video games, programming, the internet, and stuff

“Null Room” hidden in Superman (Atari, 1979)

Atari gamer Marc Gallo has found a secret hidden Null Room in the game Superman (Atari, 1979). Accessed via direct manipulation of memory addresses in emulation, the room does not appear to be accessible through normal gameplay.

I believe this “room” is really just a memory location intended to store objects when they are off-screen, which can be displayed as a “room” in the game, but isn’t meant to be.

It’s interesting to me since I spent considerable time playing this game, and wrote an article some time ago, about the central role that the map and movement plays in the design of the game.

Why I’m “meh” on the SpaceX Falcon launch

This image could have been produced by MTV 35 years ago, for a lot cheaper.

This image could have been produced by MTV 35 years ago, for a lot cheaper.

I’m very meh on the success of the SpaceX Falcon launch yesterday.

I mean, I guess it’s good that someone still gives a shit about escaping Earth orbit enough to actually do it. It’s a wonder more of us don’t, considering how things are here. We need to be more ambitious about space.

And it’s nice to know that we still have the capability to launch a decent rocket. The Falcon heavy lift vehicle test’s success is a good thing. And I guess since it was just a test launch, maybe that’s why they chose to lift a Tesla Roadster instead of something actually useful, putting at risk billions of dollars in R&D for something serious.

But it’s incredibly sad to me that it’s a billionaire taking a joyride, publicity stunt putting one of his car company’s cars up there, instead of science gear, or habitation infrastructure, or something industrial. The money that put that car up there could have saved thousands of our frankly worthless lives were it spent on the right stuff.

I said as much when Guy Laliberte from Cirque du Soleil went up to squirt water around his capsule and play with it in zero G, too, and everyone thought I was harsh and wrong.

Well, you’re wrong. Shit down here is serious and it’s seriously broken.

Time for billionaires to fix some of it, since they’re responsible for so much of it.

z3d Engine for GameMaker Studio

z3d is a fake-3d engine designed for simplicity, efficiency, performance, and ease of use. Full documentation + demo included.

In a 2D GameMaker room, x and y coordinates are used for positions in the 2D space. 3D requires a third variable for the third dimension, z. In the z3d engine, x and y are used to represent the “floor” plane as viewed from a top-down perspective, from a forced perspective that gives the viewer a full view of one side and top of objects, while z is used for altitude.

GameMaker Marketplace

Full Documentation

Ability use frequency vs. payoff in the original Legend of Zelda

My friend Douglas Underhill wrote an interesting article about game design, dealing with the frequency of an ability’s use with its reward payoff. Doug’s question comes down to, given that there are hundreds of abilities to potentially pick from in character design, and that certain abilities are either useful much more often and in a much wider range of situations, or else provide a much greater payoff than others, what can be done in designing the rules system and/or world to encourage diversification in putting a finite amount of skill points into skills that are useful less often, or which provide a lower expected payoff.

Underhill asserts that, ideally, less-used abilities should be higher in their payoff, in order to encourage players to put character building points into them at all, while frequently used abilities should be low in payoff, to offset their wider applicability and to prevent the game from falling out of balance. But it’s an inherent problem because the feedback of high reward will encourage the use of an ability.

Essentially, though, game design encourages the use of abilities that grant a high reward, and the higher the reward, the more likely the player is to use and rely on that ability (barring some other limiting mechanism that mitigates or suppresses over-use).

But beyond unbalancing the game, or making the player’s strategies predictable and boring due to min-maxing, the reward weight/use frequency of abilities in a game’s design will determine and shape what the game is about. Dungeons and Dragons is nominally about role-playing and fantasy adventure, but its rules systems make it a game largely about dice rolling and fantasy medieval combat.

Tabletop RPGs are inherently flexible, though, so a given group of players might opt to make their game (or at least a particular game session) about negotiation and barter in a fantasy medieval economy, and there’s nothing wrong with doing so. But it’s much more likely that the typical group of D&D gamers will spend most of its time fighting and questing for objects and abilities that make them ever better at fighting and surviving in exotic, hostile fantasy environments.

After reading Doug’s article, it got me thinking about how this principle applies in video game design. (more…)

The Todd Rogers Dragster Controversy

In recent weeks there has been a growing controversy in the world of competitive gaming about some very old records.

I’m pretty far removed from all of the principle players in this, and don’t really know what to believe is true.

The controversy began with the oldest record, or one of the oldest records, on record: a score of 5.51s in Activision’s Dragster for the Atari 2600, held by Todd Rogers, obtained in 1982, 35 years ago. For some reason some people still cared about this game enough that they devoted an insane amount of time and resources into trying to replicate Todd’s feat, and, it is now believed, have proved that the record score is impossible. A tool-assisted speed run of the game could not replicate the score. Ben Heckendorn hacked an Atari console to allow a tool-assisted attempt on physical hardware, and still couldn’t tie Todd’s record. The only reasonable conclusion seems to be that the record is likely fake.

Except that, Todd performed this feat on three separate occasions, live, in front of judges. Activision certified Todd’s score authentic by “the standards of the day”. It could be that Rogers managed to cheat in such a way as to avoid detection by those standards back then. There really is no way of knowing. (It’s still possible that there could be a way to achieve the score that the BenHeck attempt simply didn’t find. And, even if the score can be replicated or exceeded by someone today, such evidence wouldn’t prove that Rogers actually achieved it in 1982.)

Back then, videogames were a long, long way from being recognized as a competitive sport. Feats in videogaming were more like publicity stunts than they were like Olympic competitions. The stakes were not particularly high, and this was in an era where doctored videos and photographs were not as easy to produce as they are now. But neither were the verification methods as sophisticated as they are today.

But what would Rogers have had to gain by cheating, beyond what at the time could only have been anticipated to be some incredibly trivial, short term bragging rights? What methods could have have employed to fake his verified scores? Why would someone continue to cling to his fraud for 35 years, turning his whole life into a lie?

This raises a epistemological question of how can a record ever be measured, and once it has been performed, how can it ever be verified? Methods that were once acceptable: a live performance on certified stock hardware witnessed by an official judge, photographs, and even videos are all subject to various forms of cheating or corruption. We can trust recording and verification measures to a degree that is reasonable, but what is reasonable?

Records ultimately seek to preserve a moment in time, for all history. But ultimately, won’t all these moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain?

The further removed from the actual event we become, whether by time or by proxy, the less we can believe what was witnessed. But even witnesses cannot be trusted, even if they are honest. Memory is faulty. Perception is faulty. Recordings can be manipulated. So does anything really happen? Well… of course it does. But how anyone prove any of it?

