Archive for March, 2007

Name Those Pixels: And the Crowd Goes Wild

Friday, March 30th, 2007

Pixel Challenge #12 - 1Sure, the heroes get all the attention, but what about the loyal fans cheering in the background? This week's theme and hint is "NES Crowds." Think of background crowds in games for the Nintendo Entertainment System. That should help you narrow it down a bit. The first block is to the right, the other two are below. As always, post your guesses in the comments section of this entry, and don't be bashful. Good luck!

Pixel Challenge #12 - 2    Pixel Challenge #12 - 3

The answers to the last challenge are after the break.

[ Continue reading Name Those Pixels: And the Crowd Goes Wild » ]

Tales From the Benjside: BABY DRAGON IS SLEPT

Thursday, March 29th, 2007

Tales from the Benjside

[ 'Tales From the Benjside' is a column where Benj writes silly things about computers, video games, and tangentially-related stuff in a blog-like fashion. ]

It's Christmas time once again in the Land of Benj, and you know what that means: more presents! So get out your stockings and you elf caps and follow me once again into another…

What? It's March, you say? Egads, man! Seems that I'm a bit late on the festivities (or early?). But then again, the Land of Benj does not observe normal rules of space and time. Only the Rules of Christmas. And the Rules of Christmas clearly spell out (Section 8c, Paragraph 4, Line 3) that it's time for another Tales From the Benjside. Let it commence.

[ Continue reading Tales From the Benjside: BABY DRAGON IS SLEPT » ]

Retro Scan of the Week: Strategy Guide for the "Worst Game Ever"

Monday, March 26th, 2007
Tips on Getting E.T. Home Fast
Oh the wells…the wells. Why must I fall into them?

You know the story — a cautionary tale of extreme cockiness and greed. Atari was so confident of their pending success with their first major movie-licensed game, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial for the Atari 2600, that they rushed it out the door with only five weeks of development time and churned out four million copies of it. Sure, it sold well for a video game, but Atari lost tons of money on the deal, due to both the exorbitant price they paid for the game rights, and the fact that they sold roughly a quarter of the number of carts they manufactured. It was also one of the biggest letdowns of any video game ever, player wise (well, perhaps tied with Pac-Man for the Atari 2600), with frustrating gameplay that only a masochist could love.

Perhaps somewhere in its cold, machine-like gut, Atari felt the faint stirrings of a suspicion that maybe E.T. wasn't quite up to snuff. Is that why they included this small fold-out strategy hint sheet with the game? Read it and decide for yourself. But watch out for wells, my friends. Watch out for wells.

If you use this image on your site, please support "Retro Scan of the Week" by giving us obvious credit for the original scan and entry. Thanks.

VC&G's Ralph Baer Interview in This Month's Game Developer Magazine, Gamasutra

Saturday, March 24th, 2007

Benj's Ralph Baer InterviewBack in January, I had the wonderful opportunity to conduct an extensive telephone interview with the inventor of home video games, Ralph Baer (I'll be writing more on him soon, so stay tuned). That epic interview, in a much shorter form, appears in the March 2007 edition of Game Developer magazine, which is available on newsstands now. (Just to note, there is a slight factual error in the introduction of the interview about Spacewar in the print version, not written by me, but there will be a correction published next issue.)

The good news for you is that there is a much longer version of the interview up on Gamasutra right now that you can read through online. Check it out, and look for more of my interviews with computer and video game industry pioneers in the coming months.

John Backus (1924-2007)

Wednesday, March 21st, 2007

John BackusIn Memoriam: John Backus (1924-2007), inventor of FORTRAN.

Retro Scan of the Week: The First Microsoft Mouse

Monday, March 19th, 2007
First Microsoft Mouse Advertisement
When I first started using PC compatibles in the early 1990s, Microsoft mice were recognized far and wide as the best mice around. I used their third model (I believe), which was a smooth, white rounded number with an incredible feel and response. I still use those mice on some of my older PCs. Although I've never used the mouse pictured here, but I'd wager that it was pretty good by 1983 standards.

I always found it ironic that Microsoft made some of the best mice on Earth, considering the sorry state of their software at times (I remember thinking this in the Windows 98/ME days — Microsoft's lowest point so far). Whomever is/was in charge of their hardware division really knows what they're doing, although I think they've been slipping up a tad recently by releasing keyboards with weird, nonstandard layouts and too many mouse models with superfluous buttons. But as long as they still sell this baby, (my current mouse of choice), I'll be happy.

[ From Personal Computing Magazine, December 1983 ]

If you use this image on your site, please support "Retro Scan of the Week" by giving us obvious credit for the original scan and entry. Thanks.

HOW TO EAT THE VIDEO GAMES

Friday, March 16th, 2007

HOW TO EAT THE VIDEO GAMES[ Ulaf Silchov is an expert in video games and computers. He also writes for "Svadlost Weekly" and "The Simpler Thymes Drug-Free Newsletter" ]

ULAF HERE AGAIN WITH ANOTHER INSTANCE OF MY MIND'S WRITINGS. THIS WRITINGS CONTAIN TOP SECRETS ON HOW TO EAT THE VIDEO GAMES. ULAF MEAN REALLY EAT THEM, AS TO DO AND TO PASS THROUGH THE BODY AS NUTRIENT, OR KUDGE SLAW VISKOS, A NATIVE DISH OF ULAF'S COUNTRY.

