Saturday, June 16, 2018

Gaming Ads: Lucasfilm/LucasArts

Lucasfilm and LucasArts are the same company so I decided to combine them into the same ads group despite the company name change in 1990. The Lucasfilm Games division was created through a deal between the Lucasfilm movie company and Atari in 1982. Its first games released in 1985 and none of them were Star Wars games if you can believe that. Star Wars games had been developed before 1985 by other companies, such as Atari's Star Wars arcade game and Parker Brothers' Empire Strikes Back for the 2600. Most of its early games were original properties aside from a game based on Jim Henson's Labyrinth. In 1987 Lucasfilm released Maniac Mansion which was the first in a line of adventure games that used SCUMM (Script Utility Creation for Maniac Mansion), created by Ron Gilbert and Aric Wilmunder.

SCUMM did receive upgrades and redesigns over the following years for the other point-and-click adventure games, such as Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and The Secret of Monkey Island. In the early '90s all of the original Star Wars trilogy movies had console action games based on them but again, Lucasfilm's games division, which was now LucasArts, was not involved as JVC Musical Industries published most of those games. However, LucasArts did begin making Star Wars games at the same time for home computers and CD-based consoles. The first was Rebel Assault, a movie-like adventure with flight and on-foot action sequences. In the late '80s/early '90s Lucasfilm had developed a few World War II flight simulations and in the '90s took that experience into space.

Two of LucasArts' best and most well-known Star Wars games are Star Wars: X-Wing (1993) and Star Wars: TIE Fighter (1994). Both are space combat simulations that allow players to fly either the X-Wing or TIE Fighter, plus a few other signature Star Wars spaceships. Another Star Wars series was born in the '90s as well, the Jedi Knight games that began with Dark Forces in 1995. It's a first-person shooter series starring a new hero named Kyle Katarn, a mercenary who happens to later discover he is powerful in the Force. Aside from Star Wars, in the '90s LucasArts did develop a couple other Indiana Jones games and more adventures games like Sam & Max, Full Throttle, and Grim Fandango, and of course sequels to Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island.

However, after the movie division brought Star Wars back to theaters in 1999 with The Phantom Menace, the game group made Star Wars its primary focus with just the occasional non-Star Wars game (Armed and Dangerous, Thrillville, Mercenaries, etc.) popping up every once in a while. The company had significant layoffs in 2008, four years before being acquired by Disney. Unfortunately, Disney shut down the game studios in 2013 which resulted in the cancellation of the in-development Star Wars 1313, and from then on the Lucas name was only used as a publishing brand, mostly on mobile games.

Flickr album: Lucasfilm/LucasArts

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Gaming Ads: LJN

Based in New York and then New Jersey, LJN Toys was founded in 1970 by Jack Friedman who named his company after the reverse initials of a previous employer, Norman J. Lewis, who also ran a toy company. LJN manufactured a variety of types of toys, including water guns, talking baseball cards, and numerous action figures based on popular properties, such as Indiana Jones, Thundercats, AD&D, and the World Wrestling Federation. Acquired by MCA in 1985, LJN began publishing video games for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1987. Acclaim Entertainment purchased LJN from MCA in 1989 and proceeded to phase out all of its toy lines in favor of video game publishing. Like its toys, LJN's games were often based on licensed properties, like movies and comic books.

In 1995 LJN was completely absorbed by Acclaim and ceased to exist as a separate entity. However, Acclaim did use the LJN brand name on the Dreamcast game Spirit of Speed 1937 which released in 2000. I posted some of LJN's ads last year as part of Acclaim's multiple brands ads; those are ads that feature two or more game publishers that were owned by Acclaim, the others being Flying Edge and Arena Entertainment.

Flickr album: LJN

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The 1992 Summer Consumer Electronics Show Recap (VG&CE - September 1992)

If you're interested in what happened at E3 20 years ago check out last year's post about Next Generation magazine's coverage of the 1998 E3 that can be found here. Since the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) did not begin until 1995 many of my magazines don't mention E3 so this year I've decided to post about the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) which is where video games appeared before the game industry created its own show. Below are scans of Video Games & Computer Entertainment magazine's six-page recap of the 1992 summer CES. Before 1998 CES was held twice a year, with the winter show being held in Las Vegas (still is) and a summer show in Chicago through 1994 before the organizers experimented with that for a few years, ultimately canceling the summer event.

