Microvision emulator release

 Posted by (Visited 1102 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: , ,
May 072017
 

I’ve been working for a while–five years!–on my emulation arcade cabinet, entitled Press Start: Emulating Videogame History. I started with a stock cabinet and control panel, and have been gradually modding it with stuff, like a robotics-driven auto-rotating monitor, LED lighting that matches whatever game is launched, and additional controls. I’ve been slowly working on getting emulation set up on it for everything historically important from Tennis for Two on forward.

But that’s another story. I mention it only because it led me to this little project.

The very first handheld console that supported cartridges was called the Microvision, and it was made by Milton Bradley in 1979. It had a 16×16 pixel LCD screen, and of course the only color it supported on that screen was black. Only a dozen or so games were ever made for it, and it was pulled from the market only two years later, losing the popularity contest to Nintendo’s Game and Watch series as well as the myriad other handhelds that emerged around the same time. It would take until 1989 before someone else gave the handheld cartridge idea a shot — that device was called the Gameboy. In fact, according to Wikipedia, the Microvision helped inspire the Game and Watch series.

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Online Game Pioneers at Work

 Posted by (Visited 3797 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: , ,
Jun 042015
 

If you are interested in online game history, you probably want to check out Online Game Pioneers at Work. Morgan Ramsay managed to corner a whole bunch of people who were key figures in online game development over the last several decades, and interviewed all of us at great length. It’s a follow-up to his earlier book Gamers at Work: Stories Behind the Games People Play.

Among the people in the book:

  • Emily Greer telling the story of Kongregate
  • Victor Kislyi explaining how World of Tanks came to be
  • The entire incredible story of Richard Garriott
  • John Romero and the birth of the online FPS
  • Jason Kapalka explaining how PopCap was built
  • Ian Bogost being, well, Ian

And way more… Funcom, Supercell, CCP, King, ng:moco… with a foreword by Dr Richard Bartle.

My own chapter starts clear back with MUDs, and goes up through departing Disney, including the business saga of Metaplace. The book has an emphasis on the business side of things, more so than the design side, so it often gets into telling the nitty-gritty stories of how companies get built and manage to stay alive.

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RIP, Ralph Baer

 Posted by (Visited 3283 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: ,
Dec 072014
 

During a business trip for Sanders to New York City in 1966 I found myself waiting for another Sanders engineer at a bus terminal; he was going to join me for a meeting with a client. I took advantage of my free time and jotted down some notes on the subject of using ordinary home TV sets for the purpose of playing games. I have a distinct image in my mind of sitting on a cement step outside the bus terminal, enjoying a nice warm, sunny summer day, occasionally looking out at the passing traffic, waiting for my associate to show up and scribbling notes on a small pad. It was “Eureka” time — but of course I didn’t know that then. The concept of playing games on an ordinary TV set had bubbled up once again from my subconscious and I got that exciting feeling of “being on to something,” a feeling that is so familiar to me.

September 6, 1966 – Genesis!

When I got back to my office in New Hampshire on September 1, 1966, I transcribed those notes into a four-page disclosure document and tossed the New York notes into the wastebasket. In those four new pages I outlined the idea of playing interactive television games on a home TV set. That was the genesis of the industry.

–Videogames: In the Beginning

That’s an excerpt from Ralph’s book, which he sent to a mailing list we were both on years ago. We traded a few emails after that, where he showed himself to be a wise and thoughtful fellow, and generous with his time. Unfortunately, none of those emails seem to have survived the many transitions between computers that I have made over the last decade.

It had been years since I had talked with him, but today was a sad day.

Privateer Online

 Posted by (Visited 8565 times)  Game talk, Gamemaking  Tagged with: , ,
Jun 192014
 

privateeronline7In the wake of the excitement over No Man’s Sky and its procedural worlds, I thought that it might be a good time to tell some of the story around the version of Privateer Online that I worked on, that never saw the light of day.

After I moved off the UO team, I worked on several MMO concepts for Origin. The mandate was explicitly “come up with something that we can make using the UO server and client pretty much intact, without big changes, because we need it quick.” This limited the possible projects enormously, of course.

So I started developing one-sheet concepts that fit the bill. None of them got farther than a few pages, and the idea was to give execs some choices on what we would go make.

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Nov 222013
 

Here is the full video of my talk at EVA13, entitled “El mundo de sistemas” (the world of systems). It’s in Spanish, and it’s an hour and a half long!

Sorry, no translated subtitles or anything. The talk starts out talking about systems and games, how there are many sorts of games but that a large proportion of them have what I call ludic systems underlying them. I talked a little bit about what some of the implications of systems are, how we learn from them and what sort of lessons they teach. And, of course, also how flaws in systems (or even emergent properties) can cause systems to really run amok, or enable players to really break everything.

That then leads to some anecdotes and postmortem thoughts from Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies. Most of these are probably ones that many of you have heard about before:

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