Friday, November 03, 2006

32X History - 32X games and History

The Sega 32X (Japanese: スーパー32X) is an add-on for the Sega Mega Drive/Sega Genesis video game console by Sega.
In Japan, it was distributed under the name Sega Super 32X. In North America, its name was the Sega Genesis 32X. In Europe, Australia, and other countries that use PAL, it was called the Sega Mega Drive 32X. Most gamers, for simplicity's sake, refer to it as just the "32X".

Market history
With the release of the Super Famicom in Japan and the Super NES in North America, Sega needed to leapfrog Nintendo in the technological department. The Sega Mega-CD, known as Sega CD in North America, had not worked as well, in a business sense, as Sega had wanted it to. Sega had various developments underway, named after planets. Some used System 16 technology, as the Sega Mega Drive/Sega Genesis, as well as other arcade games, did.
The 32X was released in mid-November 1994 in North America for $150, Japan on December 3rd 1994 for ¥16,800, and Europe in January 1995 for £170 / DM 400.

Technical aspects
The Sega 32X can only be used in conjunction with a Mega Drive/Genesis system; it is plugged in where the cartridge bay is. Besides playing its own cartridges, it also acts as a passthrough for Mega Drive games so it can be a permanent attachment. (The SVP based Virtua Racing was the only exception.) The 32X came with several spacers so it would work with all (then current) versions of the Mega Drive. (The Genesis 3, which lacks circuitry needed, and appropriate plugs, to work with the 32X, was introduced later.) It could be used with the Sega Multi-Mega/Sega CDX system, but the spacers would not accommodate the CDX, which created a number of user-unfriendly conditions in the unit. Without the use of the spacers, some of the 32X hardware was left exposed and vulnerable. The combined unit was also very prone to tipping over, risking damage to the unit and games. In addition to the physical problems, there was also an issue with FCC approval.
Most 32X games cannot be played unless the distribution region of the game matches the region of the console. A few games are not locked and can be played on a console from any region (e.g. Fifa 96). Two games, Darxide and FIFA Soccer '96, were only released for the PAL 32X.
All but one of the games released for the Japanese market were released in the United States, albeit some had different names. The one Japanese-only game was Sangokushi IV (known as "Romance of the Three Kingdoms IV").
In addition to regular cartridge-based 32X games, there were also a very small number 32X CD games. As the name suggests, these required both the 32X and Mega-CD/Sega CD addons. The lack of a significant userbase due to the high cost of purchasing all three necessary components saw only five games released, only one of those developed by Sega. The most notable of these was a new version of the infamous Night Trap with 32,768 onscreen colors instead of the 64 found on the regular Mega-CD/Sega CD version.

Technical specifications
Processor: Twin SH2 32 bit RISC processors with a clock speed of 23 MHz, 40 MIPS each
Video RAM: Two linear framebuffers with support for RLE compression and an overdraw mode to simplify compositing objects with transparency. All scaling, rotation, and 3D operations are performed in software on the SH2 processors.
Color depth: 32,768 simultaneous colors on screen at standard Mega Drive/Genesis resolution. Video output can overlay Mega Drive/Genesis graphics or vice versa. Mega Drive/Genesis video effects such as shadow or hilight do not affect 32X video.
Memory: 256KB (2 MBit) program RAM and two 128KB (1 MBit) framebuffers.
Audio: Stereo 10-bit PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) mixing with Mega Drive/Genesis sound for a total of 12 audio channels of varying capability, 22 with the addition of a Mega-CD/Sega CD.
I/O: Same as Mega Drive/Genesis.
Storage: 32X cartridges are fundamentally the same as Mega Drive/Genesis cartridges with some small differences in the plastic casing. A few CD-ROM games were developed that also required a Mega-CD/Sega CD.
Compatibility: Compatible with Mega Drive/Genesis models 1 and 2, JVC Wondermega/X'Eye and the Multi-Mega/CDX. The 32X does not work with the Genesis 3 which lacks some of the necessary interface logic.


On January 8, 1994, Hayao Nakayama, then CEO of Sega, ordered his company to make a 32-bit cartridge based console that would be in stores by Christmas 1994. This would at first be named "Project Jupiter", but after Sega found CD technology cheaper, they decided to modify it instead of dropping the cartridge project (that would be called "Project Saturn"). Hideki Sato and some other Sega of Japan engineers came over to collaborate about the project with Sega of America's Joe Miller. The first idea was a new Mega Drive/Genesis with more colors and a 32-bit processor. Miller thought that an add-on to the Mega Drive/Genesis would be a better idea, because he felt that gamers would not buy an improved version of the Mega Drive/Genesis. And so, this project was codenamed Project Mars, and Sega of America was going to shape the project.
At the same time, however, Sega of Japan was working on the Sega Saturn, a CD-based 32-bit videogame system. Sega of America did not learn of this until Project Mars was already in progress.

