Tuesday, June 16, 2015
Sunday, May 31, 2015
First off, the HG101 Digest Vol. 1: Strider and Bionic Commando, is now available! It retails for $15 at Amazon, $4 for the Kindle and $3 for the PDF from Sellfy. It's more than just Capcom's series, it covers some similar games and includes a few other really fun, nerdy feature articles.
Coming up this month, we have a bunch of articles on some older computer games, all from Electronic Arts: Murder on the Zindernauf. a mystery on a blimp; 7 Cities of Gold and its pseudo-sequel, Heart of Africa, which focus on exploration and can be seen as the precursor to Sid Meier's Pirates!; and Alter Ego, an extremely forward thinking "life simulator". We'll also be featuring all of Sunsoft's Batman games, including the two NES and two Game Boy games, in time for the release of the new Arkham Knight game, as well as some Namco titles like Phelios and Marvel Land, and the addictive perpetually-a-work-in-progress strategy game Dwarf Fortress.
I'll also be at Too Many Games on June 26-28, at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks, PA. I'll be manning a table selling our books, as well as assorted video games and whatever else I can dig out of my closet and fit on display. Feel free to stop by and chat! As a side note, Robert Belgrade, the voice actor of Alucard from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, is going to be there. Just saying, maybe our Castlevania book would be a good thing to have signed!
For a summary of last month's articles, we started an extensive feature on arcade games within video games (which will be completed this month); a long look at the many, many Lemmings games, which will also be evolving as we fill in some of the small gaps left in coverage; the weirdo cult classic Goat Simulator; the two GI NES games by Taxan; the two Mad Max games to tie in with the awesome new movie (even though Outlander isn't officially a Mad Max game, even though it really is); two fun indie games, the Zelda inspired Ittle Dew and the time-bending run-and-gun Super Time Force; and the early PS1 3D platformer series Jumping Flash.
Now that some of our major projects are completed, it's time to start talking about some new ones.
As a follow-up to our Bionic Commando and Strider digest, we are currently planning two more similar volumes. Vol. 2 will focus on Taito arcade games. While nowadays Taito is mostly known for Bubble Bobble and Space Invaders, they were a huge, huge publisher in the 80s and 90s, as the many arcade compilations can attest. Most of them are not well known outside of Japan, unfortunately, though many are excellent. We're still keeping the whole volume within the 75 page limit so obviously this will only scratch the surface of the company's output. We haven't finalized all of the covered titles yet, but planned articles include an overhaul of the ancient Darius article, as well as Ninja Warriors, The New Zealand Story, Gun Frontier, Metal Black, Growl, and many others. Like the first volume, it will also contain 10 pages devoted to 80 interesting Super Famicom titles. We're also planning some other interesting "Inventory" articles to feature.
A subsequent volume will focus on Data East. The major game people seem to remember from them is probably Bad Dudes, but again, they had quite a bit of output, and even though they aren't always fantastic, there are still a lot of interesting titles. Again, nothing is set in stone, but we plan on covering the Data East Commando games (Heavy Barrell, Bloody Wolf, Midnight Resistance, Desert Storm), Joe & Mac, Bad Dudes, Karnov, Burger Time, Trio the Punch, Edward Randy, and whatever else we can squeeze again. Again, there will be another piece focusing on 80 import titles, though we haven't decided the platform yet (I'm still working on completing the Super Famicon one!)
Of course, we are still working on Sega Arcade Classics Vol. 2! This one has taken awhile (and will continue to take awhile) as we build up all of the games that need to be featured. Basically, the game will cover all sorts of early 80s stuff, from the Sega/Gremlin days, all the way up through the System-32 era. The current list of featured titles are:
119 / Megumi Rescue / Flying Hero, A.B. Cop, Action Fighter, Aerial Assault / Sonic Boom, Air Rescue, Alien 3, Arabian Fight, Aurail, Bank Panic, Bayroute, Bonanza Bros., Borderline, Buck Rogers: Planet of Zoom / Zoom 909, Bullet, Burning Rival, Car Hunt / Head On, Carnival / Razamatazz, Choplifter, Columns, Congo Bongo, Cool Riders, D.D. Crew, Dark Edge, Desert Breaker, Enduro Racer, Flicky, Gale Racer / Rad Mobile / Rad Rally, Hang-On, Holosseum, Jurassic Park, Laser Ghost, Last Survivor, Line of Fire, Monaco GP / Super Monaco GP / F1 Exhaust Note / F1 Super Lap, My Hero, Ninja Princess / The Ninja, Pengo, Rail Chase 1 & 2, Riot City, Samurai, Scramble Spirits, SDI / Global Defense, , Sindbad Mystery, Spatter, Spiderman: The Arcade Game, Subroc / Poseidon Wars, Super Locomotive, Tant-R, Teddy Boy Blues, Tetris, Tough Turf, Tranquilizer Gun / Safari Hunting, Turbo, Up'n Down, Zaxxon
We'll also be having smaller reviews of the (many, many) other obscure titles published during this era, like 005, Gardia, Combat Hawk, 4-D Warriors, Tac/Scan, Pulsar, Monster Bash, I'm Sorry, Flashgal, UFO Senshi Yohko, Time Scanner, and others.
