Feature Article

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Full-length feature articles.
Mark Vergeer's picture

SHMUPS - Third Person Perspective Shooting Games - Part 1

What is it about these physics-defying games that makes them one of the most long lasting genres around?

Introduction
Shoot‘em ups (SHMUPS) are a very specific kind of videogame that everybody will recognize, a type of game where you control a maneuverable weapon – often in the form of a spaceship – stopping enemies from destroying you or your bases. Control is often fairly limited, four- or eight-way control, but sometimes only sideways, combined with one or more fire-buttons. One of the most well known incarnations of the game is Space Invaders and a lot of later games all seem to be inspired by this old granddaddy of SHMUPS from the late 1970’s. Even non-gamers know what Space Invaders is about, often describing a modern day SHMUP as ‘being like Space Invaders’.

Matt Barton's picture

Why Retrogaming?: Some Thoughts on Nostalgia and Gaming

Why are so many people these days, surrounded as they are by some of the most sophisticated gaming technology ever designed, still captivated by so-called "obsolete" games like Pac-Man, Joust, Donkey Kong, Super Mario Bros., and Frogger? Why are so many thousands (if not tens of thousands) of people running MAME or any number of other computer/console emulation programs on their modern PCs? Indeed, why would someone with a "decked out" PC capable of running the latest FPS in near-cinematic quality want to run programs intended for the humble Commodore 64 or the outright meek Atari 2600? The reasons, I think, are not as obvious as we might think.

Bill Loguidice's picture

Excerpt from Sid Meier's Civilization Chronicles

Civilization IV ScreenshotCivilization IV ScreenshotArmchair Arcade is proud to present an excerpt from the book contained within Sid Meier's Civilization Chronicles, the definitive Civilization collector's edition recently released by 2K. This chapter is called “One Civ, Many Worlds” in which designer/programmer Soren Johnson writes about the Civ community and its positive impact on the evolution of the game. Johnson, who works at Firaxis, 2K's world-renowned development studio, was the lead designer for Sid Meier's Civilization IV and he programmed and co-designed Sid Meier's Civilization III.

Sid Meier's Civilization Chronicles for PC is available for a MSRP of $69.99. For more information please visit http://www.civilization.com.

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The following is an excerpt from Sid Meier's Civilization Chronicles

Bill Loguidice's picture

Do Computer and Videogame Collectors Have an Overriding Responsibility?

The Warp Factor (SSI, 1981): Front of box image from an eBay auctionThe Warp Factor (SSI, 1981): Front of box image from an eBay auctionAh, the wonders of eBay. While you can occasionally get a hard-to-find game for a low price with lots of luck - say maybe $35 with shipping - other times you'll see boxed software go for ridiculous prices that no mere mortal can afford, like SSI's classic "The Warp Factor" for the Apple II, with a very recent final sale price before shipping of $449.44! Even though it's sealed, it's still an amazingly over-the-top winning bid. As is usual with SSI games - particularly pre-1986 SSI games - the cover artwork is beautiful and there are nice extras inside the oversized box. A fine specimen or not (though this one is actually a bit crushed!), average-to-good game itself or not, it can't help but make you reflect on the meaning of collecting, particularly as it applies to our hobby.

Matt Barton's picture

The Game of Dialog: Simulating Conversation in Games

Although games have certainly come a long way since the days of Spacewar! and William Crowther's Adventure, the great bulk of these advancements have been in the realm of graphics. Games definitely look a lot more sophisticated than they ever have before. However, one area that is still painfully lacking in games is artificial intelligence, particulary regarding dialog between players and computer-controlled characters. What I intend to do here is discuss a few approaches game developers have taken to address this issue--and why sometimes less is more.

Bill Loguidice's picture

A Videogame and Computer Collector's Problems with Moving - Lessons Learned and Photos

Well, as many of you know, several of us here at Armchair Arcade have been in the process of moving or have recently moved. I'm finally in the "recently moved" category after being in the former for a little over a month. As many of you also know, I'm very much into collecting computer and videogame-related stuff, hardware, software, books, accessories, collectibles, etc. Pretty much anything and everything relevant. Unfortunately, the bigger the collection, the harder the move.

Matt Barton's picture

The Initial State: A Text Adventure by Matt Barton

It's definitely no secret that I've been working on a text adventure game. At least, it hasn't been a secret to anyone around here, what with so few of my friends actually seeing the front of my face after a summer spent coding! Though my primary task was to learn C++ by creating a simple text adventure engine, I also put quite a bit of work into actually crafting a game with this engine. The name of this game is "Initial State," and I'm making it available for download.

Matt Barton's picture

Games for Girls: A Look at Her Interactive's Nancy Drew series

If you haven't ever heard of Her Interactive, it's about damn time you did. They're the world's only--only!--developer focused squarely on the girl market, and they've been churning out amazing games based on the classic girl detective series, Nancy Drew. What I want to do here is introduce the games and talk a bit about why I think Her Interactive has been so successful. Though many people would like to pretend Her Interactive didn't exist when ranting about "the industry's failure toward women" and the like, I think it's important to look at these games and try to figure out why they're so much better than the average "girl game."

Matt Barton's picture

Making Better Games for Women: Or, No Binary Ever Made Love to a Woman

Why are so few women interested in gaming? The answer is simple: It’s the binary, stupid.

Every six months or so there's a little flare up in the media about how the videogame industry has failed women. The usual argument is that 99.9% of games are designed for and marketed exclusively for young males, and women (as well as gay players) are ignored. Game developers and publishers don’t care about women because women don’t care about videogames. And so it goes. While this argument is ill-informed (it totally ignores the amazing success of Her Interactive's Nancy Drew series, which has been a hit among pre-teens as well as adult women of all ages), I’m the first to admit that there is a problem when the few games that do feature women use them primarily as sex objects. However, rather than blame the game industry and give the same old tired statistics and claims, I think it's time someone pointed out that the true problem is the hardware: or, more specifically, the architecture of the computer itself. It is my belief that the computer's architecture was itself designed with and for a particular mindset, one most comfortable in the world of "binary," or simple either/or decisions--in short, the masculine mind. This fact has made it especially difficult for women to become proficient in programming and, by extension, the computer industry as a whole, since all programs (applications as well as games) have been built on this masculine framework.

Bill Loguidice's picture

A Fresh Perspective on Old Arcade to Home Translations

Zaxxon for the Apple II: Is it really a bad thing that this version of the game is not arcade perfect?Zaxxon for the Apple II: Is it really a bad thing that this version of the game is not arcade perfect?It used to be that home videogame or computer translations of arcade games were judged on how closely they mimicked the source material. This included how many levels were brought over - memory constraints often meant that one or more stages were left on the cutting room floor (Donkey Kong translations were rarely complete, for instance) - how accurate the graphics and animation were (did Pac-Man look like Pac-Man?), whether or not the sound captured the intended spirit (did Asteroids provide enough of a bass effect?), and how well the controls matched up (like angling the joystick for Q*bert), among many other areas.

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