Gaming Steve

Classic Archives - Page 3

November 23, 2005

Xbox 360 Achievements Inspired by the Atari 2600?

Activision Freeway PatchOne of the cooler aspects of the Xbox 360 is the addition of "achievements", which are basically rewards for achieving various in-game objectives (i.e. finish the game, unlock secret items, obtain certain high scores, etc.). As you "collect" these achievements they are added to your Xbox Live gamer profile in the form of cool icons for the world to see.

Sounds like an original concept, right? Rewarding people for achieving various in-game accomplishments on a console game? Well, this concept which first surfaced over 23 years ago on the Atari 2600!

Back in the "gaming stone age" (AKA the year 1982) Activision offered free cloth patches if you achieved a high score in any one of their games. Users were instructed to photograph their TV with the high score showing and mail it in and then Activision would send back a patch. Quite a bit of work in order to receive a piece of colored fabric, but it does mark the very first true "achievement" system for video games. In total there were 43 patches for 33 different games and the patch designs were quite varied and pretty damn cool.

So what made me think about this obscure past of gaming history. Well, just this past weekend I was at my parent's house poking around my old room when I came across my old Puma sweatshirt and my collection of Activision patches! Take a look at this bad boy! Doesn't it just reek of 80s nostalgia? Damn, I used to wear this thing everywhere, proudly showing off my various gaming achievements for the world to see. I think I should get an achievement for just having this blast from the past.

Anyone else still have their Activision patches? And how many did you manage to get in total?

Activision_Patches_01.jpg
What's that in the back of my closet? My old Puma sweatshirt, complete with Activision game patches? Score! Note the other relics of gaming history in the background as well.

Activision_Patches_02.jpg
A full frontal view of my proud achievements. Damn that the Pitfall patch was freaking huge!

Activision_Patches_03.jpg
Of course I had so many patches that I had to attach a few to the shoulders as well. Could you imagine what you would think if you saw this walking down the street? On second thought, don't try to do that...

Posted by Gaming Steve at 12:00 PM | Posted to Classic | Xbox |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

November 18, 2005

Gaming Steve Episode 27 - 11.18.2005

City of Villains - Dominator with Venus FlytrapWelcome to the bonus episode of Gaming Steve. This was actually part of the last episode but it was so big that I had to cut it into two. Make sure to listen to the details on the Gaming Steve T-Shirt design contest and join our Frappr! family. Enjoy the bonus goodness!

Gaming Steve Episode 27 Program

  • 00:04:02 Game News:
    • PlayStation 3 won't play borrowed, used, or rented games?
    • Jack leaves on his own terms.
    • World domination of Warcraft continues.
    • Man profits from virtual island.
    • 360s in short supply.
    • 360 to play 200+ Xbox games in US but ...
    • ... Japan only gets 12 games and ...
    • ... Europe gets 156 games.
    • Xbox 360 midnight madness.
    • Darwinian evolves onto Steam.
    • Nintendo Wi-Fi hits speed bump.
    • EA slashes prices.
    • What is ... World of Warcraft?
    • Rare's Perfect gamble.
  • 00:42:10 GameTalk: How is the industry changing?
  • 01:03:04 SporeTalk: Tell me what you want to hear.
  • 01:08:08 Game Review: City of Villains for the PC.
  • 01:24:39 RetroReview: Chiller for the arcade.
  • 01:33:15 RetroReview: Death Race for the arcade.
  • 01:36:10 “Name That Game!” contest winner from last week, a new clip, and a mystery prize!
  • 01:42:53 Final Thoughts on Gaming Steve Frappr, the T-Shirt design contest, help me in testing out iTunes, and my Xbox 360 coverage next week.
Download the show (112 minutes): Gaming Steve Episode 27 (MP3).

Subscribe to the Podcast directly in iTunes (MP3).
Add the Gaming Steve Podcast feed to your RSS aggregator.
Vote for Gaming Steve on Podcast Alley.

Posted by Gaming Steve at 2:00 PM | Posted to Classic | PC | Podcast | Review | Spore |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

November 17, 2005

"My Name is Earl" Shows Berzerk Some Love

earl_berzerk.jpg

What's going on with this week with video games and television shows? Last night World of Warcraft was a $1,000 answer on the college version of Jeopardy! Next Monday, the day before the Xbox 360 launches no less, CSI: Miami takes on video games with an episode labeled "Urban Hellraisers”. The plot summary: “When a group of criminals play out a violent video game in real life, the CSIs must stop them before they strike again" ... yeah, that sounds about right.

