Bit Age Times
Issue #16 - March 1st,
Having been a gamer since the days of
Pong, I have found out that there are some truths that have remained
constant through the years. I decided to share these with you. Think of
them as a Murphy's Law for video games.
Truth #1-No matter how great your system
is, it is only a few years from being obsolete.
Truth #2-Even the worst games ever made have fans.
Truth #3-Even the best games ever made have critics.
Truth #4-Great gameplay can mask bad graphics, but great graphics cannot
mask bad gameplay
Truth #5-The graphics on the back of the box are rarely the same as the game
you are buying.
Truth #6-Systems become commercially dead, but never truly dead. There is
always someone out there playing every system.
Truth #7-We will never see a game that truly gives you "total freedom", at
least until holodecks are invented.
Truth #8-Video games rarely retain their value. Like most items, you will
get less for them than what you paid, usually alot less.
Truth #9-The only way to play all the best games is to own all the systems.
Truth #10-The games that have the most chance of being worth money are the
games you did not buy.
Truth #11-Like Hollywood, most video game sequels suck.
Truth #12-No matter how much research you do, you will eventually end up
buying a bad game.
Truth #13-If a game sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Truth #14-Very few games ever use all the space available to them, most use
less than half the space.
Truth #15-Even the best companies can make a terrible title and even the
worst companies can make a great title.
Truth #16-The game you just bought will most likely be on sale next week.
Truth #17-The chances of your system going bad, increases dramatically if
you do not get a extended warranty.
There is a plethora of games for people
who want to step in the shoes of a professional baseball, football or any
other athlete. You have your share of opportunities to make the winning
basket, hit the game winning home run or to throw the touchdown pass in
overtime. But what if you are more interested in managing the team and
leaving the playing to the players? What choices are there for you?
In the past, there were little to no
choices for the manager. Some games offered limited managerial play, but it
was usually limited to one season and involved mostly setting the lineup.
That has all changed in recent years and now there is a wide variety of
sports simulations available! Granted almost all are for the computer, but
even the consoles are getting closer to offering the thrill that us wanna be
managers are looking for. New games like All-Star Baseball 2003 and the
Madden series have features that allow us a chance to prove our theories.
All you need is pitching to win in baseball, right? Time for you to show
just how easy (being very sarcastic here) it is to pick up a stud pitcher.
Despite how more advanced the
aforementioned games are, they do not hold a candle to two of the best
sports simulation games out there. Since we are Americans and soccer is not
a popular professional sport in this country, I will not concentrate on the
best simulation game of all, Championship Manager (you can see a review of
the first version in
Bit Age Times #5). Instead, I am going to concentrate on the two much
more popular sports, American Football and Baseball. I have two games that
are so incredible that it would be a crime to miss these, if you are a fan
of simming sports games.
Out of the Park 4
The first game is Out of the Park and the newest version comes
out on March 1st (which should be about when this newsletter is released).
The series is up to version 4 and is without a doubt, the best game for sim
crazy gamers, like myself. Markus Heinsohn, the developer of the game is
probably the most accessible programmer that you will ever come in contact
with. He listens to all the comments about the game and keeps releasing
patches to fix any problems as well as improve the game.
The game allows you to play out a season
with the team of your choice. One nice feature is that you can sim the team
for as long as you want! Want to play up to the days of the Jetsons, go for
it! Even better is that you can download old time baseball rosters and
recreate the entire history of baseball if you wish. You can even see what
would happen if Babe Ruth remained a pitcher, what a healthy Mark McGwire
could have done or what if Herb Score never got hit in the face by a pitch.
The what ifs you could play out are worth the price of admission alone.
