GameMaker adjusts business model

Today GameMaker announced changes to their pricing and business model. Moving forward, they will provide three tiers of product.

The Free tier is intended for non-commercial use, and should appeal to educators and hobbyist game developers. And great news, the free version is not limited or restricted in terms of features in any way, other than that if you want to build a game for commercial release, you need to buy a Professional or Enterprise license.

The Professional tier is a 1-time $99 charge, and does away with the subscription model for small indie developers who want to make commercial games but have balked at paying a subscription for the tools to create them.

The Enterprise tier is still subscription-based, at $800/year, and enables game console builds for PlayStation, XBox, and Nintendo Switch.

It’s great to see GameMaker giving affordable options to smaller developers. Most of GameMaker’s traditional userbase has been non-professional programmers who wanted an simplified tool that is inexpensive.

Atari’s Mr. Run and Jump previewed

I’ve been watching the live stream of Zero Page Homebrew’s preview gameplay of Mr. Run-and-Jump on the Atari 2600.

Mr. Run and Jump exists in two editions: a modern game (available on Steam, the modern Atari VCS, XBox, PlayStation, and Nintendo Switch) and an de-make version programmed for the Atari 2600, and sold on physical EEPROM cartridge.

It’s really cool that Atari did a de-make, a nod to the still-living 2600 console, which will turn 50 years old in 2027.

I’ve played the Steam game, and it’s pretty challenging. I did not get very far into it, using keyboard input for controls makes it especially challenging. The gameplay and graphics seem to be done well, and I’m going to have to plug in a gamepad and give it another try soon. It’s basically just another 2D side-scrolling platformer, and doesn’t really break any new ground, at least so far as I’ve seen so far, but it is a solid, competently made game.

The 2600 version is a bit less solid, less competently made, but still has some appeal. It has issues with sprite flicker, which could have been addressed and arguably should have been. And there are a few places where I’ve seen level design issues that can result in soft-locking the game (you can get trapped in a pit too deep to jump out of, with no way to die and the only way out is to reset the game).

It’s a decent looking game otherwise. The classic run of the Atari didn’t really have anything quite like this game, the closest thing to it perhaps being Pitfall!, but Pitfall really feels less advanced and Mr. Run and Jump feels more polished and modern due to the jump physics and overall play mechanics. Some of the challenges are a little too difficult to be fun, but that’s a matter of taste/opinion.

There’s some homebrew games that have come out in recent years which provide similar gameplay but are even better, such as: Game of the Bear, Xanthium, Ninjish Guy, and Knight Guy in Low Res World. Based on what I can see, I would put Mr. Run and Jump in the middle of the pack among these. It’s really difficult to rank them because rankings like this are incredibly subjective, but I think that Mr. Run and Jump is maybe a little better than Xanthium, and Ninjish Guy, but Game of the Bear and Knight Guy are all a bit better executed.

I will reserve the right to revise this rating when I receive my copy and get to play it for myself, but it looks like this game is probably a solid B.

MyArcade Atari GameStation Pro hands-on

I pre-ordered the day it was announced, 7/31/2023. The original ship date was supposed to be 10/1; this was quickly moved up to 9/1. My delivery date was supposed to be 9/5. 9/5 came and I still didn’t have a shipping number; Amazon finally acknowledged there was a delay. The listing on went offline for a few weeks, then came back, with a new launch date of 10/31.

I started hearing a few weeks ago (early October) that units had showed up in Costco and were selling for 20% off. I still didn’t have a shipping number from Amazon. I don’t have a Costco membership, so it didn’t do me any good, but then I heard that these were at Target retail stores, so I went to my local store and they had them. I canceled my order with Amazon, who were still telling me that they were delayed in shipping these and couldn’t tell me the truth about a shipping date. Always 2-3 days from the point I contacted customer service to ask for an update on when my order would ship.

I bought one at Target, and played it a bit today, and I’m not as impressed as the reviewers who received advanced copies of the system were. In fact, I’m totally disappointed.

The main problem seems to be with the controllers. They do not feel good.

Previewers said that they had some weight and felt like quality sticks, and gave me a false hope that this system would be worth buying. I don’t agree. The joysticks are lightweight and while not exactly flimsy, they don’t feel robust, either, and the joystick switches do not have satisfying travel, and buttons do not have satisfying click. The joystick sensitivity felt off, and I didn’t feel like I had the fine control that I expected — and received — from original hardware.

Worse, the tiny buttons on the base of the stick which are used for menu, game select, and start, are prone to accidental presses, which can abruptly end the game in progress and restart it or return you to the main menu. This is a disaster for user experience — a game should never be one easy accidental button press away from being abruptly ended.

And many of the games MyArcade picked to include in the system’s built-in library simply are not well suited to the controller.

All of the Atari 5200 games are seriously compromised by the fact that the GameStation joystick doesn’t have a 10-key pad like the original 5200 joystick, nor does it have an analog joystick. You can’t play a game designed for play with an analog stick with a digital joystick worth a damn. And any functions that depend on the 10-key pad are simply not supported at all. RealSports Baseball is a decent game on the 5200, but on the GameStation Pro it’s terrible — batting relies on the analog stick, and the 10-key pad is critical for pitching and fielding. It’s a tragedy — the Atari 5200 had a decent library of games, and most people don’t know it because the original console didn’t sell well.

The original joysticks for the 5200 were pretty terrible, too, but mainly that was due to being engineered to be cheap, which meant they were fragile and broke easily. The non-centering analog stick was also not a good design choice, but could be overcome through practice or by buying a 3rd party controller with a self-centering stick. The sticks included with the GameStation Pro just simply aren’t the type of controls that the games for the 5200 were designed to be controlled by, and that entire section of the game library is basically unplayable. I mean, you can start a game, but you’ll be frustrated, denied the real experience that the game’s original development team delivered to the original platform it was built for.

