Welcome back to a world of horror and fright. You may remember last year when I did a review of a game (Thief: The Dark Project [http://www.rfgeneration.c...The-Dark-Project-2639.php]) that many would not consider when pondering their options to step into a good atmosphere that sends chills down your spine and squeals up your throat. The real "horror" came from the masterpiece's years spent in "Development Hell" where its focus was changed about a half dozen times. In contrast to a jumbled mess of juxtaposed design and experimentation that somehow worked brilliantly, this year I bring you D. Just "D." The letter "D." No more. No less. "D."
Continue reading Spooky Plays: D
September / October, 1982 (26 years ago): E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial is released for Atari 2600 (Sources are unclear on exact release date).
October, November, December 1983 (25 years ago): North American Video Game Crash of 1983 begins due to the market flood of poorly made software.
E.T. The Extra Terrestrial is one of the most famous games ever made, mostly because it is also one of the most poorly made and over-produced games. The reason for the rushed development and overproduction is clear: the movie of the same name was an instant hit, and became the most financially successful film at the time of its release (yes, surpassing Star Wars). It only made sense to think that a game based on such a hit movie would become a bestseller, so Atari reduced development time to only six weeks, skipping audience testing in the process.
Certainly, E.T. was not the only reason for the subsequent Video Game Market Crash; there were other low-quality games made around that time (the terrible "flickering ghosts" port of PacMan comes to mind). Imagine how confused parents must have been, deciding on which console to buy: Atari 2600, Atari 5600, ColecoVision, Intellivision, Astrocade, Odyssey 2, Fairchild Channel F, to name a few, and that is not including Sears clones or other, more obscure consoles. Other contributing factors for the crash were an abundance of start-up companies trying to make some cash and hoping that customers would buy any video game regardless of how bad it was, as well as the availability of cheaper and usually more versatile computers, such as TI-99 and Commodore VIC-20.
Most important effects of the crash were:
- End to 2nd generation of video game consoles;
- Slowdown of the video game hardware development;
- Many third-party game development companies shutting down, including Coleco and Magnavox;
- Activision taking years to recover;
- Atari never recovering from the blow and eventually leaving video game hardware business;
- Almost complete lack of retailers' and customers' interest in Video Games for several years afterwards;
- Resurrection of video games industry by Nintendo and its NES (note that it is called an "entertainment system", not a "console");
- Beginning of Japanese video game domination, primarily by Nintendo and Sega;
- Introduction of strict rules regarding licensing third-party made games.
In my own opinion, the E.T. game is terrible. Should a person unfamiliar with the movie play this game, he/she might think that the movie consists of E.T. walking around places with many, many deep holes in the ground, constantly falling into them, slowly "levitating" out of them, just to fall back in, and again, and again. If you are one of the fortunate ones who never played this, ask your Atari-loving friend (I am sure he has this game somewhere) to let you play, just for educational purposes.
Other events for this month include:
Continue reading This Month in VG History: E.T. and the Market Crash
The 3DO REAL Interactive Multiplayer (3DO) system is one of those consoles that is either loved or hated by those in the gaming community. Released by Panasonic in September of 1993, this new gaming machine was one of the first entries within the 32-bit gaming era. The developer, The 3DO Company, was created by Trip Hawkins, co-founder of Electronic Arts. Their aim was to create the first 32-bit system that truly delivered a 3D gaming experience. On many levels they achieved this objective and were successful in pioneering some technological advances in both hardware and software for the time. 3DO had an eager audience yearning to upgrade their outdated 16-bit systems (notably the Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo and NEC Turbo Grafx systems).
The 3DO Company did not actually construct any of the 3DO systems, but instead chose to develop the technology and license it to third party manufacturers (Panasonic, Goldstar, Sanyo and AT&T). With very affordable licensing fees and a heavy marketing campaign, the 3DO seemed destined to become the system of choice. Unfortunately, this opportunity was squandered by the steep $699 USD ($1228 USD in todays dollars) offering price which alienated much of the video gaming community. Most game munufacturers expect initial financial losses on console sales with the thought that they will make it up in royalty fees and software sales. Since the manufacturers would never see any of these profits (since The 3DO Company owned these rights, Pansonic, Goldstar and Sanyo had to gain a profit on each system that was sold. Hence the high price point.).
