Game Informer's top 300 games

May 21st, 2018 8:32 AM
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Every one-hundred monthly issues, Game Informer magazine compiles a list of the best games of all time. These lists fluctuate with the magazine's staff and as new games are released and old games are forgotten. Recently, issue #300 revisited this tradition with the staff's top 300 games. You could call the result arbitrary in the sense that they are highly subjective, but it doesn't change the fact that, with roughly 300 new games being released on Steam every month, to be counted among the top 300 games of all time is an honor, regardless of who it's coming from or how the decision came to be.

While some institutions frequently overlook the Apple II's contributions to gaming, Game Informer has not committed that error, with four games — more than a full percent of the list! — being for the Apple II. Every game on the list got at least a one-sentence summary; most games also had a screenshot; some games further received a full paragraph. All four Apple II games warranted screenshots, and two of them received those lengthier write-ups:


Oregon Trail (#104)

Oregon Trail

Fording a river, contracting snakebites, starving — you and your friends probably died in all these ways and more while playing The Oregon Trail. This wasn't just an entertaining simulation; MECC's revolutionary piece of educational software leveraged new technology to engage students' imaginations beyond textbooks. While the Apple II version of The Oregon Trail wasn't technically the first, it's the one most ids played as they crowded into school computer labs.

Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord (#131)

Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord

Sir Tech's text-heavy dungeon crawl provided the backbone for many of the long-running RPG series that followed.

Zork (#186)

Zork

Though this text game is hard to go back to now, Zork is undisputedly the progenitor of any video game that sought to emulate having an adventure.

Lode Runner (#197)

Lode Runner

Lode Runner combined twitch Pac-Man skills with the ability to dig into the level, trap enemies, and collect gold, creating an ever-changing puzzle game with seemingly infinite configurations, including levels of your own design. It also required both quick thinking and the strategic foresight to decipher increasingly complex levels, becoming a must-have for the home computer, and setting itself apart in the arcade-dominated market.

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Paleotronic Magazine on Kickstarter

November 15th, 2017 12:30 PM
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The current landscape for print publications dedicated to retrocomputing is not vast. Generating enough content and interest for just one computer can be challenging, so there aren't many magazines that focus on specific platforms, like Juiced.GS does with the Apple II. A better path to commercial viability is to cover a broad range of related topics, though even that has its challenges. 300 Baud had a successful but short run in 2000, with all three issues now available online. 8-bit Magazine is still in publication with a new issue being crowdfunded roughly every four months. Its fifth issue is currently on Kickstarter — though it strikes me as time- and labor-intensive to crowdfund each individual issue, instead of offering recurring subscriptions.

A new player is set to enter the scene, and they too are using Kickstarter to fund their debut. KansasFest alumnae Melody and April Ayres-Griffiths are currently crowdfunding Paleotronic Magazine, which promises to "celebrate the best of yesterday’s technology, showcasing the most memorable video games, computers, audio-video technologies and more while also providing fun and interactive learning opportunities through software programming and foundational electronics engineering activities."

The magazine is ambitious in its scope, with seemingly glossy, full-color covers and 33 different departments of editorial content. (The typical issue of Juiced.GS has at most 12 "departments".) But with so many different content types, Paleotronic is likely to have a broad appeal, with retrocomputing enthusiasts of all ages and interests likely to find something that appeals to them.

The campaign includes support for the emulator microM8, an evolution of The Octalyzer, which has impressively added 3D effects to a variety of Apple II programs.

Whenever I teach someone how to run a crowdfunding campaign, I encourage them to have one of two qualities, if not both: a reputation and a prototype. By reputation, I mean that Kickstarter should not be the first place someone hears of you: you should already be established in the field. And a prototype is more than just a concept: you're coming to the table with a viable idea that is demonstrably functional and which just needs funds to be realized or produced.

By these two criteria, Paleotronic is off to a great start, with the Ayres-Griffiths having been contributing to the community for years with their software and a demo issue of Paleotronic (just like Juiced.GS did!). Its campaign earned 80% of its goal in just the first 24 hours, and by the time of this writing, it has already met its minimum, with 25 days still to go before the Kickstarter concludes on December 9, 2017.

I backed Paleotronic at a level to receive the first issue in print and the next five digitally. As you might guess, the editor of Juiced.GS would prefer to receive all the issues in print — but as the magazine is shipping from Australia, the additional cost of postage to the USA almost doubled the cost of the corresponding reward level!

Nonetheless, I'm glad to see our favorite hobby attracting more outlets for writers and readers to share their passion. I look forward to the first issue of Paleotronic being delivered in 2018; anyone else who wants to preorder their copy may do so via Kickstarter.

