The original Rock Game: Asteroids!

Matt Barton's picture

EDGE Magazine has posted a neat article called The Making of Asteroids. The article features quotations from Ed Logg. There are also design sketches and other materials you won't want to miss if you're a fan of the game.

A fun fact at the end of the article--Logg's wife bought a coin-op Asteroids machine for her home before she ever met him. I can't imagine many things that say "YOU'RE IN THERE!!" like finding your own arcade machine in the home of the woman you're wooing.

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Calibrator
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"Rock game"

Asteroids and its VCS-2600-conversion are also featured in the book "Racing the Beam" which is touted as a platform study of the VCS.
This interesting book concentrates on half a dozen games like Combat, Adventure, Pacman & Yars' Revenge and what makes them special and different.
People interested in game development on the VCS or in general may find enough material here that shows how a given machine's restrictions apply to gameplay.

take care,
Calibrator

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Matt Barton
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We've definitely heard of

We've definitely heard of "Racing the Beam." It has been very successful, selling really well on Amazon and attracting a really surprising amount of attention. The premise of the book is interesting as well. I was under the impression that it was an academic book, but it seems like more casual geeks and retrogamers are enjoying it, too.

I really liked Nick Montfort's earlier book, Twisty Little Passages, which covered text adventures. I'd be curious what you think of Ian Bogost's Unit Operations, which pretty much made Bogost a household name among game studies folks. I have to admit, I'm not really into heavy critical theory these days (left most of my interest in that back in graduate school), preferring history or biography instead.

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Calibrator
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Analysis & Criticism
Matt Barton wrote:

I really liked Nick Montfort's earlier book, Twisty Little Passages, which covered text adventures. I'd be curious what you think of Ian Bogost's Unit Operations, which pretty much made Bogost a household name among game studies folks. I have to admit, I'm not really into heavy critical theory these days (left most of my interest in that back in graduate school), preferring history or biography instead.

Thanks for the link to Bogost's book as I haven't read it. However, I think the book isn't written for me as I neither question the cultural meaning of videogames and their standing in society nor am I too keen in reading more or less philosophical texts about parallels to other forms of art.
I don't see a personal use for me here, though I can imagine that people who see themselves as "ambassadors" for videogames in society or what you call game studies folks may like it.

What I personally like is the more journalistic approach people like you pursue: Stating the facts, documenting them as neutral as possible, drawing conclusions - based on your findings and your knowledge of older games and sometimes including opinions from different sources to show other perspectives.

Game criticism definitely wasn't the reason why I bought Racing the Beam but my interest in this limited platform and my knowledge of 6502. Because of that I figured that I could more easily understand the text - but I was wrong: The book can easily be understood by anyone with an interest in the subject and at least a slight understanding of the tech.

Montfort doesn't criticize the games he carefully selected, though a bit of praise is sometimes not exactly hidden. He not only analyzes the technical side of things ("how" was it done - and "why" doesn't it look differently) but also describes their coming into life - whether by being co-developed with the VCS itself or by converting an arcade game or by being a merchandise product for a popular movie.

There certainly is a lot of anecdotal videogame lore in this book and Montfort often wanders off the path of a give game. These excursions, like the one with Asteroids, often seem to be random in character at first but provide more depth to the game that is being analyzed.
It's certainly not an esoteric or too academic book, though it did cement my already high opinion of VCS game developers.

take care,
Calibrator

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Matt Barton
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It's starting to sound as

It's starting to sound as though I seriously misjudged the book. I don't have a copy of it myself, but what you say seems evidenced by the book's superior sales. It sounds like they've struck the perfect balance there between the tech and academic audiences. We're generally told over and over that the only audience for books like we write is game developers, though I keep thinking that surely there must be a larger audience out there who would like this stuff as long as it wasn't too technical or academic.

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Bill Loguidice
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RTB versus VG
Matt Barton wrote:

It's starting to sound as though I seriously misjudged the book. I don't have a copy of it myself, but what you say seems evidenced by the book's superior sales. It sounds like they've struck the perfect balance there between the tech and academic audiences. We're generally told over and over that the only audience for books like we write is game developers, though I keep thinking that surely there must be a larger audience out there who would like this stuff as long as it wasn't too technical or academic.

