News

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Regularly updated news on all topics relevant to Armchair Arcade.
Bill Loguidice's picture

New Book Deal and Updates on Other Projects

I'm happy to announce that there will be a third new book from the Armchair Arcade team in 2011, this one entitled, TouchPad For Dummies, which will begin production shortly after the HP TouchPad's official release July 1, for an anticipated November 2011 retail availability. This will be written by me and Christina Loguidice, and joins our other book, My Xbox: Kinect, Xbox 360, and Xbox LIVE, which is well underway, as well as Motorola ATRIX For Dummies, which I wrote with Dan Gookin and will see release in August. Of course, Matt Barton and I are still in production on Gameplay: The Story of the Videogame Revolution, from Lux Digital Pictures.

I can't announce any specifics as of yet, but Christina and I are also in negotiations for two Nintendo books, one of which might be written this year. If either of those deals happen, we'll of course let everyone know. Here are the Amazon links to all of the Armchair Arcade team's books to date:
      

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Supreme Court Says No Evidence of Violent Games Harming Children

Looks like the videogames industry has scored an epic win at the Supreme Court. The Court says games are protected under the First Amendment and that there is no evidence purporting to show a connection between exposure to violent video games and harmful effects on children. I'm really happy to see this, since all of the opposition I've seen are politicians who have never played games just desperate for an easy hinge issue. I think it might also raise the profile of videogames.

Bill Loguidice's picture

5 for $5 Games Bundle for PC and All Proceeds Go Straight to the Indie Developers

Not quite a Humble Bundle, but still pretty neat for PC gaming fans, the 5 for $5 Bundle has no DRM and all of the proceeds go directly to the developers. Each of the five games is a very nifty looking genre mashup of some sort and includes Delve Deeper, Spring Up Harmony, Mactabilis, Steel Storm: Burning Retribution, and Digitanks. Check out the video below, and be sure to visit the Website to purchase:

Bill Loguidice's picture

Remarkable Auctions: Shadowkeep (1984) for the Apple II by Trillium

Shadowkeep as mentioned in the 11/84 Electronic Games magazineShadowkeep as mentioned in the 11/84 Electronic Games magazineThe latest remarkable auction is none other than the legendary computer role playing game hybrid, Shadowkeep, from 1984, by Trillium, for the Apple II, which sold for $529.00 (with free shipping). Trillium was best known for their high quality text and graphics adventures, like Amazon and Dragonworld, that featured solid parsers and excellent graphics, and were typically written in partnership with a famous author. Shadowkeep was something of a departure for the company as it was essentially a lushly illustrated role playing game that had a text-based interface. As for this game's famous author connection, Alan Dean Foster created a companion book for the game with the same title whose existence was advertised prominently on the game box (actually, the company's usual thick multi-fold folder) cover.

Much like with Penguin Software having to change their name to Polarium after Penguin the book publisher took notice, Trillium ended up having to change their name to Telarium after Trillium Press got on their case. That's why today, Trillium versions of the games are worth more than the later Telarium versions, though most releases were otherwise identical. I believe I personally have the complete Telarium Apple II version of Shadowkeep along with the paperback novel, though I'll have to verify if in fact instead it's the Trillium version. In any case, the typical pricing for Shadowkeep has been in the ~$250 range, so for this latest game auction to go for double that is indeed impressive, and is probably due in part to the completeness of the example.

Shadowkeep is also notorious for a few other reasons. First, is an incredibly robust copy protection scheme. Second, is that all of the known Apple II images/ROMs on the Web have been altered. You see, if you play directly on the game disks rather that making play disks, the game is irrecoverably altered. That's right, once you play on the originals, there's no going back to its original state, ever. I have yet to check if my disks are in fact intact or have been played on, and thus, altered. Finally, there's the question of other versions outside of the Apple II version. The Commodore 64 and IBM PC versions were at least ANNOUNCED, and there have been occasional sightings that would make Bigfoot hunters proud, but there's still no credible evidence that those versions of the game were ever actually released.

