Beyond the Mind's Eye - Thoughts & Insights from Marriott_GuyBeyond the Mind's Eye - Thoughts & Insights from Marriott_Guy

Posted on Aug 22nd 2009 at 08:01:33 PM by (Marriott_Guy)
Posted under Historical Viewpoint

Gaming Flashback: Video Golf


This past Friday I caught a quick 9 after work and I can only put it one way - I got my money's worth.  I really do not consider golf to be a social activity whatsoever, but I have never met so many people during a round in my life.  I sprayed shot after shot into everyone's fairway except for my own.  It got so bad that yelling 'FORE' and my resulting apology to my new 'friends' became a natural part of my post-shot routine.  To add insult to injury, I could not even dull my frustration nor offer my new 'buds' a compensatory beverage - the Beer Girl had the night off!  By the end of the round, I was dead tired (I probably hit that ball 8,000 yards on a 3,625 yard back 9 course) and felt humiliated beyond description.  This 8 Handicap player had just carded a 63 - with no penalties!  This was not the way I wanted to start off my weekend at all.   I needed some sort of redemption.  

The best way to heighten a sagging spirit like my own - get a video game!  Call me a glutton for punishment, but I picked up Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2010 for the Xbox 360 on my way home.  I fired it up and was once again all was right with the world.  Birdies were no longer just a multiplier for my eventual score on basically every hole I had just experienced two hours earlier on the real links.  This brought back fond memories of the various video golf games I had experienced in my past.  The following is a trip down down memory lane for all of those wishing they could actually perform as well as their virtual golfing counterpart - I give to you my favorite and most memorable video golf games of all time.
 

Birdie King

Released : 1982     Developer : Taito
Platform : Arcade
Golf

Released : 1984     Developer : Nintendo
Platform : Nintendo Famicom

 
Video courtesy of Ataru34

Now I do admit that this arcade classic was basically my introduction to the video gaming golf world.   A roller-ball type of control was used, which was as responsive to the touch as one of my early dates to the High School Homecoming Dance - then again, maybe the problem was me all along (on both fronts).  I do remember absolutely hating that circling buzzard - it would knock my perfect drive into oblivion and then consume more of my hard earned quarters without any remorse as I stupidly chose to 'continue' my round.
 



Video courtesy of nesguide

This was the first golf video game for a console that I truly enjoyed - I was actually a person (Mario wannabe) rather than just some white block on the screen.  For whatever reason, this was important to me.  The introduction of the 'swing meter' was also a welcomed addition.  I grant you that this is as basic as it gets when it comes to the early golf games - but it was fun!  I could change clubs and saw my 'linkster' in action.  I still had to figure out and estimate the yardage and the like - a small price to pay for a rewarding experience back then.

Big Event Golf

Released : 1986     Developer : Taito
Platform : Arcade

Lee Trevino's Fighting Golf

Released : 1988     Developer : SNK
Platform : Nintendo NES


Big Event Golf was truly the pinnacle of arcade golf during its day.  The first golf game to really capture the sport IMHO (along with my quarters).  Rich colors and a detailed environment truly allowed one to really feel 'on the links'.  The best part though was the viewpoint - you watched the flight of the ball from behind the golfer and could see your wayward drive disappearing into the underbrush - or the lake.  Wind was either a friend or a foe.  I cannot say enough about this game - it is a blast with your buds.  I picked one up for $50 from a neighborhood that I would never venture into again (I didn't know this at the time).  After a refurbishment, we still play this game religiously to this very day.
 


The infamous reverse 'TV-style' game view was just among the many things that made this fast paced simulation a hit.  This was one of the first home console versions to feature multiple courses (two) and four-way play.  The graphics were pretty impressive compared to the competition - golfers were more 'lifelike' rather than the cartoonish and the landscape, though still flat, featured much more detail than any of its predecessors in this genre.  Still probably my favorite golf game for the NES system (just beating out Jack Nicklaus' Greatest 18 Holes of Major Championship Golf).
 

Arnold Palmer Tournament Golf

Released : 1989     Developer : Sega
Platform : Sega Genesis

Links 386: The Challenge of Golf

Released : 1990     Developer : Access Software
Platform : PC



Video courtesy of PlayingWithHistory

This game did not introduce a great deal to the genre, with the exception of two vital things we still see in today's games - shopping for gear and the ability to upgrade your skills.   Another interesting note is that your golfer (Arnie) is HUGE - almost 1/2 the size of the screen.  You have three varied courses to chose from along with multiple play formats.  The background tunes are kind of catchy too (or maybe I am just rather bland).
 



Video courtesy of latislos

The true advent of the game as we know it today - Links 386 definitely has a place in every virtual golfer's heart.  The lush, highly detailed terrain was no longer flat - it now breathed of life right down to the the occasional belch from a nearby frog.  Commentary was digitized and spot on ("Jim, I think he hit the tree") and the amount of options were unlimited.  Add-on courses were also available, in attractive boxes (5.25 disks).  This series set the standard.

PGA Tour Golf III

Released : 1994     Developer : Electronic Arts
Platform : Sega Genesis

PGA Tour '96

Released : 1995     Developer : Electronic Arts
Platform : Panasonic 3DO



Video courtesy of PlayingWithHistory

As Links 386 set the standard for the more advanced hardware of a personal computer, the PGA Tour series became the yardstick for the home console.  PGA Tour III was the pinnacle of this series in the 16-bit generation.  This game had everything - tournament play, a massive eight courses and 54 Pros to compete against.  The digitized golfers are well presented and game play is fast.  I can remember tournaments being held at the local speakeasy I frequented - yes, I rocked these due to my knowledge of the '50% rule' for those 'tweener' shots.
 



Video courtesy of cobra12369

Thank goodness for 32-bit systems - courses are no longer flat!!  Courses took a little longer to load, but the wait was well worth it.  The undulating fairways and landscapes really blew you away - hearing the realistic sounding crowd cheer you  was also a nice perk.  The commentator is kind of funny to be honest - always speaking in a hushed voice and usually adding something that does nothing to help out your psyche ("This... for the bogie... to go 8 over").  Still a classic and ground breaking golf simulation for the home console system.