The story goes deeper. Rogers holds many other records in Twin Galaxies’ database. In many cases, his scores are unbelievable. In some cases, literally unbelievable as the score in the record is literally impossible by the scoring rules — a game where the score increments in multiples of 100, with a record that is not evenly divisible by 100. In other cases, figuratively unbelievable, as the second place score in the Twin Galaxies leaderboard is far distant from Rogers’ supposed record.

Well, it so happens that Rogers was at one point a Twin Galaxies referee, and had access to their database, and has admitted to entering his own records into the books — on his own, without supervision.

In response to these facts coming to light, Twin Galaxies struck all of Rogers records from their databases.

Regardless of whether the Dragster 5.51 score is legitimate or not, the numerous obviously falsified records alone should be enough reason to ban Rogers from the recordbooks. The integrity of the entire Twin Galaxies database is compromised by the lax practices of the past. Even if some of Rogers record scores are real, the actions he took as a Twin Galaxies judge cast doubt on the integrity of all of his records, and indeed on the entire body of Twin Galaxies’ recordbook.

Todd’s public response to being banned by Twin Galaxies and having his records vacated is long and rambling, but also fascinating.

The obvious solution to the 5.51 controversy is to see if Rogers can replicate the feat today. If he can, the record is re-proven; if he can’t, it doesn’t really mean anything, but would be taken to lend weight to the record being false.

Supposedly, Rogers was prepared to defend his record by replicating the feat, but has since reconsidered due to numerous threatening messages that he says he and his family have received.

I don’t know what to believe here, either. On the one hand, it’s really, really hard to believe that anyone cares so much about this record that they would threaten someone for cheating and lying about it. On the other hand, we live in a post-gamergate world, and it’s entirely believable that there are those who would do exactly that.

But then again, it’s an extremely convenient excuse for Rogers to walk away from this whole thing with the shreds of what’s left of his dignity intact.

Which is to say, if Rogers is a fraud, and it certainly looks like he is, then using the hostile gamer culture as a reason to walk away from further embarrassment is exactly what a reasonable person would expect him to do.

There’s an interesting thread on the Atari Age forums that goes into surprising depth discussing the controversy.

Robo Radio: a Global Game Jam 2018 game

This weekend, I participated in Global Game Jam 2018. The theme was Transmission. I worked with my Cleveland Game Developers pals Bobby Lauer and Ian Faleer on this little game:

Robo Radio title screen

Robo Radio is a game for two players. Requires 2 gamepad controllers (XBox 360 controllers tested).

Controlling radio-controlled robots, you battle your opponent with lasers and bombs. The controls are deliberately laggy, as the instructions to your robot have to be transmitted from your radio tower to your robot, and this takes some time. Also be aware that your radio tower’s signals can control the opponent’s robot if they get between your robot and your transmitter.

First player to die 3 times loses.

Robo Radio gameplay

Programmed in GameMaker Studio 1.4, built for Windows.

AdapDesk kickstarter melts down

Last April, I backed a kickstarter for AdapDesk, a portable lap desk ideal for use with a laptop computer in bed or seated in a chair without a table. It was pricey, at $125, but looked like it was so well designed that it would be worth the money to have a quality lap desk.


The kickstarter was successfully funded and my payment went through on May 13. The fundraising part of the kickstarter was very successful, raising several hundred thousand dollars against an original goal of $15,000. A short while later, I was sent a survey asking if I would like to order any extra accessories, and so I sent them another $26 for a cup holder and mouse pad attachment.

Delivery was originally supposed to happen, I believe, in September. This slipped to December, then to mid-January.

Two days ago, on 1/15/18, the AdapDesk team made an announcement. I was expecting to hear that they had shipped, or that they had to delay yet again. Instead, they announced that they have run out of money, and need more in order to complete their obligations to backers. Asking for $55 per desk ordered for air shipping to USA, this is 44% over the original cost (37% if you count the original shipping).

Overruns and lateness are very common with kickstarter projects. I don’t have statistics, but you hear about them enough to know that they happen. And certainly there is always greater risk when you back a project rather than purchase a product. I can tolerate lateness — better to have a product that is late but correct and good than to have something that has problems but is on time. And I have been fortunate enough not to be burned very often by kickstarters that fail to deliver entirely. Although, certainly, that’s part of the risk of backing a project.

This is a bit different situation. The project team want to complete their work and deliver, but they say they need more money to accomplish this. Giving them money is throwing good money after bad. There’s no way that they can guarantee that they will deliver with extra money — maybe they can, maybe not, but in spite of their assurances it’s not guaranteed.

Backers are upset about not getting their reward, and about being asked to kick in even more money to (maybe) get what they paid for. Understandably, and justifiably upset.

Some have been more understanding and are actually willing to put in the additional money. Others are upset, but still want their AdapDesk and will put the money in if they must. A few are disabled/bedridden and don’t have more money, but really needed their desk. But most of us are angry and want either our desk at no additional cost, or our money back.

Both are unlikely, if the AdapDesk team is out of money, they can’t complete the project and they have no money left to refund dissatisfied backers.

So there’s talk about legal obligations and criminalizing the project’s failure by calling it fraud.

Bad business isn’t necessarily fraud. Sometimes things don’t go well and a business fails, declares bankruptcy, and people don’t get what they’re owed. That’s life.

It’s interesting to see how different backers characterize their relationship to the project.

Some backers consider themselves investors. This is false. Backers do not own shares of the company, or of the project.

Most feel that they purchased a product. Even this is somewhat debatable. Backers were promised a reward for backing the project. In this case the “reward” is the product that is the purpose of the project to create. Thus, the “reward for backing the project” closely resembles pre-ordering a product before it is produced. Arguably, it is pre-ordering a product. But technically, backers contributed money to fund the project to produce products, and their reward for backing the project was to receive one of the produced products.

Whether AdapDesk failed to fulfill orders, or failed to reward backers of a project, the results are the same, and the AdapDesk team has failed.

When a project fails due to cost overruns or other reasons, backers lose out, much like investors in a failed business lose money on a bad investment. This is a risk of crowdfunding. The AdapDesk team has offered to complete the project if they receive additional funds, but there’s no way of telling for sure that they will be able to do so.

There’s probably not much recourse at this point for backers who are unwilling to contribute further funds and just want either their reward or their money back. Credit card charge disputes may be the only way to recover money, but whether those will succeed or not remains to be seen.

Update: AdapDesk’s page on Facebook has been taken down. AdapDesk also ran a crowdfunding campaign on IndieGoGo, which has not updated its backers with information consistent with the messaging on Kickstarter, and people are beginning to ask questions. There’s a product listing on Amazon that looks like it has delivered, as there are reviews. Of course, reviews could be faked. Their web site appears to be just a rotating image gallery with a link to the kickstarter page. It’s hard to say still, but the inconsistent information between kickstarter and indigogo is suspicious. And the lack of information on their homepage, combined with their Facebook page being offline isn’t reassuring, either.