The menu screens are inadequate as well. The thumbnail images of the game box art are terrible low-res images that are just barely readable. The “About” info on the screen is just a brief paragraph of some 25-50 words or so, and not complete instructions. Many of the games are simple enough that you can just figure them out by playing, but that’s no excuse. Storage is cheap, and MyArcade easily could have included full manuals for each game title. But they didn’t.

The tiny dial for controlling the paddle games doesn’t feel good — I tried a game of Super Breakout, but the paddle wasn’t smooth, and I lacked fine control. The experience is terrible compared to how the game played on 1977 hardware, and it’s a travesty.

Tempest, an arcade game controlled by a spinning knob, doesn’t use the paddle dial, it uses the joystick, and it feels completely off, and basically unplayable.

And there are trackball games on this system, which just don’t play well with the substituted joystick.

I’m not sure how many of the 200 built-in games are actually playable, as in designed to be played with a digital joystick with up to 3 buttons. But whatever fraction of the built-in library does, pretty much most of them will simply not play as well as they did on original hardware.

I have to wonder if anyone who was involved in the design and engineering of this product ever played the games on original hardware. They picked too many games (even one is too many!) that weren’t supported by the input device the provided, and it just screams WHY.

Why pack in 200 games and give such a terrible experience of them? Even the games that nominally do play with a digital joystick don’t feel very good due to the travel and click characteristics of the hardware MyArcade provides.

The games from the Atari 2600 and 7800 libraries are a lot more playable. Both systems used a digital joystick, no 10-key pad, and 1 or 2 buttons, which will work with the included sticks. But even then the included sticks don’t feel as good as the original CX10, CX40, or Atari 7800 Proline sticks did, and you’ll be frustrated by how imprecise they feel.

The Arcade library will be a mixed bag as well. Many of the Arcade titles are obscure, black-and-white era games that are really interesting as historical artefacts, but they deserved better treatment than they receive, thanks to the poor feel of the joysticks.

Verdict: D. Do not buy.

Even for $100 it’s just not worth it for the experience you get. It would have actually been better if they had not included the games that wouldn’t play well with the included joysticks.

Maybe a fun device to “hack” with a sideloaded SD card, but even then it’d be better to pick one up secondhand or on clearance.

TOTK Diary 58: Gloom Hands

I haven’t played the game in over a month, because I’ve been too busy with other things. I’ve been wanting to get back into the adventure and advance in the quests, but I’ve been away for so long now that it feels like I’m going to have to review my old entries to recap where I’ve been and what I’m doing. Which is great, that’s the whole point of my keeping these diary entries.

In the meantime I wanted to post something, and I was just ruminating about this, and thought it was worth sharing…

One of my favorite new enemies that they added to Tears of the Kingdom is the Gloom Hands.

They’re super creepy and the first time I encountered them, I thought they were fantastic. I didn’t know too much about how they worked, I just kept my distance as much as possible, climbed to high ground where they weren’t able to reach me, and hit them with distance attacks. But later on I got into melee with them, and found that they pick you up and squeeze you, draining your life and afflicting you with Gloom sickness, which has the effect of draining heart containers from your life bar, temporarily.

If you kill the Gloom Hands, a Phantom Ganon sometimes will appear, seemingly to enact vengeance on you for defeating the Gloom Hands. Or maybe the Gloom Hands are like Phantom Ganon’s herald.

My initial take on Gloom Hands was that they were Wall Masters, only they appeared in the open spaces in the overworld, and not in dungeons. And I loved the callback to LOZ1 part of that.

I also immediately connected Gloom Hands to the Gloom plague that came with the Upheaval, and connected it with the Underworld, because that’s all plain and obvious.

I think a missed opportunity the designers could have taken advantage of was that the Gloom Hands should drag Link into the Underworld, if they manage to grab him and hold him for long enough.

Imagine being grabbed and abducted into the underworld, weakened by the drain of the Gloom sickness, only to be dragged downward through the earth, in a manner opposite of the Ascend ability you gain, creating a neat “bookend” to the design idea of Ascend. And once you’re pulled under, they drop you into that world, and rather than finish you off, they just drop you, leaving you weakened and lost in some random part under ground where you have no idea how to return to the surface, and you are forced to explore and rely on stealth as you fight your way out.

That would have been really great gameplay, and I’m sad that they just grab you and squeeze you until you break free or drain to 0 hp and die. They could have done more with them, and I wish that they had.

TOTK Diary 57

It’s been about a week and a half since I last played, so where was I?

Oh yeah, outside Lookout Landing, I had just expanded my zonai charge battery pack, and now I have a lot more power to run contraptions.

I guess I ought to go back to Death Mountain and help Yunobo and look for Princess Zelda.

I fast-travel back to the shrine near Goron City, and ride the rails out to YunoboCo HQ. I’m hoping that I can buy the rest of the fireproof armor suit here, but I find out that they only sell the body piece of the set. So where the hell am I supposed to get the pants and the helmet from? I don’t know.

I figure I’m going to need this in order to explore Death Mountain, but for the time being the temperatures are not deadly to me, so I’ll explore the area. Yunobo said that he saw a Hylian woman matching Zelda’s description at the peak of the mountain, and wants to go back there to look for her again. The game doesn’t often tell you that explicitly what to do, so I figure I better get on it.

Walking out over the lava plain from YunoboCo HQ, walking in the general direction of Death Mountain, not far from the HQ I come across a pair of Bokoblins and a Moblin sitting around a fire. I use Yunobo to charge them, and he does a lot of damage, and also triggers some explosive casks near their camp, and takes them out pretty easily. I pick up the loot and move on, climbing up over a rise, and before too long I come to a mining camp, where I find a few gorons, still zonked out on marbled rock roast, some digging, some eating. They tell me I can go ahead and take one of their mine carts if I want, and that the rails here run right up to the summit of Death Mountain.

