Book Review: Replay: The History Of Video Games by Tristan Donovan

Replay  By Tristan Donovan cover

Replay By Tristan Donovan cover

I can honestly say that The new book Replay by Tristan Donovan is the best book about the video game history ever published.   Donovan's book unseats The First Quarter by Steven L. Kent (the previous title holder) by taking a broader, world-wide approach to the subject. Donovan was  inspired by Kent's book, but was dissatisfied by it's focus on the USA, so he set out to write his own.

Donovan succeeds by focusing mostly on games, game design, and technical advances instead of the legal and hardware wars between manufacturers.  The text flows from one subject to another, while covering topics that have not seen much ink in earlier books (i.e 70's computer games and the UK games scene).   What emerges is more like a story about continuum of game design and development than a business school case study. Bravo!  As a game developer, it is exactly what I was hoping for.

At 512 pages, the book is just about the right length for the topic, but still feels short because it is such an interesting and entertaining read. Writing a history book about video games is not for the faint of heart.   There are so many "experts" out in the wilds of the internet that an author runs the risk of stepping on any number of land mines scattered by people who hold secret information "up their sleeves".  Donovan combats this by using mostly first-hand material from new interviews and sources (at least they appear to be new as I have never read many of the quotes before).

Replay will not always be the best game about video game history ever written.  Just like Kent's book stood high above the crowd more than decade ago but has now been overtaken, this book will probably be surpassed 10 years on by another author with an even broader perspective armed with even more insight brought on by the passage of time.  However, at this historic moment, Replay is  required reading for anyone with even the slightest interest in  the history of video games, and I can't see that changing any time soon.

-Steve Fulton (8bitsteve)


Flash Game Competition (Stanford, Adobe, Mochi, JayIsGames & more!)

In conjunction with the Stanford Dance Marathon / Hackathon 2011 (?!), Stanford University is throwing a three week long Flash Game competition with the theme of Benevolence.    Squize, Iain Lobb, and Keith Peters (along with Steve and I)  will be judging the games. We can't just pick the best game, but the best game that also fits the spirit of the contest (hmm sounds familiar...what have we agreed to step into again?)

There are a lot of great prizes, such as a copy of Adobe Master Suite. You can read about them all and get the full info at Icky Dime's Blog-o-Rama.  One really cool thing is that each participant will receive a copy of FDT Pure Bronze. Now that makes it worth just entering!

So, get your benevolence on and get coding!

Filed under: Contests No Comments

How Now? The Good News And The Bad News

The good news: The game you are working on is brilliant, amazing, and from a theoretical game design perspective, is worth every ounce of blood, ingenuity, ignored interpersonal relationships and effort you have poured into it.

The bad news: Some kid using Game Salad just made a Zombie game in 4 hours that will surpass your creation, statistically, in every conceivable, measurable way.

The good news: "13 year olds on New Grounds" have been overtaken as the target audience of choice for your games.

The bad news: They have been overtaken by the new target audience :  "8 year olds on their parent's iPhone"

The good news : $.99 cents is losing ground as the price-point of choice for mobile games.

The bad news: Free is the new $.99 cents

The good news: Angry Birds was a surprise success.

The bad news: It probably won't happen to you.

The good news: You too could be that 14 year old who got his game to top of the iPhone charts.

The bad news:  Lotto tickets cost a $1.00 each and you will have a better chance with those.

The good news: Apparently in-game ad sales are on the rise thanks to iAd.

The bad news: Thanks to frequency caps and eCPM of $.01, I think we all know how this story ends.

The good news: Atari sold the movie rights to "Missile Command"

The bad news:  The movie script you have been painfully crafting for the past decade has just been surpassed by a concept with less depth than "Frogger: The Movie"


What Now? Random Answers.

Yes, we do want to hear from you, contact us.

No, we don't want to display your gambling ads.

Yes, Flash is still a viable platform.

No, we do not need your masterful SEO skills sent via email offer.

Yes, it is cool being a twin.

No, we never switched places.

Yes, we do sometimes have the same opinion at about the same time.

No, we cannot feel each other's pain.

Yes, we are willing to license you a game engine.

No, payment in gold bullion is fine.

Yes, Android, iPhone/iPad and HTML 5 and viral Flash are on our minds.

No, JavaFX is probably not going any place.

Yes, Silverlight is cool.  Wait for it to work with XNA/Live Arcade

No, writing books is not really worth the money.

Yes, writing books is worth the effort.

No, we don't plan to write another one.

