Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Art of Atari

As you all pretty much know, when I was just a wee tot living in suburban Wisconsin, milking cows and drinking beer, I spent a lot of cold winters sitting in front of our (alarmingly) warm TV set playing classic Atari games like Missile Command, Adventure and Asteroids. Games that, when played on a home console in 1981, looked pretty much like ass. The graphics, as some of you will recall, were embarrassingly simple -- one game's soccer ball was another game's ICBM missile. The sound of an explosion in a space shooter might double as the sound of a crowd cheering on a football team. What I'm getting at here folks is that the narrative power of these 2-kilobyte game programs was extremely, extremely limited, so we had to actually use our own imaginations while playing our video games back then. Which, ironically, was something that I think was lost on many parents of the time, as they often lashed out against this wicked new video-technology that would most assuredly eat their children's souls and melt their brains.
But how do you market and sell a game that contains only a dot, a line and a wall of bricks to millions of sweaty, greasy teenage kids who can't wait to hop into their station wagons and cruise on over to Kay Bee Toys to pick up the latest radical game cartridge?

Like this:
Not real, but an incredible simulation.

Nope, not what you're thinking about at all when you're eight years old and spinning a paddle in your hand -- sorry, that sounded weird. But believe it or not, this approach ended up working well for Atari and having been initially run by a bunch of stoners and hippies anyway, they were very up on the idea of dedicating a fair amount of cash and resources to art and design right from the start.

So wouldn't you know it, some forty-odd years later and long after the original company imploded, someone has finally put together a book chronicling this hitherto overlooked aspect of our favorite video game behemoth, and it's available today in hardback.

Penned by Chicago-based designer, Tim Lapetino, The Art of Atari gives the reader a comprehensive overview of the various design initiatives employed by Atari over the course of its entire history and reveals the stories behind them as well.

From the official site:

"THE ART OF ATARI is the first official collection of such artwork. Sourced from private collections worldwide, this book spans over 40 years of the company’s unique illustrations used in packaging, advertisements, catalogs, and more.

Includes a comprehensive retrospective collecting game production and concept artwork, photos, marketing art, with insight from key people involved in Atari’s rich history, and behind-the-scenes details on how dozens of games featured within were conceived, illustrated, approved (or rejected), and brought to life!"

Pick up your copy for only $39.99 from their site by clicking the link below!



Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Retro Advantage: home computers

Everything I do with computers today, I learned in kindergarten 1986.

Word processingCorel WordperfectMS Word
Music productionCSoundLogic Pro X
SpreadsheetVisiCalcGoogle Sheets
OSProDOSEl Capitan
Graphic DesignBroderbund Print ShopAdobe Illustrator CC
AmusementApple PanicKingdom Rush

Watch Old Computers Did It Better

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Fix-It Felix Jr. Mini

You can't tell, but this is tiny.
Disney's 2012 animated epic, Wreck-It Ralph, paid tribute to many classic video games from the '80s and '90s by bringing to life some of the most beloved game characters of all time such as Q*Bert, Pac-Man and my personal fave, Tapper. However the main story centers around a fictional creation of Disney's called Fix-It Felix Jr., a game that most likely took inspiration from the legendary Nintendo hit, Donkey Kong. In it, our titular hero takes on the task of repairing a crumbling building while avoiding the wrath of the evil Ralph, who tries to take out Felix by hurling rocks, or clumps of dirt or something at him...you know these 8-bit games make it tough to tell, sometimes.

It's not a bad little game and I know because Disney went the extra mile of actually designing and programming the concept into a playable game which you can download for your iPhone, Android or Windows phone -- sorry Blackberry (kids be like, wtf is a Blackberry?) You can even play it on your home computer, as long as you have Flash. (kids be like, wtf is Flash?)

But because it was never actually a real arcade game, you retro game collectors out there can forget about getting your hands on a working model, unless one of those kit-bashers, game-hackers or MAME-floggers that live in your web browser decides to build one. I'm looking at you Ben Heck!

But until that day arrives, what you can do is stop by eBay and pick up a (relatively expensive) mini-replica of the arcade game itself. This decorative miniature doesn't actually let you play the game, but it does feature an LCD screen with a video loop and sound effects and would be a worthy addition to any geek's man-cave. The bidding starts at $70, which I think is a little steep, but if you're a fan of the film, this is one collectible that you probably won't find anywhere else.

Friday, October 23, 2015

VHS Camcorder App

High Def is for suckers.

You wanna be like Marty McFly and document your time traveling adventures in true 80s style? Then pick up this bitchin’ app and you’re halfway there, minus the DeLorean Motor Car.

VHS Camcorder is a $3.99 app for iPhone, iPod and iPad that lets you go back to the days when 333 lines of video resolution were more than enough to capture all those awkward coming-of-age moments that you still spend each waking moment of every day trying to burn from your mind. Everything you need to create convincing historical video is included in the app right down to the ubiquitous time stamp feature with that wonky raster font.

And if you have any retro or retro-style videos with that you'd like to share with the world, send them to me so I can post them here on the site. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

8-Bit Cinema

Stolen from Deviant Art. How's THAT for deviancy?
Ever wish you could see your favorite movie or TV series remade into an old school Nintendo-style video game? Well now you can with CineFix's 8-Bit Cinema series on YouTube.  A partial list of their remakes includes Jurassic Park, Big Lebowski, Terminator 2, Happy Gilmore, The Shining, Frozen (for the kiddies) and even The Walking Dead. While a more anally-retentive nit-picker would point out that some of their productions tend to lean closer to the 16/32-bit era art-style, I won't do that here.

Whoops, sorry.

So enjoy the videos and check out the links below for even more CineFix craziness. Sorry for the pre-roll ads, Google are greedy bastards.