Games of Next Fest 2022 Showcase 6/19/22

With Steam Next Fest 2022 going on, I’m dedicating the indie showcases each day to cover my favorite demos of the night prior, let me know what you think about this in the comments below.

Sundry Sunday: Mornal’s Phoenix Wright Animations

It’s Sunday again. You made it! Every Sunday you pass a checkpoint and your progress is saved, so if you die over the next week you can just reload to this point! Unless your universe is playing by “roguelike” rules. If that’s the case, I’m sorry. Anyway, as a reward for making it this far into the hellscape of 2022, here are some funny game-related videos.

Mornal’s made some hilarious animations on the video sharing site all the kids love: TikTok! What no? Ah, YouTube! I knew that! I’m “down with the street,” sure!

Above is the first, but they’re all great. Here’s the most recent:

Indie Dev Showcase 6/18/22

Each indie showcase highlights the demos and developer submitted games we play here, if you would like to submit a game for a future piece please reach out.

Fixing E.T.

It’s nine years old, but I’m amazed by how few seem to know of these old projects that litter the internet, and this is one that’s definitely worth revisiting.

When people talk about reasons for the Great Game Crash of 1983 (which, it should be remembered, was mostly a crash in the U.S., other countries didn’t suffer much loss in popularity), one reason sometimes given was the lack of quality of one specific game: Howard Scott Warshaw’s E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, for the Atari VCS/2600. (That’s not really the point of this post. For more of this, seen the Addendum, below.)

I should emphasize that it was easy to get frustrated by E.T. Its development was rushed so that it could be in stores in time for the 1982 Christmas season. Warshaw’s previous work Yars’ Revenge was a huge hit for Atari, but its successor, Raiders of the Lost Ark, is possibly a bit too experimental. I think E.T. is a better game than Raiders, it’s easier to learn certainly, but it has some definite issues that make it very frustrating to play.

There were a number of issues, but the biggest by far was that it was extremely easy to fall into the many pits that dotted the landscape of the game’s version of Earth, and after floating up out of one, it was just as easy to immediately fall back into one again. You could fall into a pit merely from changing screens in the wrong location.

Back in 2013, a user in the AtariAge forums using the handle recompile produced a hack to fix the game’s problems, including this one. They made a page that the hack from which could be downloaded, and explained, in great technical detail, how it had been made. The result has slightly worse graphics than the original, but is much more playable, and reveals that there is a very interesting game hidden beneath the rushed product mandated by Atari’s managers. Not only is the page and his work still up now, nine years later, but so is the AtariAge thread he made.

Remember: a delayed game is eventually good, but a bad game is bad until someone with enough time, energy and technical know-how takes it upon themselves to fix it, which in E.T.‘s case was about 31 years from its release.

Addendum

Was E.T. the real reason for the U.S. crash? Honestly, I’m dubious. It’s likely a contributing factor, but a slight one. But the fact that it can’t be ruled out, and probably helped a little, makes it something that many writers can point to without much fear of contradiction. It’s the way many narratives are built.

But there were plenty of good games, by the standards of the time, to offset the fortunes of any single title. A more likely explanation was a deluge of bad games, and a market oversaturated by them produced by companies looking for a quick buck, so that unless a consumer had done their research, it was difficult to separate the worthwhile purchases from the cash grabs.

Video games had, almost overnight, turned into a billion-dollar business. For a few years, specifically 1978 to 1982, the success of arcades, and of the Atari VCS and a number of excellent games for it, tantalized a nation. For a brief period, almost everyone sold game cartridges. I remember seeing them on the racks of drug stores during that time.

Then, almost as suddenly as it had risen, it collapsed. No one knew which games were good and which were bad. Even the good ones were pretty expensive: a $30 game in 1982 was nearly $90 in today’s (2022) money. All of those stores that had jumped on the bandwagon were left with piles of unsold inventory. Console gaming died out almost completely for a few years, until the arrival of the NES, and some canny moves by Nintendo of America, resurrected the industry in the land of its birth.

News 5/7/22: Diablo Immortal, Toy Story pinball, Metroid music takedown

“We scour the Earth web for indie, retro, and niche gaming news so you don’t have to, drebnar!” – your faithful reporter

Paul Tassi at Forbes (really? wow) mentions that it’s been discovered that not only does Diablow Immortal have significant pay-to-win aspects, but also contains measures that drastically decrease drop rates if you get too many rare items in a day.

Anthony Culinas over at The Beta Network reviews cute platformer Grapple Dog! Verdict: he likes it, mostly!

At Rock Paper Shotgun, C.J. Wheeler talks about Obsidian’s murder mystery game Pentient, which is illustrated in a style akin to medieval manuscripts! It’s always nice to see a game eschew the boring push towards photographic realism.

