Games Archive

Stadia’s death was due to a ‘self-sustaining cycle’ of lacking games and players, lead says

In court documents from the FTC vs Microsoft case, Google Stadia’s former product lead Dov Zimring was called to discuss the cloud gaming platform and competition in the gaming space. This led to several comments on why Stadia couldn’t compete in the industry from Google’s own point-of-view. Exactly what you expected: lack of players led to a lack of games, which led to an even bigger lack of players, and so on. What surprises me most is not that this happened – but the fact they were surprised by this? I mean, getting a foothold in the gaming industry is incredibly hard, and requires you to be 110% in, and for the long haul at that. You have to be in all the way for the long term – anything less and you might as well not even try. I am baffled that nobody at Google was like – if we do this, we have to commit to at least ten years of perseverance, through lean times with few subscribers and massive investments and losses, only to recoup them later once the ball starts rolling. Consoles are sold at a loss for a reason.

The death of Unity

But now I can say, unequivocally, if you’re starting a new game project, do not use Unity. If you started a project 4 months ago, it’s worth switching to something else. Unity is quite simply not a company to be trusted. What has happened? Across the last few years, as John Riccitiello has taken over the company, the engine has made a steady decline into bizarre business models surrounding an engine with unmaintained features and erratic stability. Unity is imploding in on itself, and it’s very sad to see.

Meet the guy preserving the new history of PC games, one Linux port at a time

The person doing that maintenance, as well as making sure that about 70 of the best known indie games from the same era keep running, is Ethan Lee. He’s not as well known as Fez’s developer Phil Fish, who was also the subject of the documentary Indie Game: The Movie, but this week Lee started publicly marketing the service he’s been quietly providing for over 11 years: maintenance of older games. Usually, when video game publishers talk about revisiting older games they talk about “remasters,” lavish reproductions that not only make them playable, but update their graphics or make them more modern in some way. Lee chose the word “maintenance” intentionally to describe what he does. Doing the lord’s work.

5 years ago Valve released Proton forever changing Linux gaming

Liam Dawe at GamingOnLinux looks back at the release of Valve’s Proton, five years ago today. Proton just makes a lot of sense. It didn’t take long for Valve to expand Proton to go initially from a few select Valve-approved titles, to being able to run anything we choose to try with it. From there, Linux gaming just seemingly exploded. And then eventually we saw why Valve made Proton with the Steam Deck announcement coming less than three years later in July 2021. Proton is one of the biggest things to happen to desktop Linux and PC gaming in general. It cannot be overstated just what it has done to the gaming market – people expect new games to just work on Linux now, and developers have to answer questions about it and promise support sooner rather than later. From big, defining titles like Elden Ring and Baldur’s Gate 3, down to the countless small indie titles – Proton and thus Linux support for games has been normalised. PC gaming is no longer a Windows-only thing, and that benefits all of us.

The Xbox 360 Store will close July 2024

Microsoft has announced that on 29 July, 2024, the Xbox 360 Store on the Xbox 360 and the Xbox 360 Marketplace on the web will close their doors. For once, one of these service or online store shutdowns is actually being handled well, as Microsoft states: This change will not affect your ability to play Xbox 360 games or DLC you have already purchased. Xbox 360 game content previously purchased will still be available to play , not only the Xbox 360 console but also Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S devices via backward compatibility. While it doesn’t mention downloading existing content you own, several other reports state this is possible. If so, this would make it the fairest way to shut down a service like this. On a related personal note, I should really order a replacement disc drive for my venerable Xbox 360 – an original one, still working other than the broken drive! – and fix it back up. I’ve got a huge collection of 360 games I want to keep being able to play.

Commander Keen’s adaptive tile refresh

I have been reading Doom Guy by John Romero. It is an excellent book which I highly recommend. In the ninth chapter, John describes being hit by lightning upon seeing Adaptive Tile Refresh (ATS). That made me realize I never took the time to understand how this crucial piece of tech powers the Commander Keen (CK) series. During my research I was surprised to learn that ATS only powered the first CK trilogy. The second trilogy turned out to use something far better. I’ve played all the Commander Keen games as a child over and over again, but being quite young at the time (I’m from 1984, so do the math), it never dawned on me just how much of a technological marvel these games really were.

How did region-locking on the SNES work?

