Finally I return to writing and this one is a doozy. Something has been bothering me for a while now and here I finally lay down my point of view with the state of gaming and retrogaming in general, grab your popcorn because I feel like a rant because I am in one of those moods.
First off, I play most of my retrogames on emulation Because Collecting old consoles, carts and CD can be impractical due to space and Practicality of the tech breaking down over time and abuse. While old arcade machines find new life in specialised places which respect their heritage *cough* Arcade Club *cough*. Even the traveling circus of the replay events show us old arcade games have a part in the history of gaming. Even some of todays practices are based on the old nickel and diming of hard arcade games which ramped up the difficulty in order to get you to part with your money. Back then, it wasn't considered egregious for you to continue your games or simply play one more games. Recently, however, Lady Decade asked in one of her recent videos, Is emulation ethical.
That simple question has been a very grey area for years. Nintendo being one of the biggest culprits for copyright trolling. Nintendo has been trying for years to control the narrative in terms of their gaming history for years. But why, have they no interest in celebrating their history from the humble beginings, starting with their game and watch series followed with the first stab at the home console market with the Nes and the Collection of games that do with it followed by their foray into the 16 bit market with the SNES Then every console that followed it. Nintendo didn't always make good decisions, Well without Nintendo ditching the CD add on that sony was developing we wouldn't have the Sony Playstation. Without these mistakes we wouldn't have had the innovations we got during the 90's.
But let's get back to the arcade, Nintendo have had a few but not as many as you think, But companies like Atari, Namco Konami, Taito, Data East, Irem, SNK and Technos ruled the roost during this time. (Jack, What are you on about, get to the point rather than just prattling around). I loved the arcades during my childhood and whenever I went to one, it was an experience than just sitting in front of a screen with a controller. As I got older and Technology got better for the home console market, Arcades became more redundant over time because it was difficult to compete with with something that looked just as got as the arcade. In the late 90's (late '96 early '97. I was at university at the time) I learned about emulation in which I could play old arcade games on a PC. My first foray into arcade emulation was Nemesis.
MAME was just a Make Trax/ Crush Roller emulator at this time and slowly turned into a multi-pac emulator (This is before MAME was a thing). Multi emulators were few and far between (emulation really started to kick off around '99 to '00). An early multi emulator was Sparcade. This provided the building blocks towards an actual working frontend emulator. Finding Roms back then wasn't difficult but were limited, due to sporadic Rom dumps to bland and basic websites (no real effort, it was a simple link to files and that was it geocities was the most common site used for the early Rom dump days) but times were simpler as emulation was in its infancy. It got me thing about all the games I used to play during my youth. Finding Roms and the emulator to play them grew more interesting as MAME became more powerful with more Roms were supported.
I played on a console even owning and original Playstation and a Playstation 2 during a period of 5 years while slowly transitioning to PC during my first year of working full time during 2003. My taste returned to old arcade classics. I asked questions over the years, with the bonus of unlimited credits by simply pressing a number on the keyboard helped me complete a lot of old games I loved during my youth but I also found the controls on these old games when using a keyboard, a lot more floaty than I remember. It was the old analogue vs the digital factor because there were certain games that required sensitive movements (like driving games with use of a steering wheel). Later version of MAME (or more to the point MAMEUI back then it was mame32 included a cross-hair for shooting games and mouse support to cover the trackball games. One of those shooting games which required the cross-hair which I loved during my youth was 1987's operation wolf. This particular game was truly hard during my youth with the unique controls. While playing it through emulation, while still fun but a lot easier to complete. it didn't feel like the experience I remember. While I did have this game on the spectrum and there was a cross-hair on that, you expected the trade off on a home computer.
But then again, The experience of operation wolf to me was actually quite, given the controller for this particular arcade was an Uzi 9mm with limited swivel and simple up and down motion a trigger and a small red button on the side that fired the rocket and it was a challenge to play. That experience stays with you as well, being a fan of both Rambo and Commando which were 2 staples of 80's entertainment I consumed when this game hit arcades. While this game help produce 2 sequels (one being operation Thunderbolt which added a second player and operation wolf 3 which changed the semi realistic uzi to a more generic gun controller, ironically the same gun controller was used for the arcade classic Space Gun but I always go back to operation wolf, but why. 6 levels, an single energy bar and a limited ammunition on a single credit. The challenge is seeing how far you could get on said credit with the kicker being the second level and the massive difficulty spike which many people put more credits in to get past it (Japanese version has a different view in which you do the first 4 missions in any order but the chances of being spotted increased until you took out the communications setup but the western version of the game has the spotted sequence as a random event). This is before consoles and computers gave a rivaling experience to the arcade.