While last year's version was great, this
year's version (just downloaded it today, as you can see, this article was
written over a few days) offers a ton of improvements! Players demand
trades, you have to battle with other teams for free agents, you can even
put a salary cap in place! My favorite new feature is the ability to switch
eras, so you can see how these new guys would stack up in a deadball period
(the time of baseball prior to 1920, a time that I would love to see, when
pitchers dominated). This game is so incredible and it keeps getting better
as people offer full rosters (to keep the price down, the retail version,
which is a download, does not come with official MLB players, logos or team
names), logos and even player photos, so with a few downloads, you can have
a game with all your favorite players and more gameplay than any commercial
release. This tremendous game can be downloaded at the following URL:
This is to football, what Out of the Park is to baseball, except
for the constant attention that Markus gives to OOTP. While the game is an
Electronic Arts game, it is unlike any EA Sports game. It is a full blown
simulator that allows you to take over an NFL team and go the distance! In
the 2000 edition, I was able to take the lowly Arizona Cardinals from a
second rung team to one of the elite in football. With some carefully
planned drafts and development, I was able to win six Super Bowls in a 35
year period! I put almost 10 players into the Hall of Fame (they have team
and league Hall of Fames) and had to expand into a much bigger stadium! I
will give you my secret, one that many NFL teams still ignore, build a solid
offensive line and everything else will fall in place. I took a page from
the 1980's Rams, 1990's Broncos and the Pittsburgh Steelers, build a big
solid line and keep drafting and grooming players for it and you do not need
a great running back. I just wish my lowly Cleveland Browns would learn
this (in the three years since they came back, they drafted a total of one
offensive lineman, in the seventh round, stupid, very stupid).
One of the best parts of this game is the
negotiations. You have a salary cap and need to keep below it. But you end
up with free agents and you can barter with them. Before they become free
agents, you can try and get them for a lower price and lock them up for
multiple years. Depending on how good your team is, how much playing time
they get and how much they feel they are worth, you can sometime talk them
down a bit. But if you let them into free agency and they are any good,
forget it. Especially solid offensive linemen, they can get very expensive.
Another nice feature is trading for draft
picks. You can even trade during the draft! Is that running back you were
hoping would slide to you gone? Then trade down and try to get a second or
third round pick. Or you can even move that first round pick and try to get
a solid veteran. The other teams will also offer you trades. You really
need to be on your toes or soon you will find your team in deep doo doo.
Plus, you have to worry about coaches and scouts. ignore them and they
become free agents too.
If that is not enough, you can move your
team to a different market or try to get a better stadium. How cool is
that? Add in career records, hall of fame voting and more and you have one
deep game! The creators of FOF have even created a version for College
Football! For more information on this incredible game, check out the
website of the creators:
of a geriatric old videogame fan with a serious fetish for cartridges
I'm old. I mean,
really old: all 33 of it. I'm lucky to be a human being (sort of)
because had I been a piece of computer hardware I’d be either gathering dust
in a dark cellar or acting as landfill. At best, I’d be in a museum. As
someone who has embraced the Computer Age from the beginning, I've seen
hardware going from 1 MHz, 48K RAM machines to the monsters we take for
granted today, whose computing power was once the realm of high-level
research labs or intelligence agencies, and games going from black-and-white
blocky low-res things with bleeps and warbles for sound to the lifelike
graphics and stereo surround experiences of today.
Ah, yes: games. I'm a
videogame fan, ever since the time we used to call them “videogames” and we
had to play them at the arcades. I'm still a fan and always will be, even if
my reflexes aren't what the used to be at 16 I can still play a game of
Battlezone (the original one) with the best of them and I'm a good hand
with Unreal in most of its incarnations. I bought Unreal
Tournament in budget edition, and it came on two CD-ROMs. Two shiny,
silvery disks: they almost looked unreal (no pun intended) even though
CD-ROMs have been the standard for years now, and they are just now being
slowly phased out in favor of the DVD-ROM format. Before, there were 3.5”
floppy disks and before them, 5.25” disks - which were truly “floppy” in
that you could bend them if you really wanted. Before disks, there were
tapes - audio tapes. But for my generation, games will always be
related to the cartridge first and foremost.
Videogames in cartridge
form have been around since 1976 when the Fairchild Channel F was launched,
but many of us became familiar with the format through the immense
popularity of the Atari VCS. Every console since then, through the Great
Crash of ‘84 and up to the introduction of CD-ROMs as media in the early
‘90s has used cartridges of some kind and for good reasons: they are
reliable, sturdy, the data they store can't be corrupted by EM fields as is
the case with tapes and floppy disks, and they are extremely hard to copy.