That’s all they had to say. I hop in the art and hook up a fan, and start it up. I don’t go very far, when I find a spot where there’s a cave that I’d like to explore. It’s the Eastern Death Mountain cave, and blocked with explodable rocks, which I destroy with Yunobo, since I don’t want to waste bombs, and there’s a lot of places where bombs will spontaneously combust here, and I need to be careful.

Inside the cave, there’s a rail system, and the temperature is hot. There’s a lot of lava in the cave, and the only way forward is to ride a rail cart. Fortunately there’s another cart and fan here, which are easily assembled and allow me to make ingress. When I get to the end of the line, I see a green gem, which I recognize as a shrine gem, embedded in a pile of glowing rock, which I rightly presume to be an Igneo Talus. I’ve come this far, I might as well fight the thing.

This is tricky, since I’m not protected against heat fully. I can hit the Talus with frost weapons, which cool it down to where I can stand on it, but I still take damage doing so. I equip my heaviest hitting hammer weapon and run a spin attack, hitting 9-10 times, before being thrown. I also manage to use Recall to reverse the path of the Talus’s arm when it hurls it at me. This requires some close timing, but it works pretty well, I avoid the damage it would have dealt, and it hits the Talus, doing some decent damage. I re-freeze it and jump on to finish it off, and it drops hardly any gems, but I do get an Igneo Talus heart which I fuse to my most powerful sword. Taking this Talus down broke my Flux Construct Core club, which kind of sucks, but at least I won the fight. I also got the shrine gem, which is now projecting a beam in a direction basically pointing back out of the cave. There’s some ore deposits and brightbloom bulbs here, so I take the time to clear out the cave entirely, then grab the shrine gem, put it back on the mine cart, and ride it back out of the cave.

Once out of the cave, the shrine is not a very long walk away, on the other side of the minecart tracks, and I pick up a Rauru’s Blessing, refilling my life meter, which the Talus fight had taken me down to about 1/3.

I feel like I missed something when I was in the cave, so I return to have another look. Sure enough, between the rock island where I fought the Igneo Talus, and the opening of the cave, there was a smaller island, almost like a sand bar, which had some additional forage materials, and a hard to see crack in the wall, which lead to a tunnel, where I found a bubbul frog. I slay the frog and take its gem, and then I decide to check my location on the map to see how close I am to the summit of the mountain. Since I’m inside a cave, I might as well see if perhaps Ascend will get me to the top quicker.

I pop up maybe 2/3 or 3/4 of the way up the remaining slope of Death Mountain, a fairly short climb away from the summit. And it’s an easy climb. I check the temperature, and change out of my Flamebreaker armor and into my Climbing Gear, and get all the way to the top.

The crater of Death Mountain is desolate and empty, devoid of anything. I see no sign of Zelda anywhere. No story cutscene triggers, and I’m left standing wondering what I was supposed to expect. I walk around about the caldera, avoiding hot pots and gloom puddles, hoping to trigger something. Eventually, I do trigger the story cutscene. Apparently, based on the camera angle and the way the scene looks, I was supposed to go back and keep riding the rail cart all the way up. On the other side of the mountain, the final destination of the cart, a platform, is where the cutscene unfolds. Yunobo recalls what he can of his last moments before putting on the mask that Zelda gave him, and then his memory goes blank. It’s pretty clear that this Zelda is a lookalike impostor, but the characters don’t seem to get it yet. I feel like this is maybe storytelling aimed at a younger audience, because it seems to me that if I can tell what’s going on, the characters in the game ought to have some suspicion as well. But it feels like this is a deliberate design choice to allow younger gamers to feel smart since they too probably will have an idea that something’s not right, and figuring it out ahead of the characters in game will make them feel like they’re solving a mystery. But as an adult gamer, it’s not much of a mystery. “Zeda” clearly isn’t Zelda, and we’ve already seen one impostor in the Yiga Clain’s trap on Dueling Peaks, so this Zelda sighting must not be her either, since she’s not behaving like Zelda would, using mind control to take over Yunobo and enslave the Goron people with the drug-like marbled rock roast.

Just then, “Zelda” appears before us, and disappears into the volcano, which suddenly erupts! A huge monster appears out of the crater! It has three rocky, worm-like heads. It spews giant flaming rocks which don’t seem to be terribly well-aimed, thankfully. Yunobo wants to fight it, but says it’s too high in the air for him to charge it. He asks what should we do?

Well, there happens to be a pre-built Zonai wing with two large batteries, four fans, and a cart bottom and control stick laying right there. I grab it with Ultrahand and set it upright, hop on and start to take off. It is extremely heavy and slow, and clumsy to fly, but it does get us up to a level where I can fire Yunobo off at the heads. The heads are extremely easy to target, it seems like the game is auto-targeting Yunobo for me. Which is fine, I’m very happy with that since controlling the wing sucks so much, I couldn’t do much otherwise.

It only takes three hits, one on each head, and the thing is defeated. Zelda is no where to be seen. A deep chasm in the bottom of the volcano crater has opened up. Yunobo thinks she must be down there, and jumps in. I hesitate, but follow. But the temperature is too hot, off the scale.

I notice that although the temperature gauge is telling me it is deadly, I don’t seem to be taking any damage as I fall into the chasm, transitioning between the overworld and the underworld. So I end up having a lot more time than I should. I fall all the way down, and am inside a huge cavern — it looks like the whole mountain is hollow. I spot a Light Root and try to glide toward it, but I run out of stamina and fall, and would have died from the fall but for the fact that I have a single fairy left in my inventory, who revives me. I run to the light root, and activate it. So now I can fast travel back down here. I’m going to need to get more elixirs or flame resistant meals, or find the rest of the Flamebreaker gear if I’m going to explore down here. But for now there’s nothing I can do.

MyArcade Atari GameStation Pro reviewed

Youtube influencer GenXGrownUp has just livestreamed a hands-on review of the MyArcade GameStation Pro.

The full livestream by GenXGrownUp.

