Saturday, September 30, 2017

Gaming Ads: DTMC and Dynamix

DTMC was a publisher based in California that released eight games between 1992 and 1994. I cannot locate any more specific information about the company, though it's clear that it heavily advertised its games. Of the 22 ads I've got, seven are for the NES game Lester the Unlikely. That game, like most of DTMC's other games, received mostly average review scores. DTMC also published the SNES version of California Games II and a game based on the Ranma ½ manga/animé.

Dynamix was founded by Jeff Tunnell and Damon Slye as Software Entertainment Company. Based in Oregon, the developer changed its name to Dynamix in 1984 and went on to create more than 100 games in a wide range of genres, from adventure and sports games to flight simulators and first-person shooters. Most of its games are for home computers but it also released a game each on the Sega Genesis and 3DO, and a few for the Sega CD. Although Dynamix made many quality games, it was not financially well off at the end of the '80s and in 1990 the studio was acquired by Sierra On-Line. Best known for adventure games, Sierra was potentially a good fit and seemingly was, albeit briefly. Unfortunately, Sierra was sold to CUC International in 1996 and would go through a number of changes over the years, eventually becoming part of Havas Interactive (later renamed Vivendi Universal) in 1999. Vivendi shut down Dynamix in 2001, about five months after the release of Tribes 2.

It may not be one of the best known developers but Dynamix is one of my favorites of all time. I've played only a handful of its games but two of those games -- Starsiege: Tribes and Tribes 2 -- I may have played more than other game to this day. The Tribes series is something I'll explore in more detail at a later date, though I will say that I don't believe any online shooter released since is as much fun as those two games. Tribes was developed specifically for online play and Dynamix did a great job but the games never caught on as much as the competition at the time, such as Quake, Unreal Tournament, and the Battlefield series. There were two more Tribes games made by other developers that are still better than many other online shooters but pale in comparison to what Dynamix accomplished. Of course, I don't have any ads for Tribes, primarily because the first game released in late 1998 and the sequel in 2001 which are near and after my 2000 cut off for ads.

Flickr album: DTMC
Flickr album: Dynamix

Sunday, September 24, 2017

[YouTube] Intellivision

                                                    https://youtu.be/PhZHkQMaiIs

Mattel Electronics' Intellivision
The Intellivision from Mattel Electronics was test marketed in 1979 and officially launched in 1980 at a retail price of $299.99. More powerful than an Atari 2600 but with less arcade game ports, Mattel's console has unique game controllers that set it apart from other gaming systems available at the time. Each controller features a disc for in-game movement, four side buttons, and a keypad with 12 buttons. Many games include an overlay that slides into the top of a controller and rests over the keypad labeling what each side and keypad button does for the game being played. The controllers are also attached to the console and cannot be removed without first taking apart the system.


Controller overlays for three Intellivision games.

An Intellivision II was released in 1982 for about $150 that is made of white plastic, smaller than the original, has flat keypad buttons, and detachable controllers. While an Intellivision III was planned that would have wireless controllers and the Intellivoice unit built-in, it never reached the prototype stage. A few add-on components were released by Mattel that include a computer keyboard, music keyboard, printer, a module that allows Atari 2600 games to be played on an Intellivision, and the aforementioned Intellivoice. The Intellivoice is a speech-synthesis unit that released in 1982 for approximately $70. Four games were released specifically for the Intellivoice and one other game is enhanced by it.



Both Radio Shack's Tandyvision One and the Sears' Super Video Arcade also play Intellivision games. Sears released many Intellivision games in its own Sears Tele-Games packaging as well. One other way to play Intellivision games was through a cable television network using the game console and a PlayCable adapter. Mattel worked with General Instrument to create the adapter that released in limited markets in 1981. By signing up for the service consumers rented the adapter and could play games without owning any cartridges by streaming games directly from their cable provider. Game manuals and overlays were included with the service and as new games were released the documentation would be mailed to subscribers. Every month 15 games were available while games would be cycled in and out on a regular basis. When the service was discontinued in 1983 customers were required to return the adapters. PlayCable was very similar to the Sega Channel that Sega launched in 1994 for the Genesis.

PlayCable fold-out pamphlet.

Backside of the PlayCable fold-out pamphlet.  

