Eightface

by Dave Kellam

Unearthing Atari’s E.T.

The video game tie-in for E.T. was an epic failure. Atari sent hundreds of thousands of unsold copies to the dump. Joshua Wheeler reports on their excavation in The Glitch in the Video-Game Graveyard

In Alamogordo, New Mexico, a documentary crew has descended on my hometown to dig up our old dump in hopes of resurrecting hundreds of thousands of copies of E.T. the Extraterrestrial video-game cartridges that in September of 1983 were reportedly hauled 90 miles from an Atari warehouse in El Paso, Texas, and left for dead thirty feet down.

And apparently punk archaeology is a thing.

Behind me some guys in hard hats are complaining about not getting to gather more data and complete more analysis of the Pit before the public arrives tomorrow. They’re a group of self-proclaimed “punk archaeologists” who bullied their way into participating in the dig by insisting that it has sufficient value as cultural heritage to deserve some measure of archaeological methodology. Even though I’m unclear about the exact nature of punk archaeology and what this crack team of scholars hopes to accomplish here, I dub them the Arch Punks and resolve to fall in with them the next morning.

September 30, 2014 ·

Super Mario Brothers is too hard for new gamers

The majority of test gamers were unable to complete the first level of Super Mario Brothers.

Around 90 percent of the test participants were unable to complete the first level of Super Mario Brothers. We did not assist them in any way except by providing the exact same instruction manual we used back then. Many of them did not read it and the few that did stopped after the first page which did not cover any of the game mechanics.

We watched the replay videos of how the gamers performed and saw that many did not understand simple concepts like bottomless pits. Around 70 percent died to the first Goomba. Another 50 percent died twice. Many thought the coins were enemies and tried to avoid them. Also, most of them did not use the run button. There were many other depressing things we noted but I can not remember them at the moment.

July 16, 2013 ·

The Making of Goldeneye

Paul Drury on the making of Goldeneye for the Nintendo 64, the game that everyone had.

A key part of that appeal was the infamous Licence to Kill. GoldenEye was a first-person shooter of course, but the decision to recognise body-specific hits introduced a new subtlety to the genre. Shoot a guard in the leg and he reacts differently to if you blasted him in the chest.

I was never terrifically good at first person shooters. Goldeneye was no different, I routinely had my ass handed to me by my little brother. That’s not to say I didn’t have fun playing the game. I loved the proximity mines, one of my few ways to achieve victory; pepper a map and hide in a corner. And there was that ridiculous laser watch.

September 30, 2012 ·

Behind SMB3

Scan from Stars of Famicom Games book

Chris Covell posted images and translations of Stars of Famicom Games, a children’s book showing how Nintendo games were made, from start to finish. The book focused on the making of Super Mario Bros. 3, and includes shots of Miyamoto, developers and artists. He also posted scans from a book about Dragon Quest VI.

A gaming class structured like a MMORPG

Gaming the Classroom is a program at Indiana University, created by Lee Sheldon and Jenna Hoffstein, that is structured like a MMORPG.

This class is designed as a multiplayer game. Class time will be divided between fighting monsters (Quizzes, Exams etc.), completing quests (Presentations of Games, Research etc.) and crafting (Personal Game Premises, Game Analysis Papers, Video Game Concept Document etc.).

The class is now finished and you can read a post mortem.

January 15, 2011 ·

Tuning Canabalt

Canabalt sprite example

The developer behind Canabalt has written an article about tuning the game to achieve the feel that players expect. The post includes details about the selection of aspect ratio, the hitbox and the player’s motion. If you don’t own it already, the game is a fun one to have around on your iOS device when you need to kill a few minutes.

October 5, 2010 ·

Classroom gaming

Video games in the classroom explores the use of games as a teaching tool.

Salen’s theory goes like this: building a game — even the kind of simple game a sixth grader might build — is equivalent to building a miniworld, a dynamic system governed by a set of rules, complete with challenges, obstacles and goals. At its best, game design can be an interdisciplinary exercise involving math, writing, art, computer programming, deductive reasoning and critical thinking skills. If children can build, play and understand games that work, it’s possible that someday they will understand and design systems that work. And the world is full of complicated systems.

For a generation growing up immersed in technology, it offers a great opportunity for cross-curricular learning. Implementing a broad program like that could be problematic with the compartmentalized subject structure found in most schools. There would also be issues in an educational system with standardized testing, where you pretty much have to teach to the test. Regardless, it’s an interesting approach that has a lot of potential.

September 30, 2010 ·

Videogames as journalism

Can videogames be journalism? A brief look at Newsgames: Journalism at Play, the new book from Ian Bogost, Simon Ferrari and Bobby Schweizer.

“Games allow us to address systems instead of stories,” Dr. Bogost said in an interview. And, in some ways, they can offer more depth. People often search for simple answers to broad topics like the Gulf oil spill or the 2008 financial crisis, but in reality both were the result of a confluence of failures and events. Games can help to convey that complexity. “In particular, they can offer this experience of how something works rather than a description of key events and players,” Dr. Bogost says.

September 15, 2010 ·
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