Without actuals, we'll never know, but a big reason why I think "Racing the Beam" seems to have sold and be selling better than "Vintage Games" is the fact that "Racing the Beam" has gotten reviewed and covered in fairly mainstream outlets. We've had no such reviews. There is no way that the basic content in "Racing the Beam" has more appeal than that in "Vintage Games", and it certainly doesn't look better (though it is a bit cheaper due to no need for the production that ours had). Also, I hate to belabor the point, but the title of our book is the worst possible title, because it implies "old games", which is entirely wrong. Even "Greatest Videogames" would have been a far, far superior title.

I'll read and surely enjoy "Racing the Beam" someday, but right now I must admit to resenting its success only as it relates to ours. It's the most frustrating possible situation as I truly feel "Vintage Games", even with the moronic title, should be doing at least as well. (and maybe it is, but it doesn't seem to be)

Books!
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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Matt Barton
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Vintage Grapes
Bill Loguidice wrote:

I'll read and surely enjoy "Racing the Beam" someday, but right now I must admit to resenting its success only as it relates to ours. It's the most frustrating possible situation as I truly feel "Vintage Games", even with the moronic title, should be doing at least as well. (and maybe it is, but it doesn't seem to be)

These are my feelings, too. Title aside, I find it hard to believe that anyone like ourselves could flip through Vintage Games and not want to buy a copy. I mean, how do you NOT buy this book?

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Calibrator
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Fishing for compliments?
Matt Barton wrote:
Bill Loguidice wrote:

I'll read and surely enjoy "Racing the Beam" someday, but right now I must admit to resenting its success only as it relates to ours. It's the most frustrating possible situation as I truly feel "Vintage Games", even with the moronic title, should be doing at least as well. (and maybe it is, but it doesn't seem to be)

I agree that the title isn't optimal and I hope that you have more luck with "Woot!" ;-)

Quote:

These are my feelings, too. Title aside, I find it hard to believe that anyone like ourselves could flip through Vintage Games and not want to buy a copy. I mean, how do you NOT buy this book? If I were to come across it in a Barnes & Noble, it'd be a no-brainer. If I didn't know better, though, I'd think a book like Racing the Beam would sell a few hundred copies, tops. A book exploring the esoteric inner workings of the Atari 2600? Come again? Yeah, I know there are hardcore folks out there who make homebrew 2600 carts and what-not, but just how many of these folks can there possibly be? Somehow the book has managed to reach out to far wider demographic.

I don't know if homebrew developers on the VCS automatically buy this book but there aren't exactly many. I think it's more the wannabes and people like myself - knowledgeable but with limited time to be really hardcore - that buy this book.

Quote:

There's no doubt that the huge media attention Racing the Beam has achieved is responsible for its success. The publisher, MIT Press, is a juggernaut in the academic world, and I'm sure having that kind of credibility behind them has helped. Plus, Montfort and Bogost are practically celebrities. Bogost was a keynote at GDC, for Pete's sake. I'm sure it wasn't his first. These guys have managed to really draw a vast audience around their work, while we more or less have to scream, beg, and cajole to get anyone to even glance in our direction. It sickens me.

Lots of celebrities are overrated, IMHO.

Quote:

It may sound nuts, but I'm just beginning to wonder if fate is somehow involved in things like this. Maybe some people just aren't destined for greatness, and that's all there is to it. Sorry to be so negative, but I'm just really discouraged right now.

Keep on trucking, man! You are steadily building a reputation and you are still _my_ most-read games author!

Until I've read Twisty Little Passages that is! ;-)

take care,
Calibrator

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Bill Loguidice
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I'm not fishing for

I'm not fishing for compliments in the slightest. That's genuinely how I feel. Compliments are lovely, but we've got tons of them where I feel more than vindicated. I was more railing against being ignored professionally.

Books!
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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Calibrator
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I mostly meant Matt
Bill Loguidice wrote:

I'm not fishing for compliments in the slightest. That's genuinely how I feel.

And of course with irony in mind as I hate to see you guys being discouraged. You accomplished already something to be proud of and I expect more to come!

Quote:

Compliments are lovely, but we've got tons of them where I feel more than vindicated. I was more railing against being ignored professionally.

I understand exactly how you feel, but sometimes luck is a powerful ally.

take care,
Calibrator

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Matt Barton
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Free Publicity
Calibrator wrote:

I understand exactly how you feel, but sometimes luck is a powerful ally.

True, but so are real allies! :)

I mean, not to belabor the point, but you came here to tell us about Racing the Beam. How many people, if anyone, are telling those authors about our book? How many people are on Atari forums talking about our book? We need people like you to go out and spread the word; without your word of mouth, no one will know about all the hard work that went into Vintage Games.

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