[jsw] Reader, it me… Man still knows where all the rooms are in Jet Set Willy … ‘It’s all still there, rotating around in my head, every room, every item, every inch of that marvellous multi-coloured blocky mansion. Even when I’ve forgotten my own name I reckon I’ll still know how to get that tricky item in The Orangery.’
[games] The Enduring Legacy of Zork … looking back at the impact of the first commercial text adventure … ‘Vibrant, witty writing set Zork apart. It had no graphics, but lines like “Phosphorescent mosses, fed by a trickle of water from some unseen source above, make [the crystal grotto] glow and sparkle with every color of the rainbow” helped players envision the “Great Underground Empire” they were exploring as they brandished such weapons as glowing “Elvish swords.” “We played with language just like we played with computers,” says Daniels. Wordplay also cropped up in irreverent character names such as “Lord Dimwit Flathead the Excessive” and “The Wizard of Frobozz.”’
[tech ] The Doom of Your Memories Doesn’t Really Exist … On reinventing classic video games… ‘That’s what digital media does: it allows us to create alternate histories, versions of our gaming past that better match our heightened expectations. And as our expectations change, as our memories shift and gather junk data with age, so, too, can we return to our old passions with those shifts intact, remaking them to suit us. Brutal Doom recently added weapons from the new Doom, taking new ideas that seem appropriately Doom-y and rewriting them into the game’s past. There’s not just one Doom, or one Super Mario, or one Half-Life. As we modify and reimagine these games, we’ve created dozens, hundreds, each signifying an alternate version of videogaming’s past.’
[gaming] Everything I Knew about Graphic Design I Learned from Ultimate Play the Game … Remembering Ultimate Play the Game – and the imapact they had on UK Gaming in the 1980s … ‘Everything about Ultimate Play The Game was kind of mysterious and seductive. The company’s name itself didn’t really make a lot of sense in and of itself, but that merely added to the mystique. An Ultimate game felt like a coherent package. The company had an identity. Even before you got to play an Ultimate game the artwork was selling you on the promise; they had a distinct visual style that was unlike anything else. The chrome airbrushing of the company logo, the box artwork – later, the games came packaged in special custom boxes, which made them feel even more special – which was usually reflected in the loading screens… Potentially, I loved all of that more than I did playing the games.’
[games] These Mysterious Symbols Have Been in 19 Video Games and No One Knows Why … interesting video games mystery from Vice Gaming … ‘Either way, the sigils and glyphs have all the makings of an alternate-reality game (ARG), where players collaborate on solving a mystery spread across the digital and physical world. Some of the most famous ARGs, like Halo 2’s “I Love Bees,” had participants standing at pay phones waiting for secret messages to push them one step closer to answers. Other clues have been known to be spectrographically hidden in audio files. To wit: One sigil was found by decoding the morse code hidden in another sigil found in the otherwise innocuous mobile game Slide the Shakes. The morse code spelled out a set of coordinates in Los Angeles, California, which led someone to find a hidden USB drive. On that drive was—of course—another sigil.’
[doom] Doom was video gaming’s punk moment … a look back at Doom … ‘People talk about how Reservoir Dogs made violence into ballet – well Doom turned it into a mosh pit. In Doom, violence was the communicative medium of the world. And it was astonishing, breathtaking fun. All great popular works simultaneously reflect and re-construct the subculture they emerge from. They have an energy that crackles with life and youth, you feel it under your skin, it bursts through your veins like adrenaline. Doom dragged video game design away from the structures set out by the 1980s arcades and set a new blueprint. It told us that things were going to be different from now on and you’d better be ready.’
[gaming] The man who made ‘the worst video game in history’ … How Atari’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial was made… ‘Warshaw’s stock was high at Atari. The 24-year-old had just finished the video game of Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark. Spielberg considered Warshaw a “certifiable genius” and 36 hours earlier Warshaw had been hand-picked for their next collaboration. “It was a day that will live in infamy in my life forever,” says Warshaw. “I was sitting in my office and I get a call from the Atari CEO. He said, ‘Howard, we need the ET video game done. Can you do it?’ “And I said, ‘Absolutely, yes I can!'” Games for the Atari 2600 were distributed on cartridges that took weeks to manufacture. If ET was to be in the shops for Christmas, Warshaw had a tight deadline…’
[sonic] The Michael Jackson Video Game Conspiracy … Did Michael Jackson write soundtrack music For Sonic 3?… ‘As the 1990s wore on, Sega lost a crucial round of the console wars to a resurgent Nintendo and upstart Sony. Ben Mallison remained a Jackson and Sonic fan. But as he entered his teen years, something about Sonic 3 started to tug at him. There was something weird about that Sonic 3 music, and he couldn’t figure it out. Then one day, it came to him. “Huh,” Ben thought. “That Sonic music sure sounds like Michael Jackson.” “I’ve always been musically inclined and have a knack for noticing stuff like samples or ripoffs in songs,” he says. But he didn’t have any way to share his theory with the world. For that, Ben had to wait for the Internet…’
[games] Behind a pizza-slice smile: the dark side of Pac-Man… a look at Pac-man’s dark heart … ‘Researcher Alex Wade draws comparisons between Pac-Man’s inescapable maze and the Labyrinths imagined by Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges – the exits are just entrances to other parts of the whole. Similarly, comic writer Zach Weiner, has pictured the game as a sort of terrifying Kafka-esque nightmare, in which a man wakes up to find he has been reduced to a living mouth that must consume to survive. This ties in with another interpretation of Pac-Man as the ultimate modern shopper, trapped in a cycle of meaningless consumption and endless binging on electronic treats in a sterile technological landscape. “He is the pure consumer,” wrote Poole in Trigger Happy.’