When I was a child, games were a fun thing to play for a while and you loaded the next one you you had, compared to today where games are just another commodity to bet on, Games companies today, have lost sight of what got them there. They try justifying every decision they make not to the consumer but to the investors, which seems silly. The problem with such an endeavor is the lack of risk companies are willing to take because the primary focus of an investor is the expect growth on their investment. Here, in my honest opinion, lies the problem. The home market is not the same as the old arcade counterpart in which people put stupid amounts money into wooden boxes which played the favourite games and there were a lot of them.
(looks back at his hyperspin list)
Seeing the history,Being subject to the whims of investors makes you wonder why games companies are subjecting many end users to stupid pay to win scams to the unskilled or the can't be arsed player in order to get them to be badass. The term 'get gud' comes to mind . I love gaming but I don't have the time to grind like I used to but I rarely have the time to grind like i used to but I rarely buy said power ups because it takes away half the fun of playing.
Another component that annoys players today is the always online playm which is subject to another form of DRM which has been proven to be completely pointless. (Jack, you are going off track again).
OK, OK I will get to the point, playing old games via emulation sparks a question, not is it ethical to emulate games but is there a point to play something that takes a speed runner something like 20 minutes to complete (meaning no stops and finishing it in the shortest time possible so no detours). Emulation is a nice thing because now I can play everything from pinball machines (digital versions of classic pinball machines, while not the same does provide a wealth of entertainment because without it you have to find the tables, most of which are difficult to find in today's arcades or if you wanted to own said pinball machine, you need to find it maintain it and trust me those things are heavy) to the simple game and watch LCD machines which in some aspect are even harder to find in good condition. But still with all the modern games I have (my last steam library is 295 and I have not played about 3 quarters of the list) but I still go back to games like operation wolf, robocop, shinobi and Atari's star wars. technically you can get away with robocop and shinobi because you can stick the PCB for these games into a generic arcade cabinet and they will function just fine.
4 famous games of the 80's
But the other 2 however not so much I have already mentioned the particular feature of operation wolf with the controller being shaped in the form of an UZI 9mm sub machine gun. Atari's star wars arcade main feature was which was different compared to the generic arcade was the fact it used a yoke controller shaped like a futuristic steering wheel with fire buttons and the up and down axis were reversed, on emulation you simply used the keyboard or for a better experience, use the mouse. When you emulate something, you may preserve the game but you don't preserve the experience you had during your youth. Hence why we have events where people started to bring original hardware to these places. Having been to NERG back in 2014 and PLAY EXPO last year with a friend. I understood what gaming was again. Something big business seems to have forgotten nowadays. I think the only game that marries the old school feel with today's capabilities would be Studio MDHR's cuphead. This game simply puts old school animation from the 30's and 40's then adds the classic mechanics of side on shoot em ups like contra and sidearms. This could be simply put in an arcade and money would just hit home. while the home version is simply a boss rush game with unlimited lives. but even putting it in a cabinet would work question would be if you were to monetize this in an arcade, how would go about playing with one credit (either a time limit per level or the simple 3 lives factor). This would attract a lot of people.
Remember you could play all your favorite arcade games back in the 90's it was called the Sega Saturn. Here lies the second problem and Sega biggest failing. Sega back in the 80's and 90's were a solid arcade developer but were slow on the uptake of the home console market, While the Master system, Megadrive (genesis in the US due to legal reasons) and the gamegear were more of a response to Nintendo at the time. This is a secondary market for Sega as they raked in all their cash from arcades. But as the consoles became more powerful, their arcade division became less important. Sega had some of the most legendary developers under their banner like Yu Suzuki (creator of Outrun, afterburner and shenmue). The Sega Saturn was a marvel of a machine with a lot of arcade ports but it had one major problem, The Sony Playstation, the upstart console as result of Nintendo's major screw up by getting cold feet with its CD add-on when the Sega Mega CD failed, (well I would call it a failure because it had some iconic games) so that alone doesn't make it a complete failure or the fact their games get remastered (night trap). you would not have got the Sony Playstation if it was for Nintendo. It was the right console sold at the right place at the right time. Boasting a 20 game launch line up including the iconic wipeout (granted it was out on the Saturn but it was better on the Playstation) being a launch title. This system hit the ground running while Nintendo were working on their ultra64 setups with one game already using the hardware in the arcade (crusin' USA) followed by Killer Instinct. The mid 90's was an interesting for me (I used to hang around a game shops) as I saw games on consoles that were sublime and the tat that could rivals Ashen's tat (I swear Ashen's looks for such useless crap, just to gloat to simply say I have more tat than you). Back in mid to late 90's, we had it really good when it came to content. Finished games that were brilliant, if not they were slammed HARD! Back when games review meant something. Not like nowadays when you see a game with a high rating then you discover you have been duped by a review copy which tends to feature stuff to get better rating (as proven in Black op 4 recently with a patch).
