Interview – Michael Cowden: ‘Super 80s World’ the indie game

There can only be one

The 80s is host to some of the greatest movies, music and breakthroughs in fashion and for those who weren’t there simply because destiny robbed them of their neon birth right, now is their chance to enter a world no longer exclusive to thirty-somethings.  Power gloved or not this is your chance to acquire admission to the 80s World. And it’s super.

Let’s take a look at the synopsis for Super 80s World – we opted for neon pink, naturally:

“Your name is Dan Camaro.

Your collar popped. Your hair long in the back and short on top.

You love fast cars, loud guitars, big hair and leotards.

You love the 80s.

That was your heyday.

You were the lead keytarist in The Kasiotones, a band that once played the title track for “Bark at the Future”. Unfortunately, the Teen-Wolf-Back-to-the-Future mash-up never made it to the big screen. Now you live alone with your dog, Spuds, and dream of what might have been.

In your garage sits the last remnant of that forgotten era: a 1983 Delorean DMC-12 left to you when your high school friend, the movie’s producer, passed away.

You had been restoring it for years.

Today you finally got it to run…”

I was born right on the precipice of the 80s and for me it’s something I revel in today were possible in all mediums.  ‘Blood Dragon’ thank-you.  Kung Fury, more please.  Drive, wizard movie.  Lazerhawk albums – lovely!

It’s a great pleasure when I hear about new projects in development that pay such respect to an era I’m rooted in and Tap Tap Good’s Michael Cowden is heading that way.

With a little bit of help we could see him hit the finish line in style.

From the future of 1984

We managed to reach out for chat with Michael whilst donning our shades. This is what he had to say about his project and the 80s.

 

R.G.B:
Thanks for taking some time out to speak with us.  Let’s begin with a little bit about yourself and how you got into video games as an industry, rather than a player?

M.C: “I have spent a bit of time in the technology space and as an entrepreneur, but I’m brand new to this industry. I had been kicking around the idea of doing a game for a while. I wanted to do a project where I could fully exercise all my creative outlets: music, development and art (to a lesser extent). I’m a developer by trade and a musician at heart and had spent the previous two years trying my hand at painting.

R.G.B: What germinated the idea for ’Super 80s World’ and what were your three main influences that made you decide this was the project to put into production?

M.C:
A couple of years ago I had this idea of a game about the 1980s. I had been listening to a lot of synthwave music at the time and it was really taking me back. I thought it would be cool to create a game where you had to escape the decade and every year was a different world.

I think the main reason I decided to focus on this project was my passion for the decade of my youth: the music, the movies, the pop culture. It’s very colourful decade, on many levels, and I’d thought that would end up translating to a lot of fun in-game.

R.G.B: How many of you are involved on the project and how do you know one another?

M.C: “This had been a solo project for a while, but I recently partnered up with a friend of mine, Jon Eick, to focus on marketing and social media.

He and I met doing Improv Comedy when I first moved to the area. Now he’s helping get the word out about our Kickstarter and subsequent launch of the game.

R.G.B: Is this project full-time, or something you are putting together around other duties?

M.C: “This is something I have been putting together on the side, but it certainly feels like a full-time project. It’s gotten a little easier since I’ve started delegating some of the artwork, but it’s still a lot of work. In retrospect, I probably should have started with something a little less ambitious for my first project.”

R.G.B: Can you tell us a little bit about your company ethos and what kind of workflow you are using?

M.C: “Since it’s just me, the workflow and ethos kind of changes with my mood. Sometimes I try to get methodical about it. I’ll loosely apply scrum and agile development philosophies to help prioritise what needs to be done. Sometimes, I focus by passion – what do I want to work on today? That’s very helpful when things start to feel like a grind. Mostly though, it’s hand-written to-do lists that I add to faster than I can cross things off.”

R.G.B: What is it about the 80’s you love and is the demographic for ’Super 80’s World’ just focused on those of that era?

M.C: “I may be looking through the rose-coloured glasses of nostalgia, but it’s the decade I grew up with – I love it all: the music, the cartoons, the movies, the style… the campy and the cool. The audience is primarily for those who love the 80s, whether they lived through them or not. There’s always an audience for retro, be it in music, fashion or video games.”

R.G.B: If you could go back to the 80’s and bring three things to the present day what would they be?

M.C: “Wow, tough question! I’d have to go with
– New Coke
– Classic Michael Jackson
– My late 80s guess jean jacket with all the bands I loved scribbled all over it…”

 

What a trooper!

Be sure to come back as we update on the progress of Michael’s development and his Kickstarter, which we highly advocate.

Michael Cowden interview by Ash RGB_RetroBlog

You can visit the Super 80s World website here and their twitter at super80sworld

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Review: The ‘Classic Arcade Stick’ by Arcade Europe

Arcade Europe’s Classic Arcade Stick for PC has entered the market for £220 but what makes it different from other products on the shelf?

The answer to this lays within the build and materials. Some competitors might offer a robust alternative, but Arcade Europe’s offering stands tall in design and execution and although the base unit is made from a wood, rather than metal, it is deceptively strong and resistant to any scuffing and wear. The aesthetics are something reminiscent of an Arcade era minus the decals. It’s a subtle yet refined finish that’s so simple it’s clear to see that this is a stick that isn’t ashamed of its roots from the golden age.

In motion the stick is exceptional. Everything just feels right and it’s not long before the euphoric moment of nostalgia hits you. This feeling is a clear message that Arcade Europe got it right and a feeling many savvy arcade users long for, time-and-time again.

Although disconnected from a cabinet the unit is weighty and does not shift at all when placed on a flat surface. The distance between two players is comfortable.

Who is Arcade Europe?

With some background research I noticed the company was operating from Czech Republic under UK ties. Arcade Europe is a small and relatively unknown company so a few red flags were up and I decided to make contact to clarify any concerns.

After an email and a phone call I found out the company director, Andy Devine, is UK born but operates abroad. Andy has previously worked with some high profile international companies and you’ll have definitely seen his work without realising it.

Before eloping to start a new life with his family, he made the decision to follow his passion combining arcade gaming with design and manufacture. The risk is paying off and slowly but surely his dedication for quality and design is coming to fruition as his expanding portfolio of clients will testify.

At this time Arcade Europe ships world wide and if you’re within the EU there is good news, no import tax will be added!

What are you?

So, what is the material? The wood is Melamine faced premium panelling manufactured by Egger. I have been using the item for some time and there are no scuffs or marks, even though my wedding ring sometimes catches the surface around the stick. The connections are brushed steel 3mm laser cut and custom made.

Internally the brackets, again, are laser cut with the Arcade Europe signature and embossed into the structure. This is a detail that shows a real love of craftsmanship and care built into the product and details you will never see, but know are there.

The PCB is literally plug and play for PC, which this unit was tested on. No updates were needed.

The stick and buttons are LS-32 Semitsu parts and personally this is my preference and play style over Sanwa, which is also another favourite among arcade users. Arcade Europe offers both along with HAPP – to fit the players preference. If you’re not sure what the differences are then definitely do some searching. Each has a specific feel and will alter your experience.

The micro switches in the stick act as expected and everything works well with no latency I noticed. The trackball sits centre and is in replacement of a mouse. A permanent usb cable runs from the rear of the unit for the trackball, a second male-to-male USB cable is required for the stick to function.

I tested the trackball with Missile Command and it felt as authentic as the original. There are also two buttons either side of the unit for pinball games, unfortunately I was unable to test these.

For this review I tested the stick with the entire Metal Slug series on Steam, KoF Steam edition, Sine Mora and finally, the indie produced, Streets of Rage Remake.

The experience is exhilarating, and I can faithfully say as an arcade fanatic, this stick is fantastic.

The £220 price tag offers an affordable entry level option for those looking to test the waters in the genre, even for those with limited space or just looking for some portability. I’m happy to say that given my positive experience with this product and Andy’s customer service, I can wholeheartedly recommend the Classic Arcade Stick by Arcade Europe.

Think about the future

It goes without saying the games you play are best suited to the 2D retro arcade style, reaching beyond that you’re just looking to be disappointed. 3D contemporary games that require duel analogue sticks are a no go. It’s safe to say when you hit those 2D and 2.5D notes you’ll be hooked and the only place you’ll be satisfied going to after – is probably to the Arcade Cabinet section at Arcade Europe’s website.

Visit Arcade Europe’s website for more details on their available products.

Classic Arcade Stick Review by Ash from the Retro Gaming Blog. RGB_RetroBlog

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Interview – Jude Wilson: ‘Goldeneye’ Unreal Engine

We’ve Been Expecting You…

So for those of you who are too young to remember, Goldeneye was a Nintendo 64 game put together by Rare under the watchful eye of Nintendo. The game started off as a third person shooter with a lot more gore, until Shigeru Miyamoto stepped in and made some suggestions. Turns out they not only increased the frame rate but migrated the game in first-person territory.

The game stands out as an important one. Especially for those of us locked into the 30-40 year age bracket.

Goldeneye proved that the genre could not only work on a console platform, but thrive. Thanks to the analogue stick, Goldeneye was a rollercoaster of emotions – it was fun, frolics and pure hell as it tested the boundaries of friendships in the four player split screen Deathmatch mode.

Oddjob, a character that always caused arguments – a walking atlas ball with guns, but most would go prone whilst kneecapping opponents. Something deemed unforgivable, yet, a perfectly legal move.

This iteration of Bond really is the best and to this day there has not been one to rule them all. Nintendo with Rare, took one game and made it a smash hit. When EA acquired the license shortly after the they could never hit the same success despite numerous attempts. Even Activision couldn’t recreate the magic when they copied the original for the Wii.

Looking back the game has aged and not gracefully so, it’s okay and still playable. But it would require the most diehard gamer with a pair of rose tints to overcome some of the obsolescence.

