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.

swordquestFireworldcart

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.

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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.

translucentretrovgs

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!

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The “Real” Star Raiders II Prototype Discovered and Released

Back in 1984, Atari was hard at work on both an arcade and an Atari 800 title by the name of The Last Starfighter, based on the movie of the same name. As the movie bombed at the box office, both projects ended up getting axed although to salvage some of the cost and work, someone decided to take the Atari 800 version of the game and they renamed it to Star Raiders II. Released in 1985 when the Tramiel’s were busy focusing on launching the ST line of computers, it was one of the few Atari titles released that year.

It turns out that there was another Star Raiders II that had been in development in 1984. Not many people, even hardcore Atarians like myself knew this existed. Here’s the long story short by the game’s original designer, Aric Wilmunder

In 1983 I was hired by Atari Corporate Research and in ’84 I transferred to Atari Coin-Op where I was part of a small R&D team under Lyle Rains, the brains behind Asteroids and Atari Football. I was tasked with designing and building a sequel to Star Raiders, the most sophisticated space battle simulator of it’s time. While I was still working on the design, Atari Marketing had purchased the rights to develop games based on the movie The Last Starfighter, and when the movie did poorly at the box-office, they quickly re-branded the Atari 800 game as Star Raiders II. The actual sequel that I was coding was just a few months from completion and as a result it never shipped, but it did serve as my resume when I went to work for George Lucas’ fledgling games group, Lucasfilm Games. So after more than 30 years sitting on a floppy disk in my garage, here’s the true Star Raiders II.

It looks like Atari historian Curt Vendel had a hand in helping the recovery of this as he was one of the few that knew about it; either way the game can be obtained for free to play in an emulator or on a device that plays .atr files on real hardware at this link.

New Raiden V Footage

Busy, busy, busy…that’s the name of the game for me lately. Due to personal finances I am not able to enjoy the new Dariusburst Chronicle Saviours (although I’ve heard mixed feedback from that, particularly on how it is still just a port of the PSP version on the assets, letterboxing on the Another Chronicle port; zero online co-op play). Also not enthusiastic about the price of $50 so I’ll wait for a sale. Besides, I’m not really in a rush – I have the arcade version sitting in front of me with dual screen built in and a great sound system. Speaking of Darius, I have this awesome Darius inspired Wheel of Fish t-shirt for sale 😛

Aside from that, I wanted to share this little bit of news I caught from a Tweet that has a video showing the upcoming Raiden V for the Xbox One. I don’t have an Xbox One but it is good for MS that they are getting these exclusives in the face of the PS4. I was discussing that with a friend recently who owns both and he is astounded to a degree how the X1 has more exclusives for it than the PS4 has…not that such a thing seems to be an issue for PS4 sales for now. Personally that matters and it is a reason I like the WiiU a lot since it has some great exclusives that aren’t all Nintendo IP but that isn’t moving the needle like Nintendo needs this generation.

Anyways, tangents aside, Raiden V. I don’t recall the story/background of Raiden but I also don’t recall the fighter craft being assigned countries so that is new to me.  It is sad to me that as this celebrates the Raiden series that apparently no arcade version is in the works, although perhaps they will change their minds at least for NESiCAxLIVe at some point (Taito’s arcade network where you can download games to an arcade cabinet). The HD upgrade here reflects a change in the screen real estate as Raiden III and Raiden IV were both designed for Taito’s Type X and X2 PC-based arcade hardware and vertical oriented monitors. Most console users are never going to turn their TV on its side for that pure arcade experience so they might as well make adjustments to the image most players will use anyways.

Any thoughts on what we see so far?

Gems of the Atari Jaguar: BattleSphere

This Sunday marks the 22nd anniversary of Atari’s last real game console, the Atari Jaguar. I’ve spoken of it often on this blog, hoping in my little way to correct the record from do bits matter to games it has that are actually good. While I obviously am pro-Jaguar, I can recognize that it had some stinkers – Kasumi Ninja, Club Drive, Checkered FlagWhite Men Can’t Jump – but I just don’t accept that those are the games which are supposed to define the system as a whole. Thus, these Gems of the Jaguar articles. Previous titles covered: Zero 5,  Rayman, Super Burnout, Missile Command 3D, & Wolfenstein 3D. Today I’m going to cover a game that has had its share of controversy, which began development while the Jaguar was still actively being sold on the market but didn’t get a wide release until a few years afterwards – 4Play’s BattleSphere.

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