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Original author: 
Kyle Orland

Sure, every game has an ending of sorts. For a certain class of classic game, though, that ending was always of the "You Are Dead Ha Ha Ha!" variety. From Robotron 2084's ever-increasing robot hordes to Missile Command's memorable "THE END" explosion, you went into these games knowing that failure was not just an option, but really the only option.

Then there are the games that seem like they should go on forever but, for one reason or another, just don't. Whether it's because of a coding error leading to an unintentional "kill screen" or a simple design choice stopping an otherwise never-ending series of loops, a lot of games that seem unbeatable at first glance can actually be conquered in one way or another.

To be clear, these aren't just games that are hard to beat (though most of them are incredibly difficult). These are games that, by all rights, shouldn't have a victory condition yet eventually reach a point where it's technically impossible to keep playing even if you don't fail in any way. Enjoy.

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tecmo-bowl-01

Tecmo Bowl is an arcade game developed and released in 1988. The godfather of football video games, Tecmo once ruled the controllers of sports fans everywhere. The documentary features coverage of an annual Tecmo Bowl tournament in Madison, Wisconsin, along with retired NFL players who played and starred in the game, most notably Christian Okoye.

http://vimeo.com/51962489

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How do you prefer to compose? Pen and manuscript paper? Recording ideas from a piano? Firing up your favorite music software? How about … coding in 65c816 Assembly language?

The trio behind this video prefers the latter, more intensive approach, to get close to the chip hardware by communicating directly with the Super NES. It’s one heck of a way to make an invitation to an event, but that’s just what they’ve done, in celebration of Blip Festival Tokyo 2012, in a kind of audiovisual spectacular. With code by Batsly Adams, music by Zabutom, and graphics by KeFF, the result is a throwback to the demoscene of yore. (Kris Keyser notes that I should point out that the SNES is sample-based, not synthesis based as you might have with the NES. It’s still … a lot of work.)

YouTube looks good, but running this directly looks better, so you can point your SNES emulator at this free file:

BlipFestivalTokyo2012.sfc

Quoth Andrew: “The hardware is a bitch – but it has some really sweet features … the 65c816 – 8/16 bit selection blows.”

Amen, brother. Thanks to music hacker Todd Bailey for the heads-up.

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mikejuk writes "You may have have thought games like Super Mario Bros., Donkey Kong, and so on were hard at the time you were playing them, but you probably didn't guess they were NP-hard. Now we have some results from computer scientists at Universite Libre de Bruxelles and MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory that many classic games contain within them an NP-hard problem. It has been proven that the following game franchises are NP-hard (PDF): Mario, Donkey Kong, Legend of Zelda, Metroid and Pokemon. At least you now have an excuse for your low scores."


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As musical old-timers repeatedly sing the sad song of the supposed demise of the full-length album, a funny thing has happened. Lovers of games have taken up a growing passion for game music, and in particular the indie score for indie games. Independent game publishing and independent music composition – from truly unsigned, unknown artists – go hand in hand. Indeed, the download and purchase charts on Bandcamp are often dominated by game scores. Fueled by word-of-mouth, these go viral in enthusiast communities largely ignored by either music or game reportage.

Far from the big-budget blockbuster war game, these scores – like the games for which they’re composed – are quirky and eccentric. They reject the usual expectations of what game music might be, sometimes tending to the cinematic, sometimes to the retro, sometimes unapologetically embracing magical, sentimental, childlike worlds.

And now, defying music’s typical business models as well as its genre expectations, you can get a whole big bundle of games for almost no money. Pay what you want, and get hours of music. Pay more than $10, and get loads more. You just have to do it before the deal ends (five days from this posting), at which point the bundle is gone forever. In a sign of just how much love listeners of these records feel, there’s a competition to get into the top 20, top 10, and top-paying spots, which with days left in the contest is already pushing well into the hundreds of dollars. But for that rate or just the few-dollar rate, these are the true fans. You’ve heard about them in theory in trendy music business blogs and conferences, in theory. But here, someone’s doing something about it, and it’s not a fluke or a one-time novelty: it’s a real formula.

http://www.gamemusicbundle.com/

Game music itself is, of course, a funny thing. Game play itself tends to repetition, meaning you hear this music a lot. So it says something really extraordinary about the affection for these scores that gamers want to hear the music again and again. This gets the musical content well beyond the level of annoying wallpaper into something that, even more than a film score you hear just once or a few times, you want to make part of your life. That endless play gets us back to what inspired ownership in the first place, to buying stacks of records rather than just waiting for them on the radio. And in that sense, perhaps what motivates owning music versus treating it like a utility or water faucet hasn’t changed in the digital age at all. Maybe it’s gotten even stronger.

We’ve already sung the praises of Sword and Sworcery on this site; it’s notably in the bundle. But I want to highlight in particular one other score, the inventive and dream-like Machinarium. Impeccably recorded, boldly original, the work of Prague-based Tomáš Dvořák, Machinarium mirrors the whimsical constructed machines of the games. There’s a careful attention to timbre, and music that moves from film-like moments to song to beautiful washes of ambience, glitch set against warm rushes of landscape. For his part, Dvořák is a clarinetist, and his musical senstitivity never ceases to translate into the score. It’s just good music, even if you never play the game, and easily worth the price of admission for the bundle if you never listened to anything else (though you would truly be missing out). It’s simply one of the best game music scores in recent years.

And another look at Jim Guthrie’s score to Sword & Sworcery:

Game Meets Album: Behind the Music and Design of the iPad Indie Blockbuster Swords & Sworcery[Create Digital Music]

Game Meets Album: Behind the Music and Design of the iPad Indie Blockbuster Swords & Sworcery [Create Digital Motion]

Also in this collection: Aquaria, To the Moon, Jamestown, and a mash-up, plus a whole bunch of bonus games when you spend a bit more that feel heavily influenced by Japanese game music and chip music.

And some of the best gems are in the repeat of the last bundle, which you can (and should) add on for US$5 more:
Minecraft: Volume Alpha, Super Meat Boy: Digital Soundtrack, PPPPPP (soundtrack to VVVVVV), Impostor Nostalgia, Cobalt, Ravenmark: Scourge of Estellion, A.R.E.S. Extinction Agenda, Return All Robots!, Mighty Milky, Way / Mighty Flip Champs, Tree of Knowledge

I’ve sat at game conferences as composers working for so-called AAA titles lamented the limitations of the game music production pipeline. Quietly, indie game developers have shown that anything is possible, that the quality of a game score is limited only by a composer’s imagination.

More music to hear (and some behind-the-scenes footage), including a really promising Kickstarter-funded iPad music project from regular CDM reader Wiley Wiggins:

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It’s the end of an era on today’s Continue? Be there as the boys say goodbye to Fantasy Month with Link.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=QUu1sfQ7Fss

Link, he come to town. Come to save the princess, Zelda. Ganon took her away, now the children don’t play, but they will when link saves the day! Hallelujah! Also, all of November is Fantasy Month!

Every week on Continue?, we sit down to play a random old school game for 30 minutes. We’re talking NES, SNES, Genesis old here. There is one question we are trying to answer – do we want to stop playing or continue?

Starring: Nick Murphy, Paul Ritchey, and Josh Henderson
Shot by: Paul Ritchey
Edited by: Nick Murphy

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