Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

So I’m Getting Into Chrono Gaming

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On the most recent episode of Retronauts (Vol. IV, Ep 43), the retro team had on a special guest who goes by the name Dr. Sparkle, the founder of the Chrontendo blog.  Chrontendo videos are a project set on analyzing the Famicom/Nintendo Entertainment System in chronological order from the month of release in order to get some insight on game development, trends, and even development studios maturing over the course of the console.  It’s known as “chrono gaming” and there are plenty who have attempted it and far fewer that have succeeded in these lasting projects for archival purposes.  For better or worst, I have decided that I want to cover early CD consoles, starting with my favorite and dearest gaming console friend, the Sega CD.  When you set out to cover a large number of games, especially in chronological order, there’s going to be a great degree of tedium and tempation to get lost in rabbit holes, that’s why I have decided to limit myself off the bat to the Sega CD.  Unfortunately the list of releases and release dates are poorly documented, however Dr. Sparkle has provided me a thorough spreadsheet (no idea where he got some of this information, but a massive thanks to him) that I will use as a guide while I attempt to cover the entire Sega CD library in order.  Most are probably content with this explanation, but for those of you like me who wonder how I plan to do it, what I’m going to use for capture, and the format, I have your answers in the following paragraphs.

Sega CD Model 1 with Genesis Model 1

Sega CD Model 1 with Genesis Model 1

As I’ve said countless times before, I’m not a collector.  When you want to play, find, and experience games like I do you amass a collection, but I could care less if it has a case or manual and of course my copy of Snatcher has a big rental sticker all over the front.  That’s why I have to admit that in order to do this project there’s no way I’m going to pony up the cash to purchase the entire worldwide, region-specific, run of the Sega CD (Mega CD in Japan and Europe).  Fortunately it is possible to simply burn any ISO of the games and play them in an actual Sega CD (there’s even a patch to change the region to run on any Sega CD), but my next problem comes in the form of the actual capture.  When I’m jacking around, playing Sega CD games to have fun with or make fun of titles like B.C. Racers or Wirehead, the blurry 480p resolution that is highly compressed on YouTube is just fine.  If I’m going to do a strong archive that builds upon the great works of Chrontendo and others in this field I need to have a rock solid looking capture that shows off not the best you can get from your Sega CD, but what the game actually looked like running on an SDTV.  If you’ve ever done game capture, you’ll learn that this is nearly impossible when using internet video or an HDTV, which necessitates various crazy means of making the image look better like RGB output mods and $500 devices like the Framemeister (you can read that lengthy article here).  Again, I do not have the money I need to RGB out of my Sega CD and into a Framemeister and then figure out how to make it work through my Hauppauge PVR and result in a good capture.  Where is this all leading?  Emulation.  Yes, I’m going to concede with the strength of visual fidelity and clarity, not to mention 60 fps and recording options, that I intend to capture this footage through an emulator.  Specifically the Kega Fusion emulator, version 3.64, that supports various important items to me like upscaling (but I want to keep the original aspect ratio so the bars on the side will remain).  I need to run some more tests before starting this project in August, but for now I feel that this will be the basis for my chrono gaming project, tentatively named ChronCD.The next is how am I going to format episodes, what are the timelines, and what will I cover.  In terms of chronology, much like Chrontendo I’m going to be basing it off the Japanese release schedule, which was much better documented.  Furthermore, most games were available in both regions so that helps significantly.  If they came out in both places and translation is more imporant than it is for older titles, I may use the English version given the audience and need for English to understand the game.  To me, each episode should be about the same length, my target is 45-60 minutes, and I attempt to cover as much as I can within that time frame.  Realistically the penning of the script and the storyboarding of the content will vary based on how rich the game in question is.  I may have very little to speak about when it comes to the development and release of Dracula Unleashed, a basic PC port, than I do to titles like Ecco the Dolphin or Earthworm Jim Special Edition, each with documented development histories and notable changes from the other versions of the game.  Night Trap may very well be half of an episode to describe and show off all of the turmoil that comes with it, so the episodes will have to vary in terms of how many games are covered.  Additionally these episodes will be formatted with popular culture, development history, and other aspects that have nothing to do with playing the actual game, which means significantly more time to produce.  When I sit down and play a game like Wirehead, I record the footage while making fun, throw the channel bumpers on the front and back, then bam, the show is ready.  Tops, three hours to produce.  An episode of ChronCD will probably take dozens of hours to produce and require tens of hours of capture footage all to be used in a basic number of minutes on screen.  This will give ChronCD a professional feel and bring it up to more of the standard of the Gaming History 101 podcast or special feature content like Version.  For this reason I intend to attempt at one episode per month, but life may require potentially a bi-monthly show.  I’m going to have to give myself a deadline and figure it out.  I should also point out that the content will be kept relatively free of crude humor, although lets face it, some of these games feature graphic content outside of my control.  Here’s hoping that come early September, there will be an episode available.  In addition videos will show on YouTube due to that being the preferred format, but I do intend to capture at a much higher bitrate and hopefully upload the vids on archive.org for those of you who value quality and want to see the games as good as they can get.

segacd_coll

Finally some of you may want to know what becomes of my gaming projects as a whole.  For starters I have the Gaming History 101 podcast, which I assure you is the priority along with the site and will continue to operate as before.  If anything gets delayed it will be this project and not the show or site.  Next, what about the things we do monthly now like Top 10s, Community Top 10s, and Game Clubs?  The same, these are all part of the podcast so they revert to the prioritization of before.  Finally what does that mean to video and extra shows like Version, Guides/Walkthroughs, Is it Kusoge?, Mystery 3 Games, or even the nearly retired Retro Game Night?  Again, nothing.  I think variety is the spice of life and all of these projects become whatever they become and we all try them out and see how they do.  The Shenmue live casts I’ve been doing this month are going quite well and I’ve had tons of help and support from Twitch friends to get a decent crowd (typically around 10 viewers) with each broadcast.  I had no idea 10 people would want to watch me investigate the streets for sailors.  That said if I tried to keep doing a new game each month and every night it would become a chore, work even.  That doesn’t mean I’ll never do it again, quite the opposite and I expect to do an MGS title alongside our game club next month anyway.  I do want the ability to abandon something like the Shenmue broadcasts for a few weeks or months if I want a break.  So this is basically just another outlet and creative project to partake in.  The trick to playing all of these games in rapid succession is diversity and I need to keep that up to ensure I continue to enjoy gaming and my life outside of it.  So in short this is just another part of the overall portfolio.  I would love to hear from any writers, news people, video producers, etc. who want to get involved with GH101 and assist in cranking content.  That would be great and I urge you to contact me if you are interested.  In the meantime I need to get ready to play through a slew of Sega CD games, get my ISOs and lists prepared as the first year for the system, 1991, was solely in Japan and to test different ways I can capture and hopefully broadcast my game playing.  What’s the point of making a video if the boring gameplay part can’t be watched by others on Twitch?  Stay tuned, there’s a lot coming this way in the future.

Written by Fred Rojas

July 13, 2015 at 11:42 am

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