Archive for March, 2011

Out of this World for iOS

March 10th, 2011 9:06 AM
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Filed under Game trail, Software showcase;
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In the latest episode of Open Apple, Mike and I noted both that the 25th Game Developers Conference was held last week in San Francisco, and that iOS is becoming a great platform for retrogaming. I didn't realize at the time that there was a recent intersection of those two topics: Out of this World, a classic Apple IIGS game, is coming to iOS.

As reported by Touch Arcade, Éric Chahi, the game's original developer, made the announcement at GDC that Out of this World, known overseas as Another World, will arrive on the iPad and iPhone at an unspecified future date.

At the time of its 1991 release, when 16-bit graphics weren't quite realistic enough, this puzzle-platform game from Interplay used rotoscoping techniques to transport the earthly scientist Lester Knight Chaykin to an alien planet. Each non-scrolling screen presented a different puzzle and a part of the narrative of his adventure to return home. Surrounded by foreign technology and unintelligible lifeforms, Lester's journey is one of beauty and inscrutability.

I enjoyed OotW on the Super Nintendo but found it a relatively short game once mastered. In my recent attempts to replay it, I found it rather obtuse and far from what modern gamers would expect from what is ostensibly an action game. In my former career as a high school teacher of technical writing, I thought OotW would be a perfect case study: give it to students without instruction, and have them write the documentation from scratch. Trying to decipher the game in both internal and external contexts would've been fascinating. Unfortunately, such an assignment was impossible due to predating the game's many freeware ports.

I did eventually beat this game on the SNES but was dismayed to find its cliffhanger of an ending unresolved; the squel, Heart of the Alien, was released only for the ill-fated Sega CD console system, limiting its accessibility. But maybe, if the series' first half sells well on iOS, it won't be long before we finally see the resolution of Lester's quest.

UPDATE: The video, audio, and slides from this GDC presentation are now available.

(Hat tip to Blake Patterson and Jason Scott)

Open Apple returns to the airwaves

March 7th, 2011 2:00 PM
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Filed under Musings;
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By the time you read this, the second episode of the Open Apple podcast will have aired. That's one data point closer to a trend!

When Mike and I first conceived of the Apple II community's first co-hosted podcast, we weren't sure what our publication schedule would be. RetroMacCast has been covering related topics nearly every week for two years and are fast approaching their 200th episode (wow!). The nascent Retro Computing Roundtable is currently recording (and often publishing) new episodes every three weeks. By contrast, the monthly schedule Mike and I had set our sights on seemed tame.

But after doing two episodes of Open Apple, we're feeling good about our decision to not pursue anything more ambitious at this time. Mike and I each have diverse interests that relate to the Apple II, whether it's writing for Juiced.GS, preparing KansasFest sessions, or updating our blogs. We want to give each project the time it deserves; for Open Apple, that means collecting feedback, outlining the next episode, and lining up guests. Even if the quality of the show didn't suffer for a more frequent schedule, the quality of our other community output might, as there are only so many hours in the day.

So enjoy the second episode — you have a month to enter the "Name the Game" contest! We'll return with our third episode one issue of Juiced.GS, one KansasFest registration opening, and and ten blog posts later.

Selling to Pawn Stars

March 3rd, 2011 11:10 AM
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Filed under Mainstream coverage;
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Finding an Apple II for sale is not hard; one need only look on eBay, Craiglist, or any number of other online classifieds. Less common are in-person sales, and though they do occur at places like KansasFest, they rarely receive the publicity that an Apple IIGS did on a recent episode of Pawn Stars.

This show, a product of the History Channel, is a reality television series in which Las Vegas pawn brokers assess personal property and broker various transactions for people hoping to strike it rich in the city of Lost Wages. It's sort of an edgier take on PBS's Antiques Roadshow. I've never seen either show but was alerted to the Pawn Stars's Feb. 14 episode, "Wise Guys", described as follows:

The Pawn Stars take a mission briefing when presented with a fully functional 1941 M3 Armored Scout Truck from World War II. Will the gang head to battle for this bulletproof piece of military history or will an auto ambush force them to retreat? Then, Rick and Corey meet a man hoping to sell a check signed by notorious mobster Carlo Gambino. Will Rick make him an offer he can't refuse or will this deal sleep with the fishes? And later, Rick and Chumlee check out a 1987 Apple II GS Computer. Will they boot up some cash for this classic piece of technology or is the deal bound to crash?

I watched as a woman in her thirties tried to sell an Apple IIGS with boxes, manuals, and duplicated floppies. I was annoyed by the broker who said that he'd "sell it to someone who would turn it into an aquarium." His disregard and contempt for our favorite retrocomputer was palpable. I mentioned this to Emily Kahm, the vocal talent of the Open Apple podcast and the person who first pointed me to this episode. A regular viewer of the show, Kahm provided some context:

Rick is a shrewd businessman, and his whole business is buy low, sell high. Even when he thinks things are very, very cool, he always points out the flaws and the trouble to the seller so that he has more room to talk down the price. (and seriously, as a regular watcher, I've seen him go from the "interview" portion raving about the utter rare-ness of the coin/document/autograph/toy and saying there's nothing else like it in the world to telling the seller that it's just not worth that much because he would need to get it graded/refurbished/verified/whatever and that he doesn't have a great market for it…all true statements, but he selectively shares them with the seller). If you have any doubts about whether or not he was really interested in the Apple II, you need to watch the last minute of the episode :-)

Indeed, the background to the closing credits almost redeemed the show's star. The lot's television debut was briefly available for free streaming from the History Channel's Web site. The episode has since migrated to a $1.99 purchase from the iTunes Store.

But that's not the end of the story! As seen in this episode, the Apple's seller didn't get her original asking price. The show's hosts graciously allowed her to renege on her handshake in favor of a better deal on eBay:

This is the Apple IIGS (2 GS, ][GS) from the Pawn Stars episode “Wise Guys” (Season 4, Episode 10) – not just one LIKE the IIGS on Pawn Stars, but this is the ACTUAL COMPUTER FEATURED ON THE SHOW!!

So, you may ask, "Didn't you sell that computer to the pawn shop?" Well, I had agreed to sell it during the taping, but immediately afterwards regretted letting it go for only $100. So they said it was no big deal – I could keep my computer, and they could keep their money.

So why sell it now? Well, I've been out of work for quite a while. I've also recently moved into a smaller home, so I don't have the room to keep it set up anymore, and it's taking up a lot of room in storage.

And finally, "How do I know it's the same one from the show?" Well, in the listing I'm including a picture of myself with the computer – check it against the episode, it's me! Also, the F1 Racer disk (the one shown being played in the episode), is autographed by Chum Lee! In addition, the game Rick was playing at the end of the show (Thexder) is in the stash also.

The auction closed on Feb. 27 for $315, plus $175 shipping for the many disks and peripherals listed in the auction description. What do you think — a fair deal? Worth the trouble of selling online vs. a quick trip to the local pawn shop? How much did the televised publicity contribute to the ultimate price tag?

(Hat tip to EddieDX4)