Posted on May 3, 2018
Today I want you kids in the audience to get a picture of what it was like growing up in the 80’s video game wise and do it with one of my favorite games, Tapper. Video games in the 80’s were pretty rad, but they were especially rad in the arcade. They weren’t as rad at home even if you had Colecovision. I’m talking early 80’s here like 83 (I would have been 9). I had an Atari 2600, and the deficit between a game you played in the arcade vs. the Atari 2600 version was pretty wide.
You don’t have those problems today. Today there are no REAL arcades–please don’t say Dave n Busters, that’s not a real arcade. The best games today are played at home on home systems that would have been considered science fiction miracles or world domination level supercomputers back in 83. During my formative years you did what you could to get anything that resembled the rad games in the arcade. Tapper is an excellent example of how this went down.
As a kid you went down to the local arcade–my favorite was called Westworld–and you played some cool game, one of them was Tapper. Tapper looked like this when you played it:
Pretty cool right? Probably as good as it got in 83 as far as graphics go. Next you were out and about at a store that sold games (Toys R Us, SEARS) and you saw TAPPER, the game you just played in the Arcade the other day. Wow! If you had an Atari you would be able to play Tapper at home!
If you were smart you would look at the back of the box and see what the graphics looked like, if not you were in for a surprise…
And to be honest you didn’t care. These were very good graphics for a home system, the game played… er, kind of the same, maybe slower with less embellishment, but it played about the same. This was the way it was, and when other game systems began to become available the goal became to get games that were as close the their arcade counterparts as possible. You could never quite do it, but you tired. Colecovision was better, and Atari had the 5200 that was better, but you never did get the full arcade experience. Until… Nintendo.
I’ll leave that for another day.
Posted on May 2, 2018
Little Computer People that is. A unique game that I played a little back in the 80’s on the ole C64. Is it a game? I guess, it’s more of a human Tamagotchi before Tamagotchi existed. I guess you might consider it AI, because AI is technically when you design something to act like an intelligence (not to be confused with Machine Learning). If it is AI it’s not advanced at all but charming none the less. Charming and fun for that matter although I’m not sure how long one can sit messing around with a little dude in a house with his dog–apparently quite a long time since I’ve been playing it every night. That’s what this software title (game?) is, it’s you doing stuff like delivering dog food and patting a little virtual dude in a little virtual house. You can even ask him to do stuff by typing requests such as “please play the piano.” Sometimes he does the things you ask and other times not, it’s all about his mood. You can even play games with him, like poker.
This was a brilliant idea for a game. It’s fun and you don’t just shoot stuff. I like games that are about other stuff besides killing stuff. I mean we all love games where you kill and destroy, but I’m a lover not a fighter some days, so I tend to prefer peace loving games like this one sometimes. You can easily get sucked into LCP, it’s a tiny house world of its own. I’m having a blast with the little dude in the one I started up–his name is Ian. He’s already played the piano twice and we played Poker and Anagrams this evening.
I’m going to give this game or whatever it is five stars out of five stars even though I don’t rate games at this point, but if I did rate games I would give this the top score or stars or whatever. That’s because LCP is fun, cool, and original. It is definitely a software title that was way ahead of its time.
Posted on May 1, 2018
Long ago, when processing power was slow and we didn’t realize it because 1 Mhz seemed fine. And back when I thought a hard disk was a 3.5″ floppy, because it was hard and not floppy. And back in a time when swapping floppies was just the way it was and you could still talk to an operator on the phone… There was Movie Maker. I mean Photoshop was still in B&W and you had to have a very expensive Mac to run it. And although Amiga blew everything out of the water, only professionals had what it took to to do actual computer animation. And so, there was this little retail software tittle that came on four floppies calls Move Maker, and it was actually fairly good when you consider the era.
I had a copy of Movie Maker as a kid, and I’ll tell you right now that I could NEVER figure out how to use it. It’s not that it’s hard to use, it’s just that when I was a kid I was dumb as a bag of hammers and anything that involved reading any type of instructions was out of the question for me. So I looked at the pretty box and played Ultima IV instead. The funny thing is, I always looked at Move Maker as a sort of aspirational title that I would someday utilize to make great C64 movies. I never did, until today.
