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Podcast: Psychic World

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This week Jam’s pick was Psychic World.  An action platformer originally released on the MSX as Psycho World (it was Japan only), this title received wider regard in the West as a Game Gear title and those in Europe may have also played the Sega Master System version.  Fred and Jam dissect the development, gameplay, and version differences between this largely forgotten title by an almost unknown developer.


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Written by Fred Rojas

August 10, 2016 at 11:00 am

The Technomancer Review

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The Technomancer reminds me of one of those relationships before I got married.  It’s dynamic and I enjoyed it, but ultimately I got to this point where I knew our time would have to end.  Much like those relationships, it probably lasted a bit longer than it should have, but that doesn’t mean that it was a waste of time.  Far from it.  Regardless of your opinion of nitpicks like whether or not the faces compete with modern powerhouse franchises or exactly what genre it should be labeled as, The Technomancer is offering a throwback to the complete package of RPG we saw often last generation.  That wouldn’t have made it stand out were it not for the fact that a title like this is somewhat rare these days.  Sure, everything is going open world, but releases of RPGs that heavily integrate decision and story are somewhat scarce and especially if you’re looking for sci-fi or cyberpunk.  So despite its flaws and not necessarily being able to keep up with its more established peers, The Technomancer is a worthwhile experience.

technomancer_1I’m guessing not many played developer Spiders’ first title Mars: War Logs, which you may be surprised to know is now available on PC and even Xbox One thanks to 360 backward compatibility (also on PS3).  It really is the early version of what would eventually become this title and established the lore of human colonization on Mars and the core of what the technomancers are.  That title was short, the combat was harshly integrated (especially for gamepads), and while I liked what it was doing I couldn’t get too invested.  Having played Mars: War Logs did allow me to appreciate how far Spiders has come in its sophomore effort on the concept, but it’s in no way necessary as a buffer for this title.  Newcomers and veterans alike will be introduced to Zachariah, a graduating technomancer that is coming to terms with his newfound powers and prepared to utilize them in an effort to keep the peace and eventually find a way back to Earth.  He’s not unique, many technomancers work for Abundance, a mega-corp that provides security on Mars and all technomancers are to guard the order’s secrets in an attempt to discover a way back home to Earth.  Beyond that you are free to hit the ground running in an open-world chock full of icons that represent main and side quests.  Along the way you will inevitably face combat, both in and out of hub locations, where your action fighting skills will be tested from start to finish.  I’ll return to the combat in a minute, but it’s important to note that the separation between non-combat zones and combat zones is blurred here, which I don’t often see in the modern world of RPGs that includes MMOs.  It may not be much of a change, but it struck me as somewhat unique.

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Written by Fred Rojas

July 11, 2016 at 11:00 am

Hard Reset Redux Review

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There’s this constant complaint heard all too often by the PC gaming crowd: why don’t more PC games come to consoles?  The reality is some combination between controls, marketability, and code development, but I always like to say, “it’s just more of a PC game.”  That wasn’t always the case though, as we’ve seen in the past with the original first person shooters like Doom and Duke Nukem 3D that seemed to have mass appeal beyond the keyboard and mouse.  Hard Reset felt like it was airlifted out of that time period in the way it played and handled game design and it made more sense that developer Flying Wild Hog’s first effort come to console gamers.  Now the updated Hard Reset Redux seeks to ask how interested console gamers really are.  It has updated controls for gamepads, it has seemingly enhanced graphics (although PC players may disagree), and it has a re-balanced campaign all for the sake of the console gamer.  This is a tailor-made conversion from the world of PC and if you’re wondering if it was all worth it the answer is a resounding, absolutely.

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Written by Fred Rojas

June 20, 2016 at 11:00 am

Dishonored Play Diary

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Trying something new here.  Dishonored is a game I (Fred) have not been able to play properly and the first video in this series shows why.  As a result, I’m trying to be more laid back and complete the title without worrying about perfect stealth and perfect pacifism.  Instead of a “Let’s Play” I’ve decided to do a new type of series called a “Play Diary” and here’s what these will be.  This video series currently only has one video, but will update as it grows.  No new posting will be created for each video.  If you want updates, I recommend subscribing to Fred’s channel.

