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Interview: Super Icon

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Claire Hill-Whittall

Claire Hill-Whittall

Richard Hill-Whittall

Richard Hill-Whittall

si_logo

Super Icon is the independent developer responsible for the impressive retro flashback title Life of Pixel.  Aside from developing this and a few other titles on the Playstation Mobile platform, this husband and wife duo has big plans afoot, not the least being a new kickstarter project to bring Life of Pixel to a wider audience on PC, Mac, iOS, and Android (with additional content).   Recently Creative Director Richard Hill-Whittall and Claire Hill-Whittall in Business Development were kind enough to answer some questions that we at Gaming History 101 and you readers were wondering about this clear appreciation for early consoles and microcomputers.

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Written by Fred Rojas

May 10, 2013 at 11:00 am

Genre Study: Roguelikes and MetroidVania Games

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Lately many games that embrace former genres that had fallen to the wayside are making a comeback.  As a result lots of games press and developer media contacts like to coin phrases that are based on gameplay styles not many are familiar with.  When someone tells you that Tokyo Jungle is a “roguelike” or that Guacamelee is a “MetroidVania” title, it’s entirely possible you have no idea what that means.  After this article, you will no longer have that problem.

Roguelikes

Original Rogue on IBM compatible

Original Rogue on IBM compatible

You may or may not know that the roots of the roguelike come from a 1980 computer game called Rogue, which established the dungeon crawler.  This game was considered genre-changing when compared to the slower paced text adventures such as Zork and Dungeons & Dragons video game ports like Wizardry and Ultima.  Developers Michael Toy, Glenn Wichman, Ken Arnold, and Jon Lane site a hybrid between both types with influences from D&D as well as the text adventure Colossal Cave Adventure, which featured a detailed description of a cave system in Kentucky that was so precise it was used by a tourist to navigate parts of the actual caves it was based on.  The result was a game where an adventurer explored a multi-floored dungeon, collecting items and facing enemies, in search of a final artifact (in this case the “Amulet of Yendor”) to complete the game.  Each floor was more difficult than the last, you could not backtrack to a previous floor, and if you died you got a game over, simple as that.  Additionally the layout of the dungeon, items, and enemies were all randomly generated, which meant you would ideally never play the same game twice.  Despite the fact that you would have to start over, the experience of playing the game assisted you in handling enemies, utilizing items, and preparing for future encounters as such that you could eventually beat the game.  Needless to say the game had a tough barrier for entry and popularized itself mostly on Unix systems in colleges across the country, but the public found it too complex and difficult.

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Written by Fred Rojas

May 6, 2013 at 7:29 pm

For the Love of the Light Gun

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zapper2I can’t explain my love for the light gun.  It’s one of the oldest forms of interactive entertainment, dating back to the carnival days where you would fire air rifles at a metal bullseye to make an old man’s hat pop up or a dog bark.  Once the gun made the transition to video games it honestly became one of the most lifelike and violent gaming tropes throughout history.  Not to get deep with it, but you are pointing a gun at a target, usually alive, and shooting it.  There is not other gesture like it, you are shooting a modern device to kill something, virtual or not.  At the same time it also doubles as the most simple form of proficiency.  I don’t think anyone will claim that being good at Duck Hunt or Lethal Enforcers relates to being a good shot in a shooting range, but it’s got a much higher chance of significance than being able to get a headshot in Call of Duty.  Whereas the FPS emulates the concept of aiming and firing a gun with 1:1 responses from a controller, a light gun truly simulates the experience.

lethalenforcersLight gun games have been a niche genre, but that doesn’t prevent them from withstanding the test of time and being available on most home consoles and one of the most popular games, even today, in arcades.  I guess it’s because despite the maturity implied behind firing a gun, it’s one of the easiest concepts for us to pick up.  I’ve been on many adventures thanks to light gun games – whether it’s cleaning up the future in T2: The Arcade Game, battling zombies in a haunted house through House of the Dead, or enjoying some of the worst acting of all time in Mad Dog McCree.

It’s also significant because the light gun is a genre nearly impossible to emulate and doesn’t translate well in today’s technology.  While there are exceptions, you will have a hard time playing Crypt Killer properly on a PC running MAME and most HDTV technologies don’t support light guns from the past.  Authenticity is as important as the genre itself.  This month I’ve decided to dedicate to a timeless style of video game that I always make first priority when buying a new (or old) system: the light gun shooter.  Come join me to learn about some of the best, worst, funniest, and definitely weirdest titles to ever grace the hobby of video games.  Thanks to my huge CRT television and original hardware, I can even show you videos.

Written by Fred Rojas

April 1, 2013 at 8:55 pm

Buying Guide: 3DO

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3do

We all love our retro consoles, but in many cases the consoles we are buying are because they are cheap enough or we have enough money to purchase what we never were able to in our youth.  Unfortunately the business of making used retro items available to the masses can at times be a money grubbing market where consumers are deceived by people they will never meet in real life.  As an individual who has spent the last decade scouring the local area, conventions, eBay, and the internet as a whole I have learned many valuable lessons.  For that reason I present my buying guide series, which is a handy quick guide to knowing what to purchase and what will cost an arm and a leg to replace.