I am of an opinion that Goldeneye is a game that is best remembered. Not replayed.

Hey Jude

Step in Jude Wilson. Student with a penchant for Bond, video game environments and the Unreal Engine.

Revisiting popular Nintendo games with the Unreal engine has become something of a trend but when I saw Jude’s work it made reach out. For the first time in a long time seeing his rendition of the Facility map – there was a connection to the game I had not felt since playing in my yonder years.

I salute him for that.

I caught up with Jude to find out what his connection was with Goldeneye and why he decided to revisit a classic reimagined.

 

R.G.B: Hi Jude, thanks for catching up with us. Can we start with you telling us a little bit about yourself?

J.W: “Hi, my name is Jude Wilson, I am currently studying Games Design for a Master’s Degree at Sheffield Hallam University. I am half way through my third year. I’m a 32-year-old mature student that wanted a different career and this was my choice because I absolutely adore games and love being creative.

My aim is to become an environment artist/level designer one day, a dream scenario would be to work at Rare Ltd or Nintendo!

My gaming tastes today are actually RPG/action-adventure, I love the ‘Dark Souls’ games, ‘Castlevania’ and ‘Skyrim’. With that said though I also hold a dear place in my heart for retro games from Nintendo and Rare Ltd. My all time favourite games are ‘Banjo-Kazooie’ and ‘Tooie’. Anything by Rare Ltd really!”

R.G.B: What was it about ‘Goldeneye’ in particular that made you want to recreate the facility level in the unreal engine?

J.W: “Well, ‘GoldenEye’ is the game that I spent many hours on playing with my friends on the multiplayer mode and our favorite level was always the ‘Facility’. Blowing the huge cylinder tanks up with proximity mines was so fun, especially if you killed your buddies!

Basically, the piece I have created was for a university assignment, I was given four months to try to take a game that was roughly 15 years old and re-imagine a small scene to the standard of today’s games.

It wasn’t a tough choice, I knew straight away that I wanted to make a piece from the Facility level, mainly to give my friends something nostalgic to see and anybody else that played this game and loved it as much me and my friends did.

I hope I get a good mark.”

R.G.B: What was your process, and how long did it take?

J.W: “It took the whole four months to make. I was given the assignment around September 24th 2015 and I got straight to work on it within the same week. I finished it on the 3rd of January I think…

I start of by making the largest assets first. It’s really important to work large before going down to the small details. I used modelling software called 3DS Max and with that I started with modelling the whole corridor (no stairs) then importing that into Unreal Engine 4 (UE4).

I’d make really basic textures to put on the walls and floor just to get a feel then I’d dive straight into making the lighting. Lighting is so important, you must create that as soon as you have your scene’s basic (bare bones) lay out. Do this before you make any other assets because assets look different under different lighting. The worst thing is creating the lighting at the end and all the assets can look strange all of a sudden i.e. too dark, strange tint in the colours and incorrect reflections on surfaces.

I use Photoshop and Substance Designer to make the textures, the textures use Physically Based Rendering (PBR) and this is how the assets ‘look’ are made to look realistic. Each material normally consists of an Albedo map – The Colour, Normal Map – the 3D surface and cavities, bump basically.

Ambient Occlusion – the Shadows in the crevasses, ‘Metalness’ – is it metal? And the ‘Microsurface’ – how rough is the surface?

An artist will make these textures for every individual asset made. There are other textures too, but these are the bread and butter ones.

The lighting in conjunction with this is incredibly important for the textures to work properly and look correct.

I also had, to use correct scaling for the entire project. So, The doors are actually proper fire door style sizes, even the fire extinguishers on the walls are to the correct measurements.

So, the software I used was: 3DS Max – 3D Modelling, Unreal Engine 4.9.2 – the game Engine, Photoshop and Substance Designer – to create the textures, and finally, Marmoset Toolbag to test render the small asset’s with textures before moving them over to UE4.

I’m sorry if I’m confusing to anybody, it’s a lot to take in. I am going to upload a breakdown of the process (with imagery) for a small area very soon on my website.

To anybody that want’s to do this, I can’t stress enough how important going to University is. The knowledge I have learned there is invaluable. Also, before university, start off with getting your drawing skills up and have a play with the free 3D software; Blender. Blender will help you to get a small understanding and a head start in the 3D world. So, in a nutshell; experience with Blender and Photoshop then on to University!”

R.G.B: Are you looking to put these skills into the gaming industry or another artistic sector? What are your artistic aspirations?

J.W: “When I graduate, around May 2017 I think it is, I would love to become an Environment Artist in the Games Industry. That is my dream. I’ll try my best and give it everything for that chance.

R.G.B: What is your next project?

J.W: “My next project for now are the assignments for next semester starting January 18th. I am going to make a small castle ruin that is heavily inspired by Dark Souls.

The summer is when I will get some free time to spend on my own projects that I want to do. There’s a lot of freedom at University in the final years but there are always constraints and targets to stick to. I would love to go back to my ‘GoldenEye’ project and possibly make the famous toilet area! In fact next year, I get to choose what I want to make so I might even try to make another ‘GoldenEye’ level, maybe the Bunker or the Archives.

That would be awesome!”

R.G.B: Thank you for your time today.

Jude Wilson interview by Ash RGB_RetroBlog

You can visit Jude Wilson’s website here.

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Return Fire Review

 

 

VIDEO REVIEW COMING SOON

 

Return Fire explains its entire concept on the back of the CD case in 17 words – ‘In Return Fire you get to play with bombs, tanks, rockets, you know… that type of stuff’.

Once this game is injected into your retinas and forever burned into your mind you’ll find that blowing up buildings and driving tanks over people can be a whole lot of fun without the need of acquiring expensive vehicles or being sent to prison.

We spoke with creator, Reichart Von Wolfsheild, about Return Fire and how he came to design such a project, its challenges, and how it became one of the best loved 3DO games on the system.

For this review we have included excerpts from our conversation which you can read in full here.

 

 

WAR OF THE WORLDS

This top down tank shooter proves war has never been so much fun, especially with a friend (or foe?). Not a virtual counterpart, but one that involves face-to-face, real-time social interaction and possibly lives down the road from you. The 3DO’s daisy-chaining of controllers and potential for multi-player mayhem is one of the key attractions that helped get this project on the system.

Silent Software’s Reichart Von Wolfsheild remembers fondly the early tests they were running on 3DO hardware.

R.W: “We spent an entire month doing research just doing speed tests on the 3DO. Our very first test was to throw a polygon up, then we had to understand it was a square, it works a certain way, and we spun it – then sub divide it and kept sub dividing it down.

So all these tests were to see if there was anyway to get more speed out of it. We knew what our max polygons and sizes could have been.”

He continues to explain some of the tricks used to improve the performance of the game.

R.W: “. . . it’s not real 3D, it’s 2.5D. It is real 3D in the sense it’s being rendered with a 3D formula, except we dropped one of the axis and the reason we did this is because we gained about 20 percent more speed on the 3DO.

And knowing we had to split the screen and render two worlds, we wanted to keep the frame rate north of 12 frames per second. Obviously back then games were between 30 and 60 frames, but I wanted to get this world rendered, I had a lot to render, more than an EA game would do or something else, so that’s how we came up with that. We did it physically on the ground and spent days thinking what we could do, and ran tests over-and-over again, just seeing how fast we could do matrix math.”

Return Fire was ported with better frame rates and graphical updates on the PlayStation and PC, but to experience the title in its original conception, the 3DO is it. And rather grand it is too.

BUILDING BRIDGES AND BURNING THEM

A variety of maps have been meticulously built with a gentle learning curve. Each level is based around capture the flag mechanics, and the obstacles come in the form of an enemy stopping you with their high walls, tower defense turrets, aerial drones and submarines. The environment is completely destructible but some buildings can provide cover as you race from island to island.

 

 

This strategy takes an alternative route when you get a friend in the mix and the results prove feverishly addictive as you battle for balance over completing your objective and obfuscating your opponent’s through a barrage of weaponry and environmental destruction.

R.W: “. . . what I was trying to capture with Return Fire, is that amazing moment when you bring your friends over your house and you’re relaxing and you are learning about each other by playing games together. It’s the reason people get together and play D&D and board games and so forth, it’s incredibly… I’ll use the phrase, ‘intimately social’, and I don’t feel there are other many things that do that.”

To conquer your enemy and retrieve the flag you have a limited supply of vehicles including: Helicopters, Tanks, Heavy Rocket Carrier and Jeeps, each must be used in balance to complete each stage and each has different strengths and weaknesses. The Jeep for example, has little to no armor – but is exceedingly quick and is the only vehicle which can obtain the flag.

This makes for an exciting risk and reward system, especially when playing against a friend.

 

 

Graphically the game is simple, yet pleasing and perfectly suitable for what it sets out to achieve. If anything there is a charm which makes mass destruction within this potentially grim atmosphere, very cheeky. You can’t help but draw a wry smile as you wipe out entire camps of infantry in their tents.

All the art was created by Van Arno, today a celebrated fine painter, and it turned out Return Fire was his first foray in video-game territory. Reichart recalls fondly how he loved his style and wanted him on the team, even though, Van, had never used a computer before. Reichart coached him through the process so his skills could transition over from paint to pixel and into the game.

R.W: “I said to him – hey you wanna do some computer work?  And he said –  sure, I’ll try it. He was very laid back, very easy going about it which is rather ironic given this is a war game. So again it brought a certain ‘feel’ to the game, but we kept it minimalistic on purpose.”

I LOVE THE SMELL OF NAPALM IN THE MORNING

The sound design is perfectly pitched with the weight of the tank tracks rolling over concrete. Each blast envelops you and is felt through the rumbles and metallic ricochets.

 

 

It doesn’t stop there. The comedic and purposeful effects of soldiers falling under your vehicle are hilarious, but where it really steps into its own is with the music.

