There’s nothing quite like curling up by a fire on a cold, cold, Canadian, winter night with a heartwarming book. Which is why it’s a shame that video game companies have given up on the practice of including fine literature with their titles. This week, our two heroes embark on a journey of nostalgia (what else is new) for the long lost days of instruction manuals that were ready and willing to bring us up to speed, and make us feel at home before launching us into hundreds of hours of electronic ecstacy.
No, but seriously, if you weren’t around in the early era of gaming (or even if you were!), do yourself a favour and go get your paws on some of those old papers that were filled with fun stories and artwork. Some of our favourites, which we mention in this podcast, include:
- Dragon Warrior IV
- Final Fantasy Tactics
- The Legend of Zelda
- Sim City
- Street Fighter II
- Super Mario Bros 3
Some other interesting things to check out is this talk on Gamasutra about how long it takes to get into Zelda games.
There’s few people who would contest that great characters, a compelling story, and challenging puzzles make a game great, however sometimes it’s the little things that can make a game fun or tedious. In this week’s episode of The Vagabond Gamecast, Matt and Steve take some time to discuss some of what makes a great or poor inventory system. Our heroes cover some simple mechanics such as what was used in earlier platforming titles such as Adventure Island, Castlevania, Super Mario Bros 3, and Super Mario World to the more in-depth RPG sytems such as Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy, and Suikoden. We talk about the over-encumberance featured in Skyrim vs the Tetris-like layout of systems in Ultima VII and Day Z and even the less approachable but flexible systems in text parsing games such as Quest for Glory.
So come on over, get un-encumbered, and let’s talk what’s in our inventories!
Sometimes our actual recording sessions get jumbled up and separated out over the course of a couple weeks as we get time to record them. They don’t quite align with publication time, meaning things can sometimes get a little out of sync.
No big deal; this time around, we mix things up and pause on the solid game topic discussion. Instead, we have a random chat about recent happenings in our lives as gamer parents with broad tastes but restricted schedules. Stephen touches on some recent gaming and a teaching project he has in the pipeline, and Matt has started a new job and is adjusting to the new daily routine (and trying to figure out where to shove in project time!).
Both muse over some recent film watches and how we’re sharing film and other cultural product with our kids, as well as how to best use the commutes we’ve had at our various jobs.
Tune in for a five minute chat on our topic of the week: what drives you to make a new console purchase? We’ve graciously wrapped this light discussion in some much more substantial general game chatter and game-related complaining. But- This is no lackadaisical padding! Stay tuned for some analysis of the games we’ve been playing (finishing even), and a discussion on Infocom-style adventure games/visual novels and other genres we haven’t seen utilized as of late.
We also touch on some of the frustrations inherent in retro games that have mostly disappeared from their modern counterparts, and delve into some other general nostalgia.
Have you ever been curious about the art side of video game development? Matt was! And so he ambushed Stephen with some questions about it! There are of course many different artistic roles in game development and this week Stephen shares some insights from his experience working in the game industry as a VFX artist as we go into interview-format to dig into where his professional career has taken him.
Some of the topics covered include:
* Interviewing for VFX jobs in games
* Tools used by game VFX artists
* VFX teams at game companies
* Hunting for VFX work in games in the US as a non-citizen
* What it was like to transition from film (Steve’s previous experience) to games
* The nature and challenges of the VFX role in games
This was our first stab at recording in the evening instead of the early morning with obvious differences. Not so much of the usual tired groaning and whining about poor kid sleep schedules.
In this week we bring you back to the late 1990’s to share what it was like to live through the birth of competent emulators for Nintendo systems and experience a flourishing “romhacking” community responsible for the first available English-language versions of some relatively important games from the NES~SNES era.
We touch lightly on some of the technical aspects of game fan-translations and general hacking of video game ROMs, and generally focus on the experience of being involved in the community.
