Vintage Games Book Bonus Chapter 3 Released - "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater: Videogame Ollies, Grabs and Grinds"

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Bill Loguidice
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More images!

Gamasutra cut a number of images, which I have moved to our convenient "Bonus Images" section, here: http://www.armchairarcade.com/neo/node/2334

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Matt Barton
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Looks as though there has

Looks as though there has been a spike. Up to 17,224 as of a few minutes ago (yesterday's average was 128,075).

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Bill Loguidice
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A link to the article

That's what I was afraid of, that people will get the idea that these are excerpts from the book rather than independent bonus chapters: http://www.boardistan.com/?p=6278

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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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Rowdy Rob
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I've read it, and I have some criticisms. Brace Yourselves...

I've read the new "Tony Hawk" bonus chapter, and I hate to say it, but it was my least favorite of the three currently-released bonus chapters. And although I am treading into uncharacteristically critical territory, I'm going to be brutally honest on why I felt that way. And perhaps some of my criticisms might be unfair, since I am no fan of "THPS" in the first place; a THPS fan might view the chapter in a much better light.

First of all, let me say that the "Pong" bonus chapter was great, and I was greatly relieved that it was not only "professional," but it exceeded my expectations. I felt it was well-written, historically intriguing, and passionate. It had a "flow" to it, and it was about PONG, a groundbreaking videogame which I have a fond nostalgia for. The next bonus chapter was about "Pinball Construction Set," and I felt all the same feelings for this chapter that I did for the "Pong" chapter, with the added novelty that I was personally quoted in the chapter (which actually had less of an impact than I suspected, so I felt that my reaction to that chapter was at least somewhat objective). I felt a nostalgic "glow" after reading these chapters.

Therefore, I had an initial bias towards liking these chapters, and I have been reading your (Bill and Matt's) posts for years, and have a vested (biased) personal interest in seeing you guys succeed! I am just saying this so that you know where I am coming from.

But I've never been a fan of the THPS series. I have no nostalgia for it, and I see the THPS games more as glorified "physics toys" than actual games. I didn't "get" the THPS game, so my initial disinterest might have biased me against this chapter to begin with. But I LIKE you guys, so I thought that might counteract my bias against this game.

However, both of you (Bill and Matt) are on record here as saying you weren't fans of this game either. And I think it shows..... I was hoping that your magical writing talents would pull off what you guys warned us was a "weak" chapter, and that you were just being hard on yourselves over this one, but I have to be honest.

I hope to dear God that this chapter wasn't written by Matt, because I would feel awful criticising his first online bonus chapter! He has written compelling, interesting articles (and a book!) on games and genres that I had no initial interest in, or even outright disliked! In fact, he has outright converted me to CRPG fandom with his great book "Dungeons & Desktops" through interesting writing and a sheer, full-force passion for the subject!

Although if this is a "Bill" chapter, I don't feel any better, even though he wrote two excellent bonus chapters previously. Well, let me get on with it......

Overall, the "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater" chapter was "Okay." That's it. I felt nothing more. And on a "common" scale, "okay" might be "okay," but not on the AA Bill-and-Matt scale. My reaction might have as much to do with my bias against THPS as anything else, but I don't think so. I still have high hopes for "Vintage Games," which I should receive any day now in the mail.

To be clear, the THPS chapter wasn't HORRIBLE. It wasn't an embarrassment. It wasn't even "bad." It was "okay." It certainly wasn't your best, I'm sorry to say, but it's not "hang your head in shame" bad either. At least not on a "common" scale it wasn't. You probably won't get much of a reaction to this chapter at all, if I may make a prediction.

Anyhow, here's where I will be specific on my criticisms of the "THPS" chapter:

First of all, the THPS chapter started off strongly. It mentioned the preceding historical games in the "extreme sports" genre, including "California Games," "Skate or Die," and "720 Degrees." While I (as a "classic" gamer) would have liked to see more mentioned about these games, I understand that the focus of the chapter was on THPS, so I understood that this was just the build-up to your treatise on THPS. But there was a clear passion for the subject in the beginning, much like the previous bonus chapters.

However, once the chapter actually started tackling "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater" itself, it largely became a recital of all the various versions and sequels of THPS that were released. "This version begat that version, which begat that version, which begat that version..... [and so forth]." That might be an oversimplification, but that's basically how it came across to me. It would have been fine if there was a clear (or faked!) passion for the games, but that didn't appear to be the case. The subsequent summary of the THPS versions was written in a rather dry, cursory fashion. I didn't learn anything new about THPS. Why was it popular? Who did it appeal to? What ground did it break? ...... On the other hand, I don't think fans of the THPS series learned anything they did not already know from this chapter either, except perhaps the short mentions of the previous "extreme sports" games that came before THPS.

Grammatically, all was fine (from my eyes), but there was no sense of passion for the subject. While many of the other "extreme sports" offspring of THPS were mentioned, they weren't dwelled upon, except in the photos and footnotes. This left the impression that THPS wasn't really all that influential, but was merely the next logical step up from "720 Degrees" or "Skate or Die," and that THPS was only focused on in this chapter because it was popular.