Yes, tech review is still a bitch.

No, we will probably not do another contest.

Yes, we'd love to see/review your game anyway.

No, we still consider ourselves retro devolved

Yes, indie games will rule the Earth.


Now What? Random Thoughts…

Hmm. What's next?

We seem to be at a crossroads.

The end of something, and the beginning of something else.

But what?

Is is Apps?

Is it the mobile web?

Is there value still hiding in viral Flash games?

3DTV? Really?  I don't see it.  Literally and figuratively.

Is the web really dead?

What about the Windows phone?

Why all the Linked-In Requests lately?  Is it the new Facebook?

What happened to in-game ads?

Mindjolt revived? Are game portals making a comeback?

Can developers really survive on $.99 cents a sale?

Are those birds really that angry, or it the guy who throws them the angry one?


8bitrocket Atari Inspired 16K Retro Re-make contest winner(s) announcement!


We had a very tough time choosing the winner(s) as every game was excellent. Some made excellent use of technology,  some were every inventive, and others made nice use of the source material as a jumping off point to push in new directions.  Some were a combination of all three.

So, with no further delay, here are the winners and also a capsule review each game entry. We have also chosen a runner up that Steve and I agree was the most technically marvelous of all the games submitted. This second place game will receive a copy of our book.

FIRST PLACE WINNER (Grand Prize Award Winner):

We are proud to announce that 16K Lander is the winner of the first place prize package.  So, Robert Podgórski of BlackMoon Design, please contact us at info[at]8bitrocket[dot]com so we can confirm your identification and an address to send out your prizes.

RUNNER UP WINNER (Technical Achievement Award):

The second place winner is Battle Wire 16K! Although every entry was excellent, Steve and I felt that this one was a technical marvel.  So, TFernando (Nightflyer Games), please email us at info[at]8bitrocket[dot]com to claim your book. If you already have a copy, we can make arrangements for you to receive a copy of put forthcoming HTML5 Canvas book instead.

Capsule Reviews of Each Game Along with a review each also receives an achievement tag line that can be used in the title screen or to pump up sponsorship $$). Just like pee-wee AYSO soccer here in  the USA, everyone is a winner in some capacity.

16K Lander:  This is a remake of a classic Atari coin-op. It won the public voting for best game and it is very impressive. Just like the original it is difficult to play, but becomes easier as you get the hang of the controls. The visuals, sounds and game play are not arcade perfect (we didn't ask them to be), but they are decidedly retro-awesome in their own right. This is one of the best Lunar Lander re-makes that we have ever played. We especially like the random terrain, and the realistic physics model.
92% Retrotastic!
Achievement Tag Line "8bitrocket 16K Atari Retro-Remake: Grand Prize Winner"

BattleWire16K:  This is almost an exact duplicate of the classic Atari Coin-Op. What is most impressive is the 3-d engine that was spun up in only 16K. Tony was able to fit in music and  sounds as well. The controls are a little on the difficult side. I would have used the mouse for the pitch and firing, and the WASD for right, left forward and backward, but who's to say that would have been any better.
92% Retrotastic!
Achievement Tag Line: "8bitrocket 16K Atari Retro-Remake: Technical Achievement Winner"

Niculus: This re-skin of the classic Nebulus / Tower Toppler was the second runner-up in the technical achievement department. The incredibly fluid scrolling reminded us of the Atari ST classic right away. I had no idea that this kind of game with such beautiful visuals could be squeezed into as little as 16K.  Aside from the technical aspects, this is just a fine fine game, that is very fun to play. It was very close to winning the second prize. Steve and I actually had to flip a coin to see which game won the last copy of our book that is available to give out.
92% Retrotastic
Achievement Tag Line: "8bitrocket 16K Atari Retro-Remake: Technical Achievement Winner Runner Up"

Axe Quest: I love Ace's games.  This is an excellent tribute to side scrolling "beat'em-ups". It looks quite like what an Atari 7800 version of Golden Axe might have looked like, and is fun, if not a little difficult to play. Ace paid much attention to detail in this contest. I especially like the little touches such as the  "GO>>" message when the player has killed all of the foes on the level. Ace was able to squeeze a lot of different sprites, blood particles and the like into his 16K game. The enemy AI is very well done and make the game quite a challenge.
90% Retrotastic!
Achievement Tag Line:"8bitrocket 16K Atari Retro-Remake: Special Achievement in Sprites and Animation"

