Huge Gallery of Prodigy MadMaze Screenshots Now on Flickr

Friday, April 7th, 2017

MadMaze Screenshot

Just a few minutes ago, I released the first group of images from the Prodigy Preservation Project on Flickr. They’re screenshots from MadMaze, a vintage online game that ran on Prodigy Classic between 1989 and 1999.

Specifically, they’re all the graphics from the Place of Power instances in the game. I believe most, if not all, of the artwork was done by Al Sirois, a Prodigy staff artist. Al Sirois did some of the artwork, but Sirois says that most of it was created by other artists (see comments below). They originated as NAPLPS vector graphics (scalable to any size) and were captured into a raster format for display on the web.

MadMaze Screenshot

Of course, you can play a re-creation of MadMaze yourself on this very server right here. And you can read more about that re-creation (and report bugs you may encounter) here.

If you’d like to support the Prodigy Preservation Project and all of my history work, please consider submitting a pledge on Patreon. Any money I get from Patreon helps a ton toward giving me the extra time to work on history projects like the PPP.

[ Retro Scan ] WorldsAway Mousepad

Thursday, March 9th, 2017

CompuServe Fujitsu Cultural Technologies WorldsAway mousepad scan - 1995Echoes of Ancient Technicolor Greece

Back in 1995, CompuServe and Fujitsu launched a graphical online chat world called WorldsAway. I used it from the very start (at least within a month of the launch, I think), and quickly became enveloped in the beautifully illustrated world and the sense of community it fostered.

I’ve written in-depth about WorldsAway before — both on VC&G in a previous Retro Scan (for its first print ad) and in a “This Old Tech” column on PCWorld back in 2015.

Not long after the WA launch in 1995, Fujitsu held a contest on CompuServe that was simple to enter — you had to send an email or answer a short survey (forgot what it was exactly). Lucky for me, I won the contest, and I received a really cool package of WorldsAway-branded swag. I’ll try to remember everything: a sweatshirt, a pen, a clear acrylic coffee mug, a keychain flashlight, and the mousepad you see here.

The coolest thing about this mousepad is that it shows an illustrated overhead map of the Dreamscape/Kymer/whatever it was called as Fujitsu staff originally designed it. It stayed within its Greco-Roman-inspired theme. When WorldAway launched, only a handful of these locales were accessible — I think it wasn’t until 2000 or so that all of them were actually completed and opened to WA users (although I don’t really remember the Theatre opening up, but I quit in 2001).

Speaking of mousepads, while they were essential in the days of rolling-ball mice (some nice mouse history I wrote here), they are technically optional with today’s optical mice. But I still use one on my desk to provide a uniform surface for my Microsoft optical mouse.

[ From Fujitsu Cultural Technologies WorldsAway Mousepad, 1995 ]

Discussion Topic: Let’s talk about mousepads. When was the last time you used one?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] 1995 Nintendo.com Promo

Monday, January 25th, 2016

Nintendo Nintendo.com Website promo AOL Keyword NOA Nintendo Power Advertisement Scan - 1995Crap. I spilled toxic waste on my keyboard again.

I’ve always wondered who made these in-house Nintendo promos/ads for Nintendo Power magazine. Most of them were fairly well done over the years. This vivid promo, featuring Nintendo’s early website in 1995, is probably one of my favorites. It also mentions AOL (keyword “NOA”), of course, which was still a big online player at the time.

By the way, anyone who can convincingly explain (with in-world fiction, not marketing) the presence of a poison/toxic waste barrel on this kid’s desk wins 10 cocoa points. Even Diddy Kong sitting there makes more sense.

[Update: 02/01/2016 – It turns out that the toxic waste barrel is actually a boss character named Dumb Drum from Donkey Kong Country. Special thanks to etranist for pointing that out in the comments. ]

[ From Nintendo Power, August 1995, back cover ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What’s the first video game website you ever looked at online?

VC&G Anthology Interview: F. Randall Farmer, Co-Creator of Lucasfilm’s Habitat (2008)

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015

F. Randall Farmer HeadshotIn September 2008, I began working on an in-depth history of the early online virtual world called Lucasfilm’s Habitat for 1UP.com. After delays in hearing back from Chip Morningstar (one of the game’s co-creators) and an unexpected death in my wife’s family, the article got the kibosh. It’s probably for the best, because I barely knew what I was doing back then.

Along the way, I did manage to interview Habitat’s other main creator, F. Randall (“Randy”) Farmer via email. Farmer didn’t answer half of my most probing development questions (he kept pointing to an earlier piece over on Gamasutra), but what he did answer is pretty interesting.

VC&G Anthology BadgeSome of this information be recounted elsewhere by now — I think more articles have been written about Habitat since 2008 — but I’m publishing my complete interview here in the hopes that it may help someone else with research about Habitat in the future.

