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Emulation allowed us to preserve a substantial part of the mainstream gaming past, but beyond software replication of known components there still is a gulf full of strange devices shrouded by mysterious fogs. Devices like the proprietary magnetic disk drive for Nintendo 64, for instance, or the prototype of a CD-based SNES console co-developed by Nintendo with Sony. The mists of an unclear past still cloak the copy protection of Sega Saturn CDs, while sometimes they let samples of historically remarkable gaming code or unfinished games emerge.
June 2016 was the month of E3, the Los Angeles fair where the new games soon to arrive are traditionally shown. A place where a lot of good stuff usually comes out, but also (mostly?) guilty for a series of dumb trends for an industry that always succeeds in fooling itself. But this past June was rather important for the Brexit, an event that will substantially affect video games development in the United Kingdom too, and for the celebration of the 11th anniversary of the Nintendo 64 arrival. An historic event as well, all things considered.
Every time I come across a new remake/sequel which includes the original game thanks to some form of emulation, right away I feel the urge to think about what “tricks” lurk within the source code to adapt a retro experience to a modern gaming environment, what open source (or proprietary maybe) emulator has been “assimilated” in the C++ code and more generally what complex “sorcery” brought to a result that’s always extraordinary. After all these years emulation still has many surprises in store, and publishers have started to massively exploit the classics’ commercial appeal on PC and elsewhere.
The kind of news you would like to read more often: Nosgoth, the umpteenth worthless free multiplayer game which dirtied the memory of the Blood Omen/Legacy of Kain saga with its mere existence, finally died this past April. No fan with a sane mind will miss it. News you always enjoy reading: an arcade prototype starring Beavis and Butt-Head was reanimated, hoping that sooner or later it will end up on MAME’s supported games list. News you would never want to read: GameFront servers went off-line, bringing 20 years of mods, patches, utilities and much more with them. Enough with this server death toll!
It’s 2016 and yours truly still likes to purchase his computer games on disc, a habit luckily still alive thanks to new releases of recent titles like SUPERHOT and the classics re-releases like the Revolution Software anniversary box. For me digital delivery services (excluding GOG.com) are the absolute evil, a lair of fake reviews and bits aimlessly gathered together with no “ownership” given to the buyer. Obviously I understand, the big shots of the gaming business would like to sell only digital files because they make more money. They can all go to hell anyway.
In the bizzarre world of video games there are very, very different kinds of developers. If you are lucky you end up dealing with a product made by someone that doesn’t fuck with you with over-discounted prices, or with an independent team that worked passionately and hopes to at least recover the money spent on development. If you are not so lucky, you are forced to waste money, time and mental energies on some obscene shit like the latest manifestation of Godus - the most recent digital dung defecated by Peter Molyneux which doesn’t spare new bad surprises every now and then. Luckily we have the indies, the honest ones at least.
Rather than taking a vacation from writing code and reverse engineering the chips inside old gaming machines, emulator developers use the hottest period of the year to release updates for some of most significant projects in the modern emulation scene. During the last three months new versions of ScummVM and Dolphin arrived, while a project seemingly started to absorb all the emulators in the world presents an important innovation regarding one of the most beloved consoles from Nintendo.
After their well-deserved moment of glory which lasted from 1981 to 1995, command line-based operating systems for PC better known as “DOS” (Disk Operating System) should be extinct by now. And yet DOS, and particularly Microsoft’s MS-DOS and the open source projects directly inspired to it, still is a market niche populated by extremely peculiar usage scenarios, old users and enthusiasts that have no intention to quit the command line for good.
Guilty late for the three holiday months with no new posts, Sir Arthur is pleased to report the release of a new version of the Computer hardware poster made by Sonic84/Jeff Grisso: the first release was posted by the artist/designer on the DeviantArt community seven years ago, and it was created to collect in a single chart the plethora of interfaces, sockets and slots belonging to modern computers’ rich history. The newest version starts from the previous one and makes the collection substantially more solid and useful to browse.
A lot of time has passed since I wrote something about politics on these pages, and likely quite a lot of time will pass before a thoughtful post about topics that I view as worthy of attention, in the long run. For now, disgust wins over interest and I prefer to use my time for other things. However I feel obliged to write down a remark for Matteo Renzi, Italy’s current Prime Minister who makes us feel ashamed before the world as much and even more than that other awful character that came before him.