Bill Loguidice's picture

Remarkable Auctions: The Dark Crystal (1983) for the Apple II

Sierravision's The Dark Crystal (Hi-Res Adventure #6), just sold on eBay for the remarkable price of $158.63, plus shipping and handling. As you can tell, Roberta Williams' 1983 release, based on the cult classic Jim Henson movie, is among the most sought after of the original Sierra text and graphics adventures. The game received middling reviews when first released and the graphics are fairly average. The Atari 8-bit version looks almost exactly the same, just with different coloring; I am unfamiliar with the Japanese PC-xx versions. Other translations of the game were planned, but probably due to the lack of relative financial success for both the movie and game, those plans were canceled. However, Al Lowe's mostly forgotten Gelfling Adventure was released a year later in 1984 and is essentially the same game, just with a modified interface and child friendly difficulty level.

Here's some gameplay footage of the Apple II version from YouTube, via Yzzyxz:

Bill Loguidice's picture

E3 2011 Viewpoints: Nintendo Wii U and 3DS | (yes, Nintendo's next console is pronounced, "We You")

After starting off with Microsoft, Sony, and Apple, it's only fitting we conclude with Nintendo, and the biggest announcement of the week: Nintendo Wii U. I'll also talk about how my predictions from April 19, 2011, based on previous rumors, worked out, inline, as appropriate (EDIT: You can read for yourself, actually, so I won't inline comment, I'll just say that I was correct in my prediction that the controller would be the ONLY innovation, in that any other expected innovations would add too much to the cost beyond the fancy controller):

  • Nintendo Wii U, "equally satisfying for all players" (hardcore and casual). Released some time in 2012 (Nintendo's focus this year is 3DS, with more franchise titles (Mario Kart, Star Fox, Kid Icarus, Mario, Luigi's Mansion)). I'm not sure I'm a fan of the name. I probably like it even less than I did "Wii", which did eventually grow on me. We'll see.
  • The controller looks a lot like a white tablet. It's generously sized (it has a 6.2" screen--goodness knows what the controller will be priced separately!). Pen-enabled. Also works with a finger. The screen (mock-up or not), looks very nice. It's a motion controller too and can play games stand-alone or in conjunction with a TV. It also has a camera (voice and video chat enabled). Nice!
  • Nintendo definitely took inspiration from Apple's iPad here. It's like the bastard child of an iPad 2 and Wii, with a little Xbox 360 thrown in for good measure.
  • It's backwards compatible with all the games and peripherals of the Wii.
  • Games appear to work differently if a player is using the new controller or a Wii Remote. There looks to be a lot of emphasis on the motion control features of the controller.
  • It's NOT designed to be a portable game machine, even though it shares some design characteristics. Everything is wirelessly transmitted from the console (no latency).
  • They talked a lot about HD images on TV or on the controller's screen. So this is definitely HD (EDIT: The console will output 1080p to the TV, but the controller screen will NOT be HD). Based on the non-gameplay and other graphics they showed, it's quite impressive looking, so probably at LEAST a little more powerful than Xbox 360 and PS3.
  • The Nunchuk port on the bottom of the controller is interesting, as it can also be used to snap the screen controller onto plastic peripherals.
  • They emphasized video chat and showing photos on your TV.
  • They talked about the expected interaction between Wii U and 3DS games, with Smash Brothers being the example.
  • They mentioned ONE game in particular (third parties mentioned others, like Batman: Arkham City and EA Sports stuff), Lego City Stories, a new open world game (exclusive to Wii U and 3DS). Beyond that, they made sure to mention what would be considered hardcore (core) gamer titles.
  • They talked a bit about online stuff, so hopefully they'll be more committed to the concept this time. The hardware is certainly there for it, at least.
  • There was no mention of storage or other specifics, so we'll probably have quite the wait for details like that.
Bill Loguidice's picture

E3 2011 Viewpoints: Apple iOS and Macintosh at WDC

OK, it's actually the Worldwide Developers Conference (WDC), rather than E3, but the timing is the same and I like to keep the headers consistent, so kindly deal with it. After starting off with Microsoft and Sony, it's now Apple's turn (leaving only the elephant in the room to cover, Nintendo). Here goes:

  • I'm honestly not that interested in Mac stuff, but of the many updates via the upcoming OS X Lion, I most appreciate the fact that apps will finally be able to go full-screen. I always found the lack of that feature bizarre. The updates still won't get me off of the Windows standard, but at least Apple can still sometimes admit when they're wrong with interfaces.