I know all of this sounds INCREDIBLY harsh, and that I have just contributed to your bad day (or have just ruined your day), but I KNOW this is not representative of your talents! It's not that this chapter is BAD, but it is just "okay," which is BAD on the "Bill-and-Matt potential" scale. You guys have the misfortune that I have viewed your musings, articles, and even BOOKS(!) and videos for years, and that I therefore KNOW what you are at least minimally capable of. You guys are highly intelligent and passionate guys in your own ways. The high intelligence was evident in this article, but NOT THE PASSION, which is entirely uncharacteristic of you guys.

I know this all reads like a TRASHING of your chapter, but I suspect that the average reader will read the chapter and think "eh..." and move on to the next Internet article, which won't make much of a difference on your book sales one way or another. Let me make this clear (and you guys KNOW THIS TO BE TRUE)... I want your book to be a MAJOR success. If this was your weakest chapter, then you have nothing to be worried about.... your book will be great. It will be the best book on "Vintage Games" ever written. I have no doubt about it.

If this chapter (or chapters like it) was just one of a series of chapters in the context of a book, it probably wouldn't register, and overall, I would probably review the book favorably based on the stronger chapters. After all, who reviews a book chapter by chapter? But out of context, this singular chapter is, in my eyes, just "okay." That's not good enough. Not for you guys.

Okay, let's turn this around to "constructive criticism." Could I do any better? No, especially with "Tony Hawk." But those who can't do.... criticize those who can. That's me. Here's where I think you guys should (in the future) play to your strong suits.

If you have no passion for the subject, find an angle that you can approach the subject from. "Everything is about angles," a famous Billiards player once said. While you had no obvious love for THPS, obviously there was some love for its predecessors, like "Skate or Die." Dwell on that, and on the more interesting spawn of THPS, rather than THPS itself. You can't please everyone (including me), but THPS fans would have probably been on board to read about their favorite game spawning me-too clones, or about the previous games in the genre.

Okay, I've said enough. Let me say that I feel very bad saying what I've said, but it's not actually a DISASTER. "Okay" is, well, okay, and I've read the chapter listings of "Vintage Games." There's NO WAY you won't feel passion for the majority of the games listed in the book. I don't believe this THPS "okay" chapter is representative of the book itself. And plus, I have a great nostalgia for almost all of the games mentioned in the chapter listings, so I will be biased towards liking those chapters.

I don't know if what I've just written will come across as constructive, harsh, vicious, or what, but it is the honest impression that I, as a long AA fan, felt upon reading the new "bonus chapter." I am a manager, and not an author, so writing is your job, and not mine. Technically, the "Tony Hawk" chapter is "there," but it isn't "there." Not like the previous bonus chapters, anyway. This is just my opinion, though. I love you guys, but I have to call them as I see them. This was the weakest of the "bonus chapters" so far, by my review. Perhaps others will (hopefully) feel differently.

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Bill Loguidice
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Thanks for all that, Rob.

Thanks for all that, Rob. Indeed, I think Tony Hawk is the weakest overall chapter, which I myself have stated. It was the article with the least TLC able to be devoted to it because of time constraints (it was the last written and under duress) and one of the few chapters where neither Matt nor myself have put in much quality time with the titles (though of course I have several versions, but never played them in an in-depth manner). I would have liked for Gamasutra to put all of the images in, which I think would have added to the points made in the chapter.

I understand you not getting the basic theme of the article, but essentially the point that we were trying to get across was that only with the move to 3D and the involvement of Tony Hawk himself was Tony Hawk's Pro Skater able to transcend the fun, but ultimately shallow representations of extreme or alternative sports videogames prior to it. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater won over the public for that very reason, that it was the first that could really leverage the best of 3D and motion capture and all that, a luxury that past games didn't have and therefore were unable to rise above being "just" an action videogame.

Nevertheless, for what it is, I think I'm ultimately happy with how the Tony Hawk chapter turned out. I don't think it necessarily helps sales of the book, but it certainly shouldn't hurt and at the very least I think, much like every other chapter, should at least contribute to the historical discussion and thought processes around games like Tony Hawk and its various clones. Certainly it should get people thinking beyond the limits of the genre starting with Tony Hawk and certainly thinking more about alternatives to traditional sports games (something that the in-book Madden chapter addresses).