On the first two pages below you'll see Nintendo was completely focused on the SNES as it was ready to leave the NES behind and concentrate on its battle with Sega's Genesis. Sega on the other hand was looking to push its 16-bit console forward with the Sega CD. Sonic 2 demos were on display as well and Sega announced price drops to match Nintendo. Page two also mentions Atari showing the Lynx behind closed doors and George Foreman was in attendance to promote Acclaim games.

1992 Summer CES - Page 1
1992 Summer CES - Page 2

Page three covers Data East (Shadowrun), the TurboGrafx-16, and Psygnosis' push for the CD-ROM, plus Jaleco and Hi-Tech. Konami is at the bottom of page three and continues onto page four, and is almost exclusively about Steve Peterson's game Champions, stating that it is nearing completion after numerous delays. However, today we know that this Champions game never released. Page four also covers Accolade (Centipede, 'Nam 1965-1975), Sierra On-Line (Betrayal at Krondor, Sierra Network), Impressions (Conquest of Japan), and Disney. The Disney paragraph is all about a game it was to publish called Unnatural Selection. From what I can tell, Maxis, which happens to be the next company on the page, developed and self-published Unnatural Selection.

1992 Summer CES - Page 3
1992 Summer CES - Page 4

Maxis continues on page five with the only game mentioned there being El-Fish, an aquarium simulation that Alexey Pajitnov (Tetris) helped conceive. Page five of the article highlights NovaLogic (Maximum Overkill, Battlefield 2000), Electronic Arts (Michael Jordan in Flight), SSI (Dark Sun), and Virgin (The 7th Guest). I'm not sure what NovaLogic's Battlefield 2000 is as there does not appear to be a game released by that name; that screenshot could be very early and it's possible that is the game called Armored Fist that released in 1994. The article ends on page six with coverage of adventure games and Mantis: XF5700 Experimental Space Fighter from MicroProse and Paragon. XF5700 was published under the name XF5700 Mantis Experimental Fighter which is still a mouthful.

1992 Summer CES - Page 5
1992 Summer CES - Page 6

I probably should have posted this article last year (and the 1998 E3 article this year on its 20th anniversary) as this was the first CES to allow the public in, something E3 tried last year for the first time and is doing again this year. Another one of my 2017 posts was about my time at the 2003 E3 show and that's where I provided some thoughts on how it might go with the public. For CES the public really would not have known what to expect as much as the E3 crowd since there was no Internet flooded with videos covering previous years of the convention. Today we are bombarded with so much E3 coverage online that it is almost like being there...almost!

Sunday, June 3, 2018

E3 2018 Predictions

The 2018 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) is next week and I thought it might be fun to attempt some predictions again (last year's predictions). I feel like there have been more significant leaks ahead of E3 this year though there are a lot every year so it's hard to say. Hopefully surprises still await as that is the best part of the E3 press conferences. I'll see if I can keep this a bit more brief than last time as I'll just cover the console makers and then some random stuff.

Microsoft continues to drag its feet on Xbox One exclusives and new properties so it seems unlikely it would unveil any original games but it really needs to. It's a good bet we'll get announcements for another Forza Horizon and Gears of War, possibly something Halo related, and a better look at Crackdown 3. Last year my long shot pick was a new Age of Empires which is actually in development now so we could see some footage of that too. With Xbox One's backwards compatibility putting original Xbox games back in the spotlight there could be renewed interest in a sequel or two for some of those games. How about Sneakers 2? Just kidding. Perhaps Microsoft can publish a timed third-party exclusive, like Jade Empire 2, even though there is less than a 1% chance BioWare is working on that.

