Bill Loguidice's blog

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Amelie's Story Machine - Edutainment on an Atari 800

Alphabet Zoo (1983)Alphabet Zoo (1983)As many of you know, I have a large collection of vintage hardware and software, and, as is par for the course in collecting, I've ended up with certain atypical software genres either by design or simply because they were included with other things. One facet of my collection that fits that definition are all of the educational titles I have for various consoles and computers. As many of you may also know, Christina and I have two daughters, Amelie, who just turned 6, and Olivia, who just turned 4. They're obviously right at the age where it's use it or never use it time for some of this educational software. The good thing is that our girls have grown up around this stuff, and that, combined with what comes naturally to children, makes them ideal users. I decided that instead of taking the easier way and going console (the CD-i and VIS platforms in particular come to mind, but I have many others that have at least a few titles on them), I'd use it as an excuse to break out one of my older computers. It was a toss up between the C-64, Atari 8-bit and Apple II, since those three systems feature the most educational software of the old computers in my collection. I had already spent enough time with the C-64 and had broken out the Apple II stuff a few times before, so I decided to go with the Atari 8-bit for this attempt with my daughters.

Here's what happened:

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Our Classic CRPG Dreams are Answered with an All New Epic Game for the Commodore 64!

Newcomer (C-64) collageNewcomer (C-64) collageThanks to our friends at GameSetWatch for the excellent blog post informing us of the pending release of a computer role playing game (CRPG) for the legendary Commodore 64 (C-64), entitled, Newcomer. Apparently 20 years in the making, this appears to be the epitome of "epic", with top notch visuals, enhanced interactions, and everything else you'd expect from a modern day C-64 game. According to GameSetWatch, "The game has elements from both classic adventure titles and tabletop roleplaying games, placing an emphasis on interacting with characters, exploring the world, developing in/game and real life skills, and solving puzzles.

It's a massive title (for the C64), as one would expect after 20 years of development. Newcomer features 180+ characters to interact with (each with their own portraits), 10+ people who can join your party of six, 50+ areas created with 30+ graphic sets, 100+ cutscenes, 180,000+ words of in-game text, thousands of puzzles, and more all packed into 2 MB."

I for one can't wait, and I know one or two our readers surely feel the same...

Full Feature Set from the Protovision Website, where they seem to indicate that this had a prior life, including as "Enhanced Newcomer", with this version being "Ultimate Newcomer" (fingers crossed this gets a fully packaged release!):

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One Paragraph Videogame Back Story Short Stories - Every Submission in One Post!

Just like we did with our previous one paragraph short story series, I wanted to get all of the entries in our latest one paragraph short story contest in one posting, this one. If you recall, the theme was fanciful videogame back stories and one lucky participant was eligible for a prize. While some of the Armchair Arcade staff participated, we were naturally not eligible for the contest. After the votes were counted, Craig A. Meyer's Donkey Kong took the prize and his story was featured in Episode 4 of our Armchair Arcade Radio podcast. Now here for your convenient reading pleasure are all eight entries in the reverse order they were submitted:

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Bill's 2010 Holiday Buying Guide - Console Edition

Since other media outlets have had to fulfill their apparent obligation this holiday season like every holiday season to recommend what to buy and why, I thought I would join in on the fun, with the big difference with my guide being that I actually own and use all of the systems in question, so I'm not just talking out of a hypothetical butt like some others do. Allegedly. Now here's a bad cell phone photo of my three consoles as evidence (you're welcome in advance for the bikini snow angel):

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A Very Brief Overview of what I've Been Playing for the Past Few Days

Since I've had a chance to actually play some games on platforms like the PC, Xbox 360, Wii, iPhone, and PS3 lately, I thought I would share some quick thoughts. After reading, why don't you share some of your own thoughts on those games or some of what you're playing?

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Issue 45 of the Commodore Free magazine - October 2010, Now Available!

The latest issue of the excellent Commodore Free magazine is now available in the usual .PDF, .txt, .seq, .d64, and .html formats. Get your copy in the format of your choice here! (contents listed below)

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First Impressions of Microsoft's Kinect - It's a hit!

Well, chalk me up as surprised, but my first impression of Microsoft's new Kinect is that it's a rousing success for what it's intended for, much moreso than Sony's PlayStation Move or Nintendo's Wii Motion+. I had preordered the standard Kinect bundle, which comes with "Kinect Adventures", from Amazon, along with "Dance Central", as part of a special promotion. It arrived yesterday, which was the official street date when retailers were authorized to actually sell the thing (there were only a few cases of a broken street date). As is usual for a Microsoft product, it's a rather convoluted and bulky setup, but since it actually works, I can't be too critical of that aspect of the device. By the way, as a point of full disclosure up front, as luck would have it, we probably have the ideal family room setup for motion games, with a generous amount of space between the TV and any other obstacles, like our sofas, so, unless you want to move furniture to make the necessary 6 - 10 feet or so of clear space (you want a generous rectangle), know that your mileage will definitely vary from mine in terms of hassle-free play (you'll generally need a less space for Move and Motion+).

I have the old style white Xbox 360, and, as such, I was required to plug the Kinect into the rear USB port and then plug in yet another (albeit small) wall wart (this is necessary, because, among other things, the camera can turn on its own). If I had the new style Xbox 360 slim, it has an accessory port that the Kinect can draw power from directly. Anyway, for those of us with the old style Xbox 360's (which is probably most of us), they also give a small USB extension cable so the wireless networking card dongle can plug into the front USB port, since the rear USB port is a requirement for Kinect. Ugly. However, in my particular setup, both my 360's still have HD-DVD drives attached to them (yeah, I admitted it), which is where I have my wireless dongle attached to, so in fact I didn't need the extender as I could just plug the USB cord from my HD-DVD drive to the front USB port. Needless to say, with the old style white Xbox 360, a USB plug sticking out of one of the two front USB ports and the HD-DVD drive next to it (along with an old style memory card that keeps my sign-ins portable), it's hardly a sleek looking setup, though my launch ("fat") PS3 hardly looks much better since I have the PlayStation Eye camera always plugged into one of the front four USB ports. Looks aside, plugging it all in was logical and went smoothly.

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Raw Transcript of Video-game Nirvana Interview

As promised, I am posting the raw transcript from my interview in last week's Suburban Newspaper, which I talked about here. As is often the case, we talked about much more than would fit in a regular newspaper feature, so I thought it might be nice to see the full spectrum of questions and my responses. As is usual for these things, it's me-centric, so the mileage of your enjoyment may vary, but if you stick with it you may gain some additional insight into how I think, where I come from, and what my influence on the Armchair Arcade philosophy is. The QandA:

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The Great Atari ST Game Survey

The Joy of STicks Website is running the results of a multi-site survey that determined enthusiasts' favorite 50 Atari ST games. Though the Atari ST computer series was relatively economical and quite powerful, it was overshadowed by the Commodore Amiga computer series and its more impressive audio-visual and multi-tasking prowess. With that said, though the listing is biased towards the usual familiar multi-platform titles that may or may not have been better on other platforms, it still gives a good idea of what quality games machines the ST series really were (and of course, for many of us here, still are). It's also a good example of how to do a better weighted best of/top whatever listing than the typical ones that reflect the preferences of just a few people. Enjoy!

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