Real quick, I’d like to point out that I’m good with modern multimedia tools. I’m professional level with the Adobe Creative Suite, and have created designs and animation for a number of years. Still I’ve never quite reconciled my failure to ever do anything with Movie Maker. This morning I got a hair up my ass to go ahead and try to figure out how to use it and see what I missed all those many years ago.
So I found the disk images at this website, and the manual at this one, and I proceeded to figure out how to use Move Maker. It’s not that tough. The only really annoying thing is that you have to swap disks all the time because back in the day a 1541 floppy drive disk held like 300K or something and we take for granted our incredible data storage capacity these days–there are micro SD cards that can hold 500 hours of video.
I followed the tutorial in the Movie Maker manual and I was able to make a very simple little video complete with scrolling titles a background image and an animated robot with blinking eyes. I think I could do a lot more with this program it I took a little time to get the hang of the workflow, but it is very tedious for pretty mild results. The thing is that this gives anyone who wants to bother with it a very authentic 8bit movie experience. Authenticity is the key here rather than performance. And sometimes it’s authenticity your going for. As much as digital photography has taken over the world, you still can’t beat the authenticity of a film photo. Sure everything is better about a digital picture, but I think it’s the flaws in our analog world that make things really beautiful. In the same way an 8bit movie made on an 8bit computer (emulator) with all the flaws and limits that are native to the scheme has a certain something that no amount of simulation can achieve.
I’m looking at Movie Maker a lot like I did when I was a kid. I see potential. Maybe I won’t make a full length animated 8bit movie, but maybe I’ll make some delightful shorts that capture that bygone age of disk swapping and telephone operators.
Posted on April 30, 2018
As far as twitch games go I’m old school. I like shooting at stuff that’s moving across the screen before it comes to get me. That’s how the timeless classic Space Invaders works, and I like Space Invaders. Atlantis is a lot like Space Invaders in that you need to shoot stuff before it comes to get you. But Atlantis, in my opinion, has a lot more storyline going on, so I’m even more partial to Atlantis.
Atlantis is a game about protecting a city, the city is Atlantis. It’s pretty much left to the players imagination as to why the city is under attack and by whom. The enemy is a lot of flying attack vehicles, maybe spaceships or something, that eventually use some sort of destruction ray to destroy city buildings if they get get to a low enough altitude. If you loose all your buildings then you loose. The buildings appear to be under water and I imagine that’s the Atlantis part of the story. As a player you are in charge of three defense guns that protect the city. The center gun shoots straight up and the other two shoot diagonal
In all honesty this is a super simple game with very little variation. It just gets harder and harder as the enemy ships get faster and more abundant. The strength of the game is not the game play, it’s the potential for the players to use their imagination as they play. I think that’s what’s missing from the really advanced games we have available today. The insane lifelike worlds that get created now leave little for the player to imagine. But a game like Atlantis left everything to be imagined and as a kid I did just that, and I still do when I play the game today.
Here are some of the things I’ve always wondered or thought about while immersed in protecting the city:
Is this enemy ship a side view and it looks like a Star Trek Federation ship, or does it have a transparent round pod on the front? I like to go with it’s a round transparent pod because I like crap like that.
Why are the attack ships so freaking huge? I mean they’re like the size of buildings and they have more than one window on the side. They look a little like Star Wars Star Destroyers or something. I like to imagine that this invasion is on a capital ship scale because the invaders are from another planet and this is their attack/colonization force.
Who lives in the small size buildings? I like to imagine that these are exclusive condos where the crème de la crème of Atlantis live up in the hills near the water surface, and the main defense gun.
Why do you need an underwater bridge? Is this an underwater bridge or is it just some sort of power station, or maybe a fancy dwelling, or even a prison? I like to go with underwater bridge.
These are just a few of the musings that always come up when I play Atlantis. All in all I love this game. I might play it now!