New Game Prediction: Crimson Skies
Long Shot: Battletoads

Last week Nintendo announced a few new Pokémon games coming out soon, and we already knew about Pokémon, Smash Bros., Metroid Prime 4, and Yoshi games in development for Switch. Nintendo is also publishing Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker and Wolfenstein II for Switch soon. A rumor hit earlier in the year about a Diddy Kong Racing game which could be legitimate. Aside from possible ports or remakes, I'm not sure how many more new games Nintendo itself could have in development. The safest best would be an Animal Crossing game for Switch and maybe another Labo kit. Switch is a much bigger focus than the 2DS/3DS these days since Switch is a portable console so I'm going to skip predicting any handheld games.

New Game Prediction: Animal Crossing
Long Shot: F-Zero

Sony will more than likely be showing more of the games that were announced two or more years ago that still aren't out: Spider-Man, Days Gone, The Last of Us: Part II, Ghost of Tsushima, Death Stranding, and Dreams. Wild is another that could make an appearance though I wouldn't count on it. That's already quite a few games so how many other new games could be in development? Probably not too many and while I love new announcements, Sony might be better off waiting until some of the aforementioned games have been released before revealing even more big budget exclusives.

Outside of games, I do expect Sony to unveil something I learned about a month ago that I do not believe is widely known yet. It's not a big deal but there was an embargo on it from the third-party publisher I first heard about it from. However, a week later I got similar information from a retail distributor with no mention of an embargo and one game listing related to it can be found on some retail websites so I believe it is safe to discuss. Now that the PlayStation 4 is close to five years old, Sony will be starting up a Greatest Hits line again, this time simply called PlayStation Hits. The games will cost $19.99 when the program goes into effect on June 28th. Thus far I know of 11 games that will be in the first wave of PlayStation Hits but I will hold off mentioning those just in case it would upset a publisher.   

New Game Prediction: Horizon 2
Long Shot: Uncharted spin-off

The third-party publishers have been experiencing leaks and making quite a few announcements the past few weeks. Some of those games include Assassin's Creed Odyssey, Fallout 76, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, Battlefield V, Rage 2, LEGO DC Super-Villains, and Team Sonic Racing. Last year some of my predictions that didn't happen were The Elder Scrolls VI, Dragon Age 4, Borderlands 3, more LEGO Star Wars, a second season of Telltale's Game of Thrones, a new Splinter Cell, and another Prince of Persia. I'd guess Elder Scrolls and Borderlands could be good guesses for this year, and I'm still surprised there hasn't been another LEGO Star Wars as there have now been three more movies since The Force Awakens.

There is a very good chance that Warner Bros. reveals what Rocksteady is working on, which is more than likely another game based on a DC comic book character (Superman?). Two of my favorite developers are Firaxis and Remedy; Firaxis could be readying XCOM 3 and Remedy is expected to show something new at E3. I'm also still waiting for a great G.I. Joe video game which was one of the things I wrote about early in the blog's life. Unfortunately, I know that's probably not happening any time soon but I have to always bring it up to keep the hope alive! Perhaps the property will gain some traction when another movie hits, though I want a game based on the cartoon and toys from the '80s rather than a movie.

6/6/18 UPDATE: I made a couple changes as Sony has stated Death Stranding will make an appearance at E3 and today I received more information on the PlayStation Hits from a second distributor which listed eight Sony-published games that would be joining the label/price cuts on June 28th.

6/13/18 UPDATE: Last year I added my thoughts to the comments but I'm going to toss a few here as an update now that all of the conferences ended. The show is about half over as well so I don't expect any major announcements at this point. As far as the non-expected announcements, my predictions were 1 out of 6 as Microsoft is indeed working on a new Battletoads game. Sony primarily stuck to showing the games we already knew of which is what I thought might be best course of action though I did expect it to at least have some people on stage and reveal the PlayStation Hits line. Unfortunately, it was just a lot of trailers like last year which I find odd because this is E3, the world is watching so why not speak to the people and engage them. Nintendo had the usual pre-recording and about 90% of that was Super Smash Bros. As far as other companies I was hoping to hear from: Remedy's new game is Control; Firaxis was quiet (all of 2K has been quiet after announcing the next NBA 2K last week); nothing from Rocksteady; Ubisoft's conference was entertaining but no Splinter Cell; Sega is finally bringing Yakuza to PC; Bethesda is working on a new property called Starfield and the next Elder Scrolls is in development though it's a long ways off; and there was a mention of a new Star Wars game from EA and Respawn titled Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order with a release window of holiday 2019.