It can be done, though, with the right equipment, but it needs organization
and in fact Nintendo, on account of the piracy problem, held on with
cartridges when everyone was jumping on the CD-ROM bandwagon. They are also
expensive to make because they need hardware components like ROM chips and
often more, while CD-ROMs only have to store data.
We, the users, have
heard the words “Plug’n Play” applied to almost everything to Operating
Systems to peripherals, from Amiga Zorro cards to ISA, PCI and AGP cards to
USB devices, but the only true “Plug’n Play” component EVER is the game
cartridge: you just slide it into its slot, turn the power on and that's all
there is to it. Nothing to install, no setup required, no loading time; and
when you have finished playing, you turn it off and remove the cartridge.
There's nothing that simple in computer world, they crash VERY rarely and
they're virus-free. Cartridges are also very, very durable: they can take
abuse like no other media can, and still work. You can't say the same with
CD-ROMs, which can be wrecked fairly easily.
And cartridges have
personality which, as Jules Winnfield would say, goes a long way: you'd be
hard pressed to tell a PSX CD-ROM from a Dreamcast GD-ROM or a PS2 DVD-ROM
from a X-Box DVD-ROM, and if size wouldn't be an issue the GameCube’s mini
DVD-ROM would be just another Shiny Disk. Throw a dozen of game disks on the
ground and try to find the one game you want among them with a single look.
With cartridges, you
can: you can tell a SNES cartridge from a SMS cart by feel alone, and you
can pick up the golden Zelda cartridge among a score of other NES games
without looking twice. It's impossible to mistake an Intellivision cart for
a Colecovision one, and you're not going to stick a Vectrex cart into a N64
console. The Pokémon Yellow Game Boy cartridge looks almost like one
of those computer carts seen in the original Star Trek (so, that's
what Mr Spock was doing whenever he looked into that scope on the
Cartridges are a link
between the physical world of hardware and the ethereal space of software:
hold a Zelda cart in your hands and you can almost feel like you're holding
the whole land of Hyrule, and you wouldn't be wrong: all of the game's
software is engraved within its plastic boundaries, the life of its
inhabitants suspended in non-volatile RAM.
Now, don't take me for a
nostalgic old fart because I'm not. I've never owned a console most of my
life, concentrating on computers, but the first computer I have owned - a
Commodore VIC-20 - featured a cartridge slot which was used for RAM
expansion, graphic enhancement pack and solid-state software like the
Assembler and FORTH language carts. And, of course, games like Jupiter
Lander and Protector, two favorites of mine. This old machine
taught me a healthy respect for cartridges because, you see, most of the
VIC-20 games came on tapes - audio tapes which were to be loaded into
RAM through the Datassette tape recorder/player. Loading times ranged from 2
to 20 minutes and sometimes more; when I bought a 1541 disk drive - a
horrendously slow, heavy and expensive piece of equipment - I managed to cut
loading times by a factor of ten but some games refused to work with the
disk drive and when I graduated to the C128, the heavier code that even the
C64 games required due to the larger RAM size meant even longer loading
But cartridges were
another matter: plug it in, turn on, and the title screen came on in less
than two seconds.
The first console I've
bought was a Game Boy Pocket, a couple of years ago, and only because they
were heavily discounted and you could pick up one for less than ten bucks,
but as soon as I got one and the Asteroids-Missile Command cartridge I was
hooked. Later I bought a GBC and I'm still hooked: cartridge-based games are
entertainment without fuss, and there is even more to them.
You see, the cartridge
is not JUST the game. Carts more often than not have non-volatile RAM built
into them to save games: disk-based consoles have to rely on external memory
cards. They can have internal clocks, custom circuitry to enhance the game
graphics and more: with carts, you can add hardware to the console.
The GBC version of Perfect Dark has a rumble pack built in. The new
Pokémon games have built-in clocks. The cartridge add functionality
and features to the console without the user having to physically upgrade
So, why are cartridges
on their way out? Well, to put it bluntly their cost-effectiveness is fairly
low: you can store 650 MB of game code and data on a CD-ROM at practically
no cost, while even a 2MB cart requires a lot more money to manufacture,
both in terms of worktime and infrastructure cost. You need hardware
components, specialized tooling and a controlled environment to make one,
while a CD can be burned almost anywhere. If Gran Turismo 3 were to
be released as a cartridge, its price would be horrendously high and high
retail prices and games do not mix well - witness what happened to the
otherwise brilliant SNK Neo Geo console.