DABOMB: This is almost a straight port of one of the best Activition games of all time My top-5 list is River Raid, Pitfall, Key Stone Capers, Kaboom, and Hero. Kaboom is the game that this is trying to duplicate, and it does so very successfully. It looks and plays almost exactly like the original, but everything has been re-drawn by hand as to not violate any intellectual copyrights. It is a quite enjoyable and well crafted 16K entry that brings back the enjoyment of plugging in that 2600 cart for the first time.
88% Retrotastic
Achievement Tag Line: "8bitrocket 16K Atari Retro-Remake: Best Atari 2600 game port"

DDDD (The Diabolical Dungeons of Dr. Devil) : Another Ace game, but this time he goes way back in time to tackle the classic RPG game, Rogue. This one hearkens back the the earlier 70's RPG games that existed only on systems like the PDP-11. This version is closer to the classic version on other early 80's computers such as the Atari 800, Spectrum, BBC Micro, C64, and the like. Ace has added much depth to his game and has squeezed an amazing amount of content into the 16K. His dungeon generator is freaking amazing. I find the symbols a little confusing, but once you play enough to learn what they mean the confusion is cleared up.
90% Retrotastic
Achievement Tag Line: "8bitrocket 16K Atari Retro-Remake: Deepest, Most Re-playable game award"

Fate Of The Universe: This is a nicely crafted Pong variant that uses some classic Ace sprites to create a real "Tennis for two" using swats from the weapons of the on-screen avatars. Again, Ace's visual touches, character graphics, and animations are top-notch and very well done. Ace was prolific in this contest and it goes to show that he really should be making games for a commercial company.
88% Retrotastic
Achievement Tag Line:"8bitrocket 16K Atari Retro-Remake: Best Fusion of classic and modern game-play"

16K Heli: Choplifter was one of the first games we played on the Apple IIe and the Atari 800. This is a particularly well made version that required a lot of different character graphics, AI and sound to be crammed into a small 16K package. This version is more difficult than I remember, but it is an impressive achievement.
88% Retrotastic
Achievement Tag Line:"8bitrocket 16K Atari Retro-Remake: Best classic Atari 800 computer game re-make."

Must Destroy Your Heart: This game is a very creative take on the classic game, Berzerk.  Out of all of the entries, this one took the original game concept and modified it enough to make a completely different game based on the same technology employed in the original. The firing system is very fluid and it reminded me more of the Robotron control scheme (or the Tron Arcade Game)  than anything else.
88% Retrotastic
Achievement Tag Line:"8bitrocket 16K Atari Retro-Remake: Most creative re-imagining of the source material."

Thanks to everyone for contributing, voting and playing the games. We hope to have another contest soon as this was a very enjoyable experience all-around.


Help Beta Test The Flash Develop to Mac Bridge

The Genius Squad (I mean that in every non ironic and non flippant manner) over at FlashDevelop.org has created a FlashDevelop to Mac bridge in the beta of FD 4.0. It must be used with Parallels or VMWare, but it looks promising. They need beta testers. I plan to get on it right away.

Test Away


Gamasutra Warns Of The Coming "Gamepocalypse"

Over at Gamasutra they have a greta new article by Tadhg Kelly named What Games Are: The Mac App Store And The PC Gamepocalypse.

The pie ce crystalizes some thoughts that have been bandied about in 8bitrocket.com towers for the past few weeks: The App Paradigm Shift.  Tadhg says that he believes the natural price for games is about $5.00.  I'm not sure that any regular readers of this site could argue, as many wish they would see $5.00 per unit sold!   He also believes the "Gampocalypse" will be good for indie developers:

"I think that what app stores are going to do to the desktop market is bring its pricing into line with where it naturally wants to be. In the process this is going disempower many developers and publishers who believe their business model should be ARPU-based rather than volume-based. It will reduce the number of big-budget games to only a handful, perhaps making those games seem like the ultra-premium Gucci bag game, where most others are simply regular bags.

And yet it will also empower many newer developers."

You can read more about Tadhg on his blog: http://whatgamesare.com/


16K Contest : Final Public Vote Tally

Here are the final public votes.  We will put this together with our votes and announce the First and Second place winners this week.  Thanks for playing.


16K Contest Voting: Final Chance! (Updated)

Get your votes in for the 16K contest!  Only 2 more days.

Update: I just looked at the voting logs and it appears that are some "oddities" in the voting records.   We will take a long look at the data and adjust the results accordingly.  As well, don't forget, 8bitrocket.com still has not voted, and we get and our votes weigh heavily...

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