IT IS FULL OF THE TIPS LEARNED FROM MASTERS AFAR AND AWIDE, GAINED IN KNOWLEDGE THROUGH MY MIND (THROUGH BOOKS CONVEYED BELOW) AND PUSHED FORWARD TO YOUR MIND THROUGH THE MAGIC OF TUBS, AS THE JOKE GOES. THROUGH THE GLORIOUS INTERTUBS WEBNET. AS MY MIND FINDS IT FUNNY.

THE FAVORITE FOODS

BUT FIRST. BEFORE THE BOOKS ON EATING THE VIDEO GAMES, ULAF SHARES WITH MY PERSONS NOW THE FAVORITE FOODS OF MY MIND:

THE FAVORITE FOODS OF ULAF

IT ABOVE IS THE THE HAMBURGLAR, A NATIVE FOOD OF THE AMERICAS COUNTRY. UPON FLOWING TO THIS AMERICAS ULAF EAT MANY OF THESE HAMBURGLAR WHEN MY MIND IS HUNGRY TO EAT. THAT IS TRULY WHY, THEY SPOKE OF AMERICAS TO BE THE PLACE OF THE OPPORTUNITY. AND THEN MY MIND STOPS.

[ Continue reading HOW TO EAT THE VIDEO GAMES » ]

Name Those Pixels: GUI Edition

Friday, March 16th, 2007

Pixel Challenge #11 - 1For a little change of pace, I'd be fun to focus on some non-game pixels in this edition. This week's theme and hint is "GUIs" — that is, Graphical User Interfaces (ala "Windows"). Name the GUI and the computer it ran on. The first block is to the right, the other two are below. As always, post your guesses in the comments section of this entry, and don't be bashful. Good luck!

Pixel Challenge #11 - 2    Pixel Challenge #11 - 3

The answers to the last challenge are after the break.

[ Continue reading Name Those Pixels: GUI Edition » ]

Retro Scan of the Week: The Ultimate Pac-Man Room

Monday, March 12th, 2007

The Ultimate Pac-Man Room

So tell me, Pac-Friends. How many of these Pac-Man items do you have? (Check the scans below to get a full description of all the items.)

Pac-Man this, Pac-Man that. It seems like they made a Pac-Man version of everything in the early 1980s. My brother's friend had a metal Pac-Man trashcan that I was always jealous of (and to think that he wouldn't give it to me!). Unfortunately, that item is not in the picture. My family bought a second-hand copy of the marblelicious Pac-Man board game you see on the floor there. It was pretty dumb, if I recall — nothing could compare to playing the actual video game on our Atari 800 at the time. And another of my brother's friends had the Pac-Man Fever album, but they never let me listen to it. I still hold it against them to this day.

Anyway, check out the other full scans below and behold the power of merchandising! Warning — the full images are pretty big. Enjoy!

The Ultimate Pac-Man Room 1 The Ultimate Pac-Man Room 2

[ Scanned by VC&G from Popular Computing Magazine, December 1982 ]

If you use these images on your site or blog, please support "Retro Scan of the Week" by giving us obvious credit for the original scan and entry. Thanks! We really appreciate it.

Tales From the Benjside: Attack of the Blog!

Saturday, March 10th, 2007

Tales from the Benjside - Attack of the Blog

I was thinking recently. This site is supposed to be a blog, right? Well, it's not really very bloggy. I've been getting around that by calling VC&G a "blogazine" — that is, half-blog, half-magazine — and it works pretty well. But still, I think this place has been severely lacking in blogatude recently. I've become too serious, too obsessed with writing only thoroughly-researched pieces that take ages to finish. Everything I start writing turns into some kind of research paper, as if I have some compulsive need for incredibly documented detail in everything I do. That kind of obsession is something of a good habit for feature writers (as long as you can make a deadline), but a bad one for bloggers. Luckily, I'm having success in freelance work, where detail and accuracy is king. And if I want to keep getting writing jobs, I obviously want all my output to be as professional as possible. That kind of attitude leaves little room for silliness in case they catch me on a bad day. Am I being too uptight? Yes, I am. But consider this: If I wanted to interview the Pope about the first computer he ever used, and VC&G's leading article at the time was titled "Five Ways I Wipe My Butt With Computers," do you think he'd grant me the interview? (Hell yes, because the Pope loves that tingling feelin' as much as anyone else. But that's beside the point.)

Benj's Magazine Organizational SkillsDespite all the professional anxiety I just expressed (this sounds more and more like a real blog all the time, doesn't it?), I still need to remember to have a little fun. So let's have some. This entry marks the beginning of a new column about the current hectic happenings in my happenin' hip-hop VC&G lifestyle. I don't expect to be whining much (a perennial blog favorite), so bear with me. It'll try to find a suitably compelling and dramatic replacement. And have no fear, my loyal VC&G friends: aside from this blog-like column, you can continue to expect the same professionalish blogazine standard from Vintage Computing and Gaming as usual.

But for now, it's bloggerin' time.

[ Continue reading Tales From the Benjside: Attack of the Blog! » ]