The video-gaming public first got a glimpse at the Summer 1994 CES in Chicago, Illinois. Players highly anticipated the system, because it would make the Genesis superior to the Super Famicom/SNES. The console was unmasked as the 32X, with a price projection of $170 (USD), at a gamers' day, held by Sega of America in September 1994.
The 32X hit the market in North America in November 1994, during the same month the Sega Saturn was released in Japan. Many industry insiders speculated that the 32X was doomed from the beginning as the Sega Saturn hardware was widely regarded as more powerful than the 32X and had the support of many Japanese third party software developers (a necessary resource required for any gaming platform's long term success) which the 32X was sorely lacking.
Only 500,000 consoles had been produced for North American consumption, yet orders were in the millions. The console allegedly had numerous mechanical problems. Games had been rushed for the system in the run up to Christmas 1994. Some early games came with errors in programming, causing crashes and glitches on certain titles. Other games required leaving out parts in order to make the Christmas deadline; Doom 32X is missing almost half the levels present on the PC. Many complained that their 32X was not working with their Mega Drive/Genesis or television. Sega was forced to give away adapters.
Since this was an expensive add-on system, Sega decided to offer a £50 discount on games with the console in Europe. However, the offer came in the form of rebate vouchers, which were difficult to take advantage of. Just like its North American counterpart, this console was initially popular. Orders exceeded one million, but not enough were produced, and supply shortage problems arose.

By mid-1995, the time the Sega executives realized their blunder, it was too late. Developers and licensees had abandoned this console in favor of what they perceived to be a true 32-bit console, the Sega Saturn. Even though the 32X was a 32-bit system, the games did not appear to take full advantage of 32 bit processing; many games were rushed and produced in 2D. Many were just slightly-enhanced ports of Genesis or old arcade games such as Mortal Kombat II and Space Harrier.
Due to successful marketing, customers perceived the Sega Saturn, Nintendo 64 and the PlayStation as the true next-generation consoles, due to their rich launch titles and 3D graphics. Also, customers perceived that Sega abandoned the 32X despite promises to the contrary, due to the launch of the Saturn.
Console makers, prior to the launch of PlayStation 2, would often abandon platforms and offer no backwards compatibility with older systems. For this reason Sega's 32X customers felt cheated because of the apparent lower quality of the game, and the inevitability of obsolescence.
Store shelves became littered with unwanted Sega 32X systems, and prices for a new one dropped as low as $19.95. Sega planned a console named the Sega Neptune, which would have been a Genesis and 32X in one. However, by the time a prototype was developed, the Sega Saturn was going to be released, and Sega cancelled the Neptune.
The situation became so bad that the 32X was actually mocked on Saturday Night Live, as well as in the gaming magazine Electronic Gaming Monthly, which likened the 32X to a 'waffle maker' and the games as 'batter'. The Sega 32X fiasco is now considered one of the most poorly planned console releases ever.
The last game made for the 32X in the US was Spider-Man: Web of Fire (1996). The last ever 32X game was Darxide, which had been intended by Frontier Developments to be a launch title for the ill-fated Neptune. Both these games now command a high value from collectors — but especially Darxide (up to $1000) due to its scarcity, reputation and auspicious creator (David Braben, co-writer of the groundbreaking game Elite). Nevertheless, it is exceeded in rarity by the European PAL versions of the games Primal Rage and T-Mek. For obscure reasons a mere handful of copies of these games are known to be in circulation - with T-Mek being so scarce that until a copy surfaced on eBay in late 2005, it was widely held that the PAL release was only a rumour. The appearance of a copy has fuelled speculation that other rumoured but unconfirmed PAL games may also exist, in particular BC Racers.
For many years prior, console makers promised devices like the 32X (for consoles such as the Colecovision, Intellivision II, and some Atari systems) that would extend and enhance the original system. The 32X was the first product released that fundamentally altered the original console's abilities. However, deficient in software titles and lacking the 3D capabilities the gaming community demanded, the add-on represented a technological dead end, ultimately punishing early adopters. Ignorant of the idea that console systems' primary strength is in standardization, Sega had created three different platforms (the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis, and the Mega-CD/Sega CD and the 32X add-ons) all under the same banner, stealing valuable shelf space from itself and confusing both vendors and consumers in the process. The entire episode demonstrated that producing such add-ons is likely to have detrimental effects on a system's brand marketing strategy.
The system ended production worldwide in 1996.

Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts.Subject to disclaimers.

Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)

From Geekcomix:

The Nintendo Entertainment System was released in America in 1985, after some limited success in Japan as the Famicom. Over the next few years, its user base would grow exponentially until the NES surpassed the Atari VCS/2600 peak set in 1982.6 As of 1990, there were over 19 million NES systems in the United States alone.5
In addition to the tremendous success of the system, its games had a great deal prosperity. For example, Super Mario Bros. 3 released in 1989 grossed over $500 million just in America. In the field of entertainment, only the movie E.T. has made more revenue.3 Super Mario Bros. 3 would sell more than 7 million copies in America and 4 million in Japan, which is more copies than any other game in history. Sheff wrote, "By record-industry standards, 'SMB3' went platinum eleven times. Michael Jackson is one of the few artists to have accomplished this feat."9
By 1990, the money earned from Nintendo's NES and its games allowed Nintendo to usurp Toyota as Japan's most successful company. In the entertainment business, Nintendo netted as much as all of the American movie studios combined, and more than the three television networks had in the previous two years. In the five short years since the system was released, the NES could be found in more than a third of the household in America and Japan. 9
This monopoly gave Nintendo significant control over the market during the Fourth Generation, which they utilized in various malicious schemes. Despite all of this, they are still one of the most popular and well-known companies in the world.
Nintendo's only competitor in the 8-bit market was Sega with their Sega Master System. While the Master System did have many more features than the NES (which is evident in a side-by-side comparison) it lacked the third party support that Nintendo had and was not much competition. The Master System sold a total of 2 million units and at times had a market share of 11%, these were the only reason the system survived as long as it did.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

American Laser Games History

American Laser Games was a company based in Albuquerque, New Mexico that created a wide variety of light gun laserdisc video games. The company was founded in the late 1980's by Robert Grebe, who had originally created the system to train police officers, and later adapted the technology to more mainstream entertainment.

The company lasted until the late 1990's, by which time it had begun making games for the 3DO and "games for girls" for the PC (under the moniker Her Interactive), beginning with McKenzie & Co.. In 2001, the development and publishing rights to all of the games that were produced by American Laser Games were purchased by Digital Leisure, Inc. Many of these games were then re-released for the PC and in DVD TV game format.

The company also released a light-gun controller, the PC Gamegun, for home computer use. It proved unsuccessful, however, due to its poor accuracy.

Laserdisc + Light Gun Arcade Games

Mad Dog McCree
Who Shot Johnny Rock?
Gallagher's Gallery
Mad Dog II: The Lost Gold
Space Pirates
Crime Patrol
Crime Patrol 2: Drug Wars
Fast Draw Showdown
The Last Bounty Hunter
Shootout at Old Tucson

Ms. Pac-Man Trivia

A Ms. Pac-Man machine has a storyline based around it in the Friends episode The One Where Joey Dates Rachel. The plotline revolves around Chandler entering rude words onto the game's high-score screen and then attempting to beat his scores (thus removing them) before Ross's seven year old son arrives. In reality, Ms. Pac-Man doesn't have a high-score screen, displaying only the single best score, and the game doesn't allow players to enter their initials.
In one series of strips in Bill Amend's popular newspaper comic strip FoxTrot, Jason Fox, who is in fifth grade and still detests girls, has a nightmare in which he is romanced by Tomb Raider heroine Lara Croft. In one of these strips, Lara keeps trying to persuade Jason to play her game, and Jason declares that he'll never play a video game starring a girl. At this point, Lara says, "Permit me to reintroduce you to someone," and Ms. Pac-Man appears: "Hi, Jason. Remember me?"
A Ms. Pac-Man unit appears in the 1983 movie "WarGames", in the 1983 movie "Joysticks", in the 1984 movie "Tightrope" (the cabinet appears in the background of the bar scene), in the 1990 movie "The Grifters", in the 1999 movie "Man On The Moon" and in the 2002 movie "Van Wilder".
A Ms. Pac-man machine is seen in Scrubs in the episode My Own Private Practice Guy. Todd comments "Oh Ms. Pac-man I would sex that bow right off your head. Eat those dots you naughty, naughty girl."
The Ms. Pac-Man world record of 933,580 points was achieved by Abdner Ashman, of Queens, NY, on Thursday, April 6, 2006 at the Apollo Amusements showroom in Pompano Beach, FL, as verified by official referees from the Twin Galaxies Intergalactic Scoreboard, who were present to witness the accomplishment.
Some versions of the game had an "expert" level, where if you hold the joystick up while pressing the start button, the whole game speed doubled (including music and sound effects). Others have Ms. Pac-Man going twice her speed while the rest of the game went normal speed. The latter allowed for people to obtain much higher scores.
Many people have mistakenly called the game Mrs. Pac Man, which can upset many a video game purist.
In the 1980's cartoon version of Pac-Man, she was named Pepper (while the male Pac-Man was often called Packie) because she was never given a name.
In 1982, R. Cade and the Video Victims recorded a song titled "Ms. Pac-Man", using sound effects from the game, and released it on the album "Victim of the Video", a lesser-known video game song album.
While not inspired by the game, the song Game Over by rapper Lil Flip samples heavily from it.
In the movie Are We There Yet?, Lindsay tells Nick that Kevin had a bad dream playing Ms. Pac-Man at the mall but refers to her as Lady Pac-Man.
There is an obscure glitch in the original arcade game. If the player inserts a coin at the title screen, before Blinky appears, and begins, the walls of the first maze will be blue instead of pink.
At least one version of the game (found in a diner near the Kansas-Nebraska border) has the monsters turn into blue mice when Ms. Pac-Man eats the energizers.

