Retro gaming for losers?

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Rob Daviau
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Wait, don't shoot me (Note my user name!) it's not me that said it, doing a Google search on Retro Gaming As it's my hobby, along with Retro Computing I came across THIS SITE:

http://www.ukresistance.co.uk/issue10.html

Read just a little bit and thought Damn! He's right! Why didn't I see it before? I have seen the light, and now I will go and "Strap my ass to Xbox Live" son I can be a cool modern gamer! Oh wait, I forgot, I'm that to as my DS / PSP / PC / PS2 will attest to. Hmmmmm, yes that is sarcasm.

Thought it was just damn funny because what I don't get, it's like gay bashing or something, if your not "into it" why the need or compulsion to rant and put it down so much? What a tard....................Please, discuss......

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Bill Loguidice
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There are some good points

There are some good points in there, but there IS something to be said for lots of things being integrated (or included) in the OS. For instance, in the C-64 days, it was hit or miss if our productivity applications could share data. This was usually limited to products from the same company or whatever was integrated into GEOS. Today, we can easily share just about anything between any application, plus we don't have to worry about some device we buy working with the OS or all the features being supported. That has to count for something. At the same time, I do miss the simpler days of the computer immediately starting and putting you usually at a friendly BASIC prompt. It's a shame that the idea of including BASIC has been dropped from modern OS'. Just imagine how many more programs we'd have with the masses of Windows and Mac users (at least a percentage) creating programs from that base.

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(A PC Magazine Top 100 Website)
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Matt Barton
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I thought you guys might

I thought you guys might appreciate this editorial by John C. Dvorak about Vista and operating systems in general. Dvorak's words will shine true for most of us here, particularly regarding the "evolution" of Windows from what was basically an application to a full-fledged "OS," and the repercussions of integrating so many apps into the OS itself. Those of us who are lucky enough to have some experience using other systems (i.e., Commodore 64, Amiga, Atari, Mac) know how nice it is sometimes to get a "clean break" from an existing OS.

At any rate, I doubt anyone here will agree with all of Dvorak's opinions, but it makes for good fodder for discussion.

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Bill Loguidice
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I personally consider it a

I personally consider it a travesty to waste talent on replicating previous work. For instance, while I have great respect for the team that recreates old King's Quest games for modern PC's, I can't help but marvel at the extreme waste of their time not creating something original, particularly since they obviously have talented programmers, artists, voice talent, audio engineers, etc.. With that said, I have nothing against someone creating games "inspired by" other games, as long as they take the old ideas and either expand upon or improve upon them in a significant manner. After all, if you truly enjoy a play mechanic or concept, why not re-use it? Remakes today especially don't make much sense, considering the ubiquity and relative ease of emulation and emulation-like services (be it GameTap, Xbox Live Arcade, Nintendo Virtual Console, etc.).

As for the TI-994/a, it amazes me how much quality varies between software titles, particularly in regards to use of color. Some titles use color quite well, while some titles are decidedly monochromatic. Certainly some of the early titles "suffered" from catering to the original TI-99/4, but that doesn't explain ALL the variances. And while it's pie-in-the-sky, it would be REALLY neat if someone could truly maximize the MBX, but I doubt that will ever happen as that's extreme-niche and the dearth of new titles for the base TI-99/4a is bad enough.

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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
(A PC Magazine Top 100 Website)
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adamantyr
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We never had quite the same

We never had quite the same problem on the TI-99/4a with ports... because there weren't many. Most of the popular titles had to be re-engineered from the ground up because of its unique architecture. Since the processor wasn't a 6502, the instruction set was completely different. Even MSX titles can't be ported easily despite sharing the same video chip, because the MSX uses an 8-bit Z80 processor. Microsoft Multiplan was released for the TI, and it's suspected that it was derived from some form of pseudo-code, because it doesn't utilize the ROM-based floating-point system. It has routines of its own to calculate decimal values.

I worked for awhile on a TI-99/4a port of Chris Crawford's Eastern Front 1941 for the Atari 800. I lost interest, though, because, quite honestly, replicating other people's work isn't nearly as fun as writing your own. I still have a website up for it at http://www.adamantyr.com/easternfront.htm. I may eventually finish it, but the AI code is brutal to convert...

Bill Loguidice
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Yep, we established early on

Yep, we established early on it was a joke, but I have been enjoying the discussion/thoughts it's inspired. I love when discussions are organic and take on lives on their own.

As for the humor, I think I get Brit humor and have been a fan of it since childhood, I just thought this particular stab at it wasn't very good myself.

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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
(A PC Magazine Top 100 Website)
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davyK
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Chaps.....its a joke. The

Chaps.....its a joke. The humour is VERY British and the delivery and nuances of the use of the language won't translate very well outside the UK - even if you get the joke.