Historically the 3DO, most commonly associated with Panasonic’s license because it had the largest manufacturing numbers and advertising campaign, is the most expensive video game console of all time.  Trip Hawkins, founder of Electronic Arts (EA), formed the 3DO company for software development and developed a hardware spec that could be licensed to companies for manufacturing, much like companies have done with VCRs and DVD players.  Unfortunately since the profit for manufacturers had to come from the sale of the hardware itself – all other consoles were sold at a reduced price for a loss and software sales would close the gap for profits – and the 3DO sold for the staggering price of $700.  As a result, few consoles were actually sold and three companies (Panasonic, Sanyo, and Goldstar) had already manufactured units that weren’t selling.  This balance of supply and demand results in the 3DO being the much more reasonable $100-$150 on the used console market these days, but few know what actually came in the box.  Here’s what you need to get it working:

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Written by Fred Rojas

December 24, 2012 at 12:39 pm

Buying Guide: Jaguar

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jaguar

We all love our retro consoles, but in many cases the consoles we are buying are because they are cheap enough or we have enough money to purchase what we never were able to in our youth.  Unfortunately the business of making used retro items available to the masses can at times be a money grubbing market where consumers are deceived by people they will never meet in real life.  As an individual who has spent the last decade scouring the local area, conventions, eBay, and the internet as a whole I have learned many valuable lessons.  For that reason I present my buying guide series, which is a handy quick guide to knowing what to purchase and what will cost an arm and a leg to replace.

The Atari Jaguar just can’t get a break.  Touted as a technological breakthrough of its time, this holiday 1993 console may have been a commercial failure but it was clearly a hardware powerhouse.  Sure, it may not have been a true 64-bit console just because the twin Tom and Jerry chips were 32-bit co-processors (more on that in our podcast), but for $250 you were getting a lot for your money (estimates claim the Jaguar cost up to $400 to manufacture).  As far as exclusives go there’s not really much to tell.  You’ve basically got Aliens vs. PredatorTempest 2000Breakout 2000, and Kasumi Ninja – half of which are considered to be crap by most gamers – so finding the games on the Jaguar elsewhere will be easy to do.  Couple that with the god awful controllers and the need (at least for me) to purchase all of the console games complete in box with the inserts for the controller (and essentially increasing the price anywhere from three to ten fold) and most people are probably going to walk away.  In the event that you aren’t one of those people, just prepare for the fact that you will be spending on the upwards of $100-$200 just on a working console with a couple of controllers and then probably $30-$60 on each game if you want all the inserts and whatnot.  What you will receive in return is an impressive experience for not only the exclusives, but also the definitive version of a lot of games that were ported all over the place.  DoomNBA Jam: Tournament EditionWolfenstein 3DRaidenFlashbackPrimal Rage, and Rayman all look as good or better than their original arcade/PC versions and often have enhancements or extra content to justify the re-release on this console.  Not only that but titles like Cannon FodderSyndicate, and Theme Park are identical to the 3DO versions of those games – which in and of itself was a much more expensive ($700) and disc-based console – so if you want to re-live those halcyon Windows 95 days you either have endless headaches with DOSbox or grabbing these decent controller-ready console ports.  At this price point, you want to make sure you know what to get so here’s what you can expect when trying to grab a Jaguar:

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Written by Fred Rojas

December 24, 2012 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Buying Guides, Jaguar, Lessons, Videos

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Buying Guide: Super Nintendo

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snes

We all love our retro consoles, but in many cases the consoles we are buying are because they are cheap enough or we have enough money to purchase what we never were able to in our youth.  Unfortunately the business of making used retro items available to the masses can at times be a money grubbing market where consumers are deceived by people they will never meet in real life.  As an individual who has spent the last decade scouring the local area, conventions, eBay, and the internet as a whole I have learned many valuable lessons.  For that reason I present my buying guide series, which is a handy quick guide to knowing what to purchase and what will cost an arm and a leg to replace.

There’s really no denying the popularity of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES for short).  Despite Sega taking a temporary lead over Nintendo in the early 90s, there’s no denying that the SNES was the champion of the 16-bit console generation.  This simple machine managed to introduce us to hardcore JRPGs, mode 7 graphics, early polygonal 3D (Starfox), and even faked 3D environments (Donkey Kong Country), all without the multiple add-ons and disc-based media of other consoles at the time.  If you’re discouraged in the least by yellowing of the plastic casing for the console, don’t be, it’s a mere chemical reaction with age and actually speaks to the durability of the product.  On that same note it’s pretty doubtful that you would need a buyers guide for the SNES as just like most other Nintendo consoles there are few parts, but all the same here’s what you will definitely need:

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Written by Fred Rojas

December 21, 2012 at 2:09 pm

Buying Guide: Sega Genesis (plus Sega CD and 32X)

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Behold "Frankenconsole"

Behold “Frankenconsole”

We all love our retro consoles, but in many cases the consoles we are buying are because they are cheap enough or we have enough money to purchase what we never were able to in our youth.  Unfortunately the business of making used retro items available to the masses can at times be a money grubbing market where consumers are deceived by people they will never meet in real life.  As an individual who has spent the last decade scouring the local area, conventions, eBay, and the internet as a whole I have learned many valuable lessons.  For that reason I present my buying guide series, which is a handy quick guide to knowing what to purchase and what will cost an arm and a leg to replace.