Holiday shopping on eBay

November 27th, 2016 10:14 AM
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My family never learned thrift; if something was old or worn, we'd replace it instead of repair it. And if used items weren't good enough for us, they were certainly not good enough to give as gifts. Every Christmas, we'd bestow and accept shiny, shrinkwrapped goods, representing the latest merchandise that retail had to offer.

That's a shame, because so many Apple II products can no longer be had new. There's a growing market of original or replicated hardware, to be sure — but if I want something vintage, the only way to affordably acquire it is used. As a result, no one from my family will ever think to shop for my Christmas gift on eBay.

The Retro Computing Roundtable podcast has a gift guide that they update with each biweekly episode. There's plenty of new and retro tech in there, but my favorite suggestion to come from this group was when the hosts collaborated on a Juiced.GS gift guide. In that article, Carrington Vanston had the brilliant idea to give someone a subscription to a classic Apple II magazine, such as Nibble or inCider/A+. Though those publications have been out of print for decades, old issues can be acquired from eBay or AbeBooks, then individually mailed to the gift's intended recipient on a monthly basis.

Apple II magazines, books, and periodicals

Used Apple II magazines, books, and periodicals abound, as seen at KansasFest 2016.

I love this idea. The first and only Apple II magazine I've ever subscribed to is Juiced.GS, which I haven't received in the mail since June 2007. I miss finding Apple II news, reviews, and interviews in my mailbox. The only way to make it happen is to plunder the bounty of years gone by, salvaging previously read issues from the stores of eBay.

That sounds better than finding anything new under my Christmas tree.

Quarterly work on Juiced.GS

November 21st, 2016 1:08 PM
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Juiced.GS is an Apple II print magazine that magically arrives in subscribers' mailboxes every quarter. The time in between each issue might seem restful before the staff makes a mad dash to the finish line. But the reality is that Juiced.GS production occurs in every month of the year.

Each issue gets three months, and each month gets put to good use:

  1. Write the articles.
  2. Edit and lay out the articles.
  3. Publish the magazine.

There is some overlap between issues — for example, assignments for the December issue are usually doled out in August or September, so that once the September issue ships, writers can immediately start working toward the next deadline.

For next month's issue, writers were given a deadline of Friday, November 11. I intended to read their submissions while on the ten-hour round-trip bus ride between Boston and New York City, where I was attending GaymerX East. Unfortunately, that mode of transit didn't prove conductive to editing, pushing my work out to the following weekend.

So, this past Saturday, I finally read six Juiced.GS articles. Each one took about an hour to undergo this process:

  1. Print the article in hardcopy.
  2. Read it once without touching my pen so that I can focus on large questions: Did the writer understand the assignment? Does he answer the questions the article set out to address? Does one section flow naturally into the next?
  3. Read it again with red pen, addressing mechanics (word choice, punctuation) and scribbling questions into the margins.
  4. Transcribe all annotations into Microsoft Word using Track Changes.
  5. If there are still questions or areas that need revision, send back to the author for a second draft, due one week later.
  6. Upon receiving the second draft, or if the first draft had no questions, send the article to Andy Molloy for a second edit.

Once I get Andy's revisions, I lay the content out in the Juiced.GS template using Pages v4.1. Once I have a few articles done, I send a PDF to the entire staff for review and commentary. After incorporating their feedback, I then send each article to its respective author for one last review, to ensure no errors were introduced during editing or layout.

Once all content is in place, it's off to the printshop. If I deliver the PDF by Tuesday morning, I can pick up my order Wednesday night. Some friends and I have a stuffing party, with the assembled magazines being mailed Thursday morning.

But I need to prepare more than just the magazine for that party; the mailing envelopes are their own beast. So this weekend, I checked my supply of catalog envelopes and Avery labels; if I was short on either, I'd order more from Amazon.com. If I needed more return address labels, I'd order those, too. All this needs to be done a month in advance, to allow time for shipping to my house.

I also need to get stamps. At the time of this writing, an issue mailed within the USA costs $1.36, or two 68¢ stamps; to Canada or Mexico, it's $2.71, which is $2 + 68¢ + 3¢; everywhere else, it's $4.16, or $2 + $2 + 10¢ + 5¢ + 1¢. I need so many of each that many post offices don't appreciate me clearing out their supply, sometimes outright refusing to fulfill my shopping list, despite having the stock with which to do so. This weekend, for the first time, I ordered the stamps online. (Except the 5¢ stamps, for which the online minimum order is 10,000 stamps. Juiced.GS's subscriber base is somewhere south of that.)

Once all that's assembled, I recruit friends or relatives to a labeling party, where we combine the envelopes, address labels, return address labels, stamps, and "DO NOT BEND" rubber stamp.