Neo Turf Masters

Released : 1996     Developer : Nazca
Platform : Neo Geo AES

Swing Away Golf

Released : 2000     Developer : T&E Software
Platform : Sony Playstation



Video courtesy of virtualturbo

Now this is the one game I have not personally experienced on this list, but I would be remiss to exclude it.   This is probably the most expensive golf video game that is out there for the home console.  It reminds me very much of the early Golden Tee arcade games, specifically the camera angle that follows the flight of the golf ball after being struck.  From what I have gathered the few people that I do know that have this game, they all say it is a blast and definitely the highlight of arcade-style golf games.  I will have to save up for this ($200+).
 



Video courtesy of LIVIADRVSILLA

OK - I admit this up front - this is the weakest entry on this list by far.  T&E Software had previously released some real clunkers in this genre (Pebble Beach, Wicked 18, etc.) and I was not eagerly anticipating this game at all.  Others had been rele3ased, but for whatever reason I could not (and still don't) embrace the analog stick swing control - I hate it!  Swing Away Golf was the only alternative that I had since they still utilized the old-school 3-click swing,  I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised.  Despite the anime-style cartoon golfers, this game is very deep and a load of fun. 

 
XavixPORT Golf

Released : 2004     Developer : SSD Company LTD.
Platform : XaviXPORT

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2010

Released : 2009     Developer : Electronic Arts
Platform : Xbox 360

  

Video courtesy of huggi001

This is not a well known title at all, nor is this video game console.  Graphics are on par somewhere between a Neo Geo and a 3DO - not that great to be honest for a system being released in 2004.  However, what merits its inclusion is the controller - an actually golf club!  That is right, before the Nintendo Wii, the XaviXPORT was the first game console to entirely embrace motion sensing technology.  The game is fair at best in  all honesty, but swinging that club makes it a blast!  Simple, easy play is its forte - time to get off the couch!
 

 

Video courtesy of JayBuchanan

All I have to say is that I am happy to be reacquainted with an old friend - the 3-click meter in a next-gen golf game.  Making it's reappearance in Tiger Woods 2008, this release in the most successful golf franchise of all-time is why I keep coming back.  Luscious visuals, easy to use controls, this has it all for me.  There are some things that still need to be tweaked here and there, but you will not find this old-school gamer complaining at all.  This truly displays all of the innovations that have occurred within this genre.
 

 
 
There are many golf games\series that just missed inclusion but all are great games in their own right, most notably Hot Shots Golf and Golden Tee among others.  I admit that this gamer is 100% biased to games utilizing the 3-Click swing method - that is why they call me Tripe O-G at work - I am definitely old-school,  Let's here your thoughts, experiences and top golf games!
 
 
 




Posted on May 16th 2009 at 05:51:10 PM by (Marriott_Guy)
Posted under Historical Viewpoint

   
Sierra Entertainment officially closed its door this year and thus comes an end to a true pioneer within the gaming industry. 

The companies founders, Ken and Roberta Williams, were avid gamers and produced the first graphical adventure game for the PC entitled Mystery House, which became an instant hit and is a cult classic to this day.  Sierra has endured a rollercoaster of successes, failures, acquisitions and the like.  But this article is not about the history of this company, but more to celebrate and remember some of its landmark game series.

My ascension into adulthood ran a parallel course with the maturation of the the home PC.  I remember being wowed when first firing up King's Quest on my Packard Bell computer after years of text-based adventure games.  From then I was hooked - Sierra continued to deliver innovation and new technology into my PC gaming world.  Let's take a step back through time and take a look at a few of the treasured game series from this noted software developer.
   

King's Quest
1984 - 1998
Space Quest
1986 - 1995


Video courtesy of MacemanDerek.

The King's Quest series is recognized as the true star that really put Sierra On-Line on the map.  This adventure game centered on the plight of the Royal Family of Daventry and many within the series introduced innovative features at its time.  Beginning in 1984, a total of eight ( 8 ) games were released, each subsequent plot building on the events portrayed in its predecessor.   A number of these games had excruciating hard puzzles to solve without any discernable logic used in the development of these challenges.  Still, game play was still a treat with an engrossing story and a satisfying experience.
 



Video courtesy of CuteFloor.

This six (6) game series follows the space adventures of Roger Wilco, an every-day-Joe if there ever was one, and his antics as he unknowingly gets thrust into saving the universe from some foe.  Unlike the rather somber tones  of the King's Quest line, Space Quest is all about fun, silliness and taking a parodical approach to almost everything.  Roger Wilco debuted in 1986 with the last game being released in 1995.  This light-hearted affair is somewhat of a cult classic amongst old-school gamers.  Technically, the series primarily used previously existed graphic engines that were released in King's Quest and Quest for Glory.
 

Leisure Suit Larry
1987 - 1996
Police Quest
1987 - 1993


Video courtesy of SierraMultinedia.

Writing this text is rather difficult for me, since it parodies my life.  The Leisure Suit Larry series is another adventure series, this time featuring Larry Laffer - a balding, 40-something man still trying his best to score with the ladies and 'be fly' (or is it 'fresh').  This is the only series of games that Sierra developed with a strong 'mature audience' theme.  Even before the days of ESRB Rating system, early games in this series required you to answer a set of questions to weed out the younger gamers. You can still enjoy the adventures of this 'playboy' to this day, though Sierra is not involved in these newer entries.
 



Video courtesy of LateBit.

Probably my second favorite of the Sierra classics, in Police Quest you get to play as a rookie police officer working his way through crime and eventually up the ranks of his local division.  These games were more of action-adventure than previous Sierra entries mentioned thus far and also featured some disturbing crimes/graphics for the time.  Game play was somewhat open-ended and the best part of this series is that you really had to think about your actions and analyze data.  Later games in this series also featured full-res digital crime photos which you had to scour through for clues.  A true classic all the way.
 

Quest for Glory
1989 - 1998
Gabriel Knight
1993 - 1999


Video courtesy of BlueCap86.

Now this is one of the all-time best Action/Adventure/RPG game series of all time (IMHO).  Often credited as being the first of its kind to incorporate meaningful statistical character building as a necessary component to move the story along (i.e. get past a tough bad guys in an area).  Your Hero could be customized as a Fighter, Thief of a Mage - another first in this new genre.  Quest for Glory was truly a landmark during its time and set the bar/base standards that many of today's games now follow.
 



Video courtesy of biohazard4Rocks.