The big news is that the GSP has an SD card slot. And apparently, according to GenXGrownUp, it will play ROM files from the SD card. This is exciting news and should heighten interest in the system. My initial impression of the system is improved considerably with this information. I think I can safely upgrade my recommendation from “wait and see” to “buy” based on GenXGrownUp’s review.

GenXGrownUp reports some latency in the controls, which is to be expected, but GenXGrownUp describes it as minimal, and manageable, and he likes the quality of the controller.

He also mentions that the joystick has three buttons, not two, and that the placement of these buttons works better for some games than others. The layout has the A button in the top-left corner of the base, in the traditional position for the classic Atari joystick. The B and C buttons are on the stick, on the top knob and in a trigger position, like on a fighter plane. All of which are fairly classic, normal placements for additional buttons.

One downside of the system, the console switches for the Atari 2600, for difficulty A and B, and B&W/Color TV, are accessed through on-screen menu. There are a few Atari 2600 titles ( such as Space Shuttle, Riddle of the Sphinx, Raiders of the Lost Ark) where these switches were used during gameplay, which would make playing these games a bit awkward, but these are the exception rather than the rule, and I don’t know if any such titles are among the catalog of pack-in games, so this could be a non-issue for the most part.

MyArcade Atari GameStation Pro or Atari 2600+: which?

It’s an interesting time to be an old middle aged guy who still loves ancient video games. 45+ years on from the launch of the Atari 2600, the console still remains culturally resonant, at least with my generation, and maybe some younger people as well.

There are two new mini consoles coming out in quick succession this fall, both aimed at our demographic: Atari’s 2600+ and MyArcade’s Atari GameStation Pro.

Both are very similar in capability, but differ in features. So which is the better buy?

The MyArcade Atari GameStation Pro is a pre-loaded system, similar to the AtGames Atari Flashback consoles of the past, but this one blows those systems away: with over 200 built-in games, HDMI output, wireless joysticks, and includes games not just from the Atari 2600’s library, but the Atari 5200, Atari 7800, and arcade as well. It is available for pre-order, with the shipping date now set at Oct 31.

MyArcade GameStation Pro. Tiny, slick, stylish, retro-modern Atari style.

The Atari 2600+ is a mini Atari 7800/2600 SOC-based emulation console with a cartridge slot and HDMI output. It’s available for pre-order now, but it’s unclear when they will start shipping. Probably in time for holidays, assuming it doesn’t get delayed.

Atari 2600+. Mini, authentic, old-school design.

Which one provides the better value? That’s tough to say, but on paper at least I think I’ll give the edge to the MyArcade system. It’s considerably less expensive, at $100 for the console plus two joysticks, plus all the included games.


MyArcade GameStation Pro: $99

Atari 2600+: $130

Advantage: MyArcade.

The Atari 2600+ is 130% more expensive at $130 than the GameStation Pro, and includes just one controller, and only 10 games. The GameStation pro includes 200+ games, plus two controllers.


GameStation Pro: 200+ built-in games from the Atari 2600, 5200, 7800, and arcade titles.

Atari 2600+: cartridge slot, including a 10-in-1 cartridge. The compatibility list promises over 500 compatible cartridges from the 2600 and 7800 library.

Advantage: Toss-up

One advantage of the 2600+ is that it has a cartridge slot, and if you have a large collection of cartridges, it’ll be the system that can play them — if they’re compatible with it. Having to buy cartridges separately only adds to the cost of owning the 2600+, but if you already have a collection of old games, that cost is already paid for. And if you don’t, the games are common and usually pretty cheap.

On the other hand, the GameStation Pro’s 200 games probably include most of the popular games you’d ever want to play from these systems, but if one of your favorites is missing, you won’t be able to play it. It also supports a broader range of games, considering that it includes titles from the Atari 5200 library, and even arcade games.

It ultimately depends on what you have and what you want. If you have a large collection of games for the 2600 and 7800, the 2600+ might be better for you. If you don’t have a collection or don’t like to swap out cartridges, and are satisfied with the selection of the built-in games of the GameStation Pro, or like the idea of having access to the arcade and 5200 games, then those advantages are certainly attractive. On the other hand, if your favorite game(s) are missing from the built-in selection, you’re out of luck.


Atari GameStation Pro: 2 joysticks, 2.4GHz wireless, 2-button, plus paddle dial.

Atari 2600+: 1 CX-40 joystick; additional joysticks, CX-30 paddles sold separately.

Advantage: Undetermined

A great advantage of the Atari GameStation Pro is that the controllers it comes with feature a dial which provides built-in compatibility for paddle games. The joysticks also feature two buttons, a necessity for playing many of the Atari 7800 game titles.

The Atari 2600+ can support paddle controllers, but you have to buy them separately, adding still more cost. If you do, they’ll be real paddle controllers, the same design as the original Atari 2600’s. And they should feel the same as the original controllers, providing the most authentic experience. It remains to be seen how good the manufacturing quality is for these new sticks, and whether they’ll truly measure up to the original sticks from the 70s and 80s.

But Atari do not seem to be selling 2-button controllers to fully support the 7800’s library. If you have an old 7800 Proline controller, it should work with the 2600+, though. Of course those old sticks can be worn out or unreliable.

So it remains to be seen, but if the GameStation Pro joysticks feel good and don’t have a lot of lag, they might be better. If on the other hand the authentic feel of the original style controllers matters most to you, the 2600+ is better, assuming the modern build quality measures up. But the lack of 2-button options and including only a single CX-40 joystick are disadvantages.

Emulation quality

Advantage: To be determined.

A big part of what will determine which if either of these systems is worth owning will be how well they emulate the games. If they don’t feel right due to imperfect emulation or input lag, that can be an insurmountable dealbreaker.

The GameStation Pro’s joysticks have some advantages, though. They do support two button input, and they even have a built-in knob that serves to provide paddle game support. So it should support the full library of all the games that are included with it. Early reviewers have reported that these controllers feel well built, solid, and heavy, not cheap or junky.