Let’s Play videos are tough because the person playing them has to constantly be speaking to an audience, it stifles gameplay, and it’s a bunch of work to get live.  A longplay is easy because you just capture and upload, but only a handful of people watch it.  We’ve noticed that the commentary gets more views, but that people watch them for short periods, whereas a longplay is only seen by a smaller group but they watch often to entirety.  The Play Diary starts with a full length “quick look” of an hour or two with commentary followed by update videos that are about 5-15 minutes that cover several hours of gameplay and commentary.  In addition, the entire longplay is uploaded as a playlist for those that want to see the full playthrough.  Hopefully this is a more user friendly way for everyone to see what they want.  This will not completely replace my “Let’s Play” videos because certain rare games will want to be viewed from start to finish.  The video below is the playlist for the diary and the longplay playlist can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLlLaoX7aLm9_32Aqpog3OgW2ZenWg_mV8

Written by Fred Rojas

June 17, 2016 at 11:00 am

Origins of Shadow of the Beast

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It all began in 1989 with developer Reflections Interactive showing a tech demo to British publisher Psygnosis. With Psygnosis impressed by what they saw Shadow of the Beast was originally released on the Commodore Amiga and was graphically mind blowing for the time.  With several colours on screen at once as well as up to twelve levels of parallax scrolling backdrops, the game looked like it was from an arcade machine. Martin Edmonson, one of the founders of the company, was fond of very difficult video games. He wanted to be challenged and have to play a game multiple times to be able to master it. The score for the game was composed by David Whittaker, which was very atmospheric and left a lasting impression on fans.  The cover art for the game was from the talented hands of Roger Dean who was well know for working on album covers for Yes, Asia, Budgie, as well as several others. Roger Dean merged a stone age look with technology to create a very unique look to the cover of Shadow of the Beast. He would also later go on to redesign the logo for Tetris.

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Written by jamalais

May 26, 2016 at 11:26 am

Doom Retrospective

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As I said in a previous article regarding Wolfenstein 3D, “Wolfenstein 3D did it first and Doom did it best.”  The same team, id Software, created both games so it’s less of a competition and more of an evolution.  While I agree that all games are a team effort, the technology that runs these games can sometimes be credited to one person.  In the case of Doom that one person is none other than John D. Carmack.  By this point most of us are aware of John Carmack and what he’s contributed to video games as a whole, but back in 1992 he was the guy creating a new engine for a new game.  That engine was called the Doom Engine.  Carmack claims the name Doom came from the movie The Color of Money in which Tom Cruise describes a custom pool cue as “doom” when questioned as to what’s in his case.  It was created to enhance the first person shooter to include different heights, distances, and even sound effects in stereo for a more realistic type of game.  In truth the hardware of the time couldn’t handle rendering a 3D world so the game is actually all on a flat plane in the code, which is why rooms never overlap and you can shoot a guy on a ledge by just aiming at the wall beneath him.  I don’t know about the rest of you, but in 1993 I hardly noticed.  Doom had positional breathing of mutant men, lighting effects (including dark rooms), a hybrid cyberpunk and distopian Hell setting, and a ton of violence.  It was the rock star of the video game world.

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Back in 1995 Review

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This review originally appeared on The B-Team Podcast site but given the fact that the author of that review owns Gaming History 101, it was also posted over here with permission.  All of the content remains identical.

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If you grew up in the mid-late 90s as a gamer, you have a certain affinity to the awkward early polygonal styles of games that graced consoles like the Sega Saturn, Sony Playstation, and Nintendo 64.  Given the fact that most people born around the time to start gaming on these consoles are nearing their mid-late 20s, not to mention those in their 30s like myself, the time was right to have an indie era piece.  More importantly was the fact that these consoles ushered in the more refined years of the survival horror genre that would become the template for that genre even today.  Back in 1995 is acutely aware of this and developer Throw The Warped Code Out, which is mostly a single developer by the name of Takaaki Ichijo, has gone out of its way to recreate that time period.  This will surely get many nostalgic gamers excited, as I was, with visions of Resident Evil and Silent Hill in their heads, but those games are a couple of years off from the era in this game.  Back in 1995 is from an earlier era that is even more archaic and hearkens to Alone in the Dark 2 or for obscure Japanese fans, Dr. Hauzer on the Panasonic 3DO.  It’s a technical marvel to me that the look and feel of those games is so perfectly crafted, but it all falls apart when you get down to the actual playing of the game.  It turns out Back in 1995 is little more than a tech demo in a game’s clothing.