10 DAYS OF VINTAGE: Day 3

[ Continue reading VC&G Anthology Interview: F. Randall Farmer, Co-Creator of Lucasfilm’s Habitat (2008) » ]

An Introduction and History

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2005

Vintage RedWolf ANSI (BBS Days)

Yes, I’m new to blogging. That is, writing and running a blog. It took me a long time to warm up to the idea because I thought blogs were a load of hyper-bunk. Of course, part of me still thinks this, but I have also finally begun to realize the potential of blogs in general. It allows schmucks like me to blather on about our opinions easily on the web. Yay. Power to the loudmouths. I am fully aware, however, that one man’s opinion is another man’s BS. So don’t think I’m ever trying to lay down the final word on anything.

Now, let’s see. Why a new blog? Because I wanted to chronicle my meager collecting/playing/restoring exploits in the world of electronic and computing entertainment. ‘Electronic and computing entertainment,’ to me, means anything that entertains me that uses electronics, or anything that computes. The only non-electronic things I might talk about here are old mechanical calculators and typewriters. Why mechanical calculators? Because they are the forerunners to electronic computers. Why typewriters? Because their interface became the standard upon which computer interfaces for the last 40 years have been based (Teletypes, keyboards, terminals, etc.). So they are related to the computing end of things here. It should be noted that I have a huge bias toward consumer microcomputers — I’ve never been much for the esoteric elitism that permeates the “big iron” computer collecting community. Then there’s the gaming end of things. I’m interested in really any video game systems ever produced, but tend to focus on ‘vintage’ ones, which are usually at least five years old, or already out of production. This includes restoring, modifying, collecting, and playing games, systems, accessories, and emulators.

Now a little background on me. I have been collecting computers and video game systems for 12 years, since I was 12 years old. I am currently 24. Thus, my interest predates the current “retro” craze by a sizable margin. When I started collecting, it seemed that nobody could understand why I would want to save obsolete and seemingly useless computers and game systems. But I had a historical mindset even as a twelve year old, and figured if everybody was throwing out their old computers thinking they’re worthless, that eventually history would hurt for it. I didn’t want history to be lost. I believe we are in the middle of the most important and exciting transition in human history, where humans fully embrace and integrate computers into their lives, changing the way we live, work, and play forever. So it will be important in the future to be able to look back and see how we got there. And I, in my own small way, want to contribute to that effort.

As far as video games go, I was always buying last-generation’s games at rock-bottom prices, scouring the clearance isle at Toys ‘R’ Us and Wal-Mart for $5 NES Advantages and controllers, $10 sealed NES games, $1 official cleaning kits, miscellaneous accessories, $20 new Virtual Boys, $30 new Sega 32x’s, $10 Tiger Game.coms. The list is endless. The clearance aisle is where it’s at, as long as you have the patience to wait, and the tenacity to keep checking until stuff shows up there. I also frequented used game stores, flea markets, ham fests, yard sales, Goodwill and thrift stores, always looking for cheap games (and computers). As a result, I’ve never really been on the cutting edge of video gaming, but then again, I never really had the money to do so either. Why not wait another year until the system you want is $100 cheaper? Or five years when it’s $200 or more cheaper? That brings me to another issue which I will post about in another entry soon, about electronic devices rapidly losing monetary value.

And here’s some other relevant history. I have been using electronic communication all my life. First, and most obviously, I used a telephone. Then I used telephone lines to call BBSes for over 7 years (I also ran a successful 24-hour BBS for over five years, 1992-1998). I also dabbled in Prodigy, AOL, and Compuserve (my favorite, on there for 8 years). Then, around 1993 or 94 I called up a local university’s free dial-up line for the first time and discovered the then-primitive Internet (compared to what we have today, anyway). The World-Wide-Web (does anybody call it that anymore?) to us then was manifested in Lynx, the popular text-only web browser, and seemed pretty worthless. ‘Gopher’ from U. Minnesota was all the rage instead. My BBSing friend and I then discovered the world of MUSHes and MUDs in 1994, and completely abused the free dial-up lines, tying them up all hours of the day, staying on up to 15 hours at a time coding, talking, playing, and just having a great time. I started running my own MUSH rather late (in 2000) and it still runs to this day. Then came ISPs: Nandonet in late 94 or early 95 — a local ISP run by a newspaper, later bought by Mindspring. But my family and some friends jumped ship to a smaller ISP called Ipass instead. Then the graphical WWW showed up, which was incredible, but incredibly hard to configure with Mosaic 1.0 and Winsock crap on Windows 3.1. Also, on Compuserve I got started with a new graphical multi-user chat environment called WorldsAway in 1995 (Beta tested it for the web in 97, then finally quit in 2001). Then came my first website in 1995, complete with my first paid web hosting experience at Hurricane Electric (I think they’re still around). Back then I actually had a site that was popular in the fledgling Yahoo directory just because it had a few pictures and some cool links to other sites. Ah, what heady days. Then came Ultima Online in 1997, which I only recently quit this year. I also was on Active Worlds for over five years, a buildable online multi-user 3D chat world. And so and and so forth. I really am also interested in the history of computer telecommunications and virtual communities, so I might make a page on that too before long.

Anyway, I guess that’s enough for now. I hope you’ll stick around, Invisible Reader, read some exploits, and post some comments. I can’t promise incredibly regular updates, but when I do, they’ll probably be good.

Bye for now,
RedWolf