The shortest series being featured in this article, this point-and-click adventure follows Gabriel Knight, a downtrodden horror novelist, as he unravels various mysteries of the occult.  A total of three (3) games were released, all of which featured very different technologies.  As depicted above, the first game started out as a pretty standard animated affair.  Subsequent games in the series featured FMV cut scenes and live digitized actors.  All of the games were rather dark in nature and the high tension was successfully translated to the gamer.

 




Posted on May 9th 2009 at 04:59:10 PM by (Marriott_Guy)
Posted under Historical Viewpoint

 
Being successful in the video game hardware industry has proven to be financial lucrative for many companies throughout the years.  Everyone knows about the old school power players like Atari, Nintendo and Sega - they began as a company focusing on this specific market (for the most part).  Companies like Sony and Microsoft have also achieved like success in the last decade, though the technological expertise that enabled them to accomplish this were in complimentary field not specifically dedicated to video gaming hardware.  These two giants (Sony and Microsoft) are the exception to the rule rather than the norm.  Many other highly successful companies have attempted to enter into the video game console field in the past and have had little to no success.  The following looks at a few of these mega corporations and provides a little background history, the console they released and what they are currently doing today.
 

 
Believe it or not, the Fairchild Semiconductor company has been around since the 1920s when it was developing aerial photographic equipment and technology for the US government.   At first glance, the decision to enter the video game console world is a bit of a surprise.  Looking deeper into the history of the company reveals a different perspective.  This company employed (and still does) some of the brightest technological minds that were available in the industry.  Some of these individuals were at the developmental forefront of CPU technology.  Why did they enter the video game console world - because they could.  Their expertise in CPU development was solid.
 

The console they released...What are they doing today?

1976 - Fairchild Channel F

Fairchild Semiconductor beat out RCA in being the first company in the world to release a video game system that utilized programmable ROM cartridges, the Fairchild Channel F. This console was pretty advanced at the time, utilizing the newest CPU technology, the Fairchild F8 CPU.  The console ultimately failed due to release of the Atari 2600, but did manage to spawn a second model release as well as achieve moderate success abroad.


You might have heard of...

Though not directly related, the inventor of the Fairchild F8 chip that drove the Channel F was Robert Noyce, co-founder of the Fairchild Semiconductor division in 1957 and subsequently  the technological powerhouse we know today as Intel (in 1968 with fellow Fairchild alum Gordon Moore).  Fairchild Semiconductor is still an active, successful company with over 9000 employees,

 

 
Everyone has heard of RCA, but some may not know that Ralph Baer, designer of the Odyssey and the recognized father of the video game console, first approached  RCA with this design.  RCA obviously turned down the deal and their arch rival Magnavox snatched up this opportunity.  Watching the success that Magnavox enjoyed as a result of their missed opportunity, RCA focused its resources to develop an answer.  The result was far from what they were hoping for...
 

The console they released...What are they doing today?

1976 - RCA Studio II

RCA missed the boat again, this time in their attempt to release the first video game system that utilized programmable ROM technology - the Fairchild Channel F beat them to it by a couple of months. In their haste to release this system, RCA released an inferior product with video being displayed in only Black and White and sound being emitted through a single channel buzzer contained within the unit itself.  Games were also brutal and this console was laid to rest officially with the release of the Atari 2600.
 


Liquidation Sale...

RCA diversified their portfolio during the 1970s with the acquisitions of Hertz, Banquet Foods and Random House amongst others.  Included in these new ventures was CED technology - an early form of the in-home movie format/playback - which RCA invested heavily into.  This proved to be disastrous with the release of Betamax and VHS systems.  These new kids on the block were much more affordable and quickly captured 99% of the market share within two years.  RCA lost over $600 million and was eventually purchased by GE, who in turn broke the company apart and sold off the various components.  

 

 
This highly successful  electronics giant was incorporated in 1946.  Their initial foray into the field focused on compact calculator technology.  They were the first company to release this to the public back in 1975.  Their electronics division grew to include the development of keyboards as well as wristwatches.  With the video gaming industry booming in the early 1980s, Casio decided to temporarily divert some of their internal resources to developing their own entry...
 

The console they released...What are they doing today?

1983 - Casio PV-1000

Casio actually released this system prior to their home PC unit, the PV-2000.  This is an oddity since most companies entering into the video game foray act in the exact opposite manner - PC first then the console.  This console was essentially DOA since the Sega SG-1000 and the Nintendo Famicom hit the market at the same time.  This, coupled with the Video Game Crash of 1984, resulted in a quick death for the PV-1000Casio made another brief appearance in 1995 with the release of the Loopy - a console designed for young girls.  This was a commercial failure as well.
 


Still going strong...

Casio is still an electronics powerhouse and producing innovative technology to this very day.  With over 13,000 associates, Casio has expanded their product offerings to include PDAs, musical instruments and digital cameras.

 

 
Commodore was one the leading technological forces in the personal home computing market beginning in the late 1970s and lasting well into the 1980s.  Developing high powered yet affordable systems was a key to their success.  The true star of Commodore at the time was the Commodore 64, still the best selling home computer of all time.  The Amiga line of computers followed soon after, featuring extraordinary graphical and gaming capabilities. 
 

The console they released...What are they doing today?

1990 - Commodore 64 GS

The Commodore 64 GS (Game System) was the consolized version of the popular C 64 personal home computer.  This system was only released in Europe and had many issues, primarily outdated technology and lack of 3rd party developmental support.  It quickly was an afterthought in the video game industry.  Commodore did have two other ventures - the Commodore CDTV and the Amiga CD32.  Both had little success success and Commodore never entered the console business again.
 


Can you spare a buck brother...

Commodore officially filed for bankruptcy in 1994.  IBM PC compatibles and the Apple Macintosh significantly devoured the market share Commodore once enjoyed during the 1980s. In their last attempt to stem the steadily flowing red ink, Commodore invested heavily into the development of the Amiga CD32.  The mild success of this system could not dig them out of the huge financial deficit facing them.  The Commodore brand name has passed through a few hands since then, with a new line of computers unveiled in 2007.

 
Memorex was established in 1961 and primarily focused on disk drives and other computer peripherals for the home computer.   Developing state of the art recordable media formats really put them on the map - and directly into the crosshairs of Tandy Corporation.  Tandy, who already owned Radio Shack, acquired Memorex in 1982.  Tandy had already achieved significant success in the home personal computing market with their TRS line of systems.
 

