Classic Video Game Blog of Rants, Raves, News and Info

8 Bit Central - Retro Gaming Blog

Archive of Classic Video Game Blog Articles
Fourth Quarter 2013 - October, November, December

Check out the retro gaming finds, conclusions and oddities we've discovered in 2013!

December 2013 Retro Gaming Articles:

December 25, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Merry Christmas!

Merry Retro Christmas
Merry Retro Christmas from all of us at 8-Bit Central!
December 21, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

We're taking a break to play some games and enjoy the Christmas magic

A great part of being retro gamer is the people I meet through the search for dusty consoles and aging game carts. The best part is sharing retro gaming with my son. Every time he comes to visit we spend every waking hour playing together. He's my favorite gamer and we play everything from the Atari 2600 through the PS3 and fill the space in between with board games and random craziness.

For the next 2 weeks he has my undivided attention, so things will be quiet on the site. Come the new year, we will avidly dive into 2014 and do our retro gaming thing! Enjoy the holidays and keep it retro!
December 19, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Will next gen game developers be graduates or learn-by-tinker? (the Speccy model)

I recently wrote an article about the current separation between gaming computers and game consoles, looking at how they've gone down two divergent paths. In the 1980s, when both were finding a foothold, they were much more similar. Today, there is little comparison between computers and consoles.

Then I saw a great article (We need a new Spectrum: ZX Up the Forth Gen) about next gen programmers / developers and how current learning environments are much different from those in the 80s. Back in the day, you could play a Spectrum game and you had the tools of the trade at your fingertips to explore programming.

Computers of the 1980s were not strongholds of thousands of patents and copyrights where every keystroke involved "agreeing" to a strand of legalese restricting you in any number of ways. Kid's who found a particular game or program compelling could dive into it's code and see how it worked, change how it worked and become inspired to make something better!

code The ZX Spectrum was renown for this ability to let you play and create. The system's openness fostered a culture of immense creativity fueled by a generation that played hard and went on to create games where limits simply did not exist.

Think about a kid today who has a Vita or a 3DS in their pocket or backpack. As they discover amazing games and connect with their friends in multi-player worlds and become entranced by the entire experience - what is the outlet for all this? Beat the game and move on, which means buy another game.

I loved playing Atari as a kid. It was all about playing - not beating the game. Arcades were financially geared to this. Games that had seemingly infinite levels wanted to garner infinite quarters in the coin box. Ports of these amazing classics followed the same model and doled out harder levels rather than ending. Kids played - a lot!

Part of the endless-play model lets gamers become more ingrained in the game. It isn't like finishing a book and debating whether to re-read it. You can always go back to Space Invaders and see if you can beat your high score. I think part of this re-play value translates into a player's desire to further engage with the game - even on a code level.

I wanted to know how things worked. I disassembled everything from an old popcorn maker to broken radios and vacuum cleaners. It's part of being a kid. Kids who had computers were able to channel that desire to dig deeper into how things work and apply it to computer code.

Deriving knowledge

When it comes to gaining tech knowledge, some folks go to school and obtain degrees in Computer Science, others are self-taught through their own means. Some learn from a combination of curiosity and classroom. While I find merit in both avenues, I draw real distinction in the real hands-on experience from a young age. There can be benefits of having a degree in CS, but I have a fondness for the kid who took to computers and dove into programming in an effort to replicate or improve upon the games he/she loved.

ZX Spctrum keyboard labels Look at the labeling on the ZX Spectrum keyboard. There's a lot more there than QWERTY! Just looking at it evokes curiosity about what these keys would do beyond the mere letters. It just screams, "EXPLORE!"
My experience has been that one can learn a lot from books and classrooms, but there's a magical ingredient that comes from a curious teenage mind that wanted desperately to understand how games "worked" and be able to make more of them. As that mind develops around all of life's elements while maintaining that curiosity in code, you fine the end result is a natural ability to think and solve.

The best example of gaining knowledge from tinkering came from the 80's era of computing. Read Speccy Nation to find out more about the ZX Spectrum and the wave of creativity that ensued as it swept through the UK.

We hear of more schools dedicated to game development as well as renown institutions creating programs to follow this track, but will that yield the same creativity that flourished in the 80s? As the article we cited above, the ZX Spectrum was at the peak of technology, games were readily available and they were inexpensive. Even the labeling on the Speccy keyboard elicited interest about the multiple labels and what that little device was really capable of achieving.

I worry about how unique the Speccy scenario was and that it's not likely to be repeated in today's market. So, where will the next gen developers blossom from? They may grow up with nintendo handhelds and various PlayStations, but none of these systems are open or offer much lure for gamers to become programmers the Way the ZX Spectrum did. These devices are designed to motivate consumers to consume.

Buying a PS4 opens up a world of great games, but development is still hidden behind the curtain. We can only hope that gamers today will be compelled outside the closed world of consumer game consoles to explore what makes these games so amazing at the development level.
December 18, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Pinball to video game dev Eugene Jarvis is an arcade hero of Defender fame & recent AIAS award winner

Defender developer Eugene Jarvis As a child, I wasn't a collector - I was a gamer. When Defender was ported to the Atari 2600, I tore open the box, freed the cart, set aside the manual and fired up my 2600. Despite the screen flicker, I was playing Defender in my living room and at that moment in time - life couldn't have been better.

I'd played Defender in arcades and loved the novelty of it's game play and varied control options. But I'd never stopped to think about how this amazing game came to be in arcades or my living room.

In today's modern era of game development, hundreds of people may have their hand in some aspect of the coding process alone. In the bygone era of the late 70's and into the 80's, a lone programmer could be tasked with creating a new game in 3 months... by him/herself.

Defender may not be quite as renown as Pong or Space Invaders, but if you can say, "I created Defender", chances are folks' eyes will light up and gather around you.

It is an impressive statement - and the first video game created by Eugene Jarvis. He is being honored with the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences (AIAS) Pioneer Award! With a beginning in programming pinball games when microprocessors came into the mix, he later moved on to video games and created Stargate (Defender's sequel) and Robotron 2084 among others.
December 17, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

CX21? The Video Touch Pad? OK, the Atari 2600 Star Raiders controller!

FYI- this article is sheer conjecture and devoid of fact :)

CX21 The Video Touch Pad I often forget the Atari 800 computer was released in 1979. It always seems more like a mid-80s sort of device to me. On the other hand the 5200 was released in 1982 and it was essentially a game console reduction of the 800 computer. But that crazy little 2600 outlived them both when it was discontinued in 1992, which is an interesting fact when looking at the CX21.

The Atari 800 had the power, and game library, to give fierce competition to home game consoles - even the Atari 2600. Today, nobody would confuse a PS4 with a laptop. They are greatly separated in both form and function. You don't fire up the PS4 because you have a huge spreadsheet to update. At the same time you don't go to your PC when you want to play a game... Hey wait a minute.

Although we distinguish computers from game consoles, we recognize that computers are powerful enough to play games as well as run other applications. I'm actually surprised that the Xbone doesn't run on Windows and have a version of Office.

So, back in the early 80's - what was a computer versus a game console? The big differentiation was memory and peripherals, like keyboards & mice. Of course almost every game console was slated to have a keyboard (aka: computer upgrade) coming soon. Very few came to market, but the line between consoles and computers was sort of vague.

Gamers sought the devices that best met their needs. Those needs were often met on a rotating basis between consoles and computers as the 80s advanced. But don't forget about that underpowered (by comparison) colossus the Atari 2600!

CX21 The Video Touch Pad Atari released Star Raiders for the Atari 800, in 1979, giving it the dubious honor of being one of the 1st first-person shooter games. Not like FPSs in gaming's 8th generation, but in a late-70s "Wow, I'm looking out a window that's actually my CRT" sort of way. It wasn't a terribly exciting game, but it did get ported to the 2600 (1982) and ST (1986) - the 2600 being the odd choice.

The 800 and ST were computers. They had memory and lots of buttons. The 2600? 4k and far fewer buttons - just one for most purposes. Star Raiders was compressed into 2600 form in 1982 and compensated for it's lack of buttons with it's own controller chock full of buttons (aka: the Video Touch Pad).

The Video Touch Pad was a 12-button pad much like you find on a 5200, Colecovision or Intellivision controller. The overlay identifies the 5 buttons needed for Star Raiders. Considering no other games were released to support this pad, it begs one to ask why Atari created it. Activision made great use of the 2600's console buttons for both StarMaster and Space Shuttle. These were quite sophisticated games for the 2600 and may have benefited from the Touch Pad... unless they had to pay a fee to adapt a game fo rit's use. Who knows.

In an age when consoles and computers were vying for top billing and customer loyalty, its interesting to see the effort put into porting a computer game to a game console lacking the memory and hardware to rally support it. The 2600 is a mighty beast!
December 16, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

My lust for space battle games was definitely fueled by NASA's Apollo & Shuttle programs

Hot Wheels model of the Mars Rover, Curiosity I grew up watching NASA astronauts launched into space on TV. My Dad would tell me about all the systems and people involved which made me wonder how all those things could come together and seem so easy. Watching a man on TV walking around that glowing orb outside my window made me think about how such a feat could be achieved. It was this pre-video game part of my life that made me crave space-themed games when Atari turned my TV into an interactive world of pixelated bliss.

More than dairy & produce

When I go to the grocery store, I always take a look at the Hot Wheels cars attached to the ends of several aisles. I sometimes find something cool for my son and I'm always on the look out for station wagons! I'm a huge fan of those crazy-long pre-SUV icons of my childhood.

On my last visit I saw an odd looking "car" and instantly thought "Mars Rover" - with 6 wheels and raised camera mount, it looked more galactic than a Chevy or a Ford. To my amazement, it WAS the Mars Rover Curiosity. Released in 2012, it had made it's way to the impulse rack of my local grocer.

Hot Wheels model of the Mars Rover, Curiosity I was really excited to find this Rover because it seems to me that we take space exploration for granted these days. I remember sitting transfixed and nervous as my family watched the Apollo launches. This Hot Wheels rover reminded me of a time when space exploration captivated the world!

NASA was reinvigorated by the Space Shuttle Program and just days ago, the Chinese landed a rover on the Moon. Along with these government projects are private companies taking space exploration to the private sector.

Operational flights by the first of NASA's Space Shuttles began in 1982 before being retired in 2011. For me, watching the Shuttle launches and returns brought back the excitement of the Apollo days. But the news media quickly lost interest. A shuttle landing was no more interesting to them than a Boeing arrival at LGA.

Activision Space Shuttle for Atari 2600 Then the Challenger disaster happened in '86. Suddenly the Space Shuttle became like NASCAR for the news media - if you caught a grizzly death on camera, it boosted ratings. Suddenly, there was renewed coverage of the Shuttle's coming and going. This tapered off again when no one seemed to be dying anymore.

Activision in space on the Atari 2600

All this prompted me to fire up Activsion's StarMaster game for the Atari 2600. It is a fairly sophisticated game in that it used several of the console's switches for various things in addition to the joystick. However, it paled in comparison to Activision's Space Shuttle which had an overlay for the console and employed a lot of features making it more of a sim type of game.

Activision Starmaster for Atari 2600 Some gamers, expecting the typical fast-paced space shooters, didn't like either of these games due to the more methodical and detailed play scenario. The contrast is much like playing a Top Gun style flying shooter versus a flight sim where you're more engaged with dials and meters than shooting. However, once you get the hang of these 2 Activision games, there's a lot of satisfaction in mastering the controls and seeing just how responsive and sophisticated these games are when you are really in control.

Whether you love a good battle like Defender or want to save cities in Missile Command, there's nothing quite as delighting as a good space battle on the Atari 2600. Give Starmaster or Space Shuttle a try and experience a game that will test both you and the power of the 2600 to deliver so much!

If your child says they want to grow up and be an astronaut, don't smile and pass it off. Help them realize that being an astronaut is as viable as being an accountant, teacher or plumber!
December 13, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

JumpVCS is an upcoming homebrew infinite runner for the Atari 2600

Homebrew games for the Atari 2600 are exciting. Actually, all homebrews for retro game consoles are exciting. Jump VCS by Repixel8 is a homebrew game for the Atari 2600 As a kid I loved going down to the local shop that sold Atari games and sifting through the titles debating which one was most deserving of my hard-earned allowance. An arcade-port was a favored choice, but sometimes it was necessary to examine every ounce of info on the boxes to make a good choice.

The idea of buying a new game when I was 12 is just as awesome as discovering a homebrew game 30 years later. New games have that effect! JumpVCS looks like a lot of fast-action fun. It's reminiscent of the 2009 endless runner Canabalt which has been ported to several platforms including iOS, Android, PlayStation Portable and Ouya.

You can find more info and join the mailing list on the Retro-Reload website. As the character dashes across he screen and the scenery moves, you get the feeling the whole screen is in motion - love it. I've always loved 2600 games that engaged the whole screen.

RePixel8 created this game as a take on the classic infinite runner genre. Spread over multiple levels, each with increasing difficulty, the player has to make his way across the cityscape, jumping over obstacles and gaps between buildings while collecting tokens to advance to the next level. All this high speed action has been squeezed into a tiny 4K Rom. Both cartridge release and ROM download will be available.

Jump VCS by Repixel8 is a homebrew game for the Atari 2600
True to the 2600 era, JumpVCS fits into a 4K ROM and is going to be available in cartridge form and digital. This looks like a slick game! Check out their website where you'll find their social media links.

December 12, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Unearthing Atari legend from a New Mexico landfill may require a Hazmat suit- ET might be Toxic

The mystery Gang's Velma searches for the Atari truth Here we go again! Another attempt to uncover the reality behind the Atari Landfill tale may be foiled. This is beginning to feel like a Scooby Doo episode - too many meddling kids.

A story in today's Alamogordo News, NMED recommends old landfill chemical testing, indicates a lengthy delay in search for discarded Atari inventory. (discovered via Atari Museum)

The rumor has been adeptly debated, from both sides, as to whether Atari actually discarded a lot of excess inventory in an Alamogordo, NM landfill. The primary allegation was that Atari pinned high hopes on the sale of E.T. The Extra Terrestrial game carts which became their demise when the game was met with a consumer distaste that has since been elevated to the level of "National Atrocity". It's not such a bad game, for those who've actually played it!

Many a gamer has cried out, "Just go dig it up!"

This past June we got wind of Fuel Industries, a Canadian company willing to send a documentary team and a few bulldozers and excavators into this fabled New Mexico landfill. They obtained permission and seemingly had all the permits in-hand. We had high hopes of discovering the truth and the opportunity to buy small chunks of concrete with embedded shards of game cartridges.

As stoked as I was to hear that this tale might be put to rest and the truth told, I rather liked the mystery of it all. Jinx! Now it seems as if the New Mexico Environment Department has recommended the landfill be investigated to assess the risk of hazardous chemicals detected about 10 years ago. This puts a temporary stop to Fuel's excavation and ensuing Atari documentary.

Since an Alamogordo resident complained that a variety of planned activities in the area may release carcinogens, one can only imagine how many state and federal agencies will now have to get involved. City attorney Stephen Thies expects delays to be lengthy. The myths and mysteries live on...
December 11, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

That reminds me, are we due for a Frogger reboot soon?

Even though my passion for Frogger began way back in the arcade scene of the early 80's, Konami has done a great job keeping Frogger relevant in arcades, mobile gaming and home consoles. I enjoy it on my Android phone as well as the Hyper Arcade version released for the Wii.

Frog Here's hoping there will be another leap soon! :)
December 10, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

No one ever bricked an NES with the Konami code

Having grown up through the dawn of Nintendo's dominance of the video game industry, I ignored recent articles about Xbox One owners who thought they could invoke 360 compatibility via their game controller. What a ridiculous notion! Wouldn't that be an amazing selling point of the Xbone - playing Xbox 360 games?

Among other important issues, backward compatibility was certainly on people's minds as the details of this new game console came to view, this past year. In this 8th generation of the video game industry, neither Sony nor Microsoft consoles would play the prior system's games. The cruel reality is that these wondrous new machines can't play games that are still selling well on retail shelves.

Shoving Xbox 360 games in your Xbone Naturally, gamers want the new games and to experience the wonders after a 7 year hardware drought. But it would certainly aid general interest if the new hardware played games that are still retail-viable.

Then there is Nintendo. Their 2012 Wii U plays Wii games. Nintendo has been a champ at keeping their game libraries relevant, if not expanding, by providing backward compatibility with most new hardware releases. I can even play Game Boy carts on my GameCube! Sony and Microsoft can't begin to offer their customer-base such a wide offering.

But I digress...
So a false rumor was circulating around the web, outlining a simple series of commands to enable Xbox 360 games to play on the new Xbox One. I've been there. You want something so badly that you'll suspend disbelief and reach for the stars. When reaching for stars... best not to do so at the edge of a cliff.

As I said, I ignored this whole ridiculous episode, although I do feel bad for those who tried this method and ruined their consoles. Then I saw this hysterical tweet...

Red Button Developer Mode Atari joke The retro gamer in me had to laugh out loud. Instantly all those NES cheats came rushing back to me and I love how funny it sounds to replace the intricacies of the Konami Code by shouting "Red Button" over and over. I'm easily amused. The link in this tweet went to one of the many "don't do this" stories regarding the false compatibility hack.

Red Button Developer Mode Atari joke But there is a serious side to all of this - a lesson of sorts. Systems of all kinds are hacked & cracked in a matter of days, if not hours, after release.

If there was a controller-accessible way to allow Xbox 360 games to play on Xbox One, that info would be splashed across every major gaming site out there and eventually trickle down to CNN and other mass-media outlets. It's not likely that such a profound discovery would evolve solely on social media.

If someone makes a claim on Twitter, Facebook, or any site, don't be afraid to ask for a source or a link to corroborating info. Everyone makes mistakes now and then. If you doubt a piece of information, do some research. I'd sooner search the web for more info before trying to invoke an impossibility via a Facebook post!

As game consoles become more like computers, one has to remember you can't reinstall windows on a game console as a last resort. BTW- check out our Facebook page where we reveal a code enabling your microwave to make toast.
December 10, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Beware the dreaded “Video Games Are Silly & I Don't Care” dance

Every person on the planet is unique. However, as a male gamer, there are 3 kinds of girlfriends:

1- You love video games and she does too. That's great. Maybe you'll find games to play together.

Bella Thorne with a Nintendo 3DS on the cover of Total Girl magazine Some girlfriends will play the occasional game with you. She understands your passion for video games and doesn't mind because you often play together.
[Bella Thorne with a Nintendo 3DS on the cover of Total Girl magazine]
Getting hardcore with an NES lightgun Other girlfriends are as manic about gaming as you are and she'll challenge you long into the night.
[Getting hardcore with an NES lightgun]

2- You love video games and she does not. That's OK. Maybe she'll become interested.

Bored with video games Bored with video games.

3- The dreaded “Video Games Are Silly & I Don't Care” dance

If you ever see your girlfriend contort into this insidious mockery when you suggest playing video games together, just know that it won't happen and she needs to go. She is replaceable.

Video Games Are Silly & I Don't Care - dance You may make an exception if she has a twin sister...
Unless it's these twins.
December 9, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Amazing achievements of computer scientist Grace Hopper illuminated via Google doodle

Next time DASM generates an error on your latest foray into programming a game for the Atari 2600, remember that many of the principals involved in your effort were created by Grace Hopper.

Grace Hopper She pioneered the idea of coding once and porting programs to a variety of different devices. If your favorite game was based on a modern compiled language, it's underlying concepts came from ideas and practices introduced by Hopper.

She developed the first compiler for a programming language leading to the idea of machine-independent code. This scenario was pivotal in the development of COBOL, one of the first modern-era programming languages. Best of all she is attributed to coining the idea of "de-bugging" a program. This was apparently inspired by having to remove a moth from inside her computer.

Grace Hopper graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Vassar in 1928 with degrees in math and physics and later achieved her master's degree at Yale University in 1930.
December 9, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Retro gaming Atari-themed Hot Wheels cars are almost as cool as the display racks

In-store display for Atari Hot Wheels cars When I heard that there were Atari-themed Hot Wheels cars on the market, in 2012, I rushed to Toys R Us, indie toy stores, anywhere that might sell Hot Wheels, then I went home empty-handed. Was I too late, were they distributed as exclusives? Why couldn't I find them? To this day, I have never seen any of the 8 Atari themed Hot Wheels cars on a retail shelf!

Fortunately, my son has an eagle-eye for all things awesome and spotted 2 of the cars on a rack at the grocery store. He sent them to me and I promptly posted pics of them. He's the coolest kid ever!

In-store display for Atari Hot Wheels cars Still I have not ever seen them for myself. However, on a recent jaunt through Google-images I discovered that not only were these Atari-themed cars released into several different kinds of stores, some were sometimes sold from custom branded cardboard display racks.

I see similar cardboard displays at my local supermarket. Had I ever seen an Atari branded display, I know I would have finagled some way to take it home. Who doesn't need a cardboard display rack with an Atari logo? :)

Mattel's Hot Wheels periodically make special release cars with a variety of themes from pin-ups to rock bands. In 2003 they released 5 Sega Hot Wheels cars each with a different game title: Space Channel 5, Super Monkey Ball, Jet Set Radio, Shinobi, and House of the Dead III.

Hot Wheels is a brand created by US toy maker Mattel, who first released eleven 1:64 scale cars in 1968. As an American company, it's kind of interesting to see the car themed after Jet Set Radio is actually the Japanese release title of a game called Jet Grind Radio in it's North American release.

Having never seen these Sega-themed cars, I find the Jet Set Radio car referred to as such even though the logo on the side of the car seems to be Jet Set Radio Future which was released for Xbox in 2002. Perhaps the mystery lessens... ;)
December 8, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Being 1337 like Heather transcends Santa-lingerie to Star Wars cosplay & gaming

Heather 1337 in Santa lingerie with a Star Wars tattoo If you haven't discovered Cosplayer Heather 1377, take a pause to Google her - you won't be disappointed. She heavily cosplays the Star Wars universe with a variety of interpretations with helmets to Ewoks. As the Christmas holiday gets into full swing, she handily dons Santa lingerie while baring Star Wars ink! Now, THAT's the way to do it!

I like a lady in lingerie as much as the next guy (who rarely wants to publicly admit to such a thing). However, I find seasonal lingerie can get a bit out of hand. I'm not talking about the Spring or Summer lines (is there such a thing?). I mean the Christmas-themed stuff consisting of snowflake pasties and Rudolf thongs. I'm all for red lingerie for the holidays, but too often we are besieged with Slutty Santas!

Heather 1337 is an avid cosplayer and gamer. We love her ability to inject Star Wars flair into the holiday!

After all, who would you rather sit next to in a Star Wars arcade cabinet - me or Heather 1337?
Just as I thought - lol! Star Wars sit-in arcade cabinet Star Wars sit-in arcade cabinet image from Arcade History.

More Heather 1337 Cosplay

Heather 1377 coslaying as Boba Fett Heather 1377 coslaying as Boba Fett.
Heather 1377 coslaying as an Ewok Heather 1377 coslaying as an Ewok.

Heather 1377 coslaying as a Stormtrooper
December 7, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Chuck Yeager's Fighter Combat proto went for $2,700 and returns to the NES for $85

Here's your chance to own a piece of NES history in a really fantastic homebrew package - Chuck Yeager's Fighter Combat for NES.

When a rare video game item is posted to eBay, we all wait with bated breath as the price goes from meager double digits into the hundreds and then rises beyond the average mortgage payement... and keeps going!

Chuck Yeager's Fighter Combat Earnest curiosity makes us wonder who has such riches as to dole it out on a rare gaming item. Secretly we're jealous. Far too often these treasures vacate public presence, post auction, and fade back into their former urban legends only to be appended with, "Remember that guy who bought..."

I liken this to the private collector who pays millions for an original Monet painting only to keep it under lock and key in a private office for his own enjoyment. Compare this with the Smithsonian Museums which collect the rarest of rare artifacts and allow the public to participate in the glory of the find.

The retro gaming community is laded with warriors who gladly fight the good fight and then share the wealth. Such is the case with the NES game Chuck Yeager's Fighter Combat. Shopped around to a variety of publishers, the game was never released. I'd love to know what happened in the interim, but in 2010 the only known prototype of this NES title appeared on eBay and sold for ~$2,700.

Chuck Yeager's Fighter Combat

Chuck Yeager

One could say having your name emblazoned on the cover of a air combat video game is an honor, but it likely pales in comparison to Yeager's rise as a fighter pilot in WWII and his later feats as a test pilot. He has the distinction of being the first pilot to break the sound barrier - flying over the speed of sound.

The X-1 he flew that day was later put on permanent display at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum.

He was popularized, in pop culture, as a prominent figure in Tom Wolfe's 1979 book, The Right Stuff - later made into a movie in 1983. This made for a good stepping stone into Nintendo history with the '85 release of the NES.

Put Some "Chuck" in Your NES

It's refreshing to refer to him as "Chuck" knowing it's not a Chuck Norris (another veteran of the United States Air Force) reference. In 2010, a lucky guy won the "Chuck Yeager's Fighter Combat" auction and took possession of this rare NES prototype game. He didn't put it in a safe or build a private shrine to it's splendor. He dumped the ROM and went to work at improving it!