Gizmodo’s Andre Liszewski brings up a new controller from 8BitDo that puts all its buttons on the face. No shoulder buttons remain! It’s intended for accessibility purposes, although that doesn’t mean anyone can’t use it. And it’s only $35! Sadly it only works with the Switch and Android devices, although I don’t see why it couldn’t be put to use on PCs too? Is it blocked from working on PCs somehow, and for some reason?

Lauren Morton at PC Gamer mentions Backfirewall, a puzzle game set inside a smartphone with an outdated OS. It’s mentioned that it has a demo on Steam.

Samuel Claiborn at IGN brings information about Jersey Jack’s upcoming Toy Story 4 pinball machine, designed by Addams Family and Twilight Zone designer Pat Lawlor! I have a friend who’s really jazzed up to get their hands on it, and has preordered it, despite it selling out in three minutes and costing $15,000!

Under our new policy of one link to a major news site per news post, we have Ollie Reynolds covering Nintendo’s typically hamhanded takedown of fan content, this time of fan remixes of Metroid music. Sheesh, N!

Upscaling Classic Sierra On-Line Adventures

Hackaday’s Matthew Carlson points to an effort to make the graphics in old Sierra On-Line Adventure games better. The graphics in the games in question weren’t stores as raster images, but rather drawn with vector commands, so theoretically it should be easy. But as the video demonstrates, the resolution of their coordinate system didn’t take into account the possibility that someone might come in later and draw the art into a canvas with higher resolution, which causes some weird glitches that had to be accounted for.

Hackaday: Upscaling the Sierraseviltrout: How classic Sierra game graphics worked (and an attempt to upscale them)

Indie Game Showcase 6/16/22

With Steam Next Fest 2022 going on, I’m dedicating the indie showcases each day to cover my favorite demos of the night prior, let me know what you think about this in the comments below.

Digitizer

I’m a bit fuzzy on all this and open to correction, but….

In the UK, as far back is 1978, there was an electronic text service called Oracle, of no relation to the current-day owner of Java, OpenOffice, and VirtualBox. It was launched as a competitor to the even-older BBC service Ceefax that launched in 1974. In 1993 Oracle turned into Teletext, Inc. Teletext lasted for a good long while, up until 2009.

There is much more to that story, but we’re getting into the weeds. Our subject is the early teletype video game magazine Digitizer, a service provided on Teletext. Digitizer lasted from 1993 to 2003, a solid ten years full of typically cheeky 90’s British video game news content, delivered through the medium of ASCII text and artwork.

It’s a whole world of gaming enthusiasm from a lost era, and in it one can see the birth of a whole subculture. Some of these people are still writing today over on the site digitizer2000, although sporadically it seems. The site Super Page 58 has worked hard to archive as much of their content as they can, including a voluminous, yet still incomplete, listing of reviews.

And they liked the SNES port of Atari’s Rampart almost as much as I did!

The History of Digitizer, and Digitizer today.

News Roundup 6/15/2022

“We scour the Earth web for indie, retro, and niche gaming news so you don’t have to, drebnar!” – your faithful reporter

The gaming internet has been abuzz with the Wholesome Games Direct presentation, a huge collection of low-key and adorable amusements that only want your love! Please adopt one today!

The most notable thing I noticed about Patrick Arellano’s article for CBR.com about 10 games that inspired copycats is, Rogue isn’t one of them!

Boone Ashworth at Wired Magazine says Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, is slowing its hardware plans. I also hear from its parents that it’s putting away its leather jacket and sunglasses, but still plans to get that tattoo.

At Rock Paper Shotfun, Katharine Castle tells us about Stray, a game where you play as a cat in a post-apocalyptic world full of robots. Some are mean, but some are friendly, including one your kitty protagonist wears as a cute backpack! It mentions that the platforming involved is unique in that it prevents you from upsetting notions of feline grace by just not allowing you to make bad jumps. I mean, that’s okay most of the time, but what if I wanted to play as a kitty klutz? Believe me, they exist.

Interesting news from Muhammad Ali Bari at Twisted Voxel on Crash Bandicoot 5, being developed by the always-wonderful Toys For Bob!

We post a lot of articles from Nintendo Life here, we have noticed, to the degree that we are considering a limit to the number of times a single site can be featured in a single news post. Well, we haven’t done that yet, so the three Nintendo Life posts this time out:

Brian at Nintendo Everything presents a translation of some text from Nintendo’s recruitment site, talking about the creation of all the furniture in Animal Crossing New Horizons, much of it done by outsourced labor.

Video Games Chronicle notes, through the auspices of Jordan Middler, that Diablo Immortal has the lowest user Metacritic score in history: 0.2! It seems to be a huge pushback against its play-to-win aspects. There might be a bit of a pile-on effect going on there, but it’s a significant sign of how public reaction to it has turned.