One project we've been working on for a few months is a little different from the norm. It's a "best games of all" time book, that highlights favorite titles from the staff. Looking through old magazines, these were always the issues I enjoyed the most (and have the most worth in keeping around) since it gave a good snapshot into the tastes of the magazine, and the attitude towards certain titles of the time, so I wanted to do something similar for HG101.
The main issue with these types of articles is that the actual written content is very shallow, since they're typically just a cover article as part of a larger magazine. Even when other video game sites do "top X" lists, there's not much actual writing, maybe a paragraph or so. We're doing things a little differently, as each piece will have about 450 words devoted to it, describing its history, why it's important, and why we love it so much. We're also doing smaller pieces to accompany each game that we've chosen that recommends similar titles, either other games in the series or just another game that's related in some way. The main reason is that we don't want to feature too many similar games, but at the same time want to talk about as many awesome games as possible. We also tried to balance the selection out so there are a whole bunch of different games from various genres, to give a wide variety of titles to read about.
Although I'm sure many readers will be familiar with a good chunk of our selections, the content will be significantly different from most other magazines or websites. Since we focus primarily on retro content, most of our selections aim towards older games, or modern games that either channel the spirit of older games, or do something really unique beyond the typically bland AAA cinematic stuff that encompasses a majority of today's marketplace. I hope that it will encourage people to check out some new and different titles. It's still very much a work in progress and I haven't quite nailed down how many games we'll be featuring, but it will be at least 175, so it will be a pretty meaty book. Given the size, we will probably be publishing both a full color and a cheaper black and white edition.
Further into the future, we also have two (maybe three?) more books planned. The first one is a Konami special, that will feature two big series - Contra and Ganbare Goemon - along with a good chunk of their 8/16-bit output. I was initially trepidatious about this after Konami grumbled about our Castlevania book, but we haven't had any issues with them since, and they haven't bothered us about the Konami Shooters book, so I think we're in the clear! Other games featured will include their run-and-guns (Sunset Riders, Mystic Warriors, etc) and their many FDS/FC/NES games, like Almana no Kiseki, Bio Miracle Bokutte Upa, Ai Senshi Nicol, Getsu Fuumaden, and so forth.
Additionally, since I've received many requests for a book on beat-em-ups, we've decided to start putting one in order. We have a good number of significant titles already featured on the site, but we're missing a big one - Double Dragon - so we have to complete that first! And in order to chronicle all of the beat-scrollers, we will probably have to publish two volumes, and figure out to do with some of the redundant content that will already be featured in the Sega book. (The Konami beat-em-ups articles will probably be placed here, rather than in the Konami specific volume mentioned above.)
All of these plans are admittedly pretty ambitious! I'm hoping to have the Taito digest, Top X Video Games and Sega Arcade Classics Vol. 2 completed by the end of 2015. Everything else will definitely be planned for 2016.
If you like what we're doing and like what you see, please consider donating to our Patreon, even as little as $5 a month will get you access to digital copies of all books published, past and future, and $10 a month will get your name in print in subsequent volumes. Thank you for your support!
Sunday, May 17, 2015
According to our randomizer feed for the front page, there are now more than 1200 articles on Hardcore Gaming 101, including book reviews, Weekly Kusoge, 500-word indies and more! If you ever wished you could pay someone for all that content, the good news is you can! Patreon and our most generous readers have already enabled us to post about 20 articles on average each month over the past ten months. Besides many one-shot looks at classic and indie games, we've had massive serialized retrospectives about the Wizardry and Mega Man series and fun features like an enumeration of the video game heroines of the 1980s, which is right now being followed by a thorough history of arcades and arcade machines within video games.
We've also published three more books within the past year alone, comprehensive volumes on the Castlevania series and Konami's entire shoot-em-up output over the decades, as well as a special of assorted contents for the holidays. Patreon backers can receive all our ebooks (or even hard copies of future books, depending on the funding level) for free. More books are always in the making!
The great thing with Patreon is that it allows us to react flexibly to our funding level. The more funding we get, the more content we can publish the next month. And there is no shortage of content in sight: For the time being, we even had to temporarily suspend external submissions in order to be able to reduce our posting backlog and keep the waiting time for each individual submission in check, so every contribution helps in getting out more articles.
So, if you've got a few bucks to spare each month and think our content is worth your money, head over to our Patreon page!
