Category Archives: video

Eat laser, alien scum!

Real-Life ‘Galaga’ Short Film

Movies based on video games don’t have a great track record: last year’s big-budget attempt, Assassin’s Creed, from Fox failed to hit its target at the box office domestically (but did admittedly flash its blades overseas). But movie studios should really start mining the talent of the indie scene for help in making faithful and exciting video game adaptations.

Case in point: Adam Arnali, who has made a terrific short film titled Dead World, a prequel to the Galaxian arcade game that shows mankind fighting back against the hoards of aliens invading the planetIt’s got action, it’s got drama, and it’s got ranks of alien bastards shuffling across the screen. What more could you want? Check out the film here on YouTube:

And to read The Dot Eaters bitstory of Galaxian and Galaga, click here:

He has a monkey on his back

Alan: A Video Junkie

I used to think this short film from SNL was a dream I had once.  But no, it’s real.

It is a poker-faced mockumentary about the dangers of the growing obsession of video games by youngsters of 1982. It is also a pitch-perfect indictment of the hysteria swirling around the pastime, drummed up by the news media to create a new boogeyman to scare adults. It’s 11:00 o’clock.  Do you know where your children are?  On the street corner, apparently, turning tricks for quarters to put into Dig Dug.

Made by Claude Kerven, the short aired on the premiere episode of the 8th season of NBC’s Saturday Night Live, September 25, 1982. They sure don’t make them like this anymore. Not only is it a reminder of video games past, it is also a monument to how SNL used to be edgy and hilarious:

Video via eBaum’s World

Image from California Games II, a computer game by Epyx 1990

The Epyx Games: California Games II on PC (DOS)

Welcome, moondoggies, to more sun-bleached sporting hijinks in California Games II, released by Epyx for the PC in 1990 as a sequel to their popular California Games. It was programmed by Gil Colgate, Kevin Furry, Darrell Fetzer and Jesse Taylor. Art was handled by Arthur Koch, Matthew Crysdale, Paul Vernon, Collette Michaud and Joel Mariano. Chris Ebert, Bob Aron and Chris Grigg did sound design. The game was produced by Matt Householder, and additional design was done by Tom Schumacher. You can really see the personnel rosters climb as the games advance, can’t you? Initially released for DOS, California Games II also saw light on the two big 16-bit computers of the era, the Amiga and Atari ST, along with later console versions for SNES and the SEGA Master System.

This post covers the DOS version, which is a great entry in the Epyx Games series. The available events here are Hang Gliding, Snowboarding, Jet Surfing (Jet Ski), Bodyboarding, and Skateboarding. I’d have to say that personally, I enjoy snowboarding and skateboarding the most out of this title. Although what to do with the helicopter in snowboarding is initially inscrutable (protip: don’t land on the platform, hover over the snowy slope next to it and hit the fire button to jump out), the multi-stage gameplay is a blast and mighty harrowing as you careen down the mountain. The jetskiing event is by far the worst, with little to do but try and keep between the buoys with a stiffly-handling watercraft. There is also no sound effects in this event, except for the music that constantly plays. Considering that the player is prompted before the race to “rev up your engines”, it’s funny that there’s no actual engine sounds! Bodyboarding is merely blah, although the graphics in this one really give me the idea that I’m actually playing a classic graphic adventure by Sierra Online.  Maybe a sequel to Codename Iceman or something. Matching the Sierra Online adventure game ethos are some of the dire ends you can come to. Things are not as laid-back in California as they seem.

The music is a bit better here than in the previous California Games, and player control seems responsive and tight. In all, a lot of fun to play. It’s totally tubular..although take it easy approaching the tunnels in while on your skateboard, or you might leave a permanent mark. Now THAT’S bogus, dude.

Every game in the Epyx Games series will be featured in posts all during the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. Here are the links to the other articles:

The Epyx Games: Summer Games on the C64
The Epyx Games: Summer Games II on the C64
The Epyx Games: Winter Games on the C64
The Epyx Games: World Games on the C64
The Epyx Games: California Games on the C64
The Epyx Games – The Games: Summer Edition on Amiga
The Epyx Games – The Games: Winter Edition on Amiga
The Epyx Games – The Fail Reel

For more bitchin’ info on the history of Epyx, glide over to your local Dot Eaters entry, man!

The Playstation 4

How-To Video On Lending PS4 Games To Friends

Yesterday, I posted about the mauling Sony gave game console rival Microsoft at E3 over the oppressive DRM found on the new Xbox One. To help clarify things, Sony has now put out a video about the hoops users of the PS4 will have to jump through to lend each other games on their platform.  You might have to pause and run through the process a few time to fully understand it.  Enjoy:

Nancy isn't impressed

Just Say Yes, An 80′s Drug Message Remixed

Reverberating throughout the 80′s landscape of bleeping arcades and flashing colours of home video game consoles is Nancy Reagan’s simplistic anti-drug slogan “Just Say No”.  Every First Lady needs a bugaboo to pursue while the President rules in office, and Reagan’s was youth drug use.  I’m not saying that trying to reduce drug abuse among youth is akin to merely chasing a boogeyman, but if you reduce your anti-drug campaign down to a catch-phrase, well then that’s how the public is going to perceive it.  It no doubt went in one ear and out the other of kids impatiently waiting to drop a quarter into Dragon’s Lair and Afterburner.

On the evening of Sept 4th, 1986 Americans turned on their TVs and were visited by President Reagan and his wife Nancy, sitting on a couch in the West Hall of the White House, espousing the dangers of drugs to the nation’s youth.  Known as the “Just Say No” speech,  it reverberated particularly fiercely a couple of years later inside the head of a man named Cliff Roth.

