Derek and I have been spending an awful lot of time in Glitch, the free-to-play MMO that launched, finally, last month. (And when I saw “an awful lot of time,” I mean it. I’ve gained noticeable weight in the last three days. I’ve practically forgotten to keep eating, breathing, pooping, et cetera.)
In the earliest portions of Glitch, the dreaded ‘tutorial’ phase is scuttled in lieu of a long, unslodgy process of exploration. Your “Familiar”—he’s a google-eyed rock at the top of the screen, with occasional speech bubbles blooming from his sweet, mouthless little face—will give you small, achievable quest missions, which are less ‘go fetch’ and more ‘go discover!’ Your Familiar also helps you learn different “skills,” which open doors, in turn, to other skills. (When the Familiar is “studying,” his blank visage assumes a pair of reading glasses, adorably.)
Your autodidacticism is always and invariably rewarded with a triumphant trill, maybe even a badge or trophy, but then there’s that terrible carrot—there’s always more. And here is the truth about Glitch: the tutorial never ends. Because you’re always learning. That’s the game. And this could make you feel tired, but instead, it makes you feel awake.
One of the more interesting aspects of the pre-crash era of video games is the curious proliferation of fly-by-night game production houses. Since actually making a game for the retail market was comparatively inexpensive at the time—compared to the million-dollar landscape that a high-profile game can demand now—small companies like Spectravision, Apollo, and Starpath were releasing games alongside the higher-profile publishers such as Atari, Imagic, and Activision. Even companies such as Parker Brothers and 20th Century Fox were involved in the game publishing world. While the smallest companies, such as MenAvision or Commavid, produced games with incredibly small print runs before the industry crashed, game collectors and historians believed they had accounted for all of the released unique North American games by now, roughly 30 years on.
As such, the surprising news that Syd Bolton, curator of the PC Museum in Brantford, Ontario, had come into possession of a previously unknown retail release titled Extra Terrestrials, has come as quite a shock to the Atari gaming community.
Extra Terrestrials was developed by the Canadian company Skill Screen Games, and ended up being their sole creation. The company was a family business, operated by Tom, Peter, and J. Maitland Banting, and the game was manufactured by Telcom Research, a manufacturer of time code generators that Tom Banting was also the president of. The game had no official distribution channels; instead, the Bantings had to take the game door-to-door to individual retailers in early 1984. Peter Banting told Bolton that in the end only a couple hundred copies, at most, were sold to retailers in southern Ontario before the market collapsed and the entire venture ended. The game was designed and programmed by Herman Quast, though Bolton has not yet gotten in touch with him to ask for details about the game’s development.
History aside, the other major question for anyone with my gaming priorities would be: how does the game play? And what’s its point? Bolton has been painstakingly figuring the game out; the Banting family, who first donated the cart to Bolton’s PC Museum, believes the accompanying box and manual were thrown out long ago. So far, Bolton has determined that Extra Terrestrials is a two-player-only game, where one player controls an alien collecting dots, and the other player is a human trying to catch the alien. Bolton explained to the Atariage forums that there are also “invisible walls, and eating the pellets gets you points.” There are also a few different alien sprites available for the player to choose from, including one that pretty clearly rips off the title character’s sprite from the underrated Atari release E.T. The Extraterrestrial.
Bolton recorded a gameplay video and uploaded it to youtube:
Bolton has not yet been able to get the game’s ROM archived; however, he is seeking someone with the equipment in southwestern Ontario to help so that the game could be made available online. For those who are in the area, he intends on having the game playable at the upcoming PC Museum open-houses on October 15 and 22, 2011. Road trip?
Breakout, based on a concept by Atari founder Nolan Bushnell, was designed by Steve Jobs (with pal Steve Wozniak doing all the heavy lifting, of course). The game was released in May 1976, just two months before Jobs and Wozniak unveiled their first creation as Apple Computer.
Do you know how I found out about GameTunnel’s relaunch? THROUGH PROJECT WONDERFUL. I was like, "Oh, look, I can run a new ad from… GameTunnel? Whoa." I should add that this redesign is aytch oh tee tee, HOT, all electric apple and slippery menus.
Also worth noting: indie developers can submit their games for review. Like, there’s an actual spot to do that, right in the navigation header. I love that.
"Technoculture critic and former Wired contributor Erik Davis is concerned about the proliferation of reviews, too. ‘Our culture is afflicted with knowingness,’ he says. ‘We exalt in being able to know as much as possible. And that’s great on many levels. But we’re forgetting the pleasures of not knowing. I’m no Luddite, but we’ve started replacing actual experience with someone else’s already digested knowledge.’"
Nicole Gustafsson’s Shy Guys, completed just in time for the SUPER iam8bit exhibit, which opens August 11 in Los Angeles. (It’s nice to see somebody exploring the softer side of “shy.”)
I am pretty sure I have mentioned this every summer for the last several summers, but my birthday is actually that very—oh, never mind. Twenty-three was the last birthday I celebrated, anyway. I know, I know.
So yesterday I decided it was time to get serious, grow some professionalism, and brand my Twitter page as if I were suddenly some sort of social media maverick. And wow, what a bad fit. I don’t think putting my email address on my Twitter page was the right decision for me at all. It’s just so douchey, right?
My friend Chris has said to me—and I think this might be true—that my tweets are all “snark and mortal peril.” Ugh, I hate when Chris is right. I generally tweet only when I’m annoyed, or if something has just almost hit me. I can’t brand that stuff! And I will need to be extra-careful with Google+, because there are only so many ways I can announce that I’m angry before everyone in my “circles” “mutes” me. We’ll see.
Nonetheless, while I was working on my Twitter background in Photoshop, I started thinking of the 1982 short film Arcade Attack, which is all about how Space Aliens are Invading the City and Murdering Pinball.
Inspired (sort of), I found a Manhattan skyline, complete with a Radiator Building—which looked more like a Chrysler Building until I sawed the top off—and then I grunged everything up using Eduardo Recife’s Photoshop brushes. The Invaders are just dingbats, anyway, so I basically did zero work.
My new Twitter background, as I discovered seconds after I uploaded it, makes for a terrible Twitter background. So I debranded it, rebranded it, and uploaded it as downloadable desktop wallpaper for you! I don’t know who on Earth would ever want Infinite Lives desktop wallpaper, so I’m sorry.
Here’s the good news! The image’s dimensions are 1920×1440, which is the size of nobody’s monitor, so if you clip the top of the image to fit your widescreen monitor, it’s debranded again like magic.
On my MacBook, using the “Fill Screen” desktop setting:
Late last year, Internet Guy Skruffy Nerfherder (yep) briefly sold a limited run of Pip-Boy 3000 kits, and I only just found out about them. So much for what would’ve been the best anniversary gift ever, huh.
Skruffy based the kits on his own resin sculpt, and—well, see for yourself, how amazing his Pip-Boy is:
My favorite part is the Pip-Boy’s “LCD,” which is just a little pane of plexiglass illuminated with LEDs. With the light diffused through a slip of paper, and with a green gel on top, the screen gets that authentically murky glow. (Don’t even get me started on the hinge.)