Here is the schedule for the rest of the bonus chapters not in the book:

Elite (1984): Space, the Endless Frontier (to be released April 2009)
Rogue (1980): Have @ You, You Deadly Z's (to be released May 2009)
Spacewar! (1962): The Best Waste of Time in the History of the Universe (to be released June 2009)
Defender (1980): The Joys of Difficult Games (to be released July 2009)
Robotron: 2084 (1982): Running Away while Defending Humanoids (to be released August 2009)
Star Raiders (1979): The New Hope (to be released September 2009)

Of these, my personal favorites are Defender and Robotron. I think overall your mileage will vary though with your further enjoyment of the respective chapters. Certainly I'd say that the Pong chapter and Pinball Construction Set were two of my personal top favorites of the nine. Nevertheless, if you look at the book as a holistic experience, with the 25 chapters in a beautifully produced full color book, then nine bonus online chapters to round out the story, along with well over 120+ bonus images online not found in either the book or online chapters, then I think even with someone not liking one or two or even three items, they'll more than get their money's worth. I really don't know of too many other books that have taken this approach and I'm proud that we can kind of pioneer this "give 110% to the reader" type of thing.

Vintage Games book!
Xbox 360: billlog | Wii: 1345 2773 2048 1586 | PS3: ArmchairArcade
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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Matt Barton
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Haha, I bet you sweated

Haha, I bet you sweated bullets on that one Rob. :)

Overall, I think you raise some good points about the chapter. You can ask Bill in case you don't believe me, but there was a great deal of discussion (some might say ruckus) about which chapters to include and so on. We ended up omitting some games that I would have loved to write about, simply because we had already discussed much of the same elements for other games, and it didn't make sense to make a new chapter. For instance, we could have written a chapter on Secret of Monkey Island, but felt that the King's Quest chapter pretty much covered that territory.

I'm a man with little to zero interest in sports, yet clearly those types of games are important and influential. Many of my personal friends would buy whole systems just to play a certain wrestling or Madden game, for instance. I met one family whose life seemed to revolve around NASCAR and, of course, the latest and greatest NASCAR videogames (complete with steering wheels and foot pedals). I'm not an opponent of sports or anything, far from it--just not something I'm personally invested in. From what I hear, a lot of it depends on your dad. If your dad loves football, say, chances are you will, too. It's that father/son bond thing. My dad was huge into computers and videogames, so viola.

I've never played any of the Tony Hawk games myself, but did play Jet Grind Radio a bit on the Dreamcast and a motocross/dirtbike thing for the PC. I liked them both, though not really my thing, I guess. I really thought the dirtbike game was neat because it handled so well and moved so realistically, so I can appreciate this type of game (though admittedly not something I'd spend more than a few hours messing with).

The age is important with this kind of thing, too. I was really into skateboards when I was...hm. Maybe 10 or 12? I didn't have any good place to ride one (no sidewalks in the rural south), but did ride it a lot in our driveway. That and a little thing called a Roller Racer that should definitely have a game made out of it. SO MUCH FUN!!! Of course, I also had a BMX-style bike that I rode all the time, preferably on big hills or especially when people moved in and had those big piles of dirt in their yard. W00t!

Overall, though, I think the Hawk chapter turned out decent, and it might be suffering simply because the other chapters are better. I do agree that it would probably have been more fun to focus on the pre-hawk stuff than stuff that came later (I'm with you on that one).

To do the subject justice, Bill and I would've needed to immerse ourselves in skater culture, get familiar with the lingo and values, etc. Hopefully, someone will be inspired enough by our work to go out and write a full-length article (or book?) on the subject to really make it shine.

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Rowdy Rob
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Apologies
Matt Barton wrote:

Overall, though, I think the Hawk chapter turned out decent, and it might be suffering simply because the other chapters are better. I do agree that it would probably have been more fun to focus on the pre-hawk stuff than stuff that came later (I'm with you on that one).

First of all, I apologize for my previous rant, not because of my opinion, but because I droned ON AND ON AND ON, compounding the criticism of the chapter to make it sound worse than it really was. That's what happens when I post a middle-of-the-night, cold-medicine induced, groggy-but-can't-sleep nutfest (and it's not the first time I've done that here). Heck, I couldn't even make it through my own rant upon re-reading it, so it must have been torture for everyone else (especially you guys) reading it.

The THPS chapter shouldn't HURT the book, and it might even get THPS fans on board. I don't know. I don't know how Non-AA members might view the bonus chapters so far.... the chapters I thought were great might have turned off the majority of readers!!! Who knows? (I seriously doubt it, though.)

I was hoping my copy would arrive today, no.... maybe tomorrow. I wanted to spend a free weekend reading it, but according to USPS tracking, my copy has been sitting in their Kansas facility since March 7th! I'm beginning to get worried. I shouldn't have went with "standard shipping." I want to be among the first to post my review.

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Matt Barton
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Mentions: Boardistan. Play

Mentions:

Boardistan.
Play TM
GamePad
David Perry

If anyone has more, please share.

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Bill Loguidice
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Some nice comments about the

Some nice comments about the book from gentlemen in the UK: http://www.retrogamer.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=14011&p=309628#p308990

Vintage Games book!
Xbox 360: billlog | Wii: 1345 2773 2048 1586 | PS3: ArmchairArcade
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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Matt Barton
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The History of Tony Hawk’s

The History of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater from Transworld Skateboarding. Interesting that surfing and skateboarding sites are picking this one up more than game sites.

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