USA readers may wonder why I was waiting for the release of a game already published. While Street Fighter II made it to the Super Famicom on June 10, 1992 in Japan and July 15, 1992 in North America, France had to wait until December 17, 1992 to get a PAL version. As I waited, I saw ads in French magazines offering imported cartridges of my Holy Graal. To make them work on a European Super Nintendo, one had to buy an adapter. The combo cost almost as much as the console (595F + 199F vs 1290F). Needless to say I couldn’t afford it. But I always wondered how Nintendo seemingly controlled the regions and how tinkerers had managed to circumvent that protection. A detailed look at how the 10NES sysyem worked.

Microsoft wins against FTC to buy Activision Blizzard

Liam Dawe at GamingOnLinux: Well, the results are here. In the USA the FTC was trying to block Microsoft from acquiring Activision Blizzard but Microsoft has won the fight. Now Microsoft are one big step closer to actually properly closing the deal, and a rather big consolidation of the gaming industry given how big Activision Blizzard are. I haven’t been keeping up with this case very much, but if history’s anything to go by, any form of consolidation at this scale tends to work out worse for consumers and the market.

New study reveals most classic video games are completely unavailable

The Video Game History Foundation, in partnership with the Software Preservation Network, has conducted the first ever study on the commercial availability of classic video games, and the results are bleak. 87% of classic video games released in the United States are critically endangered. This confirms something all of us already suspected or knew: the vast majority of classic games are simply not available in any legal way, shape, or form. If it wasn’t for the emulation and preservation scene, many of these games would face certain oblivion in the near future. It’s high time some changes are made to intellectual property law to make software and game preservation legal.

Sega 3-D Glasses: how did they work?

Most people have two eyes, allowing for a stereoscopic view of reality. Nevertheless, video games are generally designed to run on monitors with a single screen, viewed from a distance, so three-dimensional effects have to be done with perspective and other techniques. But of course, many ways have been made to give a true stereoscopic view; from the 3DTV fad of the early 2010s, to the Nintendo 3DS’ glasses-free parallax barrier. But how did systems in the primitive days of 8-bit consoles do it? Let’s ask Sega! It always strangely surprises me for how many decades now people have been trying to sell us on 3D or VR glasses, and this one is no exception – I had no idea Sega already tried this with the Master System. It’s a basic active shutter system, so the real magic happens in software, which is amazing considering the hardware we’re talking about. This article goes into great detail how the software and hardware inside the Master System makes this work.

Nintendo promises unlimited repairs for “drifting” Joy-Cons throughout Europe

Nintendo has agreed to offer free lifetime repairs of Nintendo Switch controllers experiencing the dreaded “Joy-Con drift” to consumers across the European Union. The move comes in response to years of organized complaints and a pressure campaign from the European Consumer Organization (BEUC). In a 2021 report, that organization logged “nearly 25,000 complaints” from European Switch owners regarding Joy-Con drift, which causes a Switch joystick to register phantom inputs even when it is untouched in the “neutral” position. The BEUC’s formal complaint cited the Joy-Con hardware for “premature obsolescence” and said that it’s “high time for companies to stop putting products onto the market that break too early.” It’s absolutely crazy that it has taken Nintendo this long to formally address this issue. It’s incredibly widespread – we, too, have drift on both of our Switches – and a clear, unambiguous design flaw that could be solved in a variety of ways. We’ve personally considered buying new Joy-Cons, but that just feels bad, as if we’re rewarding Nintendo’s incompetence and malice with more money. Instead, we may opt to buy and install third-arty hall effect sticks instead, to avoid the problem from returning altogether.

My quest to re-create Street Fighter’s long-lost pneumatic controls

During my search, it became evident how uncommon the SF1 deluxe cabinet really was (pneumatic version or otherwise). There was also a paucity of knowledge about the machine—and especially about its pneumatic controls. Pictures and parts were scarce, and a video of a working pneumatic machine didn’t even exist on the Internet. It seemed that there was still so much unknown about the original arcade game that launched my favorite game series. In a way, the challenge of gathering this information was motivating—why not try to make a working pneumatic machine and share what I have discovered? In any case, my kids would love it. And so began this undertaking. I had no idea that the original Street Fighter had these pneumatic controls, but it does seem to be a brilliant idea – until you start thinking about it a bit more and realise the amount of beating these buttons would take.