It was revealed that this game was quite sophisticated for it's time and employed some coding tricks, rarely seen on the NES. Additionally, their was digitized voice synthesis that appeared at the start and end of missions.

The happy ending to this tale is twofold. Pre-orders are being taken for a full homebrew release of this game with box, cart and manual. After the run of 150 carts, the owner will be releasing the original ROM for all to enjoy! This is the sort of win-win scenario that sets a great example and adds something very substantive to retro gaming as a whole. Well done!
December 6, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Intellivision homebrewers, Left Turn Only, have Carol Greenleaf evading the ghost of Christmas Presents

Christmas Carol vs. The Ghost of Christmas Presents badge About a year ago, Left Turn Only released a homebrew video game for the 1980 Intellivision game console called Christmas Carol vs. The Ghost of Christmas Presents. It was released just in time for both the holidays and an Xmas contest. Received with joy and cheers, they are repeating their high-score contest and instituting it as an anual holiday tradition!

Christmas Carol's Story (via their website):
While Santa and his elves were busy getting ready for their most important night of the year, an Evil Snowman broke into Santa's Workshop and stole some of the presents! With no time to lose, Santa has sent one of his most trusted and resourceful elves, Carol Greenleaf, to confront the fiend and bring back the stolen gifts.

Meanwhile, the Evil Snowman has hidden the loot deep in the Frozen Ice-Cube Caverns, nestled away in the Himalayan mountains. The caves are haunted by the legendary Ghost Of Christmas Presents, who is very fond of wrapped packages and will not easily part from his newly acquired treasure.

As Carol, you must explore the dark and frozen caverns to retrieve all the presents before the Evil Snowman returns, and without attracting too much attention from the Ghost Of Christmas Presents.

Originally released as a complete in-box cartridge, they are now allowing free download of the game's ROM. For those not familiar with homebrew games, releasing the ROM is an amazingly gracious gesture. An insane amount of work goes into coding and developing a game for a classic console. Going the distance to create a cartridge release with a box, overlay and manual is an enormous feat as well. Furthering this goodwill, their high-score contest is open to both Intellivision console aficionados and emulator users alike.

You can download the Christmas Carol ROM as a stand-alone file or as an integrated self-running emulator (easy play solution for non emulator folks) for Mac and PC. Great game for the Christmas holiday - it's very reminiscent of Christmases when a new game console was under the tree!

Christmas Carol vs. The Ghost of Christmas Presents screen shot
December 6, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Did Jabba's incarceration of Leia impart new skills absent from standard Jedi training?

Star Wars has undergone some tumultuous events since capturing the hearts of movie-goers in 1977. Finding this fun photo shoot makes me realize how far reaching Star Wars fandom really extends.

Slave Leia learns to pole dance Leia looks poised to weaponize this pole and dole out a savage beating to her captor, Jaba.
Slave Leia learns to pole dance But looks can be deceiving.
Model Cyndi Dawn looks absolutely stunning pole dancing as Slave Leia. These photos are from her Slave Leia Pole Dance Photoshoot for Geek Girls. The force is strong with this one!

December 5, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Rethink what the web can be. A platform for Atari retro gaming reboots?

Atari Arcade via MS Internet Explorer I was on a website and wanted to visit their Facebook page to see if they had a few more images. Mixed in with the usual cluster of social media icons I saw Microsoft's Internet Explorer logo hidden in with Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. I wouldn't consider a browser in that category - WTF?

The click-through went to a Microsoft site that was touting the value of using IE. Each of the sites mentioned had a letter "E" replaced with the IE logo (clever?). I was about to bail from their IE love-in page when I saw an Atari logo and decided to stick it out for a few more minutes.

Rethink the web Atari retro games playable via browser I'm not sure the internet is any more vivid in IE than any other browser (I'm a devout Firefox user), but I'm all for playing some retro games on the web. I'd rather play some classic Atari games than random Flash games that reward me with Facebook contest pages. The link went to Atari's classic game site where they have updated/rebooted versions of some of their renown classics.

I went to play a game and discovered the Microsoft IE tie-in. They have a video suggesting that such games are better when played on Surface. OK, that's understandable, but if you aren't playing via IE, they also display random ads. Unfortunately, the skip-ads button didn't work. lol

I'm wondering what's become of Atari. All the copyrights across the site are "2012" and their Twitter account has been dormant for months. I know they recently went into a decisive phase of separating from their parent company, but not sure of the current status. Either way, the Atari I knew as a kid is long gone, but that name is GOLD and should live on in gaming's future!
December 4, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

CollectorVision presents the Pong & Computer Space Box Set for Colecovision

Pong and Computer Space Box Set How about some classic Atari arcade games for your Colecovision? The homebrew community have a knack for creating insanely wonderful things like Atari arcade gems for your Coleco console. CollectorVision has announced they are accepting pre-orders for their upcoming release of a Pong and Computer Space Box Set.

The box set include copies of Pong and Computer Space, each in their own box, including extras such as a history booklet, a postcard containing codes to download the ROM images for both games, and a serialized holographic sticker on the box. This release will be limited to 150 copies and has been authorized by Atari Interactive. This sounds like quite a unique opportunity.

For more information, keep an eye on the PONG & COMPUTER SPACE Box Set thread on the Atari Age forums.
December 3, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Sega's Mega Drive / Genesis made an arcade appearance as the Mega-Tech in 1989

I'm fascinated by these arcade cabinets designed to play home console games. We've all seen demo kiosks, in game stores, showcasing both hardware and software from the current generation of game manufacturers and developers. These have existed since Atari was trying to show consumers their new technology and moved on to Sony, MicroSoft and Nintendo trying to get new customers interested in their latest consoles & games. The concepts similar, but the arcade designed ones had coin-mechs and followed the revenue model of the arcade rather than being an in-store marketing tool.

Sega Mega-Tech arcade cabinet Obviously, the games found in the Sega Mega-Tech were existing proven games that were certain to bring in gamers who already loved titles like Streets of Rage, Revenge Of Shinobi, Golden Axe and Sonic.

Just as Nintendo tried to leverage it's NES game library in arcades with the Playchoice, Sega tried the same technique with the Mega-Tech, in 1989. This cabinet was released in Europe, Australia, and Japan, but was not released in North America. It looked like most arcade cabinets except it was designed around Sega's home gaming console the Mega Drive (aka - Genesis). It was capable of playing Master System games too, but few titles were released in Mega-Tech format.

Sega Mega-Tech arcade cabinet Like the Playchoice it was a cartridge based system and had slots for 8 games to be installed on the PCB. Operators cold buy a pretty good selection of games to keep the cabinet interesting to gamers. The carts, although retaining the same shell design, were not Mega Drive compatible due to the extra info needed to display to the second Mega-Tech monitor. This also ensured operators didn't populate the slots with the less expensive home console carts. This also caused incompatibility with the (not yet released) 32X and Mega CD.

Game play was based on a time limit set by the number of credits per token, rather than on the typical "lives" scenario. The PCB supported dual monitors that would allow a smaller monitor to display remaining time, game selections and instructions.

Sega Mega-Play

Interestingly, the Mega-Tech gave way to a follow up, the Sega Mega-Play, in 1993. This model blended into the arcade scene better than the Mega-Tech as it was JAMMA based, Sega Mega-Play arcade PCB making it interchangeable with standard arcade systems and parts. For some reason, it was designed to hold only 4 cartridges whereas the Mega-Tech holds 8.

Another key difference from both Nintendo's Playchoice and the Mega-Tech is the play per coin model. The Mega-Play went back to unlimited play and a set number of lives. The predecessors worked on a time limit, allowing the player to change to a different game if desired. I'm not sure it the Mega-Play allowed players to change titles once one was playing.

An interesting marketing facet was the use of the 2 monitors. Game play took place on the larger lower monitor, letting the small upper one display game titles. Once the game was selected and in progress, both screens displayed the action. This put the action at a higher, more visible, location creating a new model for attraction-mode. Passing by the cabinet and being able to see the game, on the upper monitor, was a step above peering over someone's shoulders to see the action.
December 2, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Which will ground Amazon Prime Air's drone fleet first- lawyers, fear or BB guns?

There have been numerous times online, when I've become very enthused by a video game title that I previously didn't know about. A few of those times have led me to hop in the car and drive to GameStop, Blockbuster or a RedBox to snatch a copy. I guess Blockbuster is no longer an option and too often I forget my local supermarket has a game rental kiosk. So, very often I wind up at Gamestop.

I'm a big fan of Amazon, but to capture their savings, I opt for free shipping which often means some form of ground shipping that takes 5-7 days. Why can't that awesome looking game just drop out of the sky for me?

Amazon Prime Air's drone When I saw this pic of Amazon's drone, my first thought was "The Onion" and "PhotoShop". 30-minute delivery from Amazon? I figured this must be a joke.

After a brief segment about it on CNN, I assumed they'd been duped and were jumping on the latest thing they'd found on some soc net site. I went to bed with a smile, wondering how this misinformation might blow up given 8 hours.

CNN was still running with this when I woke up. I didn't believe a bit of it until they had outtakes of Jeff Bezos talking it up. Then it dawned on me that this might be serious... a serious effort to put Amazon on the tip of everyone's tongue on Cyber Monday!!!

The technology of his idea is eminently feasible very soon. The real issue is overcoming public paranoia, legal snafus and random folks who like to enjoy a few beers on the porch and occasionally shoot a BB gun at random drones. Then you have to assuage those who feel that every delivery is destined to crash on someone's head.

For me, I sort of envision a lot of odd mis-deliveries. The UPS guy knows to put a package by the door. A drone's GPS only has to be off by 20 feet for a package destined for the front door to wind up "somewhere" in my back yard. What about a package destined for an office building? Would a drone leave a package destined for the 45th floor on the street below? Who knows...

My inner sci-fi dork loves the idea of a 30-min delivery timeframe on retro games arriving at my house via airborne drone, but there are a few too many obstacles - the biggest being human nature.
December 2, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

From Android game consoles to silicon sex dolls, paltry 10% discounts seem standard on Cyber Monday

Before I delete those "50% OFF" emails from Groupon, I have to marvel at the substantial savings they offer on meals and haircuts. On Black Friday every box-store in existence seems to have a Doorbuster for dirt-cheap flatscreens. I know that these are limited-quantity gimmicks to lure you into the store, but still, the savings are high.

So what's the deal on Cyber Monday when most deals I've seen are of the "Save 10%" variety? That doesn't seem like much of a discount when I could have forfeited Thanksgiving dinner to save 50% at nearly every store in the area!

Naturally, I'm focused on gaming discounts for Cyber Monday, but I'm seeing many discounts at the 10-15% range!

Cyber Monday Ouya deal Cyber Monday: 10% off an Ouya.

Even 10% off an Ouya makes it more expensive than a GameStick. I think the Ouya has more to offer, but why not remove all ambiguity and really challenge the competitor's product pricing?
Cyber Monday Realdoll deal Cyber Monday: 10% off a RealDoll (NSFW).

I think RealDoll is in a class by itself, so they really don't have much, if any, competition. They sell their gals for $6,000+ which makes me wonder if a 10% discount would motivate a sale.

Sale prices are about motivation. When I see people standing shoulder-to-shoulder in a box-store like Walmart only to endure a fight breaking out, I'm happy to stay home. If you want me to venture out, you really need to tempt me with deep price cuts that aren't limited to the first ten people to stampede through the door. Anyway... most retail experts agree that the best prices come a week or so after Black Friday, which seems to fall in line with the seemingly meager discounts for Cyber Monday.

It all comes down to money. I doubt the Ouya is producing insane profits that would enable a new company to offer big discounts. ReallDoll on the other hand are so unique and without much competition, they don't have to offer much of a discount. But leave it to the riches of the Adult industry to offer the larger discounts(~NSFW) :)
December 1, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Remember Jumpman on Commodore 64 or Colecovision? He's coming back with Red in Jumpman Forever

If you played Jumpman as a kid, you'll want to check out the Kickstarter for Jumpman Forever coming to iOS, Android, Ouya and hopefully Mac & PC :)

Jumpman Forever Logo I grew up as a console-kid in the Atari age, but was never exposed to that amazing time when classic gaming consoles overlapped in feature-sets with the growing computer market. What an amazing time to have an Atari 800, Commodore 64 or Amiga. That was an amazing time that enveloped kids and didn't release them until they'd programmed their first game. How different life would be if one mastered a job-skill as a teenager!

I never made the leap to programming, but I did have a vivid console upbringing that included a lot of Donkey Kong on the Atari 2600 and Colecovision. I never played Jumpman as a kid, but became a fan of it upon purchasing my first Coleco game console. Jumpman is often compared to Donkey Kong, but I wonder if those making the comparison got beyond the 2nd level of either game.

Jumpman for the Commodore 64 Jumpman for the Commodore 64.
Jumpman Junior for the Colecovision Jumpman for the Colecovision.

Jumpman Forever's Red Check out this Kickstarter campaign for Jumpman Forever! This update to the game is going to be modernized with new content, but retain the core of what made it an amazing 8-bit game. The original had 30 levels, each different from the prior. It wasn't like many platformers of the early 80s where you had 4 o 5 levels that repeated. Even Jumpman Jr had 12 levels and it was the "lite" version to bring this amazing game to consoles lacking the memory requirements for the full suite of levels.

In addition to brand new levels, the Jumpman character will be joined by another character, Red, to fight off the Alienators. Her flowing red locks make her a bit taller than Jumpman which will add an interesting dynamic to playing the game. We think this is going to be a really cool update to the original Jumpman with respect and care for what made the 8-bit game exceptionally awesome.

We haven't found an official site or any social media accounts for this project, but check out their Kickstarter and see what you think. If you like it, back it!
December 1, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

NORAD tracks Santa Clause. Yes... the North American Aerospace Defense Command

The NORAD Santa Tracking logo When I hear the acronym NORAD, I think - North American Aerospace Defense Command. You know, the guys who provide air sovereignty and defense for North America. When I hear that NORAD tracks Santa Clause each year begining on Dec. 1, I become worried. Apparently, they do indeed track Santa each year via the web and on the phone for kids who want to call in for up-to-the-minute details.

This began in 1955 after a Sears advertisement, in Colorado Springs, misprinted the phone number for children to call Santa. The advertised number put kids through to the CONAD (now NORAD) Commander-in-Chief's operations hotline. The Director of Operations at the time, Colonel Harry Shoup, had his staff check the radar for indications of Santa making his way south from the North Pole. Children who called were given updates on his location, and a tradition was born.

The NORAD Tracks Santa Operations Center! - in Peterson Air Force Base, CO The NORAD Tracks Santa Operations Center! - in Peterson Air Force Base, CO.

Since that time, NORAD men, women, family and friends have selflessly volunteered their time to personally respond to phone calls and emails from children all around the world each December.

Just when I'm ready to give up on humanity, this story, with origins in the 1950's, carries forward as a Public Relations effort for NORAD. Good Stuff! Definitely check out the NORAD tracks Santa Clause website!

November 2013 Retro Gaming Articles:

November 30, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Don't assume the worst. Keep the faith... unlikely allies can be powerful together

As a society we tend to think the worst when we don't have all the facts. Doom and gloom prevails. News outlets always want to be the first to break a story - even if it means they might be wrong. But what happens when we are wrong because we don't have all the facts?

Very often we ruin things that were really good.

Dorothy's not in KS anymore. Don't assume things are awry just because Dorothy isn't in Kansas anymore.
Your girlfriend shows up naked with video gmaes, beer and pizza Things are probably better than you may believe. You just have to see things for what they are. It would be hard to say she's not trying really hard!

Captain Kirk Saves Princess Leia from a Stormtrooper Captain Kirk Saves Princess Leia from a Stormtrooper
President Obama with Nichelle Nichols - Star Trek's Uhura President Obama with Nichelle Nichols - Star Trek's Uhura. Could Mitt have pulled this off? Doubtful.

November 29, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Konami's LaserScope: Poor man's VR helmet or lame Zapper alternative for the NES?

Konami LaserScope Manufactures who saw the need for 3rd party accessories for the NES, fell into two primary categories. Some felt the NES controller was too small and a drastic departure from the arcade comforts of a durable stick and buttons that made contact with a vengeance. Other manufacturers took game control to extremes and extremities - namely your hands, feet and head.

Whether you owned one or not, pop culture has ensured that every human knows about the NES Power Glove which offered minimal control of select NES games in the form or a wearable glove. Relying on sensors that were ill-fitting on most TVs, the Glove seemed loaded with amazing features, but it simply never worked reliably enough to warrant use. However, wearing one is Hella cool!

Moving on to feet... Long ago, logic dictated that my enjoyment of Skate Or Die, California Games, etc., would be enhanced by a more skateboard-like controller, so I bought LJN's Roll & Rocker controller, released in 1989. You were to stand on this flat-top square and balance yourself on the ball underneath. It worked in conjunction with the NES controller, but placed the D-pad's directional controls in the "balance board" under your feet. Shifting your weight would determine the action of the D-pad. The downfall, aside from requiring Olympic-worthy ability to balance, were the savage falls. The ball underneath was tall enough to allow your body to be flung if you leaned too far, too fast. I wonder if any healthcare deductibles rose as ER head wounds were attributed to NES falls.

Konami's LaserScope

Konami LaserScope I love hats and had a grade-school teacher who often told us to "Use our heads as more than a hatrack." I'm not sure I understood her meaning at that age, but I recall disliking her greatly. But along those lines, why can't your head be a controller?

Konami Laser Invation for NES and the LaserScope Konami felt the same way and created an NES game, Laser Invasion for the 1991 release of the LaserScope. This was quite an elaborate controller for only ONE game. As it turned out, the LaserScope was essentially a head-mounted Zapper alternative that was compatible with most Zapper games.

Despite being poorly received by consumers, the LaserScope was a pretty cool idea. VR and helmets were beginning to gain traction outside of scifi movies and folks were beginning to see advents of this technology popping up in a variety of disciplines. The LaserScope was connected to the NES controller port and the Audio output RCA jack. The audio connection both powered the device as well as porting the game's sound to the headphones.

Coupon for the Konami LaserScope on the back of the Laser Invasion manual The microphone allowed the player to fire via voice. When playing Laser Invasion, saying "fire" into the mic would send a missile from your helicopter or shoot your gun depending on which level you were on and if you were flying or infiltrating an enemy base on the ground.

The LaserScope's microphone didn't have voice recognition capability as much as it had a similar technology called, noise detection. In addition to the word "fire", you could also shoot by saying "lawn chair" or "penis". Similarly, the LaserScope would also fire in accordance with barking dogs, slamming doors and clattering dishes.

Since the standard NES controller is not used with the LaserScope, your hands are free to hold sandwiches or to brace yourself as your head flails trying to aim at targets. Unlike the Zapper gun which is aimed at arms length like a gun, lining up a target with the LaserScope involved head motion. Between targeting and saying "fire" over and over, the whole experience may lose it's novely quickly. I'll admit I have not tried one, but I can see neck strain and dry-mouth being fairly common among any hardcore LaserScope users.

The poor capabilities of the microphone coupled with a functionless eyepiece made game play far less enjoyable than simply using the Zapper Gun.
November 28, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy the day with friends & family... the stores will be there another day

Happy Thanksgiving from 8-Bit Central

Whether you have a holiday tradition with family and friends, or not, have a blast today! Watch the Macy's Day Parade on TV, catch a football game, play some retro games and EAT! Get outside and go for a walk - burn off some calories before dinner. Even if you're simply hanging out by yourself, have a great day doing something fun!

Many of us have a four-day weekend to enjoy. Take advantage of the opportunity to spend 4 entire days doing something awesome! Retro gaming comes to mind... :)

Happy Thanksgiving
As you enjoy the weekend, take a moment to remember that not everyone has this time off from work. Many retail workers are asked to work on Thanksgiving - more this year with many stores being open longer hours on Thanksgiving Day itself. Many of these workers don't have a choice, they have to work the holiday.

Tons of people will choke-down some turkey with their family and rush out to go shopping. That sounds like a horrible way to end a day of thanks (or any day). Retailers are trying to lure you to their store with door-busters in the hope you will buy a lot of other stuff. - possibly at inflated prices. For years, analysts have said the best overall deals do not occur around Black Friday, but a few weeks after.

Whether you need $100 off a no-brand flat-screen, you'll likely find the same price next week. Enjoy some time off and have fun this weekend!

Butterball twitter

Contact Butterball w/ Turkey Troubles

You can call or tweet the Butterball Turkey Hotline for all your cooking needs. If you have a turkey and don't know what to do with it, give them a call!

Their website has links to all their social media from Twitter and Pinterest to Facebook.

Have a great turkey and retro gaming day!
November 27, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

I don't care if she's cute- no one puts TWO Atari joysticks on a “top-5 worst” list!

Web host Lisa Foiles does a top-5 video each week for The Escapist. This week she discussed the top five worst video game controllers. Atari showed up on this short list TWICE! It's not shocking that the Atari 5200 appeared on this list, but I was surprised to see the Jaguar controller also made the list!

She cited both the non-centering and button-fail issues with the 5200 and I was OK with that. Atari's flex circuit seemed like a bad idea, but perhaps it saved costs over standard buttons and wires. But the Jaguar? I love that controller!

Lisa Foiles top 5 worst controllers

I vividly remember the day I bought my first Atari Jaguar. Growing up as n Atari-kid I was accustomed to joysticks. The NES controller was just too small. Long game sessions became uncomfortable too quickly on the NES. The rounded corners of the SNES controller helped, but it still felt a bit small. I was never enthused by the D-pad compared with a joystick. Maybe it was an arcade influence, but a joystick seemed like the natural way to control a video game.

When the Jaguar was released in 1993, the first thing I noticed was Atari had gone the D-pad route. I wasn't happy... until I tried it. Ms. Foiles complained aout the large size of the Jaguar controller, but I found that it's larger-than-Nintendo size was perfect. It had a better width and was thick enough to hold while still easily working the buttons and D-pad. Finally I'd found a controller that was large enough to span both hands with a comfortable area allowing a good grip.

Atari's prior console joysticks were designed to be supported by one hand, letting the other control the directional joystick. Due to the limited buttons on those early models, this worked well. I loved the 2600 joystick, but wasn't a huge fan of the side-mounted fire buttons of later models.

The NES was the first controller I'd ever used that required both hands for support. Holding a controller in 2 hands requires the controller to be a sufficient size to do so. Suddenly your thumbs are used for dexterity, not clinging to the joystick. Nintendo controllers always felt too small to me - and I don't have large hands.

The picture below was on Lisa's Facebook page - Grrrr!
Lisa Foiles top 5 worst controllers

Regardless of your take on Atari or controllers in general, if you're gonna put two Atari joysticks on a "worst" list, you'd better be cute and preferably a redhead. Lisa barely skated by on this one ;)
November 26, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

I played arcade ports on my NES, while the Playchoice-10 played NES games at the arcade

I loved the arcade ports on the Atari 2600 and marveled at how much better those old games were when ported to the Nintendo NES. Nintendo Playchoice-10 But imagine my surprise when I discovered Nintendo reversed the model and housed an NES inside an arcade cabinet!

Nintendo's Playchoice series of arcade cabinets appeared in 1986 in a variety of physical formats. Most popular was the standard upright cabinet that looked like most arcade cabinets of the era. There were both single game and 10-game variants as well as a bar-top model. The Playchoice games were identical in play to those available on the NES, although it did not use actual NES cartridges. The interchangeable games of the Playchoice were on boards that contained the game code as well as an 8KB ROM to display game hints.

Nintendo's Playchoice flyer back Playchoice-10 Contra board Most models of the Playchoice had dual monitors - one for game play and another containing game hints/instructions. Nintendo has a long history of dual-screen implementations. On single-monitor models, hints displayed prior to game play. A selection screen allowed up to 2 players to choose any of the 10 games. Rather than playing that game based on lives or other in-game events, the Playchoice worked on a timer and allowed you to play any of the ten games within the time limit. Some players reported 5 minutes per token, but the time was probably operator configurable.

SNK's MVS arcade configurations An interesting facet of the Playchoice is it's ability to play nearly any NES game (although only 54 were released). Although the cabinets maxed-out at 10 games, they often did not contain the same 10 games. It was common to encounter a Playchoice-10 with different games than another cabinet. I'm not sure how the sales channel worked, but it would be a nice incentive to allow arcade operators to choose the games for their Playchoice-10. I'm sure they could buy additional boards to change the game offering of the device.

We recently wrote about SNK's MVS arcade solution that used actual cartridges that could easily be swapped out by the arcade operator. Additional carts could be purchased to keep the cabinet fresh. Unlike the Playchoice model, the MVS and it's home counterpart, the AES, played the same games. The difference was SNK brought the level of the home console up to that of the arcade experience. The AES delivered the identical game playable on the MVS in an arcade. The Playchoice took the home NES and leveraged the popularity of it's game library into arcades. Two approaches to a similar desire to dominate the arcade and home markets with the same game content.

