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Matt Barton's picture

Matt's Podcast 10: Detoxic Waste

Wasteland 2Wasteland 2Hi, folks, I'm back this week with a new podcast. Topics include Wasteland 2 and Kickstarter funding, brainstorming Matt Chat DVDs and documentaries, Baer vs. Bushnell, and a closer look at the Mass Effect 3 ending fiasco. Don't forget to visit the Wasteland 2 Kickstarter page.
Download the mp3 here.

Handball (Magnavox Odyssey, 1972)

Handball (Odyssey, 1972)The lines are advancing! Push back or we'll be crushed!

Ending out our tour of 1972 home videogames we have Handball for Magnavox Odyssey. It is another Tennis variant. You hit the Ball Spot and then try to wiggle it past your opponent's Player Spot by controlling the ENGLISH. The difference here is that the Center Line Spot becomes a WALL Spot and is adjusted to exist on the left side of the screen. The players then alternate hitting the Ball Spot against the Wall.

This game uses cartridge #8 and an overlay (above). This game isn't worse than the other Tennis variants. In fact, it's SLIGHTLY better. Having a wall to hit the ball against is novel considering the only things we've EVER seen it deflect from has been the Player Spots.

The instructions list some gameplay variants involving the positioning of the SERVER and the RECEIVER but they don't change the game play significantly enough to go over here.

A few words about the term "Crap Game from Hell".

Volleyball (Magnavox Odyssey, 1972)

Though there isn't even a passing resemblance and they're obviously Male, I still like to refer to these six volleyball players (from left to right) as: Ayane, Christie, Helena, Hitomi, Kasumi and Lei Fang.Though there isn't even a passing resemblance and they're obviously Male, I still like to refer to these six volleyball players (from left to right) as: Ayane, Christie, Helena, Hitomi, Kasumi and Lei Fang.

Fast-forward to the present day (2010, to those of you reading this in some 25th century museum/blog-vault), videogame volleyball will evolve/has evolved/evolved into poly-polygonal, progressively scanned-tily clad women bouncing around on exotic beaches and buying each other cute gifts. Back here in 1972/73, where I am, Volleyball for Odyssey is the primordial soup of videogame volleyball. Don't forget, those little figures on the overlay are static; frozen eternally in those positions. The only movement on the screen occurs with the PlayerSpots and the BallSpot, just like in the previous 20-or-so Odyssey games.

What is exciting is that this game utilizes a new numbered cartridge! Seeing a shiny new number "7" on the cart used to play the game does add a little excitement to its initial playing. To recap, for anyone who may not know, cards for Odyssey don't have programs on them. They act as switches to simply toggle the display of, and modify the behaviors of, the "spots" which Odyssey broadcasts to your TV. The hardware variation used by this lucky number "7" cartridge creates a half-height version of the CenterLineSpot (only seen previously in Table Tennis) and stations it at the bottom of the screen as a volleyball "net".

Wipeout (Magnavox Odyssey, 1972)

Wipeout Overlay: Looks more intestinal than intense...Wipeout Overlay: Looks more intestinal than intense...Wipeout was the first home videogame racing simulation. I know there was nothing in the arcades in 1972 with a racing theme, and I've never read anything about mainframe versions of a racing game, either. That being said, just as we saw with Invasion and Baseball, Wipeout is more boardgame than videogame.

Addressing the videogame portion first. The overlay is a stylized racetrack, reminiscent of the twisted cargo fleet's course in Submarine. The players take turns acting as the Driver and serving as the Timer. Prior to a racing phase, the Timer uses the left controller to position their light behind the clock on the left side of the overlay. The Driver uses the right controller to control the light that represents their race car. The Driver's goal is to maneuver their light around the race track. The Timer's job is to hit the reset button (on the Driver's controller!) to "serve" the BallSpot so that it comes in from the right side of the screen, crosses the screen and hits the light behind the left side clock to deflect back across the screen and off the right side again. The Timer player does this throughout the Driver's journey around the track. The Driver starts with 30 laps in their count. Every time the Timer player hits the reset button, one lap is subtracted from the lap count. If the Driver leaves the track, they lose two laps. If the Driver's light is actually hit by the Timer's BallSpot, they lose a big fat five laps! The idea is to get around the track before the lap count evaporates entirely.

Invasion (1972, Magnavox Odyssey)

Invasion (1972, Magnavox Odyssey): Invasion! I would think attacking this castle from the left would be a good call...Invasion (1972, Magnavox Odyssey): Invasion! I would think attacking this castle from the left would be a good call...

The world is a small map with 12 territories, each containing a castle. Surrounding the land portion of the map is an ocean perimeter. The land part of the world gets divided up among the players and everyone gets an equal number of castles. The object of the game is to take over everyone else's castles using your armies. You can attack any castle if it is immediately adjacent to one of your castles. After capturing a castle you get to draw a loot card which gives you gold. Use the gold to buy more armies or to buy a ship which you can use to transport armies to attack castles that aren't immediately adjacent to your already conqured land.

To Attack a castle there are two phases. The External Battle and the Internal Battle. The external battle by land can be either a Direct Attack or a Sneak Attack.

The Direct Attack is the only time you directly face-off against an opponent using the Odyssey. The duel is simply this: The Attacker sends the BallSpot across the screen at the highest speed possible, and attempts to wiggle it, using ENGLISH, past the Defender who can only use their Vertical Control to block it. It IS a bit more challenging then, say, Tennis or Football, because of the high speed of the BallSpot. Really, the game is mostly on the game board and in this case, the video component is used when dice or even Rock, Paper, Scissors would have sufficed.