There is also a natural
tendency of the industry toward a standard, a role which optical storage
media fulfills. CDs and DVDs are both cheap and durable, while
magnetic media is cheap but not durable and cartridges are durable but no
longer cheap. Consoles have also gone from very simple machines with only
basic components installed to high-spec devices which do not need extra
support anymore: most games released today for the newer platforms don't
have to push the hardware to its fullest to reach the desired effect, while
the limitations of yesterday's consoles required game developers to make the
most of the available resources.
So, are game cartridges’
days numbered? In the present form yes. The next decade will see the
dominance of the optical storage format because of its simple
cost-effectiveness and reliability, with cartridges still being viable for
portable consoles like the Game Boy Advance. It's possible, though, that
even that may change: we have MP3 players that can hold several MBs of data
on them and sooner or later we will see a portable gaming platform that has
all of its software stored on CD and uploaded to it from a PC via USB
But there could be a
future for cartridges, after all: holographic memory promised data storage
on the Terabyte scale in small, solid-state modules. Who knows, in ten or
more years we could see cartridge ports reappearing on PCs, in order to
accommodate next generation game carts holding a truckload's worth of DVD
space on a postage stamp-size module along with optronic graphics processors
and separate CPU in order not to task the host machine and its OS too much.
One can dream.
Meanwhile, I'm off to Battlezone again.
One of the biggest fads
in the Bit Age was to take a famous person, show or character and turn it
into a platform game or something even worse. Everyone from Wacky Races to
Home Alone to Motley Crue to Jackie Chan had video games during this era.
Most were not very good, a few were. But even with all the games made,
there were still a handful of properties that were overlooked. Some shows
and famous people were left off the gravy train and had to be outside
looking in. Well, we decided it was time to give these forgotten souls a
chance to shine. So here are the "VIDEO GAME IDEAS THAT TIME FORGOT!"
VILLAGE PEOPLE VOLLEYBALL
Take a popular band and add a strange game concept and you get
Village People Volleyball! You start off at the bottom and work your way up
the ranks, until you go toe to toe with the dudes themselves. Not only are
they tough to beat (the limp wrist spike is deadly), but you are forced to
listen to a muzak version of YMCA, over and over.
THE BOZ'S STONE COLD, THE GAME
Remember this former NFL player, Brian Bosworth, who is best
remembered for being run over by Bo Jackson on Monday Night Football? You
didn't honestly think we would give him a football game, did you? Instead,
we create the typical Double Dragon clone out of his big (insert laugh track
here) movie, Stone Cold! You control the Boz as you beat up all kinds of
bad guys on your way to the end, where you try to fight the big movie
executives and force them to make a sequel.
BASEBALL CARD BUYING BUST
Do you remember the big buying frenzy over
baseball cards? Of course you do! You still have a closet full of
kindling. Well, we will give you a chance to recreate that awful investment
(for you people who bought them to pay for your kid's college, I two words
for you "US Military". That is the only way your kids will not end up fry
cooks for the rest of their lives, or worse yet, sports card dealers).
plays like a stock market simulator. You start off with $10,000 and it runs
for 5 years. It is your job to buy and sell baseball cards. Do you invest
in hall of famers, complete sets or Billy Ripken error cards? The winner is
the person who ends up with the most cards that are worth the least amount
of money. Remember, quantity over quality.
ROCK DRESS UP GAME
The idea of the game is to take normal kids and punk them out. Spike their
hair, maybe bleach it. Rip up those jeans and put a safety pin through
their nose. Then when you are done, you get to parade them past high
society women and whoever makes the most ladies faint, is the winner!
