Sundry Sunday: CUBE

It makes pocket calculators look like the cotton gin

It’s coming….

It’s fifteen years old now, but I still love the old “funnymovieinternet” video CUBE, which is a promo video from an era of video games that never really existed. In our little circle of friends, PREPARE YOURSELF FOR CUBE is still a signifier and in-joke all to itself. The site it came from is long defunct, but fortunately it hasn’t been hit by a spurious Youtube takedown notice yet, which as time approaches infinity, appears to be the ultimate fate of all videos on that frog-forsaken website.

Remembering Orisinal

We’ve been remembering old game sites lately, not the big ones like Newgrounds, but the little ones. Specifically, Ferry Halim’s Orisinal.

I hesitate to offer that link because everything on Orisinal is programmed in Flash, and not in way that works great with secure Flash emulator Ruffle, but the site survives today, even if it’s difficult to play anything on it. The games to the bottom of the list are more likely to work well with Ruffle.

Orisinal is a collection of very simple games with a laid-back vibe. Nothing too demanding or upsetting. Just a lot of clean and fun amusements for passing a few minutes in a pleasant way.

Bubble Bees

In internet terms, Orisinal is ancient, and the internet is not forever. Quite the opposite in fact. The oldest games on it date to around 2000. That it’s still up, even if it hasn’t seen much new content in over a decade, is a miracle. I keep harping on this I feel like, but things vanish from the internet every day, and the Wayback Machine can’t catch all of them (and itself isn’t guaranteed to not disappear someday). Enjoy it while you can.

Cats

Orisinal

Remember EYEZMAZE and GROW?

There was a time when these short Flash games were the toast of the internet. There is very little cultural memory online for anything that isn’t absolutely huge (and almost no quality control over the things that become huge) so no one talks about GROW anymore, or its Japanese creator On, which is a tremendous shame.

EYEZMAZE took a tremendous blow when Flash shut down. I really hate how people generally accepted its demise as good and necessary when it obliterated so many great things, like Homestar Runner’s original website, that are only now sort of becoming available again. There were serious problems with Flash, it’s true, but not all the reasons it was shoved out the airlock were good ones. Fortunately On has converted many of his games to work with HTML5.

The art is great for its own sake, but the games, available by clicking on the icons at the top of the site, are the highlights, and foremost of those are the GROW series. I was going to link them individually here, but most of them are GROW in some form of other. You should probably start with the first.

The object is to figure out the best order to click on the various items to add to the GROW planet. Every time you add something, things that were already on the planet may “level up” depending on the other things that are with it there. Some things being added too early may harm the development of other things. Usually there’s one specific order that will result in a perfect score (and an animation that goes with it). Figuring it out, using the visual clues from your failed attempts, will usually take many tries, but a run through only takes a couple of minutes at most. All off the GROW games take this general form, although most of them aren’t as complex as the first.

Bitrot has not been kind to GROW. There was an Android version of Grow RPG that appears to have succumbed to Google’s awful app culling policy, where if something isn’t updated, for whatever reason, in a certain time they just delete it. (Not nearly enough has been said about his hostile this is to software preservation. It’s horrendous.)

On has had health struggles over the years, which have interfered with his creation of new amusements. He still seems to be up and active though, and we hope he continues creating both his games and his art for a while to come.

EYEZMAZE (some games may require Ruffle)

On’s Twitter feed

On’s Bilibili page (Bilibili is a Chinese video site)

News 7/24/22: Knockoff Internet Lego

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

At TechRadar, Jeremy Peel is set on telling us about Rogue Mage, an expansion to the Gwent card roguelite game set in the Witcher universe. Hey! Did you know there are roguelike games that don’t involve building a deck? It’s true!

At NintendoLife, Jim Norman (hey! a new guy!) informs of a blatant knockoff of beloved indie perennial Mini Metro on the Switch eShop. Boo! Hiss! Burble! Splorch! It’s like some folk on your planet were born without shame glands.

Jorge Jiminez at PC Gamer tells us the FCC is trying to get everyone in the US good internet. As a one-celled life form from a distant planet I don’t have much stake in the matter, but I can be happy for people by proxy, and do you know why? It’s because I’m not a jerk, drebnar! Glad to see the agency is trying to recover from that horrid stance against Net Neutrality back during what I understand Earth people call “the years of the carrot monster.”

Meow

At Kotaku, John Walker (another new name!) sounds a harsh note about Stray, a game that most of the internet has enthused over, by mentioning how, while it starts with you playing as a very cat-like cat, by the end you’re also playing as their robot companion a lot, and shooting things all zappy zappy, and doing a lot of video game stuff. It still doesn’t sound at all like a bad game, but just, something a bit different by the end than people may expect?

Bunches of people have been talking about the new Lego set that lets you build a plastic Atari 2600, our link to the subject is CapnRex101 at Brickset, a Lego fansite. It looks like a great model that is full of detail, although notably it retails for $240. For that price you could probably get your hands on a real VCS, although at the cost of it being actually playable, at least if you have a CRT lying around. But if you were going to go that far, you’d probably just look into getting a Flashback.

Surfing with a Dreamcast Web Browser in 2022

The Sega Dreamcast was ahead of its time in many ways. It was possible to load web pages on a Sega Saturn Net Link, but the Dreamcast had a built-in dial-up modem and came with a web browser included in the box. In the US it was created by PlanetWeb; Japanese users got DreamPassport, . Further, several games had built-in web browsers to connect with websites online that offered hints, forums, DLC and special functionality. Sonic Adventure allowed you to upload the Chao from your Chao Garden to a day care service. All of those services broke when a game’s servers were taken down, although in the case of Sonic Adventure, a fan bought the domain when it expired and put up the original content so that Dreamcast consoles can find it.

While several versions of the PlanetWeb browser were released during the system’s short life, they all have some pretty significant limitations. The Dreamcast itself only has 26 MB of RAM, of which only 16 MB is of general use. Plus many sites rely on scripting, which the Dreamcast wasn’t equipped to handle even at the time. On top of it all few people use dial-up internet any more, so that modem isn’t too useful. The Dreamcast Broadband Adapter is an effective workaround, but is hard to find. The Dreamcast also had keyboard and mouse peripherals release for it to aid in internet use.

Dan Wood on YouTube recently plugged a Broadband Adapter, keyboard, and mouse into his Dreamcast and took it online with a 2008 browser release, and the video above shows the results. If you’re curious to see how much the web has changed since then it’s worth the 22 minutes out of your day it takes to watch it. (Less time, if you speed the video up! Another minute less if you skip past the ad!)

How many people used the Dreamcast for serious browsing? It was a fairly clunky experience even back then, when most web pages were fairly lightweight and most didn’t rely on scripting. I had it back then and I only put it in a few times. The PC experience was much better even then. Internet Explorer launched in 1995, and of course Netscape Navigator and Mosaic came before. Compare that to the Dreamcast’s 1999 release date for some hint that, even though it was the first console that was internet capable out of the box, it was already a little late to the party.

That’s okay though. We’re publishing a gaming blog in 2022. Old things are okay with us.

A few more links if you want to find out more: Sega Retro’s page on the Dreamcast Web Browser, here’s a Wayback Machine link to how the browser’s default landing page would have looked at the time, and here’s an archive of how the page looked in 2010, near the end of its life, after a fan had taken it over.

Browsing the Web on the Sega Dreamcast in 2022 — Is It Possible? (YouTube video, 22 minutes, contains Squarespace ad)