I'm not sure it's worth ranking the conferences but I can easily say, regardless of quality or quantity of games, Microsoft and Ubisoft were the most enjoyable to watch. EA is really only good for those that like to compete in sports games, Square Enix was short and similar to Sony's trailer fest, and I'd put Bethesda in the middle. Seeing as how I'm not interested in Smash Bros. there wasn't much to see from Nintendo and I don't care for Sony's presentation, even if it does have one of the games I'm most looking forward to (Ghost of Tsushima).

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Gaming Ads: Legend Entertainment and Backfilling #4

Bob Bates and Mike Verdu founded the Virginia-based Legend Entertainment Company in 1989. Legend released 15 adventure games games for home computers between 1990 and 1997. It also developed the strategy game Star Control 3 and first-person shooters Wheel of Time and Unreal: The Awakening. In 1998 the company was acquired by GT Interactive with GT then being purchased by Infogrames in 1999. Legend assisted with the development of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines before being closed in 2004.

Since I only have three ads for Legend I'm going to upload six more ads to the Electronic Arts album this week as well.

Flickr album: Legend Entertainment
Flickr update: Backfilling (June 2, 2018)

Sunday, May 27, 2018

[YouTube] G.I. Joe Shrinky Dinks

Shrinky Dinks were created in 1973 by two women in Wisconsin and are now owned by Alex Brands which acquired Shrinky Dinks in December 2014. They are made with polystyrene, a plastic that shrinks and hardens after being heated in an oven, and are primarily being used in arts and crafts, though also by scientists. Many years ago Shrinky Dinks were licensed by a few companies, including Colorforms which released numerous Shrinky Dinks products based on television, movie, video game, and toy properties in the '80s. Along with G.I. Joe, some of the available sets included Barbie, Smurfs, E.T., Rainbow Brite, Transformers, My Little Pony, Pac-Man, Voltron, Dungeons & Dragons, Masters of the Universe, The A-Team, Q*bert, and many others. The box scans below are of the same box seen in the video; I cleaned them in Photoshop, though there is some blurry text on the back as it was tough to flatten the box enough during scanning.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find all of the G.I. Joe templates that I colored and shrunk when I was a kid but I do have a few of them, one unused page with some nice images, and a couple other pieces. Not all of them are directly related to G.I. Joe as some are simply military themed, such as a dog tag and colonel insignia.

Manual Page 1
Manual Page 2

Manual Page 3
Manual Page 4


The polystyrene is sort of clear, the scans just got a white background from the scanner.

This is what remains of my set; it did originally include seven colored pencils
and more plastic sheets.

In the video I bake one colonel insignia and a Vault 1541 logo that I drew on a scrap piece of polystyrene. On the back of the box it shows the insignia as mostly gold like a pin might be but I chose to color it more like an actual eagle which is common on military patches. The Vault 1541 logo didn't bake too well as it went a bit sideways on me. Also, the images I took on the baking sheet don't look so great and as I mention in the video, the white stripes don't appear very white on the dull side after baking.

Although this video highlights G.I. Joe, this post is primarily about Shrinky Dinks in general and I wanted to include photos of others I owned if I could find them. After making the video and then writing this post, it hit me that I had Hot Wheels Shrinky Dinks and had a good idea where one might be so here is a photo of that one (this one has a sticker on the back meant to attach it to something; I think there were display stands for the cars too).

My coloring skills weren't so hot in the '80s, nor were my color choices (I do wonder if my sister colored this one but I don't think she'd be as sloppy as this looks). I'm certain there are some Barbie and Smurfs Shrinky Dinks floating around too but those might all be at my parent's house. If I ever get back there and go through my sister's things I may update this post with a few more images.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Star Wars Toys: Solo & the Millennium Falcon

Marvel Comics' Star Wars #99
As I mentioned in the Star Wars activities post a couple days ago I was working on a toy photo. I wanted to do something to tie into the new Solo movie so the plan was originally to make a video of Kenner's Han Solo action figures and the Millennium Falcon similar to the first Star Wars video I put together for Tatooine. However, my Falcon isn't in the best condition, the sound effect isn't working, and I'm missing a couple pieces. Then I thought maybe I can make a cool photo recreating the Empire Strikes Back scene of the Falcon parked inside of the Exogorth (the space slug on the asteroid). I did attempt that but struggled to get a good image so next I thought about just making a space scene and that photo came out rather well I think. I'm posting them both and a little about how I made them. Before I get to those though, first I'll start with a quick look at the toys.

