The dimly-remembered era of the dedicated game consoles, a whole age of gaming where machines played only a handful of games and that was it, is hugely interesting to me. I was very young when it came around and so only have only a vague recollection of these units, so any scrap of knowledge that floats into my vision gets immediately pounced upon and devoured. Especially units like Allied’s Name Of The Game II, which was not only produced in very small quantities but used a obscure MOS 7600 to provide its gameplay.
All so 1976 players could play Pong-like games in color with up to four people! Allied is scarcely remembered by that name today, but they were bought out by a former president of Taito of America. Then, under the new name Centuri, they became a fondly-remembered licensee and manufacturer of classic arcade games! The details are in OVCR’s post.
Wes Fenlon at PC Gamer says that Tarn and Zach Adams, have become millionaires from the Steam release of Dwarf Fortress. Earth blogger John Harris, a.k.a. rodneylives, says they’ve communicated with Tarn several times, including a couple of interviews at Game Developer (formerly Gamasutra), and that this could not have happened to nicer people. The article notes that, despite the windfall, they’re being cautious with the money. Steam DF was made specifically because the brothers need healthcare, and whatever long tail DF has is pretty much it, since they aren’t making a sequel or expansion pack.
Rock Paper Shotgun’s C.J. Wheeler tells of a situation where the developer and publisher of The Outbound Ghost are feuding, which resulted in the game being temporarily pulled from Steam. Lead dev Conrad Grindheim has accused publisher Digerati of unethical practices, and Digerati claims to have been “blindsided” by the accusations.
There is a great article on PC Gamer from Corwin Hayward about controversy with a certain extremely rare mount in World of Warcraft that, due to a couple of bugs, became extremely unrare among a small base of players for a short while. It’s a primer about the way the game’s loot system has been perceived and exploited for over a decade, and how it finally resulted in the relaxing of a whole category of ultrarare mounts. The article is long but very rewarding!
NPG’s Megan Lim speaks with Atari founder Nolan Bushnell on 50 years of Pong. Bushnell’s always been a bit of a huckster figure, but I’m glad he’s still kicking and talking with folk.
Here’s Rich Stanton at PC Gamer on the effort to preserve a Ridge Racer Full Scale, a version of the arcade game that featured an actual car chassis the player would sit it, had triple ultra-wide display, and cost operators $250,000. Very few were sold, and it’s possible only one survives, which was in Blackpool. After an arcade museum sought to purchase it, but refused when they learned of damage to the frame, it was thought lost, but although the physical structure of the unit has not been salvageable, the car portion and the hardware have been saved, and its code dumped. More can be read at Arcade Blogger.
And at Engadget, I. Bonifacic remarks upon Pong turning 50 years old. Yeah, that number isn’t getting any smaller. It’s a useful retrospective, although I take issue with them saying that without Pong Nintendo would not exist. Nintendo is over a century old, originally making playing cards. What is more likely is they wouldn’t exist as we know them today-they may not have gotten into video games at all. (By the way, they make traditional Japanese game playing equipment too, like go boards!)
In a bygone age, the video game industry largely consisted of “dedicated” machines, that could play the games they were made to play and nothing else. Customers would buy devices costing $100 or more in 1970s dollars that could only play Pong and maybe a handful of other games, and that was it. It was a weird time.
There was a whole cottage industry of special chips devised by fabricators back then, that a manufacturer could buy from them, build a plastic shell around with AV connections, a few switches, and controllers (often hard-wired to the machine), and just like that have a console read to sell. The company General Instruments in particular sold a lot of these chips. Many of the details of this era can be read on the website Pong Story.
In addition to GI, Texas Instruments, National Semiconductor, and even MOS Technologies, makers of the 6502, got in on the dedicated video game chip business. MOS’s angle was to make customized chips that had a bit of built-in ROM that could run small programs without having to have a separate chip to store game code.
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Graham Smith at Rock Paper Shotgun tells about the return of Re-Volt, an RC Car racing game from the Dreamcast age that many regarded as fairly lackluster, but has nonetheless gathered a strong fanbase. It’s for sale again on Steam and GOG. While the game itself isn’t terrific as it is, fan-made mods that improve it require ownership of the original to function.
At GamesRadar (warning: will harass you to subscribe to their newsletter), Dustin Bailey (which may be a fun pseudonym) lets us know that the Coconut Mall reprise track from the DLC of Mario Kart 8 has been “improved,” in that the cars in the parking lot at the end of it now drive around getting in your way like they did back in the Wii version, and in fact are now even more annoying, doing pointless doughnuts in the lot just to piss you off. And yet, the drivers are Shy Guys, not the system Miis that drove the cars in the original, which in my bulbous eyes is still a downgrade.
In sillier news, at the Hollywood Reporter, Mia Galuppo tells us that Bandai Namco is trying to get a Pac-Man movie made. Pac-Man’s relationship with media has been a strange journey. In Japan it originally didn’t do especially well, but in the U.S. it quickly set arcade cabinet sales records, partly due to the stewardship and marketing acumen of U.S. licensee Bally-Midway. They commissioned several sequels that were unauthorized by original creator Namco, most of which have been stricken from the records, except, for a time, Ms. Pac-Man, created by GCC as a hack of the original game that would go on to eventually surpass it in lifetime sales. Namco would in turn adapt several aspects of the Pac-Man expanded universe for their own use, notably Ms. Pac and aspects of the first Pac-Man TV show, a pretty dumb cartoon made by Hanna-Barbera back in the period where they’d adapt anything for a buck. Namco made Pac-Land, an important early scrolling platformer, using the characters, music, and art style from that cartoon. In recent years rights issues have caused Bandai-Namco to reject Ms. Pac-Man too, creating a rights-unencumbered replacement character called “Pac-Mom,” which presumably will feature in this movie. All of this is just to demonstrate to you how incredibly twisted and fraught Pac-media has become, and I haven’t even gotten into the second TV show, Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures, which I’d rather not discuss. I will note, however, that because of Pac-Man’s inclusion as a character in Smash Bros. 4 and Ultimate, the first Pac-Man cartoon show in some small way lives on in Smash Bros’ Pac-Land stage.