Update 2: As of 1/21, AdapDesk has updated its IndieGoGo campaign with the same information and ask of additional money from its backers. There is now a Facebook group for AdapDesk customers to connect with each other and talk about any developments arising out of this, including possible legal actions.

Update 3: Backers who paid the additional money to AdapDesk are starting to report that they have received their orders. In at least one case that I’m aware of, a backer only received a partial order: 1 out of 2 desks, and no storage bag. It’s good to see that AdapDesk are fulfilling orders, as there was a significant number of backers who feared that they would lose their money if they paid the additional amount. While it’s obviously an unfortunate disappointment that the project delays and overruns resulted in so many dissatisfied backers, at least we know now that the project wasn’t a scam.

Update 4: Today some kickstarter backers who did not pay the additional money to AdapDesk have reported receiving their desks! It remains to be seen whether everyone will get their desk; I have not yet received mine. I’m genuinely happy for anyone who receives their reward for backing the project, but I can only imagine how annoyed those who gave AdapDesk the additional money when asked must be feeling to see those who did not pay up getting theirs for the original pledge.

Update 5: On 2/20/2018, I received my AdapDesk backer reward. This was unexpected as I did not pay the additional funding that AdapDesk said they needed in order to complete the project. AdapDesk promised to deliver to all backers who paid them the additional money, but never said that they would deliver to backers who did not.

Obviously this was to incentivize the additional round of funding, because who would have paid more if they didn’t have to? But it was strongly implied that they couldn’t complete the project without the additional money they were asking for. I’m not aware how it is that they were able to ship my desk without me giving them the additional money, but I’m happy that I received what I was originally promised for the funds I contributed. Many backers are still waiting on theirs, including those who paid the additional money.

Reviewing the AdapDesk

Overall, I’m happy to have received something, and am not one to dwell on the poor communications and delays, although they did sour the experience.

I was expecting to receive an AdapDesk Standard, but received an AdapDesk Fully Foldable instead (it has a hinge in the center of the desktop that allows the desk to be folded small enough to fit into a backpack).

I didn’t need or want this, as I don’t plan on travelling with my desk, and wanted it for use around the house.  The center hinge is locked into place by two rotating knobs. I was concerned that these knobs would bump into my legs when using the desk, but the desk is tall enough that this doesn’t seem to be an issue. However, the legs are not able to fold up when the knobs are in the locked position — they hit the knobs, preventing the legs from fully folding with the desktop locked open.

In use, the desk is well designed and functional. The biggest disadvantage is that the cup holder doesn’t have a bottom. It’s just a hole.  If you use a cup with a wide mouth and a narrow enough base, it will sit in the hole and not fall through.  If you use the desk on a surface like a floor or table, the cup can rest on that surface, and be held upright by the cup holder. But the cupholder would be a lot better if it had a bottom that could actually hold a container such as a soda can.

When breaking down the desk to put it away, you have to remove the accessory trays from their mounting points on the desk’s legs, and remove the plastic inserts for the slots on the desktop that are intended for holding pencils, pens, or small thin devices like a phone or calculator.  You also have to remove the center lip that attaches to the desk to prevent things from rolling off it when it is angled. (I wish there was a better name for this, I’ll have to refer to the instruction guide later and see what it’s called.)  So folding it up to put away takes a lot of steps and you can’t simply fold up the legs and leave the rest of it as-is.  It would be a lot nicer if you could do this.

Since I had given up on receiving my desk, I had also gone out a couple weeks prior and bought a different desk, which I think is nearly as nice.  It only cost around $40. it’s not perfect, either, but if I had to compare it to AdapDesk at $125, it’s certainly a better value, and of equal quality.


How are my kickstarters doing?

I thought it was about time I took a look back at the various kickstarter projects I’ve backed, and see how they’re doing. Over the last few years, I’ve heard so many negative stories about failed crowdfunding projects, tales of fraud and angry and disappointed backers, that I’d come to feel somewhat negatively about crowdfunding. But really, I think the projects I’ve chosen to back have done pretty well. Not all of them have been successes, but the rate of failure is less than my emotional “feel” for the rate of failure lead me to believe. And of the successful projects, quite a number of them have ongoing life beyond shipping the backer rewards. I feel good about this.

Here then is a list of every Kickstarter I’ve backed, and what happened with it.

Chip Maestero – An NES MIDI Synthesizer Cartridge – Delivered

This was the first project I ever backed on Kickstarter. It took much longer than expected to deliver. I was not surprised by this, and it didn’t bother me. I just waited patiently, and the developer came through. It’s really cool to have MIDI output capability to enable using the NES as a musical instrument.

The Jason Scott Documentary Three Pack – Still in process

This is the oldest kickstarter that I’m still waiting on, but it’s hardly surprising. Producing a documentary film takes a lot of time. Jason Scott works very hard on many different projects. Last I heard, he had to drop the Tape documentary for lack of content, but was working on editing as of last June. Since then, Jason has had a heart attack, and is currently producing a weekly podcast in an effort to pay down some financial debt, which I am a backer of. I’m confident the documentaries will be finished and released. From my experience, Jason is very scrupulous and hard working, and wants to release a first-rate effort, so I’m being patient and looking forward to viewing them when they are ready.

Code Hero: A Game that Teaches You To Make Games – Failed

This project ran out of money and went bust. Oh well. $13.37 well spent anyway.

Spriter – Delivered

I backed Spriter hoping that it would reach its stretch goal to fund development of GameMaker integration. GameMaker ended up using a similar technology, called Spine, for sprite rigging. To date, I still haven’t explored this feature, because my projects tend to be smaller and simpler than call for using Spine or Spriter, and I tend to focus more on programming than on graphic assets. I am not sure whether it has or not, because I haven’t used Spriter. But I’m glad it exists, and I’m glad that I funded it. Even after the Kickstarter project was delivered complete, it is still being developed.

Light Table – Delivered

Light Table was a fantastic idea for an IDE: Give the programmer immediate results, shrinking the feedback loop to zero, enabling instant iteration, and a more intuitive experience for programming stuff. I love the idea of seeing your code instantly interpreted and running, and not having to compile and wait. Light Table was completed, released, and is still being developed and supported.

Atari 2600 Star Castle – Delivered

This project was executed particularly well, and my copy of Star Castle was delivered within a reasonable amount of time. I don’t think it was strictly speaking on time, but it wasn’t long overdue, either, and the project communicated status updates in a timely fashion that helped to manage expectations.

Beautiful Vim Cheat-Sheet Poster – Delivered

Max is a friend of mine, and his little project exceeded his goal considerably. He did a nice job on the poster, and I really like it.