And all that is just what's happening on the editing and publishing side; it doesn't take into account the research and wordsmithing that all the writers, both staff and freelance, do.

But it's all worth it. This past September, I took a draft of Juiced.GS with me on a weekend getaway. As I read the brilliance that so many community members had volunteered to share in our magazine's pages, I stopped and said aloud: "I'm so lucky I get to do this."

Juiced.GS is a lot of work — and a lot of fun.

Internationalizing Juiced.GS

October 13th, 2014 10:09 AM
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This past weekend, a handful of Juiced.GS subscribers received a surprise in the mail: a French language edition of the September 2014 issue. The content was translated from the original English not by Google Translate, but by Antoine Vignau of Brutal Deluxe, a polyglot contributor to the magazine.

This collaboration was inspired by Andrés Lozano, who travelled from France to attend KansasFest 2014. While there, he hosted a live Google Hangout so that his fellow patriots could attend KansasFest virtually.

It was during that video chat that I spoke with Antoine Vignau, who I'd previously interviewed for an audio podcast but had never spoken to in video before. Seeing him, Andrés, and many other attendees in the chat reminded me what a presence the Apple II has in France. A few hours later, I emailed Antoine with this unsolicited proposal: "If you're willing to translate the entire September 2014 issue of Juiced.GS, I'll see about publishing it in French. Just as a one-time special — not every issue!"

The result is Juiced.FR, which shipped a week after Juiced.GS. The timing was tricky, as I had to wait until the English edition was done in its entirety before handing it to Antoine to translate. While an issue may be assembled piecemeal, it isn't until every article is laid out that the staff really pulls apart the draft, looking for typos or clarifications. I wanted to have that level of quality in place before Antoine began translating. Even then, Antoine had his work cut out for him; given the technical nature of some of the pieces, it seemed some of the content might be "untranslatable"! But Antoine persevered, producing an issue that I can't read but which I assume is excellent.

While Juiced.GS again met its deadline of shipping in the month listed on the cover, French subscribers' issues were not mailed until a week later, in October. I felt bad about delaying the receipt of their product, but the feedback I've gotten so far is that it was worth the wait.

I don't expect to repeat this promotion in French or other languages — it was a fun but unique experiment, akin to the 5.25" demo disk of Drift that we shipped two years back. It might be fun to translate each issue of a volume into a different language and then package it as the "Babel Bundle", but the audience for such a product would be small.

If you are a French speaker who isn't a subscriber to Juiced.GS, or you're someone who just wants to practice a foreign tongue, you can buy this individual issue of Juiced.FR. We've never sold single issues before, and I expect this one will never be back in print after the original run is sold out, making it a truly limited edition. Show Antoine your appreciation by making sure we sell out!

NAUG's AppleWorks Forum

July 4th, 2011 10:58 PM
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I recently came into temporary possession of a complete collection of the AppleWorks Forum, a monthly publication of the National AppleWorks Users Group (NAUG). As the only Apple II periodical I've ever subscribed to during its lifetime has been Juiced.GS, to suddenly have in my hands thousands of pages of retrocomputing resources was eye-opening.

NAUG's newsletter was published every month for ten years, 1986–1995. Each issue covered everything about AppleWorks, from how to create templates for business and greeting cards to how to write macros. It was only a year after this wealth of information stopped publishing that Juiced.GS launched, putting out 20 pages per quarter. I'm humbled to know that there were those who produced that many articles three times more often. Juiced.GS may have lasted longer — but in NAUG's ten years of publishing, they produced ten times more issues than Juiced.GS has in sixteen.

Pawing through the tenth and final volume, I saw such legendary bylines as Randy Brandt and Mark Munz, as well as several other familiar names. I wonder what had become of these authors. I'm tempted to run a Google or LinkedIn search on their names and reach out to them and see if they're aware of the longevity of their work and the Apple II community at large. Similarly, an index of vendors provided now-defunct GEnie email addresses but also phone numbers; what would a reverse lookup reveal about who has those numbers now?

I handed the volume to Andy Molloy, who maintains a Web page on the emulator II in a Mac. That page states of the developer, "The company also released a product called II-in-a-PC that allowed Apple II software to run on a PC. I haven't been able to locate any info on this product." Understandably, Andy was quite excited to find an AppleWorks Forum cover story on this rare piece of software, complete with screenshots.

Fortunately, such resources are not limited to the binders I was given. Mike Maginnis, with the permission of the original NAUG head honchos, has scanned the AppleWorks Forum and made the collection available as a free download. Reading PDFs may not create the same sense of awe that a stack of magazines might incite, but the information contained therein is identical and no less valuable.

Mike's collection is currently incomplete. I suspect that will not be the case for long.