If direct financial support is not an option for one reason or another, there are other ways you can help us out. Please consider clicking on an ad or two. When you go to eBay, Amazon, PlayAsia or GOG.com through our links, anything you buy still gives us a tiny cut even if it's not anything that's recommended in the links themselves. Also follow us on the social media of your choice - we just recently added Tumblr to our list of outlets, but there's also Facebook, Twitter and our Steam community group - and share, mention, reblog, retweet or forward whenever you see something you like.
Also shoot us comments about what types of content you'd like to see more of, or what additional site features could make your stay more pleasant. Did you know that as of recently, you can easily browse covered games by company, genre or themes, with a screenshot of each entry as a preview? We're on a neverending quest to try and improve the site and its content, so your feedback is always welcome.
Saturday, January 10, 2015
Yesterday the Video Game Storybundle 5.0 went live, featuring several video game related books! If you pay at the $12+ tier, you get a copy of HG101 Presents: Sega Arcade Classics Vol. 1, in both PDF and a newly created Kindle format. It also includes a bunch of other great stuff - I've been wanting to read some of the Boss Fight Books series for awhile, which are extremely detailed essays on a particular game, as well as Leigh Alexander's title - plus I have the original issuance of the I Am 8bit art book and it's pretty fun!
Additionally, since I needed to create a new digital version of the Sega Arcade Classics book, I decided to do a small revision to add a few new things. I'd originally intended to do these later in the year after all of the 3DS ports had been released in America, but did them now since Storybundle requested the book's inclusion. They aren't major addition, and the page count hasn't changed, but these include:
-An updated format (for the PDF) which includes the same headers and page numbers as the Castlevania book, so it looks a little nicer
-Updated text to include the 3DS ports of all of the featured games, since only Space Harrier had been released at the time the book was originally published (December 2012)
-Since there were some changes to text spacing, some of the articles are slightly expanded with extra details or pictures
Friday, December 19, 2014
They also seem to have an official YouTube channel, and... someone told me you can pay to have someone make you promotional videos like this. Awesome.
Friday, December 5, 2014
In July, as a result of my book on Japanese game developers, I was invited to Montreal to give a keynote speech at the Game History Annual Symposium. As you can see from the itinerary it was an amazing two days, jam packed with fascinating discussions on the history of games, and methods of researching game history.
The majority of talks were excellent, with favourites including a talk on Space War and Warrior (the vector graphics one), plus one where speedrunners were examined as a means of digging up "gaming fossils", since they hammer games in ways that reveal a title's inner workings.
This blog entry relates to "Using Historical Video Games to Teach Computer Scientists" by Professor John Aycock (pictured).
The quick version is that he dissects old games in order to teach present-day students valuable skills. The problem being that students would otherwise graduate without working within a constrained environment, and many techniques used on limited hardware (such as the Atari VCS), are still used today. Games are fun, students like games, and so: "... the implementation of old games can be used as a vehicle to explain modern Computer Science techniques."
What caught my attention was that they would disassemble old games in order to understand how they work. At the end of the talk I asked if they discovered anything odd in the games. The answer given related to Chase the Chuckwagon, which had an unused piece of graphics, and two sections of code which - in the context of this game - did absolutely nothing. Likely leftovers from previous games, where code was borrowed. Three mysteries which intrigued me, because I am all about uncovering the "unknown".
My question, and the conversation with Professor Aycock afterwards, led to me receiving an email with the following:
"I got curious - and somewhat carried away - when you asked about hidden things in games, and I thought you might like to see the result:"
Strung Out: Printable Strings in Atari 2600 Games
"This report documents the raw findings from an exhaustive (and exhausting) analysis of a large corpus of Atari 2600 games to find printable strings. While similar reports have been conducted before , this is the most extensive survey so far, to the best of our knowledge. We intend to analyze these results from a higher-level viewpoint later, but this report serves as a permanent record of the data and the methods we used to acquire it."
"The results reported here are based on a corpus of 1816 Atari 2600 ROM cartridge images. Duplicate images were removed - the initial corpus, as acquired, had 1840 images - but some game images have one or more prototype images too. We have not removed these, because sometimes the strings are different between these versions."
For anyone who enjoys The Cutting Room Floor, this should prove very interesting. Surprisingly, despite programmers not being allowed credits in games, many have their named tucked away within the code. Some games have little jokes from those who made it, while others contain ending text or - in the case of edutainment title MegaBoy - the answers to puzzles.
It's a long document, and mostly raw data, but I'm sure a lot of people will get a kick out of it, and it will probably keep TCRF busy for a while updating the Atari section.
Sunday, October 12, 2014
HG101 State of the Union October 2014 - Sega Arcade Classics Vol. 2, more Patreon discounts, and a summary of last month's updates!
Hi everyone! Just here to give some updates about all of the goings-ons at the site for the past month.