Tropes vs. Women in Video Games – Delivered

Anita Sarkeesian has been a major influencer since launching this kickstarter. The reaction against her project is infamous, and has helped to drive home the point that her work is very much needed. I’m proud to have contributed. Her video series Tropes vs Women in Videogames took a long time to produce, but was very well done. It’s aim to bring her Tropes vs. Women series examining various anti-women tropes in popular culture (movies, tv, etc.) to videogames was and still is much needed.

OUYA: A New Kind of Video Game Console – Delivered

The OUYA is now a dead system, but the project was a success. I received my OUYA and played with it. It was a tv-connected Android-based console, about the size of a baseball, and could play a lot of games. A lot of people used their OUYA as an emulator box, but there were a few good titles developed specifically for it, most notably Towerfall. The thing is, it was under-powered compared to everything else out there, most games are developed and launched for any and all consoles their developers can reach, so there was no exclusive “killer app” content that could compel gamers to buy one, and a lot of people who did complained about the OUYA’s gamepads for feeling cheaply built, and groused about every little thing, the way gamers do. I’m sad it didn’t survive in the market. I really liked the idea of an open console that is friendly to indie developers. Unfortunately the business model wasn’t successful, and the market didn’t appreciate it at all. I consider it a success, despite the fact that it couldn’t survive in today’s market, merely making it to market was an incredible accomplishment.

NeuroDreamer sleep mask – Delivered

My reward was shipped and received quickly. I didn’t pre-order the NeuroDreamer mask, but got a copy of Mitch Altman’s trip glasses, which I’ve used a few times. They work by using flashing LED lights and audio tones to induce an altered brain state, akin to meditation, or perhaps as a meditation aid.

SPORTSFRIENDS featuring Johann Sebastian Joust – Delivered

This project took a very long time to deliver, but I did finally get a copy of my Sportsfriends games. The one I most liked, BaraBariBall, was fantastic. I haven’t played the others.

Aaron Swartz Documentary – The Internet’s Own Boy – Delivered

This documentary is fantastic, and I’m proud to have backed it and to have my name in the credits as a backer. Well worth every penny and then some.

Project Maiden – a Zeldalike in Reverse – Delivered

I only backed $1 so didn’t get any reward, but I understand this project was finally delivered, taking quite a long time longer than expected. With creative projects like video games and movies, I am pretty lenient on release dates. I get that doing it right takes time and should not be rushed. I have never actually played this game though, so I have no comment on how good it is.

imitone: Mind to Melody – Delivered

Soon after making goal, I received a license key and access to the software beta. It works, and has been updated frequently. I haven’t used it recently, but it is neat software and still being developed.

The Stupendous Splendiferous ButterUp – Delivered

This shows how serious I am about bagels, I spent I don’t want to remember how much money on some butter knives that were supposed to make spreading cold butter on toast easier. In practice, I find that they don’t work, and were basically a waste of money. They are well made, but the design just doesn’t work well. Cold butter does not press through the holes the way it shows it working in their video. Live and learn.

Beep: A Documentary History of Video Game Music and Sound – Delivered

I received a DVD copy of the documentary, watched it, and enjoyed it. I thought it was well done.

GameMaker Language: An In-Depth Guide – Delivered

I got a copy of Heartbeast’s book. The project was completed within a reasonable amount of time, and he did a great job with it. He also produces tutorial videos on YouTube, and has branched into teaching online courses through udemy.

Joybubbles: The Documentary Film – MIA? In post-production?

I backed this at a level that got my name in the credits of the film. The documentary is currently in post-production, according to the website. However, the kickstarter page hasn’t been updated since 2015, so this one appears to be missing-in-action. I’ve written to the creator to ask what the status of the project is.

Insert Coin: Inside Midway’s ’90s Revolution – In progress

Latest update was posted mid-December, they are still working on the project and are targeting early 2018 for delivery.

AdapDesk: The World’s First Portable Work Station – Late, and at risk of failure

Expected for November, they are a few months late on this one, but were supposedly finally shipping this month.

I can appreciate that mass production isn’t easy. In November, they said that they intended to ship by late December, in December they announced a further delay would push delivery back to mid-January.

It’s January 15, and today they’ve posted a new update on the kickstarter to the effect that they are struggling and nearly out of money. Cost overruns have forced them to ask for more money in order to be able to ship the goods, to the tune of $55+ per customer, depending on where in the world they are. This represents a cost overrun of close to 150% over what they estimated for the project, and I don’t think I would have backed if I knew it was going to cost $55 more than the pitch. It was already a very pricey item at $125, but since it appeared to be very well designed and since it was something I can definitely get a lot of use out of, I thought it was worth it.

Since this is a developing matter as I type this, I’m not at all clear whether I’m going to get my AdapDesk, or a refund, or screwed, and who’s going to fund that additional $55.

In retrospect, it’s pretty clear that manufacturing small runs of a product is very risky and prone to delays and overruns, so backing kickstarter projects like this is obviously a gamble. If they had brought the AdapDesk to market in a more traditional way, and I could have bought one from a store once they were actually manufactured, I think I would have been happier.

Doing things the kickstarter way is more appropriate for raising funds for prototyping a new product, but maybe for experimental products the reward shouldn’t be the actual product — you don’t know whether the prototype will turn out to be any good, maybe it will be great but infeasible to mass produce at a price point you can predict at the pre-funded stage when you’re not even sure how many backers (and therefore orders) you’ll have, or maybe it will suck and not be something worth making more than one of. Maybe it should be something else: stock in the company that designed the product, a t-shirt or sticker that thanks you for your contribution to making the project possible, that sort of thing.

Using Kickstarter to try to create a product that doesn’t exist yet and take pre-orders for it, using the kickstarter “reward” as the means of delivering on an order doesn’t work out well. If you’re very experienced and good at design and manufacture and logistics, then sure, maybe you can do it. But if you’re good at all those things, then you probably didn’t need to use crowdfunding to begin with, and could have used traditional venture capital, business loans, credit, or what have you instead. And if you’re not experienced at those things, chances are good you’re not going to be able to get the credit, loans, or VC, and hey it turns out there’s a reason for that — investors are smart, and know not to throw money on an unproven risk undertaking by someone with not enough track record.

In commerce, getting what you paid for isn’t a “reward”, it’s expected.

Kickstarters often fail to deliver what is expected after successfully making their fundraising goal.

Kickstarters are a way to fund dreams that no one in their right mind would get behind as a business investment opportunity, and crowdfunding works because $20 or $50 isn’t all that much to some people. There are good ideas out there that can be funded by large numbers of people each with a tiny amount of disposable cash that they can just throw away. We understand, well most of us do, that we’re not buying success, we’re buying a chance at success, and that chance is less than 100%.