The console they released...What are they doing today?

1992 - Tandy / Memorex VIS

Tandy decided to enter the 'multimedia frenzy' of the early 1990s with their release of the VIS (Visual Information System). The VIS was essentially a stripped down Windows PC in a VCR style casing.  Though marketed as a gaming machine in addition to being an educational tool, the fact that so few true games were released for this system quickly sealed this console's fate.  Tandy rebranded the machine with the Memorex label to try and increase sales but in the end nothing could help this sad system.
 


Focusing on their power alley...

After various mergers and acquisitions, Memorex still lives on to this day.  They are primarily focusing on what initially gained them brand recognition - recordable media for personal computers.

 
Pioneer has been at the forefront of audio/video technology since the early 1950s when it released Hi-Fi speakers and other audio components.  In the late 1980s, Pioneer set its sights on Laserdisc technology and bought a majority stake in the format.  Though technically superior at the time compared to the popular VHS format, Laserdisc technology had less than a 2% share in the home video market.  Pioneer, already heavily invested in this area, asked you to do the same..
 

The console they released...What are they doing today?

1993 - Pioneer LaserActive

Pioneer's answer to the growing multimedia, all-in-one console market - the infamous LaserActive.  At the time, the LaserActive was the closest system to deliver a product that did meet most of the multimedia demands of the consumer - movies, games, karaoke, music, edutainment - all presented in the best audiovideo quality available. The problem -  to be able to enjoy all of this would set you back roughly $2,900 in 1993 ($4,500 in today's dollars)!
 


Still in the lead...

Pioneer is still a leading manufacturer and developer in the fields of car audio, televisions, navigation systems and other consumer electronic components.  They employ nearly 38,000 and are a recognized leader in today's market.

 




Posted on Apr 19th 2009 at 04:02:34 PM by (Marriott_Guy)
Posted under Historical Viewpoint

What Were They Thinking???


Throughout the years I have been amazed by the technological leaps and developments in the video game industry.  By the same token, some of the gaffes that have been made by the developers and manufactures have stunned me as well.  Here are a few of my favorites... 
 
 

Power Supply of the Atari 5200

 Nintendo's Game Packaging Infomercials for the Philips CD-i
 

Now this picture does not truly give this dog it's proper justice.  This was the proprietary AVpower adapter with the first run of the Atari 5200 systems.  It was huge, cumbersome and is very expensive to replace (if going for the original 'module').  I can understand, to a certain degree, Atari taking this protective measure after their recent litigious bouts with Coleco (among others) concerning copyright violations.  Still, I hate this thing with a passion and the think tank at Atari should not have levied part of their reaction on us gamers with this monstrosity.  That point being aside, this thing is prone to failure as well.
 

 

For all of their successes, Nintendo just could just never get their game packaging right until the release of the Game Cube.  I can understand the NES boxes - they basically followed Atari's lead.  However, why continue on the same failed path when Sega showed you how to do it right with those sturdy, plastic Sega Master System game cases?  I know cost is a big issue in this, but this bothersome trend continued well into the 1990s.  If I am going to shell out $49.95 for a game at least give me a box that won't get smashed and flattened at the lightest touch.  Panasonic - you should have known better has well (3DO).
 


Being the old school gamer that I am, I remember watching the brutal offerings as shown in the above as a young adult.  I have to admit I was intrigued at the time, but these infomercials had nothing to do with my interest level in this system - it had the complete opposite effect.  I wanted a gaming experience - not a multimedia device that would serve all of my needs.  This way the way of the 1990s with many companies, albeit with limited success for the most part.  I can only imagine what Philips invested into these lame infomercial offerings,  Perhaps these monies should have been diverted to R&D.
 

Console Design of the NEC PC-FX

 

The Atari Jaguar Controller

 Gakken TV Boy - Everything!
 

Now I rather like the design of the PC-FX.  It is definitely different than the standard thoroughfare of the day.  Resembling a mini tower PC, this system did indeed have expansion port capabilities.  The bad thing about this system - where are you supposed to put it?  It is too tall to fit under 99.9% of the entertainment centers in 1994.  To top this off, the CD-Rom drive is located on top of the unit - requiring another 5-6 inches of required vertical clearance.  Nice console design, just not well thought out in my humble opinion.
 


I have to honestly admit that I have never heard one person talk favorably about the Atari Jaguar controller.  Released in 1993. this pig had only three (3) controller buttons when everyone else was sporting six (6) button models along with triggershoulder buttons on some.  They couldn't even get the labeling right (buttons labeled C-A-B for some unknown reason).  This thing was huge, hard to grip and only a few games utilized the numeric keypad.  Don't bother trying to use the D-Pad and the keypad at the same time - it is a waste of time.
 


The picture says it all.  The main controller was built into the system (right hand throttle- looking appendage) and this system required you to grip the 'telephone anchor' with your left hand to prevent the light-weight, miniscule console was moving all over creation.  I have tested out this console a few times and it grows more and more frustrating every time.  I'd like to think I am not the pessimistic type, but in all honesty I can not say one good thing about this loser.  Thank goodness Gakken eventually went back to handhelds.
 


These are just a few of the truly puzzling decisions made by video game industry experts.  I have no doubt that these individuals are highly capable and very intelligent in this field.  But, still, I have to ask myself "What were they thinking??".   What are some of the innovations, products, etc. that you would place in this category?
   





Posted on Apr 12th 2009 at 11:58:48 AM by (Marriott_Guy)
Posted under Historical Viewpoint


"Shut up you guys!!!" Jimmie barked at John and I as we were jabbering about his latest Hot Wheel addition.  Our self-nominated Quarterback was definitely taking his newly acquired role a bit too far in my humble opinion.  John acknowledged this as well with a quick glance towards me.  Now Jimmie was the classic over-competitive, under-achiever type - like some of those bad acts in American Idol auditions.  That being said, we half-heartedly complied to simply appease him and avoid 'the need to focus' speech.  It was after all 4th down and we had to get to the Jones' mailbox for a 1st down, lest we forget.

"We're going for it!" Jimmie exclaimed in a confident voice to our foes (who were actually 8 year old kids - just like us). 