I'd love to know more about the costs of the Playchoice system and it's games back in 1986. Presumably the boards containing games were far more expensive than the title on an NES cart. Like the MVS, they likely wanted a proprietary scenario to prevent the less expensive carts being used in the Playchoice. I believe the MVS games were about $200 each in the early 90's. Currently I've seen the common Playchoice games selling for $20 and the more rare titles can be over $100.

If the Playchoice's success were to be estimated... there was a Nintendo Super System released in 1991 that played SNES games. While the Playchoice had 54 games, the Nintendo Super System only had 12.

It stands to reason that the Playchoice was successful enough to spawn release of the SNES equivalent, but with only 54 games for Playchoice and 12 for the Nintendo Super System, I wonder if either system was able to engage players from home to arcade. It seems as though SNK made the better move by creating hardware for both home and arcade that was powerful enough to bring a superior experience to both platforms.
November 25, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

From arcade to home console, NeoGeo bridged the gap with the MVS & AES memory card

Arcade games of the early 80's were powerful sprite spewing beasts that delivered amazing worlds and experiences for a mere 25¢. We dropped quarters in a desperate attempt at remaining immersed in those amazing worlds. Companies like Atari told us we could play our arcade favorites at home, but we knew better. Asteroids, Missile Command and Space Invaders were fun to play at home, but the arcade was where the real action happened.

SNK's MVS arcade configurations Then an interesting thing began to happen at home. Christmas by Christmas we saw more manufacturers bringing game consoles to market - each one having better games than it's predecessor. Few would deny that the Colecovision has superior arcade quality compared to the same titles on the Atari 2600. Atari fought back with the 5200 and Mattel joined in with the Intellivision.

The rules changed when Nintendo came on the scene, in 1985, with the NES. Even my beloved Atari 7800 couldn't compete with Nintendo's power or game library. We'd entered a new era!

By the end of the decade, the Genesis and TurboGrafX-16 raised standards only to be met with Nintendo and their new console, the Super NES. Sometime during the 80's, home consoles were catching up with arcades... sort of. In the Nintendo age, I could find much better ports of my favorite early 80's arcade classics. However, arcades were advancing too. Games were becoming far more sophisticated, again challenging the technology of home consoles.

SNK Goes From the MVS in Arcades to the AES at Home

In 1990 SNK had a solution for the financial problems facing arcades and the gap between the arcade and home console. SNK took the home game-cartridge model of the AES to the arcade giving operators the ability to have one cabinet capable of playing up to six games. That increased the ROI of the arcade's floor space and let gamers play arcade quality games at home! The 2 systems were nearly interchangeable and very compatible.

SNK's MVS arcade memory card Carts for the AES were less expensive than those for the MVS. SNK made the physical carts incompatible between MVS and AES to prevent arcade operators from using the cheaper home carts in the MVS. However, the game content was identical leading to SNK's master plan to allow gaming to flow from arcade to home and back - via memory cards!

SNK's MVS Configurations

SNK's MVS arcade PCBs SNK NeoGeo memory card The AES came out the same year as the MVS and was initially to be part of a rental program for hotels, restaurants and commercial venues that wanted arcade-style games without having an actual arcade. It was the sort of thing you might find in a hotel room or bar top. Despite the system costing over $600, it became known to SNK that some consumers were willing to pay. The rental system didn't really catch on and the prohibitive price prevented home adoption anywhere near what the SNES achieved.

But SNK seemed to be aiming above mere gaming with the AES and MVS. Ads began touting a network linked via a modem cartridge that would extend SNK from gaming to banking. OK, maybe not quite that literally, but they do mention banking and home shopping as possibilities of this SNK network. They also assure that security will not be an issue. lol.

The real story is the memory card! The insanely expensive AES provided perfect ports of the arcades MVS cabinet. In theory, you could be racking up a high score at home, save your progress from your AES, then head out to the arcade where the same memory card can be inserted into the MVS where you can resume play from that game at home. That's such a cool concept, but I have never heard of anyone taking advantage of the ability to save a game at home and finish is on an MVS at the local arcade. Anyone who'd done this... we'd love to hear from you!

SNK cancelled production of the AES in 1997, but software continued being produced until 2004!
November 25, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

RIP Brian Griffin of Family Guy RIP Brian Griffin of Family Guy

November 24, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

The iconic 1950's Predicta TV was resurrected in 1997 bringing color to retro gaming

Retro gaming has ties to both old feelings and old technologies. Those childhood feelings still feel great and many of those technologies are still functioning. How can you not smile when you see the Color/B•W Switch on an Atari 2600? I remember my family getting our first color TV in the early 70s - a Zenith.

The iconic Predicta TV The iconic silhouette of the Predicta TVs of the 50's takes me back to a time when design was an important element in bringing products to market. Try to find a TV today that isn't a "black box". I'd love to have a Predicta!

Imagine attaching an Atari 2600 to such a beauty and playing Donkey Kong. That B•W Switch would certainly come in handy. Despite being released in the mid-late 1950's Philco's Predicta TVs were all black & white.

Philco had a long history and made those iconic cathedral-shaped wooden radios of the 1930s - then the TV industry blossomed. They began making TVs, but there was a lull in sales in the late 50s. However, even in the 50's black & white was still prominent. Philo Farnsworth invented cathode ray tube (CRT) television and first demonstrated it to the public in 1928, but it often takes an outside influence to push to the next level. The Space Age was dawning with the launch of Sputnik 1 by the Soviet Union - the world's first satellite orbiting Earth.

Inspired by the Space Age the Philco Predicta TV set was introduced for the 1958 model year. All sorts of products were beginning to adopt a futuristic look, but the Predicta's took it to a phenomenal level. However, their models may have been too futuristic for many consumers of the era. Sales lagged and many PredictaTVs were produced for the Holiday Inn hotel chain. Lack of a color model finally sent Philco into bankruptcy.

New Predicta TVs from Telstar

Back to the future with retro-style TVs - Predicta TV These TVs from the 50's are highly collectable, but wouldn't you like a shiny new color Predicta? Set that Atari 2600 switch back to "Color"!

Dave Riedel and Mike Lipscomb thought the same thing and created Riedel Electronics/Telstar LLC. Under this company they began hand-making Predicta TVs between 1997 and ~2008 (no connection to Coleco Telstar). According to the Milwaukee Business Journal, Telstar's 8 different Predicta models were based on the original sets manufactured by Philco in Philadelphia from 1958 to 1962 - including the dramatic separation of the TV screen from the console.

Their clients ranged from collectors to celebrities, who would pay between $1,100 and $3,300. The manufacturing process was very manual enabling only about 100 sets to be produced per year. Do the math - I assume they were able to branch out and boost production. There are many citations of the high interest in brand new color-capable Predicta TVs. Interest was high primarily die to word-f-mouth and the fact that this iconic beauty was available in many color configurations.

The Frank Lloyd Wright Connection

Main image on Telstar's Predicta TV website showing the models If that weren't enough, the retro-ness of this tale goes a bit farther, but with less electronic focus. These 2 friends hand-crafted these amazing TVs under a company called Riedel Electronics/Telstar. There is still a Riedel Electronics in the area with the same phone number as found on some of the Predicta literature.

The Riedel Electronics address that brings on another dose of retro. There is mention of Riedel living in a known Frank Lloyd Wright house. Riedel Electronics has the same address as a home designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Another site has an interior shot of the house and there's a Predicta TV in the living room!

Frank Lloyd Wright designed house Predicta TVs - Meteor and Chalet models
November 22, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Was Congress concerned about PS4 & Xbox launch issues or is it simply about greed?

Whether you recently bought a PS4, an Xbox One or decided to "wait and see", I'll bet you did a lot of research before coming to that decision. Unless you're financially well off, the decision to spend several hundred dollars isn't something you do on a whim. You do research so you can make an informed decision!

Even if you only spent one hour discovering the pros & cons of each game console, you're still smarter than everyone in Congress and the news media who think healthcare is a website!

PS4 or Xbone I can't watch TV news anymore. From the idiots on Capitol Hill to the flock of morons chasing after them with microphones and cameras, it seems as if everyone is out of their minds. Network TV news has been garbage for decades - slightly out-distancing the duration in which Fox News has seemingly been fabricating popular opinion. Even CNN can't sustain 24 hours of anything resembling real news. PBS NewsHour & BBC provide the only real news on TV.

Launch Problems: Consoles -vs- Obamacare

It seems that both Sony and Microsoft had online issues with the launch of their next gen game consoles. Did Congress convene? Were laws enacted to assist either manufacturer? Should Government be shut down until console launches occur flawlessly?

My contention with Congress and news outlets is their blatant lack of knowledge about web sites, healthcare and the general public. As I said, any of you who did research about your preferred gaming console are smarter citizens than anyone in Congress or news!

Would you say the Xbox One sucks because your favorite game was delayed 6 months? Should the CEO of the Xbox division be fired because of that 3rd party developer's game delay? That's pretty much the mentality of those legislating and reporting on Obamacare. The healthcare website is simply one way of researching and purchasing insurance. Obamacare is based on a Massachusetts' healthcare initiative that ramped up over a three year period. So, why are Republicans and news media crying foul after 3 days and still after 3 weeks?

Does anyone know the success of Sony or Microsoft 3 days or weeks after their console launches? No! Stats and analysis require sufficient data. The healthcare website obviously failed at launch, but is that the end of it? People are neglecting the larger picture that spans years. You don't enable a national policy overnight!

Follow the Money, Find the Criminals

wasted dollars You researched your next game console purchase to get the most fun out of your next system. I suppose Congress and news outlets can't be expected to do any research or possess much knowledge, but doesn't affordable healthcare sound good as a base premise? It seems to work well for Canadians who have a superior system. Did you know some US healthcare policies have NO coverage for hospital or doctor visits? We pay for that?!?

Most crimes can be solved by following money trails - find out "who was paid by another to do something". Do insurance providers want to offer insurance to anyone who is sick? No. Do they want to lower premiums to make it more affordable? No. Do insurers want to pay any claims? No. Have you ever wondered why your representatives in congress aren't fighting for you and what's best for you? The answer is MONEY!

Senators and Representatives are paid excellent salaries, but the real money comes from a variety of kick-backs (aka- campaign contributions). If Congress goes back to all the insurance providers and tells them to change their ways and make healthcare affordable for Americans, they will lose ALL THE MONEY provided to them by these insurance giants. Paying off Congress is much cheaper than paying out insurance claims.

And don't think the Tea Party is any different. I assure you they have the Cash Blaster set to "Euphoric" when it comes to recruiting (aka: buying) sound-bite puppets.

Enjoy your new consoles, but don't forget, given enough time Obamacare will prevail just as the Wii U shall! Don't re-elect anyone to Congress. They don't deserve a 2nd chance and they will never care about you. Game on!
November 21, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Turkey Chase offers mobile gamers a tradition-breaking 8-bit Thanksgiving challenge | via Happy Badger Studio

Turkey Chase from Happy Badger Studio Why are family traditions mandatory? Shouldn't a tradition be something everyone wants to do!?! With only one week before Thanksgiving, it may be a good time to re-examine your family's traditions and see which ones might be best forgotten.

Often the best way to make such a change is by suggesting something new as a replacement. The awesome crew at Happy Badger Studio have just what you need! While Macy's is floating Jake and Finn down 6th Ave and your drunken uncles are watching football on the small TV in the guest room, whip out your smartphone and dive into a Turkey Chase Fun Run!

Turkey Chase is a mobile game (available on both Android and iOS) that takes a Thanksgiving theme and wraps it in 8-bit wonder. Did you grow up playing Atari and wish you could relive that style on your smart phone? Turkey Chase may be just the thing for you.

In the pixel-art style of those deliciously blocky-looking games from the early 80s, Turkey Chase captures the look and feel of those amazing games from Atari, Mattel, Coleco and others. If you have childhood memories of getting a new video game console for Christmas, this is the sort of 8-bit game that will bring back that simple fun!

Turkey Chase from Happy Badger Studio
Turkey Chase came out last Thanksgiving (2012) which has yielded an entire year for you to perfect turkey dodging and pilgrim smacking. This year, your developing skills will be put to a test in the FIRST ANNUAL Turkey Chase DISTANCE CONTEST! The Turkey Chase leaderboards have been reset and they're looking for the player who can get the highest distance score between now and Thanksgiving Day. GO!

Elf on a Shelf playing Turkey Chase by Happy Badger Studio Go hang out with Nolan, our Elf on the Shelf and a retro gaming console warrior!

When I showed my 7 year old son, Turkey Chase on my phone last year, his first comment was, "It looks like Atari". From there he was fascinated to see how far his turkey could run. A year later, his Mom downloaded a copy to her iPhone, for him, and he called to tell me he was playing Turkey Chase at her house!

I was stoked to see him carrying my 8-bit love forward. In that moment I realized I had a new phone and immediately put Turkey Chase onto my new phablet phone - too big for a phone and too small for a tablet. This is a fun game!!
November 20, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

My local grocer organizes video games differently than my local GameStop

My local grocery store is selling Sega and Atari Flashback video game consoles with built-in games Convenience is paramount in retail. From games to groceries, the retail winner will be the store that brings the most value to your shopping experience. Whether you're buying dinner or a video game, value can be in the form of price or process. for example - you might pay a little bit more if you can get everything you need at one store.

I've never gone to GameStop to buy a sandwich, but I did notice my local grocer was stocking both the Atari Flashback 4 and the pseudo Genesis game consoles with the built-in games.

I really wanted to buy the Atari Flashback just so I could run it through the self-checkout lane to see "Atari" on the scanner screen and hear the robotic voice say, "Move your Atari to the belt". Then watch it come to rest next to my cereal, frozen pizza and toilet cleaner.

My local grocery store is selling Sega and Atari Flashback video game consoles with built-in games I'm accustomed to finding unusual products at the grocery store. Sometimes I can find something useful (besides food) that saves me from having to stop at another store. I've found mailing envelopes, kitchen tools, pens, tape and Tupperware containers - things you don't necessarily go to the supermarket for, but are convenient to find.

I was shocked and excited on my last visit to Stop & Shop when I saw an Atari logo beckoning me from a lower shelf. I could almost hear that little Atari box calling out to me, "Buy me"...

I didn't buy either the Sega or the Atari, but I have a lot of admiration for the store's purchasing agent!
My local grocery store is selling Sega and Atari Flashback video game consoles with built-in games The bottom shelf of this end-cap, in my local supermarket, had both Sega and Atari Flashback video game consoles - the kind with with built-in games.

At the time I took this photo, you'll see a $49.99 price tag. Ho Ho Ho! A week later they were begging for attention at $20. Retro Atari and Sega games rarely find their way onto my shopping list. I suppose other shoppers neglected to add retro gaming to their shopping lists too. At $20, they are a pretty good deal, but they were still sitting on the shelf a day or two before the 25th.
November 19, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

From Pong to Space Race- everyone seeks #1, but number 2 can be equally fascinating

Atari's Space Race arcade cabinet I know about Pong and so do you. Your neighbor knows what it is as does your Grandmother. The bag-boy at the grocery store may never have played Pong, but he knows what it is and so does the lawyer who works across the street. Drug dealers and hookers know what Pong is as do fishermen, astronauts and that weird guy who taught Driver's Ed.

Atari's Space Race arcade flyer Space Race arcade flyer - page 2 Even though few of these folks are core gamers, they've all heard of Pong and can likely give a convincing description of it even if they've never dropped a quarter into this iconic arcade cabinet. Why so iconic?

Pong was the first commercially successful arcade game! It went on to become the "format" for many of the early home video game consoles and was cloned by numerous engineers. Oddly, it wasn't first! For example - Computer Space was released in November 1971 by by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney of Nutting Associates. They would later found Atari.

Being #2 Isn't Bad

If you win the Superbowl or the World Series, that's great. Losing such an event is not good. But aren't you #2 - only one spot away from the best? Yes - and that's the point. Society has an odd obsession with being first or the best. Second place is seen as "bad". In a world with billions of people... someone has to settle for not being #1.

Such is the case of Space Race created by Atari in July 1973. It's Atari's second arcade game, following Pong (released 1972). In fact, some of the Space Race owners manuals were left over Pong manuals on which "Pong" was scratched out and "Space Race" was handwritten above it. The game set-ups were somewhat similar :)

Atari's Space Race arcade screenshot Space Race could be played by one or two simultaneous players. The object of the game is to get you sip from the bottom to the top of the screen while avoiding asteroids. These weren't asteroids like those found in Atari's Asteroids and Asteroids Deluxe arcade games. These asteroids were dots moving horizontally across the screen. Armed with a joystick your ascension of the screen involved moving up or stopping. Successfully reaching the top added one point to your score and you began again at the bottom of the screen.

Our assessment of Space Race, not having played it ourselves, is: it looks frustrating and boring. Let's look at that #2 status again. Pong was engaging and fun for 1 or 2 players - especially for 2 players. People understood the "tennis" metaphor and the quarters flowed in. What if Space Race had been Atari's first offering. Would it have taken the world by storm and reached iconic status? I don't believe it would.

Pong was a great game to represent the beginning of our obsession with video games and arcades. I don't think Space Race would have generated the same enthusiasm. All in all, being number 2 may have helped launch the gaming industry we know today. Yay Pong!
November 19, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Ebay item: Modified Donkey Kong arcade cabinet and bikini clad girl

Online auctions can get sketchy. Nevermind the sellers who mislead or ship fake product or the buyers who never pay. There are so many whackos out there, that I never engage an online auction unless EVERYTHING looks PERFECT. Buyer beware. It's a cruel world out there.

The oddity of this Donkey Kong cab made me far more interested in the girl than the cab :)

modified Donkey Kong arcade cabinet for sale on eBay Pictured both indoors and out, it seems as if this seller thought a scenic outdoor setting wasn't quite enough to get bidders interested in this eBay item. After moving his modified Donkey Kong cabinet outside, he conned this gal into posing with it.

The description touted over 250 arcade games being playable on this device. the title also mentions pool, pinball and foosball. Without going into the specifics of how these games are playable, I have to admit I'm far more interested in the gal in the picture.

Is she dating this guy? Was she paid to be a model? Can she bring Donkey Kong to it's kill screen?

The tone of this eBay listing made me suspicious and I conclude this girl is the more interesting part of this listing.
Bikini clad girl pictured with a Donkey Kong arcade cabinet for sale on eBay This bikini clad gal was pictured with a modified Donkey Kong arcade cabinet for sale on eBay.

November 18, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

The History of Ocean is an upcoming book about the UK game developer of the 1980s & 90s

Ocean software logo I've have several games from software and game dev Ocean of America, Inc. and was stoked to discover an upcoming book about their rule of the 80s and 90s - The History of Ocean. Their name and logo are very familiar to me since I own games made by Ocean for the SNES, Jaguar and PlayStation.

Known for buying rights to arcade, TV and movie properties, Ocean developed and published games for the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, MSX, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 16, Atari ST, Amiga, PC, and video game consoles like the NES, Super NES, Master System and Mega Drive. They owned rights to many pop culture properties like Jurassic Park, Knight Rider, Lethal Weapon, Miami Vice, Robo Cop Rambo and others.

The History of Ocean book by Chris Wilkins and Rober M. Kean Founded in 1984, Ocean had a successful and global run as a game developer, but as the industry shifted, Ocean became absorbed, traded and re-formed like many companies that span the test of time. The Ocean name was retired when acquired by Infogrames in 1996. Eventually they became part of Atari in 2004 and again in 2009. Keep in mind, the iconic "Atari" most of us think of ended in the early 80s as it too morphed into a variety of divisions and subsidiaries. Change is inevitable.

From the Revival website:
For much of the 1980s, the UK led the world-wide revolution in home computing. At the heart of the fledgling industry, which grew to be a billion-dollar-a-year business, Ocean led the way as a creative developer and publisher. Its history of innovation, expansion and triumphs established the company as a global brand. This is Ocean's extraordinary story, told first-hand by those who were there, from the Suits upstairs to the Scum in the Dungeon.

An interesting facet of Ocean games on the Commodore 64 was the Ocean Loader. Loading games from cassettes was a long and boring process. To combat the boredom, Ocean used a special loading system that both displayed a game picture and played music while the game loaded. The Ocean loader music is still popular with chiptune fans.

From the page layout, it seems as if this book is taking a casual layout design, reminiscent of the game magazines we all loved in that era. You can preview some of the book online.

The History of Ocean book by Chris Wilkins and Rober M. Kean As I understand it, The History of Ocean (by Chris Wilkins and Rober M. Kean) is in the printing process now (Nov 2013), but I'm not sure when it will be commercially available. Pre-orders are being taken, so that may be an indicator. You can also follow along on Revival Retro Events Facebook page.

Keep an eye out for this book. Ocean isn't one of those companies that's often discussed, so it's cool to be on the cusp of a book looking at it's history. If you can't wait, you can always pick up a copy of Speccy Nation to tide you over. ;)
November 18, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Cherish your local indie game shop & spice up those retro gaming gatherings

If you're lucky enough to have an indie game store - or even better, an indie retro gaming store - in your area, cherish it. No, really! Praise them, their existence and pray for their prosperity and business longevity! Such businesses are curated with passion, stocked with knowledge and offer a retail experience that goes way beyond mere transactions.

Indie game store in NYC These independent game stores love games. They love profit too, but they know that their store is more than a paycheck. It's a hub, a gathering place, a source of knowledge and ideas. It offers something that can't be matched by any box-store or GameStop - information and selection. Go to any box-store or commercial game store and see what Nintendo products you see on the shelves. As you looked around, did you see any Atari products? No? Wow... shocking.

Those brave souls who turn their passion for retro gaming into a business, in the form of a brick & mortar store, are amazing people. They'll carry modern games, to try and attract a wide audience, but when you look around for Nintendo products, you'll probably see a lot of cartridges along with those fancy new discs. You'll find NES, SNES, N64 as well as portables including the Virtual Boy that wasn't all too portable. And you'll likely find a stash of Atari 2600 game carts too!

Retro Game Nights at the Shop

Many indie game stores have weekly or monthly gatherings of like-minded (fanatical) retro gamers. I love these gatherings... sort of. It's fun to surround yourself with others who are as manic about retro gaming as you are. You may be an Atari fan, so it's fun to meet an NES-nut and a Sega fanatic debating the best version of a multi-platform game.

On the other hand, too many of these in-store events are very homogenized. the attendees often seem very stereotypical and predictable. There's the guy who is...
  • wearing game-branded clothing from head to toe
  • very knowledgeable but spits when he talks
  • wearing the same hat since he was 12
  • looking for someone to play Magic with
  • way too excited about defeating a boss
  • describes cheat-codes that are simply not possible
  • talking about a website everyone heard about last year
  • trying to impress the one geek-girl in attendance
Indie game store in NYC As much as I sometimes want to punch these people, they are likely the core of an indie game store's customer base. In there lies the problem with these in-store events. They tend to cater to that small group of fanatical gamers who shop there anyway! These events need to attract new people.

Isn't the purpose of an after-hours event to attract more new customers? It's always cool to have a special event for your core customers, but business is business and events can be costly, so they need to attract new people who may not have even known about the store. Find a new demographic!

Finding a New Retro Gaming Demographic... Via Food

There may be neighboring stores that would join in on an after-hours event that would expose more customers to your retro gaming store/scene. Retro gaming isn't really that exclusive. Lots of folks grew up with Atari, Mattel, Nintendo and others! But you still want to reach customers that don't know about you... yet.

Advertising your event in local papers, social media posts and putting up flyers in strategic places, can lead to new customers. Make it big and make it exciting! A gaming event brings folks together who have a common bond - gaming. As you reach out to others who may not want to attend such a hardcore or specific event, you have to broaden your offering too. Food and drink!

Food Truck Offering food can be expensive and attract those who only want free food. However, food will attract more visitors and no one said the food had to be free!

I love food trucks. They're mobile, fast and offer a great variety of foods. They're no longer just burgers and hot dogs. Food trucks today are as varied as the restaurants that are envious of their success. Best of all they avidly use social media to advertise their location!

Invite a few food trucks to your store's event! They come with their own customer base who you can lull into the wonders of retro gaming. Suddenly your retro gaming event has a wide offering of food, more people to introduce to retro gaming and if you haven't included neighboring stores, they'll want to be a part of next month's event. Don't forget to contact the local newspaper. If you pitch a compelling event, they may help publicize you for free.

I firmly believe food trucks can be the salvation of small businesses that want to branch out and reach new customers. Everyone's customers eat, so invite a different food truck to each of your events and you can begin exposing your event to new foods and new customers will burs through your doors demanding a TeleGames Pong unit! We even concocted a retro gaming food truck! :)
November 17, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

From Flash to Sega's Genesis console, Fix-It Felix becomes far less imaginary

The Fix-It Felix arcade game created for Disney's Wreck It Ralph
When I heard that Disney created an arcade cabinet for Fix-It Felix as a promotional tool for their Wreck It Ralph movie, all common sense drained from my brain. Instantly I thought, "I want that ROM!" I yearned to attend 2012's E3 Expo and play that imaginary game, fabricated by Disney.