Since that’s the case, maybe the better way to thank backers is through rewards that aren’t predicated on the success of the project, but on the success of the fundraising. Kickstart a rocket to Mars. Make the reward be a “I backed the rocket to mars” sticker, not a ticket on the Mars rocket with a launch date printed on it.

AdapDesk is a great idea for a product. It turns out that bringing a product to market takes more than a good idea, some money, and a lot of work. It takes a good idea, some money, a lot of work, and then a lot more work, and then some more money. We’re at the point where they need that last bit of “some more money” and they’re out, and their customers are pissed. I hope I still get my AdapDesk, but I hope I don’t have to pay $55 to get it delivered on top of the money I already paid. I certainly won’t give them another penny, let alone $55, without an actual tracking number — and maybe not even then.

Make Professional 2D Games: Godot Engine Online Course – Delivered

I’ve watched some of the videos, and they are well done. I have yet to truly immerse myself in Godot engine, but I am very happy to support an open source 2D game engine of high quality.

Next Gen N64 Controller – In Process, Late

This project from RetroFighters should be shipping soon. Early word is that the controller is very good. Originally these were supposed to be delivered in late 2017, but a month or two delay is forgivable. For $20, a newly designed gamepad for the Nintendo 64 built to high quality standards is very impressive, if that is indeed what they deliver.

Full Quiet – A New Adventure Game for the NES & PC – In Process

Expected delivery date in late 2018, but we know how this goes… waiting and seeing.

NESmaker – Make NES Games. No coding required – Backed

Kickstarter is still in the funding stage. They’ve already hit their goal, so it will be interesting to see how far it goes and how many of their stretch goals they can reach.

NESmaker kickstarter promises every 80’s kid’s dream

NESmaker is a no-coding IDE for creating games for the Nintendo Entertainment System, currently being kickstarted by The New 8-Bit Heroes‘ Joe Granato. When they say you can make a NES game with this toolkit, they mean real NES games, that you can play on actual hardware. This is pretty amazing.

The story behind it is that some NES homebrewers are turning the tools they’ve developed for their own use into a product for anybody to use.

Normally, if you want to program for the NES, you need to learn 6502 Assembler, and get really “close to the metal” — which is not for everyone. With NESmaker, supposedly you won’t need to code at all, although you’ll be limited to creating “adventure games” (think top-down zelda-likes). They are hoping to raise enough money to enable them to create additional modules to enable users to make games in various genres.

Although the developers have been using the tool internally on their own projects for a few years, it needs more polish before it’s ready for general use, so they are running a kickstarter right now to take pre-orders and to raise the necessary funds to complete their project. This includes not only the NESmaker software, but the hardware needed to flash a game pak so you can put your finished game on a cartridge and play it on real hardware.

How cool is that?

A quick and dirty, incomplete and opinionated history of videogames and related technologies


  • The Dawn of Time.
  • Pinball and other electromechanical games of skill are already popular in arcades, carnivals, and shooting galleries. In addition to pinball tables, there are games that mimic sports like baseball, bowling, race car driving, and military-themed games based on airplanes and submarines (Persiscope, SEGA, 1965). Most of these games are coin-operated, a dime or a quarter giving a credit for play, hence the term “coin-op”. These exist alongside traditional carnival games like dunk tanks, skee ball, whack-a-mole, tests of strength, and throwing games.
  • Willie Higgenbotham’s “Tennis for Two” demo (1958), played on oscilloscope. Often cited as the first “video game”.
  • The Mainframe Age. Games programmed by and played by computer scientists at universities, and scarsely known outside their world.
  • DEC PDP series minicomputer systems (PDP-1, etc.) are sold to large universities and corporations for business and research. Programmers on these systems develop games to run on them almost from the very beginning. They are “mini” compared to older computers, which could occupy an entire building, but still are large enough to occupy several cabinet-sized racks in a room.
  • Colossal Cave Adventure, Hunt the Wumpus, and similar games, mostly text-based played on teletypes and line printers, as most computers lack video displays. Text dominates for a few years, because graphics are incredibly primitive, limited, and expensive, and because keyboards and teletypes are far more common. Today there’s some (mostly) academic debate as to whether a text-only game counts as a “video” game, but it they are clearly computer games, and represent significant branch of the history, particularly in the 70’s and 80’s.
  • Spacewar (1962) developed on the PDP-1, often cited as the first videogame.


  • At home: Magnavox Odyssey, Ralph Baer‘s “Brown Box” more or less invents controllable graphics displayed on a television screen (as opposed to oscilloscope screen or computer display).
  • Atari founded, dawn of coin-op (arcade) games. There were arcades before Atari, with electromechanical shooting and racing games, with electronic lights, bells, and mechanical levers and switches, as well as pinball tables, shooting galleries, and carnival games of skill. But videogames were a quantum leap forward, forever changing the landscape.
  • After first developing a ripoff of Spacewar in an arcade cabinet called Computer Space (which struggles to catch on), Nolan Bushnell rips off Baer’s Brown Box off, creating Pong, and with it, Atari has its first big commercial success.
  • Many pinball companies start producing videogames as well (Bally, Williams, Midway, Gottlieb). It is a natural expansion for them, as they are already familiar with mechanical and electronic gaming and entertainment, with decades of experience and distribution. Joining them are Japanese companies like Taito, Namco, Nintendo, and Sega. Each produces notable successful games, but Atari leads, innovates, and dominates them all in the videogame sector of the market, eventually becoming the fastest growing company in the history of the world, becoming acquired by Warner Communications in 1976 (just prior to the launch of the Atari VCS).
  • Some other minor oddball home games, mostly pong clones and dedicated hardware (plays a single game only, not programmable/reconfigurable).
  • Atari’s first cartridge-based home console, the VCS (later renamed the 2600) released in 1977.


