Mark Vergeer's blog

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VIC-20 Repair / Transplant Surgery - December 8th 2013


A little while ago I got a second VIC-20 which was in a cosmetically almost mint condition. Sadly the motherboard has a fault where it fails to read the joystick and the keyboard correctly resulting in the controls in games not functioning. The VIC-20 I had works great but cosmetically has seen better days. The label has come off and there has been extensive yellowing of its case. One has a serial number only in the ten thousands while the other machine has a serial number well into the hundred thousand. The cosmetically good looking machine being the oldest of the two and the yellowed machine being the younger system. So the younger system works great but looks sh*t and the oldest system looks great but runs sh*t.

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New consoles and Micro transactions in (Full Price) Games

Mark Smile Micro transactions in full priced games with the gameplay being so much of a grind that people are motivated to buy the advancements in the game rather than going to the process of actually playing the games is what kills modern gaming for me. Games that have that mechanic will far less likely get played by me.

Whether or not I buy a new console depends on the publishers getting their act together on the new systems. Full price games like Forza 5 and Gran Turismo 6 (on the PS3) still have microtransactions in them. If the majority of full price games will contain this mechanic, what does that mean for gaming as a whole?

Micro transactions are meant to squeeze even more money out of customers' pockets, they have nothing to do with better gameplay or enhancing the game mechanics. They largely ruin the game experience. And I believe micro transactions are something you don't want to expose kids to as they don't teach you the value of things at all. Kids need to learn to be able to deal with money responsibly and such transactions won't help them - it will most likely confuse quite a few of them. Or does it?

Ad ridden free to play games are fine for some perhaps. The model does provide people with a full game and that's fine for some and also very enjoyable. It's comparable to watching a movie that is hacked to pieces with 15 minutes of commercials thrown in every so often. I'd much rather watch without interruptions and commercials and I think I get a better experience. I choose to do the same for my gaming.

I am of the opinion that if you opt to play those free to play / Micro transaction-containing games you basically support that marketing model and the masses of people choosing to do the same will make the game developers think they have something good there.

I choose not to expose myself to that kind of marketing mechanic or as little as possible as I am human and have a right to be irrational at times. Just give me a full game for a good price that I am able to play when I want - even a couple of years down the line - which with activations and online passes and closed systems needing day 1 updates and games that are basically broken when released today can only be dreamt of.

What are your opinions on the matter?

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GameMID Android Handheld - Update on availability - December 7th 2013

Mark Smile The Android handheld I reported on earlier has now also become available for sale on the company's updated website. There's an order now button where you can place an order directly from the manufacturer or request additional information. The manufacturer is located in Hong Kong so it could be that you will have to pay additional import taxes according to your locale. Getting one from a retailer locally would be your best option but if that isn't an option going the direct route may be a good alternative. The unit comes in a sturdy box and is well protected by a specialized air filled sleeve. A charger compatible with your local AC power grid is also provided.

But now the GameMID has also been released to the German market and is sold as the "Phantom" - Expert shops are the go to places to get this device locally in Germany. It may be easier to import from Germany too. Here's a link to a German language review of the console.

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SV-328 Microcomputer - pickup / lot


I got myself a new system (SV-328) in a pretty complete lot. Mind you I was pretty tired when I filmed this so bare with me. Check out what I got.

Spectravideo, or SVI, founded in 1981 as "SpectraVision" by Harry Fox was a US based firm. SVI originally made video games for the VIC-20 and Atari 2600 consoles. They also made Atari compatible joysticks and many C64s actually were completed with a set of Spectravideo joysticks. Some of the later computers were MSX-compliant and some even IBM PC compatible. SVI folded in 1988.

The SV-328 is an 8-bit home computer introduced by Spectravideo in June 1983. It was the business-targeted model, sporting a full-travel keyboard with numeric keypad. Making it look like a professional machine that could compete with the big professional systems out there. It has 80 kB RAM (64 kB available for software & 16 kB video memory). Other than the keyboard and RAM, this machine was identical to its predecessor, the SV-318.
The SV-328 is the design on which the later MSX standard was based. Spectravideo's MSX-compliant successor to the 328, the SV-728, looks almost identical, the only immediately noticeable differences being a larger cartridge slot in the central position (to fit MSX standard cartridges), lighter shaded keyboard and the MSX labels.

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Xbox One in Europe - 50hz issue / Suffers from 50Hz TV integration

XboxoneXbox OneCustomers in European countries lucky enough to be able to use the Xbox One have been complaining about stuttering images when connecting a tuner through the HMDI through function. Since the dawn of time, European TV broadcasts have used 50hz and the Xbox One can only output 60Hz. This causes unwanted issues. With the switch to HD one would think that 50Hz has gone away, but for European TV - even in Full HD - it is still there.

Now, for years, PAL TV sets have been able to display both 50Hz and 60Hz, and most modern games offer PAL60, but because the Xbox One can't do 50Hz, passed through 50Hz images stutter because of incomplete frame rate conversions.

