Wednesday, July 6, 2022

The Last Gasp of the Intellivision Amico

Back in 2019, I wrote a blog article about the Intellivision Amico and predicted that there were significant hurdles which it would have to overcome if it was going to succeed in the marketplace.  Nearly three years later, the company behind the Amico, Intellivision Entertainment's, prospects of releasing anything other than a Chapter 7 or 11 Bankruptcy petition are looking exceedingly remote.  Millions of dollars in public and private investment were poured into Intellivision Entertainment and thousands of preorders with $100 deposits were placed for the console and thousands of RFID tag game boxes were sold.  All that money is probably gone now with almost nothing to show for it.  Formerly once rabid fans of the Amico have turned, one by one, against the company with bitterness previously reserved for the Amico's "haters".  Preorder backers are waiting increasingly long for the company to process cancellation requests.  Staff have been let go in order to cut costs, but Intellivision owes a lot of money to a lot of people, no consoles manufactured and increasingly fewer opportunities to find funding for its console.

But let's turn the clock back just a bit, back just to last year.  In 2021, the Amico was still a possibility, Tommy Tallarico was still the CEO, still willing to give lengthy interviews to anyone willing to listen and still able to contribute post after post to the AtariAge Forums.  Amico cheerleaders like Atari Creep, Retro Bro, SmashJT and Saggy Melonz were still touting the Amico and bashing the haters with tireless enthusiasm on YouTube.  Tommy was making the rounds with the console and the games that were sufficiently developed to show off to the general public.  I was present at one of those events, but while one could not have predicted with certainty, now it highly probable that it may have been the last.  In this blog article, I will relate my personal experiences at the last Amico demonstration of 2021 and then discuss why that potential is likely never to come to pass.  

Friday, July 1, 2022

Mass Storage and the Apple II - Conquering the Final Frontier

When we think about storage devices and the Apple II, everyone's first thought is usually the same, the 5.25" floppy disk.  Maybe the more historically informed of us may think of cassette tape or 3.5" disks or even the Apple Hard Disk 20SC, but those devices come a distant second to the mainstay of Apple II program and data storage, the 5.25" floppy disk.  When one is introduced to the Apple II, one must at least understand how floppies work on the basic level.  But what can you do when you want to go beyond the standard floppy disk to explore faster, higher capacity storage solutions.  If all software of any note was originally released on copy protected floppy disks, why bother looking for something else?  And if you want to explore, what will you need?  In this blog entry, I will try to answer these questions.

Monday, June 20, 2022

The Successors: Evolution of Monochrome Handhelds after the Game Boy

When the Nintendo Game Boy was released in April/July, 1989 (Japan/North America), there was nothing like it on the market.  The Game Boy was the first programmable handheld system with sufficient capabilities to play games that were similar to the home consoles of its day.  The Game Boy was intended to be an inexpensive device, so it used a monochrome reflective green screen rather than a difficult-to-manufacture and power hungry backlit color screen like its main competitors, the Atari Lynx, Sega Game Gear, NEC Turbo Express and later the Sega Nomad.  Although the Game Boy definitively ruled over the color competing systems, dominating the market until its successor, the Game Boy Color, was released in October/November of 1998, that does not mean it was the only monochrome handheld game console on the market.  Early in its lifetime it had competitors from Taiwan which tried to take away some of its market with little success.  Later, more established companies tried to get on the monochrome bandwagon, only to find that lightning does not necessarily strike twice.  Recently, as retro style gameplay experiences have found a market in the age of the Nintendo Switch, we have seen at least one or two companies try their hand at a monochrome handheld.  In this article we will trace the evolution of the consoles that tried to compete with the Game Boy or invoke its success.

Saturday, June 4, 2022

The Modern Unfriendliness of 8-bit Keyboard Layouts

Keyboards today have a standard layout.  All keyboards are based off the 104-key standard layout from the mid-1990s, and before that the IBM Model M 101 key layout.  But back before the IBM PC line introduced the 101 and brought uniformity to the home computer world, things were not standard at all.  Every home computer manufacturer had its ideas about what keys should be on the keyboard and where they should be.  This tends to cause some annoyances for emulating those computers, especially when the program relies on certain keys being in certain places.  

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

List of PCjr. and Tandy Exclusive Enhanced Games

The IBM PC computing platform supported gaming from the beginning, but at first its graphical and sound capabilities were not that much more advanced than an Apple II's. Other inexpensive home computers of the day (Atari 800, Commodore 64, TI-99/4A) could run rings around the IBM PC in the video and audio departments. IBM sought to improve its PC line's graphics and sound in an affordable system which became the PCjr., but that was a flop.  Tandy cloned the graphics and sound of the PCjr. and put it into a much more PC-compatible system, the Tandy 1000.  Between the two, the exclusive PCjr./Tandy graphics and sound hardware received wide support from game developers in the mid and late 1980s.  In this article, I will attempt to give a definitive list of games which have "better" graphica or sound on a PCjr. or Tandy 1000 due to this support or have unique video and audio support even if the game can utilize EGA, VGA, Adlib, Game Blaster or Sound Blaster or MT-32.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Mastering the Sega Master System

The Sega Master System was Sega's first major attempt to market and sell a home video game console overseas.  Its Japanese predecessors, the SG-1000, the SC-3000, the SG-1000 II, and the Mark III, were not very successful compared to Nintendo's Famicom and similarly the US release of the Master System was not very successful against Nintendo's NES.  In the European market did Sega sell more consoles than Nintendo, thanks to Nintendo's fractured distribution system and Sega's placing the Master System as a budget console.  Sega also did extraordinarily well in Brazil whereas Nintendo floundered.  In this blog entry we will go over the various issues with the Master System and why you would want one.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Baldur's Gate Version, Release and Demo History

Baldur's Gate is one of my most favorite games and has a surprisingly complex patching, release  and demo history.  I have written this blog article to help enlighten people on the version and patches available for the original game, significant physical releases and localization changes and finally the three demos of the game which were sold at some point.  I will not discuss any unofficial patches (such as the Baldurdash and Dudleyville fixpacks), engine conversions (such as BG1Tutu or Baldur's Gate Trilogy) or Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition.  

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Combat & Complexity in Advanced Dungeons and Dragons

When Gary Gygax was transforming Original Dungeons and Dragons into Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, one of the core components of the rules he focused on were the combat rules.  Combat was rather sketchily defined in OD&D, and that is being kind.  His priorities for the Advanced system were that combat was to have a sufficient rule structure so that one game of AD&D would play more or less the same as the next.  This was at a time when campaigns often had 35th level fighters and 26th level balrogs in the same party!  But perhaps Gygax was a little too overzealous in laying down rule after rule to govern every conceivable aspect of combat he had encountered to that time.  In this blog article we will explore some of the more obtuse rules and see how they worked in print, what may have happened in practice and how the 2nd Edition of the Rules tried to address issues with the 1st Edition.