  • Sometimes referred to as “the Golden Age of Video Games” or the Atari Age. The early 8-bit era, dominated by processors like the Zilog Z-80, MOS 6502, and Intel’s 8088/8086.
  • Space Invaders (1978) creates a coin shortage in Japan.
  • First color graphics in a coin-op arcade game, Namco’s Galaxian (1979).
  • Atari dominates in the of the arcade; coin-operated games continued to shift from mechanical or electro-mechanical (eg pinball, etc.) to fully electronic and digital.
  • At home the Atari VCS revolutionized home entertainment, tens of millions of units sold. Largely on the strength of home versions of their top coin-op titles, but many unique titles developed as original games.
  • Warner Bros. acquires Atari in 1977. Warner Bros. struggles with Atari to manage this success, and a uniquely Californian anything-goes business culture. Nolan Bushnell exits Atari. New CEO Ray Kassar takes over, immediately getting to work transforming Atari into a business and destroying much of the original culture (which was not in need of much help when it came to self-destruction, to be honest). Atari becomes the fastest growing company in the history of the world at the time.
  • Also-rans in the early home console market include: Fairchild Channel F (1976), Bally Astrocade/Professional Arcade (1977), Magnavox Odyssey2 (1978), and Vectrex (1982).
  • Later in this era, ColecoVision (1982), Mattel Intellivision (1979) rise to viable competitors to dominant Atari, but fail to unseat the king of console games. Arguably these later consoles belong to a newer generation to the Atari VCS.
  • To stay competitive, Atari releases its new 5200 console, which is hampered by poor controllers, lack of backward compatibility with VCS (an 2600 expansion module was available for the 5200, ColecoVision, and Intellivision, however) and limited library of mostly better fidelity ports of coin-op titles that already existed on the 2600 and other consoles) and soon flounders in the wake of the Crash of 1983. Atari struggles to continue supporting the new and older consoles, the massive install base for the 2600 sustaining the company through the upcoming Crash of ’83.
  • The rise of home computers: the Apple II, Commodore 64, Vic-20, Atari 400/800, the MSX, ZX Spectrum. These systems are all largely incompatible with one another, their hardware and software varying widely, but many successful games are ported to run on all of them.
  • Early personal computer games are dominated by text adventure games from companies like Infocom and Sierra On-Line.
  • Mainframe games still popular in computer labs and universities, and are now being ported to home computers, arcade, and home consoles in various ways. The genre-spawning MUD (multi-user dungeons) the earliest ancestors to Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games, soon followed by Rogue, which spawns the rogue-like genre, including HackNethack.
  • Graphics range from primitive to very primitive, especially on business PCs (monochromeCGA and EGA graphics).


  • The Crash. Major downturn in the market as a glut of poor quality games causes a massive drop in demand by consumers. At the time this was misread by many to mean that videogames were a passing fad that had had their day, but really people wanted new, better games.
  • Many companies went out of business or shifted to other industries. Out of the “Big 3” of the day (Atari, Coleco, Mattel), only Atari comes out of the Crash still in the videogames market. The void left by Coleco and Mattel will be filled by Nintendo and Sega in short order. Atari readies its 7800 console, only to shelve it due to Warner’s sale of Atari to Jack Tramiel, owner of Commodore, who sits on the technology until years later Nintendo’s NES takes the market by storm, way too late for it to have a chance of being anything more than an also-ran system. Nintendo flirted with Atari, eyeing a partnership for a US launch of the NES as an Atari branded console, before deciding that they could do just as well if not better on their own (and they did.)
  • On the home computer front, Apple, Commodore, Atari remain strong gaming platforms, with increasing competition from generic IBM PC and PC-compatible clones.
  • Floppy disk-based software gives rise to a subculture devoted to hacking copy protection to violate copyright and distribute free copies of software, known as “warez“. Underground BBS and FTP sites carrying warez and cracks on the rise. Copy protection hackers start “signing” their work with “tech demos” to show off their skill at controlling the hardware, giving rise to the Demoscene, where circumventing copy protection and product activation goes by the wayside, and all focus goes into creating cool technical demos that stretch the limits of hardware to display killer graphical and audio demos, for lulz and bragging rights.


  • The late 8-bit era. The new “Big 3”: the venerable, obsolescent Atari 2600, NES, Sega Master System. Atari, a distant third place by this point with its newly released 7800 home console delayed until it is too late to head off the exploding popularity of the NES, and aging 400/800/1200 line of home computers. The success of the NES effectively buries Atari and wins Nintendo a monopoly in home game consoles.
  • The golden age of the arcade has dulled to a “silver age”; arcade games are still popular, but are receding as many arcade locations go out of business, and the era of arcade games literally everywhere, including outside in front of convenience stores and gas stations, soon phases out.
  • IBM PC clones, Intel x86 and 286 hardware generations. DOS. The early years of the Apple Macintosh, still with only b&w graphics. Pre-WWW internet consisted of things like Bulletin Board Systems (BBSes), IRC chat rooms, FTP sites, Telnet, NNTP (usenet/newsgroups), Gopher sites, etc. mostly limited to people at large universities in technical departments (comp sci, physics, math, engineering, science) and home computer enthusiasts who direct-dialed to specific systems via modem to access a specific system, rather than dial-up ISP for a gateway connection to “the internet”.
  • Virtual Reality first conceptualized, as early flight and military vehicle simulators inspire a concept of “total immersion” (where the subject can’t discern a difference between real experiences and virtual ones) as the holy grail that VR R&D will strive for. Nothing much as far as games technology at this point, but the Atari coin-op’s 1980 3D wireframe tank simulation game Battlezone is their great-granddaddy.