Kenner released a number of Han Solo figures beginning with the first movie. There are two versions from the first movie, often referred to as the original, or small head, and the big head one which is what I've got. For Empire Strikes Back (ESB) Han received two action figures: one in the Hoth outfit and one in the Bespin outfit (with a different gun than he carried in the movies). Of course, he got a Return of the Jedi (RotJ) figure as well, for that release he wears a trench coat. Around the time Kenner released The Power of the Force (1984-85) line of figures I stopped acquiring Star Wars toys. That final Star Wars toy line includes a Han in carbonite figure. In the photo below I put the figures in appearance by movie rather than release date and although I do not own the carbonite figure, I have substituted in the Han in carbonite accessory that was packaged with Boba Fett's Slave I ship. Also pictured is the 1995 Han in Stormtrooper disguise which was a mail-away promotion from Hasbro and Kellogg's Fruit Loops cereal. Since this post is meant to tie into the Solo movie I've added Chewbacca and two of three Lando Calrissian figures. Lando's third figure (RotJ general outfit) was part of the aforementioned Power of the Force release which I'm lacking.

The figures are on a Kenner display stand; of course, the stickers don't match
 the figures being displayed in this photo.

Han Solo's Millennium Falcon is arguably the most iconic ship from the Star Wars films and Kenner's toy is a great recreation, though it isn't too roomy inside which is understandable. The top of my Falcon is discolored which looks bad but at the same time is kind of realistic as the ship is often on the rustic side in the movies. has some immaculate photos of the toy; it's so clean that it looks both impressive and a little strange to me. In the photos below you'll see Luke has his head as I decided to glue it back on; I discussed that previously in the Tatooine video I linked to above. Also, since I cannot locate Luke's lightsaber I gave him Obi-Wan's.

The Millennium Falcon with landing gear down.

The top of my Falcon with fading and yellow lines.
The bottom is actually still quite clean.

Closed cockpit
(missing windshield).
Open cockpit.
Chewie & R2 playing Dejarik.

Quad laser cannon and sensor dish.
I'm missing the removable flooring.

A little cramped.
Luke practicing.
Han in the turret seat.

For the Exogorth scene I used two maroon colored sleeping bags to create the "cave," a small flashlight to project light down the open ramp, and another light toward the back to try and give the appearance of exterior ship lighting. That rear light caused a reflection on Chewbacca that looked strange so I used Photoshop to swap in a different photo of the Chewbacca action figure. Unfortunately, I had to use Photoshop again to add the fog that was in the movie, though it doesn't really look too good. I did try to create fog using hot water and ice cubes but I failed to get anything useful from that.

My attempt to recreate the Empire Strikes Back asteroid "cave" scene. 

A similar setup with no backdrop; this is the Chewie I copied.

For the space scene I used a black sheet, two diecast Star Wars toys from Kenner, and Photoshop. In Photoshop I darkened the background and added stars; I wasn't too sure how many stars to add and perhaps I overdid it. I've got a few versions of the photo with slight variances as I added lasers from the Falcon's quad laser cannon to one, and then a second Star Destroyer. The stars aren't exact in the photos either since I erased a few in the later images. I did consider trying to add a planet to make it appear as if the ship was escaping Hoth or Tatooine but I'm not great with lighting in Photoshop and assumed I'd make it worse.

The diecast toys with 6" E.T. ruler for scale.

The photos can be fun to stage despite being a fair amount of work. I've got a lot of junk lying around which certainly helps when coming up with ideas. Although I'm not too skilled with Photoshop, just using some basic features can be enough to enhance a photo and create something entertaining. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy the Solo film. I have not seen the movie yet so I can't add my opinion about that but I sure hope it's fun as many reviews indicate.