, I would have been able to expand and keep this system after getting a new computer, since it was still seeing important exclusives well into the 80s, especially the Ultima games and Sierra On-Line adventures.
My second choice for this period would be the Atari 2600, a very capable games console with a respectable lineup and of course immense popularity.
Well, the announcement that many of us have been waiting for has finally happened: Amazon is now into tablets. Besides updating their Kindle e-reader (e-ink) line with much-needed $79 (6" standard wi-fi, with ads) and $99 (6" touchscreen and wi-fi, with ads) models, placing them ever closer to "disposable", a la the paperbacks of the tablet hardcovers analogy, they also announced a 7" color tablet, the Kindle Fire, with reasonable specs for just $199.
While many were expecting downright gimped hardware, outside of the limited 8GB storage (this is mostly a cloud device), the dual core processor and reasonable resolution (1024x600@16mm colors) and battery life (~8 hours) say otherwise. The best part is the price and they'll seemingly have some flexibility with that as well going forward. As the TouchPad fiasco has shown, with the throngs clamoring for the $99 - $149 clear-outs, if you're going to go toe-to-toe with the iPad, you better come in with a fantastic price rather than comparable or even better specs. Now Amazon has positioned themselves ideally as a real iPad alternative, with a different form factor and the compelling narrative of Amazon services, which is about as close of a match as you'll get for the iTunes experience outside of, well, iTunes. I assume this will be a big success and will pave the way for a 10", premium tablet, which will in fact attempt to muscle in on the iPad's dominance. Even as an enthusiastic iPad 2 owner, I welcome the competition, and look forward to how this plays out. Frankly, while this won't have a major impact on the iPad's sales (at least for the foreseeable future), if I were a manufacturer of any other tablet, I'd be very scared right now. While the Kindle Fire is very much the embodiment of tablet-as-consumption device versus the productivity possibilities you have with the iPad or similarly powered Android tablets, it offers a truly viable option for those who don't need the latter, or simply want a device in-between their existing smartphone and 10" tablet. I have a feeling this will also impact the dedicated e-reader market, because the prices are really less than $100 apart if you consider the ad-free option from Amazon, but certainly the low end $79 model has room to drop even further. Once that hits $49, all bets are truly off, and there really would be little reason not to own one as your "tablet-lite" experience (with a focus on reading and outdoor usage) that you don't mind bringing to the beach. Good stuff!
Alrighty then... This launches my first podcast entry into the bank of Armchair Arcade podcasts - My first topic focuses on Nintendo. I do not really rant on this as it might seem, however I do inject an opinion that most certainly will not be shared by all.
It is unedited. There are typical pauses, clearing of the throat, etc as I gather my thoughts. Although I personally prefer to edit a podcast and try to strive for high production values, there is something to be said about purely focusing on the fun aspect of it all.
I hope you guys enjoy it.
Unless you've been living under one of the few remaining rocks without Internet access, you've already heard the news of Apple CEO, Steve Jobs, resigning. Even though his health has been an obvious issue in recent years, the news still comes as a surprise. Clearly this is the beginning of the end for one of the tech world's most divisive and historically prominent figures, because say what you will about the man and his actions, he clearly has a passion for his work and wouldn't leave unless it was the most dire of circumstances.
Of course, putting the human element aside for the time being, this has also become prime time for the Apple haters to ghoulishly rejoice and/or predict the end of Apple's time in the spotlight. While much of that is clearly fueled by fanboys who feel threatened by Apple's recent prominence, is there any validity to this idea? In fact, some are even trying to draw comparisons to Microsoft's downward trend and the exodus of Bill Gates, but are there really any similarities?
My take is is that it is unlikely Jobs leaving and presumed eventual passing will have a significant impact on Apple in the short- to medium-term. The company is too well positioned at the moment. Long-term is anyone's guess, but then that's an issue for every company. As for Microsoft, I don't think much would have changed for them if Gates remained at the helm. The problem with being the market leader is that you by necessity take fewer and fewer risks to protect that lead, creating more opportunity for others to generate excitement and start to steal marketshare by being more nimble and/or able to react to changing market conditions better. By any definition, Microsoft is still wildly successful and will remain so, it's just that they've stumbled outside of their legacy products of Windows and Office. The only real success at Microsoft other than those two stalwarts and the related enterprise stuff has been their Xbox division. Everything else has pretty much been a failure to this point (though they do make some fine computer accessories). Again, that would be so with or without Gates. Of course, despite those downsides, being a very large company does have the benefit of leaving lots of room to sweep aside failures and try, try again, something Microsoft clearly specializes in. Apple is in as good of a position as any company to sweep aside a few failures going forward, with or without the influence of Jobs.
In any case, it's a fascinating time of late watching these massive tech corporations maneuver, strategize, sue, buy-out, patent troll, and engage in some downright bizarre decision making, be it Google, HP, Microsoft, Apple, Nintendo, Sony, AT&T, et al. I can't recall a time since the early 80's when we've had such volatility in the tech world. Of course, with these fascinating times comes some rough times for us as consumers, but then we've always been the collateral damage when corporate competition heats up, and there's really no sector hotter right now than tech. Whatever side of the fence you fall on, it really is a shame Jobs will no longer be a part of it, though, because love him or hate him, he always made things interesting and all those corporate shenanigans won't seem quite the same without the guy in the black turtleneck to rally around, whether for or against.