Although neither system hits all the checkboxes that I would have wanted on my perfect system, I think I’m leaning slightly toward the GameStation Pro. The big unknown that I have been unable to find any answers to is what are the 200+ titles that come built-in? It likely has enough built-in games that I would like to play, and I think the fact that they are built in is an advantage, since I don’t have to switch cartridges to play a different game. But if it doesn’t have some of my favorite titles — which is probable, given that many of my favorites are third-party games — then the advantage goes to 2600+ for its expandability offered by having a cartridge slot.

Either system including a SD card slot or a cartridge slot would make them much more attractive. As would being FPGA-based rather than SOC. Even if an FPGA system doubled the cost, it would be worth it to me for the greater fidelity to the original hardware, which would mean full support for the entire library of games produced for the system.


I wouldn’t recommend rushing out to pre-order either system. It’s best to wait and see what the reviews are like after they’ve hit the market. Likely both systems will have drawbacks and disadvantages that will bring down the recommendation rating.

For enthusiast gamers who already have a means to play their Atari games, whether on a PC through an emulator, or through original hardware, I think it’s tougher to recommend either system. Unless your old systems are not working reliably any longer, and are too much of a pain to keep in repair, stick with them for now. If you enjoy the advantages of emulation, you can run an emulator on any PC, and there are adaptors that allow classic controllers to be plugged into a USB port.

We can hope that eventually in the future a proper FPGA-based system will be released that offers full compatibility with all games, HDMI output for modern HDTV, high quality joysticks, and a cartridge and/or SD slot to allow access to the entire catalog of games.

For casual gamers who aren’t as concerned about perfect gameplay, or nostalgic gamers who are looking to get back into retro systems, it’s easier to recommend either system. Either is also a reasonably good starter system for a younger gamer who never had the opportunity to play these systems in their heyday.

Ultimately, both of these systems are going to appeal mainly to a casual, nostalgia-driven consumer audience, rather than the enthusiast gamer who never quit playing their original systems, and learned to do field repairs on them to keep them in tip-top working order for decades, and modded them for superior TV output.

TOTK Diary 56

Well, if there’s only one more SkyView Tower to unlock before I can fully activate the power of the Purah Pad, then maybe I should make that my next goal. Gerudo Highlands, it is.

I fast-travel to the Gerudo Desert tower, shoot up in to the sky, and glide as far toward the Gerudo Highlands Tower as I can. As I’m in the sky, I can see a long way in all directions, and note two Geoglyphs that I am sure I haven’t visited yet, as well as several Shrines dotting the landscape, and numerous glowing lights on the ground, possibly fires or but they look a bit larger than typical campfires, and I wonder about what they might be.

My flight path goes nearly directly overhead the nearer of the two Geoglyphs, so I attempt to make landing there first. It’s quite a bit short of how far I could have glided had I wanted to maximize my distance and reach the tower directly, but I figure this will be worth my while. As I descend, I can see that this Geoglyph is painted on the side of a steep and very tall mountainside. Nearly all of it is near vertical, and I am not sure where the reflecting pool may be. I pinned the spot on the glyph that I thought looked most likely, but it’s on a sheer face, and as I climb to the spot where the pin was, I can tell this isn’t the location. I have little choice but to try to move around until I can find it, but since it’s so vertical, that’s really difficult, and it’s even harder than normal to get enough distance to be able to see the features of the geoglyph’s image so I can tell where might be another likely spot to check.

I climb down very far, and then head back up. Maybe 2/3 of the way up, or so, I think, there’s a long, flat, wide ledge covered in snow, cutting the Geoglyph about in half. I run along this ledge, looking for the pool of Tears. I collect a lot of forage and encounter a Ice Lizalfos, some wolves, chuchus, and keese, before I eventually find the Tear.

The vision is of Ganondorf, pledging his loyalty to King Rauru, long ago in the distant past. Although he accepts the pledge, Rauru knows of Ganondorf’s evil nature, and as he explains to Zelda why he accepted him, it’s in order to keep Ganondorf close so that he will be aware of his actions.

Awakening from the vision, I return to finishing collecting the available forage, and then return my attention to the SkyView Tower hunt. By now I’ve climbed so high on the Geoglyph that I’m able to get a long glide in, and get myself most of the remaining way to the tower.

When I get there, I find no entrance at the base of the tower. Next to the tower, though, there’s a tent, with a note from the building crew, who say that due to heavy snow they had to take shelter in the nearby cave.

I look around for the cave, and find one at the base of the north face of the nearby cliffside. I enter, and discover a tunnel leading down to a warm, dry spot. There’s an underground river running along, and some construction materials. Another journal left behind by the construction crew explains that they had to shelter due to the cold weather and heavy snow, but explored the cave and found that it was safe and warm, and that the river runs directly beneath the tower, so they’ve undertaken a project to shore up the tunnel to provide a stronger foundation so that the tower will not cause a cave-in.

The key then is to realize that when I get to the foundation of the tower, I can Ascend upward and enter the interior of the Tower, and hopefully activate it.

The cave is rich with forage materials, and I pick up a few brightbulbs, some bomb flowers, and a few miscellaneous other things. There’s fish and lizards too.

I use the building materials to construct a raft, and then float down the river. I go over a waterfall, and continue until I hit the structure the construction boys wrote about in their journal. There’s still more forage material around to be scavenged, so I take my time and clean the place out as best I can. Not all of it is easy to reach, and what I can’t reach easily, I ignore. I discover a well hidden, tight passage, which leads to a small inner cave, behind the waterfall I came down, and here I find a treasure chest, containing a decent bow.

I return my attention to getting into the Tower. The raft I constructed is now wedged under the foundational structure, making a nice platform from which I can Ascend into the Tower.

I do so, and once inside, I find that the tower is in perfect working order, although the doorway to the outside is completely snowed in, and not even my fireseeds seem to do anything to melt the snow.

