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GameSetWatch.com is the alt.video game weblog and sister site of Gamasutra.com. It is dedicated to collecting curious links and media for offbeat and oft-ignored games from consoles old and new, as well as from the digital download, iOS, and indie spaces.

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A Tribute To Retro Core, Now Departed

May 5, 2007 1:37 AM |

- We've linked him a few times before, but it's time for a final link, because Yakumo's excellent Retro Core classic Japanese gaming videocast is now coming to an end, with Volume 32: The Final being, uhm, the final one featuring game footage and sardonic English commentary.

As Yakumo further explains on The Gamer's Quarter: "I just no longer have the time to produce the show anymore now that I've become a father. Still, it's been a great 3 years and within that Time Retro Core has covered over 390 games... In the final volume of Retro Core we take a look at the PC Engine and its games."

He continues: "There are many PC Engine games that are also featured on the Mega Drive. Retro Core compare 4 of them side by side, as well as taking a look at some of my personal favorite games in my collection. As well as that we've got Japanese game ads and the following games..." Big list follows, random selection is, well, these: "PC Engine - Ninja Spirits... PC Engine - Pop'n Twinbee... PC Engine Super CD - Psychic Storm... PC Engine Arcade CD - World Heroes 2." Nice!

Mega Man 2600 - The Saga Begins!

April 26, 2007 5:02 PM |

- We only just pointed out the full gallery for the I Am 8-Bit game art show in Los Angeles, but longtime GSW buddy Ryan has just posted footage of Mega Man 2600, a game made especially for the show, over on GameTrailers.com.

Comments are already semi-slavering for the bizarro Atari 2600 'tribute' version of the Capcom classic - with significant changed-up gameplay: "That's awesome. And it actually resembles Mega Man 1! I so want to try this out soon. I'm guessing you hold up for jumps and press the joystick button to shoot, right? Still cool."

Anyhow, I can't really find much other information on Mega Man 2600 - who programmed it? Is there going to be a homebrew release? Is there a webpage anywhere with more information on it? I look to you, kind GSW commenters, to find the answer.

[EDIT: The GameTrailers folks have passed on the name of the author, David Galloway, who also co-wrote recent Atari 2600 homebrew title BliP Football, described thusly: "Faithfully mimicked in appearance, audio and gameplay, BLiP Football recreates the experience of playing the original electronic football [released in 1977]."

Volk Explains Activision's Lazarus Comeback

April 20, 2007 1:17 AM |

- The latest in Alistair Wallis' (and before that Frank Cifaldi's) 'Playing Catch-Up' column series for Gamasutra talks to Conflict 2500 creator William Volk - but if you didn't know about the cult 1981 strategy game, there's another fascinating part to his biz history.

Specifically, this is one of the first detail descriptions I've seen of how Activision came close to going out of business in 1991. Volk talks about how he helped to champion Cyan's Manhole at the company, and then it's noted:

"Activision was going through a number of financial issues, including an ill-advised decision to get involved with non-gaming software under the name Mediagenic, and the continued monetary fallout from a 1985 patent lawsuit from Magnavox in regards to Activision’s publishing of “ball and paddle” games. “The saddest thing about the patent judgment is that it almost put Activision out of business,” Volk sighs. “Almost everyone was laid off and we lost Cyan as a developer. We could have been the publisher of Myst! Amazing.”"

What's more: "The company changed management, with former Four Kids Entertainment CEO and Director and then-BHK Corporation head Robert Kotick stepping in as Director, Chairman of the Board and CEO in after acquiring a controlling interest in the company in February 1991. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and lost the majority of its staff at this time, but still managed to develop and release a number of titles – most notably, Steven Meretzky’s Leather Goddesses of Phobos 2, which Volk helped program, since the company was down to just 12 people at the time."

Plenty more good stuff if you click through - turns out the actual Activision resurgence was helped by Return To Zork, which Volk was one of the key players in: "“I also think Bobby believed in my vision on the multimedia adventure stuff,” he muses, “and Return to Zork proved him correct.”

Top 10 Most Influential Amiga Games? OK!

April 11, 2007 2:57 PM |

- I don't generally have a chance to write any articles for people outside of the whole Gamasutra/GameSetWatch/Game Developer nexus, but when the folks at Wired.com asked me to write a piece on the 'Top 10 Most Influential Amiga Games', I mean - how could I resist?

It's actually a gallery with pictures of the best Amiga games of all time, in my humble opinion (with screenshots from Hall Of Light), along with some extended captions - but they ended up having to cut my extended intro to fit into the space provided, so I thought - with Wired's kind permission - that I would put the extended one here. Amiga nostalgia alert - it was my weapon of choice from 1988 to 1996 or so, at least!