In 1984 Mattel closed Mattel Electronics and sold all of the Intellivision assets to a group of investors known as the INTV Corporation. Once inventory of the older units ran out INTV created a new model that looks quite similar in form to the original Intellivision. Instead of the bronze highlights it has silver and the keypads are more like the Intellivision II than the original. INTV released the new console in 1986 at a cost of $70, and also sold Mattel's unreleased games and hired programmers to finish some of the previously incomplete games. Of course, during this time the Nintendo Entertainment System hit North America and Sega wasn't far behind. Eventually retail stores dropped the Intellivision forcing INTV to sell products via mail order only. INTV filed for bankruptcy in 1990 and closed in 1991.


My parents acquired an Intellivision in 1981 and subscribed to the PlayCable service. While we had the service the only cartridge we owned was the system's pack-in title Las Vegas Poker & Blackjack. I believe we moved in 1983 before the service ended but either way we found ourselves without any games aside from the bland gambling title. One benefit of moving in 1983 was the great video game crash occurred that year causing game prices to plummet. We got a bunch of games for only a few dollars each at discount stores and today I own 60 of the 125 games that were released between 1979 and 1989. Some of the games I acquired more recently but I do have 48 of them in the original packaging. Some of my favorite original games for the Intellivision include Utopia, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Sea Battle, and Major League Baseball.


Being my first console the Intellivision holds a special place in my video game collection. Although I consider the Sega Genesis to be my favorite console, the Intellivision is a close second. It's great to see its history well preserved on the Internet thanks to former Mattel employees known as the Blue Sky Rangers. Today all of the information can be found at www.intellivisionlives.com; Intellivision Lives is where I found much of the historical data in this post and where you can read much, much more about the hardware and the games. There are a lot of fun facts to be found throughout the website and everything there is a very interesting read if you're a fan of retro gaming.

I should point out that the images of the console above are of my Intellivision but I did edit the photos to clean up the controller one disc which is why it looks different in the video.

Catalog Cover
Catalog Cover

PlayCable Box & Pamphlet
PlayCable Box Without Cover

Genre Networks (Math Fun is a later box type and is shorter
than the earlier boxes; I used it since it's the only Children's
Network box that I own.)

Cartridges (Sea Battle is Mattel's design; behind it is the
Intellivoice game Space Spartans with a gold label.) 

Third-Party Publishers

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Gaming Ads: DreamWorks and DreamWorks Interactive

Both of this week's ads are from companies named DreamWorks but they are not related to one another. The first DreamWorks was based in Minnesota and distributed a small number of games in the early '90s. I've got ads for three of its six released games and one for the unreleased Sega Genesis game Jesse "The Body" Ventura Wrestling Superstars.

DreamWorks Interactive is much better known as it was the software division of the DreamWorks film company and developed a significant hit in Medal of Honor. Founded in 1995, DreamWorks Interactive developed a few original games and games based on other properties, such as Jurassic Park, Goosebumps, and Small Soldiers. It also published claymation games developed by The Neverhood, including the aptly titled The Neverhood and its sequel Skullmonkeys, as well as BoomBots.

The most successful game from DreamWorks Interactive is the aforementioned Medal of Honor, a WWII shooter that released in 1999 for the PlayStation. Medal of Honor is largely known as a series from Electronic Arts (EA) as it did publish the game and all of its sequels. EA acquired DreamWorks Interactive in 2000, at the time renaming the studio to EA Los Angeles. In 2010 EA Los Angeles became Danger Close Games and in 2013 it changed names yet again, this time to DICE Los Angeles. The Medal of Honor developer is still in business as DICE Los Angeles, primarily developing additional content for the Battlefield games.

Flickr album: DreamWorks
Flickr album: DreamWorks Interactive

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Gaming Ads: Domark Software

Domark was a U.K.-based company founded in 1984 by Dominic Wheatley and Mark Strachan. While both founders were knowledgeable about marketing, neither was familiar with game programming and so they focused on publishing games developed by others during the company's early years before hiring in-house staff to create games. In the early '90s Domark became Domark Software and a U.S. branch was opened in California. Eidos acquired Domark Software in late 1995 and the Domark name was dissolved in mid-'96.

I've currently got nine ads for Domark, three of which are very similar ads for Flying Nightmares. Based on the ads, Time Warner and Tengen (which was acquired by Time Warner) distributed many of Domark's games in North America.

Flickr album: Domark Software

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Play It Again, Samus


Metroid: Samus Returns releases this week for the Nintendo 3DS along with a couple amiibo figures. Developed in collaboration with MercurySteam, Nintendo calls Samus Returns a re-imagining of the original Game Boy's Metroid II: Return of Samus so I scoured my magazines for all of the coverage I could find on Metroid II which resulted in a single review. I'm surprised I couldn't find more too but the coverage for a few magazines could be in issues I'm missing.