"OK... Now John, you go out to that first tree just past the Davis' driveway and cut in." Jimmie whispered to us as though he was sharing military secrets.  "Terry, get to that mailbox, and turn around, fake and then go deep."  Jimmie made it sound like a plan - the only drawback was that he threw like a girl and the electrical wire 'vines' that crisscrossed through our street almost negated the long game (not that we truly had that option with him anyway).

"Hutt-hutt-Hutt" ... the next thing I knew I was on defense after our 'gunslinger' successfully completed his pass, off the wires,  to my defender.   Now if I were QB....
 


The game of football is a North American trademark of sorts.  Rich in tradition, this sport has almost surpassed (if it hasn't already) the 'official' past time of the USA, baseball.  I first had the pleasure of experiencing this great game as an adolescent during the 1970s.  During that time, we had to rely upon gathering the required parental permissions and assembling our group of four to wage battle on the paved streets of our suburban neighborhood. Everyone, regardless of age, has experienced the raw emotions that are triggered by the simple event depicted above.  Though we did not have the benefit of today's smorgasbord of electronic and digital entertainment, the evolution in the electronics field was just around the corner and would provide more options to fulfill our gaming needs.

The following takes a look at the evolution of the football 'gaming' experience during my time in the 1970s.   On to the games...
 

Paper Football
(System : Kitchen Table)

Successful field goal (picture credits unknown)

Who doesn't love this school cafeteria classic!!  This game was a blast, right up there with plastering a gooey spitball smack in the middle of the some unsuspecting victim's glasses.  Making a solid paper football was an art form in its own right.  Too big and touchdowns were a breeze but field goal attempts would flutter too much.  Craft one too small and games went on forever.  Regardless, Scotch tape was always a necessity. The ultimate high, and honest goal, of any serious paper footballer - "doinking" your bud plumb square in the forehead and seeing the thin reddened crease develop there as a result of your efforts.  This was an ego booster - 5th grade style.


Paper football TD (picture credits unknown)

Best Memory: Being envious (honestly, more nervous) of my paper football as it sailed over my buddy's shoulder and down the front of Kelly K's shirt (our school's hottie).

 

Tutor Electric Football
(System : Electronic Board Game)

Tudor Electronic Football (picture credits unknown)

Believe it or not, this game debuted way back in 1947.  I never really could understand the fascination with it - set up a bunch of might-mite plastic dudes on a puke-green metallic gridiron and watch them shake and shiver like a drug addict at a detox clinic.  There were a great many variations of this game (Talking Football anyone?), but all of them relied basically on one thing - you had to have an vivid imagination to enjoy the gaming experience.  That being said, I doubt even Stephen King could last for more than 10 minutes with this "gem". 

Electronic Football in action (public domain pic)

Best Memory: Watching my buddy's cat creep closer and closer to the 'electric gridiron' and watching it jump 5' in the air when we flicked on the power.

 

Mattel Electronics Football
(System : Dedicated Handheld)

Mattel Electronics Football (picture courtesy of the Handheld Games Museum)

This was one of the first truly electronic football experiences.  Mattel Electronics came out with their line of dedicated handheld sports games in 1977.  Football was arguably their best release in this first batch of games and quickly became a favorite of all of us teenage hooligans.  Your warrior, who was basically a bright-red 'minus' sign, could only run and kick.  This game rocked - as long as your 9 Volt battery did not give out.  When the juice started to run low, the game became dimmer by the minute until your player would take three seconds to move just one space on the virtual playing field (grid).  This game could also double as a night light to check out comics after the lights were turned off for the night.

Mattel Electronics Football (picture courtesy of the Handheld Games Museum)

Best Memory: Using tape to mask the built-in speaker to try and mute the 'bleeps' while playing this game way after my dictated bed time.  It didn't work - I got busted every time.

 

Atari VCS Football
(System : Atari 2600 Video Game Console)

Atari VCS Football Box (picture courtesy of AtariAge.com)

This was Atari's first football venture in console gaming.  Released in 1978, Football consisted of three-on-three play with basic pass and run functionality.  Remember Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots?  Well, put those guys into a trash compactor and you'll end up with a reasonable facsimile of your virtual player, less the flicker.  Some might find this aspect of the game nostalgic - I just find it purely annoying and gives me a headache to this day.  I do have to admit that the sound effects were kind of cool as well as the '1st down' line.  Other than that, this game didn't really have that much more to offer.

One thing to note about this title - be prepared for your controller to take a beating.  I remember really cranking on the joystick left, right, up, down and being severely disappointed by the lack of response. The game is just slow, but it took me a while to figure this out.  It also cost me two controllers that now reside at the bottom of some waste facility back in my home town. 

The box was pretty 'fly' though. 

Atari VCS Football - SS1 (picture courtesy of ConsoleClassiX.com)

Atari VCS Football - SS2 (picture courtesy of ConsoleClassiX.com)

Best Memory: None to be honest - this game kind of sucked.

 

Texas Instruments TI-99/4A Football
(System : Personal / Home Computer)


 Texas Instruments TI-99/4A Football (picture courtesy of TI994.com)

Texas Instruments released this game in 1979 for their TI-99/4A personal home computer. Now this is as basic as you can get in a football game - a choice of 4 plays on offense and 4 for the defenders. Once your ‘rock-paper-scissors’ selection is made, you are basically at the mercy of the CPU.  This game was flicker-free thank goodness - I was not in danger of having any type of seizure during game play.  While this was a plus, once play was initiated, action would unfold at such a tortuously slow pace that I could actually feel myself aging during each play.

I guess I am lucky that quarters were limited to only 5 minutes (smiling).

Texas Instruments TI-99/4A Football Screenshot (picture courtesy of TI994.com)

Best Memory: Getting a little buzzed with my buddy while we experimented with chewing tobacco (Kodiak) and laughing as he uttered 'Da Bomb' while I was in a goal line defense.

 

Atari Football
(System : Arcade)

Atari Football (picture courtesy of The Killer List of Video Games)

Atari Football was released for the arcades in 1979.  If there was ever a video game that truly made you pay for play, this was it.  Not only did it hoard up all of your hard earned paper delivery tips, it was physically abusive - literally.  The innovative b>Atari 'Trakball'  controller was very responsive, but the price was high to take advantage of this benefit - a pound of flesh from the actual skin of your palms.  Game play was frantic and invigorating.  Gamers wailed away on those trackballs and that sound alone raised the entire energy level of the arcade.  This game was definitely a test of endurance as much as it was a test of skill.  Bring your garden gloves with you before engaging this beast.