This article is turning more into a rant than just an article about games but the honest answer is this question has been eating up for a while now and Lady Decade finally brought out something, I have meaning to ask myself but in a different way because experiences are different. If may not be ethical in terms of copyright law but in terms preserving the past, I say within reason. There are unwritten rules within the emulation scene which many people break because they can. What these idiots don't realize they shine shine a light on the rest of us and that doesn't help. Right now, for me, experiences are everything nothing changes that with a traditional joystick and hard buttons vs playing with a hand controller which digital controls which doesn't translate well in some games, for instance driving games on an old controller was really a challenge because when you pressed left on a controller, you would careened said left into the nearest barrier rather than simply lightly going left. Another gerne that has been sort of rectified with the invention of the twin stick controller are said games with twin sticks (Games like Yie Ar Kung FU, Smash TV and Karate Champ). During these times, Controls varied from game to game whereas now, there is uniformity towards game controls. It's interesting how certain games win a generation of gaming with their scheme (perfect example, case in point in point street fighter 2) perfected the simple game control of light, medium and heavy attacks from punches and kicks.
While that control scheme dominated for a couple of years, another arcade simplified that control to just light and heavy attacks but added a block button as opposed to pressing back (like in street fighter), that game was the ESRB creating Mortal Kombat. This is when everyone started to prefect the art of joystick juggling (even me with scorpion I was semi unbeatable with the cheap combo of a roundhouse kick and a leg sweep but the infamous onw of the harpoon, upppercut, teleport combo which was a bastard to counter if you were on the receiving end of it. The fighting game had hit a new high because one on one combat was a solid win and you could play with a friend (I would normally lose because 9 times out 10 they were clearly better than me). But then you would have controllers that were more obscure like the tron controls. This was a dual control system because you have a full joystick with a fire button along with a spinner as well (to turn either your arm or the turret of the tank to take aim at enemies or pieces of the MCP). If you are a MAME completionist, next time you look at the extras, look at your control panel folder then see how many different controls methods. that is the experience you have playing a full arcade vs playing on a good computer.
Is it good to play these games still on an emulator, yes and no, yes because it brings back nostalgia of games played in a bygone age and no, because the experience is diminished by the experience of not playing it on original hardware? Console you can technically get away with because the control system is similar to that of a control pads while the arcades are more difficult to replicate. This brings me to another control method that was dumbed down for the PSP other consoles because it's control method was very obscure being the only had an up and down joystick, a button for thrust, a button for reverse, one for fire and another for bomb. I played an earlier version of MAME and the 4-way directional controller was implemented but as later versions of MAME pushed for a more faithful version of same game and that game was Defender, you found the controls were not what expected and was difficult to acclimate to on emulator. But these are the differences you don't notice on an emulator compared to a pull arcade cabinet. I'll be honest, |I have been in the scene over the past 20 years slowly commenting on the from retrogaming stand point which shows how old I am. Maybe i was spoilt for choice compared to today's gamers who more emphasis on graphics, style over substance. While the indie scene is booming, the big companies have sort of swindled because they be something they are not. A massive movie studio which provides interactive content. They forgot what games are. Perfect example is Electronic Arts (or unicronic arts if you use that phrase from the Jim Sterling which I actually agree with) back in the 90's they had licenses for everything movie, sport and had some good gaming development houses under their belts, But from 2005 onwards they have gone from reasonable publisher to one of the worst companies in America or the world by this point because they have consistently made mistake after mistake resulting in pissing off the fanbase (is this the gaming world or politics, right now I cannot tell the difference because they are more or less the same thing).
