Archive for August, 2009

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Super Mario World 2

Monday, August 31st, 2009

Super Mario World 2 Ad - SNES - 1996“He goes all over the place (and we don’t mean Number Two.)”

Here’s a classic advertisement for Super Mario World 2 from the “Play it Loud” era. Baby Mario looks quite destructive.

In the mid-1990s, Nintendo tried to downplay its kiddie image and appeal to the “I’m-awesome-because-I-huff-Easy-Cheese” teenage set. The company’s American branch formulated a new “Play it Loud” ad campaign to directly counter aggressive advertising from Sega.

Nintendo’s new marketing theme focused on the stereotypical angsty “attitude” of youth in transition, which, in print, mostly translated to grungy fonts, eye-gougingly garish design, and scatological humor. Surprisingly to some, the campaign actually worked — Nintendo regained the lead in the 16-bit market right as that era was ending.

On another note, Super Mario World 2 is one of the best Super NES games, and definitely one of the most underrated. If you haven’t played it yet, you’re missing out on a platforming masterpiece. Drop everything and get yourself a copy. And don’t forget to play it loud(ly).

[ From GamePro, April 1996 ]

Discussion topic of the week: What’s the most underrated Super NES game?

You Got Served (an Anachronism)

Friday, August 28th, 2009

Longtime VC&G reader Mike Melanson recently sent me this image of Halle Berry Jennifer Freeman from You Got Served, a “2004 urban dance flick” (Mike’s words — I’ve never seen it).

You Got Served Computer Anachronism - iMac

I ask you now, vintage sleuthhounds: what’s wrong with this picture?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] The $99 Floppy Drive

Monday, August 24th, 2009

Floppy Disk Drive Ad - 1990“Read/Write 720K Disks Too”

Nothing illustrates the frenetic pace of technological change like past/present price comparisons. As seen in this group ad by JDR Microdevices, a 1.44MB 3.5″ floppy disk drive sold for US $99.95 in 1990 ($164.69 in 2009 dollars). But that’s just for the generic model — for a name brand Misubishi, you had to pay $129.95 ($214.12 in 2009).

That’s quite a price for a now-obsolete commodity device that sells for $7.99 today (or $4.85 in 1990 dollars, interestingly enough). Of course, in 1990, a high density drive like this was cutting-edge.

As an aside, notice that the 3.5″ floppy drive pictured occupies a 5.25″ half-height form factor. That shows you how old this is — at the time, most owners slid 3.5″ upgrade drives into computer cases that only shipped with 5.25″ half-height bays (this bay size commonly holds desktop DVD-R drives today). To do so, many 3.5″ floppy drives needed a special face plate and brackets to fill the gaps between the smaller drive and the larger bay around it.

[ From BYTE, October 1990 ]

Discussion topic of the week: What’s the most you’ve ever paid for a computer peripheral or upgrade component?

Scott Miller Interview: On Founding Apogee, Shareware Competition, id Software, and More

Friday, August 21st, 2009

Apogee Software Logo

In early June, I conducted a lengthy telephone interview with Scott Miller, founder of Apogee Software (now known as 3D Realms). Today, the interview is up on Gamasutra. This is sort of a companion interview to my earlier talk with Tim Sweeney of Epic Games (another shareware heavyweight), although both stand alone quite well.

Scott Miller\'s HeadApogee is best known for publishing dozens of episodic shareware games, including Kingdom of Kroz, Duke Nukem, the Commander Keen Series, Wolfenstein 3D, and Rise of the Triad. The company later changed its name to 3D Realms and scored a monster hit with Duke Nukem 3D.

Through Apogee, Miller revitalized and dominated the shareware game industry, invented episodic gaming, pioneered the use of the freely distributable game demo, and provided the spark that inspired id Software’s founding.

During the interview, Scott and I went through his early days in programming, the founding of Apogee, the transition from simple shareware to 3D games, his interactions with id Software, his thoughts on shareware game competition in the early 1990s (including Epic MegaGames and Tim Sweeney), and much more. If you’re a fan of BBS or shareware history, you won’t want to miss it.

Giving Shareware the Attention It Deserves

The concept of shareware has for too long been seen as the red-headed stepchild of the computer game industry. It has oft been relegated to the metaphorical back pages and footnotes of the history books — if it shows up at all — and frequently looked down upon by “serious” publishers who never deigned to give away any version of their work for free (until Apogee came along, anyway). I’d like to change that, and I’m hoping that my recent interviews with Miller and Sweeney will lay the foundation for a deeper understanding of shareware’s importance for future generations.

Although it might be a philosophy whose place in the sun has come and gone, shareware has not been an idea without merit or influence. As you’re about to read, the story of Scott Miller, his partner George Broussard, and their company firmly prove otherwise.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Dungeons and Demons — The Infraceptor Watch

Monday, August 17th, 2009

Infraceptor Watch Ad - 1995The time? Half-past dagger.

Does anybody know more about this interesting looking watch? I don’t recall seeing or hearing anything about it beyond this tiny profile in Popular Science’s “What’s New” section back in 1995.

Casio’s Infraceptor watch functions as a game machine, a phone book, an infrared message sender, and a stopwatch. Its IR beam lets you play a “dungeons and demons” adventure against other Infraceptor users. You prepare the phone book information — for as many as ten people — or canned questions and replies for the message-sending function on a JD-6000 Digital Diary before storing it in the watch. Price: $100.

I wonder how the so-called “dungeons and demons” game worked. I’m completely guessing here, but I suspect it wasn’t very fun. It’s still a neat concept that I would have killed for as a kid (I can imagine surreptitiously playing it at school).

Check out this neat Japanese page with pictures of other super-nerdy watches on it.

[ From Popular Science, April 1995, p.12 ]

Discussion topic of the week: Tell us about the geekiest watch you’ve ever owned. (i.e. Calculator? Digital address book? Built-in camera? Dick Tracy-style radio?)

15 Classic Game Console Design Mistakes

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

Game Console Mistakes on TechnologizerUp now on Technologizer is my latest VC&G-related freelance work: 15 Classic Game Console Design Mistakes, a non-exhaustive analysis of various hardware and design goofs in video game consoles. In it, I discuss the Intellivision, Sega Saturn, NES, Atari Jaguar, and more.

This latest article is a follow-up of an earlier Technologizer piece I wrote back in June: 15 Classic PC Design Mistakes.

Interestingly, this latest piece is proving to be far more controversial. I suspect it’s because people have had more up-close experiences with video game systems than with semi-obscure computers, and because game consoles inspire quite a bit of unflinching loyalty in the general populace.

I came up with many more flaws than I listed, but I couldn’t keep writing forever. So feel free to share your ideas for game console design flaws either here or over at Technologizer.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Compucolor II

Monday, August 10th, 2009

Compucolor II Ad - 1979Finally. A respectable computer. Took long enough.

The Compucolor II was one of the world’s first personal computers with color display capabilities. It’s now quite rare. Does anybody out there have one that they don’t want?

[ From BYTE, July 1979 ]

Discussion topic of the week: Have you ever regularly used a computer without a color display? If so, tell us about it.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] A Little Too Real

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

Sega Saturn Ad - 1996Sega Saturn’s Polyhedral Bodies: Too Real

[ From GamePro, April 1996 ]

Discussion topic of the week: What’s the most underrated Sega Saturn game?