The next chapter I'll be tackling is the one on Grand Theft Auto III, which of course encompasses the games before and the games after it, as well as the various "sandbox" precursors and numerous modern day clones and knock-offs. I'm certainly no expert in the GTA mythos, so any help or thoughts would be greatly appreciated. Right now I only own Vice City Stories for the Sony PSP, though I may have to rectify that with a rental to get up to full speed. Thanks for the help, guys!
I just wanted to comment quick on “The Great Videogame Crash” (my personal official designation, along with my preferred use of "videogame" over "video game", just like "bodybuilding" over "body building") and sort of vet my thought process for public discussion and potential disagreement. After spending ~3 years writing the other book on American videogame and computer systems, I came to the conclusion that it has to refer to the year 1984 if a single year needs to be chosen. This was based on a combination of research and personal experience. To put it simply, in 1983, consumers had no real concept that there was something going on behind the scenes. All the consumer saw was increasing stock and lowered prices. Behind the scenes was a different story, with retailers having excess of unsold inventory and diminishing or non-existent profit margins for even good publishers in light of cut-price dreck from their competitors. The classic supply outstripping demand. It wasn’t until 1984 that consumers started to realistically notice there was a problem when less and less new product started appearing on store shelves. That’s why to me, 1984 has to be the year.
Obviously videogames never fully went away in retail or sales channels, but there was a definite slowdown 1984 – 1985. It wasn’t until the limited release of the NES in late 1985 and its wide release in 1986 that retailers started to want to get back full force into videogames and lots of different companies again wanted to cash in. So really, The Great Videogame Crash can be considered from 1983 – 1986 if you want to get technical, but the years where it was felt the most by consumers - who to me are the most important part of the equation - would actually be 1985 and 1986. At least that’s my theory and one I plan on sticking with. And obviously this only applies to North America and specifically the US, as market conditions were very different elsewhere. Also, we can't mention The Great Videogame Crash without also mentioning that the thinking in that 1984 - 85 time period was that low cost computers like the Commodore 64 would more than fill the function or need of consoles that "just" played games. Obviously that wasn't the case and both markets peacefully co-existed for some time. So, what do YOU think?
The Super Mario Bros. chapter is going to be worked on on and off as well. Obviously discussion of the precursor games, like Donkey Kong, Mario Bros., Pitfall, etc., will be critical, as all of the 2D games in the series (Super Mario 64/Tomb Raider are their own chapter), as well as the "challenge" of Sonic, but what are some of your other thoughts about the impact, influences and clones of the best-selling game of all time? I'd love to know, as I'm certainly no connoisseur. In fact, I was a bit "resentful" of Super Mario Bros. and the NES in 1985/86 in my youth, as I kind of blamed it for the downfall of systems like the ColecoVision (how wrong I was). I still ended up wanting one, but never got a NES when it was a contemporary system.
By the way, I'm sure you're wondering why the "can of worms" comment in the title... I consider it one of those chapters that has to be done right, otherwise we'll hear no end of it... Even with the impossible time crunch, it's one of those chapters that Matt and I need to heap some extra TLC on.
Hey all. I'll be tackling the Flight Simulator chapter next and would love to know your thoughts. While obviously Flight Simulator really started with Bruce Artwick's original game for the Apple II and TRS-80 computers, I personally didn't play a true flight sim until Flight Simulator II on the C-64. I remember finally taking the time to go through the tedious manual to learn the controls and actually felt a sense of accomplishment as I "learned" to fly (in both the game's main flight mode and secondary combat mode). Sadly, I let about a month pass between Flight Sim II sessions and I forgot a lot of it and never really had the heart to go back and try again on anything more than a very casual basis!
I played a few combat sims on the C-64, like Sid Meier's F-15 Strike Eagle, but really never got into those types of games much as I always felt like I was flying in circles to either avoid or catch enemies. I remember very distinctly getting one of EA's combat flight sims for the Amiga (name slips my mind) and being impressed with the crude polygonal graphics, but my friend at the time (I think we were seniors in high school) who aspired to be in the air force, wasn't duly impressed. After that, I've tried such games on and off, but really, I"m no expert in the genre, though I do own some of the classics (like Falcon for the Amiga/ST and a few of the later combat flight sims from Ubisoft for PC).
So, anyone have any thoughts about the genre in general and what I should look out for? I'd love to hear some stories and what some of your favorite games are past and present. Thanks!
For some reason, towards the end of my sleep cycle, I had a dream I was in a Doctor Who-like world. It's hard to recall now, but I remember lots of wood and alcoves, sort of like some space cruiseship thing built from stuff at Ikea. In any case, I remember the Doctor and his companions (at first the Doctor was another but he ended up being Tom Baker) struggling to get into the TARDIS for whatever reason and me dropping all the stuff I knew about him, almost like an outsider looking in, despite my standing right there. In any case, it was when I said "TARDIS" that they were finally able to get into the craft that was elaborately blended into the wood surroundings, though looking really nothing much at all like the famous sci-fi staple. In any case, I'll save that bizarre imagery for another day and perhaps turn it into a short story or something, where the Doctor and his companions don't know they're on TV or something (complete with our inability to hear their inner monologues).
