Livestream 8/11/2022 – Dark Reign

The RTS genre hit a true boom in the mid/late 90s. While there had been several games that came before the craze following the release of Command & Conquer and Warcraft II in 1995, these really set the standard of what we could expect. You now had an expectation of being able to select multiple units at the same time and issuing them orders by a simple click. Thinking back to Dune 2, arguably one of the first modern RTSs, it seems incredibly primitive now. Of course when it came out it was a revelation and was very successul.

Westwood and Blizzard would be the gold standard developers for the genre for quite some time. There were many attempts to cash in on the craze, with varied success. Activison published the game Dark Reign in 1997, letting the developer Auron take a whack at it. The game saw quite the hype cycle and I remember seeing full page spread ads saying how it was “The Future of War”. Featuring advanced AI, terrain and elevation, as well as cut scenes and tons of units, it was supposed to be the be all end all RTS. And it was quite successful as far as I’m aware but there was also another small entry into the field in 1997: Total Annihilation.

So while Dark Reign did an amazing job with the sprite based graphics, the first entry in the “3D” generation of RTSs had arrived. It may be the reason this somewhat flew under the radar for me but it has all the components in it to provide a great RTS experience. Check out the replay below and see what you think!

Livestream 8/5/2022 – Amiga Floppy Testing

The Amiga home computer left a lasting impression on everyone that came across it back in the 80s. Here was a computer, at an affordable price, that offered gaming and multimedia capabilities far beyond what we had seen at the time. Using a set of custom chips, it had 16-bit graphics with tons of colors, scaling options and an awesome sound. It’s easy to look at it now and think it’s a bit outdate, but keep in mind this was out years before even the Genesis/Mega Drive hit the market. It was sold concurrently with the NES, yet could do quite a bit more!

My neighbor got an Amiga 500 early on release so that was most of my exposure to it back when. Also something that was standard with the Amiga scene was the rampant copying of software. I don’t think we realized games actually game on anything except blank floppies with hand scrawled notes telling us about the contents. So a while back I came across a lot of original floppies for my collection. Something that is quite rare and to determine which ones worked or not I decided to start up a stream about it! We tested a whole bunch of them and while the success to failure rate was in the range of 60-40, it was still a good time. The fact that any of these floppies still worked after over 30 years is something else!

I had some challenges getting this stream ready on a technical level but it was still super fun. Check out the replay below!

Livestream 7/28/2022 – Dungeon Siege

The hack n slash genre isn’t exactly new. It’s been around for a long time and we’ve seen numerous games on virtually all platforms giving it a go. Usually with some light RPG elements that allow you to custimize your character as you progress through a world that slowly but surely ramps up the difficulty. Monsters and enemies keep up with you as your character grows in power. Diablo arguably perfected the formula with the second game in the series. So come the year 2002 Diablo 2 is the reigning champion and played by millions on, and offline.

Chris Taylor (of Total Annihilation fame, among others) and his studio Gas Powered Games releases the first Dungeon Siege. A full 3D Diablo style action RPG with some key features that make is unique. First you have no skill tree but level simply by using the appropriate skillset. If you want to increase your character’s melee ability simply keep swinging away with a weapon. You’ll grow as a character accordingly. Second you can have quite a party of NPCs with you! Where other action RPGs tend to favor the lone hero, occassionally with a trusty sidekick, Dungeon Siege gives you the option to recruit fully fledged party members. They grow in skills and can use equipment exactly the same as your main character. They even give you a controllable pack mule party member to haul all your ill gotten gains from busting through the nearest crypt. It lends a dynamic, and strategy, to the game that other action RPGs of the era didn’t quite have.

Lastly on the technical side the game does something really unique. Once the game has started there are no loading screens! You can traverse the vast majority of the game without ever seeing a loading screen. This means you can go from moving along the outdoor path to going into a dungeon without a single stop for the game to load or break the immersion. I can’t think off the top of my head any other games that pulled this feat off back when this came out in 2002.

The game does have some shortcomings in that it gets to feel pretty “samey” very quickly. You keep clicking and killing. Not saying other action RPGs don’t do this very thing but having a good, in the moment, gameplay loop is very important. Dungeon Siege may be a bit weak here. That said it’s still a really fun game so check out the replay of the stream below!

Livestream 7/22/2022 – Super Game Boy on the MiSTer

The MiSTer is the device/platform that keeps on giving. New features are constantly rolling out since so many developers are active in the community around it. Arcade cores drop all the time and the highlight in recent time would be the launch of the full PSX core. We keep seeing new additions to existing cores as well like enhanced MSU support for the SNES one, just to name one example.

A recent addition also is the new Super Game Boy core. It may seem like a small jump from the already existing Game Boy, or SNES one but it does need it’s own custom core. Not only does it have to run the native Game Boy emulation the Super Game Boy provided but it also has to provide all the functions the SNES normally does in that scenario.

So here we have yet another platform to explore and enjoy. The Super Game Boy has some really neat games that were enhanced for it such as the gem that is Donkey Kong ’94. Enhanced colors, custom borders and extra sound effects are just some of the enhancements you can see. Not all games feature all of these but there are quite a few to try out. And you can do so today on your MiSTer. Check out the replay below!

Livestream 7/8/2022 – SimCity 3000

There is something delightfully charming about city builders. There have been many fine games in the genre but none hold quite the same esteem as the original: SimCity. While the series has languished in purgatory since the ill fated soft reboot from 2013, there was a time when it was still the undisputed top player. SimCity 2000 was a huge hit and I remember spending countless hours fine tuning my city for maximum growth. The bzzt, from the powerlines forever etched in my memory.

The sequel then had high expectations. Originally intended to use a full 3D engine that allowed you to get down on the street level, it was later considerably pared back. What we were left with was a true form, SimCity experience, that stuck to the “basics”. More or less SimCity 2000 expanded with modern features. While it lacks some of the complexity the successor had, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable game to waste the hours away with.

During the stream I did learn the hard way what happens when you still have disasters turned on however. Regardless it’s a game that holds up beautifully well even today. Highly recommended and check out the replay below.