Classical themes are assigned to each vehicle and it goes without saying it adds an immense amount of depth and fun. Tearing through buildings and infantry to Holst’s Mars, from the Planet Suite, is gratifying. Even when your plans go wayward.

On its release Return Fire was a game that very much ignited my love for classical music, it was the first time I had heard it used in such a way that evoked a real passion that continues today. Of course, it is widely used as a standard by games of today, but back in 1995 it was almost non-existent.

Over a period of 3 months, Reichart, went through 300 classical CD’s stored in his truck.

R.W: “What I was looking for was the Rock ’n’ Roll version of these songs, I wanted to hear the upbeat versions, I wanted to hear heavy drums, it was a video-game I wanted it over-the-top. Even blind, even when I didn’t know what CD I was pulling, EMI’s collection from Giovanni was the best I’d heard.”

A schedule was put together with an approximate budget of $15,000 to fly out to Europe and have a selection of classical themes scored for the game, which he would orchestrate himself. At that time a dialogue was also opened up between EMI and Silent Software which led to two months of negotiations.

Silent Software were asking for 45 minutes of EMI music, and the price was $100,000.

R.W: “I said I don’t have a one-hundred thousand dollar budget. He finally agreed to full licensing rights for any games I make in the next three years and I can’t tell you the final price, but it was definitely cheaper than me flying to Europe, so I got all the music rights to all the music I wanted, best quality and part of the deal that actually pushed it through was I told them I would advertise them, I would put ‘EMI’ first image full page, again, video games didn’t really do that back then.”

ALL CORRECT

Return Fire is a very good game, and should be in every 3DO collectors library. This game has been remembered for two things in particular – multi-player, and, its fantastic music.

One of the benefits of the 3DO hardware was the on board battery backup and if you have a thirst for war, then you can purchase additional maps in the expansion disc ‘Return Fire: Maps O Death’.

The game stands as one of my top ten 3DO games. It continues to play so well today due to the simplicity, the controls and all out playability. One thing I had to ask about Return Fire is how its creator felt about it today, after all these years.

R.W: “I very much love Return fire, if you look at the box from Fire Power it’s one of my favorite pieces of artwork, it’s just so ridiculously over the top, if you look closely at the jeep driving at you, it’s a lot of fun. That’s just the beauty of Van Arno – but there’s a lot of humour in all this stuff too.

No, there’s definitely a love of this and nostalgia to it, I get asked constantly to do updates for it.”

And with regards to updates on Return Fire, time will tell.

Facts about Return Fire you may not know:

  • Return Fire designer, Reichart Von Wolfsheild is an American inventor, technologist and artist, and was part of the development of the first modern multi-player game.
  • Return Fire is the sequel to ‘Fire Power’ on the Commodore Amiga.
  • The skull laugh is provided by R.J Mical, inventor of the Amiga, and, co-inventor of the Atari Lynx and 3DO.
  • Return Fire is the first game to use a planned content expansion pack on a console.
  • The idea for Return Fire germinated from the arcade game ‘Tank’.
  • The camouflage artwork for Return Fire was used to make it stand out among other games on the store shelves, which at that time all used bright, bold colours.
  • The noise of the soldiers being squished by your vehicle is a sound bite from Silent Software developer Will Ware.

Interested in the full story behind Return Fire and more industry insight? Visit our conversation with Reichart Von Wolfsheild here.

 

PRESENTATION    75%

GRAPHICS    80%

SOUND    98%

PLAYABILITY    85%

LASTABILITY    90%

OVERALL 85%

A superb two player game which will have you coming back again and again, if only to experience the rousing music while desolating entire environments. 3DO collectors need this game!

Return Fire rating breakdown explained here

Return Fire review by Ash RGB_RetroBlog

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What is Retro Gaming?

Something I ask myself now and again. What is retro gaming? How is it defined?

Through culture or something else?

A thought and a conversation I see bounded around from time-to-time.

For myself, retro gaming is a nostalgia vault. Personal access to fond memories and tough challenges, perhaps not so tough to those who painstakingly bested each level within an inch of its code. As was the case with many 90’s games. It is a key to some of the best times in my youth and time spent with friends, some of which are no longer here, which conjures all sorts of feelings when particular moments are met or music heard.

I’m also perfectly aware it’s a personal mark to each individual. Some are of the collector mentality, connoisseurs if you like. Some see retro as an evolution in technology, as the gap increases, so does the likelihood the label from old to retro is certified. The 2 generation gap being the most quoted.

 

 

Currently I’m playing a lot of Xbox original games and I’m getting to relive through some of the games I missed out on, even play games I couldn’t complete – Steel Battalion being a fine example of that. It’s a platform I fail to class as retro, yet I enjoy regardless.

 

Times, they are changing

 

Retro gaming and its collecting in part has similarities with vinyl culture.

Where you find something unknown to you and you share its existence with friends and family – social media or video streams being a way to share it with the world, and it’s interesting to me how it imitates through new mediums making me feel just that little bit older.

Perhaps that’s, subconsciously, why I retro game in the first place?

 

The part I’m finding exciting right now is that new discovery of games I never knew existed/played. There is a goldmine of high quality games for the Xbox original right now going from 35p each at local thrift shops. Panzer Dragoon Orta £1, Outrun 2 50p, Project Zero 2 £2. It seems almost insulting these games are cheaper than most throwaway apps. But that’s how it goes and so does my search into new uncharted regions.

What does retro gaming mean to you and what are you collecting for?

Care to share, then let us know in the comment section.

Opinion piece by Ash RGB_RetroBlog

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Reichart Von Wolfsheild: 3DO, Return Fire and the Industry

 

Reichart Von Wolfsheild is a busy man in the throes of many projects at any one time, yet despite this, he generously took time from his home in Maui to talk with me about his experiences and contributions within the video-game industry, but more specifically about his 3DO game, Return Fire.

 

At times, Reichart talked about very interesting and historic aspects from his career, comments not necessarily associated with Return Fire. I have included these within this article separated into these ‘off-topic’ quote boxes, as like me, you may find them incredibly insightful.

 

 

Never played Return Fire? Read/Watch our Return Fire 3DO Review.

Previous to our meeting I knew very little about Reichart, other than his credit associated with the game. I assumed he was a game designer and not much more.

On research I discovered I couldn’t have been more wrong if I tried.

 

THE MTV GENERATION

 

Entrepreneur, scientist, artist, technologist and inventor are just a few of the titles earned over the years.

He opened our conversation through his interest in strategy and wooden puzzle games. Something he always had a penchant for until some 10 years ago. He recalls, he could solve most puzzles, and any puzzle that could be completed within 3 minutes wasn’t worth his time, except for Bill Cutler’s, Sneaky Squares.

 

 

R.W: “I thought . . . this would be a great gift. So right on the spot I said to the person behind the counter, order me a thousand of these. I figured I would give them out as gifts, and I gave them out as gifts for over 20 years.”

 

This is the man who built a CPU from scratch in his early teens and still possesses a highly infectious enthusiasm for what he does.

 


“I was more interested in building the tools, but then this game thing came along and I figured I’d give it a try.” 


 

His portfolio of work includes some well respected names, not limited to: Disney, Mattel and Dreamworks and an early career as an MTV music art director meant he would be surrounded by artists, such as Andy Warhol, Diana Ross and Deborah Harry.

He also contributed to the development of the technology surrounding music videos through a hardware device he built that auto corrected frame speeds between film and video formats.

 

 

So how did it come to be an art director for MTV would create the video game Return Fire?

 

FIREPOWER

 

R.W: “I was working on a latency corrections formula for JPL for a government contract I was hoping to get. The goal was to close up the latency for space telerobotics for putting a robot on the moon.

 

The contract fell through and Von Wolfsheild admits at the time his naivety got the better of him as he made the assumption  the project would go ahead.

 

R.W: “I was pissed off and talking to a friend of mine in the arcade. I didn’t really go to arcades, it was something he took me too. I’m bitching about this game I’m playing (laughs) in fact which I think is called, Tank. He just turned to me and said ‘If you think you can do better, do better.'”

 

It would be through his frustration with Tank he would drift toward video-game territory but it was the numbers from his friends at Activision, that would prove to be a stronger call to action.

 

R.W: “I called them up they basically gave me the numbers, and when I heard the numbers I was in shock. I was like ‘You’re doing better than cocaine dealers’.

When you calculate how many quarters you have to shove into a machine at that speed to be pulling down the thousands of dollars per day, per machine, it’s very impressive. In fact one of the arcades I would go to they would empty the cash every hour.”

 

The mid-eighties heralded the arrival of the Commodore Amiga home computer. A market Reichart said hadn’t considered initially, but went on to say: “It caught my attention specifically as an artist, because years before I had worked with Warhol, who was a spokesperson for Amiga early on for the first year and Debbie Harry . . . There’s this amazing art machine – I’m an artist, so I thought this is the machine for me.”

Von Wolfsheild took to the Amiga instantly and started programming, writing code and tweaking.

Simultaneously he was working on commercial campaigns for Pepsi and Pizza Hut and made a lot of money, all of which he would pour in to computers.

 

R.W “It overtook me, I was like okay, there’s this huge third wave. So the first wave was the arcade machines. The second wave was Atari and Nintendo, and the third wave, in my mind, was these home computers. And that was my bigger interest at the time. I was more interested in building the tools, but then this game thing came along and I figured I’d give it a try.”

 

ARCADE FIRE

 

With the latency routines from the JPL contract, Reichart began putting together a demo that would enable him to open up two windows on the same Amiga. The Amiga was the first pre-emtive multitasking computer, so each window was a separate program and Reichart could test it as it were two machines linked through a modem.

 

R.W: “I developed this modem interface, a layer for that and I got it to the point where the two computers could talk just fast enough.”