The one article I have is a review from GamePro that appeared in the February 1992 issue despite the game releasing in November 1991. GamePro certainly liked it as they scored it near perfect with only sound falling short of a top score. Based on the few GamePro reviews I've posted this year, it appears GamePro is most critical of sound as when a game is close to perfect but not quite it is the sound holding it back. The review also lists the price under the ratings and I'm having a hard time believing it only cost $19.95; most Game Boy games were in the $29.99 to $39.99 range to start so that's likely a misprint.

GamePro - February 1992

Although I own very few Nintendo games and haven't played many Metroid games, I do actually own Metroid II. It's one of the better Game Boy games I've got which is certainly no surprise as Nintendo tends to make some of the best games that are available on its own platforms. At over 30 pages long the instruction manual is quite nice as well, perhaps one of the best Game Boy game manuals there is. I've scanned a few pages of the manual involving the story, the planet, and Samus' suit. The story is likely similar if not the same as Samus Returns and since today's games rarely have manuals, Metroid II's manual might be the best place to read the story set-up.




Sunday, September 10, 2017

Two-Minute Drill

Today is the first Sunday of the 2017 NFL season that kicked off last Thursday night. There were numerous football video games released in the '80s and '90s but I didn't have time to do a large project and this is very last minute. I've posted a YouTube video today of the Sega Master System's Walter Payton Football as well and was able to find a review of that game from GamePro that I've included here. While I hope to put together something more complete for the Madden series in the future, this time around I was only able to scan a couple reviews of John Madden Football '92 for the Sega Genesis along with its main competitor that year, Joe Montana II: Sports Talk Football. Lastly is a review from Video Games & Computer Entertainment (VG&CE) for John Elway's Quarterback on the Nintendo Entertainment System.

GamePro - February 1990

Game Informer - Jan/Feb 1992

Game Informer - Jan/Feb 1992

VG&CE - August 1989
Electronic Gaming Monthly #30

Saturday, September 9, 2017

September Update

I put this image together a long time ago; just updated the
date. I selected games published by Sega and games that
 are a good representation of the unique offerings that can
be found on the console. 
It's time for another monthly update and boy have I been busy so I should probably keep this brief. As I mentioned on social media earlier today it's the 18th anniversary of the Dreamcast, Sega's final console. I originally wanted to do an unboxing of that console for today even though I'm certain there are plenty of videos out there and I'm sure most people know all about the console. I got hung up on the Sega CD and 32X video though as my Sega CD won't power on. The blog post and photos are all set for those platforms but I'd like to at least be able to power it on during a video even if I don't play it then. My plan is to repair the Sega CD, as well as the Game Gear and Game Boy. I got a soldering iron a couple weeks ago but finding the time to attempt that has been a problem (I've never soldered so I need to learn too). Making videos really takes a huge chunk of some weekends even though I haven't posted many. What happens is I often have to film them multiple times until I get one that I'm at least somewhat satisfied enough with. Last weekend's Hot Wheels video had some problems but I stuck together two of the parts and called it a day after filming both parts at least three or four times each over multiple days.

After taking yesterday off from work I've spent many hours Friday and today trying to get a recording of a Sega Master System game finalized. After four complete videos I still don't have the audio fixed. Audio always seems to be the problem as I struggled with it a lot when trying to get a microphone to work with my camera during my very first video. Then I wasn't pleased with the PlayStation 4 (PS4) lapel mic when making gameplay videos. The last PS4 video was made with the Sony Platinum Wireless Stereo Headset that works well enough with the PS4, though it does pick up the gamepad button noises. Now I've been trying to use the headset with recording software on the PC and while my voice comes across perfectly fine, there are clicking noises that I can't nail down (might actually be the buttons on the headset rattling). They occur even when I'm not hitting buttons so it's not the game controller. I did try a couple wired PC headsets but they cause a constant background hiss similar to what I dealt with on my first video.

Used skilled jumping to reach a high vantage point for
some advertising of the blog in Everybody's Golf.

I hit the cart button which makes the screenshot look a
bit more silly. 