Here's a famous quote that sums up the reaction to yesterday's surprise announcement by HP to stop supporting webOS, and, by extension, the TouchPad tablet, as well as get out of the PC business, courtesy of the classic 1968 film, The Planet of the Apes: "YOU MANIACS! YOU BLEW IT UP! OH, DAMN YOU! GODDAMN YOU ALL TO HELL!". We all knew that Hewlett-Packard CEO Leo Apotheker was a software guy, we just didn't realize that meant he'd pull the rug out from under consumers and do a dramatic IBM-style business shift. At least we can still buy their printers, right? ... Anyone?
This affects me personally, because I was working on TouchPad For Dummies, which would have been my third book for 2011, to go along with the recently released, Motorola ATRIX For Dummies, and the upcoming, My Xbox: Kinect, Xbox 360, and Xbox LIVE. While these events are much bigger than me and others will be affected far more dramatically, I thought I would still give my personal impressions, starting first with a little background on the book stuff, some discussion of the TouchPad itself, and then get a bit more into an analysis of the present situation within the industry.
The latest remarkable auction is none other than the legendary computer role playing game hybrid, Shadowkeep, from 1984, by Trillium, for the Apple II, which sold for $529.00 (with free shipping). Trillium was best known for their high quality text and graphics adventures, like Amazon and Dragonworld, that featured solid parsers and excellent graphics, and were typically written in partnership with a famous author. Shadowkeep was something of a departure for the company as it was essentially a lushly illustrated role playing game that had a text-based interface. As for this game's famous author connection, Alan Dean Foster created a companion book for the game with the same title whose existence was advertised prominently on the game box (actually, the company's usual thick multi-fold folder) cover.
Much like with Penguin Software having to change their name to Polarium after Penguin the book publisher took notice, Trillium ended up having to change their name to Telarium after Trillium Press got on their case. That's why today, Trillium versions of the games are worth more than the later Telarium versions, though most releases were otherwise identical. I believe I personally have the complete Telarium Apple II version of Shadowkeep along with the paperback novel, though I'll have to verify if in fact instead it's the Trillium version. In any case, the typical pricing for Shadowkeep has been in the ~$250 range, so for this latest game auction to go for double that is indeed impressive, and is probably due in part to the completeness of the example.
Shadowkeep is also notorious for a few other reasons. First, is an incredibly robust copy protection scheme. Second, is that all of the known Apple II images/ROMs on the Web have been altered. You see, if you play directly on the game disks rather that making play disks, the game is irrecoverably altered. That's right, once you play on the originals, there's no going back to its original state, ever. I have yet to check if my disks are in fact intact or have been played on, and thus, altered. Finally, there's the question of other versions outside of the Apple II version. The Commodore 64 and IBM PC versions were at least ANNOUNCED, and there have been occasional sightings that would make Bigfoot hunters proud, but there's still no credible evidence that those versions of the game were ever actually released.
Sierravision's The Dark Crystal (Hi-Res Adventure #6), just sold on eBay for the remarkable price of $158.63, plus shipping and handling. As you can tell, Roberta Williams' 1983 release, based on the cult classic Jim Henson movie, is among the most sought after of the original Sierra text and graphics adventures. The game received middling reviews when first released and the graphics are fairly average. The Atari 8-bit version looks almost exactly the same, just with different coloring; I am unfamiliar with the Japanese PC-xx versions. Other translations of the game were planned, but probably due to the lack of relative financial success for both the movie and game, those plans were canceled. However, Al Lowe's mostly forgotten Gelfling Adventure was released a year later in 1984 and is essentially the same game, just with a modified interface and child friendly difficulty level.
Here's some gameplay footage of the Apple II version from YouTube, via Yzzyxz:
OK, it's actually the Worldwide Developers Conference (WDC), rather than E3, but the timing is the same and I like to keep the headers consistent, so kindly deal with it. After starting off with Microsoft and Sony, it's now Apple's turn (leaving only the elephant in the room to cover, Nintendo). Here goes:
Now, for the big iOS stuff (On a side note, I think all but one of the AA staff has iPhones at this point, and at least three of us have iPads, so, while Apple's mojo hasn't worked on us from the MacOS side of things, it sure has on the iOS side.):
Here we are again with another round of web links. I know you'd prefer high-protein sausage links, but these have slightly fewer preservatives.
Yes, a Cat-Food Brand Really Has Created Three iPad Games For Cats. "The game-play has been researched and tested for maximum feline fun," and unlike game testing for humans, actually seems to work. Unfortunately for Friskies, the cats aren't purchasing the DLC.
Here's some jokes to brighten up your Thursday. Why get your tech and gaming news anywhere else? What, are you sane or something?
Apple Causes Religious Reaction in Brains of Fans. Skeptics point out that there's no way to prove the existence of their brains.