At the time Roth was teaching audio engineering at the Millennium Film Workshop in New York City, and gave his students an assignment to re-edit the audio track of the speech to reverse the message and have the Reagans espouse the benefits of drug use.  Subsequently getting ahold of a film reel of the speech, Cliff then took two years to painstakingly edit the visuals to the joke audio track.  Released in 1988 to film festivals and public television stations, the video Roth named The Reagans Speak Out On Drugs slowly became an underground, viral sensation; a meme before easy access to editing technology and the global distributing power of the Internet made such creations commonplace.

Roth’s video is both amazing and hilarious to watch.  Naturally, it has circulated on YouTube for quite awhile, although Roth has now uploaded a high-quality version of it to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its creation.  It is a pinpoint example of culture jamming in a fun, important and creative way, one every lolcat mememaker should take note of:

Source: io9

Just the Laughs, M’am: L.A. Noire and the Gag Reel

Featured in today’s post is a video fascinating to me.  It was released by Depth Analysis, the Australian sister company to Team Bondi, developers of L.A. Noire for Rockstar.  DA was formed to do the ground-breaking motion capture work for the game.

L.A. Noire was a great title released in 2011, a third-person police procedural set in 1940′s Los Angeles.  While it appears on its face to be a historical version of an open-world game in the style of  Rockstar’s flagship Grand Theft Auto series, the guts of the game actually harken back to classic dialog-tree games such as Accolade’s Law of the West.  While the gamer does find themselves tooling around L.A. in classic cars chasing cases, once a suspect is approached the game moves into an interrogation mode where questions are posed by the player.  Depending on the attitude tack chosen with each question, those being grilled either clam up or spill the beans.

While the interrogation scenes may have reminded one of games of yore, the facial capture technology on display was a look into the future of gaming, startling in its realism, and not just another pretty face.  Dubbed Motionscan, it played a key role in gameplay, allowing the subtle ticks or stoney stares of the actors’ performances to give clues to the player about guilt or innocence.  To achieve the effect, actors were put in a chair surrounded by a rig of cameras capturing their performance; not just the front of their face, but all around and even from above and below.  All this tech allowed for a perfect 1 to 1 recording of facial movements without any subsequent processing needed to complete the look in the game.  The actor’s emotions are wonderfully exposed via this technique, and as I said it is startling to behold.  Before we get to the main event, the following is a short video on the process, produced for the game’s release:

Team Bondi unfortunately went belly-up in the later part of 2011, having burned their bridges with Rockstar during an incredibly long development time, and accruing a large amount of debt through owed bonus and payroll to the staff.  I lament the loss of Team Bondi; they created a new, original IP that has great potential.  It reminds me of the case of Red Dead Revolver.  This was another Rockstar game set in a historical period, this time the old West, released for the Playstation 2 and original Xbox back in 2004.  It was a kind of on-the-rails shooter that also harkened back to earlier gaming days, and was met by a middling reception from critics and gamers.  That game did, however, spawn a sequel:  the astounding Red Dead Redemption, for my money one of the greatest video games of all time.  Team Bondi’s IP has been picked up in liquidation by a multimedia firm co-founded by Mad Max creator George Miller, so something interesting might happen there, but it seems unlikely we’ll get a game sequel based on the material akin to an RDR blockbuster.

On a lighter note, however, we are still left with a great game that helps bridge the gulf between real life characters and computerized ones, with a slight detour into the uncanny valley.  At this point in this article, a lot of people right now might be thinking that the real mystery is when is this guy gonna get to the video in the title!?  Well, here we are, a blooper reel of the game’s actors flubbing their lines during facial capture sessions.  The spontaneity on display here is perhaps the best demonstration of what happens in the attempt to inject as much humanity as possible into video game characters.  It is both wonderful and weird at the same time:

Video of Douglas Adams Demoing HHGTTG Game in 1985

When Douglas Adams paired with text adventure giant Infocom to do a computer game version of his much-beloved satirical SF book Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, it seemed an idea too good to have come from the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy.  Infocom was the biggest player in the market, and Adams a computer-literate author who’s works matched the sensibilities and episodic nature of the genre.  All the more so when Adams was matched with Infocom “IMP” or Implementor (what the company called its game designers) Steve Meretzky, author of some very Adamsy games for the company such as the Planetfall series.

So it came to pass that Infocom released the HHGTTG game for a myriad of home computer systems in 1984, and it was a huge success, a top-seller that dominated the game sales charts for months and became Infocom’s best-selling product.  You can read more of the HHGTTG game’s development and Douglas Adams’ other major contributions to the video game landscape in a previous entry in this blog, written to celebrate what would have been his 60th birthday if not for his passing in 2001.

As for the video mentioned in the post title, here is Adams demonstrating the electronic version of his novel on the U.K. TV show Micro Live.  He very cheerfully points out how diabolically obtuse and unfair his game is, as well as takes the host through the opening passages of it:

For more information on the history of Infocom and its seminal text adventure Zork, consult your local Dot Eaters article:

source: Anna Black, via The Galamoon retrogaming Daily

Celebrity Video Game Ads

Phil Hartman hot under the collar
over Activision’s Ice Hockey

digthatbox.com has a compilation page featuring a plethora of links to video game ads featuring celebrity spokespersons.  Everything from Carol Channel shilling Atari to William Shatner hawking the VIC-20 computer.  There’s quite a few “before they were famous” moments, with Christian Bale dancing to Pac-Man cereal, and Jack Black espousing the daring tales of Pitfall Harry.

You can check them out here:

via N4G.com