Atari Continues Sewer Digging, Suing To Prevent The Use of ‘Haunted House’ In Video Games

First the news and the link: Ex-Game Maker Atari To Argue To The US PTO That Only It Can Make ‘Haunted House’ Games

While Atari under a completely different management and vision did make Haunted House back in 1981 for the Atari 2600, the current ownership suddenly remembered the property again in 2010 with the release of the quickly forgotten Haunted House for a number of modern platforms; they also released an endless runner for mobile using the name and in 2014 tried and failed again with the release of Haunted House Cryptic Graves in 2014. The trademark for “Haunted House” was filed in 2010 but the term is fairly generic and there are multiple other games that have used the term, including those before the Atari 2600 title. Apparently someone over there thinks that the title is loaded with potential to keep cranking out massive failures.

I find it interesting that trying the mobile route didn’t work for them, just like it hasn’t for many big companies in trying to milk their old IPs. That’s what happens when you solely rely on the name without a vision of what it is that makes the original game charming or what makes modern games fun.

It is infuriating that the name that was once synonymous with ‘video games’ is now setting their reputation in stone as a patent troll. While I could understand their side of it in the Jeff Minter case due to how close TxK was to Tempest 2000, this shows where their real interests are in case it wasn’t clear (in the case of TxK, they could have handled that better). Money and pissing on the ‘little guy’, who actually works to be innovative and make real games.

Hopefully the US PTO doesn’t rule in their favor but regardless the outcome, I am personally boycotting them as long as they exist under the current ownership. I will not give them a single dime, not through games like that new Atari classics release on Steam, any other Flashbacks or through their current merchandise. I urge everyone else that reads this to do the same. They have done nothing to deserve anyone’s money and if one poorly reviewed release after another isn’t enough to sway you, then let their attitude towards games and other developers be it. Bleeding them dry is the only way to “Make Atari Great Again.”



Gems of the Jaguar: BattleMorph

With the impending release of StarFox Zero for the WiiU, I’m keen to review that one once I get it and spend some time on it, however those of you that visit the blog don’t really come here for my thoughts on Nintendo or most other company game products. Most readers are here for the Atari stuff so I feel it is prudent to do another Gems of the Jaguar, this time concerning a game series for the Atari Jaguar that was Atari’s ‘response‘ of sorts to Nintendo’s StarFox.

I recall the hype for StarFox rather well. There were other games on the SNES that were popular and gained notoriety but at least in my neighborhood and school, when SF came out, it’s all everyone talked about. I think a lot of us thought that it was the first 3D game to come along, ignoring various other titles since Atari’s I,Robot that had used filled 3D polygons to make the graphics. Still, for a “16-bit” console like the SNES, it was different. At the time, Atari was prepping their “64-bit” console the Jaguar and as it would work out, they decided to use a 3rd party game by the name of Cybermorph to be the pack-in title for the system. That had been in development for their 32-bit Panther console that was never released; if Atari had the money then the Jaguar could have come along closer to 1992 but as fate had it, Cybermorph wouldn’t get its chance until late 1993.

Continue reading

Let’s dissect Trevor McFur In The Crescent Galaxy (Atari Jaguar)

Today’s post came about from a discussion on the AtariAge Forums where a thread brought up an oddball from the Atari Jaguar library, Trevor McFur In The Crescent Galaxy. This was a horizontal scrolling shooter (shmup) game that was originally planned to be the pack-in title for the console until Cybermorph came along to bask in that glory itself. Still, as the second game for the system and one that Atari proudly displayed in advertisements, it became the only horizontal shmup for the system to enjoy. Here is a long play video to give you an idea of what is being talked about:

Now this debate isn’t anything new for those in Jaguar circles. There are those who enjoy the game but they tend to be outnumbered by those that see it as a title that the system could have done without. So let’s get into what makes a shmup fun and whether or not this can be applied to Trevor McFur.

Continue reading

PS4K = New 32X or the Next PS2?

So rumor has it that Sony is working on a “4k” upgrade to the PlayStation 4, to take advantage of those 4k TVs that are out there and cheap. The latest rumor claims that this will have both a CPU and a GPU that is twice as powerful as stock PS4s, a 4k Blu-Ray player and retail for $500 (rumor via NeoGAF).

I really have my doubts about this but lets say it is true. If so, then we’ve been at this point before. Sega fans remember all too well what happened with the Sega Genesis. Released in 1988, it was a powerhouse that crushed the NES or the TG-16 in terms of what it could do – at the time. But given that consoles stuck around for a bit longer in those days, instead of releasing a new console in 1991 to compete with the SNES, they launched the SegaCD in 1992 (touting all of the “multimedia” benefits that brought to the table with CD-quality sound and cinematics, etc). Given that the Genesis itself sold a around 30 million units and the CD only managed to reach 6m worldwide under best guess estimates (most put it lower; Famitsu said 2 million), it wasn’t exactly a raging success despite all it brought to the table. Then in response to all of the 32-bit and 64-bit talk right after that, they launched the 32X in 1994. It offered more power thanks to additional processors to give players 3D graphics and texture mapping. However it ended up being a nightmare to install/operate, there were reported incompatibilities and at the end of the day, there were only 35 game releases for it while units sold managed a little more than 600,000. Sega had fragmented the market on hardware among themselves, not to mention that you had more console choices in 1994 than just the Genesis or SNES.