CBR.com’s Patrick Arellano presents a list of ten mistakes that still haunt Sega. Many times these lists are pretty light, but this one makes some significant points, especially about the rancor between the Japan and U.S. branches of the company around the Genesis through Dreamcast era.

And Popkin at Boing Boing presents the Game Boy that survived a bombing. They don’t make ’em like that anymore.

Apotris

Via MNeko on Twitter, Apotris (itch.io, $0) is nothing more than a really sharp and responsive clone of a certain tetromino-stacking puzzle game. It just feels good to play! It’s Game Boy Advance homebrew, and I can personally vouch that it’s particularly nice if you have the means to play it on a jailbroken 2 or 3DS.

Matt Sephton’s Blog, “Get Info”

Us remaining (or even new!) blogs in the distant future year 2022 have to stick together, so I feel it’s important to point you to the blog of Matt Sephton, which is on a variety of tech and tech-adjacent topics, including sometimes games!

The particular item of interest there that I want to point you to today is on the obscure Japanese handheld P/ECE, released in 2001, which is a lot like a foreshadowing of Panic’s quirky elite gamer fixation/lust object, the Playdate. It too was a purposely-monochrome device in an age of color, and it also hosts a range of quirky homebrew games. It even still has a website!

Re:

f special note is that it was a place that notable and prolific small-game homebrew design genius Kenta Cho, a.k.a. ABA (Twitter), released their wondrous work even way back then! And where else can you find a demake of Rez that pits you against a malevolent Microsoft Outlook icon?

Please, check out all of these far-flung and varied links!

Matt Sephton’s blog, Get Info, and its article on P/ECE.

News Roundup 6/13/2022

“We scour the Earth web for indie, retro, and niche gaming news so you don’t have to, drebnar!” – your faithful reporter

Hey all you blobs, it’s Kent Drebnar again to bring you the latest Earth gaming news relayed back to your planet from the depths of space. We’d respond faster but it takes time for light to make the round trip, you know, to do these any faster would break causation!

We often have stories from Nintendo Life, and this installment is no different. Ollie Reynolds notes that Twitter has organized a campaign to get a kid with terminal cancer an early copy of Pokémon Scarlet and Violet. Here is the original plea, from Dr. Erica Kaye. They have gotten a response from Pokémon Company Vice President Eric Neustadter, stating that while early access to the games may not be possible, they are considering doing something special for the young fan. It is the job of any real journalist to aim a critical eye at stories like this, and honestly, when it comes down to it, these kinds of pieces are feel-good filler, but they do make one feel good! Here is hoping they can help the kid’s dreams become a reality.

Also from Nintendo Life this time out. Kate Gray: a sequel to Cozy Grove is in the works. And, Ollie Reynolds again: Intellivision says they have significantly cut staff to help complete production of the Amico. Wait, is that how it works?

Dwarf Fortress – image from Bay 12 Games

Two items from Kotaku. John Walker notes that the Dwarf Fortress brothers are in steadily-worsening financial straits in the home stretch before the Steam release. Dwarf Fortress is a venerable project by this time, and main developer Tarn Adams has one of the most amazing minds and work ethics around, and lately has been devoted to improving the game’s legendarily-complex interface. Blogmate John Harris has done two pieces with Tarn Adams for Game Developer, née Gamasutra, one in 2019 and one way back in 2008. It’s been years since DF memes regularly let the most prominent gaming news sites, but that doesn’t mean the game isn’t still amazing, and continually being made more amazing. Won’t you please consider contributing to their well-being, and help make the horror of 2022 slightly less horrible?

Sorry! No waifus in the previews! Otherwise they wouldn’t be as able to charge (checks price) oh blob, $90 for it.

The second Kotaku item is Ian Walker letting us know that preorder sales for the Special Edition of Xenoblade Chronicles 3 were so heavy that they brought down the My Nintendo storefront. It is possible that one of the reasons was an included printed image collection that one fan referred to as a “waifu artbook.” I guess that answers the question of whether there’ll be another hot pants-wearing magic sword girl in this one. Monolith Soft knows their audience too well.

Kimberly Wallace of Game Informer notes the mobile platformer-slash-dungeon-crawler Lucky Luna will be free for Netflix subscribers.

Ryan Lambie in issue 64 of Wireframe brings us a long piece on the joy of modding handheld consoles!

Finally, we try to keep our focus here focused strictly on video and computer games (when was the last time you saw someone distinguish between those two categories?), but that means technology in general, so I figured it was worth nothing Andrew Cunningham’s note on Ars Technica that Microsoft is considering making an SSD a requirement for OEM licensing for future versions of Windows. Even though most computers, except very low-end models, these days already come with SSDs, it’s worth noting that this is still a major change. SSDs are much faster than physical platter hard disks, but they are also much smaller at a given price point, and Windows installs are still as bulky as ever. Something to be aware of! Drebnar out!