Anyway, that rather long winded blathering brings me to my thought upon waking just a few moments ago thanks to a rather loud lawnmower cutting my lawn (or perhaps it was the fact that both of my arms were asleep or that my cat was warmly nuzzled in my left armpit; the point is, I woke). This thought can indeed ruin or at least taint my love of good science fiction, particularly when it involves humanoid travel between planets. You see, it's the very real issue of gravity. Why the hell in nearly every sci-fi book, movie, videogame, etc., is gravity never ever an issue when humanoids (or any other non-magical gravity balancing creature) land on a new planet? The planet could be very, very large, the planet could be very, very small. It could have no moons or it could have lots of moon. The point is, no matter how alien, regardless of need for some type of breathing apparatus or other equipment, there's no consideration made for the gravity, meaning the humanoids aren't either leaping about with ease or struggling to move? (I'm looking at you, Star Trek) Obviously part of it is convenience, part of (depending upon the medium) is expense, and part of it is that it wouldn't often make for a good story. Loud explosions in space I can handle, no inertia in movements I can handle, etc., but it sure would be nice if someone could throw a bone to gravity once in a while. Perhaps in Doctor Who's case it's yet another mysterious "gift of the Time Lords" or some type of blessing from the TARDIS, like being able to understand and speak all languages anywhere. Who knows?
By the way, I've been watching even more science-based programming than ever of late so that's had something to do with that weird and disturbing (for entertainments-sake) idea just popping in (recently our cable company moved channels like The Science Channel, Discovery, History Channel, etc., to hi-def). That and reading Edgar Rice Burroughs' classic "A Princess of Mars" on my Sony e-Reader for the past several weeks, which does in fact address the gravity thing (ding, ding, ding!), albeit a bit incorrectly (when the main character is mysteriously transported to Mars he's imbued with superhuman strength, including the ability to leap massive distances due to the red planet's lesser gravity). And maybe, just maybe, I was also influenced just a wee bit by my listening to the introduction of the digital audio book of "The Answer" on my way home from work yesterday, a book which explores where creativity and those "aha!" moments come from and how to make it far less of a random occurrence. Anyway, back to writing "Vintage Games"...
I'm presently trying to finish off the Defender chapter. I was wondering if everyone could chime in with a few of their favorite Defender clones I need to be sure to look at, either arcade or home versions. Certainly there are the obvious ones like Parsec for the TI-99/4a, but any others that might not be so obvious? I'm also going to tie in a bit with later side-scrolling SHMUPS as appropriate, like R-Type and the like. Thanks, guys!
Softkey Publishing's magazines', Hardcore Computing, Hardcore Computist, and Computist, are available for free from The Computist Project Website, either as PDF's or by request via free DVD. In addition, the PDF's have recently been re-cropped, color corrected, and OCR'd so they can be fully searched. Definitely check out this valuable community service to Apple II-series enthusiasts and software hackers in general. As a nice bonus, this project has even been blessed by the original publishing company! Check out the Website here. I know my free DVD is already on its way (thanks, Mike)!
Someone requested scans of the manual for the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Treasure of Tarmin Cartridge for the Mattel Aquarius computer for an article they were working on that would apparently compare and contrast that lesser known version of the game with the better known Mattel Intellivision version. As such, I did a semi-forensic scan of the box and box contents, including a full scan of the manual from my collection. You can click the preview widget below for access to the full high resolution Flickr set, or here. Enjoy!
I went on vacation last week with my wife, kids, in-laws and sister-in-law to North Carolina. I'm not big on these types of vacations (particularly ones involving long drives) as they tend to be more effort than payoff, but one of the highlights was that my wife and I (sans our kids) got to go off-roading on modified Segways (essentially a bit more power and bigger tires). Now, ever since it was known as "It" and was really ramping up the hype machine several years ago, I've been intrigued by the concepts. I'm also a fan of inventor Dean Kamen. Despite it not living up to the massive hype and not being quite as groundbreaking as implied, it still ended up being something very, very cool. Needless to say, I've been wanting to try a Segway for some time and I finally got my chance with this tour. One option was to use regular style Segways and go on a city tour, the other option was to go offroading and explore forested areas. We chose the latter.
After repeated abuse from our daughters - mostly our one and a half year old - my wife's expanded Twinhead Durabook (Intel Pentium M 1.73Ghz Celeron) running Windows XP wasn't doing so well (toughbook indeed), so we went to our local office store a few weeks back and picked her up a nice 17" widescreen HP Pavilion dv9812us A