Posted on April 29, 2018
I noticed that I keep bringing up Ultima IV is mentioned in at least a few of my other posts. The reason I keep bringing it up is that it is one of those games that was super influential in my computer gaming life. I’m going to qualify things real quick, I never ever finished Ultima IV… Not even on an emulator. The simple fact is that I don’t have time for that crap. It is a serious commitment to finish a game like Ultima IV, and a lot of that time is spent in somewhat tedious combat scenarios that are extremely slow. BUT, if I had the time I would for sure go ahead and finish this bad boy up, become an Avatar and kill the final monster or whatever. It’s called Quest of the Avatar, so that’s why I said become an Avatar because that’s pretty much what you’re there to do.
The real strength of Ultima IV is that it’s an extensive playable world with dungeons and castles and towns and you can talk to people and fight and sail around in a ship… For a game released in 1985 it’s fairly extensive and full featured. I never owned Ultima IV but I had a Commodore 64 buddy who did and he was generous and let me borrow it quite a bit–eventually when we discovered software that could overcome copy protection he made me my own copy! And I played it and never finished it, but still loved it.
I guess it’s just one of those things that you like to have around or know exists, even if you never actually use (or play) it. You know, like your ice cream maker, cool to have. But unlike the ice cream maker I would never get rid of Ultima IV at a yard sale. Today you don’t have to own anything physical to play Ultima IV, all you need is a good C64 emulator–I think the C64 version is the best version–and some disk images. Oh, and you need the maps and all that crap too in order to have the full Ultima IV experience.
I have played all of the Ultima games through IV. They were created by a guy who called himself Lord British and who’s real name is Richard Garriott. Richard is now a zillionaire, but before that he created a little game called Akalabeth: World of Doom back in 79. That led to Ultima I (I have finished that game), Ultima II, Ultima III, and then …. Ultima IV. There are more after that and Garriott’s company, Origin, is well known for producing one of the first graphical multi-player worlds… Ultima Online.
Regardless of all this Ultima, the one I like best is IV, I think that was the pinnacle of Ultima technology, the ultimate Ultima. But it wasn’t the ultimate because there were a bunch more, but for me IV is where it ends. Go check it out.
Posted on April 28, 2018
I picked a random NES game from my NES pile and… It was URBAN CHAMPION. What can I say about this game? It was my first exposure to the word “Urban” for one thing. I remember when I first saw this game in action. NES was new in the US, we kids were being bombarded with zillions of NES commercials on television that touted this new game system that had a light gun, Super Mario Brothers, and a robot. If you weren’t a kid in the 80’s you might not understand the gravity of this trinity. Today we live in the age of instant technology miracles and most kids and adults are a little desensitized to innovation. However, in the 80’s the only place you could play most good video games was at the arcade (the one I went to was called Westworld). There were light guns at the arcade but NOT at home. There was Super Mario Brothers at the arcade but NOT at home. No video game systems had robots. Actually video game systems today need more robots, but I digress. I did not have a Nintendo Entertainment System when they came out, but my rich friend did, and that’s how I was introduced to Urban Champion.
“Urban Champion Sucks!” That’s how my rich friend described it when we were in the third grade and he was introducing me to his NES with light gun and robot. It was hard for me to believe that any game on this thing sucked, but actually when you compare the other NES games to Urban Champion, you kinda understand why my school chum thought it sucked. It’s really not all that fun in my opinion, and the gameplay is a little clunky. Today I like the game because it’s nostalgic for me to look at it and remember the days when I was amazed by a system that allowed you to play Super Mario Brothers in your living room (or in my case; your friends living room).
I guess I should say something about Urban Champion gameplay … You fight with another guy in the street and if you can knock him down into an open manhole, all the better. It’s from the days just before street fights became extremely dangerous and hoodlums had pocket knives rather than uzis. Things changed rapidly after 1985 or so, or maybe I just became aware of the horrors of the world after that time, or perhaps I’m not remembering clearly. I don’t know. I do know that I played very little Urban Champion, and I still play very little Urban Champion. I own it though, so in the end I guess Urban Champion punched me down the open manhole and won.