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Written by Fred Rojas

April 28, 2016 at 11:00 am

Maniac Mansion Retrospective

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Maniac Mansion is a significant game in the evolution of the medium, but interestingly enough it’s also a game that is hard to find and not many have played.  Perhaps it’s the fact that the point-and-click genre went away long ago and until recently, really hadn’t seen a resurgence.  It also likely has to do with the fact that Lucasfilm was for many years no longer in the publishing business, didn’t have much interest in rehashing these older titles, and the fact that it was originally on microcomputers like the Commodore 64 made it hard to port.  The reason Maniac Mansion holds such an important role and special place in my heart – which is impressive considering I generally hate point-and-click adventure games – is because it started a new trend for the genre.

When it was conceived in 1985 the rift between computer gaming and console gaming was vast.  On consoles the experiences were more action oriented and based on feats of skill in the moment with titles like Super Mario Bros. or Gradius.  This makes sense because consoles like the NES were tailor made for an experience like that with the ability to scroll and a gamepad as an interface.  On computers, the story was a bit different.  Microcomputers were terrible at scrolling and any attempt to do so was clunky with the player literally able to see the vertical lines being drawn as they progressed.  Games had to have rudimentary sound, supported single button 9-pin joysticks, and could come from various sources such as cartridge, tape, and floppy disk.  One thing the computer had over the console was the fact that it could use a full keyboard for its interactions and this is where the adventure genre really takes off.  From text adventures like Zork and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and RPGs like Ultima came the point-and-click adventure.  In the early 80s these were dominated by Sierra On-Line, a development house that also published and was responsible for notable graphical point-and-click adventures like King’s Quest.  These titles, while incredibly immersive and entertaining for more mature gamers, suffered a fatal flaw in that you could overlook simple items in the beginning only to have them render the game unbeatable several hours later.  Gamers like myself also hate the fact that the concept is basically to read the developer’s mind and in the end succumb to the horrid tactic of “try everything on everything.”  Back then Sierra was even meaner, with fail states that could kill your character and thus if you forgot to save resulted in the loss of progress, sometimes large sometimes small.  That’s not to say that Sierra games aren’t good or enjoyable, many of my peers will admit to loving the Sierra catalog and they are a welcome addition to the library at Good Old Games, but Lucasfilm Games hoped to do something different.

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Written by Fred Rojas

April 8, 2016 at 11:00 am

Lost Treasures of Gaming: Oddworld Munch’s Oddysey

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This week Lost Treasures of Gaming had Lorne Lanning of Oddworld Inhabitants on to discuss the series of Oddworld games.  Fred goes into a little background of each before delving right into the first couple of levels in Oddworld Munch’s Oddysey HD on the Playstation 3.

You can find the Lost Treasures of Gaming podcast at http://omgnexus.com.

Written by Fred Rojas

March 20, 2016 at 11:00 am

Resident Evil 0 HD Remaster Review

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You know, I was actually really looking forward to playing through Resident Evil 0 HD Remaster. I thought to myself, “sure I’ll be part of the problem and buy this game I already own,” and the fact that the physical copy also came with Resident Evil Remake (in glorious HD) only sweetened the deal. I am a Resident Evil fan and I am not ashamed to a admit it.  Has time been good to Resident Evil 0? This review will explore how the game stacks up on today’s consoles.

resident_evil_zero_n64_prototypeThe background of this game is something that has always fascinated me mostly surrounding its release and how things in gaming were back then. Originally pitched for the N64 and getting as far as a prototype being made for the train segment of the game, this was Nintendo inviting Capcom to team up for the first time since those cool Mega Man games and Disney titles on the NES/SNES. In an offered deal, the two companies had planned for a Resident Evil game that will come out nowhere else. Well this invitation did intrigue Capcom and especially sat well with Shinji Mikami (the creator of the series). Capcom would go on to develop three exclusive Resident Evil games for the Gamecube as well as release three other cannon titles on the platform as well. The exclusives were Resident Evil Remake and Resident Evil 4, arguably two titles that became incredibly memorable, and inbetween this we saw the release of Resident Evil 0 (Zero). This game really was Capcom’s last hurrah of the pre-rendered background style game with a fixed camera and those tank controls which we all just love to joke about today. It was also the last game in the series where you could get mad about a key taking up an entire slot in our inventory. After this game things changed dramatically with Resident Evil 4. Resident Evil 0 was released at a time were people were a little burned out on the traditional style of the series (and it had been in development almost 5 years when it came out) so although it received decent reviews, it is often considered a low point.

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Written by jamalais

February 25, 2016 at 11:00 am

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