The Meaning Of Highscores

What is the true meaning of highscores in video games? I may not have so accurate details but I can tell you my points and views on this issue. I sure do have experiences about playing very different kinds of video games…or computer games (What would you call them?) in arcades and in a living room. So let’s dive in.

I did a quick Google search with phrase “highscores in video games”. I found articles about a movie called “High Score” but there weren’t any articles about this topic. So this is my idea to write a bit about this topic. I came to this as I was playing Commando Arcade, a C-64 game, that had a high score table in it.

To me high scores haven’t been so important. Today we have characters inside games that have a lot of features which is telling about the diversity of todays games. There is more data moving while you play. But back in the age where Commodore 64 was the best there was a different time.

So high scores in games like these were actually very important and they told the player a lot about how they were doing in the game and how much they had progressed. And if you were playing in an arcade and you had a high score on some machine it was a good way to build a reputation for yourself (or actually for your nickname or anything that could be displayed on the list as a name back then).

Today, we have so many measures to discuss about your character in your favourite video game. For example you have experience points. Many modern games have these features that were introduced in the form of role playing games. They are now mixed with sport games so they have a character that can develope it’s abilities. Games have become more complex as the power of the systems has increased.

Sometimes I don’t feel like playing the newest games. Then it’s time for me to get relaxed playing some retro games that are somewhat more simple. That’s why I like these old games. And it also takes me back to feel some nostalgia.

Pushing Hardware to its Limits (Commodore 64)

I decided to try playing Commodore 64. I somehow started to admire this product of computer industry. It started as I tried to figure out something new, again, something new that I yet haven’t discovered as a gamer or player. I was born in the 80s. But you would have to be a teenager back then if you picked a Commodore 64 up and really started fiddling with it.

There were just so many possibilities for a person. You could just play or you could learn BASIC and ultimately if you were good at it and had some sort of flow and interest in this technology you could go real far. You could actually learn how the thing works and program it to do whatever you wished to. This can be accomplished with Assembler programming.

My minor experiments are nothing compared to what some witty persons have accomplished. With this in mind I am going to begin. First I watched a video on YouTube that introduced me some games. It had 30 games on it. I picked the ones I found most interesting. Then I did a Google search and found this site . Just to give you a clear picture of what Commodore 64 is capable of doing I am giving you some names of some of the best games that I tested. The games are Amalyte, Bubble Bobble, Commando Arcade, International Karate, Katakis, Lode Runner, Prince of Persia, R-Type and Wasteland.

I have stumbled to Prince of Persia and Bubble Bobble way back when I was using our family’s PC so I already had a picture of what these games are like. They definitely didn’t look visually bad at all. You have to consider what kind of a device was in use. What were it’s capabilities of running games. I could just state here its specifications like processors speed and memory, ROM and RAM, that it had but that isn’t going to tell you much.

Commodore 64 was not so powerful. It is mind blowing how engineers and designers used everything they had to deliver games to consumers. There were many limitations to be taken in consideration. This made it a tough job for graphics designers, programmers and even hardware electronics professionals. They had to split the work depending on their own field of expertise. This is important also today when someone is trying to bring a product to the markets and available.

How did I feel after I tried to play some 1980s games? The limitations are there. As I was playing Commando Arcade I figured out some basic tactics and I find it to be real close to some modern shooting games. The action was fast. I had a modern game pad so it helped a bit. Bubble Bobble was nice. It is almost too familiar to me. And then there was R-Type which is a very nice space shooter. You can forgive the poor graphics because the playability is very good…and also fast.

If you are interested to find out more I suggest you use first your favorite search engine and find an emulator. I really didn’t have any hardware to test these games with. I am not sure if these games are available anymore and I think it’s okay to try them out. Later you can get familiar with hardware and you can actually also build your own C-64 if you have time and knowledge or maybe even both. I find even a small possibility of developing some or any software to Commodore 64 very interesting.

Breaking Down Mortal Kombat II

I’d like to spend a moment describing my experiences about the second Mortal Kombat game that was released for Sega Mega Drive in 1993. The game has some technical limitations as Mega Drive isn’t, and wasn’t even back in the days, the most powerful platform to release a game like this. Arcade version of this game might have been smoother but we aren’t going to go there today since it’s been too long time for me to talk about that here.