Note - Playing this game before a palm reading is definitely not recommended.

Atari Football (picture courtesy of The Killer List of Video Games)

Best Memory: Returning pop bottles and raking leaves to earn more quarters to feed into this beast at the arcade (as well as to pay for all of the bandages for my chewed up hands)

 


The 1970s brought about the advent of video gaming for the great sport of football.  Take a trip down memory lane and share your thoughts on these classics and others from this influential time period!
 





Posted on Mar 21st 2009 at 07:23:34 PM by (Marriott_Guy)
Posted under Historical Viewpoint, Historical Viewpoint

History of the Video Game Console
-- The 1970s --


The 1970s marked the beginning of home video gaming as we know it today.  Ralph Baer, uniformly known as the father of the video game console, created and developed the infamous Brown Box, which would later become the revolutionary Magnavox Odyssey.  Few could honestly admit that this humble beginning would result in the multi-billion dollar market of today.  The advent of the microprocessor proved to be the key.

While some focused on mastering their dance moves to impress at the local Disco, others devoted their time in developing the first microprocessor and the C programming language.  Their efforts resulted in the birth of modern computing.  For once, the electronic components that once occupied more than 15,000 square feet of warehouse space was made available to the general public at a reasonably affordable rate in the form of the home computer.  This technological jump enabled the creation of the home video game console.

Many companies entered into this fledging market hoping to capitalize on this newly developed technology - some with greater success than others.  The decade spawned myriads of PONG systems and also introduced us to a new world  - programmable cartridge based systems (which this article focusing upon). Gone were the days of the dedicated console and ushered in were the true parents of today's hardware.  Fairchild Semiconductors was the first to introduce us to this advancement in the form of their Video Entertainment Center (Channel F), but Atari ended up being the king of this era with the release of the Video Computer System (2600).

The decade marked another significant feat - the beginnings of globalization within the gaming community.  Not only were systems released in various countries, but the first BBS (bulletin board system) enabled gamers from around the world to share their video game experiences via text forums.

The following takes a quick snapshot of each main console (or technology) that was released during this decade.
 

1972 - Magnavox Odyssey

North AmericaEuropeJapanSouth AmericaGermany

The granddaddy of the home video game console.  There were no processors in this system - just a series of transistors, resistors and capacitors.  Pin-outs were contained on the individual game cards and graphical output was produced with white blocks against a black background.  Plastic colored overlays were provided to put over your television screen to enhance the graphics a bit. 

Fun Fact: Consumers were told that this system would only work with Magnavox brand televisions, which was completely inaccurate.

1975 - PC-50X Family

EuropeJapanGermanyAustraliaUnited KingdomFrance

Improvements to the initial General Instruments AY-3-8500 (PONG) chip resulted in more game variations on this classic format.  Manufacturers wised up made a breakthrough - include the new chip(s) on cartridges.  This eliminated the need to develop a new system for every chip and significantly drove down cost.  There were a total of eight chip variations that were produced and the pin-out cartridges contained up to 10 games.

Fun Fact: The initial models still only output the games in black and white.  Later technological enhancements added color (4 colors) and sound.

1976 - Fairchild Video Entertainment System (Channel F)

North AmericaGermanyUnited KingdomSweden

The Fairchild Video Entertainment System (later changed to Channel F) was the first console to feature programmable cartridges.  Featuring built-in games, 8' controller cords and being the first to utilize microprocessor technology, the Channel F was quite innovative at the time of its release.  The following year the Atari Video Computer System (specifically named this way to directly compete against Fairchild's similarly entitled system) put the stake through this fledgling console's heart.

Fun Fact: Andrew Grove and Robert Noyce, two employees of Fairchild Semiconductors,  would eventually start a new company that some of you may have heard of: Intel.

1976 - RCA Studio II

North AmericaUnited KingdomJapan

RCA lost the race to Fairchild Semiconductors to produce the first programmable console available to the public.  The Studio II lacked controllers and relied upon the built-in numeric keypad to control the action.  Another glaring fault of this system is the black and white video output.  Though it has been proven that a few games were designed for color, RCA's rush to get this product to market resulted in the absence of this basic feature.

Fun Fact: Ralph Baer, the designer of the Odyssey, originally approached RCA to be the initial manufacturer of his new system.  RCA declined and the rest is a bad RCA memory.

1976 - 1292 APVS Family

United KingdomEuropeGermanyAustralia

The 1292 Advanced Programmable Video System (APVS) family of consoles was basically Europe's answer to the Fairchild Channel F. The initial developer, a German company called  Radofin, was one of the first companies to license programmable hardware technology to many other companies (much like The 3DO Company did with Panasonic and Goldstar).  This strategy produces extremely positive results as nearly 25 different models were produced by various manufacturers.

Fun Fact: The Emerson Arcadia, released in 1982, was first believed to be a 1292 clone since it uses the same Signetics CPU.  In fact, the Arcadia's coprocessor was an upgrade.

1977 - Atari Video Computer System (2600)

North AmericaEuropeJapanCanada

Atari's mother ship set the standard for programmable based video game systems in the 1970s.  Code named 'Stella' (after one of the designer's bicycle), the 2600 was the first system to come close to delivering an arcade experience in the comforts of one's living room.  This would not have been possible if it wasn't for Warner CommunicationAtari Inc., experiencing significant cash flow problems, approached the media giant who eventually purchased the company and completed development of this classic system.

Fun Fact: In 1982, Atari changed the name of this console in Atari 2600 due to the fact that their newly released system as dubbed the Atari 5200.

1977 - Bally Home Library Computer (Professional Arcade  Astrocade)

North America

The Home Library Computer was designed by Bally's video game division Midway (creators of the infamous Mortal Kombat series).  The technology was quite impressive for the time and rivaled the popular Atari 2600 in terms of graphical output.  The most innovative facet of this system is its multi-functional 'pistol' controller, featuring a trigger action button and a multi-directional joystick know that could also serve as a paddle controller.  Bally suffered from lack of arcade license support (Atari ate these up) and eventually could not compete.

Fun Fact: Though the cartridges resemble audio cassettes, they are in fact just regular carts.  They were designed this way to prevent cart damage (they do not protrude at all).