UK resistance has been around for quite some time now.

Bill Loguidice
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One point of clarification,

One point of clarification, Matt, in regards to Sim City as an example, is that I'll argue that the C-64 WAS the base platform in that case. When Wil Wright wrote his first game, the legendary "Raid on Bungeling Bay" (one of my favorite all time games) on the C-64, he had so much fun with the terrain editor he created for the game (developer only, player's could not create new maps) that he decided to turn it into a game. Publishers passed several times on Sim City, since they couldn't grasp the concept at the time, but eventually (a few years!) it was picked up and published and the rest is history. The original C-64 version was also actually the only version to come with an editor by default. With all that said, obviously you really needed a beefier processor and more memory to do the game justice. Even the SNES version, which many people like because of the extras and I happen to also own, gets bogged down badly when the city size becomes too big.

And speaking of your Cyan example, I again turn to Richard Garriot and in actuality, Origin. Starting around the Ultima VII era, with games like that and Strike Commander, Origin began to OVER push their technology, meaning they were actually coding for systems that weren't even out yet. Their newest games at the time pushed comparatively beefy 386 systems to their limits, with weird first 640K memory requirements/restrictions and ultimately only smooth performance on late model 486/early Pentium systems that wouldn't be out en masse for several more years. That strategy definitely did not pay off, whereas Cyan being one of the very first developers to develop for CD-ROM with The Manhole no doubt got the headstart they needed to develop one of the first blockbuster titles, Myst, when people were craving something flashy for their CD-ROM drives. Obviously timing plays a part too.

As for Vista, beyond Microsoft, I'm not aware at this present time of any games requiring Vista and that will not work on prior Windows versions. The only game that I know of right now will be "Halo 2" for PC. You MUST have Vista to play that (or an Xbox 1 or 360, natch)...

Finally, yes, as a C-64 owner back in my youth as my primary system, I was quite frustrated by ports from the Apple II or other systems. You could ALWAYS tell a port by the poor color scheme and sometimes by the paltry sound, two attributes any game for the C-64 should never have had. For instance, I LOVED Origin's Auto Duel, but that was in spite of it being a horrible DIRECT port from the Apple II from an audio-visual-control standpoint. It's a testament that it was such a fantastic game otherwise that it remains among my most cherished gaming memories, being one of the few car and on-foot RPG's that executed such an ambitious scope properly (it didn't hurt it was based off of a proven Steve Jackson pen and paper game either). That's the ONE defense I suppose for "lazy" ports, is that back then I had nothing else, so the C-64 was my only way to enjoy the game. If it were only for the Apple II, I might not have discovered it until relatively recently as a modern collector and might not have had the time to devote to it (other versions of the game by the way, like for the ST and Amiga, DID receive some enhancements, so I do have to check those games out).

I keep going to the "Phantasie" well, but that's actually a good example in this case. While no version was an audio-visual feast, the original Apple II, the C-64, Atari 8-bit, ST, Amiga and PC versions all took at least some advantage of their target platforms. While it didn't blow you away on any of the platforms, it was at least representative of what the system could do, which is more than any of us could ask for at the time considering what generally took place.

Finally, I go back to another of our go-to games, SSI's "Pool of Radiance". The PC version and C-64 version were fine, but SSI actually took the time on the Amiga to farm the game out to a development studio that actually re-did the visuals to take advantage of the doubled color pallet for vastly improved visuals, creating the best version of the game. This continued with "Curse of the Azure Bonds", but sadly was stopped as the series continued, with direct, drab PC ports becoming the norm, no longer making it worthwhile to play the series on the Amiga. At least Amiga enthusiasts had access to the full series, but it's disappointing that they couldn't maintain the same quality, even when the series switched to VGA on the PC (I believe the Amiga got EGA ports, not the preferred in-between EGA and VGA quality like Sierra often did (though again, not always -- obviously an article in and of itself-Great ports versus Lazy ports, particularly in the case of series or related games from the same company...)...

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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
(A PC Magazine Top 100 Website)
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Matt Barton
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Well, that's a great point

Well, that's a great point about portability, Bill. It's easy to see the lure--keep it "portable," and then it'll be easy to compile it across platforms and thus reach a wider audience. Only downside is that the more "universal" it is, the less it's customized to really get the most out of each system. End result? Crapola. Every system, be it a TI-99/4A, Apple IIgs, or Tomy Tutor, has unique qualities that must be taken into consideration in order to create a good game. I can't remember how many sorry Apple II ports showed up on the C-64, or DOS games on the Amiga. As far as I'm concerned, if a company can't take it upon themselves to enhance the graphics and sound to match the capabilities of another platform, they shouldn't bother porting it. If you've played Sim City on the C-64 you know why.