Activision History

Prior to the formation of Activision, software for video game consoles was published exclusively by the makers of the systems for which the games were designed. For example, Atari was the only publisher of games for the Atari 2600. This was particularly galling to the developers of the games, as they received no financial rewards for games that did well, and didn't even receive credit in the manuals. After watching a number of games turn into multi-million-dollar best sellers, a number of programmers decided they had had enough and left. Activision became the first third-party game publisher for game consoles.[1]

The company was founded by former music industry executive Jim Levy and former Atari programmers David Crane, Larry Kaplan, Alan Miller and Bob Whitehead. Atari's company policy at the time was not to credit game creators for their individual contributions; Levy took the approach of crediting and promoting game creators along with the games themselves. This was an important draw that helped the newly formed company attract experienced talent. Crane, Kaplan, Levy, Miller, and Whitehead received the Game Developers Choice "First Penguin" award in 2003 in recognition of this step.

The departure of the four programmers, whose titles made up more than half of Atari's cartridge sales at the time, caused legal action between the two companies which was not ultimately settled until 1982. As the market for game consoles started to decline, Activision branched out, producing game titles for home computers as well, and acquiring smaller publishers.

In 1982, Activision released Pitfall!, which is considered by many to be the first platform game as well as the best selling title on the 2600. Although the team's technical prowess had already been proven, it was Pitfall! that turned them into a huge success. This not only resulted in a legion of clones, including stand-up arcade games, but can be said to have launched the entire platform genre which became a major part of video games through the 1980s.

In 1985, Activision merged with struggling text adventure pioneer Infocom. Jim Levy was a big fan of Infocom's titles and wanted Infocom to remain solvent. However, about six months after the "InfoWedding", Bruce Davis took over as CEO of Activision. Davis was against the merger from the start and was heavy-handed in management of them. He also forced marketing changes on Infocom which caused sales of their games to plummet. Eventually, in 1989, after several years of losses, Activision closed down the Infocom studios in Cambridge, Massachusetts extending to only 11 of the 26 employees an offer to relocate to Activision's headquarters in Silicon Valley; five did.

In 1988 Activision started to get involved in other types of software besides video games, such as business applications. As a result, Activision changed its corporate name to Mediagenic in order to have a name that would globally represent all its fields of activities.(Mediagenic is often mistaken to be a company that purchased Activision but in reality it was only Activision with a different name). Despite this change, Mediagenic continued to largely use the Activision brand on its video games of the various platforms it was publishing for, notably the Nintendo Entertainment System, the Sega Master System, the Atari 7800, Commodore 64 and Amiga. The decision of the company to get involved in various fields at the expense of video gaming proved to be a move so bad that in 1992 Mediagenic filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The new Activision
The failure of Mediagenic resulted in a reorganization and merger with The Disc Company with Mediagenic again being the acquirer. After emerging from bankruptcy, Mediagenic officially changed its entity name back to Activision in the state of Delaware on December 1992. At that point Activision moved its headquarters from Silicon Valley to Southern California. While emerging from bankruptcy, it continued to develop games for PCs and video game consoles and resumed making strategic acquisitions. Activision chose from then on to only concentrate itself in video gaming and nothing else.

In 1991 Activision packaged 20 of Infocom's past games into a CD-ROM collection called The Lost Treasures of Infocom sans most of the "feelies" Infocom was famous for. The success of this compilation led to the 1992 release of 11 more Infocom titles in The Lost Treasures of Infocom II.

In 2003, Activision, along with several other game software publishers, was investigated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for its accounting practices, namely the use of the "return reserve" to allegedly smooth quarterly results.

In 2004, the company marked its 25th anniversary, and stated that it had posted record earnings and the twelfth consecutive year of revenue growth.

In 2006, Activision secured the video game license to make games based on the world of James Bond from MGM Interactive. An exclusive agreement between the two begins in September 2007 with Activision's first game set to be released in May 2008.