1978 - Magnavox Odyssey 2  Philips VideoPac

North AmericaEuropeJapanSouth America

The Odyssey 2 was the first console to incorporate a full alpha-numeric keyboard along with its initial hardwired joystick controllers.  Though technically inferior to the rival Atari 2600, the Odyssey 2 did feature flicker-free graphics, a point its competitor could not make.  This console was very successful and was manufactured throughout the world by notable companies including Philips, Radiola and Schneider.  This was also the first console to actively market itself as an educational toll in addition to its programming ability.

Fun Fact: Almost all of the games for were written by one person - Ed Averett, a former Intel employee who worked closely in the development of the O2's Intel 4040 processor.

1978 - Interton VC-4000

GermanyEuropeAustraliaAustriaArgentina

It is undetermined if the German based company Interton developed this system on its own, or if they licensed the 1292 APVS technology from Radofin.  There are minor differences in the cart size and programming, but few would argue that it is anything but a sibling of the 1292 APVS.  The VC-4000 was mildly successful, with models released in Europe, Australia and Argentina among others.

Fun Fact: The Interton VC-4000 is considered to be in the 1292 APVS Family of consoles though there are some minor compatibility differences in cart size and game releases.

1978 - APF Imagination Machine

North America

APF Electronics jumped into the video game craze with their release of the APF-M1000 console in 1978. This 8-bit system was designed to compete against the heavyweight Atari 2600.  It did not even come close.  But what makes this system unique is the addition of the APF MP-10 computer add-on that was released in 1979.  The base console could be docked into this module to create a hybrid computer, one of the first of its kind.

Fun Fact: Although the APF IM game library only contains 15 official releases, many more applications were available made available by its extremely active home-brew community.   

1979 - Bandai Super Vision 8000

Japan

The Bandai Super Vision 8000 debuted in 1979 and was the very first programmable game cartridge system released in Japan. This timeline (1979) and notoriety (initial entry and the developer, Bandai) may be a surprise to some simply due to the fact that Japan has been a leader in video game technology for some time, with big hitters Nintendo and Sega in the fold. Though technically superior to the competition, the high price tag ($1.3K in USD comparable in 1979) quickly doomed this console after just one year of production.

Fun Fact: Due to its controller design, some feel that this is a clone of the Intellivision, when in fact the Super Vision 8000 was released prior to Mattel's system.

1979 - Mattel Intellivision

North AmericaCanadaJapan

The chief challenger to the Atari 2600, the Intellivision sported new disc controllers (either loved or hated by gamers) and superior graphical and auditorial capabilities.  With few attractive arcade or movie licenses available to them due to Atari's aggressive nature in this field, Mattel had to rely upon lesser known titles but did produce an innovative add-on - the Atari 2600 Adaptor.  The library of compatible games now more tripled for this system and the Intellivision would continue to sell into the 1990s.

Fun Fact: After possibly copying their controller design of the Super Vision 8000, Mattel approached Bandai to be the exclusive distributor of the Intellivision in Japan.


The 1970s ended up being one of the most influential decades in the history of video gaming hardware.  Technological breakthroughs abounded and successes (and at times failures) of companies that participated during this time helped inspire behemoths like Nintendo and Sega to develop into the gaming force they would become in the following decade.  Dancing was definitely a driving force during this time period - thank goodness the programmers fingers and not the John Travolta wannabes ended up standing the test of time.
 





Posted on Mar 21st 2009 at 07:17:43 PM by (Marriott_Guy)
Posted under Historical Viewpoint

History of the Video Game Console
-- The 1970s --


The 1970s marked the beginning of home video gaming as we know it today.  Ralph Baer, uniformly known as the father of the video game console, created and developed the infamous Brown Box, which would later become the revolutionary Magnavox Odyssey.  Few could honestly admit that this humble beginning would result in the multi-billion dollar market of today.  The advent of the microprocessor proved to be the key.

While some focused on mastering their dance moves to impress at the local Disco, others devoted their time in developing the first microprocessor and the C programming language.  Their efforts resulted in the birth of modern computing.  For once, the electronic components that once occupied more than 15,000 square feet of warehouse space was made available to the general public at a reasonably affordable rate in the form of the home computer.  This technological jump enabled the creation of the home video game console.

Many companies entered into this fledging market hoping to capitalize on this newly developed technology - some with greater success than others.  The decade spawned myriads of PONG systems and also introduced us to a new world  - programmable cartridge based systems. Gone were the days of the dedicated console and ushered in were the true parents of today's hardware.  Fairchild Semiconductors was the first to introduce us to this advancement in the form of their Video Entertainment Center (Channel F), but Atari ended up being the king of this era with the release of the Video Computer System (2600).

The decade marked another significant feat - the beginnings of globalization within the gaming community.  Not only were systems released in various countries, but the first BBS (bulletin board system) enabled gamers from around the world to share their video game experiences via text forums.

The following takes a quick snapshot of each main console (or technology) that was released during this decade.
 

1972 - Magnavox Odyssey

North AmericaEuropeJapanSouth AmericaGermany

The granddaddy of the home video game console.  There were no processors in this system - just a series of transistors, resistors and capacitors.  Pin-outs were contained on the individual game cards and graphical output was produced with white blocks against a black background.  Plastic colored overlays were provided to put over your television screen to enhance the graphics a bit. 

Fun Fact: Consumers were told that this system would only work with Magnavox brand televisions, which was completely inaccurate.

 

1975 - PC-50X Family

EuropeJapanGermanyAustraliaUnited KingdomFrance

Improvements to the initial General Instruments AY-3-8500 (PONG) chip resulted in more game variations on this classic format.  Manufacturers wised up made a breakthrough - include the new chip(s) on cartridges.  This eliminated the need to develop a new system for every chip and significantly drove down cost.  There were a total of eight chip variations that were produced and the pin-out cartridges contained up to 10 games.

Fun Fact: The initial models still only output the games in black and white.  Later technological enhancements added color (4 colors) and sound.

 

1976 - Fairchild Video Entertainment System (Channel F)

North AmericaGermanyUnited KingdomSweden

The Fairchild Video Entertainment System (later changed to Channel F) was the first console to feature programmable cartridges.  Featuring built-in games, 8' controller cords and being the first to utilize microprocessor technology, the Channel F was quite innovative at the time of its release.  The following year the Atari Video Computer System (specifically named this way to directly compete against Fairchild's similarly entitled system) put the stake through this fledgling console's heart.