Now, for the big iOS stuff (On a side note, I think all but one of the AA staff has iPhones at this point, and at least three of us have iPads, so, while Apple's mojo hasn't worked on us from the MacOS side of things, it sure has on the iOS side.):

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E3 2011 Viewpoints: Sony PS3, PSVita, and more

After starting off with Microsoft, it's now time to talk about Sony's E3 showing. Here goes:

  • Something of a bizarre one-off, but nevertheless, a clever and interesting gamble, particularly if you use it as a PC monitor as well--a PlayStation-branded 1080p LED-lit LCD 3D monitor with two HDMI inputs, stereo speakers, and integrated subwoofer. You get the monitor, a pair of active 3D glasses (additional are $69 each), an HDMI cable, and a copy of Resistance, for $499. The truly unique aspect of the monitor? If you have a second pair of glasses, you can play split screen games where each player has their own full view of the action (with the caveat that games must be programmed to support that feature). That's right, no more split-screen nonsense! It still remains to be seen if the pricing is truly competitive (and gamers are willing to forgo big screen HDTV's in favor of the smaller form factor), but I do appreciate the effort.
  • The NGP's name is official, PSVita, or PlayStation Vita. That name was of course leaked last week. The powerful handheld will be very competitively priced at $249 for the wifi-only version, with the addition of 3G through AT&T going for another $50. While the 3DS has received a tepid response overall, Sony is at least going with the right price point this time around to help what will still decidedly be an uphill battle. It's definitely a promising system though if the public is willing to give it a chance in this age of buzz- and gametime-stealing smartphones and tablets. The handheld offers six-axis motion sensors, dual analog controls, front- and rear-facing cameras (for the now seemingly mandatory augmented reality feature-set), an OLED touchscreen, and a touchpad on the back. Several promising and high profile titles were also announced, so early signs are definitely good.
  • Though minor, I found Sony's PS3 wireless stereo headset interesting, particularly since it works with a USB dongle (there's nothing I hate more than having to fumble behind these systems). For only $99 to pre-order on Amazon, it's supposed to deliver 7.1 digital surround sound. Too bad it doesn't hit until October.
Bill Loguidice's picture

E3 2011 Viewpoints: Microsoft Kinect, Xbox 360, and LIVE

I thought it would be better that instead of doing a giant E3 blog post, to have separate discussions for each company to maximize ease of debate and discussion. Since Microsoft went first, I'll talk about them first.

First, here's the stuff that's immediate from Microsoft's session:

  • Kinect Fun Labs is immediately available and includes new avatar creation features and augmented reality stuff. I downloaded it (slowly) last night, but have yet to try it. The basic concept is a good one in that it really is a "lab" and new gadgets and features will be added over time.
  • Microsoft claims that the Xbox 360 will continue to be the number one selling console month-to-month in North America, but will also achieve that worldwide in short order.
  • It looks like all the rest of this is coming in the big Fall update, which I suspect will hit some time in September:

    • Lots of upcoming games (even hardcore ones) will make use of Kinect voice and gesture recognition, which, in addition to further integration into the dashboard will no doubt ensure that Kinect sales will continue to be brisk and Microsoft will continue to build a blueprint for their next generation system.
    • YouTube is coming to Xbox LIVE, joining the already-in-place Facebook and Twitter, among others.
    • Voice-command driven (via Kinect) DVR and an Internet TV service (Xbox LIVE TV) that will be in direct competition with standard cable and satellite services.
    • Bing (universal) search is coming to the system; you can also use Bing voice commands via Kinect to access marketplace stuff directly.
    • You can access PC media libraries using Kinect.
    • Microsoft will offer cloud storage for game saves and profiles, potentially making both using a USB stick to transport your profile to other systems and the account recovery process unnecessary.
    • A bizarre Xbox 360 Wireless Speed Wheel was announced. I have an awesome Logitech force feedback wheel system for my PS3 and PC, so I'm definitely up for good steering wheel controllers, but this one might be a bit too radical of a design. I wish Microsoft would just reissue their now discontinued force feedback wheel.
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