  • Arcades still popular, but to a much lesser degree than the late 70s/early 80s; as coin op cabinets recede from literally everywhere to dedicated businesses, which are increasingly struggling as improving home console technology makes coin-op games less and less appealing value proposition by comparison. Many gamers prefer the lengthier, more complex style of play offered by home games, with puzzles and story lines, and adventure and RPG genres, simulation and strategy games gaining in popularity.
  • In the arcade mega hits Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat rejuvenate fading arcade market. 2P vs. fighter games and 4P side-scrolling beat-em-ups such as TMNT, X-Men, and The Simpsons very popular in arcades in the early 90s. Driving/sit-down vehicle games and light gun games also remain popular.
  • Movie, comic book IP licenses adaptations to videogame medium begin to increase in popularity, and fidelity to the source material. It’s increasingly common for a movie release to be accompanied by a video game version that closely follows the story, rather than just being about the character.
  • Nintendo GameBoy (1989) ushers in a golden age of handheld gaming, to be followed up in future generations by GameBoy Color (1998), GameBoy Advance (2001), DS (2004 and onward), and ultimately converging back to television-based gaming in 2017 with the Nintendo Switch. Previous portable/handheld electronic games were single-title LED-based hand held games that were barely videogames. Previous generations of handheld electronic games from the early 1890’s were insignificant (Tiger LCD games, Nintendo Game and Watch, Coleco LED based games, etc.) Atari Lynx (1989) and Sega Game Gear (1990) attempt to compete, but Nintendo dominates the market, continuing until the present day, despite efforts from others over the years such as the Nokia N-Gage, Sony PSP and Vita, WonderSwan, etc. Nintendo will dominate handheld gaming for the next 20+ years, challenged only by the rise of iOS and Android smarpthones and tablets in the mid-2000’s.
  • The 16-bit era. SNES, Sega Genesis, NEC TurboGrafx-16 home consoles in the early 90’s, giving way to Nintendo 64 and Sony Playstation in the mid-90’s.
  • Game developer SNK straddles the arcade and home console market with its NEO GEO system (1990), popular in arcades as a modular coin-op platform, but too expensive for most home gamers, with individual game cartridges selling for $350 per title.
  • Nintendo makes an infamously huge business blunder by flirting with Sony to partner in developing a CD-ROM peripheral for the SNES, and then canceling the project after Sony had committed millions in development costs.
  • Betrayed by Nintendo, and committed to its investment, Sony goes alone, and the PlayStation brand is born, creating a massive new rival with deep pockets and very mature technical and manufacturing capability.
  • Just about every hardware maker except Nintendo releases a CD-based console: Philips CD-i (1991), 3DO (a 1993 attempt at licensed standard to be manufactured by various companies), NEC TurboGrafx CD (1990), Sega CD (1991), Sega Saturn (1994). Most of these are commercial failures, enter and exit the market without much fanfare, attempting to compete with Sony PlayStation, but too expensive and too weak game libraries.
  • By the mid-90’s the 16-bit consoles give way to 32-bit consoles and computers. Bus-width captures imagination of marketing, resulting in bizarre, distorted claims about the specs and capabilities of certain systems.
  • Sega’s poorly timed hardware releases keep the company off-kilter as they continue to struggle, dropping to 3rd place in the market. Sega 32x, an expansion module for Sega Genesis, and then Sega Saturn the following year, released in 1994 and 1995, respectively. Sega struggles with the design and timing of launch for its consoles, undermining their success by designing hardware architecture that is difficult to program for, and then too quickly obsolete to recoup investment.
  • Atari’s last gasp, the Jaguar (1993), fails and Atari exits the stage, ceasing to exist as a real company. Sony replaces it; the Big 3 now are Nintendo, Sega, Sony. Fun fact: Atari continued producing Atari 2600 consoles and new games right up until 1992, making it by far the longest-lived home console of all time. Atari sells off intellectual property rights which pass through various companies that attempt to cash in on the early IP by re-releasing collections of classic arcade and home console titles.
  • All the other competitors exit after a few years of insufficient sales attract little third party development, resulting in weak game catalogs.
  • 1995 marked a transition from DOS to Windows 95 and ushered in the home internet era, with ISPs like CompuServe, AOL, and Prodigy bringing dial-up access to the internet to the masses. No longer just a university/academic thing, the internet boom happens. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer web browser integrated and bundled for free with Win95 results in massive anti-trust lawsuit which Microsoft eventually wins despite clear guilt as a harmful monopoly, as a result of shifting political winds after George W. Bush narrowly defeats Al Gore in a highly controversial 2000 presidential election.
  • IBM PC: DOS continues to remain popular with gamers until about the time of Windows 98 or 2000, as it is faster, more stable, and more tune-able for getting the most performance out of the hardware for a time. Communities of hardware enthusiasts come together online to seek the ultimate performance tweaks and secrets for getting the most out of their system, resulting in a sub-culture of “overclockers“, many of whom go on to tech careers or become hackers of one stripe or another.
  • IBM PC: Intel 386, 486, and Pentium, Pentium II, chips rapidly increase the performance and capabilities of PC-compatible hardware. CD-ROM drives started to become standard on PC’s in the mid-90’s, giving rise to larger games with greater multimedia content, pre-rendered video, etc. The CD-ROM game Myst (1993) is a major mover of CD-ROM drives.
  • 1996 is a major milestone year as this is when the internet became popular and started to become used by developers to distribute games. Home dialup services like Prodigy, CompuServe, and America Online bring internet access from computer labs and dorm rooms at university to the middle-class households across America.
  • On the PC, the addition of SoundBlaster soundcards and hardware-accelerated graphics increased the capability of PC games, giving rise to a new emphasis on 3D games, especially 3D first person shooters like Doom and Wolfenstein 3D, Marathon, and Duke Nukem 3D.
  • Microsoft studies Apple’s mouse-driven UI and desktop metaphor, and rips it off, releases Windows, initially a graphical shell that runs on top of DOS and is generally terrible, but runs a vast majority of business applications. The sheer size of the PC install base makes it an attractive market for games, despite widely varying hardware specs from one PC clone manufacturer to another, and from one generation to the next. The difficulty of programming games on such varied, yet standardized hardware means that compared to console and arcade games, PC game are mostly inferior tech-wise. Console technology is so much more consistent in spec that developers can write code much more tightly coupled to the hardware, getting the absolute most out of the systems’ capabilities, resulting in far superior games despite the fact that console hardware generally has slower, smaller hardware specs. It’s how you use it.
  • Apple struggles to survive, hanging in there thanks to very loyal Macintosh user base, and a truly superior user experience (although the underlying OS is still terrible), clinging to 1-5% of the personal computer market, and failing to make inroads against commodity priced generic PC-compatible hardware. Macintosh moves from Motorola 68000-series CPU chips and NuBus architecture to IBM PowerPC based systems. Despite superior technology, they can’t get cheap enough to compete with the generic commodity PC.
  • Start of the Emulation scene, old hardware emulated in software to create a compatibility layer to enable play of software designed for older systems on newer platforms. Emulation scene offshoots ROM hacking and homebrew game development. (Still later in the 20-teens, game hackers will start experimenting with teaching AI to play old, emulated video games, via genetic algorithm and other machine learning techniques).


  • Nintendo tries to leapfrog everyone with it’s 64-bit Nintendo 64 (1996), but finishes 2nd place in sales to Sony’s 32-bit PlayStation. Nintendo sticks with cartridge format in its next-gen system , struggles to retain 3rd party developers as a result. Many 3rd party game development studios move to support Sony PlayStation due to greater storage capability and cheaper manufacturing cost of the CD-ROM format.
  • Nintendo continues to garner a reputation for being a G-rated games company for younger children. This started with the 16-bit console wars between “family-friendly” Nintendo and the older teen/young adult market targeted by Sega, now Sony, and (later) Microsoft.
  • Demise of Sega as a hardware company, their final console the Sega Dreamcast (1999), initially to strong sales, only to be blown out of the market months later by the Sony PlayStation 2 (2000) and the Microsoft XBox (2001).
  • Emergence of the 3D First Person Shooter (FPS) genre, with games like Doom, Quake, Half-Life, and Unreal leading the way. There were 3D first-person games before Doom, but the genre reached maturity and achieved dominance in the gaming market around this time, and has remained one of the most popular types of games ever since.
  • Apple comes as close to exiting the business as it ever will, before Steve Jobs returns from NeXT and reinvents the company with iMac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad over the next decade. iOS platform becomes an important platform for game developers, with the App Store becoming an important distribution vehicle for indies and established studios alike.
  • Macromedia‘s Flash and Shockwave technologies make the web browser an important game platform during this time. Adobe later acquires Macromedia, in 2005.
  • Virtual Reality as a concept enters mainstream public consciousness, but remains very primitive. Nintendo’s early VR console experiment, the Virtual Boy, is a notorious flop. But VR as a concept gets a lot of attention from science fiction writers and Hollywood.
  • Rise of game modding scene, as game software architecture becomes more modular and therefore easier to modify and re-use. Companies develop engines that are used to drive many game releases. Game players get into the act by modifying published games, adding new life and replayability to them by creating new maps, items, in some cases entire new games, and sharing them with the online community.