As a software developer graduate I can see some things while playing that I don’t know if they are so clear for people that don’t know computers, technology and programming so well. This small blog post is here for you to dive a bit deeper on how the game is played. I also understand that some people are way better at playing this kinds of games. I have only spent some tens of hours playing Mortal Kombat. Also I like to note that I am concentrating on Mortal Kombat II here instead of all two dimensional fighting games. Yes, there are many of them and I have to mention Street Fighter series here.

This stuff is very interesting for me. I can see how the game kind of “reads” your moves. The opponent, it is this time a computer, reacts to your moves. It can make a move that is most suitable for a certain situation. So the key to winning your opponent is to react with a move that is the best move in your situation. You have to time this move correctly. You have to be in a right position. And this isn’t all there is to it. You can make moves freely. You have to define when and at which position to make the move that is correct move for you to make the opponents health bar decrease.

Fighting games have come a long way since the days of 1993. It is very different to play against the computer than it would be to play against a player. I know that games like Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter are very popular as genres of electronic sports. So you can have a competition against human players. This is how the game was designed. It sometimes feels like the computer is cheating but what else would it do than read your input and position and react as fast and powerfully as possible.

But to talk more about the game. It’s a great game. I find it very fascinating. The graphics are better than the first Mortal Kombats were. It seems like the development team have done a great work. The game has twelve different characters that have their own strengths and weaknesses. This makes the game even more interesting. To beat the game you have to know how to play with not only one character but many different characters that have their unique special moves and so on. You could actually compare and describe which characters are best against a specific opponent.

I am not sure what the basic attributes of all the characters are. I haven’t touched or even seen the source code. I am not aware if this code is available or is it “open source” or closed code. I know that Mega Drive didn’t have so much memory to use. Graphics and movement took a lot of processing from this gaming console also. When considering that this game was released in 1993 it is a game of very good quality. There is also a port for PC. If you are a big fan I can recommend to getting your hands on Mortal Kombat X. And to be honest I have to say that I just some days ago ordered Mortal Kombat 11 for PS4. I had to do it because the price was, I think, this time good. I hope this short blog post can give you inspiration wherever you are and in what situation with work or studying you might be.

How Basketball Games Have Evolved – From Super Real Basketball to NBA2K18

The first basketball game I ever owned was Super Real Basketball. It was released for Sega Mega Drive. Later NBA Jam came and it was maybe the best basketball game, or maybe title, of all time in sport games history. Let’s take a deeper look into how Super Real Basketball was played and how it was compared to the latest basketball game I have right now in my collections.

Super Real Basketball was fast paced game. You could move one player that had or didn’t have the ball. You had your defensive play and your offensive play. You could steal the ball if opponent tried to pass it to a teammate. When you had a drive to the basket there suddenly appeared an animation that required you to hit the shoot button at right moment. If you were on defense and you were near the player that was trying to score you could block the shot, again, by pressing a button at correct time. If you wanted to shoot a three pointer that was also possible.

The limitations of one of the first Sega Mega Drive basketball games were that although it promised a sense of reality it actually wasn’t very realistic. One thing there is that could have been designed better and that was the statistics of the game. The game didn’t have strong statistics. There weren’t real names of players of NBA or any other league. Names were just some basic names. You really couldn’t make much of a difference between players. Some players were faster than others or had better shooting skills. You just couldn’t name a player that was good with for example ball handling.

When it comes to the latest basketball games there is lots of improvements that have been made over the time as sport games have generally developed more. The latest NBA game I have is NBA2K18. The 2K series of basketball games has had good reviews, I think, since the release of NBA2K14. I think you can already trust the quality. When there is another season beginning there will be a good basketball game made with the latest players and teams.

Statistics ar great in NBA2K18. You basically play maybe two or three seasons and develop your player. You first choose some qualities of the player that don’t change like the name, number of the players shirt and height and even weight. You have to think what kind of a player you want to create. Will it be a 3 point shooter, point guard or play maker or do you want to become a center that has amazing blocking and defensive skills. After that you play the regulat season, one season is 82 games long and if you win enough games, you go to playoffs. Your player gets skill points that give you options to buy more stats for your player.

The gameplay is very nicely developed especially compared to the first basketball game I was talking about earlier. You can make steals, although you can get a penalty, if you are too much into stealing the ball, block a shot of an opponent in real time. Shooting is based on how open you are, what kind of a release you have and also how good is the ability of shooting of your player. You have a strong feel that you are actually the player. The Mega Drive game was about team play – the newer game is about individual player, but you have some game modes that enable you to play as a team or as a coach. I’ve only played NBA 2Ks, 2K14 and 2K18, as a single, individual, player.