We have finally come to the console I started this entire buying guide series for: the Sega Genesis (and its many add-ons).  With a short period of its life having a 55 percent market share over the SNES (the year it launched, mind you), there were plenty of households who had a Sega Genesis.  So many, in fact, that there were five different versions of the console and 3 iterations!  Depending on the console version, your specs will vary but the list of what you need should stay the same so I’m going to run over the list.

First of all, figure out which model you want, here’s the gallery of what they look like:

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Written by Fred Rojas

December 20, 2012 at 3:43 pm

Buying Guide: Turbografx-16

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tg16

We all love our retro consoles, but in many cases the consoles we are buying are because they are cheap enough or we have enough money to purchase what we never were able to in our youth.  Unfortunately the business of making used retro items available to the masses can at times be a money grubbing market where consumers are deceived by people they will never meet in real life.  As an individual who has spent the last decade scouring the local area, conventions, eBay, and the internet as a whole I have learned many valuable lessons.  For that reason I present my buying guide series, which is a handy quick guide to knowing what to purchase and what will cost an arm and a leg to replace.

There was this brief period of time when the store shelves of Toys R Us had Nintendo games, Sega Genesis games, and Turbografx-16 games.  After the Super Nintendo ushered in a whole mess of games in the holiday season of 1992 (the console premiered in 1991 but it had significant presence the following year) and the Turbografx-16 consoles moved to that dreaded area in the middle of the aisle.  Before you knew it they were stacking up boxed consoles at discounted $99.99 price tags (the console originally was either $199.99 or $149.99, although I forget which) and in 1993 it was down to $49.99 with free games and all at once disappeared.  Due to the fact that NEC’s “in between” console only moved at that exremely low price point, most people that owned the console kept it, which makes for a bit of scarcity on today’s market.  Fortunately I have this buying guide here to assist you and aside from games, there really isn’t a lot to the accessories or hook-up of a TG-16.

You will want to make sure your console has:

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Written by Fred Rojas

December 18, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Buying Guide: Sega Master System

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sms

We all love our retro consoles, but in many cases the consoles we are buying are because they are cheap enough or we have enough money to purchase what we never were able to in our youth.  Unfortunately the business of making used retro items available to the masses can at times be a money grubbing market where consumers are deceived by people they will never meet in real life.  As an individual who has spent the last decade scouring the local area, conventions, eBay, and the internet as a whole I have learned many valuable lessons.  For that reason I present my buying guide series, which is a handy quick guide to knowing what to purchase and what will cost an arm and a leg to replace.

Oh the Master System, the red-headed step child of the 8-bit era.  Not only were Sega products unknown to American markets – Japan had seen several iterations of the Sega Mark consoles, the Master System known as the Mark III – but it released alongside the NES in America and had nothing to show for it.  The two biggest problems with the Master System today is that it’s relatively expensive for a working consoles itself, there are ways to play many of these games on the Game Gear or Genesis (with the Power Base Converter), and not too many good games (many arcade games also got ported to Genesis with better quality).  For those that aren’t aware, Nintendo also had developers and publishers locked into license agreements that didn’t allow games to be released on another console and basically had the Master System in checkmate in the US.  Still, I have the console and love some of the games/ports that are available on it (like Ghostbusters) and plenty of collector’s are curious what the console looks like.  Aside from the video provided below, make sure the consoles you get have the following:

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Written by Fred Rojas

December 17, 2012 at 12:57 pm

Buying Guide: The Nintendo Entertainment System

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NES

We all love our retro consoles, but in many cases the consoles we are buying are because they are cheap enough or we have enough money to purchase what we never were able to in our youth.  Unfortunately the business of making used retro items available to the masses can at times be a money grubbing market where consumers are deceived by people they will never meet in real life.  As an individual who has spent the last decade scouring the local area, conventions, eBay, and the internet as a whole I have learned many valuable lessons.  For that reason I present my buying guide series, which is a handy quick guide to knowing what to purchase and what will cost an arm and a leg to replace.

Most of us that are over 30 and grew up gaming had a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) at one point or another in our collection, so it’s not that common to have a reseller screw you over with a used console.  Still, I think it’s best to know exactly what you need to look for in your NES so here’s the official list of items that should be included in a used console:

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Written by Fred Rojas

December 11, 2012 at 12:37 pm