"In the 22 years since it was unveiled by Andy Warhol at the Lincoln Center in New York, the Commodore Amiga computer has arguably birthed more breakthrough multimedia creative efforts than any other, being a vital pre-PC tool for everything from art through video, CG, professional audio and video games.

As just one example, much of the CG for J. Michael Straczynski's groundbreaking sci-fi show Babylon 5 was created on Amigas, and Wallace & Gromit-creating studio Aardman Animations used the Amiga for stop motion image capturing at one point in its history. And even in the early years of the 21st century, thanks to admirers in the retro gaming scenes and associated art and 'demo-scene' worlds, the Amiga still has a large fanbase.

For one, Warhol's Amiga-constructed painted digital film 'You Are The One' was rescued and restored, showing with a custom soundtrack for a single day (due to "threatened legal action tied to estate disputes and to its pending seizure") at the Detroit Museum Of New Art in 2006

Commodore's computer was clearly a useful tool to Warhol - in an interview with Amiga World magazine in 1986, Warhol commented of the Amiga: "The thing I like the most about doing this kind of art on the Amiga is that it looks like my work."

More recently still, the MindCandy DVD featuring a multitude of Amiga 'demos' (executable programs that functioned as works of art and showed off the audiovisual capabilities of the system) has just been released, and is available at MindCandyDVD.com. Showing off the unique power of the system, the DVD "covers fifteen years of demo evolution with thirty of the best Amiga demos created." In addition, the impressive demos all used real-time effects, including some of the earliest real-time 3D vector graphics on any home computer, and even some texture-mapped models and real-time procedural effects that prefigured their use in many video games.

But separately of the demos, video games themselves were one of the most vibrant creative scenes on the Amiga, and many of the games created back then for the computer were a major influence on today's gaming genres. The Amiga's heyday for games was in the late '80s and early '90s, when its custom chipset and advanced (for the time) audiovisuals led to sumptuous 2D titles in a variety of styles, and even some basic 3D games, from standout creators such as The Bitmap Brothers, DMA Design, Sensible Software, Cinemaware, and more.

Many of these games are still relevant today. For example, Microsoft's X06 European press event saw the announcement that Amiga classic Sensible Soccer would be coming to the Xbox Live Arcade service for the Xbox 360, complete with custom online leagues playable over Xbox Live. And multiple game franchises created for the Amiga have gone on to bigger and brighter things. So let's look at some of the most creative entries in the game canon for one of the all-time most creative machines."

So there you go - check out the full Wired.com gallery and my vaguely pithy comments, and feel free to agree/disagree about what I left out and why the hell It Came From The Desert! isn't there, etc, etc.

GameTap Adds Sega Saturn Support, Surely

April 5, 2007 12:55 PM |

- Normally we at GSW talk about 'all you can eat' PC service GameTap, but this time I wrote a story on Gamasutra about it, since: "Turner's GameTap subscription PC 'all you can eat' gaming service has now added Sega Saturn games to its service, with the debut of platform game Bug! as a special Easter-timed Easter Egg for its service."

Tip of the hat to the ever-excellent Angled Whiteboards for partly pointing this out, though I had to work out what the 'sekrit search word' was myself: "The game is currently filed as 'Insect?' as a 'secret' feature for gamers to discover within the service, which has 851 games currently available as part of its monthly subscription."

Excerpting the rest of the post, since it's all kinds of relevant: "The range of legacy titles include games for the arcade, Atari 2600, Commodore 64, Sega Dreamcast, Game Gear, Genesis, 32-X, SG-1000 and Master System, as well as the Intellivision, DOS Windows, and Neo Geo. However, the service is probably best known for partnering with developers for GameTap Originals, which include Telltale's Sam & Max episodic gaming series, Cyan Worlds' Myst Online: Uru Live, and the upcoming Galactic Command series from 3000AD's Derek Smart.

As for Bug!'s appearance on the service, the game's description explains that the debut is "...a hidden one-week sneak peek of planetary proportions", and continues: "Stay tuned for the launch of more games for the Sega Saturn later this year." Specific titles to debut from the Saturn on GameTap have not yet been revealed, but all first-party Sega games could be likely candidates for an appearance on the service. Sega-published Dreamcast games currently available for play on GameTap include Chu Chu Rocket, Crazy Taxi and Toy Commander." Neat.