Aesthetically, the 3DO system (any version) is nothing to write home about. Each is rather nondescript and belies the potent technology under its hood. There were five (5) releases of the home system:
- 1993 Panasonic FZ-1 REAL 3DO Interactive Multiplayer (1st release with a sturdy plastic housing, front loading CD, high price tag
- 1994 Panasonic FZ-10 REAL 3DO Interactive Multiplayer (Redesigned housing with a more reliable top loading system at a lower cost)
- 1994 Goldstar 3DO Interactive Multiplayer (Black/dark grey machine featuring a more reliable front loading CD tray
- 1994 Goldstar 3DO Alive II (South Korea only. Wikipedia reference. No details available. I dont have this one.)
- 1994 Sanyo TRY 3DO Interactive Multiplayer (Japan only. Solid system release in Japan that is highly collectable in the US and abroad.)
- 1994 AT&T 3DO (Never released to the public that can be confirmed. The most visually appealing of the lot, if it had been released.)
The 3DO was powered by a 32-bit 12.5 MHz RISC CPU (ARM60) with a math co-processor and separate video co-processors which rendered games in true 24 bit color and was able to display FMV (Full Motion Video). This hardware was a great leap forward in 1993 and was revolutionary for the time. The 3DO featured an internal drive that was utilized for saving games and caching game data during play. Sound is delivered in crisp 16-bit full stereo and with Dolby Surround Sound technology (one of the first to incorporate this into a console). The interface of the console featured power and CD eject buttons with only one controller port. The controllers, while very comfortable and intuitive, required the 2nd controller to be plugged into the "master" controller to enable two (2) gaming ("daisy-chained"). Obviously, this set up was not a good call by 3DO.
With the exception of the controller configuration, the 3DO hardware technology was all good news. One thing was forgotten in the process (and that we have seen repeated in subsequent "next gen" systems even to today). Game play.
The 3DO library of games is not the worst of all time (that honor belongs to the Philips CD-i in my opinion), but it is not out of the bottom ten. Relying too heavily on the new technology that was afforded them, games for the 3DO often relied upon FMV to attempt to deliver the gaming experience. What was forgotten was the actual game play and development. FMV production was costly at that time and, though impressive in 1993, did not offer much to the gamer other than eye candy. The frame rate of the FMV (and FMV-based games) was a bit choppy at times. That being said, lets proceed to the actual games.
There were a number of great games released for the 3DO. Notable hits include Road Rash (best version on any platform), The Need For Speed, PGA Tour Golf 1996, Madden Football, Out Of This World, the ShockWave series and the highly collectable Luciennes Quest. The 3DO also released the game Night Trap, a FMV game featuring Dana Plato (know from the 1980s hit TV series Different Strokes and subsequent adult movie fame), which was the catalyst in the creation of the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) which we now see today. Unfortunately, for every great game that was released there were 9 others than were truly brutal.
Games came originally packaged in long, tall boxes made of sturdy cardboard with a hard, black plastic lining to protect them. Later releases were distributed in cheap cardboard boxes that collapsed easily, or in standard CD style cases. Many collectors hate the long original boxes since they do not stand up well and are difficult to display (due to size and poor construction on many). Personally, I love the old-style boxes. The art work is generally very good and there is just something about them for me (like, but not as great as the Neo Geo carts) that I like. It may be just that they are different from every other game packaging.
Overall, the 3DO was a somewhat innovative console in 1993 but lacked the attention to gaming that caused this systems demise (along with its absurd initial price). The Sony Playstation, released in December of 1994, ultimately put the stake in this systems heart. 3DO attempted to make a comeback in 1997 with its second generation (3DO 2 / Panasonic M2), but that is for another article.
This console is a recommended purchase for any gamer. A working, original FZ-1 model is sought after by many due to its place in gaming history and will run you around $40 USD (CIB $90). The FZ-10 is the most reliable. Expect to pay $30 ($70 CIB). The Goldstar version is a little more rare, with a going rate of around $40 ($90 CIB). The Sanyo TRY is the most expensive. Expect to pay $200 for a CIB system plus $65 shipping if coming from Japan to the US.