 

With this in place Reichart hired a programmer and worked alongside them, whilst overseeing the art, graphics, sound and basic architecture.

 

R.W: “I found, Will Ware, who was actually working at Pizza Hut, but he was getting his degree in computer architecture. He and I just hit it off for an odd reason and that was actually a big part of it. If I hadn’t found someone I liked, I probably wouldn’t have done it.”

 

Additional income was obtained by Von Wolfsheild’s upgrade expansion board for the Amiga, which he designed and built, something that came naturally to him and made good money.

 

R.W: “I wanted to do a better version of Tank. And that’s what became Firepower. So it really was simple. And here’s the funniest thing. One of the people that made Tank was Jay Miner [father of the Amiga]. In fact the first time Jay played Firepower on the Amiga, he goes to me and says ‘Ah, you made Tank – two player’.

I was like, ‘Pretty much’. (laughs)”

 

ROLL OUT

 

An idea to gain a better understanding of the Amiga’s technology was seized, Reichart made a phone call and ended up speaking with Dale Luck.

 

R.W: “I didn’t understand all of the Amiga . . . and we’re all building these video games and I said why don’t we just meet with the people who made this thing and have them tell us how it all works.

We had a lot of fun, they were impressed with what we were doing because they’d never seen multi-player games in real-time modem access, whilst multi-tasking and so forth, and Dave Needle and Kodiak and Dale and a bunch of others. 

It was a great way to teach my whole team. They got hands on and could ask any questions of the guys that actually made the thing.”

 

Firepower released on the Amiga and some years later toward the end of the eighties, Dave Needle’s 4th generation console, The Handy (released as the Atari Lynx), was to enter the market.

 

 


 Dave Needle, with Amiga Serial number “1”
photo provided by Reichart Von Wolfsheild with the kind permission of Dave Needle

 

 

R.W: “I had been building products for Epyx . . . They were working on this thing [the Atari Lynx] and we got really close to bringing Firepower over to it. The first iteration of the second version.

 

I ended up not doing games for the Atari Lynx because of the politics that I was aware of that no one else was aware of, which was how bad the situation was between Epyx.

 

There was other stuff I was working on that was making better money, and more interesting to the team – that we just skipped it. And of course 3DO was the next step.”

 

Released in 1993, Dave Needle and R.J Mical, created the Panasonic 3DO.

The concept behind the 3DO’s multi-play philosophy intrigued Von Wolfsheild enough to keep track of the system’s development from day one, and eventually be the console that would inherit Firepower’s sequel.

 

THE NEXT GENERATION

 


photo credit: 3do via photopin (license)

 

Lateral thinking was leveraged for more power and Silent Software’s approach took an interesting physical angle to overcome early technical challenges.

 

 

 

R.W: “I used to own an exceptionally large Dinky collection, picture 400 to 500 mint condition palm sized toys . . . I had an entire armada of British ships. I brought these in and set them up in our office space. I had our team hold a . . . slip cover from a large box and I made everyone hold this up to their face to be a window.

 

And I said, okay. You get to view this world I’m showing you, you get to move forwards and backwards and you can zoom in, but you can’t turn your head.

 

So it’s not real 3D, it’s 2.5D, it is real 3D in the sense it’s being rendered with a 3D formula, except, we dropped one of the axis and the reason we did this is because we gained about 20 percent more speed on the 3DO. And knowing we had to split the screen and render two worlds, we wanted to keep the frame rate north of 12 frames per second.

 

Obviously back then games were between 30 and 60 frames, but I wanted to get this world rendered, I had a lot to render, more than an EA game would do or something else, so that’s how we came up with that.

 

We did it physically on the ground and spent days thinking what we could do, and ran tests over-and-over again, just seeing how fast we could do matrix math. And we used a lot of tricks. Will was a genius here and made it all possible.”

 


“I taught an artist who had never done computer art before how to use a computer and how to draw with a mouse, because I loved his style.” 


 

Silent Software housed a small team and Return Fire was down as a back burner project. Reichart continues to explain the development environment was expensive, but due to strong ties and good relationships they managed to get a good deal.

All the art on Return Fire was created by, not an experienced graphic artist for video games, but a fine artist who learned on the job.

 

R.W: “I taught an artist who had never done computer art before how to use a computer and how to draw with a mouse, because I loved his style.

 

 Return Fire box art created by Van Arno

 

He’s actually a fine painter, and now, a very celebrated artist in the world. His name is Van Arno and his work already kind of looks cartoonish, but he captures things because of it. So he falls into the Robert Crumb category. He’s avant-garde, almost comic book like but he adds a richness to it and I just loved his work, I loved everything he did. He’d done a lot of record album covers and stuff, and I said to him, hey you wanna do some computer work? And he said, sure, I’ll try it.

 

 Return Fire on the 3DO

 

He was very laid back, very easy going about it, which is rather ironic given this is a war game. So again it brought a certain ‘feel’ to the game, but we kept it minimalist on purpose.

 

We wanted to build an arcade game. This was always my goal.”

 

Reichart expressed how he found equalising of opponents interesting and how in traditional fencing you could have a large male take on a smaller framed female and such rules wouldn’t apply in the outcome of the fight. It would be determined by style.

The concept was something he wanted to install in Return Fire.

 

R.W: “I love multi-player games over single player games and I view the machine itself as nothing but a chessboard. It’s backdrop. I don’t like the idea of playing against a computer so I never focus very much on one player games, even the AI stuff and even though I love AI. I don’t really enjoy that.

 

I enjoy pitting myself against other human beings, and being equaled.

 

I can tell you exactly what I was motivated by because we played a bit of back-and-forth. In the old days there was a game on the C64, one of my favorites called Raid On Bungeling Bay, and I fell in love with it instantly, but I hated the fact it was one player, and I hated the fact I just couldn’t enjoy the environment like a simulated world.

So that’s where Firepower is very much modeled after Will Wright’s, Raid on Bungling Bay.”

 

GENIE IN A BOTTLE

R.W: One of my favourite deals ever, the most interesting to me was a friend of mine whom I still work with. He was the head of Disney Interactive and he’s the person behind the Aladdin game on the Genesis.

The reason that whole thing happened was because Disney had the license itself and the fact this giant movie was going to come out. And, the person who negotiated this amazing deal, Mark Teren.

He cut a deal with Virgin, Sega and Disney, and he got all three to agree to the same things at the same time. So Sega gave Disney fundamentally free buying power, because it was the last game to push out the Sega and give it a win, and he cut this amazing deal to have Virgin do all the work. And Virgin wanted some huge success as they weren’t doing very well at that point.

So it was this magic moment in time where Disney had to pay nothing to get the best game out there and it was a good game onto itself, it was a fun game to play. Great programmers, Divergent [Virgin’s] team were all pure awesome and they often ended up on games that didn’t do well, but the programmers and the artists were all stellar.

So understand the economics behind games like Nintendo and so on, at that time in history if you were going to make a game you had to decide who you were going to get into bed with.

A Sony Play Station development system is fifty thousand dollars and 3DO ended up being a mac development system, they wanted to do Amiga of course, but Trip Hawkins [Founder of EA and 3DO] said no. If I recall – I’m doing this from memory now, we bought a Mac, we hacked it, and then we did everything on Amiga’s.

We set it up so anyone in the office could transmit to this little slave Mac that we set up and we just stared at that Mac and hated it. We were all hardcore Amiga people and we were also sitting on hundreds of Amiga’s and every version of them, so for us the hardware was free. All we had to do was buy one Mac and turn it into a Vax – it was basically a server. Then it would do the build and spew it out onto our customised 3DO’s, which I still have.

 

 

WAR DRUMS

 

On release, Return Fire’s music was always celebrated in conversation between gamers, and at that time was one of the first games to use classical music. Today widely used as a standard, but in 1995 it was almost non-existent.

It was also the first game to use real 3D Dolby Surround.

Over a period of 3 months, Reichart, went through 300 classical CD’s stored in his truck.

 

R.W: “What I was looking for was the Rock ’n’ Roll version of these songs, I wanted to hear the upbeat versions, I wanted to hear heavy drums, it was a video-game I wanted it over-the-top. Even blind, even when I didn’t know what CD I was pulling, EMI’s collection from Giovanni was the best I’d heard.”

 

A schedule was put together with an approximate budget of $15,000 to fly out to Europe and have a selection of classical themes scored for the game, with Reichart conducting the orchestra himself. At that time a dialogue was also opened up between EMI and Silent Software which led to two months of negotiations.

Silent Software were asking for 45 minutes of EMI music, and the price was $100,000.

 

R.W: “I said I don’t have a one-hundred thousand dollar budget. He finally agreed to full licensing rights for any games I make in the next three years and I can’t tell you the final price, but it was definitely cheaper than me flying to Europe, so I got all the music rights to all the music I wanted, best quality and part of the deal that actually pushed it through was I told them I would advertise them, I would put ‘EMI’ first image full page, again, video games didn’t really do that back then.”

 

At the same time Von Wolfsheild managed to cut a deal with the  American Military, something that was encouraged from his current work with the DoD. The deal would see a tongue-and-cheek advert appear in the game, another first in advertisement for promoting the army via video game.

 

R.W: “As a result of that relationship it ended up making us an interesting amount of money on the back end because we ended up in the PX stores, the military on base stores, they bought it for everyone. If I remember correctly we sold something like 20 thousand units in the first couple of months just from military bases. So again, that caused them to buy more 3DO’s. They didn’t have the 3DO at that time, they had the game though.”

 

It’s clear the game takes on the theme of war and many elements were used in balance with great success to keep the atmosphere from taking on a dark tones. A lot of these were handled with nods to tropes, as well as the unbelievably great work done in the sound design department. Even co-creator of the 3DO, R.J Mical got involved.