So there is a lot of progress. I can tell you about NBA Jam also a bit. I first started playing it in an arcade. We had a great arcade that had games like NBA Jam and Mortal Kombat. So that was the first touch. I later played with a friend that had College Slam on his PC. That was cool. Lately I bought NBA Jam for Mega Drive. It’s still a great and fast paced basketball game that is played two versus two. There have been many versions and I like the PS3 version the most. It’s funniest when played with an opponent that is a human person. It’s not so much fun if played against a computer.

So these two basketball games are ones that I truly have myself played and I’ve played them a lot. It’s really nice to see how the sports games have been developing since late 1980s. And you can see how licensing, and I mean here that the players and teams have real names, affects the experience of the game. You can name a player that is good at shootiing three pointers for example. Like, to mention someone, Stephen Curry. It gives that certain touch to the games build aaround playing basketball. There are also games in which you can play on the streets. Maybe I have space and time to write about them some other time.

D-Fend Reloaded – A Frontend for DOSBox

Ever wanted to play those old and definitely retro MS-DOS games you played tens of years ago? Guess what? That is completely possible! There is a tool called DOSBox. It is basically an emulator which then operates an emulation of MS-DOS. It might be a bit tricky to first get it to work but I am glad to say that there is a solution that makes running your DOS games easier. The thing is called D-Fend Reloaded and I am going through in this article where you can get it, how to install it, how to fiddle the settings and how to install a game for it. You can even go as far as installing some other frontend for your mobile device but that can be discussed later in some other article.

1.) Download D-Fend Realoaded

It was very easy to install D-Fend Reloaded on my Windows 10 computer. DOSBox is included in the setup. You can download it here . I am not going into so much details when it comes to different options you can download. Just choose “Default package” and download the installer of version 1.4.4. That is what I am using here. It might be alreaady updated but that’s usually a good thing. Installation is pretty much easy. Make sure you have a folder somewhere that has some zipped, preferably freeware, games that you can install with D-Fend Reloaded.

2) Download a .zip file of some “freeware” game

Next, we are going to download a free game so we can go through the process of installing a DOS game. There are lots of DOS games on “DOSGames.com”. Let’s download “Acid Tetris”. Just click “Download The Game Free”. The .zip file gets downloaded. You can move it to some folder you like.

3) Adding/installing a ´game to the frontend

This is the trickiest part of this easy tutorial. Open D-Fend Reloaded. Now click “File” and navigate to “Import”->”Import archive file…”.  Then select the file we downloaded (“DOSBOX_SABA.ZIP”).  Click “Open”. Add “Profile name”. It can be for example “Acid Tetris”. Click one more time “OK”. And now we have the game in the list.

4) Play the game we just installed

Just double click the name of a game (inside D-Fend Reloaded) that you want to play …

 

 

 

Return to Golden Axe II

Golden Axe II has been one of my favorite games that I used to play back in the 90s with my Sega Mega Drive. I didn’t own a copy. I borrowed this game several times from a friend. I played it. I played it a lot. Today I have a Retro Trio that can be used to play NES, SNES and Mega Drive cartridges. So, some time ago I figured that I definitely should get a copy of this great game. Finally I made the purchase and it wasn’t even a pricey game. I bought it for 30 euros.

Golden Axe II was released 1992 as a PAL version in Europe. You just have to admire how well this game was made. It is an old game. I think there’s just the right mixture of fantasy and realness. There are dragons, axes and swords, magic and different kinds of monsters. Graphics were good when the game was originally released and they still feel pleasant considering it is a retro game. Playability seems nice. It is a beat-em-up game but you still find a rich environment that includes lots of fantasy elements. This game could have even some role playing game features but I think it wasn’t a time for that kind of a game to be released back in 1992. I think this combination of action, adventure and roleplaying was reached later when games like Diablo became very popular.

I have always been a bit doubtful on fantasy and roleplaying. I haven’t got in to this kind of material so much. I like FPS and racing games more. I just like to concentrate fully on the game and get rid of my everyday worries and stress. So, games involving deep fantasy elements aren’t so appealing to me. I also find fantasy books not so interesting. Maybe some day I pick up one of those Tolkiens books and start reading it. You may like roleplaying, stories and fantasy elements. It just isn’t for me.