I think an aspiring game developer should just choose one platform and "base" for specs and then focus on it like a laser. Learn that one system inside and out, and know its capabilities and limitations. If that platform has a unique feature or some such that isn't available on other platforms--in other words, if using it will endanger cross-platform compatibility--who cares? You can't "have your cake and eat it, too." If everyone thought that way, we would never have innovation. For example, what if Cyan had refused to use CD-ROM, sound card, VGA, or mouse technology because most PC owners had none of these? Instead, Cyan made a kick-ass game that required all of these. Instead of people refusing to buy the game because they didn't have the necessary equipment, they bought the game AND the necessary equipment, thus leading to a surge in PC gaming that we're still riding out today.

My observation is that PC gamers are a pissy lot, and they often resist "upgrading" far more than console owners. Compare the enthusiasm the average Xbox owner has concerning the 360 compared to XP users looking at Vista. I don't know a single person who has bothered to upgrade to Vista yet. Everyone is holding on to XP and probably will for a year or more. Meanwhile, I'm all but certain that game developers won't be releasing any Vista-specific games anytime soon.

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adamantyr
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Allow me to clarify, the

Allow me to clarify, the crash I see coming isn't one related to money directly, but more creativity. The way the game industry is running right now, only spectacular successes make any money, and they've allowed the marketers to take over, dictating what game designers have to make, rather than doing their job and finding a way to sell what the designer makes. Which is why I'm a big advocate of independent developers, they're the only way to break out of an extremely deep rut.

It also ties into a general glut of media that I've seen over the last several years. With the advent of a stable digital media format (DVD), the market is just getting full of stuff to read, watch, and listen to. The problem is the same marketers are driving things. Greg Costikyan remarked not long ago that science-fiction and fantasy novels have become hopelessly genre-focused, with there being only four categories to choose from. Anything that falls out of that range is rarely seen published. (The four genres are Tolkien-inspired epic fantasy, Anne-Rice inspired Gothic/Vampire stories, Military science-fiction, and licensed titles.) The same thing can be seen happening with movies, and music, and everything else.

Frankly, I hope I'm wrong.... the consequences of a creativity crash are disturbing, to say the least...

Bill Loguidice
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Speaking of recycled code,

Speaking of recycled code, Matt, it's interesting you mention that, as more often than not, classic programmers would do most of their work from scratch. Perhaps the most famous example of this is Richard Garriot, who coded each new Ultima game from scratch, no doubt using all the new skills and ideas he learned from completing the last game. There's a certain "pureness" to that idea. (Of course today, the majority of games are written to an engine and make extensive use of middleware)

At the same time, there are also famous examples of "portable code" being a necessity because there were so many computer choices back in the late 70's through the late 80's. Obviously Infocom comes to the top, with games written to a standardized interpreter, which was ported to more than a dozen different platforms. This worked out well early on, but obviously became a detriment when machines started to become more powerful and Infocom's interpreter couldn't support more advanced system features, such as graphics. Obviously eventually they had to as their new owners (Activision/Mediagenic) forced them to, but it is an example of the short life inherent in "portability".

I was actually re-reading the other day, Mark Berlyn's account of his founding of Penguin Software (later Polarware when the book publisher got on their ass about the name): http://www.magictree.com/polarware/pengraph.htm . It's a fascinating multi-page account. In any case, later on, he goes into some detail about their development of "Comprehend", their multi-platform text and graphic adventure engine, which allowed them to re-use game and graphic assets regardless of platform, be it Apple II, C-64, Atari ST, Amiga or IBM PC. Obviously, looking at that list, you see the problems inherent in that, particularly since the Apple II was the base platform, and frankly even using 16 color double hi-res, every other platform suffered greatly (save for the PC of the time, which probably had the worst overall graphics in monochrome and CGA, all things considered). A good example of how this worked is here: http://www.mobygames.com/game/oo-topos/screenshots . It's simply a travesty how bad the visuals look on the C-64, Atari ST and Amiga. The latter two platforms in particular could obviously play host to infinitely better static graphics in such games, as show here: http://eager.back2roots.org/DATA/G/GUILD.HTML .

In any case, I find the Penguin/Polarware story fascinating and have many of their games and software in my collection. I was certainly aware of how influential "The Graphics Magician" was, but truly did not know quite how pervasive. I was lucky enough to get a copy on eBay quite a while back for the Apple II and certainly can't wait to give it a go in the Apple BASIC's...

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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
(A PC Magazine Top 100 Website)
======================================

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