 

 

R.W: “RJ and I, being old friends, he had this most ridiculous laugh. And I realised he has to be the laugh. I would hear him laugh and I would have his laugh in my head on certain other things . . . It sounds fake even coming out of him, but it’s completely real. It’s pretty hard to explain. I would ask him, you’re not really laughing like that, are you?

 

But no, this is a genuine belly laugh, but it just sounds like he made it up.

 

So that became the skull laughing. It was a way to add a little bit of levity to something that was taking on something that was a rather dark mood. My goal was not to make it something that was nazi-istic – to create a fake word.”

 

Aside from Mical’s cameo, other sound recordings were taken from Silent Software’s Will Ware, such as the ‘squish’ sound that accompanies a soldiers death as he goes under the vehicle as well as the grunt vocals as troops lob grenades.

All these elements came together cohesively to bring a blend of stylised aesthetics and an atmosphere, whist riffing off the absurd. An approach which resonated with gamers and critics alike.

 


“It’s better to only sell 10,000 copies but put money in your pocket rather than take a chance on marketing and lose everything.” 


 

The artwork design for the box came from a conflict of opinion between 3DO’s, Nick Earl, and Reichart.

 

R.W: “Nick Earl said something about the box and the marketing, and I said nah – I’m going to do the exact opposite. I didn’t know what the opposite was at that point, but I was going to do it what ever, and it hit me – we got a camouflaged product, lets actually camouflage it, but of course camouflage will stand out like a sore thumb in a high tech industry. So you have everything that’s like lasers and neon and all that – then this thing that looks like camouflage. If you’re interested even slightly in military related stuff your gonna pick up that box.”

 

” So the other product that would have a tank on it, with lazers and neon with red, green primary colours and we had this camouflage and when you stared at it for a second you realised you were staring at an angry face, and that’s classic Van Arno in there and so we just had fun with that.”

 

Trip Hawkins would push Nick Earl to pressure him.

 

 RW: “Nick was being forced by Trip to give me crap all the time, to sort of ride me. Trip himself, this was his favourite game inside the 3DO office to play with the team. They were on our case all the time to get updates on new features.

 

So, we’re building this game and they’re asking about marketing and sales and I said I don’t plan to do any of that. It either sells on it’s own through word-of-mouth or it doesn’t, I’m not a marketing guy. I build good products and if they like it, they’ll buy it.

 

If you do the economics of advertising there’s this cross over point and unless you’re really big it’s not worth doing. It’s better to only sell 10,000 copies but put money in your pocket rather than take a chance on marketing and lose everything. So that was a decision I made.”

 

With foundations from the Amiga days, Von Wolfsheild contacted some of his friends, editors from Amiga publications, all of which were still making video game magazines. He declined their offers to advertise and asked if they would review his game.

 

RW: They said, you want us to pay attention to you and you’re not going to advertise with us. I said, ‘Are you telling me I have to advertise for you guys to review it’?

 

They said, ‘No, we’re not saying that – but you do realise we make our money off from advertising.’ I said, ‘I tell you what, you make your money from EA because you’re never getting any money from me. If I ever get really really big and run a publishing company I’ll spend some money on advertising’”

 

Reichart sent the game to Electronic Gaming Monthly, the result was a complete stand-still at the office and the whole company came to halt.

 

R.W: “All the writers and everybody at the office were playing our game instead of working and he said ‘You’ve got a hit here’. And I said, ‘Okay, is there anything I can do to help you’? He said ‘No no, we’re going to do the review’, and I said ‘how do you plan to get the screenshots’?”

 

The format for getting screenshots didn’t sit well with Reichart. The procedure would usually result in poor colour and fuzzy images. He was put in touch with the EGM printers and the conversation resulted in Silent Software writing their own program to export Return Fire’s maps as images, colour corrected.

EGM released their spread that covered 17 pages, an amazing number at that time, dedicated to Return Fire.

 

[image in here related to spread]

 

R.W: “I remember Nick calling me asking ‘How much did you pay them’? And I said ‘No, they did this all on their own. I didn’t pay them a penny.’ He was always trying to get me to buy advertising somewhere to promote everything . I’m like, ‘No, if you want to promote Return Fire knock yourself out, put it in an Ad with 3DO.'”

 

While his approach paid off, Reichart admits he made mistakes with marketing and sales.

 

R.W: “I should have been more compatible with marketing people and sales people and so forth, I just didn’t understand them, they were in a completely different universe than me. I don’t understand the idea of pushing people to buy a product, I understand if your product is good, people will buy it and if it’s not, they don’t. But you know, we still did very very well. I know we made a lot more money than Gex did.”

 


“When we’d talk to movie directors about games I would say we’ll probably make more money.” 


 

WAR CHEST

 

Silent Software weren’t seen as big money makers, something Reichart recollects happened a few times.

 

R.W: “I was sitting with Dave Maynard from EA, he wasn’t being rude . . . and he said, when are you going to make a real game? And I’m like, Dave, lets do something fun here. I said how many people are on your team? How many units you going to sell? What’s your margin – what’s your wholesale price, work the whole thing out and advertising and all that. Then I worked out my numbers and his jaw dropped, because we were doing about 20 times what EA was doing.”

 

Von Wolfsheild explained their simple approach to projects encouraged profit margins. Beyond that they even tracked one of their products dollar units next to Michael Jackson’s Thriller which were matching in comparison. Despite these different industries it highlighted the potential to be made within the video game market.

 

R.W: “When we’d talk to movie directors about games I would say we’ll probably make more money. I actually met with Francis Ford Coppola, he played Return Fire at a party, and he laughed when he heard the music, of course – Ride of the Valkyries. And he made a comment, it’s cute.

 

And I said, Francis, we made more money off this than you did off the movie. And he just looked at me. What are you talking about? I then explained and worked through the numbers.

 

I know what movies make and I know how the industry works and we make a killing, and we don’t have anyone to share it with.

 

There was this interesting turn, where the market began to comprehend how much video games really made. And the fact, unlike movies, the whole accounting B.S hadn’t taken hold yet, the numbers were the numbers.”

 

 

Crystal Dynamics soon arrived on the scene and was a heavy content creator for 3DO, many of which were the best games. A company that came from nowhere was created by Dave Morse and Selina Perkins, and heavily funded

 

R.W: “Crystal was started by a team that had one of the original Amiga people, Amiga people are everywhere – in fact, having an Amiga person on your team is a statement to me that says, okay your company has intelligence.”

 

The team came from a cable television background and worked in the 10 – 20 million dollar each range. Their game, Gex did very well on the 3DO and remains one of the best titles on the system.

 

THE TRIP

 

photo credit: Trip Hawkins at Computer History Museum via photopin (license)

 

R.W: “I think Return Fire made the third most money of all 3DO games, I never saw the numbers but Trip told me directly. Me and Trip had a love/hate relationship, again, Trip paid me the highest royalty he’s ever paid anyone in history and he made it very clear to me he was pissed off about it. He felt I was taking advantage of him.”

 

Due to the popularity of Return Fire and its success, Trip negotiated for distribution rights, ending with a deal both parties were happy and the game shipped out to Asia and Europe.

 

DEALING WITH NINTENDO

R.W: Our team was the original team brought in to work on the Play Station peripheral – when it was the original Play Station, where it was not a stand-alone machine.

It was an interfacing device for a CD player for the Super Nintendo.

Sony and Nintendo were going to cut a deal together, and we were doing the encryption technology, because I built that for many other companies – encryption and compression is where my specialty is.

I think I still have the manuals to that Play Station.

RGB: So the add-on, was it ready to go?

R.W: I wouldn’t say it was ready to go. There were two things happening at the same time.

Our company, Silent Software, that’s where we made most of our money on the back end, the drivers and stuff. So we worked on the 32X, basically, if there was some weird device out there we were probably doing something with it, because people would come to us and say ‘you know how to do this really fast‘. So a lot of the products we made were not consumer products. We worked on the back-end and got a percentage of it.

So the answer is, when I last saw it, it was down at the Sony building in Los Angeles. They were having hardware problems, which is funny for Sony because these were the guys actually building the CD players.

They couldn’t keep the bit rate high enough, they couldn’t play back simple video – they were actually playing with early CD video playback and we actually had that already working on the CDTV. But that’s because of Carl Sassenrath, he wrote that and it was just awesome.

It was amazing to stick an audio CD in and get real time video out of it. It was very impressive on the CDTV.

Sony did not have that so as I recall the two issues were, they weren’t using what we were doing, and, they said they were having political problems.

They were basically fighting with Nintendo at the time and Sony was making the big decision if they wanted to jump in to the video game business. It was an interesting time in history, and they had some really smart people over at Japan Sony. Impressive engineers. Every day we’d learn about some new little trick they’d come up with – that day! I was like wow! Like, the thing has stereo and now the thing has 3D sound and all sorts of other things, and they were trying to fit as much in and it was clear they were trying to shove more-and-more stuff and their fundamental goal of course, was to build something that eventually allowed them to get all the money.

All said and done at the end of the day all they cared about is that they’re making the money and Nintendo’s not.

The hardware was having a lot of problems and they realised the reason they were having problems was they were trying to match up to Nintendo, as opposed to just building it themselves. Put their own motherboard in and build it from the ground up. So this was very early on and pretty quickly they jumped from that to saying they’re going to build it themselves.

 

 


“It really did just start from the fact I looked at Tank and thought I could do a better job with it” 


 

RW: “My personal favourite game on the 3DO was FIFA soccer, and I don’t even play sports. What I liked about FIFA was that it captured perfectly, what I was trying to capture with Return Fire, which is that amazing moment when you bring your friends over your house, and you’re relaxing and you are learning about each other by playing games together by having this environment. It’s the reason people get together and play D&D and board games and so forth. It’s incredibly… I’ll use the phrase ‘intimately social’ and I don’t feel there are other many things that do that.

