8-bit era & review From Bedrooms to Billions

I recently watched the documentary From Bedrooms to Billions by Anthony and Nicola Caulfield. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I am looking forward to watching their new film The Amiga Years.

I have posted an article on NoobGrind about it, but whilst writing it I wrote several paragraphs explaining why this documentary meant to so much to me. However, given the size of that article, typical for me, I decided to cut the non-pertinent information from there, but decided to put it here.

My early childhood of growing up in England was dominated by the home computing revolution that took place at the start of the 80s. I was fortunate to have a father who had an interest in electronics, which lead him in to this new home computing hobby.

We started out with a Commodore Vic 20, then upgraded to a Commodore 64; I got my own Commodore 16. A few of our neighbours also got computers, one friend’s house had a Spectrum 48k, whilst another had various Amstrads, and another friend had an Atari 2600. At school we had a BBC Micro. Also living in Blackpool meant I could visit the arcade and compare those machines. So I was exposed to a multitude of systems, and I guess this is why I’ve tried to avoid being dedicated to just one system.

Commodore 64
One of my old Commodore 64 machines. Sadly I don’t have my original one, nor the vast game library I had.

I am not so obsessed with nostalgia that I want to return to those technologically inferior days. I have no issue with retro gaming, my main criteria is that the game has to be good. I acknowledge that some of the games that I have really enjoyed decades ago are of certainly of their era. It certainly wouldn’t make sense to insist that a player in the here and now has to play the ancient games; the term ‘has to’ is nasty. I think even old classics should generally be talked about only in context of their era.

A classic game that can still work well today is Street Fighter 2. It was amazing when it was released, and even with all the developments in the years since, it is still a great game. Whilst Way of the Exploding Fist came out years earlier, and was amazing when it was released, I can appreciate that the game is of its era. I did play it last year and I quite enjoyed it, but I don’t think most gamers would. I’ve previously written about how these two games helped form my role-playing passion, links below.

I ran a computer shop in the mid-90s, and I can recall chats about whether in the future there would be big interest in documentaries about the spread of computer gaming. It was agreed that computing would continue to develop, that interest would increase, but a few regular customers said they thought gaming would always be niche. The majority of my regulars thought the idea that gaming wouldn’t keep expanding was ludicrous, but those who thought gaming would stay relatively small pointed out how biased we were. A fair point to raise, but even back then the game sales figures showed a big trend towards ongoing expansion. This was during the period I referred to at the time as era of the Doom-virus; every PC sold, or even brought in to the shop for repairs, normally went out with the freeware 7 levels of Doom.

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Given that I was dabbling with coding from 6 years of age, and trying to learn 6502 assembler at 8, I did ponder whether I should feel regret at not managing to make a game in that time period. I think it is fair to say I was a bit too young for the 8bit bubble. At the time I certainly never heard of young kids making games, whilst there were a few teenagers, even they were rare. By the time I was about 9 years old the Amiga was coming out, at the time I felt like what little progress I’d made had become pointless. When I went to high school at aged 11 I discovered AD&D and other role-playing games, and for many years I had little interest in computing. I actually felt weary of the subject, in part due to the terrible ‘I.T.’ lessons.

A few years ago I read Malcom Gladwell’s book Outliers, which highlights the importance of being in the right place at the right time, and what a small window it usually is. Crucially, since I did eventually go on to study programming and work at a games company, I did achieve major goals.

You can read my NoobGrind article here.

From Bedrooms to Billions

Follow-on review The Amiga Years

Way of the Exploding Fist 3 part series

Part 1 = https://batjutsu.wordpress.com/2015/10/25/noobgrind-article-way-of-the-exploding-fist-is-the-mario-of-8-bit-fighting-games/

Part 2 = https://batjutsu.wordpress.com/2015/11/16/fist-2-on-noobgrind-and-current-life/

Part 3 = https://batjutsu.wordpress.com/2015/12/06/street-fighter-rpg-look-back/

 

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Street Fighter RPG look back

My latest Noobgrind article http://www.noobgrind.com/a-fist-full-of-dice/ which is the 3rd article in the series. I previously blogged about these Part 1 and Part 2.

It took a lot of effort to get this article completed, mostly due to pain and sleep issues. At least it was fun remembering so many gaming sessions, some serious, some silly, but all enjoyable.

Street Fighter is an amazing role-playing game, a flawed gem. Despite the problem of some awful game mechanics, as well as the lack of obvious depth to the setting, I found the game to be a good framework to build from. Just like other RPGs, the expansion books were helpful in expanding the setting, and adding new mechanics, but the common issue of power creep is quite evident with the Player’s Guide. In fact some of the new Special Maneuvers were clearly not playtested much, or the single playtest missed the point, Cartwheel Kick in particular seems to joyfully abandon all pretence of balance.

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It would be cherry-picking of me to ignore the few role-players that I spoke with that had immediately dismissed the idea of playing the Street Fighter RPG. Nearly all of those I recall were not people I normally gamed with, so it is hard to say what to type of gamers they were, or their preferences. Over the years I have pondered whether there is anything special that could be taken/learned from those chats, to be fair to them I assume that many of them were fun-loving gamers who have tried all sorts of games. Maybe they didn’t play SF2 much, maybe they preferred to stick to one RPG system, and quite likely they were not interested in martial arts; I suspect it is the normal combination of different factors that just happen to put them off.

My take away from the Street Fighter RPG is that it was a good experiment. In the world of maybes this game could have become a big hit, maybe if they had not been rushed, maybe decent playtesting would have fixed problems, maybe making the game a bigger priority for company resources. I’d recommend the game, but just using the core rulebook at first. One day I should sort out my own big list of house rules to publish, although that’s a low priority.

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In summary, like with any RPG, it helps if the people you are playing the games want to play, stay engrossed, and don’t get bogged down in rule debates. This of course is the ultimate truth about RPGs, but also a bit of a cop-out 😉

Way of the Exploding Fist 3 part series

Part 1 = https://batjutsu.wordpress.com/2015/10/25/noobgrind-article-way-of-the-exploding-fist-is-the-mario-of-8-bit-fighting-games/

Part 2 = https://batjutsu.wordpress.com/2015/11/16/fist-2-on-noobgrind-and-current-life/

Part 3 = https://batjutsu.wordpress.com/2015/12/06/street-fighter-rpg-look-back/

Noobgrind article: Way of the Exploding Fist is the Mario of 8-bit fighting games

I wrote an article for NoobGrind about one of my favourite games from my childhood Way of the Exploding Fist. This is the first in a three part series, which goes in a direction that may surprise many readers 😉

Check it out at: http://www.noobgrind.com/looking-back-at-way-of-the-exploding-fist/

Way of the Exploding Fist 3 part series

Part 1 = https://batjutsu.wordpress.com/2015/10/25/noobgrind-article-way-of-the-exploding-fist-is-the-mario-of-8-bit-fighting-games/

Part 2 = https://batjutsu.wordpress.com/2015/11/16/fist-2-on-noobgrind-and-current-life/

Part 3 = https://batjutsu.wordpress.com/2015/12/06/street-fighter-rpg-look-back/