Posted on April 27, 2018
I was an adult before Amazon destroyed bookstores, and as a kid the only place you could get books was in… Bookstores. Back then bookstores were more than bookstores, you could also buy software and even, my favorite, GAMES!
Most of the games I purchased (I got my mom or dad to purchase for me) were procured at Toy’s ‘R’ Us (RIP), Software Etc, or, * drumroll * … Bookstores. One bookstore that had a decent selection of C64 games was Waldenbooks. And it was at my local Waldenbooks (in 1987) that I convinced my mother to buy me Deceptor. I recall how excited I was when I saw this game on the shelf, mostly because the graphics depicted on the back made it look pretty awesome. Full color “3D”, or as 3D as things got on a C64. And it is pretty awesome. It’s super freaking hard, but it’s awesome. How hard? As a kid I don’t think I ever got past the second level. Today of corse I’ve played it on a C64 emulator with full cheats enabled and seen the game to the end; however, as a kid I never got too far with this game. That was actually the case with almost all of my games, not because I didn’t want to finish them but because I had other interests besides games. Skateboarding, biking, running around the neighborhood, and so on were all things I did in addition to playing video games. I grew up in a time when kids went outside to play and a lot of phones still had dials. I don’t think I ever finished any of my C64 games, but back to Deceptor…
I won’t mince words, Deceptor is a weird game. It’s a maze game with shooting at the end of each level. I think whoever created this game was hopped up on goofballs or something because it’s totally bizarre as far as the artwork goes. Even the gameplay is a little wonky. It’s got some fresh music and a cool intro too. It’s not hard to try it out on your favorite C64 emulator, so I definitely recommend giving it a go.
Posted on April 26, 2018
Do you make top five lists? I do. Today I made my computer game top five list:
- Rags to Riches (C64) (Free)
- Ultima IV (C64) (Free)
- Sim City 2000 (MAC/PC)($5.99)
- Sam & Max Hit the Road (MAC/LINUX/PC) ($5.99)
- Fallout 3 (PC) ($19.99)
I realize this list spans the ages, it’s a top five computer games of all time list. These are my favorites. I want you to note #1… Rags to Riches.
I bought Rags to Riches in I’d say about 1987 for 99 cents at Software Etc in the Santa Monica Place. It was part of a collection of games from a company called Value Ware. The other two games were Algebra Dragons and some Egypt tomb thing I think. I played the other two games like maybe once each, I payed Rags to Riches for hours and hours and hours and hours. When I discovered emulation in the late 90’s, I played Rags to Riches for hours and hours and hours and hours again. Thanks to the magic of emulation I was able to “finish” the game (it dosn’t really have a finish).
Why do I love this game so much, I mean it made #1 in my top five. Well it’s because it’s so f-ing original. You play a hobo who needs to get a haircut, find a job and move up in the world. The goal of the game is to make a million dollars, but nothing really happens when you finally do that in the game. How’s that for real? The graphics give the game a feel all it’s own, This was obviously a single person project that simply did not receive the sort of press it deserved back in the 80’s. The guy who made it is named Bob Keener who I can’t find any info on. If he’s still alive, I’d like to shake his hand and tell him how much his game meant to me over the years. I mean, I’v been through thirty-one years relationships, jobs, careers, training, schools, births, deaths, happiness, sadness… life stuff, and through it all I’ve always had a copy of Rags to Riches to remind me that it’s all about getting enough to eat, a place to sleep and a haircut if you want a job. I think a lot of my reasons for taking a more Taoist outlook may be a result of the Rags to Riches influence. Geez, that’s a lot for one little game eh?
Anyhow, I love this game so much that I created a tribute game with the Pico-8 Fantasy Console that is my version of Rags to Riches that I called Skid Row Joe, and is available on this very site in the Retropute Games Section. Pico-8 deserves its own post, and I will do that in the future for sure, but for now go ahead and play some Rags to Riches or Skid Row Joe because you can.