I activate the Tower and shoot up through the top, and add the map data to my map.

I note that I’m near a sky archipelago, and drift toward it. It seems that gravity is much weaker in this area, perhaps due to the altitude, or if not then I’m not sure why. But my falling speed is like that of a feather. I come to a landing on the nearby sky island, which is inhabited by two Soldier Constructs, one of whom activates and starts shooting rockets at me. I hit him with a shock fruit arrow, and take him out in one shot, then do the same for the other Soldier, who doesn’t seem to notice me.

Both Soldier Constructs were standing guard over a floating stone platform, which have two rockets lying on them. I use the rocket to attach to the platform, and then activate it, flying much higher and farther than normal, with considerably more momentum, and end up high over the archipelago, with a commanding view of it. I descend to the next highest island, and destroy another Soldier Construct, but there’s nothing much of interest here. Looking far down below, I’m very near the second Geoglyph that I had spotted earlier, and I also note that there is another one of those five-petaled sky islands that all seem to have some interesting carvings on them, which I know now need to be photographed and shown to the scholar man who works in Kakariko Village.

I glide down to this island, and snap a picture. As I do so, the center of the island falls free of the ring of stone “petals”, and I fall down with it. As we fall together, a shooting star falls from the sky, almost directly next to me. As I fall with it, I attempt to match speeds with it, and eventually get close enough to it that I’m able to snatch it right out of the sky! This is really cool.

I’m so high up, I still have a tremendous distance to fall, so I re-orient myself and attempt to glide the rest of the way to the second Geoglyph. I think this one looks a bit like Rauru’s Queen, Sonia. When I land, it has just started to rain, and I have to switch my gear to non-conductive materials in order to stay safe. To my surprise, I find Impa and Cado have traveled here, apparently to study this Geoglyph themselves. I talk to them, and then run around until I find the Tear pool, and view the vision it unlocks.

This one is of Zelda and Sonia. Zelda expresses a desire to master the power over Time that Sonia has. She thinks it is the key to returning to her own time. Sonia tells her how to approach it, saying it’s like seeing the memory of the object that you wish to reverse time for, and then coaxing it backward. She also tells Zelda that she has another power, more powerful than control over Time, which is the power to disspell the power of Evil with her power of Light. This is a bit cheesy, admittedly. Zelda tells Sonia and Rauru about Link — and Rauru is not familiar with that name. Sonia advises Zelda that it is OK for her to return to her own time, and return to Link.

There’s a ton of things to explore and discover here, but right now I’m just here for that final SkyView Tower, and that’s done. Time to return home, across the entire continent, to see Robbie and get that final Travel Medallion for the Purah Pad.

So I zip back to Hateno Village, talk to Robbie, and max out the Purah Pad, other than the Compendium, which I ain’t payin for. It’s too much money, and I have plenty of opportunities to take pictures of things if I just remember to do so.

Speaking of which, I have one new photo in my album of ancient runes to show the guy in Kakariko, so I fast travel there, and show him, he tells me this one tells of ghostly sightings of a figure resembling Princess Zelda in the ancient past. I guess she’s been doing some kind of fast travel herself, only maybe through time as well as space.

Then I fast travel to Lookout Landing, and talk to the Well Girl, who gives me 50 rupees for finding 5 new wells. Now there are 36 remaining wells in the land, which I don’t remember how many there were to start out, but I’m probably down to a little more than half of them at this point… She suggests that if there was a way to search for things, it could help, which I take as a suggestion to add a photo of a well to the Compendium so I can search for it using the Search+ feature on the Purah pad. Sure enough, that works.

I also talk to Hestu, and I have 10 korok seeds, which is just enough to expand my Shield stash one more slot, so I do that. Now I need at least 17 for the next cash-in.

I’m low on rupees, so there’s nothing else I can buy here.

I go talk to Josha and Purah again. Purah says I should go to Lurelin Village and invetigate the reports of Pirates causing trouble there, but also tells me that I should avoid the southern lands, because there’s a lot of monster activity there, and I still have three Regional Phenomena to check out, so I guess that’s probably my next thing to do.

I buy 20 bomb flowers from the weird statue, and buy the location of another of his bretheren in the underworld. I’ve now gotten 3 locations and have yet to visit a single one down there.

Finally, I stop outside the front gate of Lookout Landing, and there’s a fallen sky rock, which I’d all but forgotten about from when I checked it out a long time ago. But there’s a hylian man standing next to it, staring at it on wonder, and it reminds me that there’s something up there. So I go there and there’s a Zonai construct steward there, and I talk to him, and he tells me that he can expand my Zonai power pack by 8 cells for 800 zonai charges. So I give it to him, and he expands my battery. 8 cells is equal to two 3-unit batteries, plus another 2 units, so in all I now have 3.75 batteries worth of charge capacity on my belt. Which is a HUGE upgrade from the single battery of 3 cells that I’ve been stuck playing with this entire time.

I only have 5 Zonai charges now, which kinda sucks, because now that I have all this battery capacity, and the QuickBuild power, I suddenly have a lot more useful things I can do with Zonai. I have a feeling that the things I can build are finally going to come into their own, and I’ll be making use of them a good bit more than I have been so far.

Atari acquires AtariAge

Today AtariAge proprietor Albert Yarusso announced that he has agreed to a deal to have AtariAge acquired by Atari. Yarusso will stay on and become an Atari employee.

This is an earthshaking announcement for the Atari homebrew community, and raises many questions.

The homebrew game development scene has always been a hobbyist community, first and foremost. As enthusiasm for the hobby grew, in large part thanks to the efforts at community building through the web forums on retro gaming websites such as AtariAge, these efforts became larger and more professional-ish, culminating in the production of physical game cartridges, complete with manuals and packaging which often equaled or even exceeded the quality of original commercially released games from the era when Atari was an industry leader. AtariAge has, for the past few decades, been a de facto leader in the homebrew scene, and gradually turned itself into a publisher and manufacturer of original homebrew games as well as romhacks. (For the uninitiated, romhacks are modified works where an original game has been edited to create a new game, or in some cases a bugfixed or enhanced version of the original game.)