But what really caught my attention was this past week's My Name is Earl in which Darnell is seen playing Berzerk on an Atari 2600! The dialog in the episode was as follows:

EARL: That's not a bad Berzerker score.

DARNELL: Yeah. It's definitely going to make the "Wall of Fame".

CUT TO: Darnell looking at a wall filled with seventeen Polaroid photos of Berzerk, each with a score written in black marker on the bottom of each picture.

Now that's what I call classic TV!

Posted by Gaming Steve at 11:00 PM | Posted to Classic | Culture |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

November 16, 2005

Atari 2600 Game Code Visualized

Combat.gifImagine you could take programming code and turn all the mathematical instructions into a graphical representation. Not only would this look cool but it could actually be useful in visualizing the code and how various elements work with one another. Media artist Ben Fry has done just this -- he took the assembly code of past Atari 2600 games and mapped their execution visually with surprising results.

Ben's transformation from binary code into a visual map is quite interesting. First Ben maps out the binary code of the cartridge itself using a series of numbers for lines of code and orange boxes for bytes of data. Then examines each line the code and the results of all conditional statements (i.e. if x is true, go to y). If the math results in a true statement a curve is drawn from that point to its destination. The end result is a elegant mix of curves and numbers.

What's really interesting to see how the programing varies by game. Extremely simple games, such as Combat, are light and airy. While complex games, such as Pac-Man, are a tangle of lines and curves. Unfortunately he only has six games on the site including Adventure, Air Raid, Combat, Pac-Man, Pitfall, and Q-Bert. But could you imagine what a modern game would look like mapped out using this method? Scary.

Posted by Gaming Steve at 4:00 PM | Posted to Classic | Random |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

November 15, 2005

Video Game Maps Galore

smw-th.gifThe Internet is just an amazing place. Say you wanted to find a web site which does nothing but store and catalog maps from hundreds of video games throughout time? No problem! I managed to find not one but two web sites completely dedicated to just this one esoteric hobby.

First up we have VGMaps.com. Definitely not the prettiest site around, and the navigation is a bit confusing, but if you stick to the map directory you will find a treasure trove of map goodness! Nearly every console and computer system is represented on this site, you'll even find a few arcade games in there as well. Unfortunately, the quality of the maps are a bit spotty at times, but there are so many listed that you'll probably find something of interest.

Over at Ian Albert's Video Games Maps you'll find quality over quantity. Ian doesn't have a huge selection of game maps, but what he does have are painstakingly crafted works of art. Just a word of warning, many of these maps are quite large usually weighing in at a couple of megs each. But nothing compares to his Ultima 7 map, which is an insane 24,576×24,576 pixels in size and a 84 MB download. Now that's a map!

Posted by Gaming Steve at 2:00 PM | Posted to Classic |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

November 11, 2005

Atari M.U.L.E. Online!

M.U.L.E.M.U.L.E., a planetary-colonization/trading simulator that turned economic bartering into an adrenalized action-strategy mixture, was for years considered a lost classic of the 8-bit era. Happily, today's gamers can now re-experience this game verbatim - and now, with full online multiplayer capabilities.

M.U.L.E. has been available on modern systems through an Atari emulation. The downside was that you could only tap into multiplayer mode the way our forebears did: by cramming up to four people around a single machine. But now, thanks to the folks at Kaillera and Atari800WinPlus, up to four colonists can play M.U.L.E. with each other over the net with the new Atari M.U.L.E. Online package.

Fondly remembered for its addictive gameplay, tongue-in-cheek humor, and criminally catchy theme music, M.U.L.E. was a masterpiece crammed into a simple-but-ingenious interface. The premise was simple: up to four aliens were dropped on the planet Irata ("Atari" backwards), and granted one parcel of land per turn. Players could then purchase MULEs (Multiple Use Labor Elements - essentially multipurpose worker robots) and set them to work harvesting food, energy, smithore, or the invaluable crystite. Economic output was determined by player race (some were better for harvesting food, some for raising energy, and so on), land type, and happenstance. But it was after the production phase, during trading, where the real excitement kicked in. Players would attempt to hawk off excess goods, or buy or sell supplies like food or energy. Players who devoted their land towards mining might make a killing selling their valuable minerals - but then could be at the mercy of others who sold the food or energy they needed.