 

So here we are, we basically have FIFA Soccer and Return Fire and I’ll tell you, I didn’t even have a specific interest in war or military games. It really did just start from the fact I looked at Tank and thought I could do a better job with it”

 

PIRATES

 

I asked Reichart why people still enjoy Return Fire today, given wildly fluctuating prices on eBay. What it was about the game that people still love?

 

R.W: “Simplicity. But first of we have to separate 2 basic markets to answer this. The nostalgic market that was there and the nostalgic market that wasn’t there. This is true of any market, not just video games.

 

There were people who were there and they were happier then and that was probably their motivation, and the new kids that are interested in this stuff there’s a form of jadedness toward the new stuff coming out – it’s so over-talked about, so over hyped and really noisy.

 

There’s also that angle of re-discovery of that same feeling kids get, well, they used to do this back in the 80’s of course, you would go through record albums, you’d find a song or a record that was released that no one knew about and you would show everybody. So I think there’s a lot of that going on. That’s a big part of this.

 

The other thing about these retro machines is it’s a collectors thing, there is that collectors mentality.  You know I just saw one of my games go for 250 dollars American, on eBay. A mint copy of Return Fire.”

 


“I have a whole view on piracy and I’ve never been against it. I was an early hacker.”


 

I queried Reichart’s attachment to his projects, mainly as he conversed with great detail about the numbers, which are clearly important from a business perspective. I said I expected there to be more of an emotional attachment.

 

R.W: “No, I very much love Return fire, if you look at the box from Fire Power it’s one of my favorite pieces of artwork, it’s just so ridiculously over the top, if you look closely at the jeep driving at you, it’s a lot of fun, that’s just the beauty of Van Arno, but there’s a lot of humour in all this stuff too.

 

No, there’s definitely a love of this and nostalgia to it, I get asked constantly to do updates for it.”

 

Reichart followed up with examples from his dinky toy collection and how all these aspects from his life were brought into the game and meant a great deal to him.

 

SONY KILLED THE VIDEO STAR

RGB: What do you think contributed to the failure of 3DO, given their huge ambition with the M2 project?

R.W: At the time 3DO was growing and growing, but their biggest problem which no one talks about…  Sony should of had a class action suit against them.

It’s a Japanese company and they don’t have to tell anybody the truth and this used to piss us off because the fact is, the 3DO was sold at a real price. Profit built in, of course, but, the $600 price tag that seemed ridiculous to everybody, that’s reflecting the cost to make one of those.

So how did Sony come out with a machine that was cheaper? Well, they didn’t.

They lied.

They dumped product, they basically started undercutting and doing lost leaders and they were making it up on the back end through software sales, but they were doing the same thing that happened years before that caused the whole terror thing with televisions.

They dumped cheap televisions to America and destroyed industries here.

So Sony got ahead the old fashioned way. They cheated.

That’s a shame and customers should be annoyed by that, but that’s a whole different conversation.

So what I’m saying is, the 3DO was too expensive given what the market was.

This is back then, $600 for a machine that plays games, even today with all the new economics that’s just a ridiculous number. It had the allure, got that part – even we were like, god this machine needs to go down, this thing gets down to $299. Magic number.

Then a lot of people stopped bitching immediately. That’s why 3DO were so focused on doing bundle deals. They wanted to cut deals with people and get the software shoved on there with the hardware.

 

It’s only now as I listen back to the recording and write this article I see with clarity what I missed initially in our conversation. Return Fire has so much of Reichart’s personality, his idiosyncrasies and humour are all encapsulated. They’re all extensions of values he holds and how he views the world, and the fact the team behind this is so small only negates any dilution of that translation.

This is something we as movie goers see. Values inherent to their creator are without a doubt on the screen, even subconsciously.

 

R.W: “It’s funny I’m looking on eBay now and I see a PAL version going for PS1 for $75, which i believe is the pirated version. So there’s 3 copies of the pirated version out there.

 

You know what, I have a whole view on piracy and I’ve never been against it. I was an early hacker. People who are not going to buy, are not going to buy and people who are, are and everybody who’s tortured all the software people to try to make it so it’s pirate proof are wasting their time.

 

Look, buy my game and be aware I don’t care if you don’t buy it and you play it and you have fun, and if you ever make some money or anything, send it our way, I’d appreciate it. It’s just that simple. Pirates could put you put of business, that happened with things like the game from EA, M.U.L.E. Everything I have ever produced has been pirated heavily and I view it as a compliment. I just want to get the word out there – guys, remember, we want to feed our children just like you do. Pay when you think it’s worth it to pay. If we’ve earned that respect, then great.”

 

Reichart left a lasting impression on me. It opened my eyes to some of the processes behind closed doors in the video-game industry, but what was more insightful was how it really doesn’t differ from any other. If you work hard and love your job, whichever industry that may be,  you can go on to make great accomplishments in that field.

Even through his mistakes Von Wolfsheild’s perseverance and determination took him further, not to loose sight of the goal and not giving up. He also appeared to me as an exceptional opportunist and strategist throughout his developments, all of which could not have come to fruition without hard work.

As our conversation was coming to a close I asked if he felt the ‘heart’ of gaming still existed today among software companies, and where he thought the technology was going.

 

R.W: “There’s a culture in every game developing company and if the right people are there at the beginning, everything you just said is true, and if they’re not, they’re not and that’s it. Some people just show up to work, while they work in the video game business and some people tell you they love it because it’s games, there really is no difference between that and someone who stamps out metal pieces at a shop.

 

They know they just want to get paid and they’re happy just to have a job.

 

I’d say it’s probably about 5% of the companies out there that still have all that ‘heart’. It’s very difficult to have that, other than let’s say, on hand-held, games because again you can have the small teams again, and the world is so different now.”

 

photo credit: Kinect 2.0 via photopin (license)

 

RGB: “Where do you see the video game industry in 10 years?”

 

R.W: “Whenever predicting the future, most people focus on one or more simple technologies and try to imagine how those will progress. The mistake some people make is they don’t consider that all the other technologies will change a little, or a lot as well. It’s holistic.

Staying focused on just “games” I still have to look backwards to some of the first games, often played with sticks or dice, or board games perhaps played in Turkey or Egypt thousands of yeas ago. We still play games like all of them today. Entire cities grew around 6 sided cubes you throw to challenge your luck.

But there have been some impressive innovations in games over the years. Role Playing games were probably played in some form for centuries, improv being one form. The prototypical early video games were indeed primitive simulators, even Pong. And we should assume as far back as we can imagine people played out war with little symbolic pieces.

The big tech over the next 10 years will be augmented reality as the platform. And I suspect all the historical traditions will just become much more vivid. Games will be played more while people are just walking around, since now they can suddenly see a HUD that overlays their game over the real world. People are also going to have much more free time to do this, since robots will take, er, I mean help do many mundane things.

Imagine simply making your hand into the shape of a gun, and for you, and anyone wearing the same tech and signed into “your world” will all see you holding what appears to be a real gun. The whole world will look like a bunch of very dedicated insane mimes in giant goggles.

If you happen to see one of these mimes doing something that appears cool, like trying to get out of a glass box (Portal VIII), or pretending to pick up a prostitute while shooting at the local store owners (Grand Theft Auto XX) you should be able to just focus on them, and you will be offered a way to sign up and join them in their insanity.”

 

RGB: “Your overhead was so low with Return Fire it encouraged good profit margins. Is it a case developing costs are now out of control?”

 

R.W: “Yes, dev costs are insane. How many millions were thrown away on the last Assassin’s Creed halt?”

 

RGB: “On a personal note, it would be great to see Return Fire make a comeback with online play, perhaps through a Kickstarter?”

 

R.W: “Yes! We have considered this. And we might. I would first want to study up on the lineage of games that came after, like Command and Conquer, and Halo. Keep our original simplicity, but kick up the realism, more detail, etc. I picture a lot of mimes looking like they are driving a tank.”

 

AMIGA30.COM

 


photo credit: The Commodore Amiga Lives! via photopin (license)

Reichart is involved with the Amiga 30th anniversary, a celebration of the Amiga, its groundbreaking accomplishments and rich history at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California. For more information please visit their official website here.

 

 

 

Reichart Von Wolfsheild interview by Ash RGB_RetroBlog

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Analogue Interactive CMVS Black Label Review

With a three-month waiting list, Analogue’s CMVS is a highly desirable item with a premium price tag. The price reflects the quality and high level of support on offer, and on arrival, it’s immediately clear why this product has been earmarked as the ‘Bentley of video-game systems” by Classic Game Room

Quality permeates right through its DNA, from design to execution. It is beautiful and an item that comfortably integrates in the modern home.

The Black Label purchase includes:

– Analogue CMVS Slim.
– x2 Analogue Arcade Sticks.
– Brass ‘Black Label’ product tags.
– Universal power supply.

Video leads and joystick connectors are purchased as extras and not included. Additional extras selectable from their store include:

– Virtual Memory Card.
– Component Cables.
– SCART cables.
– Neo Geo Extension Cables
– Dust Covers.

For a surcharge the set can be constructed from a suggested range of exotic woods, listed within the wood database. You also have the freedom to customise specific parts at your request, expanding upon an already beautifully crafted system.

The design of the unit is sublime, and it’s true to say nothing else compares in aesthetics in the CMVS range currently on offer. Using natural materials with classic hardware may have seemed like a strange decision on paper, but going against the trend of plastic mould manufacturing processes is one of the greatest strengths for Analogue’s console, giving it a strong brand identity and a definable marketable selling point. There’s a clear ethos and philosophy being followed here and I say with great positivity it echoes the sentiments of Apple’s own resurrection, when Steve Jobs and Jonathan Ive conceived the iMac.