Seems a little oversight of the boys over at Microsoft. So the media centre thing seems to be something that doesn't cause a lot of joy right now. The issue creeps up most with panning and horizontal movements. Sports have been commented on as being unwatchable. Let's hope this can be fixed with a firmware or software update.

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Andrew Hewson: Hints & Tips for Videogame Pioneers - an interview

Hewson LogoHewson LogoHewson Consultants was a software company founded by Andrew Hewson in 1980. Hewson has a reputation for making highly playable games with a high production value that were very innovative. Fine examples are classics like Uridium, Paradroid, Avalon, Dragontorc, Gribbly's Day out, Exolon, Cybernoid, Nebulus. Even to this day Hewson games rank among my favourite video games of all time. In the 90s Hewson transitioned into '21st Century Entertainment' which was responsible for classics like Pinball Dreams, Pinball Fantasies, Pinball illusions and many others.

The games by both Hewson and 21st Century Entertainment play a huge role in my personal gaming history and when I found out that the man behind those companies has created a Kickstarter project, together with his son Rob, I just had to find out more. The purpose of this article is to inform you about the Kickstarter for a book entitled 'Hints & Tips for Videogame Pioneers'. And here a link to Hewson Consultants Ltd's website. I pledged and invite you to check out this Kickstarter project as well.

Below you can watch the interview I did with Andrew.

Update November 16th 2013:
11,481 Pounds have been pledged by 270 backers (10:29 GMT+1), so only 519 pounds to go with a couple of days left! I think there's a good chance this Kickstarter will make it! :) But do consider pledging to the Kickstarter as there are some benefits as a backer! Check out the Kickstarter page.

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Chrome stops supporting third party plug-ins

ChromeChrome Google is joining together their YouTube and the Google+ platforms, whether users like it or not, but also has something else up its sleeve. By January, Google strives to have complete control over Chrome extensions and will turn off support for all third party extensions that are not downloaded from the Chrome Web Store. This all to supposedly make the browser a safer one.

Downloading Chrome extensions outside of Google's Web store will be prohibited come January. Until then, it is possible to download and manually install third party extensions on the Windows version of the popular Google browser. You can still do so by dragging the extensions to the Chrome://Extensions/ folder.

With this action, Google will gain complete control over their Web browser. Only Google will be able to decide which extensions will and will not be included in the store. A sign of things to come is the fact that earlier this year Google already removed ' Adblock' and ' Adaway' from the Google Play Store. And in January this will be a reality on Windows too.

Developers who want to publish an extension for the Windows Chrome version will have to pay a 5 dollar registration fee, and Google will take 5% off any revenues...

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Mark Plays... Fez (PC)


FEZ - a puzzle game developed by Polytron Corp. Designed by Phil Fish. Released on Xbox Live Arcade intially and later on on the PC. The development of FEZ is partially captured in 'Indie Game: The Movie'.

You Play Gomez, a critter living in a 2D world that goes on a bit of a 3D adventure because of the Hexahedron scattering cubes around that Gomez has to collect in order to avoid complete and utter destruction of all that is known.

The cool thing about this game is that it uses 2D in a 3D world where the perspective makes moves and jumps possible that would otherwise not have been. This is done so by eliminating 'depth' or the Z-axis competely.

Graphics 10/10
Gameplay 9/10

This is NOT a real review but just me trying out the game. I recommend getting this on the PC as the XBoxLive version doesn't seem to get any updates to bugs (or it did corrupt a save file in the past) whereas the PC version does get frequent updates!
http://store.steampowered.com/app/224760/

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Mark Plays... Outrun2006 Coast to Coast / Outrun2SP (PC)(Post Replay 2013)


Outrun2006SP a wonderful arcade game that found its way onto the PS2 and the Xbox as well as the XBox360 - not sure about the PS3 but I am sure it's on there too. Well at Replay 2013 I finally got the chance to sit down (barely as I am a tad too tall for the machine to really fit) and play me some Outrun2006SP. I also played the full sized two seater arcade game at the Namco Arcade at the Trafford Center but that also has a hard time accommodating my long legs (I am 6'8"). So my performance was hindered by me not being too good with the pedals resulting in some rather poor gameplay :P
After getting home today I figured up Steam on the PC and downloaded the PC version of the game I bought many eons ago and it worked great. I grabbed it at 60fps which YouTube sadly degraded to 30fps so the footage is not as smooth as the original. I just had to redeem myself a little - recover my crushed ego :P

Well here's a little of me playing the game on Easy and Hard. Enjoy!

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Play Expo 2013 / Replay 2013 (Manchester UK)


Custardo aka Erwin, the wife (aka magically floating camera aka cameragirl) and myself went to Manchester (UK) for a couple of days to enjoy the Replay / Play Expo gaming event held at Event City near the Trafford centre. This clip shows our adventures there.

During the event we met some people we knew from Facebook and YouTube and we even got attacked by a Zombie that managed to infect me. RetroGamerVX's video on Replay 2013 - the bit where we get attacked by a Zombie:
http://youtu.be/IsjXklVdDPk?t=20m42s


Custardo has created his own footage & here's a link to his channel:
http://www.youtube.com/user/custardoo

Enjoy.

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