Archive for the ‘Lessons’ Category
These days Atlus is a household name, not only for the widely popular Persona series but also as a publisher of niche titles. What you may not know is that Atlus has been around making and releasing games since the NES/Famicom era and is responsible for plenty of titles you may have played. In this episode Jam and Fred discuss the history of Atlus, the games it has developed, and of course the lovely titles that we received thanks to its publishing division.
This week Fred and Jam are discussing the publisher Working Designs, best known for bringing many non-traditional Japanese titles over to the West complete with heavy localization. Thanks in part to president Victor Ireland, Working Designs is responsible for key titles in the libraries of the Turbografx-16 (and CD), Sega CD, Saturn, Playstation, and Playstation 2.
We so very often recommend our listeners/viewers/readers get a foreign PSN because it’s so “easy”, but I figured with this morning’s news of Shadow Tower coming to the US PSN later today and the massive amount of games I purchase on the various PSN stores that it was high time to make it easy for you. Creating a PSN is not a difficult task, however it can be a challenge without knowing the language, written or otherwise, of the territory you seek and also knowing what you will and won’t gain from each. With the average Playstation 3 being able to tether up to 5 PSN accounts, I have chosen to dedicate one to my home base PSN, three to outside territories, and the final one to guests in my house. The best benefit of a PSN account on multiple consoles is that all accounts on that console can share installed games, so I purchase a game on my Japanese PSN only to use it on my American account for the sake of trophies and keeping my friends informed as to what I’m playing. Perhaps you don’t know how to create a PSN for another country or perhaps you don’t know the benefits, well this little article will assist you in making the proper decision.
Yesterday I saw a tweet from WayForward, a games developer that specializes in a retro feel and hand drawn animation, that it was celebrating 25 years. That’s impressive, especially when you consider that 1990 predates the Super NES and also because the 16-bit style has been around now for two and half decades. If you fancy yourself a fan of that era, long for the days of gorgeous hand drawn animation with large sprite-based characters on screen, and a 2D plane then WayForward is just the developer for you. Oh yeah, and its strongest titles are typically tough as nails so just like back in the 90s you’re going to have to die a lot and restart before you ever think about beating one. It should also be noted that WayForward is of the few studios that can really get a licensed game right and with the amount of care and detail afforded to this company’s many licensed outings it is akin to the Capcom Disney games. All of these reasons and the fantastic original series Shantae make WayForward a developer that retro enthusiasts should definitely know.
As I was looking into doing a history on this fantastic studio I came upon an excellent reference that was so good there’s no point in me doing one. While it’s easy to rag on big media conglomerates, IGN’s Mitch Dyer did a fantastic story of the origins of Ubisoft Montreal that includes stories of Splinter Cell‘s origin, the reinvention of Prince of Persia, and the visual treat that is Far Cry. It’s a fascinating story that documents the major franchises you can thank that studio for and a must read for gaming history buffs like ourselves. Head on over and check out House of Dreams: The Ubisoft Montreal Story when you can.
Not So Humble Beginnings
Before personalized computers were called “PCs” (or MACs for all you Apple people), they were better known as “microcomputers”. The name derives from the relatively small size and price of a computer with a microprocessor as the CPU and the same basic input/output structure for data and information. Much like PCs of today, this allowed software and game programmers to design a title all around one basic data flow and configuration and then optimize each specific microcomputer release for the specifications of that computer. American consumers even today are used to much lower prices than other countries and were slow to embrace the cost and concept of a microcomputer. That is, until the Commodore 64. At the time of its release the only major competitors in the US were the Apple II and Atari 800, boasting hefty price tags of $1200 and $900 respectively. With most game consoles priced at the time around $200 and some, like the ColecoVision, having computer add-ons for $400, the price endured for a microcomputer was restricted to certain households of higher income (and this doesn’t even include the cost for a monitor and desk to put it all in). Commodore had a different plan and thanks to vertical manufacturing and two strong chips to handle graphics and audio, the company went about making a microcomputer that could compete with the Apple II and less than half the price.
Rise of the Triad is more significant than it initially seems in the annals of first-person shooter (or Doom clone) history. In fact, had it remained under its original title, Rise of the Triad: Wolfenstein 3D Part II it would probably have more awareness and fall under the pantheon of id titles still garnering praise on Steam and Good Old Games. Due to several disputes that arguably are the direct result of John Carmack, a co-founder of developer id Software and lead in milestone shooters Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Quake, the project was terminated in 1993 to avoid clashing with upcoming title Doom. This led to several disputes within the developer of Doom, id Software, and the planned publisher of Doom and previous publisher of several other titles, Apogee Software.
In the beginning there were two companies: developer id Software and publisher Apogee Software. For the most part Apogee was better known as its later developer 3D Realms, the team responsible for Duke Nukem 3D and originally Prey. Before that all happened, Apogee was making its money publishing id Software’s earliest successes including Commander Keen and Wolfenstein 3D. Apogee utilized the plan of “shareware” to market games, which is a method of giving people approximately 25-33 percent of a game to try out with the option to purchase the full game if interested. John Romero, the then lead designer on Doom at id Software, canceled Rise of the Triad and John Carmack decided to have id self publish so Apogee ended up not publishing Doom. id Software’s co-founder Tom Hall (Carmack and Romero were the other founders) left id to join Apogee. Apparently Hall had concern over the amount of violence and gore in Doom, a project he assisted greatly in creating. Ironically a year later when he completed work as lead designer on Rise of the Triad for Apogee, it would have even more blood and gore than Doom, including a random occurrence where an enemy would explode into gory giblets and “Ludicrous Gibs!” would appear on the screen.
It’s hard to believe, but the typical cartridge game began to phase out of gaming in 1995 when the new wave of consoles and the subsequent movement to disc-based media began. I’m sure plenty will be quick to point out that the N64 was a cartridge-based console, but I truly believe this decision was the result of Nintendo not wanting to give up the control over manufacturing and sordid history making a machine that read discs. This change happened 18 years ago, which means there is a significant number of gamers that are now in their early to mid 20s that have never played games on a cart. This is truly a shame because the versatility of cartridges is much more abundant than most people realize, but the crutch will always be that carts offer little storage for massive prices. In today’s lesson we will discuss what makes up a cartridge, benefits/setbacks, and how the cartridge was used to literally upgrade consoles for more than two decades.