Retro gaming for losers?

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Matt Barton
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Joined: 01/16/2006
Indeed, I can think of many

Indeed, I can think of many reasons why programming for a retro console isn't just wasted time. For one thing, you'll develop skills that are quite rare among modern programmers, such as really tight coding and memory optimization. Likewise, you also have an interesting advantage in that you know so much more about games than the original programmers on those systems, so you can take the hardware to places it hasn't been before. Finally, anyone who really wants to be a good programmer should know the "roots." Studying the history of languages and hardware will give you invaluable insights into the underlying logic of modern languages. You'll also be able to see alternative paths that weren't taken, but might be worth revisiting.

The modern books I've read on C and C++ tend to take a cynical view towards these things, arguing that memory or even speed optimization isn't important since modern PCs are so powerful. However, there will always be "niches" for really efficient programming, such as in mobile devices or specialized routines that really try to squeeze every available ounce out of the hardware.

Finally, it's very helpful (I might say earth-shattering) to study the history of software on a system that managed to last a long time, such as the C-64 or even the NES. Even though the hardware stays the same over a period of say, a decade, games from the latter part of that decade are often so vastly superior to the early games that you can hardly believe it's the same system. A good example of this is Donkey Kong Country for the SNES.

The trouble is that most developers simply assume that such-and-such isn't possible because the hardware isn't good enough yet. It's the "next gen" mentality--well, we can't do realistic looking water and grass, it'll have to wait for "next-gen" and so on. However, the history of games shows that the software developers can discover new techniques and make advancements in code that bring out unexpected powers hidden in the current hardware. All it takes is a willingness to experiment.

I might add that some of the "features" of modern languages that make them so appealing--particularly code recycling and the ability to drop in so much pre-compiled code--are actually hindrances. There is something to be said for starting from scratch. It's really only then that you are in a position to make radical new discoveries. Thankfully, "retro programming" rewards exactly that kind of development, so not only do I think you're not wasting time--I wish every modern programmer would spend his or her time engaged in this rather useful pastime.

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Bill Loguidice
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Indeed, hobbies by their

Indeed, hobbies by their nature are wasteful, but we all need "away" time from the daily grinds of life, particularly adult life.

I disagree and have disagreed for quite a number of years now about a crash of any type in any category. Gaming, while still having a long way to go towards ubiquity, is nevertheless ingrained enough in mainstream life to be profitable across all platforms, be they videogames, computers or cell phones. Just because the PC declined long ago as the premiere gaming platform doesn't mean it doesn't have financial value to game makers and players.

I think classic consoles and computers are a great place for hobby programming, as the barrier to entry is low and one can often create entire games without anyone else's help. In order to bring a reasonable game to fruition on a modern platform, you really need a team made up of individuals with various talents.

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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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Joined: 01/28/2007
The only negative things I

The only negative things I ever hear concerning retrogaming is that I'm wasting my time programming them, that I should focus on modern platforms and languages. That's probably true from a career standpoint. However, it's my hobby, not my job, so I really don't care what they think, because I don't bind my job and hobbies together like that. I think it's a bad thing to do so, in fact.

The sad part is that a lot of the gaming companies recognize that retrogames are viable, but they don't really understand why. I think the market was much better for games and game creation in the 1980-1990 era. Going mainstream has probably hurt the industry worse than anything, in terms of creativity and design. I think we're headed for another crash, eventually. Consoles are probably safe from it, but PC gaming is already showing some serious deterioration. The only profitable market I can see there is MMORPG's, because a computer is still better at that than a console.

As for me, I support places like Manifesto Games.

Bill Loguidice
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Joined: 12/31/1969
It seems like more of a joke

It seems like more of a joke - though a rather poorly implemented one - than a serious look at the downfalls of living in a world of retrogaming. Frankly the two can peacefully coexist. I don't know of any retrogaming enthusiasts who don't move easily between old and new stuff, enjoying it all. What those who only like the latest and flashiest stuff fail to realize is that they're cutting themselves off from the wealth of gaming that came before, much of it still with tremendous value and much of it with elements we may never see again. That's of course assuming one can get past any audio-visual deficiencies. Simply put, it would be the equivalent of refusing to watch any movie made before 2005, or listen to any music before then, or read any book before then, etc. It's just silly. Fun is fun no matter when its from, and only a dullard can't take a more nuanced approach to gaming.

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