One thing I haven’t really written about here in this post is that the first Golden Axe was a kind of a pioneer in artificial intelligence of enemies. It was among first games that used this kind of programmable variety of different kinds of actions. You can clearly see these elements when you are playing also the sequel. In the beginning of the game you have to make your choice about which player you wish to begin your journey with. You have a hero with a powerful axe but not so effective magical attacks and a hero with a sword and very powerful magical attacks. And I think the third hero is something in between of these abilities.

I finished the game in the roughest difficulty setting with the hero that had a sword and more powerful spells. I finished the game in maybe two hours but you have to take into consideration that I have played this game a lot. It is still one of my favorites when there is a conversation about Mega Drive’s best games. It’s a bit sad that there hasn’t been a modernized version of this game. I think it has a lot of potential. I can clearly see it to be improved a bit. It would be so cool if someone would include some elements of character development when for example experience points would be gathered. The levels could be larger. And if graphics and sound effects and music could be updated that would be almost surreal. I have to mention one more time that the world that Golden Axe brings is very interesting and pleasant in all of its details. In every way it would be amazing if a proper remake of this classic would some day be made.

Introducing Cash Invaders (MS-DOS) (2002)

When the file sizes were smaller and graphics simpler there was a time when small games (I don’t know if there’s a good, English, term for these) had a place in a players hearth. Maybe they even had their place inside the computers operating system and more precisely the file system. That depended on how well the user of the computer had organized his or her hard drive space. You had to remove games sometimes to free some space. So you just couldn’t launch all of them. You had to make a choice.

Nowadays you rarely need to go through your hard drive trying to figure out what software to keep installed. You sometimes have to. I think it is stupid and slow. Did you nag about PS4s small hard drive? Do you think PS5 has too small amount of space included? Well, think about me trying to expand my hard drive, by updating my hardware, to be about 16 GB in the beginning of the 2000s. Do you get the picture..? We are super retro right here, you know.

If you have never played Space Invaders you might not get why I am writing about this clone of a classic. I actually didn’t play the original game but I did play a cloned game that was called Space Commander. The idea is to try to shoot some sort of “space bugs” that are moving slowly towards the player. Bugs are moving row after row. There are some good strategies for trying to beat this game but I think we are not going to go inside them so deeply. If these bugs reach the player the game is over. As a some sort of plot the game describes that these things you are shooting are aliens and you are a space soldier trying to block their way from destroying the whole planet Earth.

Cash Invaders saw the daylight in 2002. For me there is no nostalgia. I didn’t play it back then. It caught my attention as I was going through a library of DOS games found from the internet. It takes about 420 kilo Bytes of space. As I am crawling through internet to find more information about the game I arrive at a website that is dedicated solely to Cash Invaders. I feel happy. I didn’t find this through Google. I found it the way I have always found interesting homepages – through web pages that are linked to each other. On this website you can find the download of some versions of the game and there’s also a list of high scores. You can also find some pictures. The website is funny and I feel some nostalgic vibes when I read the contents and see the graphics.

This is the website

So there’s 100 levels. I reached level 16 on my first attempt. I read that the developers used some sampled sounds (from a movie “Independence Day”). Some sounds were taken from other smaller games. The graphics of the game are nice. A bit of 3D modelling also included. The game is nicely designed. I have only played a bit of this game so I didn’t get to the “cash system” but I think there is a way to upgrade your space ship as you collect coins from destroyed bugs. In overall it is a very nice and small DOS game that I can warmly recommend to any player that likes DOS content. See you on the next post. Have a nice day.

Spending some time with Gran Turismo 4

As I may have mentioned earlier I kind of missed PlayStation 2. So it’s finally time for me to pick up Gran Turismo 4 and start getting in to playing it. The game was released in 2005. With over 700 cars and almost endless possibilities to race and tune your vehicle to it’s maximum performance it brings a huge game for the player to enjoy for a long time.

My history with Gran Turismo begins as I picked up the first game of the series. It was end of the 90s. Graphics were beginning to become more realistic. The capacity of CD-ROM brought more details and content to be used by game developers. Gran Turismo was also good for promoting PlayStation. It soon became clear that PlayStation would see some very nice driving games. The second Gran Turismo game was also released for PS1. The third one started the era of PS2s racing games.

There are lots of games that are dealing with driving a car or some another vehicle.
Gran Turismo made a difference. It delivered almost pure racing. Almost nothing else included. It had real cars and not only some but hundreds of cars that actually existed also in real life. It’s amazing to understand how the attributes of these cars tell you exactly how they behave while being handled on the road. These include mass, suspensions, tire selections, engines capability and so on. There are lots of things to mess with. You can modify the settings while testing the car. Upgrades to your car are essential. You have to win to get money for the upgrades.