This is a particularly nostalgic period for Matt, who credits it with solidifying his interest in computer science and that kind of stuff, and for furthering his interest in the more technical aspects of games, game history, and game hardware.
As always, top all of that off with some griping about parenting (if that’s your thing) and you’ve got yourself a podcast episode!
Anyone reaching into the depths of gaming history has surely hit upon gemsters and junkness, and probably games that could really qualify as both. One perhaps need look no farther than the original Ultima 1 (later, “Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness”… yeah, “darkness” for sure) for a telling example. We’ve come a long way since the early 80s. Games like Donkey Kong and the original Mario Bros remain replayable and endearing classics, while some of the more ambitious and trendsetting titles have sadly long since been eclipsed by modern experiences.
It’s hard to really say that Ultima 1 is ‘bad’ with any semblance of objectivity; it’s actually quite easy to appreciate the things it accomplished and the path it paved for the computer RPG genre, and even its own eventual well-loved sequels. This time around, we discuss our impressions of this first Ultima (and to a lesser degree its predecessor, “Akalabeth”) viewed from a modern perspective. We’re both pretty sympathetic to its status as an important piece of gaming history, but neither of us are too fond of the game (despite playing the more accessible DOS remake from ’87!).
It seems the game has soured Ultima overall for Steve, who no longer even intends to play the entirety of his Ultima collection for the forseeable future. Matt’s characteristically more retro, and is more likely to hack his way through the series some day to get to Ultima V ~ VII, which both boss nerds agree look to be much more appealing games.
Any parents listening might appreciate our lead-in where we discuss integrating our kids into our busy / nerdy lives; any childless folks are probably better off skipping a good ten minutes or so to get to the meat of the matter: why Ultima I might just beat Tetris on Stephen’s list of much disliked games that are supposed to be good.
The days of the classic arcade have come and (mostly) gone. Some people missed the boat entirely (anybody younger than, uh, 30? 25 maybe?), and some people never let go (like… us. Matt at least…).
This week we explore this classic place of entertainment and contrast it’s general disappearance in the west and lingering presence in the east.
Arcades do continue to exist in some form of course; they’re somewhat niche (good luck finding them in small towns), often full of import titles, or sometimes even intentionally going for a retro “vibe”.
As always, in addition to the subject at hand, you can expect some whining about parenthood and its destructive effects on our gaming habits and sleep, overt oozing nostalgia, and a rundown of our recent gaming exploits.
There were two main sources of gaming news, growing up in the 80’s and 90’s. We had the kid in our class who’s uncle worked at Nintendo and would tell us all the upcoming news months before it would ever find its way into print or on shelves… and we had access to a variety of print magazines each month that would tell us all the actual for real facts about the world of gaming.
It’s a little sad to notice that print media is so scarce these days, and so we spend this episode of The Vagabond Gamecast reminiscing about pre-internet life and how we got our news. Whether it was from Game Pro, Game Players, Nintendo Power, EGM, PlayStation Magazine, PC Gamer, or any of the other easily accessable magazines, we loved (and miss) all the wit, art, and tips that these papers contained. And not just papers! The demo discs and even VHSes were also awesome.
Take this one for example:
What more could an 11 year old hope for in the mail?
What were your favourite magazines?
This week we take a semi-deep dive into the “Rockman” / “Megaman” / call-it-what-you-will series and discuss our favorites, what makes each game stand out to us, and how the series incorporates into our personal nostalgia stories.
We focus on the mainline series and its evolution through the years, but do touch a bit on X and the other spinoffs, so this will hopefully serve as a bit of a nice mini history lesson for anybody not fully aware of the series.
As always, we touch on what we’re currently playing and finishing up playing. Matt’s been into FTL, while Steve’s completed Dragon Age: Origins lately. Reminiscing about Rockman has made Matt movie a couple X games up in his “to play” list as well!
You’ll find the Sprixelsoft Keiji Inafune interview transcription mentioned here!