In most arcade ROM scenarios, the hard coded information found across the chipset of a PCB is transfered to a computer file that can be read by an appropriate emulator, like MAME. In my excitement, I ignored the fact that dropping a cheap PC into an arcade cab and letting it run a Flash game, is more economical that replicating something more akin to my arcade days in the 80s where PCBs housed worlds of wonderment.

Fix-It Felix character from Wreck It Ralph

My fascination with Fix-It Felix

As an arcade fanatic of the 80s, I've watched arcades fade and dwindle in existence. The premise of Wreck It Ralph and it's basis in the arcade era I loved sparked my initial interest. What really made me crave the Fix-It Felix ROM was the notion of being able to actually play a fictional game set in a Disney film about arcade characters. It seemed like a fitting reward for those who dropped quarters in the 80's.

The notion of all the arcade characters leaving their games at night and getting together sounds a lot like the Toybox area of Disney Infinity - Disney's 2013 multi-character video game. Apparently disney has been been contemplating Wreck It Ralph since the late 80s - going so far as giving it a working title, High Score - but it would seem that some of that "concept" went into Infinity.

In addition to the Flash version of the Fix-It Felix, Jr. Disney released a side-scrolling platform game, Wreck-It Ralph for the Nintendo Wii, 3DS, and DS. This movie tie-in game was panned by most critics as a simple way to leverage more profit off the movie's success. It's not a very good game and begins by giving away the movie's ending - if you hadn't already seen the flick.

Fix-It Felix for Sega Genesis

Fix-It Felix Goes Retro

My trip down this rabbit hole came from an interesting article on 1 More Castle about various Fix-It Felix homebrews. In particular I was interested in their article as it tied in with others I'd read about a Sega Genesis release for this imaginary game. There was also mention of a 2600 and NES homebrew, but the Genesis is a platform for which I don't hear a lot of homebrew news.

So, naturally I was drawn to the Genesis releases. Apparently there are 2, one that is mostly complete but not being released for some reason. The other is still in progress, but there is already a downloadable file for use in emulators. Check out the Future Driver site where you will find info and a download of Fix-It Felix.

Homebrew game projects are such amazing forays into creativity. Every time I encounter something like this, I want to become a programmer!
November 16, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

In 2D, 3D or HD Black Milk Clothing makes Adventure Time look best

I'm a big fan of hats - hats of all kinds. When my son and I found Finn's Adventure Time hat in Newbury Comics, we stared in awe, bought it and spent the rest of the night running around the house yelling, "Adventure time!"

The show's popularity has grown in viewership and merchandising with everything from clothing to video games. We love these characters and are stoked to see them in video games where fans can take control and dash off on their own adventures!
Adventure Time on DS, 3DS and WiiU
Black Milk Clothing has a knack for blending geek culture into fashion. From Middle Earth and Harry Potter designs to Star Wars, their Adventure Time line comprises many styles and characters. They offer a wide selection - it's not like many companies that push out 2 or 3 t-shirts. This Australian company's collection is worth a peek and a purchase!

Be sure to read their About page. They have a really cool and inspiring back story!
Black Milk Clothing's Adventure Time designs & styles
We're also pretty stoked to see Adventure Time's partner in crime, Regular Show, coming up as well. Regular show has a Nintendo 3DS game and their merchandising is blowing up. Can't wait to see the Black Milk models sporting some Mordecai and Rigby styles!
November 16, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

The Atari Jaguar - Hear it roar The Atari Jaguar - Hear it roar

November 15, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

In the 8th Generation console wars, should I get a Nexus Orbit or Zenith Gamespace?

As eager customers wait on midnight lines or later head to their local game store with a wad of cash or Mom's credit card, we wait on the sidelines with plenty of PS3 games yet to be explored as we see how the new consoles fare in the hands of today's gamers.

We'll be celebrating launch day with some of our favorite PlayStation games from 1995. Battle Arena Toshinden, Destruction Derby, Tekken... those were the days!

A possible design for a Google game console In June a Wall Street Journal article kicked off rumors that Google might be bringing an Android-based game console to market. As I understand it, French industrial designer, Joseph Dumary, got wind of this and conceptualized what such a console might look like. I don't think he was contracted to create this design, but we think Google should drop some cash on him and go with it!
Console Wars Heat Up As Zenith Unveils Gamespace Pro My family's first color TV was a Zenith and who doesn't like The Onion? They released this new game console entrant just in time, Console Wars Heat Up As Zenith Unveils Gamespace Pro. I love that they not only mocked up the VCR-era console and controllers, but also a few game titles for launch day! lol.

BTW - We're longtime Sony fans having embraced the PlayStation back in the day before Sony's marketing think-tank decided to put a "2" then a "3" on the end of a successful brand. And... Yes, Nintendo was first to market in Gen 8 with the Wii U... a year ago!
November 14, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Via Cosmos, Atari introduced Holography- a never-released dimension in electronic entertainment

Atari Cosmos Holograms! Everyone loved holograms... a long time ago. It was fun to tilt them and see on image jump to another while the mind pretended an epic story was unfolding before us.

Optical illusions - often called 3D - have had a rocky relationship with the video game community for a long time... no, really a very long time. Both the Genesis and Vectrex had VR goggle/helmet devices that claimed to add another dimension to gaming. Most of these 3D accessories only added frustration and consumer cash-depletion.

Atari Cosmos with packaging/box However, development toward such products, like Virtual Boy and the 3DS, was pioneered long before social media gave people the ability to complain instantly and innovation was able to flourish..

In 1978 Atari began engineering what they called Holoptics. At the time LED handheld games and small tabletop games were extremely popular. The 2600 would render those electronic handhelds obsolete in the marketplace, but something about these devices tempted Atari to join in.

I remember several classmates had Mattel's Electronic Football among others. I wan't a huge sports fan and didn't really see a viable relationship between that dashing LED and the few football games I'd seen on TV. My passion was for Merlin the Electronic Wizard from Parker Brothers. Actually, I recall fawning over the pages of the Sears Christmas Catalog, gazing at an enormous number of electronic games. These small-scaled and sometimes handheld games were inexpensive and portability was pretty novel for electronic entertainment of that era - and kids loved them!

Atari Cosmos ad In typical Atari style, they didn't want to join in - they wanted to conquer electronic gaming with a revolutionary twist. They accepted the 2D technology but decided to incorporate a hologram that would add a 3D effect and enhance each of their games.

In reality, Atari's games were much like all the others - an led was player-controlled around the screen. Where Atari differed was with the transparent holographic overlay that seemingly added a 3rd dimension to the games. Obviously, this was not the case, but visually, it certainly created a more interesting engagement.

While many electronic games only played one game, Atari planed on eight games for their Cosmos tabletop game. The Cosmos included: Asteroids, Basketball, Dodge 'Em, Football, Outlaw, Road Runner, Sea Battle, Space Invaders and Superman.

Considering the Cosmos was never released, it's hard to say if there was any deceit on Atari's part, but the Cosmos had all 8 games built in. The "games" that would have sold for about $10 (much cheaper than a 2600 game) were simply devices that contained the game-specific hologram. Additionally, as I understand it, these holographic game carts also had a physical notch that instructed Cosmos which game to play. So, a consumer believed they had purchased a "game cart", when actually they already owned the coded/programatic part of the game. What they purchased was the hologram in a cart that also told the Cosmos what game to load.

Some argued that this distinction categorized the Cosmos as a dedicated console and that the cartridge-aspect was a faux offering. It is an interesting situation, but at the time, I think consumer fascination would have outweighed animosity about the actual contents of the Cosmos game carts.

Atari Cosmos flyer The Cosmos, created by Atari engineers Al Alcorn, Harry Jenkins and Roger Hector debuted at the New York Toy Fair in 1981. It was apparently met with skepticism by those pointing out it wasn't really 3D and was more akin to a gimmick. Whereas that's true, it wasn't long after that Dragon's Lair hit arcades with sprites superimposed on animated backgrounds delivered by laser disc.

Atari made a similar move with Cosmos by using the subtle motion simulation of a hologram in conjunction with the LED controlled by the player. I'm sure the illumination of the LEDs had a pretty cool effect with the transparent holograms. This similar, but scaled back approach may have made Cosmos financially viable in retail. We put this feat in the "clever" column, even if the Toy Fair snobs snubbed it.

so, wWhat happened? Why didn't the Cosmos come to market and take a stance next to the other handhelds in the Sears Christmas Wish Book? It seems that both hardware, packaging and marketing collateral were designed and created. The project was canceled and never mentioned. It was rumored that Atari wanted to stay focused on it's sure-ting - the 2600. Delving into handheld & tabletop territory seemed too risky. One would think such risk would be assessed sooner in the production cycle, but such tales are what make Atari an interesting company in the birth of the video game industry.

Only a handfull of Cosmos units exist. Most are hollow shells used for trade show demos. I believe there are 2 full functional ones owned by an ex-Atari employee and the Atari Museum. The likelihood of finding a Cosmos in box of assorted gaming hardware at a yard sale is pretty slim :)

Some images were shamelessly borrowed from The Atari Museum since they're awesome!
November 13, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Diagnosed as feral, Doreen Green spills her beer and has to rebuild her GameCube

Dr. Sanjay Gupta is CNN's medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is CNN's medical correspondent. Craig is Sanjay's best friend on Nickelodeon's animated TV show Sanjay and Craig.
Jessica Nigri cosplays as Marvel Comics' Dorreen Green aka Squirrel Girl Jessica Nigri cosplays as Marvel Comics' Doreen Green, aka Squirrel Girl. This heroine made her 1st appearance in the Jan. 1992 Marvel Super-Heroes #8: Winter Special. Her ability to control squirrels is surprisingly effective and has allowed her to defeat major super-villains. I guess if Willard could defeat enemies with rats - squirrels would be a step up from that.

8 bit Ale from the Tallgrass Brewing Company 8 bit Ale from the Tallgrass Brewing Company. Just like those classic video games we all grew up with, 8-Bit Pale Ale seems spectacularly simple at first, yet remarkably fun and complex when you get into it. Their Hop-Rocket infuses the character of Australian grown Galaxy Hops into an American Pale Ale, giving a unique tropical, almost melon aroma in a classic American style. I wish Tallgrass distributed on the East coast we could use some retro gaming ale out here!
 paper model of a GameCube Paper model of a GameCube. I found this on The Gray Pixel where you can download a larger version of this cut & paste (in a real world way) assembly-ready GameCube.

November 13, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

How do retailers sell 8GB units when the deluxe 32GB Wii U drops to the same price? Bundle & pray

The Wii U initially hit retail shelves in 2 variations - Standard 8GB and Deluxe 32GB storage options. This gave consumers two price points at which they could bring home a new Nintendo. Although there was only a $50 difference, at $299 and $349... it seemed like a wider gap.

32GB Wii U dropped to the price of the 8GB model - $299 That was a during the launch in late 2012. Almost a year later, with lagging sales and a sparse game library, the Wii U needed a jumpstart. Nintendo's solution (after staunchly denying they would drop the price) was to drop the price of the Deluxe Wii U to $299.

When a new piece of hardware is introduced it can often be hard to judge the merits of 8 vs 32 gigs of storage. "Which one is best for me?"

Prior to consoles having internal hard drives, the notion of mass-storage was relatively unheard of with game consoles. Game-saves were stored on small cards often inserted into the front of the console. As more sophisticated consoles began connecting to the internet, downloading additional content and full games became the norm. Obviously you need a significant storage medium to save such things. But consumers began to see something odd.

The games we bought on those high-tech digital discs were good for storage, but not delivery. At the same time consoles were becoming more like computers than former game consoles. Modern consoles boot up, game info is transfered to high-speed RAM memory and then play begins. Those fancy disc-mechs don't "soin" quite fast enough for all gaming needs. That internal hard drive, you barely used, was starting to fill up! WTF!?!

To increase the performance of play elements, content on those shiny discs needed to be stored on a faster medium - the internal hard drive. So, we now accept that a ton of hard drive space will be used by nearly every game you play. But we don't have much info or insight on how much space is required. Some games are memory hogs while others are not. Hmmm...

So, when new hardware arrives, we don't really have any way to gage how much storage space is adequate. Maybe the new consoles address memory better or maybe it's the same old story and every game is going to gnaw away at that precious and sometimes finite space. Should a consumer save $50 and get the 8GB or go all out for that 32GB Wii U? Most gamers will agree that more is always better, but what is the REAL answer? Did parents have the answer as they were bumbling through the game aisle last Christmas? I doubt it!

Stranger still - the recent price drop brought the 32GB Wii U to $299. This is the same price of the 8GB unit. Did the 8GB model drop in price too? I didn't hear about new pricing for the 8GB model. In fact, I haven't heard anything about it.

Then I got an email from GameStop (with the image below) that seems to indicate the 8GB models are remaining at the same price point with added bundles, like Skylanders Swap Force. I wonder if Nintendo is still producing 8GB Wii Us and how many are in the North American retail channel.

8GB Wii U remains at $299 and adds bundles
Pay close attention to the details or you may buy a "bargain" that's not really a value!

With the former price difference being $50, is it worth it to get Skylanders as a bundle when Swap Force alone sells for around $75? That may seem like a good deal, but as your game library expands, some extra storage space might be useful. Our stance is to go for the Deluxe model and get the 32GB of storage. Like computers, games and consoles will aways require more memory - never less. Seemingly getting Skylanders for free, is probably just a lure to get rid of the less desirable Wii U model. Go big. Get the extra memory. You can always buy Swap Force, but as your game library grows, memory will be a great asset.

When shopping for A Wii U this holiday season, pay close attention to the details. I'm sure any retailer who has 8 GB Wii Us will be actively trying to make them look better than they are. When the 2 models are the SAME price, they need to offer a deal worthy of sacrificing additional memory. The benefit of extra memory will likely be a better value as your game collection grows. Tell your parents! They may shopping for a Wii U this holiday season!
November 12, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

AC/DC licensed “Live at Donington” to Rock Band, but Journey took you on a galactic Atari adventure

Angus Young from AC/DC Live at Donington album I've never been a huge Journey fan, but their power ballads are pretty catchy. AC/DC, on the other hand, have been a passion since Back in Black took the US by storm, in 1980. At the time I was stunned to discover Back in Black was their 8th album! I began raiding local record stores buying up JEM Records Imports of their previous releases, which made me one of the few kids at school to have a complete AC/DC collection! Being first to own a copy of Dirty Deed Done Dirt Cheap was a game-changer in high school social standing :) Keep in mind this was all before CDs or MP3s existed!

1980 was the same year I found Judas Priest's British Steel in a White Plains, NY record store and bought it with the feeling that a cover so cool must contain great music. I was right, although that theory led to some awful purchases and was retired as my retail shopping strategy.

Rock Band is a musical IP, from Electronic Arts, consisting of video games from several bands, for a wide variety of game consoles. they allow up to 4 players to simulate the performance of popular rock songs using controllers modeled after musical instruments. I found a turntable and an old tennis racquet delivered a preferable and less expensive experience... when I was 10. This music-genre of games never appealed to me, even though it's grown dramatically since Data Age released Journey Escape for the Atari 2600 in 1982.

Journey Escape for the Atari 2600

Journey Escape for Atari 2600 screenshot In the blocky world of 8-bit Atari games of the early 80's, you have to admire someone who wants to bring a popular rock band to the world of joysticks and pixels. But it wasn't an easy or well-crafted effort. The box cover and screenshots from Journey Escape strongly suggest Steve Perry and company are off on a galactic adventure through the throngs of deep space. Alas, the story line is simply getting the band from the stage to the their vehicle - the "Famous Scarab Escape vehicle".

This 2-player game entails moving the band up the screen while avoiding greedy promoters, paparazzi and manic fans. You earn money and race against the clock while being timed. The graphics are fairly awful, but the intro music is actually a pretty good rendition of Journey's "Don't Stop Believing". But it won't make you believe this is a good game. A popular band and snazzy box-art don't guarantee a good gaming experience.

Essentially, this game should have taken on more of a "spacey" approach as the box-art and promotion all led one to believe it would be some sort of galactic adventure. Instead ou have to avoid hearts with legs who will drain away your money if you touch them.

Journey Escape for Atari 2600 ad

Data Age - video game developers

Data Age logo Data Age was a US video game developer, founded in 1982, that started out strong with games like Frankenstein's Monster, but their luck ran out. They created some interesting original titles but then made some awful high profile games like Journey Escape. Based on the rock band Journey, it was first produced for home consoles and later licensed to arcades. Journey Escape sold so poorly Data Age couldn't afford the licensing fees which contributed to their downfall.

In an unheard of promotional move, they made a short promotional record (Mindscape) to promote their games. This record was an unusual item for game devs of the early 1980s making it quite collectible.

Journey Escape for Atari 2600 ad A second Data Age catalog came out in 1983, showcasing 3 games and a few upcoming ones that were never released. Oddly, none of the original games featured in the first catalog were mentioned. The 3 upcoming games were based on licensed properties - Smokey Bear, Mr. Bill, and Mr. T. It makes us think that their strategy was to license hot IPs and generate games based on them (somewhat reminiscent of THQ). It seemed that the Journey debacle ruined their chances to work on more licensing deals.

Despite having a few good titles, Data Age only developed for the Atari 2600 and was a short-lived company that only released 8 games.
November 11, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

“Ask your parents before going online”- as if parents are as tech savvy as their Ninty kids

Every time Mom emails Dad's computer from her tablet, she walks across the room, with a wry smile & mild giggle, inquiring if he received her email. He returns the smile and tweets her. They both break into laughter. Are these the "parents" that kids need to consult before going online?

Yes, I understand the legal ramifications of companies luring unsupervised children online only to have them fumble the URL and become blitzed by a storm of pornographic pop-up windows. It's sad that corporate America is at the mercy of our litigious society that consider frivolous lawsuits a secondary income. This is equally as sad as parents who park their kids in front of the TV and forget about them. But more stunning is the online landscape and how much closer it's coming to your TV.

AMC's dual-screen story sync I'm often on the computer or have my smart phone in my lap when I watch TV... because the vast majority of programming requires little of my attention and I tend to get bored and want more to do. Most cable TV providers offer some sort of wifi companion to their primary pipeline to allow watching TV on a variety of mobile devices and computers. That's swell, but falls into the 'convenience' column as opposed to growing technologies that are seeking to engage customers of one show on multiple screens.

When AMC broadcasted their 61 episode marathon of Breaking Bad, I was riveted to the TV. Towards the end they touted their Story Sync experience and I was sleep deprived and manic for anything that would douse me in more of Walter White's meth madness. Bring on that second screen! I wasn't overly impressed with Story Sync, but it certainly shed light on a possible future for entertainment engagement.

The idea is while watching the show on TV, your second screen (phone, laptop, tablet) connects to a website that pushes content in realtime with the happenings on the TV. During Breaking Bad, they offered engaging polls, questions, screen shots and a variety of visuals all instantly relevant to the story unfolding on the TV. It wasn't mind blowing, but it was pretty cool and will only get better in the near future. AMC does Story Sync for Walking Dead too.

Nintendo's Wii U GamePad is a 2nd screen for gaming

Say, Doesn't the Wii U have a 2nd screen?

Yeah, that GamePad that average consumers don't seem to understand actually takes AMC's Story Sync idea to video games. Aside from providing a unique multi-player experience, the GamePad operates in several different modes from utility to 2nd screen game play enhancement.

This gives kids and gamers a front-row seat to a powerful 2-screen experience, letting them compare it with former gaming scenarios. One could argue that Nintendo's DS line was a preview of what 2 screens could do for gaming. If you were so inclined, there was a cable and a few games that let you use a GameBoy Advance as a controller/screen on the GameCube!

I think the Wii U will soon be recognized for it's prowess once a substantial number of AAA titles are available. Just as I see 2nd screen TV entertainment beginning to make advances, Nintendo has already added it to it's Wii U console. Those Nintendo guys are always a step ahead, even if reviewers don't realize it. Wouldn't surprise me if Sony & Microsoft do the "too late" scramble to cobble together a 2nd screen scenario for their 8th Gen consoles.

“Ask your parents before going online”

Web-based games designed around kid's shows on Nick, Disney and Cartoon Network seem to be slowly bridging the gap between their primetime TV offerings and online content. Many shows offer additional or supplemental footage online, thus encouraging viewers to boot-up another device. A kid watches SpongeBob and naturally wants to play the online SpongeBob game. It reinforces the brand and takes the child from the TV to the web. I'm all over anything to do with Adventure Time and Regular Show, so I kind of know how stoked a kid must feel to watch a favorite show and then interact with that brand in a game. Love it!

Cartoon themed online games for kids Outside of online games, I think children's TV brands are dying to engage kids with a second screen. Kids are now part of the mobile generation where they didn't grow up with a GameBoy, they grew up with a net-connected device that delivers an insane amount of content from games to info.

This is an interesting changing of the guard, so to speak. "Kid's versions" of adult hardware are rapidly disappearing. Little Billy plays Angry Birds on the same iPad that Dad uses to research his latest job assignment. It isn't watered-down. Kids have a powerful tool at their avail and aren't afraid to use it.

Similarly, producers aren't afraid to use new technologies to make their brands (and income) grow. For a kid, using a parent's tablet to play a SpongeBob game gives them a confident feeling of maturity. They know that this is not a toy. Thus using it to engage with a favorite cartoon probably heightens the importance of that experience.

I can't help but feel we must be close to children's programing trying to engage kids, via a second screen, during their favorite shows. I'm sure advertisers are heavily driving this since consumers have fast-forwarded through commercials since the advent of the VCR (a TV recording device that came out before DVR, kids).

Would such 2 screen technology drive folks to watching TV in real-time during actual broadcast times? :) And - Who's going to take the place of THQ, to bring beloved cartoons and movies to game consoles?
November 10, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

5 better names for Nintendo's Wii U video game console

Why Wii U? Until I decide to drop some serious cash on a new game console, I stop by the Wii U kiosk at GameStop to stoke my cravings for New Super Mario Bros. U and Rayman Legends. About the time I begin to salavate, I'm reminded how much I love playing Missile Command and Defender II. I head home and fire up the Atari 2600!

On my latest foray to GameStop's Wii U demo kiosk, I noticed a stack of tear-away pamphlets attached to the lower front of the kiosk. Always seeking new morsels of gaming info, I tore one off and gave it a look. It was the infamous Why Wii U? flyer I've heard about.

From a marketing standpoint, when you have to lay out bullet points to differentiate your 7-year-old product from the shiny new one that replaced it and has been on retail shelves for a year - something is awry.

I never liked the name "Wii U". It doesn't easily roll off the tongue and is much too close to the former product name. I've heard various points of logic as to why Nintendo named it as such, but this pamphlet flies in the face of that reasoning. There's too much info on this pamphlet and it doesn't instantly reinforce the awesomness of the Wii U. Instead, it meanders through similarities and points out differences like "Uses the Wii U GamePad". How about some wow-factor, guys!!

Why Wii U? panphlet This handy pamphlet isn't likely to bring unknowing consumers to the "aha" moment that yields another sale. It lists the similarities and diferences between the 2 consoles, but does so in a very muddled insignificant manner. None of the new features, listed on the pamphlet, sound very compelling. A parent out shopping for their kid isn't likely to find any of the listed features worthy of $300+ and a new library of expensive games!

I think the Wii U is a great machine and look forward to affording one, but I probably spend more time researching the Wii U than the average consumer. Just the notion that the GamePad was initially mistaken as a $350 accessory for the Wii shows how the marketing simply didn't clarify what Wii U is all about. With this in mind, I decided to concoct five names more alluring than "Wii U".

5 better names for Nintendo's Wii U

  1. Fantasmic
  2. WiiTopiaGasm
  3. Baconator
  4. Teenage Mutant Ninja Game Console
  5. Ralph

Essentially, any name may have better served Nintendo's transition to Generation 8.

November 10, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Marvel's Kamala Khan, fighting crime & stereotypes in NJ, should team up w/ Troma's Toxic Avenger

Marvel Comics' new Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan When 16-year-old Muslim girl from New Jersey discovers extraordinary body-morphing powers, she follows in the footsteps of her idol, Captain Marvel, to become the new Ms. Marvel! She may be loosely based on Pakistan's Malala Yousafzai, who was shot by the Taliban for advocating the education of girls, but Kamala Khan also has a lot in common with Melvin Ferd a janitor turned crime fighter from Tromaville, New Jersey.

If you're not familiar with Lloyd Kaufman's Troma Films, it's never too late to discover something insanely amazing. Troma Films ascended in popularity when their NJ super hero, The Toxic Avenger, lavished audiences with shock value and wickedly dark comedy. The film has become a cult classic and brought notoriety to many other Torma releases.

What better way to introduce a new Ms. Marvel to the world than pairing her with a fellow New Jersey local and crime fighter? We think Toxie would be the perfect pairing for Ms. Marvel as she grapples with her religion, stereotypes and being a teenager in the Garden State. His ubiquitous notoriety is the perfect introduction for a new super hero!

