Feature Article

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Full-length feature articles.
Matt Barton's picture

Future of Single Player CRPGs

Want to make a good single player CRPG?Want to make a good single player CRPG?Probably the hardest part of my new book to write was the conclusion, where I tried to think about the future of our favorite genre: the standalone, single-player CRPG. That genre includes all the classic Ultimas, Bard's Tale, Gold Box games, and so on. It's all the genre that has suffered the most attrition from game developers and publishers, though the better ones still attract mainstream attention (Oblivion, Mass Effect). What I want to do here is focus on a few subgenres, if you will, that to my mind have the best chance of thriving in the current market. I will naturally focus on PC games, though where possible these concepts could be applied to any of the new consoles.

Bill Loguidice's picture

A Rare Gem Uncovered? Is an NTSC VZ200 Color Computer (1982) a Reality? (Plus bonus discovery!)

I don't have time to do a thorough analysis (i.e., plugging it in) just now as I need to take care of some pressing Intellivision stuff (since last night I did our taxes), but I seem to have stumbled upon a bit of good luck x2. Even though that luck doesn't involve finding a mass of riches, in the world of retrocomputing, it's still kind of neat. I recently acquired what was purported to be a Dick Smith VZ200, which is the Australian version of the Video Technology (Laser) VZ200. To my surprise, this is an actually an NTSC version, which from all that I've seen, has been pretty much an unknown quantity to this point, at least on the Web. When I get a chance, I'll be doing a thorough analysis of this budget system, but I took a few quick snapshots in the meantime. (read towards the bottom for the bonus bit of good luck)

Bill Loguidice's picture

Quick Look at the AT&T 6300 PC (1984) with Lots of Photos

Why a quick look at what first glance resembles a generic IBM PC clone? Well, the reality is, this clone has a few special elements that you might find interesting. With IBM romping in the professional PC market since late 1981, it was only a matter of time before some other big companies would want a piece of the business pie. Enter AT&T, the powerhouse behind UNIX and C, and oh yes, the monopolistic phone company, who started their own rumblings in the industry when it was rumored that they would soon be entering with a stunning new mystery system or two. It turns out that instead of coming out with something truly radical, they merely decided to one-up the original IBM PC, with a faster processor (the 16-bit 8086 at 8Mhz versus 8/16-bit 8088 at 4.7 Mhz), extra proprietary 16-bit expansion slots and a built-in combination monochrome and color graphics adapter (versus one or the other). In reality, this was a rebranded Olivetti M24, a highly compatible IBM PC clone from Italy. The only area where it definitely wasn't compatible was in its ability to use IBM PC memory because of the Olivetti/AT&T's higher processor speed. It even passed the difficult "Microsoft Flight Simulator" test with flying colors, something that not every clone could say. AT&T's system could come with either a monochrome or color monitor and either two 5.25" 360K floppy disk drives or one 5.25" floppy disk drive and a hard drive.

With some of the preliminaries out of the way, let's take a look at the system in hand and some of its features:

Bill Loguidice's picture

Photo of the Week - Know your History! (07 - Bally BASIC (Bally Astrocade) (1978))

While I've done a few of these informally since the last one, the C-128DCR, which was number 6, I decided to continue the numbering from there since I wasn't going to do anything special at the moment with this other than take a series of photos. The Bally Home Library Computer or Bally Professional Arcade (and several other names over its lifetime), better known by its informal nickname, the Bally Astrocade, was a videogame console released in 1978 with the promise of future computer capabilities. While the full-blown add-ons never made it out from its two parent companies (Bally would give up on the system within a few years and a new company would form as Astrovision, but also never had much success with the technology), the first of two cassette interfaces was released in 1978, which ran at 300-baud. This 300-baud interface consisted of a beefy book, cartridge and interface cables that hooked into the accessory jack and the system's control port number 3 (it had four controller ports). You could then type in programs on the system's 24 calculator-style keys. Yes, people actually programmed on that!

Bill Loguidice's picture

Review and Interview for MindRec's Meteor Blaster DX Signature Edition (NEC Turbo Duo (Super CD), 2006)

System: NEC Turbo Duo (Super CD)

Release Date: 2006

Developer: MindRec

Rating: Good


NEC Turbo DuoMeteor Blaster DX Signature Edition is the latest and most elaborate version of the long-running series of homebrew games in NEC's Super CD format from author Bt Garner and his company, MindRecSignature Edition is essentially the same Asteroids-inspired product as the other DX games, save for some slight graphical tweaks, a hidden extra ship, a hidden extra demo, an upgrade to the Loop bonus game, and personalization options.

Bill Loguidice's picture

Revenge of the Panasonic JR-200U Personal Computer (JR200, JR 200 U) (1983)) - PART 1

As luck would have it, I came across an amazing stash of Panasonic JR-200U (aka, Panasonic Personal Computer or PPC) stuff for about $40 shipped that puts my previous collection for this system to shame. In fact, the only major item not present in this new haul was Wordwatch. There will be no need for me to re-hash what was in the prior "A Long Visual Look at..." as you can just read it for yourself if you haven't already. Since all of the setup stuff is already taken care of, I can get right into this haul and PART 1, which will briefly lead into coverage of one of the interesting games now in my possession (subsequent parts will naturally follow suit in various degrees of detail).

First, here's a photo of the new stash, followed by a few cursory findings, then a preliminary look at the first game:

Bill Loguidice's picture

A Long Visual Look at the Rare Panasonic JR-200U Personal Computer (JR200, JR 200 U) (1983))

In lieu of doing this as a traditional Photo of the Week - Know your History! feature, I decided that this extremely obscure, but not particularly valuable vintage personal computer deserved a bit more attention.

Bill Loguidice's picture

Wizard's Crown Chronicles (03) - The Beginning

(See the prior entries in this ongoing feature)

NOTE: The format of these for now are going to be the REVIEW (semi-walkthrough) portion first, followed by the STORY (fictionalization) portion. Each portion is stand alone and I'll separate them with headers.


Bill Loguidice's picture

Wizard's Crown Chronicles (02) - The Setup Part III (Final)

(See The premise at the end of this posting for details on this ongoing feature)
OK, I'm sure you're getting tired of "setup" at this point, but this is finally it. Frankly, it was bothering me that I'd have to type on the same system I was using as a display that I was also capturing direct images and videos on, so I decided to be a bit technically poor and split the composite video/mono audio signals coming from the C-128D into two outputs. There appears to be little-to-no noticeable degradation, so there you go. This will now allow me to be as "authentic" as I prefer to be, meaning I'll be playing "Wizard's Crown" on a real Commodore 8-bit system with a vintage monitor, while still having full capture capability on my laptop.

So, once and for all, here are the specs for the review and chronicle:

Bill Loguidice's picture

Wizard's Crown Chronicles (01) - The Setup Part II

(See The premise at the end of this posting for details on this ongoing feature)
With most of the setup behind us, with the two prior features, (00) and the unnumbered preparation, it's time to provide the last of the build-up before the actual feature starts to unfold. I have scanned the complete box and complete manual. Go to the set, here. First the box is presented (all sides), then the rather long manual, then the rest of the photos as the chronicles continue. You can view this as a slideshow or click on the individual photos to get high resolution imaging options. Enjoy!

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