Fun Fact: Andrew Grove and Robert Noyce, two employees of Fairchild Semiconductors,  would eventually start a new company that some of you may have heard of: Intel.

 

1976 - RCA Studio II

North AmericaUnited KingdomJapan

RCA lost the race to Fairchild Semiconductors to produce the first programmable console available to the public.  The Studio II lacked controllers and relied upon the built-in numeric keypad to control the action.  Another glaring fault of this system is the black and white video output.  Though it has been proven that a few games were designed for color, RCA's rush to get this product to market resulted in the absence of this basic feature.

Fun Fact: Ralph Baer, the designer of the Odyssey, originally approached RCA to be the initial manufacturer of his new system.  RCA declined and the rest is a bad RCA memory.

 

1976 - 1292 APVS Family

United KingdomEuropeGermanyAustralia

The 1292 Advanced Programmable Video System (APVS) family of consoles was basically Europe's answer to the Fairchild Channel F. The initial developer, a German company called  Radofin, was one of the first companies to license programmable hardware technology to many other companies (much like The 3DO Company did with Panasonic and Goldstar).  This strategy produces extremely positive results as nearly 25 different models were produced by various manufacturers.

Fun Fact: The Emerson Arcadia, released in 1982, was first believed to be a 1292 clone since it uses the same Signetics CPU.  In fact, the Arcadia's coprocessor was an upgrade.

 

1977 - Atari Video Computer System (2600)

North AmericaEuropeJapanCanada

Atari's mother ship set the standard for programmable based video game systems in the 1970s.  Code named 'Stella' (after one of the designer's bicycle), the 2600 was the first system to come close to delivering an arcade experience in the comforts of one's living room.  This would not have been possible if it wasn't for Warner CommunicationAtari Inc., experiencing significant cash flow problems, approached the media giant who eventually purchased the company and completed development of this classic system.

Fun Fact: In 1982, Atari changed the name of this console in Atari 2600 due to the fact that their newly released system as dubbed the Atari 5200.

 

1977 - Bally Home Library Computer (Professional Arcade  Astrocade)

North America

The Home Library Computer was designed by Bally's video game division Midway (creators of the infamous Mortal Kombat series).  The technology was quite impressive for the time and rivaled the popular Atari 2600 in terms of graphical output.  The most innovative facet of this system is its multi-functional 'pistol' controller, featuring a trigger action button and a multi-directional joystick know that could also serve as a paddle controller.  Bally suffered from lack of arcade license support (Atari ate these up) and eventually could not compete.

Fun Fact: Though the cartridges resemble audio cassettes, they are in fact just regular carts.  They were designed this way to prevent cart damage (they do not protrude at all).

 

1978 - Magnavox Odyssey 2  Philips VideoPac

North AmericaEuropeJapanSouth America

The Odyssey 2 was the first console to incorporate a full alpha-numeric keyboard along with its initial hardwired joystick controllers.  Though technically inferior to the rival Atari 2600, the Odyssey 2 did feature flicker-free graphics, a point its competitor could not make.  This console was very successful and was manufactured throughout the world by notable companies including Philips, Radiola and Schneider.  This was also the first console to actively market itself as an educational toll in addition to its programming ability.

Fun Fact: Almost all of the games for were written by one person - Ed Averett, a former Intel employee who worked closely in the development of the O2's Intel 4040 processor.

 

1978 - Interton VC-4000

GermanyEuropeAustraliaAustriaArgentina

It is undetermined if the German based company Interton developed this system on its own, or if they licensed the 1292 APVS technology from Radofin.  There are minor differences in the cart size and programming, but few would argue that it is anything but a sibling of the 1292 APVS.  The VC-4000 was mildly successful, with models released in Europe, Australia and Argentina among others.

Fun Fact: The Interton VC-4000 is considered to be in the 1292 APVS Family of consoles though there are some minor compatibility differences in cart size and game releases.

 

1978 - APF Imagination Machine

North America

APF Electronics jumped into the video game craze with their release of the APF-M1000 console in 1978. This 8-bit system was designed to compete against the heavyweight Atari 2600.  It did not even come close.  But what makes this system unique is the addition of the APF MP-10 computer add-on that was released in 1979.  The base console could be docked into this module to create a hybrid computer, one of the first of its kind.

Fun Fact: Although the APF IM game library only contains 15 official releases, many more applications were available made available by its extremely active home-brew community.   

1979 - Bandai Super Vision 8000

Japan

The Bandai Super Vision 8000 debuted in 1979 and was the very first programmable game cartridge system released in Japan. This timeline (1979) and notoriety (initial entry and the developer, Bandai) may be a surprise to some simply due to the fact that Japan has been a leader in video game technology for some time, with big hitters Nintendo and Sega in the fold. Though technically superior to the competition, the high price tag ($1.3K in USD comparable in 1979) quickly doomed this console after just one year of production.

Fun Fact: Due to its controller design, some feel that this is a clone of the Intellivision, when in fact the Super Vision 8000 was released prior to Mattel's system.

 

1979 - Mattel Intellivision

North AmericaCanadaJapan

The chief challenger to the Atari 2600, the Intellivision sported new disc controllers (either loved or hated by gamers) and superior graphical and auditorial capabilities.  With few attractive arcade or movie licenses available to them due to Atari's aggressive nature in this field, Mattel had to rely upon lesser known titles but did produce an innovative add-on - the Atari 2600 Adaptor.  The library of compatible games now more tripled for this system and the Intellivision would continue to sell into the 1990s.

Fun Fact: After possibly copying their controller design of the Super Vision 8000, Mattel approached Bandai to be the exclusive distributor of the Intellivision in Japan.

 


The 1970s ended up being one of the most influential decades in the history of video gaming hardware.  Technological breakthroughs abounded and successes (and at times failures) of companies that participated during this time helped inspire behemoths like Nintendo and Sega to develop into the gaming force they would become in the following decade.  Dancing was definitely a driving force during this time period - thank goodness the programmers fingers and not the John Travolta wannabes ended up standing the test of time.
 




                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               
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You have stumbled upon my little piece of the RFG universe where you will find my published articles and various other writings / rantings. Having first hand experience through the evolution of the video gaming field (fancy way of me just telling you that I am old), the topics vary greatly.

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