We all love to play
video and computer games, so why not compile a list of ways that a game can
end, or at least how one life/ship/car etc. ends. But this is not the
typical list of you crashed and burned, or deserved to die. These are
somewhat unusual, funny, tall tales, and sometimes never to be seen again
phenomena. But seriously, some of these can happen, and here is your short
lesson’s learned on what can go wrong when playing your videogame. I hope
that you enjoy our humor and warnings.
Actually - I had this started back in October, but we changed the title from
"50 ways to lose your life", and pushed it back due to the tragedy of
9/11/01. Hopefully you will not be offended by these in any way. Many
thanks to Mat Allen and Fred Wagaman for their suggestions, comments and
additions, and I did not throw any away.
Let me clump these into categories - somewhat like the X files - the truth
is out there.
Say, where’s that X-Files game?
10. VCR taping your awesome high score attempt ran out of tape.
9. You blinked or sneezed at just the wrong time.
8. You played too hard and bumped or pulled on the game machine and powered
7. Too much vibration from the rumble pack and down it went.
6. You played so hard that you broke the controller.
5. Internet connection got broken - for online games.
4. Something blocked or interfered with your remote controller signal.
3. Pause button did not work right.
2. Memory card error when saving.
1. Cartridge Bit rot occurred on a really old cart at just the wrong time.
Acts of God
10. Dog got excited on your leg, or cat rubbed along your leg.
9. Lightning strikes and spikes the system.
8. Earthquake, Flood, Tsunami, Tornado, Hurricane . . . whatever.
7. Disk drive loading error - and the game crashed.
6. CD player stopped working.
5. Overheating of the power supply or system and it died for good.
4. Power failure - game over.
3. Fire drill or house on fire - you’d better leave.
2. Game save feature didn’t work and you didn’t know it - game lost.
1. You had and itch and had to scratch it.
Evil Cult or Really Bad Karma
10. Next player in line put their quarter up on the arcade
machine and interrupted you.
9. Zigged when you should have zagged, or didn’t pray to Bira Bira.
8. Your turbo booster or rapid fire mechanism kicked in or off when it
wasn’t supposed too.
7. Stuck in corner in game and couldn't move - yikes - SNES Jurassic Park.
6. Memory transfer error between US/Japanese versions of the game - never
again on Pokemon.
5. Ran out of rockets and temporarily forget which button switches weapon.
4. Trying to get a screen shot of your high score in progress and died
3. Should have bought more potions or forgot to equip with better
2. Clock expired on the game’s timer.
1. Thought your levels were high enough/forgot to save before big battle.
10. Watching the X-Files on TV while playing - bad idea - lost
9. Controller somehow came unplugged from game machine.
8. The instruction manual grew legs and walked away, never to be found.
7. Doorbell / telephone rang - and you were compelled to answer it.
6. Fully charged battery mysteriously died on your hand-held.
5. Dreaded 5200 analog controller moved when you didn’t.
4. Joystick became possessed - had a mind of its own.
3. Hands became possessed, or muscle spasm / cramp - dropped the controller.
2. Strange or scary noise (children’s toy speaking while playing resident
evil) - must be the poltergeists.
1. The dreaded invisible bullet got you.
A Conspiracy - they’re out to get you
10. Boss caught you playing at work.
9. Too many bonus lives accumulated - rolled over 99 or 255 to 0 then
quickly lost the final one.
8. The dreaded flickering sprites got you.
7. The arcade had to close for the night - go home kid.
6. Uh oh, they didn’t program in a pause button and you died.
5. The Blue screen of death came over your system.
4. Sprite overlap - poorly programmed - you died even though the sprites
3. Out of memory error - or as in Tron . . . End of Line . . .
2. Game just outright cheated you. I hate when that happens.
1. Bizarre glitch in game that you died - and you NEVER saw it happen like
Alien Abduction - oops we can’t do that so - Human
10. Something in your eye, or contact lens dried, or eyes
9. Played so long that you fell asleep.
8. Your own child playing nearby distracted you or outright caused your on
7. Girlfriend or boyfriend got you turned on or distracted you.
6. Eating nd/or drinking at the same time and lost focus.
5. Wife came over and turned the game off. Dooh!
4. Mother nature called and you had to stop and relieve yourself - or else.
3. You got bored, or even worse, your partner did and wasted you.
2. Your human partner killed you by accident - really - oh no Wizard of Wor.
1. OK, your human opponent admitted to killing you for the easy points -
Wizard of Wor again.