When Ms. Marvel debuts next year, take a trip to Kevin Smith's Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash comic shop, in Red Bank and snag a copy! Then make sure your aging DVD library is properly updated with Blu-Ray titles from Troma!
November 9, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Imbibe Nintendo goodness from Ink Whiskey's NES cart inspired Entertainment Flask

Ink Whiskey logo Retro love is a powerful force that makes people look at their childhood treasures and wonder how they can further ingrain these wonders further into their lives. Nintendo's NES has some of the most rabid fans who know no boundaries when it comes to that beloved gray video game console.

A while ago we wrote an article about 8 Bit Memory who were building hard drives into NES carts. The folks at Ink Whiskey are also altering the contents of those square gray game carts, but in liquid form. They're on a mission to turn those iconic NES game cartridges into drinking flasks! They have a Kickstarter campaign for Entertainment Flasks.

Ink Whiskey's NES cart inspired Entertainment Flask NES Flask pic 2 Seeing an NES cart evokes all sorts of 80's memories and hopefully some Contra memories from the day before yesterday. I loved my Atari 2600, but couldn't deny the massive leap in quality afforded by my NES. Those sort of memories live on in many of us who still love to play NES games as Nintendo, Sony & Microsoft pepper the landscape with modern games.

An important aspect of this project is about the production materials. We all know that a real NES cart is plastic, so what about Entertainment Flasks? These flasks are NOT made from real NES carts, but they are made of plastic. It's worth noting that Ink Whiskey is using a food-grade polymer, ABS plastic that contains no BPA.

Ink Whiskey's Drunk Hunt NES cart inspired Entertainment Flask We dig the idea since few NES styled products are realistic in size. We've seen countless Etsy earrings, key rings, and random swag, but rarely does one find a full scale sized product... with the exception of those stylish NES controller belt buckles :)

This sounds like a fun project and they offer several different labeling options with label spoofs of several infamous NES titles. Check out their Kickstarter campaign and back Ink Whiskey's NES cart inspired Entertainment Flask if you like what you see!

November 9, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Walt & Jesse cook outside and play Battlefield 4 with snacks

Breaking Bad character, Walter White paper doll Breaking Bad character, Walter White paper doll. Illustrator Kyle Hilton has done work for clients such as The New York Times, Time, The Hollywood Reporter, Vulture and others.
Breaking Bad character, Jesse Pinkman paper doll Breaking Bad character, Jesse Pinkman paper doll. Kyle Hilton's paper cut-out book "Artist Paper Dolls" is coming in 2014 from Chronicle Books.

Outdoor entertainment center I'm all for grilling outside and eating by a fire pit on a cool Summer night. I've even seen some pretty cool outdoor kitchens that make preparing meals look like a great time. But some folks seem to want to water-proof the whole house and drop it in the back yard. Do you really need an enormous TV outside?

Imagine sitting in your backyard and having to listen to your neighbor's sound system as they chortle through a few sitcoms or a football game. I think that would get old fast. If your backyard needs a TV, you may want to think about updating your landscaping or lifestyle.
Never forget the wonder of eating Hostess products Never forget the beauty and wonder of eating Hostess products. Best comeback in the history of ever!

MegaNerd Meg Turney for Slim Jim gamer codes MegaNerd Meg Turney for Slim Jim gamer codes. Slim Jim has bee putting game codes on their packaging for quite a while - now featured for Battlefield 4.
November 8, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Atari Jaguar in the flesh Atari Jaguar in the flesh

November 8, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Facebook status and picture posts were problematic all week. Then #FacebookDown began trending on Twitter

Facebook error message In the never ending quest to figure out how to reach more people via Facebook*, we began having issues posting photo updates to our timeline. More often than not, they simply would not post via manual clicking, Hootsuite or the API. This went on all week long, then today we got this error message:

"Sorry, but this page didn't load properly. Please try again."

Soon, we saw #FacebookDown trending on Twitter.

I found the visual display of this error interesting. The italic "I" in the white circle on the light-blue background just doesn't fit the Facebook design. It looked very out of place. My conclusion was that this was an old style that was probably used earlier in development. Seeing it today led me to believe that Facebook failed in a more epic manner than Zuck and company ever expected.

* Actually, the trick isn't reaching more people, but getting Facebook to restrict your posts less.
November 8, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Ouya offers it's 500th game for download via it's Discover store: Tasty Poison's Neon Shadow

The Ouya game console is very different. It's open source, fully hackable and requires all games include a free-play option. I've waded through the depths of Nintendo's WiiWare and Virtual Console looking at the scant descriptions wondering if it's worth my $10. The same can be said of Ouya games found through their online service, but you can download and play anything for free! It may only be a demo or an intro level, but all games can be played before any money is exchanged. Don't like it - delete it. Simple.

In less than 6 months, the fledgling game console has uploaded it's 500th game! That may not seem like a lot when you look at the brick & mortar and online offerings of the gaming industry, but considering the uniqueness and strategy of the Ouya - that's quite impressive.

Ouya offers it's 500th game for download: Tasty Poison's Neon Shadow I love reading the comments at the end of various posts about this Ouya landmark. It's fairly obvious that most of those negatively commenting (bordering on troll-like hatred) have never seen an Ouya, let alone tried one. Yet, they feel eminently qualified to pan it for nearly every aspect. It interests me that the Ouya console costs less than 2 new $60 games for the Big 3 consoles and still the Ouya holds no interest to these trolls.

Rumors have it that there will soon be a USB storage solution to the Ouya as well as a hardware update coming next year. In the mean time we endure the Ouya's system updates and smirk at the odd slogans that appear on screen as the update progresses. As the progress bar fills, they run a loop of slogans on screen as well... things like "Tasting rainbows", etc.

To me, this is the sort of thing that lets me now this isn't a stuffy corporate entity. It gives the idea that folks at Ouya really enjoy what they're doing. That's pretty cool, but it doesn't stop there. Instead of version numbers or dates, they decided to identify system updates by Cryptids which are creatures or plants whose existence has been suggested but is not recognized by scientific consensus. This is similar to how Apple uses animals for their desktop OS releases. Ouya has recently deployed Ogopogo which is a monster that reportedly lives in a British Columbian lake.

Tasty Poison's Neon Shadow is Game #500

We love the retro gaming emulators available for the Ouya, but we've found a few mainstream games (as well as fun quirky ones) we enjoy. By all means check out the Ouya's 500th game, Tasty Poison's Neon Shadow. It's always free to download and try anything in the Ouya Discover store!
November 7, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

GameStick is an small HDMI video game console roughly the size of a USB flash-drive

The GameStick HDMI video game console on a stick Ya got game? Is it portable? Not 3DS or Vita portable... I mean lost-in-the-couch-cushions portable!

After backing the Ouya on Kickstarter and seeing it come to fruition, I was compelled to push the button once again and let Amazon circuitously bill my credit card for a purchase having no ties to Bezos' retail giant. Somewhere in the out-lands of micro-transactions (and tiny digital kick-backs) the technology siphoned some of my funds towards the GameStick. Mine arrived today!

Billed as "the world's most portable TV games console" I instantly loved the idea that, like the Ouya, the GameStick was trying to push video games back to the living room TV. While it leverages the easy and agility of mobile game development, the founders seem to respect the gaming experience provided by large TVs as opposed to time smart phone screens.

It's small size comes from it being a memory stick that connects to your TV's HDMI port much the way we use USB memory sticks with computers. It comes with a controller that also doubles as a carrying case for the HDMI stick. I'm eager to shove it into my TV and see how it works! I think it's oddball gaming hardware like this and Ouya that are really exciting me as the Big Boys are trying to convince me to spend $400 - $500 on an 8th generation game console. No thanks. I still have plenty of PS3 games to master. And dammit... my GameStick just slipped between the cushions.
November 6, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

I thought Blockbuster had gone out of business years ago, but apparently DISH has been staving it off

Blockbuster logo I rented a lot of movies in the VHS era when Mom & Pop video stores often had charm and unique video offerings. Mom would make sure they stocked plenty of documentaries and quirky indie flicks while Dad ensured there was a respectable quantity of fetish porn. I quickly became adept at knowing which "video shack" would have the flick I was craving. DVDs are cheap, but buying a prerecorded movie on VHS, in the 80s, could cost up to $100!!

Games! That was what got me excited about rental stores. By the time Blockbuster had slain all the hard working indie video rental shops, Nintendo carts and consoles were available for rent in Blockbuster. I hated buying crappy games and often rented Nintendo titles to see if I wanted to buy the cart. Many of my friends would do the same, but beat the game over a weekend and move on to the next rental. I was a collector and prided having my own copy.

Have you ever been in a convo where a celebrity name is mentioned and no one knows if the celeb is still alive? I've spent the better part of my adult life buying close-out stock from Blockbuster video stores as they succumb to everything from bad locations to better technologies. I thought Betamax would rule the world forever. Then I had to buy a VHS VCR to continue recording things. I fell in love with the clarity of Laser Disc and was heartbroken when I had to repurchase my favorite titles on DVD. Now I'm expected to pay for something I can't see or touch... and get this - it's stored in a cloud. Yeah, no thanks. Call me analog, but if I can't lick it, I don't want it. I rarely suckle my favorite Ozzy CD (Blizzard of Ozz was the first CD I ever bought) but you'll see that before you see me shuffling on an iPod.

Blockbuster store closing Virtual ownership is akin to virtual sex. It sounds good, but will likely rub you the wrong way #punCity. [Can you use hashtags in mainstream text?] I've bought so much used stuff from Blockbuster, I thought they had gone under a decade ago. I live in a sparsely populated area, so retailers have to be successful to last. My local Blockbuster disappeared years ago and I assumed that was part of a restructuring or collapse. By that time DVDs were cheap enough that if I watched a flick twice, it was more economical to own the disc - which could be sold when I grew tired of it's content.

When a cloud-based storage company fails, do I lose all my games, movies and music? The whole idea sound techie and neat-o keen, but if some bumbling or otherwise corrupt CEO causes the demise of my media library, I'm going to be inanely angry. So, anyway...

Apparently the bankruptcy protection of 2010 didn't allow for the company to restructure and forge ahead. Investor Carl Icahn, who tried to save the chain with other investors, later admitted that Blockbuster was the worst investment he'd ever made. That sort of says it all. After the fall of VCRs, I never thought of Blockbuster as a cutting edge company. They seemed to follow other tech models, but not as well. Netflix, for example, doesn't have physical locations all over the globe generating enormous costs.

RIP Blockbuster. I loved your rental concept during it's relevancy, but like many retailers they didn't adapt with the changing times. BTW- What I wouldn't give to buy a 3-pack of Fruit Of The Looms at Caldor!

Jimmy Kimmel Live Blockbuster tweet
November 5, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Frustration with 7th-gen console stagnation was not relieved by an abundance of new phones & tablets

I heard an interesting conversation suggesting that frustration with 7th generation video game console stagnation was heightened by the constant influx of new smart phones and tablets. I was initially interested in this viewpoint, but quickly lost interest when the participants refused to draw any distinction between AAA console games and an iOS/Android games. They also ignored the fact that most smart phones are poorly/cheaply made and will never have the lifespan of a game console.

Mobile gaming can't replace the console experience We've all wanted something new for quite some time - be it hardware or software. We're about to get it in the form of the PS4, Xbox One and resurgence of the Wii U. Recently, the Ouya gave me an interesting foray into new hardware on which ROM-based retro gaming, for a wide variety of vintage consoles, burst out of Julie Uhrman's tiny little cube. I loved being able to jump from the Atari 2600 to NES and onto N64 in just a few clicks. The Ouya also offered a lot of indie games and took my gaming down a different path.

Could a surplus of mobile devices even try to ween us from consoles? I can't vouch for tablets, but I am VERY careful, kind and loving of my cell phones and have yet to have one last the duration of a 2-year contract without some annoying defect arising. The latest phone I bought retails for $800. I can buy a laptop for less than that! Still, I suspect it will not endure my travels over 2 years. Incidentally, my GameBoy, GBC and GBA all work just fine, thank you very much ;)

As a retro gamer, I'm accustomed to cart-based consoles that seemingly last for decades. Obviously, newer disc-based systems, with far more moving parts, will have much shorter lives. This is still something I wrestle with as I wonder when playing GameCube games will be relegated to ROMS - ugh! At the same time, I've hardly delved into all the offerings of the PS3 since I have two dozen retro consoles to split my time with.

Nintendo has always impressed me when discussing their stance on handheld -vs- console gaming. They understand the differences and develop accordingly for these 2 distinct platforms. Nintendo logic doesn't seem to flow into consumers looking at phones -vs- consoles. My problem with the conversation I was a part of was that they asserted that all the new smart phone and tablet models offered great variety that console gamers didn't have as they awaited the 8th gen hardware. I think that argument is muddled as there will always be faster cellular turnover due to low quality of the devices and the wider use these devices have. I love GameBoy, but you can't phone home with one. As gaming consoles take over more functions of the entertainment center, I see this as somewhat similar to cellphones branching out into apps and gaming. But they are inherently different beasts that can coexist, but won't easily replace one another.

My conclusion is that smart phones and tablets will always have shorter life cycles than game consoles due to the honing of a newer market and widening acceptance of the devices for more needs. And they're built like crap. Game consoles will deliver superior gaming experiences, but there is only so much living room tech they can take on. Rather than acknowledging smart phones or consoles as superior, I see a shift in consumer acceptance that will lead many to accept a lesser gaming experience in favor of the portability of phones and tablets.

As folks complain about the lack of "wow factor" in gen-8 consoles, I think we're seeing the beginning of an economy and mindset that accepts a cheaper product and experience rather than taking on the expense of both. Console gamers value the console experience and won't soon sell out and become mobile gamers. But console gamers are dwindling and we're on the cusp of a new generation that has more mobile than console experience.

I grew up with the Atari 2600 and loved the Lynx. I've seen the advent of the smart phone over the 3-watt bag-phones of the late 80s. I still love my 2600 and find a lot of value in apps on my smart phone, but I'll play Angry Birds while on line at the grocery store and fire up a console when I get home... with snacks from the groc store ;)
November 2, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

The Toys R Us holiday catalog came wrapped in a Skylanders Swap Force collector poster

The toys R Us holiday catalog came wrapped in a Skylanders Swap Force mailer Some are saying this year's holiday sales figures will determine the winner of the action-figure video game wars. "What war?" you ask... Yeah, I asked the same thing.

I've heard several folks saying that the video game industry doesn't have room for 2 action-figure games and either Activision's Skylanders or Disney Infinity will prevail and forge ahead with the various RFID devices enabling 3D figuress to "jump" into video games.

We like Disney Infinity, but our hearts are with Activision and their extremely creative Skylanders IP. On each game's launch day we rolled down to Toys R Us to see the fanfare. Skylanders gets the star treatment, while Disney Infinity simply appeared on the video game shelves. I don't know if that's a fair indicator, but I hear far more buzz around Skylanders. Even with the prospect of characters from Disney movies (like the newly acquired Star Wars franchise) appearing on DI, I'm not sure the style of gaming offered by Disney is as compelling as the Skylanders games.

A few days ago, the Toys R Us holiday catalog arrived in the mail wrapped in a 4-part fold out featuring Skylanders Swap Force. It was full of info and contained a collectors pocket poster that lets you check-off the Swap Force figures you own. You can fold it up and bring it along when you're buying Swap Force figures. This sort of marketing seems more targeted to gamers than the Disney Infinity TV commercials that tout the Toy Box part of the game, but don't disclose the effort that went into creating what they show in the ad.

As an owner of both games and a ton of figures, things begin to add up in both cost and storage. One extra game doesn't effect things much, but when you have 3 dozen action figures that need to be stored... it can get overwhelming. I'm interested to see how others feel about all the figures that come with these games. Suddenly game storage takes on a new track. It's not just one more game... it's a ton of figures. Where do parents and gamers draw the line on cost and where to put all those Skylanders and DI figures?
November 1, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

The changing face of Healthcare- Congress & the news media will never understand technology or video games

It's no secret that Congress, who legislate aspects of technology, and the news media, who report on it, have very little understanding of anything technical. Both these groups seem relatively challenged when it comes to explaining technical detail of any sort. Coverage of the US Healthcare website has been pathetic. Most of the real exerts interviewed either roll their eyes or look horrified by the inane questions being asked of them. The same thing happens during discussions about video games and violence.

At the same time, everyone seems so focused on the minute-by-minute website status updates, they don't seem to know that this healthcare program has a 3-year ramp-up cycle... just like the Massachusetts one it is modeled after. How can Obamacare be judged in the first weeks when it takes years to take full effect? And how can anyone label video games as violent when they have only been shown 30 seconds of one game?

We think the image of the woman originally pictured on the Healthcare website probably was used during development and then forgotten. Was she PAID to be the "face of the new Healthcare initiative"? I doubt it.

The original woman pictured on the new US Healthcare website This woman's face was the first image seen when trying to navigate the new online healthcare scenario in the US. As folks got more irate about the functionality of the site, some started asking mock questions as to whether the "Healthcare Girl" was able to sign up. Whoever she is, she nearly became a meme for the website's deficiency and anger in general.

Then CNN came along inquiring who this woman really was. A model? Photo clip-art? A group initially working on the website claimed her image was used during the initial mock-up and development. I don't think CNN ever discovered her identity, which is a shame because the Federal Government likely owes her a lot of money!

The updated image on the new US Healthcare website This image was put up just after the CNN identity investigation. How odd. Where did the former picture of the woman go? Why did "Healthcare Girl" disappear?

I'm guessing the website developers forgot they used the image and probably had no rights to it! Those in charge claimed to have spent over $100 million developing the site, so I'm sure the woman originally pictured has a pretty good DRM case against the Gov't!

BTW- Congress has very little idea of what their constituents want. Once elected, they gravitate toward their own personal profits. When was the last time YOU were polled about any topic? Exactly - never!

Curiously, CNN had no trouble tracking down Apple's digital assistant, Siri for an interview. Think about that next time you're playing one of those 99¢ phone games.

Video Games Suffer the Same Consequences

How often have you heard the lemmings on the TV News or in Congress claiming video games cause violence? Have any of these "reporters" or "leaders" ever played a video game or watched more than 30 seconds of footage? Their basis for labeling all games violent seems to be stated without any facts. They simply repeat what seems to be popular opinion.

What if I told you people commited murder before video games existed Our society relies more on suggestion than fact. Once an opinion is made, the hoards climb over one another trying to be the first one to repeat it and suddenly everyone is repeating the same idiocy.

Real news agencies and newspapers check the facts FIRST! Seldom do you see the New York Times apologizing or retracting a story. Casual apologies are made regularly on TV news for misinformation. TV news is so excited to "break a story" they often spout out some random tidbit and then admit they know nothing and will offer details later. WTF!?!

Do video games cause murder or are video games a mainstream form of entertainment? I'm pretty sure murderers drink coffee, drive Toyotas and live in neighborhoods just like YOURS!

In this world, you would be wise to question everything! If something seems wrong, it probably is! That's a sad reality, but one that will likely serve you better than trusting someone who doesn't know you or have any interest in you.

October 2013 Retro Gaming Articles:

October 31, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Happy Halloween from all of us at 8-Bit Central!

Happy Halloween
You have to like a family that puts this much effort into some Halloween fun!
Happy Halloween - UFO crash
I began making this image with the Defender cabinet, but decided it lacked the right Halloween theme and changed it to the Ghouls 'N Ghosts above. But hey... it's Defender! So, here it is...
Happy Halloween
October 30, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

They said it was impossible until he showed them Star Castle on the Atari 2600

Star Castle arcade game cabinet Atari's most successful original game on the 2600 was Yars' Revenge. It was quirky, different and broke the mold of what gamer's had come to expect on the platform. It was created by Atari programmer, Howard Scott Warshaw. However he didn't set out to design Yars' Revenge. Did you know that Yars' Revenge was born from attempting to port Cinematronics' Star Castle arcade game to the Atari 2600?

Star Castle for  Atari 2600 packaging and cartridge Former Atari programmer Scott Williamson had revered the "impossibility" of porting Star Castle to the Atari 2600 as a cool chalenge.

I love a story with a happy ending - Williamson successfully ported Star Castle to the 2600 - but he didn't stop there. This story actually has a stellar ending! He designed custom translucent cartridges that contained led lights. Having the cart light up is pretty slick, but Williamson seems to enjoy pushing boundaries and synched the flashing lights with elements of the game play! This effect is astounding and has to be seen to be appreciated (view the kickstarter video).

One would think that Star Castle's arcade controls would lend easily to the Atari 2600's joystick and single fire button. Apparently it did, but I tend to forget that, like Asteroids, Star Castle has no joystick. Instead the arcade controls relied on all-buttons. There were Left & Right spin buttons to maneuver the ship, along with Thrust and Fire .

Star Castle for  Atari 2600 screen comparison
Check out the book Racing the Beam for the chapter on the evolution of Warshaw's Star Castle into what we love as Yars' Revenge. Star Castle was developed by Cinematronics and released to arcades in 1980. I remember it vividly at my local arcade in NY, The Electric Playhouse. It was the first arcade game for which I was aware of it's vector technology and the use of screen overlays to simulate color.

Initially, I thought I was too late in discovering this Star Castle wonder... Ok, I am late, but the project seems to be just wrapping up. You can follow the progress on Atari Age forum for Star Castle. I was afraid I was way too late because there was a Star Castle 2600 Kickstarter campaign in the Spring of 2012. Fortunately (for those who are as late as I am) the project is nearing completion and there's still time to try the beta ROM and delve into Scott Williamson's amazing creation. He also has a Star Castle 2600 blog with details of his project.

We recommend following this project, even if you didn't get in on the Kickstarter, and see where it goes. A lot of tech, ingenuity and retro love went into this port of Star Castle.

FYI- A Star Castle arcade game appears in both epic 80's flicks, Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Ghostbusters.
October 29, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

What if CNN's S.E. Cupp gave up Right-Wing politics for geek-girl video game journalism?

Meg Turney Headshot S.E. Cupp headshot I first saw SE Cupp on CNN's Crossfire and my first reaction was "Wow- super-cute geek girl". Then she belted out praise for some right-wing Republican stance and my heart sank. She could be Meg Turney's older sister, but alas she's way too much of a red-state sort of gal.

I began thinking again about Sarah Elizabeth's (AKA: SE) quintessential geek-girl look and how things would be different if she had opted to go into video game journalism instead of politics. How might conservative radicalism effect gaming?

We decided to take a look at some of SE Cupp's viewpoints and see how such political stances would translate if she were a video game journalist...

SE Cupp the Politician SE Cupp as a Gaming Journalist
Promotes the Republican agenda. Promotes the Microsoft agenda.
She's a fan favorite on Fox News, pushing Rupert Murdoch's conservative views. She hosts gaming channels that promote the Xbox One at the expense of all other manufacturers.
Advocates tax breaks for the elite 1%. Advocates a price hike for the Xbox One, telling the poor they can buy an Xbox 360 if they can't afford the Xbox One.
She's a classically trained ballet dancer. Insists DDR be removed from all arcades. Dancing With the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance mysteriously lose all advertising and are relegated to the foreign-language spectrum of the cable lineup. Brings suit against console manufacturers and game devs who incorporate the word "dance" in game titles.
She enjoys target shooting and loves NASCAR. Guides Microsoft devs to create a death-ray light gun and reboot Duck Hunt for exclusive Xbox One release.
She worked for The New York Times. Uses position at Game Informer to influence sales of Microsoft Xbox.
SE was photoshoped into an oral sex image by Hustler Magazine. Outlaws blowing NES carts in favor of retiring such systems for Xbox One consoles.
Suggested it might not be a good idea to clean up the oil spill in the Gulf, claiming it would be costly, ineffective, and may even cause more harm to the region. Loses Animal Crossing in 2.5 hours. Batteries are ater removed from a Tamagotchi and haggard Furby.
Conservatively cute. "Meg Turney" cute!

SE Cupp with her feet up on the Fox News desk.
S.E. Cupp with her feet up on the Fox News desk

Meg Turney - Me in my place
Meg Turney
October 28, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

I fell in love with Centuri's Vanguard at a Nathan's Famous arcade w/ a hot dog & crinkle-fries

JAVASCRIPT MESS project logo Weekends in the 1980s were made for arcades. Friday night came and we'd hop in someone's Camaro or their Mom's station wagon and head for one of the dark black-lit arenas with flashing marquees and manic attract-mode sounds. The arcades of the 80s!

Running wild in the NYC suburbs, we had 2 primary haunts; the Electric Playhouse in Mount Kisco and Nathan's Famous which was just a short drive down the main drag. The Electric Playhouse was an awesome full-on arcade with everything from Asteroids & Berzerk to Wizard of Wor, Stargate and pinball. Nathan's Famous, on the other hand, was primarily a restaurant.

Nathan's Famous food There was a large Nathan's Famous in Yonkers featuring a big arcade, but that was farther than we wanted to trek for a night of gaming. Nathan's Famous in Yonkers at night On a side note, all good things must come to an end and the Nathan's Famous in Yonkers was torn down in late 2012. I even found a YouTube video of the demolition. Very sad.