King Of Kong Hits Tribeca, Nationwide In August

April 4, 2007 11:45 AM |

- So, we previously covered that video game documentary King Of Kong was picked up at Slamdance by movie studios Picturehouse and New Line - and now we get a press release that: the film "...makes its NY Premiere in the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival Program of the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival" later in April, and opens nationwide on August 17th.

Though I'm sure it won't get into all the big multiplexes, this'll definitely be the widest distributed video game documentary ever, since the HBO & New Line-co-founded Picturehouse, who now have a webpage for it, are the guys who released Guillermo Del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth in the States, among other movies. Here's how they pitch the movie in the press release: "It’s man against beast! Man against machine! And finally man against man; in this epic journey that pits two modern day gladiators against one another - in order to prove to themselves and to the hoards of world-wide believers that they are the ‘King of Kong!’"

"Picturehouse presents KING OF KONG, a new documentary directed by Seth Gordon, produced by Ed Cunningham, and featuring two of the most focused ‘athletes’ ever to be captured on film – the slick mega-star legend of the video game world, hot-sauce impresario Billy Mitchell; and the mild-mannered family-guy challenger to the crown, middle-school science teacher Steve Wiebe. These two, as well as all the other die-hard gamers vying to conquer the likes of Q*bert, Joust, Pac-Man and Donkey Kong, make KING OF KONG colorful, compelling, competitive entertainment."

The capper? "This is no wimpy spelling bee or wheelchair derby. There are no cutesy penguins here…Kong would crush them. This is rivalry, competition, enthusiasm and obsession brought to its most exemplary level!!" Our very own GSW Cinema Pixeldiso columnist Matt Hawkins will be attending the press screening of the movie at Tribeca, so we should have an early review of the doc for you pretty soon.

Hudson's Sit-On Trains, Caught On Tape!

April 4, 2007 1:34 AM |

- Here's what you need to know - firstly, sister site Gamasutra posted 'Hudson's Revenge - Looking Forward With The House That Bonk Built' on Monday, likely the most detailed interview on Hudson Entertainment in quite some time, thanks to editor Brandon Sheffield's notorious knowledge of Bomberman's buddies.

One particular highlight in the interview, thanks to Hudson's John Greiner: "[The hardware division] in Japan was located in a building that we created out in Hokkaido's more rural area. It was a very cool building that they did and had a train that ran though it - a train that you could actually sit on and ride. And there was a station in the building... And I saw, many times, very big executives from NEC, to Nintendo, to all the bigwigs out on this tiny little train riding, going round in circles, in and out of the building."

Anyhow, the not emo (despite what they say) Brandon just posted on Insert Credit with a triumphant follow-up: "Assembler uploaded a little video that shows the Hudson miniature train in action. If you didn't read the interview I linked [previously], that thing actually uses coal! The video stars the Pink Bomber (though that's Kabuki from Tengai Makyou that you see in the image), who has her own oldschool-catchy music video here." This is just multiple layers of awesome, really.

RGCD Goes Retro CD Crazed

April 3, 2007 5:39 AM |

- Over at Gnome's Lair, the gnome himself has pointed out the neat, v.retro RGCD, a CD-based downloadable retro disc-magazine which "features tons of exquisite content covering everything from retro remakes, to game reviews, to emulators, to interviews, to excellent freeware games."

Gnome rambles endearingly: "I've always been quite of fond of diskmags, you know, and I've followed them from the dark but happy BBS ages all the way to modern offerings like the demoscene oriented Hugi and PAiN." And he's right - it's good to see a packaged standalone diskmag, incredibly anachronistic though it is. Oh, here's the download link, btw.

As the RGCD site notes: "Highlights of Issue #01 include in-depth developer interviews with the programmers behind the excellent Typhoon 2001 and Thrust Extreme (Thorsten Kuphaldt and Wiebo de Wit respectively), previews of Crownland and Sub Hunter (two awesome forthcoming 8-bit projects) and even an exclusive PC remake of an Atari ST classic. Every game featured in the magazine is also included archived on disc (along with any necessary emulation software), making RGCD your one-stop retro-gaming resource." All the games are legal, too - or as legal as clones (in some cases) get, I guess, but it's not commercial software, that's the point.

Exclusive: Anecdotes From The Megatree

March 30, 2007 10:50 AM |

- Some of you may recall that I'm a bit of a Manic Miner/Jet Set Willy fan - read that essay for a bit of Matthew Smith context if you're hazy on that particular niche of '80s psychedelic platforming wonder.