Feel free to tell us some of your favorite stories about how the game ended.
(Alan Hewston has finally written for the BAT - probably because he’s
finally getting some Amiga games, won a few TGFX auctions, and now owns a
Sega Dreamcast - his first venture into the 64 bit / golden era of
videogames. He can be reached at:
Back in my days of the
Atari ST, I found many great games. But of all the programmers and
developers, there was only a few that were so good that I would buy their
games, no questions asked. At the top of this most prestigious list was the
Bitmap Brothers. These guys made some of my most favorite games for the
Atari ST. From the enjoyable dungeon game, Cadaver to the highly addictive
Speedball to the whimsical Magic Pockets, they churned out one great game
after another. I knew if the Bitmap Brothers logo was on the game, it was
going to be good.
Then I started to think
that I have not seen anything from them in a long time. There was an
updated Speedball game for the Playstation and Chaos Engine came out for
some 16 Bit systems a ways back, but what once was a very prolific group had
all but dropped out of the limelight. This is too bad as they had quite a
run of great hits back in the late 1980's to early 1990's. I can still
remember how much Gods drove me crazy. Those were some fine games.
I did some searching on
the search engines and found that they are still around. But it looks like
their future projects are more rehashes of earlier games. They have a
Speedball game for the Gameboy Advance and a wargame based on World War 2.
I was a bit bummed as I hoped to find some more original and exciting games
on the horizon. If you want to check out the Bitmap Brothers website and
take a look at some of their classic games, go to the following URL:
As I check out the
newsgroups and message boards to see what was written about some new PS2
games (State of Emergency, High Heat Baseball, All-Star Baseball, Drakan and
Pirates, to be exact), I could not help but wonder if we as gamers are too
spoiled. As I read complaint after complaint on the games, most of which
were quite minor, it made me think that maybe people just expect too much
from a video game. Let me give you some examples:
In State of Emergency,
there is talk about how repetitive the gameplay can be and how dull it is to
keep fighting all these enemies. But if you go back to the Bit Age, there
was a whole industry around this very repetitive gameplay. Can you say
Double Dragon? Can you say River City Ransom? I could go on and on about
this, yet back then it was great fun, but now it is just dull, repetitive
gameplay. Forget the fact that the environments are destructible (I know
that in those old games, I wanted to throw a garbage can through the window
of a car.
Another game, High Heat
Baseball came out and was panned (by some, not everyone). While the
gameplay is the same as last year's and that was considered the best out
there and while the graphics have been improved as well as many other
things, it was still panned by quite a few people (and even a few reviews
were less than expected). Why? If it was so good in 2001 and this year's
version retained all the positive features and improved other areas. But
with games like All-Star Baseball, offering all kinds of extras, suddenly a
nicer looking version of High Heat was not enough.
The point that I am
trying to make is that gamers are spoiled. With these great new machines
and nearly unlimited amount of room on DVDs, gamers expect the sun, the moon
and a few stars. It seems like there are very few games that meet with the
very high demands of today's gamers. Even the highly praised Metal Gear
Solid 2 was deemed too short and had too many cut scenes. Oh well, guess
there is just no pleasing some people.
While this issue is a
bit shorter than previous issues, I think it still has some good reading.
Hope you enjoy our coverage of the Bit Age and Beyond games! i would like
to thank my two new writers, David Cuciz and Alan Hewston. Hopefully this
will be the start of more writers for BAT. That would make it much easier
to make it a monthly newsletter. Time to go, so enjoy the new month. I
know I will with Out of the Park 4 and All-Star Baseball 2003! Play Ball!
(By the way, if you want to read my take on
why Sega deserves the majority of the blame for the Dreamcast's demise,
check out a soon to be posted article on
Also, I have my first story available for purchase at
http://www.nospine.com. It is called
Deadline and deals with vampires, werewolves and demons. If any of you want
to see my non-video game writing and are willing to spend the $2.00 fee
(help a starving writer), check it out. I hope to put up a few more stories
in the future.)