Hardware

The hardware in the system comprises of the original SNK 1 Slot PCB MV-1C motherboard. Outputs on rear as standard accept A/V cables with 13 DIN connectors and a universal power supply socket that is compatible worldwide.

This simplistic approach is welcome with further aesthetic compliments, such as the stylish blue LED power light, from the front.

The power supply unit packaged is a two pin and will require converting for some countries without the need for step-down conversion. A travel plug would suffice for this.

Our purchase was personal and we made small changes, including coloured buttons to the joysticks, but maintained the standard black ash ebonized wood. Seimitsu parts are used for both joystick and buttons as standard unless requested otherwise, and each joystick is completely cross compatible with other Neo Geo hardware such as the AES and NEO-GEO CD. All joysticks and game pads can be used on Analogue’s system.

Playing the game

The system is very simple to use. Place an MVS cartridge in the slot, and turn on the power button. You can access the region settings via the UNI BIOS 3.2 by holding down the A, B, C buttons on the controller, giving you menu access to region selection (Japan, USA, Europe) and hardware state. Changing the state of the MVS from arcade to console (AES)
mode, allowing the system to play as an AES Neo Geo would.

Holding the B, C, and D buttons while the system boots opens up the soft dip settings menu. Difficulty, blood, life count, time – all specific to each game can be altered here.

While the game is loaded you are again free to access the UNI BIOS any time by pressing, both, start and credit buttons on the rear of the control stick.

Each game responded perfectly to the controls, just as it would from a coin operated machine. The ergonomics of the control stick are identical to the arcades. Micro switches sound off on every direction change and the weight of the wood, when laid on a flat surface, provides a quality experience.

The experience is less authentic when playing from a sofa and the unit sits on your lap, but then, you wouldn’t have purchased a CMVS if this was a concern?

It’s all about image

The picture produced from the SCART lead on an HD television provided interesting results. The edges of the graphics are very defined, even when we tested it on the 50 inch HD flat screen. This was unexpected yet impressive.

My viewing preference and recommendation is on a 4:3 CRT using the SCART lead. It looks amazing and I got an emotionally giddy feeling when we fired up games that I hadn’t played for over 20 years. It was the experience I longed for and the package that carried it was more than worthy. Our CRT playthroughs were tested on our Bang and Olufsen MX4000.

As someone who never owned an AES, comparing the cables which connect the joysticks to the console is difficult.

The leads available feel of less quality when compared to the hardware, and although there has never been any connection issues, they felt to ‘sit in place’, rather than securely connect. This is especially in comparison with commercial products like the Super Nintendo or Mega Drive.

The lead itself was quite airy and rigid, which was against my expectations of what the lead would be. I had a pre-conceived notion it would be more like the traditional 4th/5th generation console.

As each piece of equipment was throughly examined there were a few points that we questioned. These points were addressed right away by Analogue, reinforcing their customer support and reputation.

In fact, they emailed me before I could contact them as my concern was picked up over our Twitter feed. This kind of attention deserves recognition and I wish other companies were as attentive.

First, they addressed the question that the stripped screws belonging to the base of the joysticks, and offered to fix the issue at no cost, covering any shipping charges.

This point isn’t a concern for me personally, as if I had any issues I’d send the unit back, but it was a great response and much appreciated.

The second issue was linked to the rear connection port. A screw was loose/missing and
Analogue sent replacements straight away.

The product commands a high price, and with that comes expectations. Sure enough, there will be customers that might find this unacceptable given the high quality of every other aspect, and Analogue happily shares that sentiment.

In conclusion

Analogue’s CMVS is a great product that well justifies its cost. It looks beautiful and sets the bar high with its level of craftsmanship and playing this consolised arcade unit delivered in all areas. The games, the functionality, the aesthetics and company support all make this a reasonable purchase, not for only NEO GEO fans, but to those who appreciate retro gaming in general.

The introduction to Analogue Interactive’s Black Label CMVS Slim makes their future products in development an exciting prospect because the product they produced here genuinely feels fresh and unexpected, even in 2015.

We are in a time where technology is pushing the envelope with realism and immersive
content captured in V.R worlds, yet this eloquently designed console retains the core importance of gaming. Fun.

And it has it in spades.

Visit Analogue Interactive’s website for more details on their available products.

Music by @disyman

Drone footage by Danny Cooke

Analogue Interactive CMVS Slim by Ash RGB_RetroBlog

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Are hobbies bad for relationships?

Are hobbies important, or distractions to what is ‘really’ important?

Blogging this post as someone who is married and has had hobbies that require years of energy, time and work, it’s impossible for me to say particular interests are healthy for relationships. It has been hard at times and I’ve had to manage my own desires with what is actually important. More importantly, was coming to the conclusion to what was really important to me.

I don’t say that likely, because it was very difficult. Even with my partner, discussing our relationship priorities, at the time I remember thinking our discussion needed to be quick because I had so many other things to do. That was the alarm bell and it made me conclude that I needed to change my lifestyle to include more time with the people I love.

In reality it was that someone loved me very much and missed me.

If I’m not there for someone who loves me, then what’s the point of them being there and feeling hurt? I was so busy giving other things my attention, things that were on top of full-time work which amounted to much the same as my hobby. So I was doing the same things outside of work.

My personality is a creative one, which for obvious reasons leads to lots of research and application learning. As a teenager moving into adulthood, such things are fine because you have hours and hours to learn, test, execute and refine. And by hours, I mean weeks, months and years of self-education full-time.

This learning was great for me, I found full-time work through it, travelled the world, met some amazing professionals and made many friends. It has given me control and freedom to create things from my imagination and that in part is a wonderful accomplishment. But when I got into a relationship, and then married and had children, it did impact my relationship. I didn’t slow down, quite the opposite, I took on more and more jobs, for friends and for myself.

In hindsight, these actions that I repeated many times must have communicated to my wife that I placed these interests more importantly than her. I had a desire to complete/create/interact because there was a feeling of self reward when doing so.

Imagine someone you hold in high esteem: your mother, father, sister, brother or a loved one. Now think about how you would feel if you tried to interact with them and they constantly put more interest in an object or subject, so much so it made you feel invisible.

That would hurt, no?

It would devalue the feeling of self-worth because contact and communication with someone you love and care about is the glue that holds things together. Their opinion matters, and how can it feel like it matters if it’s not shared. If your partner shares your enthusiasm for the interest and takes part then obviously the experience is a different matter entirely. The issue, I found, is when a hobby is solitary and absorbs private time from the relationship itself and becomes an obstacle to your responsibilities.

If you’re single then the responsibility isn’t as high and you have more time, but, when you’re in a relationship that time has to be shared and not just with your partner, but with their family and your family. Add children to the equation and the time you were so used to consuming into a hobby has significantly dwindled and that might feel frustrating or restrictive.

I still have my interests, but I manage them. Some are gone completely. There’s a time and a place I will get involved but I make sure I’m there for the people I know I care about.

The decision to throw yourself into something is fine as long as you understand the consequences. If you keep placing other things above people who care about you, you will eventually lose them. To them it will look like you’re not interested. A balance and distinction between hobby, work and life proves invaluable.

Many factors come into play if a hobby is healthy or not. It could be a business drive or an addiction?

Addiction, a word that conjures up many assumptions, but to know the difference one must be honest and understand what addiction really is. To be able to distinguish it from a pastime.

When the hobby stops being fun and becomes destructive to your personal life you need to ask yourself some questions that you may feel uncomfortable with.

When do you know you’ve crossed the line into addiction?

The following list has been referenced from netplaces

  • You put the behavior above being with family and friends.
  • A feeling of euphoria drives you to continually seek the desired behavior
  • Mood swings may become apparent in connection with the behavior.
  • You may obsess over the behavior, spending excessive amounts of time planning and engaging in the behavior.
  • Expenditures connected with the behavior may damage your credit or deplete financial reserves, even to the point of bankruptcy.
  • Tolerance is built up around the behavior. In other words, you will feel the need for more and more of the activity to get the same “high” feeling.
  • Your job or schoolwork may suffer because of more time and focus going toward the addictive behaviour.

Should any of the above list feel familiar then what is the harm in talking to someone about clarifying it? Ignored, long-term the person that could suffer is you.

Any hobby can amount to an addiction or a distraction from the things that matter most. Some hold the scars and have survived, whilst others have lost the things that are most important to them.

The message is to realise the consequences of a hobby and know when it’s something much more, to do something about it before irreparable damage sets in. And if the damage is already there, then not to sit on the problem but find the inner strength to get help.

Opinion piece by Ash @RGB_RetroBlog RetroGamingBlog’s Twitch

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Cybernator review by @JX2001

The year is 2065 AD and the nations of earth have been split. The federation and the newly formed axis forces are at war battling for territory and resources that has raged across the stars and the only thing that can tip the balance is you!

So jump into your Cybernator suit as you take the fight to the axis forces to win this war.

After seeing the legendary Konami logo for a moment you see a missile strike destroy a fleet of ships above earth the music kicks in as the Cybernator logo comes into view with the picture of your walking war machine appears on the main menu. You have the choice to change your pilots name from Jake, into your own for a more personal touch. Don’t bother looking for a difficulty setting because there isn’t one. This game is hard, but also rewarding you need sharp skills and quick wits to survive.

There are loading times in between stages, but when you see the graphics and hear the music you can understand why. This game pushes the SNES to its limits with its crisp sound effects and colorful varied environments. One minute you’re fighting through the enemy on foot, the next you’re blasting through the sky or even an asteroid belt on a jet pack.

Controlling your Cybernator takes some getting used to at first as you need to learn how to precisely aim your gun, dash from danger and use your shield abruptly. But once you master the control of it you’ll be tearing through enemy battalions like they’re nothing.