Granted, what Sony is talking about isn’t a powerbase plug-in upgrade (yet) but just a new SKU that has the new hardware, ala the Nintendo New 3DS. But with such a significant disparity in power, plus talk of how the stock PS4 will have to play the new 4K games downgraded, that isn’t a recipe for resounding sales success in any manner. It is hard to believe that devs would solely use that additional power for resolution and frame rate upgrades thus entering the possibility of incompatibilities; not everyone is going to want to rebuy the console for an extra $100 (and then of course is the VR upgrade for $400 which might as well be its own 32X style accessory) then the special software. You fragment your user base and you will lose sales, not gain them.

Perhaps this roll of the dice, again if true, will work out to massively boost PS4 sales and it’ll keep the 32X in the laughing stock category but historically speaking, it doesn’t look that way. So, it is best to apply a grain of salt to this as unless the PlayStation wing of the company is now being run by the same people running their other failing divisions, they would be crazy to do this.


From Super Hype to Dead Fish: Evolve

We’ve all seen this cycle over and over – a game comes along that gaming media decides to put into hype-r- drive, they bang that drum for months (maybe years) then as soon as it comes out, harsh reality hits the buyers that they were sold on a scam. I recall that being the case with games like the first Chronicles of Riddick; Brute Force; Killzone on the PS3; Brutal Legend on the 360…I could go on.  One of the more recent example is Evolve. Hyped using an idea similar to what the WiiU should have offered in more games (i.e. asymmetrical games like a dungeon master vs. the players), if you watched nothing but the pre-launch coverage then it might have been hard to avoid buying it. People were just losing their minds – it was games like it that reminded you why you were a gamer! It just sounded so darn amazing that a game like Pac-Man would never hope to hold a candle to it 30 years down the road.

Well thanks to this video you can see how far the praise went…compared to how opinion changed when players themselves got a chance to experience the game. The lesson to be learned – patience continues to be a virtue regardless the march of technology. The more hyped a game is, the wiser you would be to wait and see how it actually shakes out.

(Strong language warning)


The Real History of the Atari Swordquest Competition

If you played Atari in the 1980s then everyone with a 2600 seemed to have a copy of Swordquest Earthworld lying around. As a much more advanced game than Adventure, it generally confused myself and my friends as to what exactly we were supposed to be doing as no one seemed to keep the manuals – these games didn’t need them we all thought. As it turned out, if you wanted to know how to play Swordquest, you needed that manual and the comic book that came with the game.


As always, the art on these carts was superb.

Thanks to the internet in the 1990s, I discovered that the whole SQ series was designed to be for a contest that was held when I was much too young to have participated in it. This all happened long before Twitch, League Gaming or even The Wizard where Atari had some awesome and expensive prizes up for grabs – a talisman, goblet, sword and stone that were made out of precious metals and gemstones. That news alone helped the series make sense although it did seem kind of pointless to play the game after the contests were over (at least some of the ‘trials’ you play through are interesting). But that didn’t stop a lot of speculation and hearsay from spreading around as to what happened with the prizes. The most persistent rumor was that Jack Tramiel took possession of the remaining prizes after he bought Atari and that the sword hung above the Tramiel family fireplace.

Thanks to this well-researched article at Atlas Obscura, the real story comes to light online (although IIRC, this was recounted in the book Atari Inc. Business Is Fun) as to who won the prizes and what happened with them. By the last word, the only remaining prize is the goblet while the talisman was melted down for cash many years ago. But regardless of the outcome, this is a really fascinating story in terms of video game history and one of the reasons I enjoy Atari as it was in the 70s and 80s. Definitely give this article a read!

So about the Coleco Chameleon

UPDATE: It’s dead Jim. Coleco wisely pulls their support from this sad joke

ORIGNAL POST: When you’ve been on the internet since the days of it being text-based or even those wild times with Netscape, then you’ve seen your share of hoaxes, scams and/or failed promises come along in the game sector. In the Atari community, plenty of that came along in the post-Jaguar life revival circa 1998-99 (console was officially dead but a few intrepid companies were still releasing games for it). Just say Dark Knight Games to anyone that’s been around since then and they will know what I’m talking about.

For something that is a new scam or along those lines that is also related to Atari is the Coleco Chameleon. I mentioned it on here a while back and it’s just a couple of posts below but it has turned out to be a real mess. First you can catch up with this video here, which details how it was discovered to be using an off-the-shelf DVR card in the pictures:

Then follow that with the latest news that they are suspending their Kickstarter and launch ‘indefinitely’. If it is legit, and something that just got out of control from someone naive about how to launch new hardware then one could certainly feel pity but otherwise there isn’t any reputation left for RetroVGS…now damaging Coleco. At the very least the Atari brand itself dodged this bullet – with only the Jaguar shell getting caught up in this crossfire. But if you are going to go to the lengths of creating a new console, realize that it is going to take a lot

What do you think of this?

