Archive for May, 2019

Panthers game montage

May 19th, 2019 12:38 PM
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Last fall, the Portland Trail Blazers announced their basketball schedule with a video inspired by Oregon Trail. Though the NBA season is still ongoing, the NFL isn't waiting to tout their own schedule, starting this September.

Of all the football teams, Carolina Panthers made the splashiest announcement, with each game on their tour represented by a classic video game in this retro video:

At 0:41, we yet again see the Apple II edutainment title Oregon Trail, described as:

A computer game designed to teach school children about the realities of 19th century pioneer life. Doesn't sound all than fun, but man, this game was wildly entertaining.

California Games from Epyx also makes an appearance:

According to Wikipedia, California Games is a "1987 Epyx sports video game originally released for the Apple II and Commodore 64." It sounds old. It looks old. It is old. … The pixelated Hollywood sign and palm trees are perfect touches for a season-opening matchup against the Los Angeles Rams.

And, of course, there's John Madden Football, a franchise that originated on the Apple II.

It's fascinating to see professional sports using video games in their marketing materials for a couple of reasons. First, esports are on the rise, and while audience members can certainly enjoy both football and Fortnite, I would expect them to spend more time on the latter. Instead of focusing on their core audience, nhe NFL seems to be trying to expand their audience to include gamers.

The other reason I'm surprised by this advertising approach is the demographic of the participants. The average age of NFL and NBA players is roughly 26.7 years old, meaning they were born in 1990 — five years after Oregon Trail was released for the Apple II. I wasn't using computers in school until I was 12 years old, which for the average athlete would've been 2002, 17 years after the version of Oregon Trail seen in this video. I'm guessing that the athletes themselves aren't the ones coming up with the idea to insert themselves into such archaic media.

I'm the last person to criticize someone for enjoying media that's older than they are, having been on the receiving end when it comes to my passion for the Apple II! Whether these athletes grew up with Pitfall or Portal, I hope they've eventually discovered the joy of classic gaming. It warms my heart to imagine them showing off this video to their friends and family as a melding of their passions, as opposed to shrugging it off and saying, "I dunno what those games are."

Colossal Cave in the Hall of Fame

May 13th, 2019 9:58 AM
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For the fifth year, the Strong Museum of Play in Rochester, New York, inducted new games into its Video Game Hall of Fame, part of the International Center for the History of Electronic Games. Among this year's inductees were Mortal Kombat, Super Mario Kart, and Microsoft Windows Solitaire, recognized for their "icon-status, longevity, geographic reach, and influence".

Most years, I experience faux indignation when the museum snubs the Apple II by not including one of its original titles. But this year, even I can't feign umbrage when considering one of the inductees was Colossal Cave.

Colossal Cave, the invention of Will Crowther and Don Woods, was the first text adventure game, one that was eventually ported to the Apple II, which was invented just a year later. Its induction to the Hall of Fave is a timely one, and not only because of the recent release of source code for Infocom games, all of which were inspired by Colossal Cave.

This past December, in my quest to visit all fifty of the United States, I crossed off Kentucky when I visited Mammoth Cave, off which Colossal Cave was based. Although I didn't see any of the landmarks or rooms directly referenced in the game, nor was the game mentioned as part of the guided tour, I enjoyed an additional layer of meaning that was hidden from the other tourists.

I'd say more, except I wrote about my trip to Mammoth Cave in the spring 2019 issue of Juiced.GS, and there's more about the cave's history right here on this blog from nine years ago this month. Jason Scott's 90-minute interview with Don Woods is also available on YouTube:

For once, even my grumpy persona gives a nod of approval to the Strong's selection. Colossal Cave and Mammoth Cave are landmarks of a different sort, and it's wonderful to see both being recognized.

(Hat tip to Dean Takahashi)

I backed Nox Archaist's second Kickstarter

May 6th, 2019 7:27 PM
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Last week, 6502 Workshop launched the second Kickstarter for Nox Archaist, an original 8-bit RPG for the Apple II.

As a teacher of crowdfunding workshops at every level from local libraries to graduate programs at Emerson College and Harvard University, I'd been invited to consult on this campaign several months ago. I gave them some advice, though mostly minor, as they'd already learned their lessons from their first Kickstarter.

That previous crowdfunding attempt launched in September 2017 and was cancelled a month later after raising $19,656, well short of its $43,078 goal. Using production and marketing strategies they outlined in the March 2019 issue of Juiced.GS, the team behind Nox Archaist brought their costs down to $8,500. The second Kickstarter hit that goal in under two hours and raised more funding in 8.5 hours than their first campaign did in an entire month.

The campaign's success is now a certainty; the only uncertainty was whether I should've backed it.

That's not a question of the game's quality, which looks amazing; the team's dependability, in which I am confident; or my own eagerness, which is evident! But I always think twice before backing a product that I'll ultimately be responsible for reviewing, or for editing a review of. Nox Archaist is a prime candidate for a Juiced.GS review or feature, and one could say that, by dropping $89 on the collector's edition boxed set, I have an investment in the game's success. I would counter that I'm simply preordering the game, which is less ethically complicated than a member of the press accepting a free review copy — but then, why preorder the game instead of just waiting to buy it when the finished product is made commercially available to the general public?

The answer has to do with the size of the Apple II community. There is almost no one making sizable (or any) profits off Apple II hardware or software these days; everyone does what they do for the love of it. The very first Kickstarter I ever backed was for Jason Scott's sabbatical. Shortly thereafter, when interviewing him for a Computerworld article, I asked him a question that had been lingering in the back of my mind: why should I have backed his Kickstarter, primarily to fund the completion of the GET LAMP documentary, when he'll be eventually make money off the finished documentary's sale? Jason acknowledged that this was a valid question, and if I wanted to judge a product by its commercial viability, then I shouldn't back such projects. But not every product that's valuable or important is also commercially viable, and a single person's pledge can make the difference between such a product existing and it not existing.

I want Nox Archaist to exist. Even if I never play it, I want to live in a world where Nox Archaist exists. Having spoken with 6502 Workshop's Mark Lemmert online and at KansasFest, I know Nox Archaist is something he's passionate about. He's made his investment; now he's asking us to match it with dollars.

If that means putting a disclaimer in an issue of Juiced.GS, then that's worth it.