Fallout 4 mod uses voice AI to add sensible reactions, more RPG-like choices

Modders can change many things inside their favorite games, but dialogue from professionally voiced characters hasn’t been one of those things—at least until recently. AI voice generation could open up new modding avenues for some games, as it has already done with one Fallout 4 mod package. They’re not just new labels on existing dialogue, either. RED, created by NexusMods user ProfMajowski (and first seen by us at PCGamesN), says it used ElevenLabs voice AI to generate its more in-character lines. The results can sometimes “sound a little ’emotionless,'” the creator writes, but “otherwise they basically sound like the real thing.” Nothing your character can newly say now will change the game’s mechanics or reactions, but it should sound a bit more in character. I’m not down on “artificial intelligence” as a matter of principle – quite the opposite. This story right here is a great example of how AI can be used in productive, interesting ways that truly make something possible that either wasn’t possible before, or was simply entirely unrealistic. Spoken dialog is hard to record for a whole slew of reasons, from cost to finding enough quality voice actors to the time it takes, and it’s usually only the biggest studios that have the ability to add it to their games. Even then it’s often a struggle, from bad voice acting overall to large role-playing games where e.g. the main quest is beautifully voiced, but side quests are either entirely unvoiced or clearly rushed by some cheap interns. Thanks to technology like this, even small indie studios or mere mod developers can add something meaningful to their work that up until recently simply wasn’t realistic. It will make games meaningfully better – especially once technology improves a bit more and developers become proficient with it – without the need for hype.

Hacking the Nintendo DSi browser

The DSi browser uses Opera 9.50. There are no security mitigations whatsoever. Jumping to shellcode is back on the menu! Stack buffer overflows are viable. Exploiting use-after-frees, which are often common in browsers, is easier than ever. In fact, the DSi doesn’t even have an operating system, so there’s no kernel to exploit. Various system privileges are handled by the SCFG register. The browser has enough privileges to run most homebrew, but not enough to gain persistence across boots without another exploit. Browsing on the DS was a nightmare – and Nintendo charged for it. Crazy how times have changed.

Atari 2600 hardware design: making something out of (almost) nothing

Recently over the holiday break, I became interested in the 2600’s hardware architecture and started reading everything that I could find about it. I knew that it was some kind of 6502-based system, and I’d heard mentions of “racing the beam”, but that’s as far as my knowledge went. I was shocked to discover how primitive the 2600 hardware was, even compared to contemporary 6502 systems like the Apple II, Commodore PET, and even Atari’s own 8-bit computers. The 2600 was a bit before my time – I’m from 1984 – and I’ve never even seen one in person. While I understand how important and influential the 2600 really was, I find the games and technology just a bit too primitive to enjoy today, whereas games for the NES I can still happily play today. I’m sure if you grew up with the 2600, you’d disagree.

Sony unveils ‘Project Leonardo’ accessibility controller kit for PlayStation 5

At CES today, Sony gave a look at its latest PlayStation 5 gaming controller, but this one is very different from its previous designs. Aimed at lowering the barrier of entry for players with disabilities, Project Leonardo for the PS5 is a highly customizable controller kit that has been developed with help from organizations such as AbleGamers, SpecialEffect and Stack Up. The unique-looking controller does not have an official name nor a price attached to it yet, but Sony gave an in depth look at its features today. The unique design is said to help players with limited motor control, letting them use the controller for long periods and be accurate without much difficulty. This is very similar to Microsoft’s Xbox Adaptive Controller, and a very welcome product for those with disabilities.

Investigating why Steam started picking a random font

Out of the blue my Steam started picking a random font I had in my user fonts dir: Virgil, the Excalidraw font. That triggered me all sorts of emotions, ranging from laugh to total incredulity. I initially thought the root cause was a random derping from Valve but the Internet seemed quiet about it, so the unreasonable idea that it might have been my fault surfaced. Who doesn’t love a good technology mystery story?

Recovered: forgotten SEGA exclusives on Palm OS

An old article, but since I had no idea Sega made Palm OS games, I find it deeply fascinating. As part of my ongoing efforts to uncover lost gems from Japan, I recovered two exclusive games made by SEGA in their brief flirtation with Palm OS back in 2002. These games were presented by their Smilebit division at PalmSource Japan Forum 2002. This was around the time SEGA were abandoning consoles and Palm OS seems to have been part of an effort to figure out “what next?”. I have to fire up one of my dozens of Palm devices to check these out. Excellent work.