Inserting and removing socketed electronic assemblies had, until then, been an activity reserved for trained technicians, engineers, and military personnel. Taking a sensitive circuit board and putting it into the hands of a consumer—who might be prone to stepping on it, dunking it in the toilet, or leaving it baking in the sun—posed a considerable design challenge. Obviously, the board needed a protective shell of some kind.
Talesfore zeroed in immediately on the familiar form of the 8-track tape cartridge, an audio recording format which gained significant traction in the 1970s through its use in car audio systems. Relatively rugged, easy to insert and remove with one hand, and vibration-resistant, the 8-track tape proliferated where the comparatively delicate vinyl record feared to tread. He chose a shape and size for his new game cartridge enclosure that closely matched the 8-track tape standard. Then he added ribbing around the edges for improved grip, and selected a bright yellow plastic color to make a statement. Cartridges were the true star of the show, he figured, so they deserved to stand out.
[arcade] Polybius (video game) … fascinating urban myth about a arcade video game from the early 1980’s that mentally disturbed it’s players then disappeared … ‘Polybius is a theoretical arcade cabinet.’
…There’s a half-expected (but still surprising) guest appearance from what I would be willing to bet is a young Christopher Hitchens. In a diverting rant about the increasing presence of voice effects in games, Amis recalls his first exposure to such gimmickry at a bar in Paris on New Year’s Day, 1980:
I was with a friend, a hard-drinking journalist, who had drunk roughly three times as much Calvados as I had drunk the night before. And I had drunk a lot of Calvados the night before. I called for coffee, croissants, juice; with a frown the barman also obeyed my friend’s croaked request for a glass of Calvados.
Then we heard, from nowhere, a deep, guttural, Dalek-like voice which seemed to say: “Heed! Gorgar! Heed! Gorgar … speaks!
“… Now what the hell was that?” asked my friend.
“I think it was one of the machines,” I said, rising in wonder.
“I’ve had it,” said my friend with finality. “I can’t cope with this,” he explained as he stumbled from the bar.
[crime] Yorkshire Ripper loves Wii Bowling … ‘[Peter] Sutcliffe – convicted in 1981 of murdering 13 women – has a fondness for Wii Bowling, a source at the Berkshire-based hospital told the newspaper, adding that the murderer has played the game while watched by Robert Napper, the killer of Rachel Nickell.’
[games] Spacewar – Fanatic Life and Symbolic Death Among the Computer Bums — a profile of Spacewar (one of the first computer games) and the personalities behind it by Stewart Brand from Rolling Stone magazine in 1972 … ‘Spacewar as a parable is almost too pat. It was the illegitimate child of the marrying of computers and graphic displays. It was part of no one’s grand scheme. It served no grand theory. It was the enthusiasm of irresponsible youngsters. It was disreputably competitive (“You killed me, Tovar!”). It was an administrative headache. It was merely delightful. Yet Spacewar, if anyone cared to notice, was a flawless crystal ball of things to come in computer science and computer use…’ [via del.icio.us]
[retro-games] Masters of their Universe — extract from Backroom Boys by Francis Spufford about the creation of the computer game Elite … ‘In 1982, popularised science hadn’t yet risen above the horizon in Britain as a cultural phenomenon. No chaos theory as a universal reference point; not much evolutionary biology, since Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould were only then beginning to make their mark on public consciousness; no cosmology deployed à la Stephen Hawking as a modern replacement for religious truths. In particular, computing in its DIY phase didn’t resonate as it would later. You wouldn’t have found French literary theorists writing about cyberspace in 1982, any more than they’d have written about household plumbing. Computers weren’t glamorous. The result of all this was that what Braben and Bell achieved together while they were at Cambridge was, effectively, invisible.’
[games] Jeff Minter interview by B3ta … ‘Q: What imagery was rejected from the Attack of the Mutant Camels games? A: I drew the line at exposing my innocent young gamers to images of Margaret Thatcher. Hallucinogenic imagery and implied bestiality seemed mild by comparison.’
[retro-gaming] GP32 Review — interesting review of an open Gameboy Advance-ish Handheld called a Gamepark. ‘…what a lot of people want the GP32 for is EMULATORS because its ARM CPU can be set upto around 133 – 160MHZ (compare that with the GBA’s 14MHZ) its capable of running pretty much all the old classic consoles, even controversially the Gameboy, Gameboy color & Advance! Current emulators include SNES, Sega, NES, PC Engine, ZX Spectrum, Commodore, MSX, GBA etc etc. the older systems run perfectly including sound…’
[games] Solitary Confinement — The inside story behind Solitaire for Windows … ‘Generations of Windows software have come and gone, but Solitaire continues on. How much has Cherry earned for this staple of world computer culture? Nothing. Nothing upfront. No royalties. Zero. How ironic. The richest man in the world (or is he second-richest this week?) got that rich by collecting software royalties, but the actual creator of the most distributed, most used program of all gets none of those royalties passed along to him.’ [via Rodcorp]
[distraction] Fantastic 20th anniversary version of a classic arcade game — Pitfall … ‘Guide Pitfall Harry through a treacherous jungle maze. He must leap over obstacles and dodge deadly dangers while grabbing all the treasure he can reach!’ [via Fark]
[games] John Carmack confirms that ID are working on Doom III. [via DoomWorld] “I discussed it with some of the other guys, and we decided that it was important enough to drag the company through an unpleasant fight over it. An ultimatum was issued to Kevin and Adrian(who control >50% of the company): We are working on DOOM for the next project unless you fire us. Obviously no fun for anyone involved, but the project direction was changed, new hires have been expedited, and the design work has begun.”