Posted on April 25, 2018
When I was pretty little, I think seven or eight years old, Coleco came out with some tabletop (handheld) video games that resembled their arcade countertop in form if not in gameplay. These were hot stuff in 82, when some of the best portable games were yo-yos.
As most small children did (and still do), I watched Saturday morning cartoons. Mine were way better than the swill they heap on the poor kids today, and so were the commercials. One of my favorite commercials was the one by Coleco (You can watch below) for their tabletop arcade games. In this commercial a character, who I don’t think ever showed up again in the pop lexicon, Mr. Arcade uses magic power to shrink arcade games to tabletop size… Even Donkey Kong!
Today micro technology is way better than it was than it was in 82 and the dream of Mr. Arcade it REAL…
May I present to you the Tiny Arcade, Ms. Pac Man from Super Impulse (SI)
This thing is one word… RAD. I got the Ms. Pac Man on Amazon for $15, but they make Galaxian, Pac Man, Dig Dug, Frogger, Space Invaders, and Galaga as well.
Ms. Pac Man is essentially a perfect tiny replica of the arcade cabinet that you might still find at your local taco or pizza place. The marquee even lights up to add to the authenticity. Beyond the form, the gameplay is EXACT. It’s probably an emulation of the original arcade hardware on a one inch screen.
And that’s the caveat, this is literally a ONE inch screen. It’s hard to see and at first I thought I wouldn’t actually be able to play this thing. I was wrong. I’ve been playing Ms. Pac Man on a ONE INCH SCREEN every day and liking it. Yes, it’s hard to see, yes, the joystick is less than perfect so I sometimes die when I don’t want to, but honestly even arcade versions in arcades have little problems that we all overlook (like some are set way too fast) in order to play this all time classic.
I’ll probably loose my 20/20 vision from eye strain, but I love playing this thing. I seriously think any of these is a perfect gift for the retro gamer in your family or friend circle. There is one weird thing, SI put a keychain ring on this thing… Why? Why does everyone put a keychain on everything that’s small? Do keychains add validity to small products? I dunno, I think it’s weird to put a keychain option on an otherwise perfect product.
Don’t forget to watch Mr. Arcade below!
Posted on April 24, 2018
My very first video game console as a kid was the Atari 2600 (aka. Atari VCS). I was a little late to the game since I got mine about the time of the famous 1983 video game crash. That bubble burst was what allowed me to get an Atari in the first place. Up until that time the systems were a little rich for the decision makers’ (my parents) blood. However, when the price of a C64 hit $50 at Thrifty Drug–everyone sold Atari systems by that point in the game (a big reason for the crash)–my mom was willing to entertain my desire for a video game system.
I had a lot of games for the 2600 because the 83 crash made them cheap. Toys ‘R’ Us (RIP) was giving some of them away for $5 with a $5 rebate. Among my collection was Adventure, a game that I will say I did not actually understand, and still have questions about. I think you need to suspend your expectations when playing Adventure. Dragons look like weird vertical duck things, and you are literally a large square pixel. All that and some of the aspects of gameplay are a little nebulous.
I have to be honest, I didn’t play this game too much, I liked Pitfall, Atlantis, and even Haunted House a lot better. Adventure is supposed to be… well, an adventure. Theres a castle and sort of puzzle like stuff and the weird vertical duck dragons and keys and stuff. It didn’t come off as that to me when I was eight years old and so the game experience was more frustrating than fun–probably the reason I gravitated toward easy games like Atlantis. What I didn’t know when I was a kid was that Adventure had a secret, the first known Easter egg in a video game.
Warren Robinett, the programer of Adventure, knowing that he would get no credit for his programing prowess (Atari was scared to name their talent because programer poaching was real), decided to put his own credit into the game without any sort of authorization from whoever he answered to at work. Warren put a secret room into the game with his name on it… literally.
And so the tradition of the video game Easter egg was born. Good story eh? Was this really the very first video game Easter egg? Most video game historians think so. I like to believe it was, either way Adventure is actually a pretty cool game even if eight year old me didn’t realize it in 83. Today I will play Adventure on an emulator now and then, but I’ve never actually tried to find the secret room, maybe I should do that.