Sega Genesis variants

For quite some time, I thought the variance between models of Sega Genesis/Megadrive were as simple as “model 1, model 2” et cetera. I was vaguely aware that the sound chip changed from model to model, but simply thought it “got worse” over time. The answer is far more complex than that, as you can read in this extensive investigation of the subject on Sega-16’s forums.

The number of changes Sega made from model to model, down to the circuitry, is pretty indicative of why Sega would later lose the war against companies with more consistent messages and systems. The conclusion is that you want a “high definition graphics” genesis if you care about sound, and if you’d like the game to boot straight away, skipping the “under license from Sega” screen, you’ll want the one with this FCID.

The boundaries of humor: an interview with John Cadice, creator of Tentacle Bento

John Cadice, creator of Tentacle Bento, says that while the game is full of sexy girls, and a “horrid, tentacle flailing, slime oozing monster from outer space,” his game is not about tentacle rape, but rather tentacle…tickling. And cake baking. Anything but rape.

Cadice says the game is a satire of a “horrid genre of anime,” but I simply don’t see the satire. It’s cuter, it’s lighter, but that does not a satire make. So I am meant to believe that while the game is based on the genre of tentacle rape anime, it is not about tentacle rape. There’s clearly a fundamental disconnect between our consideration of inference and implication versus intent.

I got an email from Cadice not two hours after my initial article, and within 24 hours the Kickstarter was canceled. We had a dialog all along the way, which was a very curious process. First Kickstarter limited the game’s searchability. The game was now only viewable through direct links. At the same time, my article, as well as Kotaku’s, had given the game greater media attention, and after my article went up the project rocketed up from $23,000 to $30,000 in funding. Clearly, as we scrutinized and criticized the project, we also popularized it.

After the project was canceled at Kickstarter, I wondered to myself – while I felt I had struck a blow against a game I found to trivialize rape and molestation, had I also struck a blow for censorship on Kickstarter? In the end, I feel this project shouldn’t have been allowed on the site in the first place – most of the approvals process at Kickstarter happens at the front end – it’s allowed, or not, based on what Kickstarter decides. I think this one simply fell through the cracks, and simply got canned much later than it should have.

I’ve been asked by some what part of the Kickstarter terms this game violates. It’s entirely subjective, but it’s right here: “Offensive material (hate speech, inappropriate content, etc).” There are some who don’t find this game offensive. Its creator claims the game is clearly not about rape or molestation. I maintain, based on looking at the Kickstarter itself, that it is, he just has a much higher threshold for it than I do. You could also make a case for it glorifying acts of violence, depending on which side of the “does this infer rape” argument you fall.

In the end though, I couldn’t stop the game from getting funded. The project had moved to its own site, and appears to be well on its way to coming out. I still maintain that the game is a trivialiation of rape and molestation, and that those supporting it are supporting that mindset. Cadice disagrees. In the following interview, Cadice speaks his mind about his project, and where he says it’s really coming from.
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Tentacle Bento and Kickstarter: When No Regulation is Bad Regulation

A card game was recently brought to my attention. It’s called Tentacle Bento, and it is currently overfunded on kickstarter by $10,000. Go on and watch the video.

This is a game about tentacle rape – you are meant to “get your slimy tendrils” on as many girls as possible within the given number of cards. But there are other tentacle monsters out to rape girls before you can! And dastardly school officials who can get in your way! Just choose some girls (sexy, sporty, smart, et cetera), a location, and a “sneaky snatch” to grab them with.

The style is a cute, lighthearted, pastel-colored look at the wonderful world of forcing your way inside a female against her will. There are, to my mind, a lot of things wrong with this.
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Occupy Oakland’s proposed arcade machine

Occupy Oakland is moving into an abandoned building. While I have mixed feelings about being in an enclosed space (out of sight, out of mind), it’s true that people need to not be cold, and it could be an interesting place for discourse about homelessness, cooperatives, and everything the occupy movement is about.

It’s with that in mind that I direct you to this. Anna Anthropy (aka Dessgeega from IC forums/Select Button) proposes adding an arcade machine to the new space, and will make a new game specifically for it. To do so, she needs funds. Unfortunately, the project was rejected from kickstarter, and now has four days left to meet the goal of $2,000. If you felt like it, you could help make an original occupy game happen in a rather interesting moment in a massive movement.

Here are some words from the project organizers that you can read: “Every community center needs a game room to draw in the general public, to give people some respite and lighten spirits, and to give people an excuse to meet others in their community. And every good game room needs an arcade machine.

…if all goes will, the OAK-U-TRON 201X will be an official member part of the Winnitron Indie Game Arcade Network, showcasing the true, independent, DIY spirit of game developers around the globe!”

TGS themes of the last 11 years

It struck me today that the official “themes” of the Tokyo Game Show have gotten weirder every year. I decided to research as far back as I could to find them all. We’ll start with 2000, when the show was still twice per year – I couldn’t find official confirmation for 1996-1999, so if anyone knows those, feel free to drop me a line.

Looking at the list, it seems that from 2009-2011, maybe someone new was in charge of the theme. That’s also around the time the mascot started showing up, and the English takes a marked turn for the unintelligible. But the first one in 2000 is no slouch! So, let’s be off on our gaming journey of heartful energy.