These projects often leveraged earlier copyrighted and trademarked works, creating potential legal liabilities for the developers as well as the entire operation. But for the most part the IP rights owners have been mostly tolerant of these projects, for reasons which we can’t truly know, but may speculate about. Quite likely the IP rights associated with these works in many cases were essentially abandoned, or in many cases may have been deemed to have a low enough value that they were not worth pursuing lawsuits or even cease & desist threats over. And so AtariAge has managed to operate in plain sight, yet under the radar of companies that could have caused trouble that would have sunk their operation entirely.

There have been exceptions of course, and on occasion games such as Princess Rescue, a “de-make” of Super Mario Bros. for the Atari 2600, had to be taken down after actions by the notoriously protective and litigious Nintendo. But, by and large, AtariAge have been able to operate without weathering serious legal storms, and by so doing have kept interest in the old systems alive, and even growing.

Of course, much of the published video games from the early 80s are essentially abandoned by the industry. Many of the original companies went out of business, although their IP likely continues to be owned by someone. Typically the games were deemed obsolete with no real market opportunity for them to continue being manufactured and sold, at least not in their original format. Quite a few of the more popular games have been brought back over the years in collected formats, either ported or emulated on newer generation hardware, or repackaged and sold in all-in-one mini consoles, etc. Although from a legal standpoint copyright and trademark protections persist for the abandoned works, the lack of interest in protecting these rights has allowed hobbyists to ignore copyright and trademark, or to treat them as quasi-public domain properties, which they could then use to create new works. As long as these new works weren’t deemed a threat to the IP holders’ business interests, they were often ignored by them and allowed to skate by, existing in a legal gray area. Something akin to “squatters rights” for abandoned properties has been asserted by proponents of the “abandonware” movement, and I believe that there is considerable merit to the idea that it benefits our culture for these works to be affirmed to belong in the public domain. But that has yet to come, and perhaps may never happen.

In June of this year, AtariAge announced that they were removing certain IP-encumbered titles from the store, offering its customers a last chance to purchase them before they were removed for good. Yarusso offered some faint hope that he would bring these titles back, if and when he could arrange for it to be done with the approval of the rights holders. By being acquired by Atari, it seems that this is now much more likely to happen, at least for those games that belong to Atari. Games for the Atari home consoles which were developed by third parties may not be affected immediately or directly by this move, but it seems like it would be more likely for negotiations to acquire the rights from still-existing third party publishers to happen through Atari than through AtariAge.

AtariAge was mostly if not entirely a one-man operation, with Yarusso maintaining the website, physically manufacturing game cartridges and assembling them, shipping them, and so on, and this was not a primary occupation for him. And that meant that his availability to pursue licensing agreements or rights acquisition was for all practical considerations nonexistent. Now that he is becoming an employee of Atari, this becomes his full-time job, and that affords him more availability as well as more resources, potentially, to pursue agreements with IP owners so that these games may return.

It will be interesting to see what happens with the independent hobbyists who develop the games that are discussed, shared, and released on AtariAge. Technically, I believe that each individual homebrew game is owned by the developer who created it (other than any trademarks that may be used by them without explicit permission of their legal owners) and are manufactured and published by Atari Age with the consent of the developer.

If games published by AtariAge will now be considered “official” releases, released with the intent to be commercial products, rather than handmade hobbyist souvenirs, this could change how hobbyist homebrew developers view their work.

While many hobbyists produce their projects out of love for the hobby, and without expectation of meaningful revenue, that may change as sales go up from niche hobbyist levels to commercially viable levels.

Many homebrew developers may regard this as a positive development, meaning greater sales and more revenue to them for their games. But others may feel differently about this, perhaps not trusting or respecting the current owners of Atari. They may want nothing to do with Atari. Or they may wish to re-negotiate the business terms so that they too are treated as employees, to be paid a salary with benefits in addition to royalties. Or they may wish to be treated as third party developers who are paid under a commercial agreement for commercial releases, if their former hobby is going in a more commercialized direction.

And that could be the undoing of the hobbyist scene. If you don’t care about other people making money off of the work you donate freely to the world, it may not matter. On the other hand if others are creating a business based on games that you’ve spent a great deal of time and skill creating, perhaps you start to feel like you’re rightfully owed a slice of the pie as well. Oftentimes people are more than happy to donate to causes that are not deemed commercially viable, simply because they’re cool, but once enthusiasm for the cool thing grows to the point where it perhaps becomes commercially viable, things can change. Certainly, an individual hobbyist developer may object to Atari asserting ownership of their works, with or without due compensation for it; they may wish to retain all rights owned, even if that means severing agreements with AtariAge to produce and sell copies of their works.

In short, almost anything can happen, and it depends a great deal on how individual players and stakeholders perceive their worth, and how willing they are to play together to keep all the pieces together to enable the magic of game development to continue to put games in the hands of the gamers who play them.

We on the outside aren’t privy to the negotiations on how this came about…

Consider: AtariAge for the past 20 years has hosted a ton of IP that they don’t own copyright or trademark for. Scans of manuals and box art, ROM images, new games created with IP without permission or license of the original owner, etc.

Doing this was a valuable public service in terms of historical preservation. Without someone doing it, much of the cultural artifacts of the Atari era would have been much more likely to be lost forever, or at the very least been much less accessible to the public. And, aside from re-releases of a small subset of games, none of the companies that own these works did anything on the level that AtariAge did to curate these works.

But hosting IP that they did not own did put AtariAge in a precarious legal position. At any moment, the IP owners of the content could have taken legal action to shut AtariAge down.