A few people have asked if they were able to get copies of the Untold History of Japanese Game Developers book by donating through Patreon. Although HG101 promotes the book and we helped with its production, it's actually John Szczepaniak's project, so we're not at liberty to give anything away. However I've discussed it with him and he offered up discounts exclusively for Patrons at the $5+/month tier. For the book, you need to order directly from the Createspace site, as opposed to Amazon. The coupon will bring the price down to $29.99. Although you have to pay for shipping, overall it's about a $7 discount over the lowest price from over Amazon. Additionally, he's also offered discount prices for the DVD. It's normally 40 pounds but if donate, you'll be given access to a discount link which will lower the price to 30 pounds. If you've donated or are already a donor, I've already posted a section under "Activity" called "Discounts for Untold History of Japanese Game Developers", where you can find the coupon code and the discount link.
In the last couple updates I've discussed the Konami Shooter book, which is coming along nicely, but I also wanted to talk about the one every keeps asking me about: Sega Arcade Classics Vol. 2.
In the first volume, we focused primarily on popular franchises, along with a few other one-shots that we deemed noteworthy enough to include along with it, largely based on whether they were ported enough times. The main reason was, even though there is a "Volume 1" in the title, we weren't sure if the book would be successful enough to justify a "Volume 2", so we figured we'd load it with the titles most gamers were familiar with. The good news is that the reception was decent enough to justify a second volume, but on the other hand, the titles are probably not going to ring any bells. But that's okay! HG101 is about discovering new titles, and Sega put out a ton of interesting stuff in the 80s and 90s, most of which has been largely forgotten. So if you're the type that trawls through the MAME archives to find new and interesting things to play, this will definitely be for you, especially if you're a Sega fan.
The selection of games in Volume 2 falls into two basic categories:
(1) Arcade games from 1985 and prior. In the first volume, the earliest release game we focused on was Space Harrier, but there are a lot of games from before that period. These predated Sega consoles (at least the ones that were released worldwide, like the Sega Master System), so they be more familiar to Atari or Colecovision fans. The most prominent of these titles are Pengo, Turbo, Congo Bongo, Buck Rogers and the Planet of Zoom, and Zaxxon, along with others like Carnival, Borderline (AKA Underground), Up n' Down, and Subroc. There are a lot of other titles that fall into this category like Spatter, Flicky, Monaco GP, Ninja Princess, Super Locomotive, and many, many others. Sega also had a partnership with Coreland (in Japan) and Gremlin (in America) that put out a wide variety of strange, bizarre, largely unknown titles.
(2) Any arcade game from the late 80s and early/mid-90s that couldn't fit into the first volume. There were some titles like Bonanza Bros, SDI/Global Defense and Teddy Boy Blues that fell into the era covered in the first book, but we felt weren't quite well known enough to add in, since it would increase the cost to the point of unaffordability. Not all of these games were great. Some games like Bay Route, Tough Turf and Riot City are flagrant rip-offs of other titles at the time, but they're also really good rip-offs! Other games like Last Survivor, Dark Edge, Line of Fire, Laser Ghost and Rail Chase show off some extremely impressive technology, and occasionally have some really interesting ideas, that kind of games that are worth recognizing their efforts even though they're flawed.
Here are some very rough, early samples of what I've been working on:
I don't have anything close to a set release date for this just yet. There are two other books that will come first: the Konami Shooters book, which should hopefully be available at the beginning of 2015, and the HG101 Digest Vol. 1, a 75-ish page issue covering Bionic Commando, Strider, and several other features, will hopefully be available by the beginning of summer.
Some of the most noteworthy articles we've published this past month include: the first parts of Wizardry, the seminal CRPG series, coverage of which is still ongoing; Danganronpa, a series of stylish adventure games that totally justify the purchase of the Vita and are easily two of the best games I've played this year; Deae Tonosama Appare Ichiban, a campy SFC run-and-gun similar to Choaniki; Pier Solar and the Great Architects, the recently released HD update of the homebrew (yet quite professional) Genesis RPG; Elemental Master, a fantasy shooter by the same folks as Thunder Force; Smash TV / Total Carnage, the ultra violet twin stick arcade shooters from the 90s; and System Shock, the first person shooter/RPG hybrid that inspired Bioshock, and is the topic of this month's Game Club 199X.
Upcoming articles for October and early November include Charlie Ninja, Puzzle Boy, Boppin'. 64th Street: A Detective Story, Sentinel, Yumimi Mix, Chimera Beast, Martial Champion, King of Dragon Pass, New Zealand Story, and several Halloween themed entries towards the end of the month.
As always, thanks for reading and for your support!
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
We've also introduced a long requested function to swap the white text/black ground to a black text/white background, to improve readability. There are still some pages using the old pre-CSS code that won't work, but most of the site has been updated to feature this. Thanks to Derboo and his behinds the scene wizardry to get this up and working!