  • Sony releases its PlayStation 2 console in 2000. Gamers camp outside of stores like Best Buy in the hopes of getting theirs before they sell out.
  • Microsoft XBox (2001) is released as Microsoft attempts to muscle their way into the industry. Microsoft was already strong as a gaming platform due to the popularity of DOS and Win9X as a gaming platform, XBox was a strategic move into creating a standardized hardware platform dedicated to gamers and home entertainment. Bulky and ugly, the initial XBox is essentially a Intel Pentium III PC with nVidia graphics, only with a gamepad as the only input, instead of a keyboard and mouse, running an OS based on Windows but stripped down in order to focus on game software. Macintosh-era AAA game developers Bungie acquired by Microsoft, who steal Halo from Apple fans and put it on the XBox.
  • Nintendo releases its first optical disk system, the Gamecube (2001), almost a decade after their original plans with the SNES fell through.
  • In the face of two competitors with very deep products and more powerful hardware, it holds its own, largely on the strength of Nintendo’s strong appeal as a first-party developer, with games like Super Mario Sunshine, Mario Kartand Metroid Prime.
  • Most internet gaming is done on PC, thanks to the emergence of widespread adoption of broadband internet in homes.
  • HDTV exists during this time but is not widely adopted yet, so consoles of the day do not yet support HDTV resolution. NTSC 480i or 480p are the best resolutions supported in this generation.
  • Consoles are still mostly not internet capable, for practical purposes, although there have been attempts throughout most of the previous generations to try to make use of networking capability in some fashion. (Even back in the early 80’s there were online services for consoles such as Intellivision PlayCable, Nintendo Broadcast System, Satellaview, Sega Mega Modem, and others, but these were too ahead of their time for most consumers to take notice of them, with very limited support for a tiny number of games, in limited markets.) This starts to change with the PS2 and XBox, but online gaming services for PlayStation Network and XBox Live will not come into their own for one more generation.
  • Rise of internet gaming and digital distribution for PC games.
  • Videogames starting to become increasingly respected by academics and critics as a valid medium/topic of academic study.
  • Valve launches its Steam platform in 2003, coinciding with the release of Half-Life 2. Steam will become a major player in marketing and digital distribution in the years ahead. Steam marks the rise of the “software as a service” business model.


  • The HDTV era. Increasing popularity of HDTV enables consoles to move from NTSC TV resolutions to 720p and 1080p.
  • Home consoles: Sony PS3, Microsoft XBox 360, Nintendo Wii. The Wii notably does not support HD resolution, but the PS3 and XBox 360 do.
  • These newer consoles are increasingly internet-integrated, many games rely on the internet to work at all, to validate the license, download updates, connect to multiplayer and social/community servers, etc.
  • Games increasingly go digital for distribution; physical media and brick-n-mortar retail decline.
  • The Wii dares to innovate with motion controls, Sony, MS follow suit half-heartedly with PS3 motion controller and Xbox Kinect. Despite the weaker hardware specs, the Wii outsells both Sony and Microsoft, regaining the market lead.
  • The mobile gaming era. Introduction of iPhone and Android platforms, smartphones and tablets. Rise of touch screen technology creates new input and control opportunities.
  • Rise of indie developers. At first doing direct sales through shareware business models, DIY e-commerce. First Global Game Jam (2009), Ludum Dare (2002, but not widely popular until this period) events happen in the early part of this period, paving the way for countless other game jams to follow.
  • Curated “walled garden” marketplaces (Apple’s App Store, Google Play, Steam, etc.) welcome indie developers, early adopters who initially are rewarded, followed by hordes of also-ran developers who struggle for any attention at all, resulting in “Indypocalypse” by 2015, as shifting business models and reduced barriers to entry create business and marketing challenges that most are unprepared to face and incapable of handling.
  • Rise of Valve’s Steam service, introduced in 2003 with Half-Life 2, as an increasingly important distribution platform for AAA and indie developers alike. Indie studios especially depend on Steam to release, distribute, and market their games. Steam Greenlight program allows indies to reach wider audiences more easily than previously possible.
  • Steve Jobs’ refusal to support Adobe Flash player on iPhone is the harbinger of death for Flash-based web content, although the end won’t come for a good decade and more.
  • Rise of “retro” style games that harken back to the 2D era and simpler styles of games, hook into gamer nostalgia.


  • Nintendo Wii U (2012), Sony PS4 (2013), Microsoft XBox One (2013), and Nintendo Switch (2017). Wii U is a short-lived failure for Nintendo, but the lessons learned from it give rise to the hot-selling Switch. HDTV and internet now mainstream and assumed to be standard features of nearly all games. UHD (4K) TVs exist, are already relatively inexpensive, increasingly common, and gaining support from PS4/XBone. Nintendo continues to take a “less is more” strategy, opting for innovative design and popular IP to sell less-expensive hardware of significantly lesser capability.
  • Indypocalypse in full swing. Humble Store introduces the Humble Bundle, pay-what-you-want business model for a bundle of popular indie titles that had already sold well. It is a viral sensation and generates millions in revenue despite the fact that you can get the bundle for free; a “beat the average price paid so far” incentive for an extended bundle does the trick. In the mobile world, a race-to-the-bottom approach brings prices for many games to free or nearly free; revenue streams from in-game advertising, in-game purchase, “DLC” (downloadable content) packs, subscription-based licensing etc. struggle with varying success to replace revenue lost from retail sales of copies of physical media. Steam announces end of Greenlight program in 2017.
  • Nearly 100 yers old, Ralph Baer dies in 2014, marking a point at which videogame history begins shift from a period where everything can still fit within living memory to a phase where history will increasingly consist of what can be recorded and preserved. Historical preservation efforts by Jason Scott at the Internet Archive, increasing scholarly attention by notables such as Ian Bogost, Henry Lowood, and others.
  • Maturing HTML5 technologies finally start to erode Flash marketshare, resulting in Adobe announcing in 2017 the sunset of Flash is in sight, currently slated for 2020. Future of preservation of Flash-based games uncertain.
  • VR and AR (augmented reality) technologies start getting better, but still very niche. Oculus Rift, Microsoft HoloLens, Google Glass, Google Cardboard, etc. Pokemon Go (2016) is an early standout augmented reality title, and briefly one of the most popular videogames of all time.
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