Who knows, but it’s entirely possible that Atari pulled a power move, leveraging the threat of legal peril to broker an acquisition deal that potentially benefits both parties. It’s shrewd of Atari not to destroy AtariAge — the backlash from Atari’s true fanbase would have been lethal. The takeover could be the best way forward for all involved, all things considered. Even if there may be unavoidable downsides.

Anytime Nintendo takes down a fan-produced game that they didn’t have permission to use Nintendo’s IP for, people have said “I wish Nintendo would have just bought the project and hired them to complete it.”

I have no idea, but something like that could be exactly what just happened here.

How exactly things will shake out remains to be seen, but for now I am hopeful that we’re witnessing the beginning of a bright new era of the AtariAge story.

TOTK Diary 55

I fast-travel as close as I can to the Akkala Ancient Technology Lab, the Akkala SkyView Tower, fly into the sky, glide as far toward the Lab as I can, and then hike it the rest of the way on the road.

The first place I come to is the Akkala Stable. It’s one I haven’t been to before, so I stop and talk to everyone. Penn is here, but says there’s no leads for any Zelda sightings, and he needs to move on. There’s a few people here who I talk to, but I can’t really say they said anything memorable. I catch a nap to get the extra pony points, visit the well, which this one has a hidden prayer statue, which I use to cash in for another Heart Container, and then I visit the shrine near the stable.

The shrine has an interesting challenge. A Jenga tower of metal blocks, atop which sits a ball. If I glide over to the platform where the Jenga tower stands, the platform opens up like a trapdoor and dumps the whole tower, resetting the challenge. If the ball rolls off and falls into the pit below, the whole thing resets. Apparently, I’m supposed to Ultrahand blocks out of the tower, and then catch the ball as it falls, before it goes into the bottomless pit and triggers the reset. I manage to do it after 3-4 tries, and it’s not that hard, just takes the right timing.

There’s some electrical circuits, which I can use to activate a moving platform to ride out nearer to the Jenga tower, where I can grab a treasure chest. There’s another chest on a high platform, which I can use a Jenga block to climb to. All in all, a decent puzzle, but not as challenging as all that.

I get the Light of Blessing and continue on. Further up the road, I encounter a Hylian, actually a Yiga ninja in disguise. I fight him on the road, and then two Moblins in a nearby camp take notice of me. I’m surrounded and not doing well. I manage to take everyone down, but I burn through some food and two fairies. I am pretty annoyed. Fairies are much harder to come by in TOTK, and I had just the two left, and hadn’t managed to come by any more in ages. I wasn’t wearing my best armor, the Moblins were well armed and carried shields, and all I can seem to manage to do against any enemies in melee is to run away from them, while they plod behind me, but somehow keep up, and then before I can turn around to face them, or get the camera pointed the right way, they’re already on me again, and I’m sick and tired of sucking at combat in this game already.

I go still further up the road, and find Addison, help him out with his sign, and then make it up the rest of the way up the road, and I’m at the Akkala lab, which has been taken over by Yiga, and mostly destroyed. I go to enter the door, but am greeted outside by two Yiga, a ninja and one one of the heavily muscled swordsmen. By this time I’ve switched up my arms and armor, and am better prepared, I deal with these two pretty easily.

And then that’s it. Inside the ruined Tech Lab, there’s a guy who makes clothing, who had been kidnapped by the Yiga, and was making their uniforms. He gives me one, so now I have Yiga Clan body armor. He says if I can get the complete set, I should be able to blend in among them and infiltrate their organization. So that’ll be a fun mission when it comes up, I’m sure.

I find the travel medallion in a locked chest, and check out the rest of the Lab before fast-traveling back to Hateno, where I quickly give Robbie the medallion, and he upgrades my Purah Pad so that I can now use the fast-travel power from anywhere I place the travel medallion. He also tells me he can further upgrade the Purah Pad so I can have as many as 3 travel medallions. I’ve already explored enough of the world to unlock the 2nd one, and he says I need to visit more SkyView Towers to unlock the 3rd. It looks like there’s only one more place to go to unlock a tower, in the Gerudo Heights area, where I have yet to travel to. Despite ranging far and wide all over Hyrule, above and below, there’s so many places that I’ve barely been to for any length of time: Goron City, Zora’s Domain, Lurelein Village, Hateno, Gerudo Town. I’ve barely been to any of them, really. Goron City and Hateno being the most explored of these, but still just one real visit so far to each.

There’s a lone cherry tree blossoming on a mountaintop near Hateno Village, and I glide out to it, to make offering and summon Satori, Lord of the Mountain. He appears, and reveals the locations of hidden secrets all around in this part of the world. I try to mark a few of them, but again the topography hides a lot of the cave entrances from view, so I can’t easily mark them with Map Pins. It seems like it’s easier/better to visit them in person.

I travel back to Dueling Peaks Stable, to get some more of my armor upgraded at the fairy fountain nearby. I am able to upgrade a lot of my stuff up to level 2, but it’s expensive. These fairies in TOTK need rupees as well as materials in order to do upgrades, and for 50 a pop to go to Level 2, per item, it’s a fuckload of rupees. This game is going to make me grind forever to get everything. I don’t have even half of the armor sets, and not even one complete set yet. While I’m here, I visit the well there, and screw up, scaring 3-4 fairies away by whistling accidentally. FML.

I give a lot of meat the the dog here, but apparently once you’ve found the hidden treasure for a given dog, it doesn’t regenerate, so I just end up wasting a bunch of meat feeding the dog.

I talk to the guy who thinks there’s some special Pumpkin in the woods nearby, and I go again to look for it, but don’t find it. I do find a bunch of other forage, and end up fighting some bokoblins, an evermean, and the Hinox, who has re-spawned here. This Hinox fight is very wasteful, as I lob probably 8-9 bombs at it, and hit it with a bunch of arrows, missing the eye almost every time, I’m just sucking at everything I’m trying to do today in this game. I do manage to take down the Hinox, and decide that’s enough for now, and give it a rest.