The bartering portion featured one of the most ingenious interfaces ever designed. Sellers stood at the top of the screen, and buyers at the bottom. Each could physically push a line towards the other end, which represented the price at which they'd be willing to buy or sell. When the two lines met, a transaction occurred. Not only did this perfectly illustrate the concepts of supply and demand in visual terms, but it turned the cerebral activity of economic trade into a visceral real-time experience. The spectacle of three players literally racing to push the "buy" line towards a seller sitting loftily at the top of the screen was one of the most entertaining and memorable aspects of gameplay.

A lot of old games are revered simply because of nostalgia, but M.U.L.E. deserves its reputation as a classic, and now new gamers can experience it firsthand, and better than before. Check it out - preferably when you have a lot of free time to kill.

Posted by Michael G. Shapiro at 4:30 PM | Posted to Classic | PC |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

November 7, 2005

Gaming Steve Episode 25 - 11.07.2005

Civilization 4I guess I have totally given up on trying to make the show shorter as every time I try it just ends up longer. Oh well, enjoy this week's gaming goodness.

Gaming Steve Episode 25 Program

  • 00:01:36 Game News:
    • Xbox.com is reborn.
    • Video Games Live canceled ... again.
    • Peter Jackson POed with EA.
    • Virtual property sells for $100k.
    • Uwe Boll splits Dungeon Siege movie (Ed note: after the show was recorded Uwe changed his mind and will now release one 2 hour and 40 minute movie instead).
    • Blizzard fires up the Burning Crusade.
    • Star Wars Galaxies commits seppuku.
    • Sony Online developing "free" MMO.
    • City of Villains unleashes its evil on the world.
    • Elder Scrolls IV missing Xbox 360 launch.
    • Sony starts selling PSP Media Manager.
    • Starcraft: Ghost skipping GameCube.
    • Xbox 360 Lounge opens in Tokyo.
    • Doh! EA snags The Simpsons for next-gen.
    • Bioware and Pandemic form partnership.
    • EA announces Command & Conquer 12-pack.
  • 00:46:08 GameTalk: I answer lots of viewer questions.
  • 01:18:34 SporeTalk: A new picture from the "E3 Spore Room".
  • 01:20:00 Game Review: Civilization IV for the PC.
  • 01:38:56 Game Review: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney for the Nintendo DS.
  • 01:45:04 RetroReview: LaserDisc arcade games.
  • 01:51:34 RetroReview: Dragon's Lair for the arcade.
  • 01:59:18 RetroReview: Space Ace for the arcade.
  • 02:04:58 RetroReview: Dragon's Lair II: Timewarp for the arcade.
  • 02:10:40 “Name That Game!” contest winner from last week, a new clip, and a mystery prize!
  • 02:15:50 Final Thoughts on the new podcast setup, send me your questions, and site email.
Download the show (145 minutes): Gaming Steve Episode 25 (MP3).

Subscribe to the Podcast directly in iTunes (MP3).
Add the Gaming Steve Podcast feed to your RSS aggregator.
Vote for Gaming Steve on Podcast Alley.

Posted by Gaming Steve at 1:00 AM | Posted to Classic | Podcast | Review | Spore |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

November 4, 2005

Classic Video Game Music and Flyers Galore

AsteroidsEvery day I spend a little time trolling the web to try and find uncovered gems for my loyal readers, and today I managed to hit the motherload in classic gaming goodness.

Daniel P. Hower's Coin-Op Video Games appears unassuming at first glance, but hidden in the site are not one but two undiscovered gems of classic video game history. First, Daniel has the largest selection of video game flyers I have ever seen with over 2,732 flyers on the site and more added every day.

These "flyers" were nothing more than sales brochures created by coin-op game manufacturers in order to promote their games and feature game screenshots, pictures of the gaming cabinets, descriptions of game play and concept art. Not only are all the flyers on the site in mint condition but Daniel has an extremely well-designed flyer database allowing for lighting fast flyer locating.

But if that wasn't awesome enough his second "treasure" is even more impressive. I'll let Daniel explain this one in his own words:

Back in 1982, my best friend had a Sony stereo walkman recorder. Audio was the conventional recording media back then and we recorded all kinds of stuff. One day we were on our way to the arcade 'Just Fun' in Ithaca, NY and came up with the idea to record video game sounds.