It goes without saying I'm very frustrated and losing my mind as every weekend flies by while I spend many, many hours trying to get everything just right. I'll keep trying though and the retro game videos are coming soon. It's getting late today and I still haven't had a chance to look up football game reviews so I don't know if I can make that happen for the first Sunday of the NFL season tomorrow. I know that's not hugely important but I thought it would go nice with the gameplay video I'm also trying to get done for tomorrow. Since my last update I've played some Everybody's Golf as you may have noticed if you follow the YouTube channel. I also played through Uncharted: The Lost Legacy twice and the Longshot mode of the latest Madden so I've got some gaming in. Here are a few images from Uncharted's photo mode:



Next week I'll have a short post about Metroid II for Game Boy as Nintendo readies a re-imagining of that game for release on September 15th. Next month I hope to make at least one or two toy videos with my nephew who will be in town. He's six now and I've not seen him in more than two years; he lives far away and I have not traveled in a long time. He likes making his own videos with my sister's phone so I think he'd be thrilled to be in one of my videos. Of course, when family is in town my time will be limited even more. This post wasn't exactly brief but I did type it fairly fast and shall now start flipping through magazines for a quick football game reviews article. Thanks again for reading the blog and subscribing on YouTube!

-Jonathan

Gaming Ads: Discovery Software, Disney, and Doc's

Discovery Software was a Maryland-based computer game publisher that released a few games in the late '80s. Not a lot of information out there on this company but the Amiga games website Hall of Light says that Discovery Software was founded in 1985 and published five games so I'll go with that.

Best known for amusement parks and movies, Disney is one of the most famous companies in the world. The earliest games based on Disney properties were published by Sierra On-Line beginning in 1984. Making sense of all of the Disney brands isn't easy but I think it first published its own games in 1988 under the Walt Disney Computer Software name. I've chosen to group what few ads I have together but Disney has published and developed games under numerous names: Walt Disney Computer Software, Disney Software, Disney Interactive, Disney Interactive Studios, Disney Imagineering, Disney Mobile Studios, Buena Vista Software, Buena Vista Interactive, and Buena Vista Home Entertainment. It also took over ABC Interactive in 1996 and LucasArts in 2012. It's possible I missed a few but I think you get the point, it changed its names often and have had numerous divisions operating at the same time.

Over the past five years Disney has been licensing out most of its properties. Surprisingly, it didn't even make a home release based on Frozen, instead allowing GameMill Entertainment to publish a Nintendo DS and 3DS Frozen game. GameMill is small and isn't known for high quality games but it also is the only company to publish a retail game based on Disney's Big Hero 6. Disney did try its hand at a series of games with interactive toys beginning in 2013 with the release of Disney Infinity. What seemed like a match made in heaven somehow failed as Disney canceled the series in 2017 and that appears to have marked the end of Disney publishing its own retail game products. Disney does still publish mobile games and has even used the LucasArts/Lucasfilm brand as a publishing label despite closing the game company in 2013. Outside of mobile games the Star Wars brand is being handled by Electronic Arts which has big budget Star Wars games in development at D.I.C.E., Visceral Games, and Respawn Entertainment.

Doc's, also known as Doc's Hi-Tech, is an accessory maker that released many products for the 8-bit and 16-bit consoles. It made game controllers up until at least the N64 but is best known for its cleaning kits, hence the name Doc's (a game doctor that can fix your minor system problems). The company may actually still be in business as it's owned by New York-based Arista Interactive, though I haven't seen any of its products in quite some time.

Flickr album: Discovery Software
Flickr album: Disney
Flickr album: Doc's

Monday, September 4, 2017

[YouTube] Hot Wheels Service Center Foldaway Garage

                                                      https://youtu.be/xkwzFnBg-Fk

Included Hot Bird vehicle.
The Hot Wheels Service Center Foldaway Garage is one of a few variations on this style of play set. Mattel also made similar sets with construction and military themes, another that added some buildings to the service center layout, and yet another that looks identical to the Foldaway Garage but is called Service Center Sto & Go Set. Aside from the name, one other difference between the Foldaway Garage and Sto & Go Set is that the Sto & Go Set does not include a vehicle whereas the Foldaway Garage includes the Hot Bird (Pontiac Firebird). They both list 1979 as the copyright and I'm unable to determine if they did indeed both release that year. It's most likely that Mattel simply re-packaged the set under a new name and either removed or added the Hot Bird car but left 1979 on the box as that's the year the actual set was produced.

The box front; I did some editing in Photoshop to clean it up
so it does look slightly different than what is seen in the video.

The box back which has a big piece of tape on it.

Side of the box.

There are two locking mechanisms at the top of the case, a carrying handle, and two legs that support the top level when the set is opened up. As seen in the video, the set includes two garage doors that can be opened and closed, car wash foam rollers, a manually operated elevator, a "Dynamometer" that rotates vehicle tires, and a service bell near the gas pumps. Some of the pictures were taken on different days and in different lighting conditions as I needed to re-shoot a few.