We often opted to split our nights between the Electric Playhouse and Nathan's Famous in Mount Kisco because Nathan's had food and a surprising array of arcade games! It wasn't your typical restaurant scene with 2 or 3 cabinets off in the corner by the restrooms.

This Nathan's was fairly small, but seemed to be experimenting/dabbling in the arcade-craze. They had a formidable arcade in the center of the restaurant! Between the walk-up counter and the seating area were about a dozen arcade cabinets and my recollection is they had a few pinball tables too. As a restaurant, it was brightly lit and inherently quieter than the Electric Playhouse, but they had awesome hot dogs and crinkle-fries.

Centuri's Vanguard released in Oct. 1981 (NA)

Centuri's Vanguard released in North America in Oct. 1981 It was at Nathan's Famous in Mt. Kisco, NY, with a giant hot dog in-hand, that I discovered Vanguard by Centuri! Vanguard was developed by TOSE who is better know for work on Nintendo's Game & Watch games of the early 80s. Vanguard was then published by SNK and released in Japan in 1981. That same year, Centuri licensed Vanguard for distribution in North America.

I loved space-battle games like Asteroids & Space Invaders and then moved onto Berzerk & Star Castle. These games primarily consisted of single screen environments. The battle became increasingly fast and difficult until they bordered on manic and imposible, but you had no sense of travel. I wanted to explore space!

Centuri's Vanguard released in North America in Oct. 1981 When Defender came out, suddenly the battle occurred in the atmosphere above your city. A radar screen showed where you were and which enemies where incoming. Side scrolling (although I didn't know the term at the time) added a new dimension to my lust for space battles. You can imagine my delight when I encountered Vanguard and began my journey through the first horizontal zone. I was suddenly able to shoot in 4 directions!

My eyes lit up when I came to the Rainbow Zone and was suddenly traveling on a diagonal making use of the 4 Ordinal points between the main compass points on the often under-utilized 8-way joystick. Next thing I knew, I was traveling vertically! Unaware of the mechanics behind this 4-way scrolling, I was engrossed by the experience it delivered! It was one of the first games to employ multi-directional scrolling.

As a side-scrolling shooter, Defender's monitor is horizontally mounted affording the most horizontal space. The first odd thing I noticed about Vanguard is the Vertical orientation that one expects of Galaga or Space Invaders. Then you see the multi-directional scrolls and the inherent difficulty it brings ....and then you see the genius.

In conclusion, the demolition pics of our "other" Nathan's and the fact that the Electric Playhouse is long gone, I guess I'll have to relish playing Vanguard via MAME and buying Nathan's Famous hot dogs at my local grocery store. I do have a Vanguard PCB in storage. One day, I'll see if I can wire it up and fire it up! :)
October 27, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

JS MESS: imagine every game console and computer that ever existed... running in your browser

JAVASCRIPT MESS project logo The ability to run every game console and computer in a web browser is a pretty big claim, but those familiar with the MESS application know of it's potential power. Imagine if MESS was freed from multiple versions each optimized for various platforms, (Linux, Mac, PC, etc) and was able to run in a standard cross-platform environment - the modern web browser.

The JAVASCRIPT MESS project is porting the MESS emulator, a program that emulates hundreds of machine types, into Javascript. The MESS program can emulate a majority of home computers, and continues to be improved frequently. By porting it to the standardized and cross-platform Javascript language, it will be possible to turn computer history and experience into an embeddable object as is currently possible with movie, document, and audio files.

You can also check out the JS MESS Wiki for more info. This is an amazing project that could benefit the retro community in so many ways!

JavAtari - Standalone 2600 Emulator

It's also worth mentioning a separate project, the Java-based JavAtari emulator for the Atari 2600. While much narrower in scope (only for 2600 emu), it differs from the standard emulators in the same way that JS MESS does. Most emulators are platform and OS specific meaning each revision has to be ported for a variety of computers and OS revs. By nature of being a Java app, JavAtari only relies on the Java version running on an end-user's computer. This makes it easier to update, maintain and expand.

Now I'm curious to know why JS MESS went the route of in-browser JS as opposed to JAVA. BTW- I'm not a programmer and am certainly not passing judgement on any programming decisions. I'm blown away by each of these projects and that piques my curiosity.
October 26, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Congo is an awesome movie with a Williams' pinball tie-in. Hippos, snakes & killer apes!

I still remember seeing Congo in the theater in 1995. I loved the idea of a lost city of incredible wealth laying in wait to be discovered while danger lurked at every turn. Great cast - great flick! I bought it on laser disc and later on DVD. Congo pinball created by Williams Electronics Games - 1995 As much as I loved that film, at the time I wasn't as cognizant of merchandising and product tie-ins. Suffice to say, I loved Congo, but never knew it had the marketing power to draw Williams Electronics Games to design a pinball machine around it.

I came across this leather-clad (NSFW) gal pic and after a few moments of admiration, I wanted to know which table she was playing!

I was aware of movie tie-ins with video games and their value/importance, but I've never been aware of this same phenomenon with pinball tables. Kiss has always been larger than life and, as a fan, I was aware of the Kiss pinball tables. Lately I'm seeing Metallica, Star Trek, The Avengers, AC/DC and a slew of others, from Stern Pinball, based on pop-culture IPs.

In the 80s when my friends and I descended on the Electric Playhouse and Nathans, we were prepped to drop quarters and rage on every cab they had. We all had our favorites, but I was the only one who'd save a few bucks for pinball. I certainly don't mean this in a charitable sense. Pinball always fascinated me but so few arcades - even back in the day - catered to pinball. The better arcades always had a few tables, but finding pinball in a small cluster of video game cabs was fairly rare. Congo pinball flyer from Williams Electronics Games

My fascination with pinball was the static nature of the game's playfield when compared with the continually changing view of many video games. I also loved the seemingly manual/mechanical nature of many tables - even though an astonishing amount of wiring and electronics abound under the playfield and backbox.

Part of the allure of pinball, for me, is the mix of electronics with the mechanical aspects like the launch of each ball and the path it follows to the flippers. It's a shame that operators can't give pinball the same floor space as video games. I often feel that some folks see it as yesterday's technology, not realizing what really goes on behind the scenes beneath the playfield.

Congo pinball shotmap Hopefully the high profile tables being developed by Stern Pinball and others will begin to change the perception of pinball. It has a long history and has really made amazing changes in order to grow and make use of new technologies. Tables today are not the same as those found just a decade ago. Advancements are being made and applied to Pinball.

"Congo! Damn, I love that flick!" I thought to myself. Then my memories of that film came rushing back and I was stranded between wanting to fire up my laser disc player and wondering if there's any way I could drop a quarter into a nearby Congo Pinball machine.

Some pics from: The Internet Pinball Database - cool site, check it out!
October 25, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

It's nice to come home from work just as a delivery man hands me a Wii Mini

My new Wii Mini arrived today When I saw the Wii Mini on the Canadian Best Buy site and realized that this was likely not to be a North American release, I wondered when we might be able to get our hands one. Last year we wrote an article about the Wii Mini wondering why it was appearing so close to the Wii U release and seemingly competing with the Family Edition Wii.

The Mini wasn't too far off in price, yet took a major hit with connectivity - no wifi or internet connection, no GameCube support and no SD slot. The main selling point for me was... "What a cute little console!"
October 24, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

If you mow half the lawn... Hover Bovver “Half Cut” Edition is getting ready to mow

Hover Bovver homebrew game box for Intellivision by Elektronite A while ago we wrote an article about Hover Bovver being developed for Intellivision, but it seemed as if those plans circled the drain to Septic City. Llamasoft had provided the rights to develop Hover Bovver for the Intellivision. A programmer was underway in bringing it to life, complete with Intellivoice support. Then communication broke down, words got out of hand and ultimately the printed box art was sold off (without the game) when the game was cancelled. Sounds like an interesting collector's item - especially now!

It seems that Elektronite in association with Classic Game Publishers, Inc. are forging ahead and starting over to re-develop Hover Bovver for the Mattel Intellivision! Thus, if you're one of the lucky few who purchased a Hover Bovver box out of nostalgia, you may well have a game cart to stuff into it. How often do those planets align? lol
October 24, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Nintendo 2DS will not go mean-green with a Luigi-themed handheld

Story Update 10/28/13:
Everything on the internet is true. You simply have to know how to navigate the truth. When we saw the Kotaku article we linked below, we were glad to have held off on a 2DS purchase in favor of snagging a mean-green Luigi special edition. That's not happening... for anyone!

The image below, along with others, initially released to a Facebook page, were fan made - including the box! A guy did a breakdown of the new 2DS and decided to do a mod. So, no one is claiming foul or hoax. This guy posted the photos and they got out. With the Japanese release of a Luigi 3DS XL, it wasn't a leap to assume the 2DS might get a similar treatment. But... no.

Here's a video interview wth the Luigi 2DS modder:

Our original post follows below:

Photos leaked to Kotaku suggest that Nintendo isn't treating the 2DS as the poor-man's handheld. Following the Japanese release of a Luigi-themed 3DS XL, they may be on the cusp of releasing a green 2DS with similar Luigi branding.

Nintendo 2DS with a Luigi theme
Plumber #2 is OK in our eyes, so we'd love to have this green beast dishing our favorite 3DS games. Red & blue were tempting, but I can hold out if it looks like green is around the corner. Green is badass and will almost certainly wind up with a TMNT sticker slapped on it.
October 23, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

I'd jump at a 3-way but Alyssa prefers her hockey on ice

Every time I go to an arcade, I search out their air hockey offerings first! I'm always on the lookout for a vintage arcade game tucked away in the corner, but I can't get in the mood until I see that puck glide along the table, ding off the rails and feel that heavy click as it meets my paddle. So, seeing a 3-player version of Air Hockey certainly got my attention.

I'm not sure 3-player air hockey is an official "thing" yet. It seems to be in it's infancy in terms of shape and size of the table. I love the idea, but the ones I've seen seem too small. Either the distance between players feels cramped or the area around each goal seems too small. Taking air hockey to the next level may involve an extra player, but it also has to go BIG!

Lindsey Stirling Lindsey Stirling was on the TV show America's Got Talent and she was one of the few contestants who had real tallent. She's fun to listen to, but amazing to see. She plays violin, but not in the standard manner. She's a blur of dance and motion and brings an insane energy to the instrument and her music. Check out Lindsey Stirling's YouTube channel. She's crazy cool!
3-player air hockey table As far as table-top games go, air hockey has always been my favorite. I went through a bumper-pool phase, but never liked Foosball. I once worked for a company that had an air hockey table in their break room. That was awesome! So, I was intrigued when I saw this 3-player air hockey table. Although I think it needs to be bigger.

Alyssa Milano & Bella Thorne Alyssa Milano and Bella Thorne at New York's Fashion Week. She's an avid sports fan, with a growing sports fashion company (Touch By Alyssa Milano), but she prefers her hockey on ice than a table. We think she should make more sex tapes.
Ibanez Iceman guitar The Ibanez Iceman guitar has always bee a favorite of mine. I've always loved the unique designs of the Gibson V and Dean ML guitars. I liked the Iceman for it's unique design and that it was used by Paul Stanley of Kiss for a long time. Greatest band in the world! :)

October 22, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Boogerman seeks a reboot for his 20th birthday to let “fun & gross” rule the game

If you had the privilege of playing Boogerman - A Pick and Flick Adventure on the Genesis or SNES, you may get the chance to relive it a a modern HD reboot! Toy Ghost LLC has a Boogerman Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to develop a brand new side-scrolling action platform game!

Boogerman for Sega Genesis and Nintendo SNES 20 years ago Mike Stragey and Chris Tremmel created Boogerman for the Sega Genesis while at Interplay. The only requirement was that the game needed to be both fun and gross. Targeting the Garbage Pail Kids generation, several concepts were pitched. Some were incredibly funny, some were incredibly offensive. From this primordial design ooze, Boogerman was born! The game took about one year to develop and was released on the Sega Genesis in November 1994 on the SNES the following year.

Boogerman- A Pick and Flick Adventure for Sega Genesis Back of the Boogerman game box
In an era where games are often unjustly defined as objectionable due to gore and/or violence, it's refreshing to find a downright disgusting game that will put a smile on your face for all the right reasons. When your controller's buttons are aligned with farting, burping and spitting... well, you get the idea. Just in case you don't, your character's butt is a jetpack!

From the Boogerman Kickstarter:
You are Snotty Ragsdale (aka Boogerman), an eccentric millionaire posing as a mild mannered Janitor working for the globally renowned scientist, Professor Stinkbaum. A catastrophic event will send you into Dimension X-Crement where you will have to use your mega-powered bodily functions to takedown the dreaded Booger Meister and his army of Nose Goblins.

You will pick, flick, run, jump, fly, gas, and swim your way through 6 unique worlds. Throughout the game, you will be aided by professor Stinkbaum with brand new gadgets such as the Snot Whip, and the Snot-so-Silent-Butt-Deadly Fart Copter!

Boogerman's Fart copter
This is one of those games that took the standards of the side-scrolling genre and applies a healthy dose of absurdity. Toy Ghost plans on releasing this rebooted version across several platforms from Mac and PC to Vita, PS4, Wii U and Xbone. Check out their Kickstarter page. They have several videos outlining various areas of the project. The Toy Ghost website has links to their social media sites.

This was a fun game back in the day and we think it will be even better as an HD reboot! Check it out!!

Boogerman to make a 20th anniversary return in 2014 via Kickstarter

October 21, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Gamers lose GameCube support as Nintendo's Wii is discontinued after 7 years

It has been announced that Wii production has stopped in Japan. This effectively ends the Wii's 7-year success story as the Wii U struggles to take over that role. Nintendo says Wii consoles will still be on North American shelves through the holiday season. We wonder if this means excess stock is simply being allowed to sell out through distribution rather than pulling it all to favor the Wii U. Despite the reason for the Wii's perseverance through Christmas, it should be noted that there are still a few games coming to the Wii platform. Even the recently released Skylanders Swap Force game was released for both Wii and Wii U.

Very few people understood the brilliance of Nintendo's Wii when it launched. Some of the ads in North America were rather creepy... Japanese businessmen would arrive at a girl's slumber party and announce they wanted to play. I wasn't sure what to make of it, but it was enough to convince me I did not need a Wii. Many of the initial ads also left gamers with the impression that the Wii was a kid's toy and not for core gamers.

Nintendo Wii is backwards compatible with GameCube games, controllers and memory cards As is always the case with Nintendo, consumers realized that many of their GameCube favorites were significantly improved on the Wii - not to mention backwards compatibility with GC. Then they realized the enormous potential of the Wiimote controller and it's cabled nunchuk. I'm sure consumers will soon see the virtues of the Wii U game pad and how it changes the dynamic of many games!

I bought a 2nd Wii last year as part of a Skylanders Giants bundle. It was a really good price (and bright blue), but I was pretty sure the GameCube compatibility was no longer present. Indeed the "Family Edition" Wii was the official end of GC support and was the only available Wii model as of October 2011. The orientation was changed to horizontal removing the need for the former stand. Even the lettering on the face fo the console was reoriented to a horizontal alignment.

I loved the GameCube, but hadn't really developed my collection until the arrival of the Wii. This also coincided with the advent of insanely inexpensive copies of used GameCube games. Obviously, the GC wasn't going to play DVDs, but i was surprised to discover that the Wii wouldn't either. I guess Sony and Microsoft had far more cost-effective access to DVD tech for their consoles. Interestingly, even the Wii U can't play an actual DVD. You can play movies via Netflix and other services, but putting a DVD into the console will not play the movie disc.

A nice facet of the Wii's GC compatibility was that it included all 4 controller ports and 2 memory card slots. Nintendo has always done a great job with backward compatibility. Nintendo Wii Family edition dropped the GameCube compatibility The smaller discs slid effortlessly into the Wii and played wonderfully. I never experienced any emulator oddities or problems. With the GC library at the Wii's disposal, it made upgrading much easier. This is similar to the Wii U's ability to play Wii games. Nintendo had an adapter for Game Boy for every console up to and including the Gamecube. That's pretty amazing for backwards compatibility. Of course the GC had no menas for playing it's predecessor the N64.

Nintendo Wii Mini had no GameCube compatibility or internet connectivity As with many game consoles that reach the end of their life cycle, the Wii was redesigned into a very scaled back package, called the Wii Mini. Available in Canada Dec 2012 and a few months later in Europe and the UK. North America was snubbed when it came to this release. Scaling farther back from the Family Edition Wii, the Mini lacked GameCube support as well as Internet connectivity, Wifi and SD slot. Short of putting a game disc in the slot, the Wii Mini was very no-frills.

I'm not marketing guru, but after the scaled back family edition came out in 2011, it seemed odd to scale it back even further with the newer Wii U on the horizon. For the price the Mini didn't really offer enough to warrant it's cost. There were some attractively priced bundles with the Family Edition, but the Mini seemed too lacking in features for it's price.

The worst part of these redesigns, is the removal of GameCube support. I loved being able to play GC games on my Wii and it really opened me up to so much more of the GC game library that I hadn't explored during it's era. As the Wii fades away (s it has been for 2 years) we lament the disappearance of hardware that will allow GameCube compatibility.

So the 3DS has already been scaled back to the 2DS - it must be time for you to pick up a Wii U. Remember... it's Wii compatible! :)
October 19, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Before Breaking Bad's Walter White, Bryan Cranston promoted Mega Force for Atari 2600

While writing a review of 20th Century Fox's Mega Force for the Atari 2600, I came across a lot of articles stating that actor Bryan Cranston had appeared in a commercial for the video game. Cranston reached epic fame in Breaking Bad - even more as the series finale loomed and AMC played a marathon of ALL 62 episodes in order!

Actor Bryan Cranston had appeared in a commercial for the video game, Mega Force

October 19, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Kate Spade wants you to side-load ROMs onto your Ouya with style & flair

Kate Spade branded USB flash drives You've probably heard of Kate Spade Handbags. She's the famous designer who has her name emblazoned on anything that will sell in the "trendy" category. And what's more trendy than using your Ouya video game console to play your favorite retro games? Sure, there are some great games exclusively for Ouya, but retro games belong on big TVs!

Kate Spade branded USB flash drives The Ouya is a great platform for playing ROMs, via emulator, on your TV. Playing ROMs on the computer isn't as much fun as on a large TV with a controller and a comfy sofa.

We're not sure if Spade is aware of her style influence on retro gaming living rooms, but we're certain she'd be stoked to be adding flair to nostalgic pizza parties centered around the best video games ever created!

You may feel a bit funny about side-loading ROMS onto you Ouya with such a stylish USB drive, but keep in mind, Kate Spade has some "funny" too. Her maiden name is Brosnahan - Spade comes from her husband, Andy Spade, who's brother is actor/comedian David Spade.
October 18, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Retro games are priced to market demand while modern game pricing seems like AAA trickery

A recent Twitter post asked why there are no pricing tiers for video games. Perhaps the AAA titles would be worthy of the $60 price tag while lesser known dev studios might be at a $50 price and unknown indies rest at $40, or less as a download. Sounds interesting. But this won't ever happen for the same reason I can't choose which TV channels I'll pay for. If I want HBO I also have to pay for a dozen channels broadcast in a language I don't speak. If I want the Sports Package, I have to pay for a dozen channels that I also don't want.

Such price differences on game tiers would send a message of inferiority toward any title that wasn't in the AAA category. Just as the exorbitant price for HBO covers the cost of other channels that would go ignored and become defunct. The bottom line is HBO couldn't charge enough to offset their costs without the value of other bundled channels.

Gaming is a bit different as there is no bundling, but the principal is similar in that the video game industry needs the little guys. However if the smaller indie devs are culled from the equation by lower prices that suggest inferiority, everyone loses. Of course this assumes there would be any agreement on which titles would be deemed "AAA". We've all downloaded an indie game that was light years ahead of a recent $60 title that was awful. Thus all "on the shelf" games will always be $60 until the price rises again!

AAA games

$60 is expensive, but the price will climb further

I've scoffed at the standard $60 price tag on new games for quite a long time. Prior to that I thought $50 was expensive. Just wait until new games are taken to the $70 level. It turns me off to buying new games! When a new title piques my interest, my first thought is to remember that title for later when I'm rummaging the bargin-bin in 2 months. I buy used games almost exclusively.

Some folks will say my buying habits are bad for the gaming industry. I say the gaming industry's model is destined to break. With next gen consoles soon hitting the market at $300 to $400, all the R&D that goes into learning to code for the new consoles has to be recouped. What better way to offset those costs than releasing a next gen crop of games at $70 each?

I have no desire to buy any of these new consoles on launch day. In fact I've owned my PS3 for barely 2 years. I must admit I'm very tempted by the Nintendo 2DS. For the price of two PS3 games, I can own a slick piece of Nintendo hardware. I can assure you, I'd rather buy a 2DS than two new games. Think about it. Buying 7 games at $60 each equals about $400. Putting this in perspective. If you have 7 games that you regret buying at the $60 price, that equals the price of a $400 game console!

While on the topic of Nintendo, the number of new games I've purchased at full price, I estimate 90% of them have been Nintendo exclusive titles. Interestingly, Nintendo recently lashed out at those complaining about value-erosion due to the used game market. Nintendo said the best defense against this erosion is the creation of better games! Create games that have replay value and don't get beaten in a week and returned for credit towards the next one-hit-wonder!

Retro Game Pricing is Market-Based

Retro games fit the used games category by nature of their age. Their value is mainly based on age and quantity which leads to rarity. Some games were released in limited quantity and are valuable whereas others garner more value by their rarity due to age. Price based on market demand is very common for used goods that are often sold via informal means like yard sales and auctions. However, GameStop keeps the used game market as part of their brick & mortar strategy. You won't find any Atari product at GameStop and the oldest Nintendo titles are likely Wii releases.

The quality of gameplay doesn't always figure in when determining the rarity of a game. There are factors that are easier to quantify and validate like age and quantity. This leads to more honest pricing. Sure you can find an Asteroids cart for the Atari 2600 selling for $200, but scams exist everywhere. Nothing new there. I just find there to be more validation in retro game pricing than finding every single new game on retail shelves selling for $60!!

October 17, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Namco's Galaxian 3 arcade game was a walk-in Theater 6 System for up to six players

I've played a lot of upright, cocktail, sit-in and cockpit arcade games, but I'd never even heard of a walk-in arcade game! Namco's Galaxian 3 was a theater-style arcade game for up to 6 players.

Galaxian 3 arcade flyer Galaxian 3 Flyer: 1 • 2 • 3 • 4
I'm a huge fan of Galaga, but despite it being a Namco creation, I've never really considered Galaga a sequel to Galaxian (a personal oddity of mine) as others have. I liked Galaxian, but I adore Galaga. While digging around on the web I came across Galaxian 3 for the PlayStation. 3?!? I didn't know there was a 2!!

I wondered why I'd never seen it. The original PlayStation was the first console I owned that had a significant number of arcade releases on compilation discs from Williams, Midway and Namco. It seems this was a 1996 Japanese release and was never released in North America.

My next thought was that I never heard of Galaxian 2 either. If there's a "3", it stands to reason that there must have been some sort of interim device. Indeed there was and Galaxian 2 was an electronic single-game handheld (popular in the late 70's and early 80s) released in the US by Entex Industries (1981).

Entex produced LCD, LED and VFD-based electronic games, some based on arcade games as was the case with Galaxian 2. To remain competitive they created two cartridge-based tabletop electronic games in 1981, called Select-A-Game and Adventure Vision. The popularity of home video game consoles was the demise of Entex who folded in the early 80s.

Galaxian 3: The World's Largest Video Game

Galaxian 3 arcade game Next I came to the origin of that PlayStation game. Galaxian 3 was originally an arcade game made by Namco in 1994 and sometimes called Galaxian 3: Project Dragoon. But it's far different from most arcade game you encounter - in every way.

Remember how the multi-game NeoGeo MVS cabs allowed 6 games in one cabinet? As arcades faded from glory, floor space was at a premium the same way "shelf space" is to retailers. All the cabinets in an operator's arcade had to pay the company bills. Imagine if one arcade game took up 16 square feet! You could probably fit 16 upright cabinets, in a back-to-back row, in that space!

Galaxian 3 was huge! It seated up to 6 players who all faced multiple projection screens. Namco was aware of the massive floor space requirement and high cost ($150,000). To make it more attractive, they rolled it out, in 1994, as their Theater 6 system that could host a variety of different games. One such game was "Attack of the Zolgear" which ran on the Theater 6 system.

Theater 6 got it's start earlier in 1990 as a theme park attraction. In that format it was even larger and could handle 28 people simultaneously, in a hydraulic gaming arena, who were positioned in a circle. So, I suppose arcade operators with $150K to spend would be delighted to purchase the smaller footprint of the Theater 6 design.

Inside the Galaxian 3 arcade game Unlike Galaxian, where you control your ship's movement and firing, Galaxian 3 teamed up 6 people to shoot at a variety of enemies. Your ship navigated on it's own. Up to six players were all teamed up on the same game and mission. Each gamer has the same controller that enabled a unique on-screen site with which they could target and fire upon enemies.