2000 (spring) Tokyo Game Show Evolves into the Year 2000 Version

2000 (autumn) The Entertainment of Your Life

2001 (spring) Entertainment in the 21st Century, Unfolded by Games

2001 (autumn) Let’s Play Together

2002 Playing Is in Our DNA

2003 A Playful Spirit Can Change the World

2004 A Brand New Sensation for Everyone in the World

2005 Your front row ticket to the next generation of gaming

2006 New Excitement. New Sensations. A New Generation.

2007 Link up, Reach out, To the World

2008 Ready for GAME Time!

2009 Game, it’s so energetic!

2010 GAME goes to a new chapter.

2011 Game-Dancing Your Heart

The future of Marvelous

A bit ago I interviewed Daniel Kurtz and Toshinori Aoki for Gamasutra. The article has just gone up, and shows MMV’s bid for retaking the global market, as they merge with AQI. The trouble is, many of Marvelous’ leading creators (Kimura of Little King’s Story, Wada of Harvest Moon, Ohshima of Sonic fame) have left, as has almost all of the Nier team (thus, all of Cavia), and much of the company line sounds like the same old things every Japanese company has said for the last 10 years. Global (read: Western) expansion, fewer, more specific core titles led by MMV’s production team and developed by AQI.

I’ve said most of this in the gamasutra article, but here’s some bonus text from the interview, since I cut a lot of it out. The discussion below starts out from the company’s discussion of creating and owning IP at Marvelous. It’s probably worth reading the Gamasutra post first.
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Video fever – vintage 1982 report on video games

Late last year, someone uploaded a 1982 ABC report on arcade games, and it’s unusually interesting. Here you’ll see inside Taito USA’s factory (the president is about the biggest sleaze I’ve seen caught on tape from that era), hear about “pac-man wrist,” and get some wise words about games and kids from an unusually sensible psychologist. That man deserves an award. And at the 2:30 mark, is “Burt Price” actually Will Wright with a beard? Sure looks and sounds like it! The whole thing is worth a look though, if you like your history.

Perhaps the best bit of this video is the revelation of an unreleased Taito USA arcade game called Toasters and Chainsaws, which was reportedly being made by “Rex and Mark.” Frank Cifaldi deduced that Rex is Rex Battenberg, and through him, I learned that Mark is Mark Blaszczyk. Unfortunately, Rex is the only guy I can get ahold of so far, and he doesn’t remember the game at all. I’ll be following these leads until I root out the truth, so stay tuned!

Getting into Sega QA in the Genesis era

QA is a very important part of a game team, and that’s often undervalued. So much so, that companies will still sometimes just hire anyone off the street.

3-year Sega veteran Mac Senour (1990-1993) has a number of interesting anecdotes on his blog about getting into the industry. One of the more interesting ones is about valuing your QA staff. In the article, he mentions that Sega had a particularly cavalier attitude toward quality assurance. Here’s an excerpt:

While I was helping them connect multiplayer, I had the following exchange with one of them:

Me: “Like boxing games?”

Tester: “Si.”

Me: “Every play any boxing games before?”

Tester: “No.”

Me: “What were you doing yesterday?”

He turned to another tester and said a few words in Spanish and then did a pantomime that resembled digging, and said: “Ditch.”

Yes, they had hired ditch diggers to test games.

If anyone has the credits handy, please send me the valiant diggers’ names! And if so many ditch diggers were working on Sega games, it could explain why the roads have gotten so bad around here…

IBM’s $20 million Pong AI

IBM has finally solved the problem Atari engineers have pondered for years – can a computer truly beat a human in Pong? Crazy though it may seem, IBM has done it at long last. The company has created a series of 3-mm wide cognitive computer chips, the components of which are designed to emulate neurons and synapses even more than previous computer chips were meant to emulate neurons and synapses. And the proof is in the grey matter pudding, as $20 million in research later, IBM has achieved intelligent Pong AI, that holy grail of computing for lo these past 40 years.

As EE Times reports: IBM envisions its cognitive computers solving a wide variety of applications in navigation, machine vision, pattern recognition, associative memory and classification. So far it has taught one to recognize a cursive letter “7” regardless of in whose handwriting. The other has learned to play (and win against humans) at the game “Pong.”

Success! And IBM is getting a new round of funding from DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Project Agency) to the tune of $21 million, presumably to enable the chips to learn to play (and win) at Windjammers.

Update! Years ago, IBM created a freeware Pong clone, and released it on the internet. Was it training us to become better at Pong so that its computers could later best us!? Were we the unwitting beta testers? Has this been in the works since 2006-ish!? Any other conclusion is impossible! Play it after the jump! (because otherwise it would autoload and make annoying sounds)
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site comments update

The site has had a deluge of spam from guest posts over the last few weeks, and the only solution in the shorter term is to only allow registered posts. To that effect, anyone that wants to continue posting will have to register with wordpress or intensedebate. Hopefully this will fix the problem! If, in the process of deleting the hundreds of old spam comments, I accidentally banned you, do let me know.