I really enjoyed the first Gran Turismo. I hope my experiences with the fourth game of this series are enjoyable. I have to bring this fact up. The graphics aren’t too smooth or nice. It has been 15 years since the release. What could you expect? As the sixth game was released for PS3 there haven’t been a release of this series for a while now. Gran Turismo Sport did appear to the gaming stores but I think it was more of a eSports type of game.

We are expecting Gran Turismo 7 to be released for the newest PlayStation. I have to Google this one. And yes, the release is scheduled to quarter 1 / qurter 2 of 2021. As Gran Turismo 4 is even today a very enjoyable game with many interesting features you have to wonder a while what could there be inside the seventh Gran Turismo game.

Why did I finally buy a PS Classic?

I remember how it was hyped. Oh, do I remember. It was then discussed how many games would it have, which games it would include, would there be analog buttons included in the gamepad, would there be two gamepads, would the device be “hackable” and finally – how much would it cost. My expectations were high. The price for this product was 120 euros.

When the details of PS Classic were released I was disappointed. I decided it was not for me or at least not right now. The “mini gaming console” received very bad reviews. I watched these video reviews from YouTube. It was a very big disapointment for me and for also all of the retro hobbyists worldwide. It soon became clear that the remake of PlayStation had failed and flopped very badly and sadly. It wasn’t the console it was expected to be.

First thing I noticed was that PS Classics price dropped heavily since retailers had to get rid of it. No one wanted to buy this product. Some months went by. I read some news of how PS Classic would be easily modded to run more games. This would be done using an external USB drive or stick. Suddenly you could be able to bring like hundreds or even thousands of games to this device. It seemed that there was a way to install software through PS Classics USB port that was actually meant for controller and PS Classic had two ports like this.

There were some technical difficulties in this type of operation. All of the USB drives or memory sticks didn’t seem to work. There were lists gathered and brought on-line by users that were going to do the mod to the device. You couldn’t rely that a USB stick you bought to be used like this would work. So there actually was a way to bring more than 20 games to this product.

As the price of the mini console dropped more people got attracted to it. There were more reviews about how the price was lowered and how the modding was possible to accomplish. So what happened was that the price dropped to very low. I remember seeing ads that told the price would be 35 euros. It’s almost a drop of 100 euros compared to the original price. What happened was that Sony released a product that wasn’t truly finished properly. They paid a high price and had to sell the Classic for so low price.

There would be some things to be improved here. You would expect the device to have a decent controller, and yes, you should have analog sticks on the gamepad. The selection of games wasn’t the best possible. The list had nice games like Final Fantasy VII, Resident Evil and Grand Theft Auto and also Metal Gear Solid, but it had too many unnotable games. Where were Gran Turismo and/or Crash Bandicoot? Tony Hawks Pro Skater? Colin McRae 1 and 2.0? These points were the most important. There were some technical issues related to the actual emulation. In practice this showed as poorer graphics than could have actually been possible. One positive thing of course was the ability to save a game smoothly.

Let’s say this also. I am not encouraging people to mod their PS Classic. I am just saying that it’s possible. Copying roms is at this moment illegal. If you own the game you are allowed to make a rom out of it but this would be “another topic for another day” so let’s just end this post right here. Stay safe!

Why aren’t these games getting released?

How long did you wait for Half Life three? Why didn’t Bully 2 ever happen? What’s going on with the next Silent Hill? In these lines of text I am taking my vision to next level as I write about games that were so waited but actually never got out…

Bully was a very good game that was released for PS2, Xbox and PC. It was later also playable on Xbox 360 and Xbox One. We are currently moving to an era of PS5 and Xbox Series X. So we’re talking about an older game right here. It’s kind of sad that it didn’t ever happen.

Why are the games pulled back? Is it because they would be a disappoinment somehow? Maybe the sales would be too little? Or maybe the development team just got tired of the whole idea and decided to trash it. Where does a fan of specific series or game stand in this settlement? Does it mean a damn thing for the businesses or big multinational companies? Maybe we all should learn to create games so we could make the games we really want…

Making games, I mean good ones, is pretty hard. That’s one reason that every idea doesn’t end up being released. I think thought that good ideas can be further developed and they can manage to be popular games to be released. And maybe they become something that appeals to the masses and brings home some cash…

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