Their loot box fiasco with battlefront 2 which I warned against from the mement EA for the license from Lucasarts. EA has proven they have lost their way because they subject to the almighty investor which is not really a good sign, seeing they did have a huge back catalogue of games (including the god awful dark castle). But EA has gone from from being a company that produces games to a company that produces experiences and they manged to even get wrong because just by looking at battlefield V and the optics it created caused problems because it inserted Identity politics into a historically based game and that was forced onto the gaming industry but the SJW's who claim they are not represented. (Jack, go back on topic please, you are ranting about politics again :/). EA has had a couple of good ideas with indie developers over the past couple of years like A way out, which is an interesting concept and brilliant storytelling. Ideas like that are few and faw between. But it makes the problem with the gaming industry more prevalent. It's about the investors trying to find a get rich quick scheme from an unsuspecting player base which hasn't the time but the money just to skip certain aspects of the game.
That particluar player is not really a player but someone that's bored of just watching TV and just wants to kill a few minutes living a power fantasy (this exact case was the point behind the whole battlefront II debacle when a player got a super overpowered character like darth maul the buying of loot boxes rather than just playing the game). Purists (to a degree like myself)believe in the philosophy of progressing through a game to its natural conclusion in the process getting better at actually playing, unlocking content along the way. That was how we used to do it, Which leaves the question when did games companies get so greedy. Straight answer, When mobile phones started to become as powerful as computers and started to produce trashy games while simple to play had an inflated sense of difficulty in order to trick players into paying to pass certain levels. I think that's how it started and with the introduction of CEO's, who sole philosophy is to find ways to cut corners and generate money (like getting blood out of a stone like the vampire's they are). This is when we started to see the dynamic shift games being just games to games being a live service. Games started to appear less and less frequent and flagship brands were being bled out every year with less and less content in them or just to meet the deadline then sold later as DLC (Borderlines 2 had a stupid amount of DLC) or in an incomplete state and playerbase that is understanding of the concept (Minecraft made its reputation while being very playable and had a fair amount of work to do also was work in progress or early access). These 2 games alone were animolies to the normal ways of things. The internet is both a gift and a curse because it provided a way out ofr developers to just put a game out the door without being tested or even checked of bugs.
Arcades were played for hours by people that built them, while the concepts were simple, they were also finished products. Unlike today, where a finished product is a broken buggy piece of crap that is glitched to all hell (see fallout '76 for this) I am technically scared to buy full priced games today. I may make one risk each year for a full rpiced triple A product. Normally by skills of picking them pays off but there are times where I live to regret that decision (Aliens: Colonial Marines)
Games in general should be fun, Not grindy, boring chores which in order for you to enjoy, you need to pay extra after dropping an large amount of money to start with ($60 or £45 to £50 on the uk side). It worked in the arcades because we saw it as a challenge and we knew we were limited by the pile of coins in our hands which was eaten by the machines of the time one that said pile of coins was gone, we walked away. Nowaday, its either a credit card or digital currency (digital store currency). That limit is a little more obfuscated than before, blurring the lines and that's after you spend a stupic amount of money upfront. The problem with today's gaming industry is that it gone corporate which in turn has creativity out and now is driven by focus groups which consists of about a 100 random people which doesn't reflect much of anything. When the industry headed down this path, sooner or later the industry will implode and the publishers who only see the money will find that the bllod will be harder to suck out of the wallets of their player base. So they will go back to acyually creating more games or become extinct. (unicronic arts I am not sure there is a matrix of leadership big enough to stop that company from destroying anymore developers). These major publishers need to stop milking said cashcows to death and create more games. I really don't know what the future holds anymore for gaming.
That being said, who said retro doesn't sell. Just look at the nintendo classic and its various counterparts. While simply a way to engage with the uber nerds among us. It show, while cynical in their approach. There is a market for it and don't tell me they do not use emulation because they do. Perhaps I am becoming jaded when it comes to gaming in generalbut I know one thing. Emulation has shown hte beginnings of gaming and how how it has evoloved from the simple Pong all the way up to the remake Doom which was are make done right.
All I want in life is a good fun experience, something that pleases me, gives me genuine emotion and most of all something I truly enjoy. it seems games companies and consumers have differences of opinion here. So, I go back to emulation and enjoy games from a bygone era that were more complete than the crap we see today. This is jackhammersalm, finishing his article or rant and more than likely returning to an emulated game or going sleep in a corner. Either would help me right now.
Edited by jackhammersalm