We recorded video games from 1982 until 1988. Fortunately I managed to save all fourteen audio tapes of video game sounds and arcade ambience which were recorded from a variety of locations in the US. Most of the recordings are from Ithaca, NY, Albany, NY and Ocean City, MD.

So far I have not come across another individual who thought of documenting classic video games on audio tape! There are people on RGVAC who talk about classic video games and arcades shown in movies and TV shows, but nothing about video game audio recordings.

In the last several years I digitized these nostalgic recordings to preserve and share with all of you. Experience the nostalgic ambience! The blend of many video games being played simultaneously, the kids yelling and the coins being inserted. Experience and enjoy. We will never hear such beautiful chaos again....

The list of recorded arcade sounds is truly staggering ... it's practically a "who's who" of classic video games. Unfortunately Daniel was actually playing these games while he was recording, so they're not perfect copies. But ... who cares! Where else are you going to find recordings of Vanguard, Time Pilot, Venture, Phoenix, Gorf, Tron and hundreds upon hundreds of other games?

Daniel, I salute you! Check it out this site ... right now!

Posted by Gaming Steve at 6:00 PM | Posted to Classic | Culture |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

November 3, 2005

Use Atari 2600 Joysticks on your PC

StelladaptorFor many the Atari 2600 joystick was their very first gaming controller and it holds a special place in their heart. Of course it only moved in eight directions, and it only had one button, and it put a horrible strain on your wrist, and it broke all the time, and if was difficult to use, and the rubber joystick made your hand sweat, and it didn't always work, but you loved it all the same.

Of course gaming technology has come a long way since then ... now our controllers have pressure sensitive analog buttons, shoulder pads, rumble packs, and no wires. But those of you who miss those earlier times when one button was all you needed to save the galaxy your prayers have been answered with the Stelladaptor.

The Stelladaptor is basically an Atari 2600 to USB adapter that will allow you to use standard Atari 2600 compatible controllers, including joysticks, paddles, and driving controllers, on your modern PC. It's compatible with Windows, Macintosh OS X, or Linux operating systems and requires no additional drivers to use. It's a bit pricey at $29.90 (not including shipping) but if you want to play your MAME emulated games using the "real deal" then this is what you need.

I am quite curious about that USB functionality. I wonder what would happen if I plugged that thing into my Xbox 360? Can you imagine trying to play Dead or Alive 4 using an Atari 2600 joystick? Of course, you could only kick with the one button, just like the old times...

Posted by Gaming Steve at 11:00 AM | Posted to Classic | PC |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

October 24, 2005

Gaming Steve Episode 24 - 10.24.2005

Atari Age Swordquest!This week I got a chance to speak with Xbox Live's Major Nelson where we chat about the new Xbox Live, cool new Xbox 360 features, Major's gaming history, German booth babes, and much more. Check it out.

Gaming Steve Episode 24 Program

  • 00:04:22 Game News:
    • GameTap unleashes classic games to the masses.
    • California game restriction law disputed.
    • Big Mac, fries, and Wi-Fi.
    • Xbox 360 controller for sale in stores ... really.
    • Wal-Mart demoing the 360.
    • GameStop receiving 360 kiosks.
    • San Andreas hits retail yet again.
    • 10 million PSPs in 10 months.
    • Dead or Alive 4 ... now with more Spartan.
    • Satin Sliver PS2 buggy?
    • Gizmondo? Bless you.
    • The Main Event: Penny Arcade vs. Thompson.
  • 00:31:10 GameTalk: Interview with Xbox Live's Major Nelson, Larry Hryb.
  • 00:59:46 SporeTalk: I break open some emergency rations.
  • 01:00:40 Game Review: The Warriors for the Xbox and PS2.
  • 01:11:15 RetroReview: Swordquest for the Atari 2600.
  • 01:24:19 “Name That Game!” contest winner from last week, a new clip, and the cool prize!
  • 01:29:24 Final Thoughts on upcoming interviews, sending me audio questions, Civilization IV and more.
Download the show (96 minutes): Gaming Steve Episode 24 (MP3).

Subscribe to the Podcast directly in iTunes (MP3).
Add the Gaming Steve Podcast feed to your RSS aggregator.
Vote for Gaming Steve on Podcast Alley.

Posted by Gaming Steve at 4:00 PM | Posted to Classic | Interview | Podcast | Review | Spore | Xbox |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!