In addition to the multiple screen, used to simulate one continuous play area, Namco's System 21 hardware ran the actual game, while dual LaserDisc players provided background imagery. This is somewhat similar to the Dragon's Lair arcade game that also used LaserDis to provide backgrounds while the processor controlled other aspects of game play, like moving sprites around the screen.

The laserDisc players had the ability to provide far more realistic backgrounds than anything working off the typical arcade hardware. LaserDiscs were the home movie predecessor to DVD, so this format was more than capable of delivering high quality video. This left the power of the arcade hardware to tackle game play elements. Thus player controlled elements could be laid on top of the FMV backgrounds. Even animated explosions could be handled beautifully by laserdiscs.

It sounds a bit hokey, but if you watch a game play video, it looks like a lot of fun!

October 16, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Princess Robin can't keep calm about pizza cups. Consequently, her sombrero fell off.

Construction road sign- Sorry Mario the princess is in another castle Construction road sign- Sorry Mario the princess is in another castle. I'm not sure I need this much humor at 60 MPH, but I love that people still have a sense of humor.
Female Robin cosplayer laying on the hood of the Batmobile Female Robin cosplayer laying on the hood of the Batmobile. I love the quirky humor of this photo. So much more clever than the typical Super Hero poses.

Hostess - Keep Calm and Ding Dong Hostess - Keep Calm and Ding Dong!

The return of the Hostess brand is nothing short of miraculous and glorious. Childhood snacking wouldn't have been the same without Twinkies, Ho Hos and Ding Dongs. Long live Hostess for future generations of kids!
Pizza cups Pizza cups are an idea that makes me smile and yell, "Hell yeah!"

ROTFLSHMSFOAIDMT - Rolling on the floor laughing so hard my sombrero fell off and I dropped my taco
ROTFLSHMSFOAIDMT = Rolling on the floor laughing so hard my sombrero fell off and I dropped my taco

Now, THAT is funny!
October 16, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

The Nintendo 2DS' single screen adds techie intrigue to this new handheld console

We were inspired by interesting 2DS photos from Rose Colored Gaming and a brief from Polygon about the Nintendo 2DS' single screen being used to simulate the dual screen scenario found in the prior DS lineup.

The jump in design from the initially flat Game Boy Advance (2001) to it's latter clamshell design carried over to the dual-screen DS (2004) was another risk that paid off for Nintendo. When you look at Nintendo's history, you'll see that they are far more innovative than competitors and those risks often pay off well. The folding clamshell design of the DS provided built-in protection for the 2 screens while making the overall footprint smaller.

The Nintendo 2DS has a single screen design that functions as two The original DS' interactive touchscreen also added a new level of gameplay as players learned new ways to interact with their favorite game franchises and explore new ones. The 2DS was instantly ridiculed as a step backwards - even though it still plays 3DS and DS games at a much lower cost. Many detractors simply couldn't get over the redesigned model being flat and "one being less than three".

At the same time, when announced by Nintendo, the 2DS was positioned as a "Kids" version of the 3DS and that it would retain the same game compatibility and dual screen scenario of the 3DS.

The Nintendo 2DS has a single screen design that functions as two I assumed that there would be 2 screens, but the single screen design probably aids in keeping the cost down which is probably the best feature since this will likely open up the 3DS & DS game libraries to many more players. The 2D top screen probably helped keep the price down by reducing manufacturing costs when compared with the 3D display in the 3DS. A standard LCD require only half the resolution and pixel density of a 3D screen and doesn't require any of the special manufacturing processes or parallax barrier grating found in the current 3DS.

Some consumers who take the 2DS plunge are likely not the same demographic as existing owners and may even expose the Nintendo brand and experience to a whole new audience. Maybe some of these new folks will also gravitate toward the Wii U - whose recent price-drop gave a boost to sales figures.

2DS Reactions to the Single Screen Discovery

Interestingly, some reactions to the single screen have spurred questions as to why Nintendo didn't make a tablet since the size of the 2DS screen seems close to tablet-size. With the uncertainty of Wii U and the success of the 3DS, it seems logical to expand the market for the growing 3DS game library rather than travel down a road full of varied products and competitors in the tablet market. Does Nintendo really need to compete with the Kindle?!? Speaking of the Wii U... for those desiring a Nintendo tablet, it's called the GamePad and it comes with the Wii U.

Inner Geek

I'm neither a programmer nor engineer, so I was interested in this single screen discovery from a compatibility standpoint. Given the 3DS and DS compatibility of this new handheld, I was surprised to discover that the ability to display games on either 1 or 2 screens (2DS - vs - 3DS) seems independent of the games themselves. This function must be part of the hardware. I wouldn't have guessed that... which is likely why I'm not an engineer ;)
October 15, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

The original trailer for Star Wars on YouTube

Long before marketing gurus got their hands on the movie industry, the idea of a trailer was pretty open ended and you never know what might appear. Here's the original trailer for Star Wars...

October 14, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Flying Martin's jetpack to Cameron's house is no game, so don't cry over spilt milk

The Martin Jetpack The Martin Jetpack is the result of inspiration and many years of development work by Glenn Martin and an enthusiastic team of engineers and other experts. It uses sophisticated composites and a highly efficient propulsion system to achieve the goal of personal flight, with many safety features including a ballistic parachute. It was originally designed with the leisure market in mind.
Cameron's house from the movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off This famous house in Highland Park, IL was first offered for sale in 2009, and again in 2011. The home has dropped from $2.3 million to $1.65 million, and now, to $1.5 million.

The Chicago-area home, which was Ferris Bueller's friend Cameron Frye's house in the movie, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, has 4 bedrooms, glass walls, and was built by notable architect A. James Speyer in 1953. The detached garage, an add-on built in the 1970s, is also where Cameron sent his dad's 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder plummeting to its death into the ravine behind it.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off board game With the popularity of Ferris Bueller's Day Off, it's hard to imagine how it was never turned into a video game. Movie tie-ins had certainly gained a foothold by the time this movie debuted in 1986.

Alas, this board game seems to be the closest thing although Sigue Sigue Sputnik's pop song, Love Missile F1-11, was featured in the movie and later in the video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Does that count?
Jaroslav Wieczorkiewicz of AurumLight's Milky Pin Ups Jaroslav Wieczorkiewicz, of AurumLight, created Milky Pin Ups are created through a really interesting process. Check out how they create these photos where the models are actually covered in milk.

October 13, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Skylanders Swap Force release day displays at my local Toys R Us

Skylanders Swap Force for Wii Today is the release day for the latest Skylanders' game - Swap Force! With the Skylanders franchise coming into it's third game release, you know everyone is expecting a homerun from Activision. Like last year's Skylanders Giants release, my local Toys R Us had the Swap Force games, figures and accessories highlighted right inside the main entrance.

Unlike Skylanders Giants, the Swapforce game requires buying a full starter pack that includes the game, 3 figures and a new portal. The portal from the original Spyro version worked with the Giants, but there is a new RFID being used in Swap Force requiring a new portal. The good news is it will allow you to play the Swap Force game with all of your prior figures.

On the shelves, you'll find 2 kinds of Swap Force figures which is similar to the Giants series of figures. Today, I found 4 distinctly different Swap Force figures that have the ability to be separated into 2 pieces and swapped. There were a Lightcore and Legendary variants, but 4 distinctly named figures. The remaining figures come as singles and 3-packs. There are quite a few characters that are branded as Swap Force, but do not have interchangeable tops & bottoms.

You can easily identify the swappable figures by the rotating disc rotating disc 2 in the upper left corner of the packaging. Spinning the disc shows a few name & body combos to further explain the "swapping" ability of these figures.

Skylanders Swap Force release day display at Toys R Us Inside the main entrance, Toys R Us had a big Skylanders Swap Force display. The overhead art showed how the figures can swap tops and bottoms to diversify each character's abilities.
Skylanders Swap Force release day display at Toys R Us The Skylanders Swap Force display also included an array of Giants figures to demonstrate the backward compatibility despite requiring a new portal.

Skylanders Swap Force release day demo portal at Toys R Us The Demo portal is pretty interesting. It lets you place 2 figures simultaneously and will cycle through a montage of the "swap options" of both figures! The new portal is required for the Swap Force game, but all your previous figures are compatible with it. The swap feature of the new game requires a different kind of RFID than previous games. This is why you'll need a new starter pack as opposed to the Portal Owners pack from the Giants release.

This new in-store display also includes actual figures that will let you touch & feel the swap process on the actual figures as well as see it on the video screen.
Skylanders Swap Force release day  3-packs at Toys R Us The Skylanders Swap Force 3-packs available on release day.

The original and Swap Force Portals are identical in diameter, but they are different in height. My original (Spyro) portal was wireless and powered by 3AA batteries. I imagine this accounts for the difference in height.

Skylanders portal height comparison
The only downside to Swap Force is I bought it for my son as a Christmas present and I can't open it! I'm dying to dig in and check out the combo possibilities!
October 12, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Aren't all sit-in / cockpit arcade games required to have a steering wheel or machine-gun?

Pole Position was one of the first upright arcade games I encountered that had a steering wheel, gear shift and gas pedal. Having become very accustomed to joysticks, the occasional trackball and a few buttons - all this reality-hardware was pretty exciting! Back in the 80s this added a new level or realism to the arcade game experience.

cockpit format of Pole Position You can imagine my surprise upon encountering the cockpit format of Pole Position that had to be shipped in 2 pieces and assembled on-site. For me, this was an immersive experience! For the duration of that quarter, I was in a race car and the reality was astonishing... at the time.

For the most part I was only aware of upright and cocktail table arcade game formats. The arcades, short on floor space, stuck with the uprights, whereas many of our local restaurants had a cocktail table game off in the corner. My favorite pizza joint had a cocktail Tempest on which my buddy and I would rest a slice and a Coke while we battled it's vector awesomeness!

BTW - the oddly offset monitor in the cocktail version of Tempest made it perfect for using it as a dining table! :) Tempest was also one of the few games with a selectable difficulty level and was very rare in cocktail format.

Ice's Monopoly arcade game Sit-in or cockpit style games began to appear more often and their allure was great. They didn't give much "over the shoulder" viewing, but once YOU were inside - an amazing experience awaited. Car racing and starship cockpits gave way to motorcycles and snowboards as high-reality arcade controls. More realistic weapons began appearing too which were a bit more fun than an 8-way joystick and fire button ;)

Monopoly was my family's Summer game. We didn't care that it took hours to play - we loved coming together around it's familiarity. These days my son and I can spend up to a week playing Monopoly when it suits us.

I was very surprised to discover ICE released Monopoly as a sit-in arcade game! I was skeptical of Monopoly on the Wii - but a sit-in? How does that work? Ice also makes Super Chexx bubble hockey and with the bubble model in mind they also made an arcade sized version of Hungry Hungry Hippos! So, Ice is no stranger to offbeat arcade designs, but I want to find a sit-in Monopoly arcade game.

We all employ a few rule-benders to shorten the board game, but how does this work as an arcade game? A few new Monopoly board game variants have shown up on retail shelves touting shorter play times. I wonder what shortcuts have been added to the arcade Monopoly to cut down its time while still delivering a token-worthy experience. I doubt arcade operators can turn a profit if two people sat there for 3 hours. I hope to find one of these games and see what it's all about. I'm sure I'd rather play Defender, but I'm curious about this one.

As a fan of the Monopoly board game and a larger fan of arcades, I still stipulate that all sit-in style arcade games must have a steering wheel or machine-gun! Take that, Rich Uncle Pennybags!

October 12, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

It's 2DS Saturday! Forget 3D and save some money with Nintendo's latest handheld game console

Implementing 3D without those crazy ill-fitting glasses was pretty slick, but wasn't quite enough of a lure for us. With a robust lineup of games and DS compatibility, we're pretty stoked about the 2DS - launching today! Nintendo's 2DS - multiple views Abandoning the 3D element and clamshell design, many have likened it to the original GameBoy. That's cool - it was the grand beginning into handheld gaming. Nintendo officially unveiled the 2DS on August 28, 2013 via a press release which seems like very short notice with E3 taking place just a few months earlier.

Nintendo's 2DS - perfect for Christmas stockings I wasn't too impressed with the 3D tech in the 3DS. It was slick, but I didn't think it was ready for a commercial product. In my experience - if the 3DS wasn't held still at a specific angle, the 3D got a little whacky and hard on the eyes. The former clam-shell design was handy for protecting the screens, but many have long complained that long sessions with such a unit resulted in hand cramps. For someone with larger hands, there wasn't enough to grip and use the controls. I've had similar issues with my DS Lite.

The 2DS has only one speaker , where the 3DS had 2 stereo speakers, but the 2DS headphone output delivers true stereo which should satisfy most gamers. It's very different looking, but we like the form-factor and are excited about it's ability to attract a much wider audience to the 3DS and DS game libraries!

Definitely worth checking out and it's priced to be worthy of Christmas stockings hung on mantle's around the globe... well, not in Japan. No 2DS is planned for release in Japan.
October 11, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Rantmedia is Kickstarting ColecoVision for iOS w/ a licensed set of original games

I loved playing arcade ports on my Atari 2600 as a kid, but there is no denying that the Colecovision was far superior in replicating my favorite arcade games in the 8-bit era. Rantmedia is Kickstarting ColecoVision for iOS The folks at Rantmedia Games are seeking funding to revive the ColecoVision console via Kickstarter. Unlike your typical emulator, this project is licensing branding and games to offer a street-legal romp through some Coleco favorites from days gone by.

You may recall that Rantmedia brought Vectrex Regeneration to iOS last year. One of the nice facets, beyond the game play, is the attention given to creating an experience around the Vectrex. It wasn't simply an emulator running on your iPhone, it also featured an engaging interface to deliver both info about the Vectrex and it's games. It was rumored to be coming out for Android, but that version has yet to appear.

The ColecoVision project lists Android as a stretch goal and there is mention of Mac, PC and Vita. It's safe to say that Apple folks will be taken care of, but it remains to be seen if an Android version comes to market.

I loved the idea of Vectrex Regeneration and I love this ColecoVision project... but I'm not going to back a project that isn't slated to run on my Android phone from the beginning. The Android market is growing steadily, so I hope the Apple contingent will be enough to support this project so that Android owners will be tempted to add support too.

Check out Rantmedia's ColecoVision project on their website and Kickstarter. If you dig it back it. More importantly... if you back it, help promote it. Most cool projects like this one come to my attention via social networking. If you want ColecoVision on your iPhone, hop on your social media sites and tell everyone! :)
October 11, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Craving a retro gaming mag w/ the excitement of pre-internet mags? Check out Retro Magazine

Instant access to anything and everything is pretty handy, but I still have fond memories of the pre-internet era when friends would hang out together, go to arcades together and wait an eternity for the latest gaming mag to hit newsstands. Retro magazine is gong strong on Kickstarter and looks to be bringing back the fun & excitement of the gaming mags I loved back in the day!

Upcoming retro gaming magazine - Retro As a kid I subscribed to every newsletter I could find. Activision, Imagic and Atari newsletters filled my parent's mailbox. When I discovered Nintendo Power I was blown away with the info and the vibe of excitement that popped off every page. These publications seemed as if they were made for me. I digested every word with wonderment.

Next Generation was the next mag to engage me. The ones I'd become accustomed to were all about the world I knew from My 2600 and NES. Next Gen featured wider coverage about systems and games. It really opened me up to more of the video game industry. Despite the Jaguar's fading, it was so awesome to read through a video game mag with Atari coverage.

Retro magazine seems uniquely geared toward retro gamers with that same flair that made mags from the 80s & 90s so much fun to read. They have a stellar crew of writers and contributors. I met Leonard Herman many years ago at a NJ game store meet-up where he was showing copies of Phoenix - great guy, great book! Patrick Scott Patterson is making great strides in the gaming community and is a great voice of rationale. The roster is a who's who of gaming journalism in a variety of formats. It's talent like this that makes me really excited about this magazine!

Check out the Retro magazine Kickstarter campaign and consider backing it if you like what you see. They're off to a great start and we hope this project gets funded. The world needs a dose of retro in he form of a great print mag (with a digital counterpart)!
October 9, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Is the Oton an AI masterpiece or the SaladShooter of game development scams?

FYI - The Oton-X game console rears it's head under a company name Engeniux every few years. Various failed crowd funding campaigns have occurred and no one I can find has ever seen one. I file this project under "Fantasy" as a kinder term than "scam". If the Oton-X's premise excites you, do your research! this is not likely to ever come to fruition and it seems heavily based on conjecture and wishful thinking.

Putting pixels in your Presto SaladShooter = Streets of Rage For your enjoyment...

If I had to choose between a juicer or a SaladShooter, I'd have to go with the SaladShooter. I don't care for fresh juice or salads, but Presto locked in the cooler name. Who wants to drink a cucumber when you can shoot it?

Ostensibly, both products share a similar concept - dump stuff into the top and something derivative comes out the bottom. Being a beverage or a side dish simply depends on which button you accidentally leaned on while watching QVC on your Smart-TV.

What if Presto went pixels instead of lettuce? What if that As-Seen-On-TV miracle could spew out a video game? No, really. Just as you control which veggies you put into your SaladShooter, what if you had similar control over game elements?

Derrick Samuels may have just what you've been looking for, but he's doing it without violating any Presto patents. No stranger to hardware development, his company began by making the EVO Smart Console in November 2008. Running linux as a multi-use game console it also did a variety of media tasks. Interestingly, it ha a wide variety of ports including DVI, HDMI, SD card, 2 USB2, 2 Ethernet as well as DVD support. It was released in very limited quantities - far fewer than needed to attract game developers. Interviews suggest that the EVO Smart Console may not have been intended for public domain, but as a stepping stone toward something bigger.

The EVO Smart Console was to be followed up by the EVO 2 in 2012 (initially called the GameBox) which added Android gaming to the mix. Alas, Julie Uhrman and her Ouya crew amassed millions on Kickstarter eclipsing the EVO 2 and it's Android fanfare. Samuels stepped up his game and went to work on his next project the Oton. The EVO 2 was cancelled.

What Makes the Oton Unique

I've been seeing online mention of the Oton gaming console in various forms for a while and decided it was time to find out what it is... and if it will be released to the public.

Oton Console mockup Oton Console pic 2 EnGeniux was formed as the company to build the Oton... post EVO 2. Oton is an abbreviated variant of "autonomous". The gist of the Oton is it's ability to generate games on it's own - autonomously - without human interaction. Going back to our SaladShooter metaphor, the Oton combs a database of game elements from backgrounds & sprites to physics & goals then creates games on the fly. This would enable endless unique gaming experiences.

I'm fascinated by this idea from a technical standpoint. We've seen that grand masters don't stand a chance against chess computers and IBM's Watson can rule the roost at Jeopardy. Can a series of gaming elements be assembled on the fly to create an endless array of compelling possibilities? Technically speaking it must be possible, but is it possible to do this in a hardware format (as a game console) at a reasonable price point?

Nintendo, Sony & Microsoft have established a $300-$400 expectation for 8th gen game consoles. For that price you get a piece of hardware that aims to do more than just play games and the games they play range from downloadable indie titles to blockbuster games from the industry's most successful game developers. That's a hefty price tag, but you get a slew of games that are proven winners. Can an unknown company carve out a niche with games that are randomly assembled? Even the Android-based Ouya had a few renown publishers on it's roster. That won't be possible for Oton without some fairly complex licensing agreements with the Big Boys.

Crowd Funding the Oton

Kickstarter is the darling of crowd-funding and upped their cred by insisting hardware be shown in "present state" as opposed to all those bar-napkin sketches that amounted to a lot of fund raising and no end result. Not being that far along, EnGeniux went the way of Indiegogo to obtain crowd-funding.

They raised $1,099 of their $750,000 Goal. I won't bother doing the math, but that's not a very good ratio. Their intro video struck us as being more about wow-factor than reality. They mentioned a hardware option that contains a built-in projector enabling the console to project onto any flat surface - no TV needed. They freely admit, in the Risks & Challenges section, that "The biggest challenge with OTON X was producing its next generation software and a functional prototype." Not having a functional prototype may explain the dismal outcome of the crowd-funding campaign. It's anomalies like this that caused many online forum speculations that the Oton was perhaps a joke or a scam. The folks at Polygon critical and skeptical of the Oton as early as January 2013.

Can Meaningful Games be "Assembled"?

We think the "Are video games art?" question has been answered, but now we have to raise the question of can art be created by robots or algorithms? Sure it can! We've seen both music and visual art created out of similar algorithms and rules. But very often the motivation behind such projects boils down to - because we can.

When you look at the motives and skills of an artist, the argument changes a bit. Artists create art, but you don't have to be an artist to create art. Therein lies our sticking point. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so art can be many different things. In gaming, I feel the human element that creates a game adds elements that make us care. Whether playing a seemingly simple 8-bit game or an epic modern game, our ability to bond with characters and care about outcomes begins to separate good games from mediocre ones.

Oton Console mockup It was imperative to nail that Last descending Space Invader just as protecting the last remaining city made Missile Command tense, engaging and important. Modern games like The Last of Us draw us in and we care for and fight for our characters and their companions. Despite being pixels on the screen we bond with these characters. I think that the human element of crafting characters and their stories has a great deal to do with our interest in these games.

It is hard to believe that an algorithm assembling various elements, on the fly, would be able to make a compelling game that would have lasting value. Even with the promise of more gaming assets being added into the Oton over time, it seems as though such randomness defeats the premise under which so many of us love playing console video games. We bond with the characters and play as them and alongside them!

The Oton is a very compelling idea, yet there are too many unknowns about this console which is partly due to it's large scope. I'm curious to see where this goes and who follows along. You'll find more Oton info on their Website which will link you to their social media. Should be an interesting ride!
October 8, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

The statistical imbalance of buying Disney Infinity Power Discs

Disney Infinity Power Disc packaging When Disney Infinity launched my son and I raced to the video game section of Toys R Us with a shopping cart and a strong desire to own it all! Part of the allure were the mysterious Power Discs. Wrapped much like trading cards in foil packaging, Power Discs are anonymous on the shelves in terms of their contents.

Each package contains 2 Discs but the consumer doesn't know which ones are in the packaging. You can feel them to see if there are rounded corners or pointed corners indicating round or hexagonal Discs. You can also rub a fingernail against the front & back of the package to see if you get the high-pitched sound from the textured rare Discs. The round ones give you power-ups in both Play Sets and the Toybox. The hexagonal Discs are used exclusively in the Toybox and unlock gadgets, vehicles, and themes.

Disney Infinity Power Disc packaging Irritation first set in when we bought 4 Power Disc packs (8 Discs total) and wound up with 3 duplicates! We bought 2 more packs and wound up with 2 more sets of duplicates. Fortunately, the packs we bought at launch were BOGO (buy 1, get 1 free), but ordinarily these packs are $5 per pack. That's a lot of money for an unknown! But the worst part is in the statistical analysis.

Statistical Look at Disney Infinity Power Disc Purchases

No, there will be no actual statistical analysis here :)
We began buying Power Discs with no knowledge of how they worked or how many were available for purchase. That was a big mistake! The Disney Infinity website shows all the available Power Discs and also reveals the ratio of round to hexagonal Discs. Out of 20 Power Discs in series 1, only 4 are round power-up Discs. The remaining 16 are hexagonal (3 of which are mystery Discs).

Disney Infinity Power Disc packaging My experience has been packages contain either 2 round Discs or 1 round and 1 hexagonal Disc. This means that you will inevitably get a lot of round duplicates as you try to fill your hexagonal collection. I've heard that the Toys R Us exclusive packs (gold tinted packaging) all contain a rare Disc. The statistics rely on 2 data sets - one we know, the other we do not.

Firstly, we know the ratio of round to hexagonal (4 round to 1 hex). Thus when we buy a round/hexagonal pack, we are far more likely to get duplicates of the round discs. What we do not know is the quantities in production - how rare some of these Discs may be. I'm sure they are not all manufactured or distributed in equal units. Despite all the round duplicates we got, we did not find all the hexagonal discs while some hex Discs were duplicates as well.

The Expense of Blind Purchasing

My complaint about Power Discs is they are too expensive for a blind purchase, especially when each $5 purchase will most likely result in duplicates. Without squeezing/feeling the packaging to see if hexagonal Discs are enclosed, one is statistically likely to be paying for a lot of round Disc duplicates. I understand the mystery and fun behind buying these Discs blind, but Disney needs to even the odds against buying duplicates. Kids want more - parents pay the bill - kids & parents are frustrated with duplicates. This really isn't a good customer experience. Similar "upgrades" in the various Skylanders games are free and based on in-game play.
October 8, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Tommo responds to NeoGeo X license termination by SNK Playmore: Wait What!?!

"You're a jerk!"                     "No, you're a jerk!"
Disney Infinity Power Disc packaging
The first rule of playground law is when some kid calls you a jerk, you must immediately call them a jerk. This levels the field and should a fist-fight ensue, at least everyone in earshot is aware that a couple of jerks are having an argument.