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Casual Photos: Magnavox Odyssey 300, Questprobe/Spider-Man, Foes of Ali, Rise of the Robots, Video Chess

Today's second set of casual photos (Magnavox Odyssey 300 (1976); Electronic Arts' Foes of Ali (1995) and Absolute's Rise of the Robots (1995) for the 3DO; Adventure International's Questprobe Featuring Spider-Man (1984) for the Atari ST; and Atari's Video Chess Special Edition (1979) for the Atari 2600 VCS) are taken with my Panasonic digital camera, and, instead of telling a semi-coherent story to go along with the photos, I'll talk about each one in brief in turn. Photos to follow the commentary (I had some issues with my image processing software at work, so I was unable to finish cleaning these up).

Bill Loguidice's picture

Pong - Your thoughts on arguably the true originator of our industry

Hey guys! I'll be working on the Pong chapter while I'm working on the Spacewar! chapter, as their historical lead-ups kind of run in parallel. In any case, Pong needs no introduction, from its first conceptual appearance on Ralph Baer's Brown Box that "inspired" Nolan Bushnell to ask Al Alcorn to create the original arcade game, to the precursor to it all from 1958, William Higginbotham's "Tennis for Two". Of course I'll also be discussing the various home Pong systems and clones and a few ways that the game influenced future games. As always, your thoughts are much appreciated for this truly iconic game.

Prehistoric Safari (Magnavox Odyssey, 1972)

Prehistoric Safari: Sounds like thunder; tastes like chicken.Prehistoric Safari: Sounds like thunder; tastes like chicken.Shooting Gallery is an add-on for the Magnavox Odyssey. It comes with four games, each with its own Überlay. Three of the games use the included game cart #9 and the fourth uses #10. The add-on comes in its own box with a GUN! A realistic looking rifle type of gun that plugs right into a socket built into the Odyssey! This gun is the kind of "non-orange" fake gun that will get you seriously killed if you "playfully" aim it at an officer of the law. So, uh, DON'T do that, 'kay kids?

In Prehistoric Safari, you USE the GUN! You are the MIGHTY HUNTER! However, you've lost most of your ammunition in the volcano (see it on the uberlay?) so you only have 15 shots. After 15 shots you'd better get back to your own world, using whatever method got you there (time machine, submarine or tiny raft). PlayerTwo is just the assistant, whom we always call "Jim". Jim's job is to move the target light behind each of the hideous beasts from before time. The Hunter should attempt to obliterate only the beast behind which the light is sitting. Jim keeps the light still until the Hunter takes the shot, and then, hit or miss, 'ol Jim moves the light behind another creature that should not be! The player's roles are reversed after 15 shots, and the person with the most "kills" after one round wins the game.

Percepts (Magnavox Odyssey, 1972)

1972 Percepts Überlay: Not the most attractive of the lot, but hey, it was FREE!1972 Percepts Überlay: Not the most attractive of the lot, but hey, it was FREE!

Percepts is the free Odyssey game you get for registering your Odyssey. You know the drill: you fill out a little slip of paper and mail it in to Magnavox; they get your personal information for nefarious marketing purposes and you get a free game. Not a bad deal!

Quick FYI. For some reason I've heard (or I've imagined I've heard) this game misnamed as "Precepts". For those of you who care to know: it's Percepts, as in perception. This isn't an outright tip, but let's just say it's a lot easier to find one of these on eBay if you're allowing for the probability that many non-gamer-sellers misspell the title as Precepts.

This game falls into the "seek and go to" category of Odyssey games in that a player must determine where to go on the screen and get there before their opponent does. Percepts comes with two decks (Purple and Green) of 15 cards each, an Überlay (both sizes) and a set of instructions. There are two Percepts games described in the instructions, but you can have fun coming up with your own variations if the mood hits you.

Simon Says (Magnavox Odyssey, 1972)

Simon Says: Their ubiquitous gaze haunts me to this day . . .Simon Says: Their ubiquitous gaze haunts me to this day . . .I was unable to cajole my son into playing this game with me, but since there is a kitty cat on the Überlay I was able to lure my three year old daughter into playing it. She enjoyed it so much, that she requested to play it again on three separate occasions since.

Simon Says is best played with three people. Two people each handling a controller and a third person who plays the role of Simon. Simon draws one of the provided off-screen accessory cards, reads it and says aloud: "Simon Says: fine the (body part indicated on card)". The players have to move their PlayerSpots from their starting square to the corresponding body-part on one of the colorful Überlay children or one of their strangely legless pets. The person who gets their PlayerSpot to the correct spot first, gets to keep the card. The person with the most cards wins the game.

If the person playing Simon chooses to make it so, then the role of Simon can be played as a crafty trickster, sometimes omitting the words "Simon Says" from the command phrase. The rule being, of course, that if Simon doesn’t say “Simon says” than nobody is supposed to move their PlayerSpot at all or suffer terrible consequences, such as the loss of a card. Being the playful, tormenting father that I am, I tried it that way but quickly discovered that I should probably wait until she turns four before trying to “fake out” my daughter. It just pissed her off in a very, “Why must you cause me such pain, Daddy?” kind of way. I changed the rule to Simon having to say “please” for a command to be followed. This was more easily understood by my daughter because it’s something my wife and I are drilling into her in real life. She enjoyed chirping back at me "You didn't say 'please'!" whenever I tried to trick her.

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