Since its official debut on the market, nearly a year ago, Windows 10 has become the main discussion topic of the entire computer business. Many reported Microsoft’s inclination to cause troubles or even real damages to users with the company’s new policy about cloud computing, mandatory updates and free offers you cannot refuse, but for me Windows 10 suffers from a fundamental issue that’s even more difficult to ignore. The entire “Windows as a service” concept is utter nonsense, and if Microsoft has taken this path I don’t think I will be able to follow it.
Once in a while someone comes out with an apocalyptic prediction that seems destined to turn into reality, like Bird Sister and the others from the 3DM Chinese crew that talk about “uncrackable” DRM technologies two years from now. A PC gaming market with no pirate releases, that from my standpoint means a PC market with no future at all. Bullshit. The future is full of piracy and free games, as much as it is highly unlikely for the virtual reality of expensive helmets by Oculus and company to become something more of a dusty curiosity to exhibit for relatives on Christmas. Really: what kind of self-destructive idiot would put an uncomfortable helmet on to relax with video games?
By ending a wait that lasted almost two years, the developers of ScummVM announced the arrival of a new version for the virtual machine preferred by graphic adventure fans: also known as “Lost with Sherlock”, ScummVM 1.8.0 is hailed as one of the most hefty releases ever prepared by the team with the addition of many games and game engines, the substantial update of graphics and sound sub-systems and the availability of new conversions for minor platforms.
Worrisome reports and apocalyptic sights are spreading during these months (and in these years) about the state of the PC industry, a market unavoidably doomed to collapse while dragging away a lot of tech businesses with it. Reality hiding behind the marketing lie is of course much more complex and much less apocalyptic compared to what they describe, but even in the worst case scenario the issue is almost never evaluated by the only viewpoint that really matters. That is the one of the potential buyer for all this unsold hardware which will soon end up in a landfill.
John Romero recently published the video of a demo for Super Mario Bros. 3 for PC, a port created by id Software in 1990 to secure the official rights for the conversion of Nintendo’s platform game. The engine created by id (and later used for Commander Keen) clearly shows that the PC hardware of the era could achieve scrolling performances on par with those of a console, and it suggests the existence of a potential parallel universe where Nintendo accepted the American company’s proposal and the entire history of video games went on in a completely different way. Like, Half-Life 3 never existed…
What’s up with your head, you people wasting money on extra contents or DLC for Electronic Arts’ mutilated games funding a dishonest money machine that should burn out rather than thrive? And what are the motivations driving you, who turned a tiny obsessive-compulsive crap like Candy Crush in a business Activision is willing to spend 6 BILLION dollars for? Or you recording your embarrassing and boring Let’s Plays, what kind of profit you get from annoying YouTube visitors to death with your ridiculous voice that would sound bothersome away from the mic too? Really: you are all sick. Go get cured.
Digital natives are among us, they use the tablet even before learning to read and grow up in a world where digital technologies are an integral part of their life. Being unable to read hence to think as well, the aforementioned digital natives are unaware of the fact that they actually are the ones being used by uselessly expensive disposable gadgets, and that their role in the modern technology world mainly is to behave like idiots and waste money when there is a new trendy toy to purchase whatever it takes.
On October 2015, the USA Library of Congress set new exemptions to prohibition to bypass DRM measures, essentially deciding that it is legal to modify an “abandoned” game when the software doesn’t work anymore because of an unavailable on-line server. The decision should guarantee that, in the future, a game which must be authenticated on-line or which is completely Internet-tied like Diablo III will still work. Easier said than done, considering that for the aforementioned Diablo III the server manages the game’s logic besides the authenticating DRM. I’m calling this an half-victory, and I will continue to hate Internet-tied software with all my heart.
Some gaming “brands” seem to be destined to endure the test of time like the infamous joke about the three-headed monkey behind your back, while some other ones turn into vaporware and become target of mockery by outside developers. The most despicable end is however the one set aside for high-born series like Metal Gear, with Konami saying to be quite happy to leave the AAA market to fully devote itself to casual apps for mobile gadgets.
Two years after the arrival of the eighth generation of home gaming consoles, the market situation and the endless speculations allow us to identify some firm points next to many uncertainties: Sony PlayStation 4 is still enjoying a seemingly unapproachable success, while Microsoft is trying to come out of its beaten-up boxer corner by playing the card of exclusive features - which in the end aren’t so exclusive, or at least not quite so. The uncertainties? They mostly apply to Nintendo, a company with an outlook that never seemed so frail.