So it was great when I was chatting via email (about another topic) to Westwood Studios/EA veteran Steve Wetherill the other day, and checked out his softography to realize that yes, he worked on both Manic Miner and Jet Set Willy for the Amstrad CPC, before becoming a key figure at Odin Computer Graphics of Nodes Of Yesod fame. Yes, 'fame', stop looking at me weird over there.

Anyhow, nowadays Steve has his own little mobile game company, Uztek Games, who did EA Air Hockey for cellphones (which I believe I've played and enjoyed, actually) - and also owns and operates a vineyard, so there. But he was kind enough to give me some recollections on interacting with Matthew Smith and his experiences alongside Matthew on the fabled 'lost' Miner Willy game, 'The Megatree', as follows:

"My very first job in the games biz was as a programmer @ Software Projects - that would have been in 1984. My first project, working with another coder called Derrick Rowson, was to port [Manic Miner] to the Amstrad CPC. This was the first "in house" conversion of MM that SP had done. I did see Matthew from time to time, but JSW shipped at around the time I started @ SP, so Matthew was in "burnt out" mode.

In any case, Matthew lived in Birkenhead and the SP office was in Woolton in Liverpool, and Matthew worked from his house, so he did not have regular cause to be in the office. It's strange too why we were not given access to the Manic Miner source code. We disassembled the Spectrum version to create the Amstrad version.

After MM, Derrick & I ported [Jet Set Willy]. Again, no source code was forthcoming (and I know this because it took forever to get the stairs/ramps to work the same way as the Speccy version). We went a little crazy with the JSW port though, and we ended up more than doubling the number of rooms. In effect, we were the very first JSW modders (though, we also wrote most the game from scratch too since we had no source code). I left SP to go to Odin once JSW for the Amstrad was done, but the canny folks @ SP saw an opportunity, and so Derrick then ported the Amstrad game back to the Spectrum where it was released as Jet Set Willy 2 - that game is basically identical to the Amstrad version we'd made. Here are some comments I made on the topic of JSW2 last year.

Matthew used to go to some of the same drinking spots as I did (I was living in Birkenhead while I worked @ SP) and I remember Matthew showing up at least once to the Birkenhead rock club "Stairways" wearing his toga, so the toga thing is definitely true.

When the powers that be @ SP (Alan & Tommy) decided that a new Willy game was needed, they setup Matthew, Marc Dawson (C64 coder - now Marc Wilding running Illusions in the Czech republic) and Stuart Fotheringham (artist) in my house (the house where I lived - it actually belonged to Software Projects) on Holt Road in Birkenhead so that they could develop "The Megatree" away from "distractions". Matthew was to design, Marc was to code, Stoo to do the art. I'd leave for work each morning, and various members of the team would be in the house, planning the game.

I'd return in the evening and various members of the team would be @ the house .. planning the game. And so it went on for a couple of months until it became clear that nothing was really happening. I do remember a demo of some little trees dancing around a big tree, or something of that nature. I don't think there was ever anything really playable. It is a long time ago though. :)"

[EDITOR'S NOTE: There's lots more info on The Megatree at GTW64, including disc images, for what it's worth, backing up Steve's recollections nicely.]

Easter Eggs, Adventure, And VR Frippery

March 29, 2007 7:41 PM |

- Here's a new Gamasutra article which is very GSW-worthy - a 'Playing Catch Up' column featuring Adventure creator Warren Robinett, who made the first video game 'easter egg', of course - and also founded educational game firm The Learning Company, which I didn't know.

Anyhow, there's some good stuff in here: "Adventure... capitalized on the console’s success enormously well. By the end of the decade, there were around 1.8 million Atari 2600 owners, and 1 million of them were playing Robinett’s game. However, despite the incredible sales—at $25 each, no less—its creator was still on a salary of $22,000 a year, and soon decided to leave the company...

“I was tired of working, and Atari management didn't value the 2600 designers,” he says. “Boy were they stupid, because the designers all quit and started competing companies.” Years later, he notes with some enthusiasm, the company “came crashing down, like a whale dropped from a 747 at 30,000 feet”."

Later on, post game biz for Robinett, boy, there was some craziness: "In 1991, Robinett was talking with Stan Williams—a college and grad school friend who was, at the time, a chemistry professor at UCLA—in regards to a Scanning-Tunneling Microscope that had been developed by Williams and his grad students. Together, they decided that the idea of connecting the microscope to Robinett’s VR system would be “interesting”. The resulting invention was the Nanomanipulator, a VR interface that allows its user to “see, touch, and manipulate individual macromolecules”. The machine was implemented later on by Russ Taylor as a PhD thesis, who still runs the project." Nice!