Memory Road: Epic MegaGames

I’m not sure how many people out there fondly remember “Epic MegaGames” as it is not a name you hear about these days thanks to the company turning into Epic Games some years ago. While most would be familiar with their Unreal Engine and the Unreal Tournament series of games, prior to the release of Unreal in 1996 they had quite a few other games on their roster. As I explored the vast libraries of shareware available to me in the 90s, titles by Epic were often sources of many hours of enjoyment, so let me wax nostalgic here for a few moments as I look at their pre-Unreal titles.

ZZT – With a very weird name that is more like a high score on an older arcade game, ZZT doesn’t have anywhere near the name recognition these days that would make people equate it with Mario, Sonic, Halo or anything like that. But for the very first game to come out of the company, it was an effort that gave EM the fuel it needed to move onto bigger and better things. With the graphics in ASCII, it could run on old monochromatic monitors or on any color monitor. The worlds were large and the best aspect of it all was that users could easily use the engine to create their own games – replete with text storylines and more. I once came across a user made ZZT adventure, full of levels and a huge storyline…unfortunately it has been many years since then and I can’t remember what it was called.  It was truly a pioneer of the “mod” efforts for PC gaming before that became a little industry of itself.

Continue reading

Retro VGS Re-Branded As The Coleco Chameleon

Not long ago, a new console attempted to get its feet off the ground through Kickstarter crowdfunding, the RetroVGS. Re-using the console shell from the Atari Jaguar, it was going to provide a new ARM-based cartridge system while also hoping to offer hardware emulation of some classic hardware platforms. That crowdfunding failed rather spectacularly, pulling in maybe 1% of the needed 2 million that they were asking for. I detailed that in a recent post, pointing out that the console did not have enough compelling exclusive content to justify the $300 expense.


After that failure the company didn’t give up and they have now found a partner to make the console come to life – Coleco. Coleco is a name that early 80s gamers will still recognize but after their collapse in the mid-80s, it hasn’t been a name that has shown up very often in recent years. The most it has been seen is with the launch of the Coleco Flashback, which was similar to the Atari Flashback or other #-games-in-one dedicated consoles that have been popular for the past 10 years or so. Overall I can’t say I heard Coleco fans pining for a new Coleco console on the same level as Sega or Atari fans but regardless, any fans with those dreams will now see it become a reality.

No longer the RetroVGS, the Coleco Chameleon is still promising much of the same ideas – cartridge based gaming, no downloads and one has to assume that the announced games for the RVGS will spill over. On top of that, they are promising the following:

The COLECO Chameleon also has the ability play brand-new games in the 8-, 16- and 32-bit styles, a growing and popular genre in today’s game scape.

Whether that means that their FPGA for hardware emulation will be allowing users to play ColecoVision and other classic system games or just games that “look” like 8/16/32 bit games remains to be seen. It would be nice if they can clear this up soon as in my view, one of the stronger selling points would have been to offer some excellent/exact emulation of classic or even unreleased console hardware. That said, it is not looking like they will offer Jaguar hardware/software which is a bit strange given that they have the Jag’s shell (and the Jaguar is an open platform so there are no legal issues there). Who knows, if this follows the old CV’s lead, maybe Expansion Modules will allow for that to happen down the road.

Coleco Chameleon Game Console

They also will need to shore up their exclusive games list to draw interest. If you are going to use the same business model as these products used in the 80s and 90s then you are going to have to use some similar attraction ideas as well – no compelling exclusive content gives me little to no reason to spend my cash on the product. Unfortunately for Coleco as a brand, they do not really have a solid library of original titles to pull from. Most of the CV library that the company had a hand in were arcade ports from IPs they didn’t own. Donkey Kong was a great pack-in for the system in 1982 but that’s not going to happen in 2016 for the Chameleon and even if it did, that’s not going to sell a million units.

Don’t get me wrong, I would like to see them succeed with the project and getting backing from at least one retro gaming name is a good direction for the continued existence of the machine and the idea. Perhaps they will be able to shore up that development support and make a good run at it – particularly with getting some homebrew games released for the machine – in addition to the classic hardware support. We’ll know soon enough when the machine is ‘unveiled’ at the Toy Fair in February.

Star Trek Beyond Trailer: Take a Deeeeeeep Breath

I’ll take this opportunity to veer off on a non-video game topic, that of Star Trek. Sure Star Wars is coming along this week and everyone is losing their minds over that – I can’t think of anything worth adding there. One thing that happened today was the launch of the Star Trek Beyond trailer, which is going to be attached to the front of Star Wars 7; thanks to a leak of the German version of this trailer, Paramount went ahead and put it up online early.

It seems that not everyone was pleased with it!

Continue reading