Such is the case with the Tommo -vs- SNK Playmore scuffle. SNK claims a breach of contract by Tommo. And Tommo denies it.

As far as we've seen this has all transpired via online press releases. We have not heard about any Cease and Desist orders or anything resembling legalese. Are attorneys involved? Have papers been filed? As far as we've seen this is nothing but posturing.

Either these two parties will settle their differences or file papers and go the legal route. Until then, it's still anyone's guess as to what this means and how it may effect the NeoGeo X console, games and accessories. Oddly, earlier this year both parties extended their agreement into 2016. For the time being, product seems to still be available online and on shelves. We hope this continues!!

BTW - the linked "Jerks" above will take you to the current Press Releases from SNK and Tommo.

Oh yeah, should you wish to purchase a NeoGeo X... I'd do it sooner rather than later ;)
October 7, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Rovio's Angry Birds has gone from mobile games to theme parks

Angry Birds Theme Park I've played Angry Birds on my phone. I even downloaded some of the variants from Angry Birds Seasons to Bad Piggies. I'll admit the games range from fun to clever, even though I'm not a huge fan of mobile gaming. I was very surprised to see a post on Kotaku about the opening of an Angry Birds Theme Parks!

The Kotaku article talked about a new Angry Birds Theme Park that opened on October 1st in China, but there is one in Finland too (manufacturer, Rovio Entertainment is a Finnish game developer). Naturally, I haven't visited on of these parks, but the photos and videos I've seen make them look like hybrids between a really cool jungle-Gym and a carnival. They seem to have a lot of climbing and slides, for kids to explore and some smaller rides that look like the smaller ones you find at traveling carnivals. I didn't see any evidence that Six Flags has anything to worry about.

Apparently these parks are part mechanical rides, part climbing structures and part electronic gaming - Angry Bird gaming, that is. I'd be curious to know more about the gaming side of these parks. How do these games differ from the mobile ones downloaded for free? There must be some sort of spectacular hook to them, since most visitors have likely already experienced the gaming side of things.

Cultural Phenomenon of Angry Birds

When the lottery hits $700 million and one person wins, you can always say, someone has to win, but for the average person, the odds are staggeringly NOT in your favor. The odds of a game involving birds being launched at pigs doesn't initially register as the sort of experience that substantiates multi-million dollar marketing campaigns for everything from lunch boxes and bed sheets to gummy candy and board games (and hundreds of other products). Angry birds has achieved this.

What strikes me is that the various creatures, in the Angry Birds universe, don't talk or communicate, thus I find it hard to warm up to them. If I were to guess, Raving Rabbids or Despicable Me's Minions have a better shot at this sort of stardom, simply because their interactions tell us more about them. I do like the Angry Birds concept, but they seem very inanimate compared to other gaming and pop-culture creatures.

But the masses have spoken and Angry Birds is a pop culture Phenomenon generating money far outside the gaming world in which they began... as a FREE game. I think price is what best helped this franchise invade the phones and homes of millions. So many developers balk at free games, but it worked well for Rovio. I guess it goes back to our lottery analogy. Not every free game is going to take the world by storm, but the one that does has an incredible ride ahead of them...

Angry Birds fishing lure Yep, this fishing lure is a real product...
October 5, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

We bought Jack Skellington & got a free poster at GameStop's Disney Infinity Day

The free Limited edition poster is really cool and a nice collector's item. It's definitely worth going to GameStop for the early Jack Skellington release.

GameStop's Disney Infinity Day with Jack Skellington from NBX You know you're early when you arrive at the mall and a stream of senior citizens are teetering out the main entrance. I seldom rise early enough to witness this exercise phenomenon, but many seniors walk around malls prior to the stores opening. I smiled nicely at them as I entered the mall wondering if there would be a line at GameStop.

Whenever I hear about a "Limited Edition" item, I always assume droves of people will swarm to be a part of the action. So, I always show up early based on a nonsensical formula in my head of how many people I think will be there. This form of math is wildly inaccurate, but I still rely heavily on it. I was one of a dozen customers inside the mall and the ONLY idiot waiting outside GameStop.

None the less, I got the Jack Skellington figure for Disney Infinity and a really cool poster of Jack riding Mr. Incredible's hover board! It's 2' x 3' and printed on nice heavy paper.

The security gate was down when we arrived at GameStop The security gate was down when we arrived Saturday morning to buy the Disney Infinity Jack Skellington figure and snag the limited edition NBX poster.
Limited Edition poster for the release of Jack Skellington for Disney Infinity Here's a shot of the poster with a few figures mixed in. It's 2' x 3' and printed on heavy paper making this limited edition poster a very nice collector's item.

October 5, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Terry Bogard is the NeoGeo X Brawl Champ, but SNK still terminated Tommo's licensing agreement

Recently, I'd been following the NeoGe X All Star Brawl in which Tommo was running an online competition letting fans vote for their favorite SNK fighting characters in a bracket system. It was progressing along toward the end of Summer and they just announced Terry Bogard, from Fatal Fury, as the winner.

Last night I saw a post on Old School Junkie about Tommo losing their SNK licensing with a link to an Oct. 2, 2013 SNK Playmore pres release: Termination of the License Agreement between TOMMO Inc. and SNK PLAYMORE USA CORP.

Terry Bogard is the NeoGeo X All-Star Brawl winner I love my NeoGeo X handheld! It was released in December 2012, by Tommo, with 20 games and a MegaPack of 15 more games in June 2013. This is all part of a licensing agreement between Tommo and SNK Playmore (rights-holder) for the NeoGeo branding and game library.

Aside from SNK's press release, we've seen little official confirmation or explanation of this license termination. Neither Tommo's or SNK Playmore's official websites or associated social media sites are offering any additional info - as of this writing.

The NeoGeo X had a mixed reception at launch, but wound up charming most customers. Initially, there were concerns that it was a one-hit-wonder. When the MegaPack and smaller game packs were released, it seemed as if there was hope for an ongoing release of the SNK game library.

Some customers received units with the dreaded firmware V337 that would not allow the new MegaPack games to play and required shipping the handheld back to Tommo. We experienced this hassle, but were very impressed with the professionalism and speed with which Tommo fixed the issue for us.

SEGA Genesis Bluetooth Speakers Tommo seems to be moving on and has announced a deal with SEGA. On Sept. 24, 2013 Tommo and SEGA of America announced a licensing partnership for Tommo Mobile Accessories including 25th Anniversary Genesis, Game Gear, Saturn, and Dreamcast inspired Phone Covers, External Speakers, Portable Battery Chargers, Headphones and more to arrive in time for Christmas.

SNK Terminates Tommo's licensing agreement for NeoGeo X - beware used V337 units

October 5, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

October 5 is Star Wars Reads Day!

Star Wars Reads Day Fans of reading and a certain galaxy far, far away have reason to rejoice: Star Wars Reads Day, a day-long celebration of literacy and Jedi, Sith, Wookiees, and all things Star Wars, is returning. The second annual Star Wars Reads Day is to be held this October 5, 2013.

It will again feature Star Wars fans, authors, and artists coming together in a nationwide multi-publisher initiative. Participating publishing partners include Abrams, Chronicle Books, Dark Horse, Del Rey, DK, Quirk Books, Random House Audio, Scholastic, Titan Magazines, and Workman. Last year, 30 authors and 1,500 costumed volunteers participated in over 1,200 Star Wars Reads Day events across North America.
October 4, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Forget Publisher's Clearing House, winning is all about Drinkbox Studios

Some nights I wonder if a technical glitch in the GPS satellite system may have delayed the Publisher's Clearing House Prize Van from rolling up my driveway with an oversized 8-figure cardboard check. Surely, I must be next on their list of $10 million recipients... even though those colorful mailings usually wind up in the trash.

Drinkbox Studios contest Tweet Last night, I was positive I heard a car door shut in the driveway. False alarm... but I did get a Twitter DM from the folks at Drinkbox Studios telling me I'd won a copy of any game they make! Wow, very cool! The only problem was I don't own a Vita and already have their insanely popular Guacamelee.

Soundtrack to Drinkbox Studios' Guacamelee game A quick look at their Twitter feed led to a post about the Guacamelee soundtrack on BandCamp! Hell yeah - that's what I want. I've found a lot of great chiptune artists on BandCamp and love the music in Guacamelee, so I asked if I could have a copy of the soundtrack instead.

They sent me a code and 5 minutes later Guacamelee was echoing through the house!

Many thanks to the folks at Drinkbox Studios for hooking me up with something a bit different. We'd have jumped on the game, but the soundtrack is a fun addition to the game we already play and love!
October 3, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

It's Mean Girls Appreciation Day! Watch the flick and play it on Nintendo DS

Mean Girls video game on Nintendo DS No one loves a fake holiday more than the rowdy crew at 8-Bit Central. Whether it's Donut Day at Krispy Kreme or Review A Bad Game Day, we're all over it. And don't even get us started about Free Comic Book Day and Star Wars Day! Bring it - and we'll celebrate it! Hell yeah!

Keeping track of all these "holidays" can be tough, but thankfully Twitter always gets jumpy and barfs up some odd hastags to signal such celebrations. Today we take pause over the demise of Lindsay Lohan, but (with beer-in-hand) we also celebrate the gooey awesomeness of her movie, Mean Girls, on Mean Girls Appreciation Day!

A casual mention of October 3rd by Lindsay's character, Cady Heron, is all it took. Her saying "October third" got Mean Girls fans to incite a national holiday every year on October 3... of course.

I've always liked that movie - even the sequel had it's moments - but the PC game was definitely not my kind of game. It's a puzzle game that was initially accused of being a Puzzle Quest clone. The puzzle involves combine similarly colored jewels, shoes and lipstick.

The Nintendo DS version reportedly lets you play as Lindsay's character, Cady, with the game play being closer to events taken from the movie. What got my attention is the absence of Lindsay Lohan on the DS game's cover! She was prominently splashed across the cover of the DVD. Did they forget her as the DS cover-art went to press? Did $he want TOO much money? Or... was her Hollywood reputation already circling the drain? Perhaps Nintendo didn't want her errant ways sullying their family-friendly reputation.

Regardless, as Lindsay spiraled out of control, wouldn't it have been more appropriate for the devs at 505 Games to create a Mean Girls game with a seedy GTA or Saints Row style for Ms. Lohan and her mean cohorts? :)

The best part is the timeline. The movie Mean Girls arrived in 2004. Plans for a game didn't begin circulating until 2008. This was the same time that Paramount Pictures decided they wanted to turn several of their films into video games. That's quite a span of time considering it was to tie in with a pop culture film. Stranger still is the European release came out in September 2009, but the US version was canceled and seemingly disappeared all together.

I really do like this movie, but it's no Ferris Bueller's Day Off or Fast Times at Ridgemont High. We all know about delays in game production, but when years pass by on a game devised as a movie tie-in, one has to wonder how long customers will wait. Who knows, but this flick is definitely a Lohan high-point.

Mean Girls Appreciation Day Enjoy the day and make sure you slap Man Girls into your DVD player sometime soon!
October 3, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Pallets of GameStick products begin the global journey to Kickstarter backers

GameStick by the pallet As a fan of If one is good, two are better! you can imagine my excitement over pallets full of gaming goodness. These pallets of GameSticks are reportedly the first completed product that is on its way to those who backed the GameStick project on Kickstarter.

Like the Ouya, the GameStick is another small gaming console that aims to bring the benefits of mobile game development for Android to your living room TV. The GameStick also connects via HDMI, but it's form-factor is far different. It looks more like a flash drive than a game console. In fact, the controller is much larger than the GameStick. The small unit connects directly to your TV (no cables) much like attaching a flash drive to your computer.

GameStick size comparison The controller is obviously much bigger than the GameStick unit that attaches to your TV. The small unit fits inside the controller for storage. This ease of portability makes it easy to bring it to a friend's house or on vacation and have access to all your games stored on the unit.

With recent discussions about piracy and licensing games to the owner's game console have ripped through the gaming community in light of ending the used game market and the inability to bring a game to a buddy's house. Gaming is social by nature - no, not over a headset - and anything that aims to limit the play of any game flies in the face of what gaming is all about: FUN!

October 3, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Turn Left! The future of Retro Gaming

October 2, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Imagic altered packaging attempting to stay relevant for the Atari 7800's reign

Imagic packaging for Atari VCS and 7800 While randomly surfing the web - quite likely with a beer-in-hand - I came across an Imagic game box for the Atari 7800... or so I thought. I was pretty sure Imagic hadn't published titles for the Atari 7800. Imagic primarily developed for the 2600 and Intellivision. Then I realized the box was simply stating that the enclosed Atari 2600 game was also compatible with the newer Atari 7800.

I'm pretty bad at remembering birthdays and chronology in general. I began thinking about the timeframe of Imagic and the mention of the Atari 7800 on some of their packaging. Did those two really overlap!?!

Imagic closed it's doors the same year the Atari 7800 finally came to market - 1986. Discovering this made me think that during tough times for a 2600 developer, the smart thing to do was make consumers aware that their 2600 games (like most 2600 games) were compatible with Atari's new gaming console.

I remember buying Demon Attack when it was first released. That one game made me associate the bright mylar packaging with great games. As a kid I carefully kept all my game boxes in pristine condition, but I didn't have the collector-bug yet and later disposed of the boxes. I don't recall the packaging, but I doubt my original had mention of the 7800. Below are images for a few games I found with specific mention of the 7800 although the games themselves are for the 2600.

Imagic's Demon Attack for Atari 2600 VCS Imagic's Demon Attack for Atari 2600 VCS.
Imagic's Demon Attack for Atari 2600 & 7800 Imagic's Demon Attack for Atari 2600 & 7800.

Imagic's Atlantis for Atari 2600 VCS Imagic's Atlantis for Atari 2600 VCS.
Imagic's Atlantis for Atari 2600 & 7800 Imagic's Atlantis for Atari 2600 & 7800.

Imagic's Wing War for Atari 2600 Imagic's Wing War for Atari 2600. I love the disclaimer at the bottom of the box stating No relation to Atari - lol.

The Expansive timeline of the 2600

The Atari timeline is kind of peculiar in the early days due to unexpected success and unprecedented failure. The 2600 was released in September 1977, but wasn't officially discontinued until January 1, 1992! Ironically, this is the same date for the discontinuation of the Atari 7800. So, what happened in between? Obviously the 5200 came and went. It had far better graphics than the 2600, but the quirky controllers and lack of 2600 compatibility was it's demise. Can you believe the NES had already been replaced by the SNES by '92?

The NES arrived only a few months before the Atari 7800, but it caught on fast and it's superior graphics and sound delivered games to a rabid audience who had never seen this level of quality on a home game console. Although the 7800 delivered some great games, it was hard to deny that the NES had more capabilities.

Imagic Changed Game Development

Prior to the founding of Imagic, video games were created by the companies who made the console. There was no video game industry. If Nolan Bushnell didn't have staff creating games for his 2600 VCS, there wouldn't have been any games to play! Imagic was only the 2nd company to create games for a console they didn't manufacture. Angry Atari and Intellivision coders formed Imagic to make games for these platforms in an effort to gain credit and respect for the amazing games they made.

Incidentally, Activision was the first 3rd party game company, founded shortly before Imagic. Famous for titles like Pitfall!, Freeway and Kaboom!, Activision is also the publisher of the popular and successful Skylanders IP. See how many of your Portal Master friends know about Activision's 8-bit beginnings.

The success of 3rd party games expanded gaming epically and scared hardware manufacturers who were accustomed to reaping the profits of all the games. The biggest problem was, some 3rd party devs often made better games than the hardware devs! Despite the lack of Imagic games on the Atari 7800, we're glad that dedicated homebrew coders still make amazing games for the 7800!

October 2, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Vivid Entertainment beats Disney to market with the next Star Wars film

Star Wars XXX: A Porn Parody Star Wars fans have high hopes for Disney's purchase of Lucas Film and the Star Wars franchise. Adding these characters to the Disney arsenal gives them a lot of leverage in everything from animation to the next Star Wars film and even their latest video game, Disney Infinity.

When you get right down to it, fans want more Star Wars and they want it now. Disney is a large entity that isn't agile enough to jump right into production. Some might say they're just fucking around. Speaking of which, adult entertainment giant, Vivid, has released (September 23,2013 on Blu-ray) another porn parody flick based loosely on Star Wars.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Award-winning director Axel Braun teamed up with adult powerhouse Vivid Entertainment to film the most expensive porn parody ever made. Will Leia succumb to the dark side of the force? Will Han shoot first? Will Chewy get lucky? You will get all the answers, and much, much more in the adult movie, STAR WARS XXX: A Porn Parody.

Staring: Allie Haze as Princess Leia, Kylie Ireland, Kimberly Kane, Jennifer Dark, Eve Lawrence, Jennifer White, Aiden Ashley, Lily Cade, Brandy Aniston, Gia DiMarco, Rylie Richman, Sky Banks, Lizzy London, Tom Byron, Kyle Stone, Chi Chi LaRue, Lexington Steele, Bryn Pryor, Kris Slater, Marcus London, Derrick Pierce, Danny Wylde, Rocco Reed, Dick Chibbles, Brian Street Team, Seth Gamble, Ryan Mclane, Peter Oh Tool, Ryan Driller and Kris Kelvin.

October 1, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

GameStop has a brief monopoly on Disney Infinity's NBX Jack Skellington figure

NBX Jack Skellington figure for Disney Infinity At the launch of Disney Infinity, I liked some of the figures they brought to launch - especially the Lone Ranger playset - but I really wanted Nightmare Before Christmas and Star Wars. I doubt Luke or Leia will be on the Base for quite a while, but I was stoked to hear that NBX is coming soon!

For a limited time (Oct 5 through Oct 28) GameStop has exclusive rights to sell the Jack Skellington figure. I'm sure Sally will appear sometime soon, not to mention... we need a Playset figurine unless we are content to let Jack run around the Toy Box area without access to the NBX playset.

GameStop exclusive logo Head down to GameStop this weekend to be the first one to get Jack Skellington and collectible NBX/Infinity poster! GameStop's Disney Infinity Day with Jack Skellington from NBX
October 1, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

When Congress Breaks Government, we need Methman & Jessie to cook up a solution

When Congress Breaks Government, we need Methman & Jessie to cook up a solution
October 1, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Amazing coffee table book- Artcade: The Book Of Classic Arcade Game Art

Artcade- The Book Of Classic Arcade Game Art The debate over whether video games are art has reverberated from the halls of the Smithsonian American Art Museum to the hearts and minds of those who grew up in arcades of the 80s. Most retro gamers will eagerly agree that video games exude art from their beautiful arcade cabinet side-art and marquees to 10-second chip tune loops that bring childhood memories rushing back.

Some of you may have been lucky enough to visit the Smithsonian's The Art of Video Games exhibit, but I'm sure many folks would love to see a large-format book full of video game art. Tim Nicholls in the UK agrees with you and took it upon himself to document the beauty of arcade games in a coffee-table book called Artcade: The Book Of Classic Arcade Game Art. Having purchased an archive of hi-res gaming art

Fueled by a Kickstarter campaign for Artcade, Tim is looking to share his archive of arcade art in the form of a beautiful oversize book full of iconic imagery. There have been many books about arcade games, but they typically fall into the reference category rather than art. I love delving into the stats of various games and consoles, but I think there is a huge market for a book that can showcase the grandeur and beauty of arcade artwork. Artcade appears to focus on the beauty of the games we grew up with.

Artcade- The Book Of Classic Arcade Game Art From the Artcade Kickstarter page:
What I want to create is a beautiful hardcover book with 200+ pages absolutely full of the spectacular arcade machine artwork that was such an integral part of growing up in the 80s and early 90s. It'll be something to browse through and make discoveries, just like wandering around an arcade as a kid, never knowing what gem of a game you might find lurking around the corner. It'll be fairly unstructured, rather than a reference guide; full of familiar favourites and 'Wow, I'd forgotten all about that one!' moments.

Tim acquired a large archive of over 4,000 images of original arcade game artwork from a Hollywood movie props company that had been assembled over the last 40 years. He saw the opportunity to share some of this rare and iconic artwork in the form of a book.

The images on his Kickstarter page are enough to evoke a lot of memories. We think seeing his idea come to life in an art book would be a great legacy to these wonderful games for those who love them from days of dropping quarters into their coin slots. Check out his Artcade Kickstarter campaign and back it if you like what you see. You can also follow Tim on Twitter to stay up to date on his progress.
October 1, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Xonox's gimmick, the 2-in-1 double-ender game cart, was manufactured for Atari & Coleco consoles by K-Tel

Xonox was an US video game developer in the early 1980s who met their demise as a result of the gaming crash of 1983. Headquartered in Minnesota, they created games for the Atari 2600, ColecoVision and Commodore 64 & VIC-20. They did so with a fairly unique twist.

Xonox logo They offered 2-in-1 game carts for the Atari 2600 and Colecovision. As I understand it, These 2 games on one cartridge were sold at nearly the same price as standard single-game carts. The drawback was that 2 mediocre games don't add up to one good game. Everyone had their share of awful titles, but Xonox had a higher percentage of bad games than most devs at the time. Only producing a handfull of titles for each platform, very few were well received as good games.

Popularity of Multi-Game Titles

Ever since Namco Museum arrived for the PlayStation as a 5-disc series, I've loved multi-game discs. From arcade compilations to The Sly Cooper collection, the ability to play a bunch of similar games all from one disc really appeals to me. I don't think I'm lazy and don't want to swap discs, I think I buy them for one or two games and wind up finding several I really enjoy and may not have considered otherwise.

Popularity of these multi-game discs really began, much later in gaming history, with the PlayStation which was one of the first consoles to have enough storage capacity to make compilations possible. Older games are typically smaller in size and multiple games will fit on a single game disc. This concept was much tougher to achieve for the Atari 2600 that typically had room for about 4K of code.

That 4k barely accommodated one game let alone multiple games. Asteroids was one of the more popular arcade games ported to 2600. This doesn't seem like a great feat - your ship flies around and shoots big rocks into smaller ones. Simple, right? Not at all. The memory needed to achieve this feat came from a concept called bank-switching. Defined in simple terms, this technique allowed larger games to be played on existing consoles by swapping out code no longer needed during game play.

Xonox's Double Ender Cartridge

Breaking the status quo is always a good way to become noticed. The black rectangular boxes were very common in the hay day of the 2600. Imagic differentiated themselves on retail shelves with the silver boxes. Even heavy-hitter Atari began standardizing their packaging to stand out from the 3rd party games. Ultravision made a cartridge with a handle.

Xonox killed 2 birds with one stone by creating the double ender cartridge. One hunk of plastic with two PCBs. It looked like an elongated 2600 cart with edge-connectors on both ends. It could be inserted into the console from either end, which determined which game would play.

Xonox double ender cartridge for Atari 2600 Xonox may have been better off licensing older titles for their unique 2-in-1 treatment. They created very few games, but made their library appear larger by altering the combinations of games on these carts. Artillery Duel, for example, appeared on several double ender carts, on both 2600 and Colecovision!

Xonox Ghost Mannor cartridge for Atari 2600 They also made a few single-game carts for the 2600. One of their few decent games was Ghost Manor - which also appeared on a double ender cart. Of the double ender releases, the Ghost Manor/Spike's Peak combo is probably the best. Spikes' Peak was a very difficult game and was also released as a standard cart. This Xonox Double Ender slideshow features some interesting ads for several of their games.

The novelty of the double ender carts was a brief success for Xonox. At the time, 2600 titles were slowing and fans were rabid for new titles. Finding new titles in a 2-for-1 format seemed like a godsend... until gamers realized how bad most of the Xonox library was. Some argue that enticing marketing tactics combined with terrible games was simply another reason for the crash of 83. Many factors were involved, but bad games souring the opinion of consumers was certainly one of them.

Xonox slide 2 Xonox slide 3 Double ender carts were created for the Atari 2600 and Colecovision along with standard carts for these systems and Commodore 64. In a similar sort of way, I remember when DVDs often had Pan & Scan on one side and Widescreen on the other - no fancy labels. So when will those shiny game discs be encoded on both sides, giving gamers an insane dose of gaming goodness? (The answer is - Never. No one makes profit from bargains).

The K-tel Connection

K-tel logo K-tel and Columbia House evoke memories of music from days gone by. K-tel evokes memories of disco compilation albums from my childhood. Their TV ads were incessant. Did you know they were behind Xonox? Me either until I was looking through some advertising that listed US and Canadian offices of K-tel as Xonxox Sales offices.

I associate K-tel with music and all those disco compilation LPs from the 70s, but as the company grew, music was only one facet that stuck. K-tel didn't get it's start in music, it simply did well for them. They were actually so diversified they were into everything from cookware to oil exploration. Of course this diversity that enabled a 3 for 1 stock split also was their demise when the stock plunged to pennies.

I'm not sure if Xonox was founded by K-tel or if the game developer was an acquisition. Xonox put out a catalog of video games in 1983, but there's not a lot of chronological info out there about them.
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