To help you combat the hordes of enemies ahead of you your Cybernator is capable of using multiple weapons to unleash hell with to access these weapons you need to find weapon chips hidden around the stages. There are upgrade chips, and health chips, that are found in containers and certain enemies. To say you need these is an understatement.

Your inventory comprises of:

Vulcan machine gun – Your standard machine gun which can be upgraded by picking up power chips across each stage. As it becomes more powerful the bullets become bigger and can be bounced off surfaces to hit enemies in hard to reach places.

Laser cannon – This is an extremely powerful laser. At first it doesn’t fire for long, until it needs to recharge. However as you collect more power chips the laser becomes bigger and takes less time to recharge.

Missiles – When you first collect this weapon it’s pretty powerful and can fire in one direction. With upgrades they become homing missiles which chase after your enemies.

Knucklizer – For when you want to get up close and personal. Your Cybernator throws a solid punch.

Ionized Indestructoid Shield – This shield is essential to your survival as it can block most enemy fire and shrapnel.

Napalm Cannon – This is a secret weapon hidden in the game which only becomes available once certain conditions are met.

There are seven stages in this game and that might not sound like much but you’re going to need skill and a lot of luck to make it through to the end.

Stage 1

Versis

The game begins as your Versis battle craft forces its way into an enemy colony and deploys multiple Cybernators, including yours. The mission is to destroy an engine block before it’s attached to the enemy battle craft lying in wait, to attack your forces.

Time is the enemy once you find it, as it’s being prepped to be attached to the battle craft. If the engine is attached the battle craft activates and destroys all friendly forces in the area -resulting in mission failure.

Stage 2

Orbital Hideout

You’re deployed to a location where the enemy has been confirmed of mining moon ore and setting up a position on the outskirts of an asteroid belt.

The fastest and safest way there is to use your jet pack to navigate the treacherous asteroid belt. Once you reach the area where the mining is, you disengage the jet pack and head towards the mine where something lies in wait.

Stage 3

Attack On Arc Nova

This mission sends you in to the heart of an enemy fortress called Arc Nova, so you can eliminate the enemies within and take control. This would guarantee a safe path between earth and the moon, but things quickly go wrong as they have a super weapon inside. That’ll be the least of your worries once you come across it.

Stage 4

Atmosphere Entry

Because the battle dragged on for so long and having to destroy the engines on Arc Nova, before it crashed into earth, you’ve been forced to enter Earths atmosphere.

Versis has made the risky move on heading in after you to bring you down to earth safely. To make matters worse you’re being chased by enemy units. Once you touch down an enemy is stuck on board of Versis as the suit sustained too much damage to pull out. Your comrades Mitch and Apollo head out to search for the remaining enemies before being ambushed. Apollo is killed in the battle by Beldark who then approaches Versis before attacking and taking the enemy captive away.

Stage 5

Twilight Pursuit

The enemy has been sending shuttles of supplies to it’s severely weakened forces in space you must work with the ground forces of the federation to put a stop to these shuttle launches. Doing so will cripple their forces in space but things never go smoothly.

Stage 6

Gunfire Mountains

With the enemy weakened and a window of opportunity open the federation put into action its final strategy. The operation has been called “soldier soul” to take over the enemy capital. Your mission is to head to the Alps and destroy an anti-aircraft base hidden halfway up the mountain. As the federation forces wait for the anti-aircraft guns to be taken down, you head into the mountains alone where enemy defenses do everything possible to stop you.

Stage 7

Last Stand

This is it the final offensive with Versis severely damaged your captain’s only order is WIN. You head towards the national assembly building to take out the commander and end this war.

All of their available mechs tanks and ground troops attack you relentlessly in desperation to stop you reaching their base of operations. You encounter Beldark in the main hall for one last battle. If you make it past this elite soldier you receive an important call from first Lieutenant Duke.

Your job isn’t over yet… Beldark has one last card to play.


PRESENTATION    93%

GRAPHICS    95%

SOUND    92%

PLAYABILITY    90%

LASTABILITY    88%

OVERALL 92%

Neigh on gaming perfection. A game without any technical flaws, and those that are there are superfluous in comparison to the experience handed to you, while managing to break new ground. A game that will have you reminiscing till the end of time.

Cybernator rating breakdown explained here

Cybernator review by James Steele @JX2001

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Space Hulk Vengeance of the Blood Angels Review


Space Hulk Vengeance of the blood angels is a child of Games Workshop that began life in 1989 as a board game, one that proved popular as the series spawned a range of books and video games, thus expanding its lore and universe.

It must be said that the Amiga version was excellent and EA was doing good things with the acquired license. But when they created Space Hulk on the 3DO, they didn’t just create one of the systems best games, but one of the best video games in the Games Workshop franchise. The fact only one other game comes close to date, is testament to the developers craftsmanship.

Space Hulk draws heavy on its roots, utilising the cunning strategy of the board game, extrapolating the atmosphere from the novellas and creates one of the most unique and enthralling games I’ve had the pleasure of playing. And where Space Hulk excels as a game, is in the demands it makes of you as the player.

You command a squad of space marine veterans known as a Terminators. Terminators combine centuries of experience with some of the best armour and weaponry in the Imperium. Baring tactical dreadnought armor, they are revered as invincible, unstoppable walking tanks that never yield. They are the greatest and boldest of heroes from mankind. It’s your mission to stop a gargantuan, out of control, spaceship from coming into contact with the Imperial planet, Delvar III. Your Chapter, The Blood Angels, has the honor of diverting its course to save the planet.

The Space Hulk in which you traverse is home to something not of man, but beast. And these beasts, these Genestealers as they are known, know no fear.

The game starts with a list of A-to-B orders, under the guidance of a motion tracking map. Waypoints are marked and your sergeant communicates via radio chatter what objectives are assigned to you.

– Pick up item.
– Seal door.
– Cover position etc…

Should one of your comrades fall, their orders may be reassigned to you. So it’s in your interest to watch their backs whenever you can.

It soon transpires on the later levels no such guidance is given, and decisions must be made under pressure in real time. You no longer follow orders, but execute them, and as the battle conditions change, you have to adapt quickly to get your brethren from one mission to the next.

Your Terminator squad is equipped with different weapon load outs, so you’ll have to choose carefully how to manage them and decide if they move out in pairs, or hold back on overwatch. You will also need to manage space as these slow moving heavyweights can’t always move side-by-side in the tight confines of the environment.

The timed management map screen is fantastic – no indefinite pause to catch your breath, and later missions can have you plotting courses for up to 10 Terminators. Take too long, and the infinite spawn will resume and zero in on your position.

The long straight corridors provide a strategic advantage as you station sentries equipped with bolters, funneling the Genestealers toward a different route. Diverting the horde isn’t always easy – bolters jam, and your sentry can be forced into a Melee combat. Sometimes you can’t always take control as you may be dealing with another problem, and this can see carefully stationed troops out flanked causing more carnage.

Seeing your brothers cut through reiterates how big a threat the enemy presents and how just letting one of your marines fall victim can let the mission fall apart in seconds. Those moments are gut wrenching as you see well laid strategy plans unravel around you and then you know it’s only a matter of time until the horde comes for you.

That threat, that pressure, is a constant force in the duration of the game, much like a deep sea diver spiraling downward into an abyss, the pressure intensifies the further into the recesses of the hulk you go.

This feeling is one of the greatest strengths in Space Hulk, and something much missed in recent releases of the series. It’s this in part that makes Space Hulk such an excellent game, because it understands and respects the source material while presenting it efficiently in a video game format. The atmosphere is electric and it makes the game very addictive.

There are three dynamic scenarios, the map screen, the first person viewpoint and the hand-to-hand combat. Each is well presented, with the melee combat sections being a visual highlight.

The map screen is an overhead view of the environment where spawn points and objectives are marked. Fog of war is present on some and you’ll have to explore the wreck to make those areas visible. You can zoom in and out, select troops and place orders – and even while moving from the soldiers vantage point, the map remains present.

Moving around through the eyes of a Terminator is excellent. They feel somewhat cumbersome but powerful, and slow turns bring to light just how fast the enemy can bare down on your position. Textures and sprites are well drawn. Animations are smooth and the AI, even now, still surprises, catching you out and forcing you to engage in a tense battle hand-to-hand. Weapons range from Bolters to Flamers and each comes with its own risks. Misuse of a Flamer can see more than one fatiality on your side.

The pre-rendered animations of the Genestealers look fantastic, even today, and further enhances the visceral nature of the combat. Each encounter presents a different animation, and you have to time your parry, with the ‘B’ button, to deflect blows. Time them wrong and it’s instant death.

The sound design is some of the best. Each character is superbly voiced with one calling the next by their kin, asking them to move if their path is obstructed. Battle cries can be heard over chatter as can the dying breaths of the fallen. The environmental acoustics echo a sense of dread, as well as the beep of an incoming foe.

All the above culminates into an encapsulating atmospheric experience that has you moving through detailed 3-D environments, constantly under pressure and overcoming the impossible. You feel great reward when you complete missions, and relief when you survive an encounter. This game is an outstanding achievement by EA and their developers. They should be applauded for their work and translation of Space Hulk universe.

It’s a real shame the Playstation and Saturn ports were poor and sales for the 3DO weren’t up to scratch. Many missed out on what is one of the best titles for the 3DO and one of the best games of all time.

This remains one of my favorites, and I highly recommend retro gamers dig this old gem up.


PRESENTATION    95%

GRAPHICS    93%

SOUND    95%

PLAYABILITY    94%

LASTABILITY    91%

OVERALL 94%

Neigh on gaming perfection. A game without any technical flaws, and those that are there are superfluous in comparison to the experience handed to you, while managing to break new ground. A game that will have you reminiscing till the end of time.

Space Hulk Vengeance of the Blood Angels rating breakdown explained here

Space Hulk Vengeance of the Blood Angels review by Ash RGB_RetroBlog

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