Response to Hyper’s Complete History of Racing Games

hyper_220_cover_front

I want to pre-empt this post with a foreword.

I continue to admire Hyper’s presence in the Australian market – it’s amazing that it continues to hit shelves each month with plenty of great content and coverage of the gaming sector and flies in the face of the downturn being experienced locally and overseas. Even in the wake of US stalwarts, our amazing piece of home-grown gaming journo goodness still comes out each month. Amazing stuff. So this post isn’t meant in any way to take a jab at the magazine, because I have a huge amount of respect and nostalgia-infused love for the publication.

I finished going through the Complete History of Racing Games special in the February 2012 issue (#220) this morning and wanted to write my thoughts on the piece. On the whole, it’s a very nice read – there was great attention paid to the early development of the genre in the arcade and at home, and I really liked the attention given to the home computers of the 80s (especially the C64!). My issues come with a lack of coverage and a bit of bias once things heat up and we hit the mid-90s.

On the arcade side, Virtua Racing was given it’s due, but Daytona was given less attention than Ridge Racer. While the latter’s important as a response to Daytona, the impact Daytona made was enormous as it arguably became the peak of racing games in the arcades, with no title that followed proving as successful. In fact, the success of Daytona was a huge boost to the Model 2 arcade platform Sega used in the mid-90s and saw it become one of the most successful arcade platforms ever, easily putting it in the same realm as the MVS and the Naomi. Namco still did well with Ridge Racer and the System 22 platform, but it is no way comparable to the magic of AM2’s accessible creation.

Another area of contention was the complete disregard to the Saturn. Multiple paragraphs are dedicated to the PSone, and that’s fine – the machine played host to some amazing output from Psygnosis, Polyphony Digital and Namco. But the only mention of the Saturn is comparing Daytona USA to Ridge Racer at launch; while the comparison is apt that the Daytona port looked several shades of rubbish, the game actually plays really well, surprisingly so (especially when played at 60hz). The Saturn also played host to an amazing port of Sega Rally, but going beyond that is a bit of an arguable stretch. Sega Touring Car had a lot of promise, but CSK ruined it with the frame rate issues, and Tantalus’ port of Manx TT didn’t do the machine any favours (though it’s still really cool that an Australian developer got the opportunity to do the port – they also handled the House of the Dead, Wipeout and Wipeout 2097 ports). Daytona USA CCE was highly anticipated, but ultimately failed to deliver in the gameplay stakes (though technically, it looked really nice).

I guess there’s nothing wrong with the amount of space dedicated to the PSone, but it does show things to be a little one-sided. Even Mario Kart 64 rated barely a mention, which I thought was a little odd.

The last issue I wanted to point out was the lack of time dedicated to the Dreamcast or Sega’s arcade movements post-Sega Rally. Model 3-based games such as Daytona USA 2, Scud Racer and Sega Rally 2 were part of the final wave of arcade games where the arcade visuals were unable to be matched at home. While Crazy Taxi earned a mention, it was distinctly offhand – Criterion’s Burnout series arguably owes more than a little inspiration to Crazy Taxi, so it’s a little disappointing when the latter gets a lengthy (and deserved) amount of attention despite the former’s influence and success in the arcade and at home. Also on the DC worthy of discussion are Daytona USA 2001, as it was the first game to almost nail improving on the arcade original’s visuals with almost getting the handling perfect (Daytona HD wins the prize for getting everything perfect) and Le Mans 24 Hours for bringing 24-hour racing in real-time for the DC (plus it was developed by Melbourne House and also looked very pretty). In addition, Bizarre Creations’ Project Gotham Racing is given acknowledgement, but the spiritual predecessor, Metropolis Street Racer on the DC, is given none.

Beyond this though, there’s no mention of OutRun 2/SP/2006, which brought the OutRun franchise back to life in the arcades (powered by the Chihiro board, which closely resembled the Xbox architecture) and also came to home consoles.

Now that I’ve written this little whinge out and have looking it, two things are apparent.

Number one, where I’ve decried Playstation bias in the original article, it’s clearly obvious I’m being just as bad (if not worse) with my bias towards Sega. Thus, my arguments above can be taken as tentative at best if my grand vision for the article was to have the space dedicated to the PSone retracted for Sega ramblings.

Number two, most of the above, when not defending the Saturn, has focused on arcade gaming, which in the late-90s was in serious decline; Napieralski rightly gives the reader a literary cue that discussion was naturally going to start focusing on home platforms instead of covering the last desperate sighs of the arcade sector, so the lack of coverage is definitely acceptable (and to his credit, the Initial D and Maximum Tune series’ were given mention to cap off the discussion).

So, I’ve effectively gone around in circles and have espoused in areas that probably didn’t need to be expanded in the original article. Except for maybe MSR πŸ˜‰

But then again, this is the internet, where passionate discussion on unnecessarily niche topics are allowed to flourish. Thus, it’s better to look at this as purely a response rather than a criticism of the article (hence the title of the post). Accordingly, with this in mind, props to Napieralski and Hyper for giving some dedicated space covering the history of the genre, as it made for an otherwise great read πŸ™‚

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The 2010 C64 haul

C64 - second haul

The images have been in the gallery for ages but I just realised I hadn’t written anything on it!

Last year I picked up a great haul of C64 stuff from a local who was clearing out their old gear. Included in there was a Commodore 1802 monitor, Commodore MPS1250 dot-matrix printer, boxed C64, Commodore 1541-II disk drive, 1530 C2N tape drive and a fair whack of games, including some blank disks (which came in handy when I got my XM-1541 adapter). All up, it was a great haul from a nice local who was happy to see them go to a home that would give them some TLC.

The full roundup is in the C64 collections gallery.

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Gaming sessions – 11 October 2009

Had a quick go at the C64 and some fresh tapes, along with my new tool in my arsenal, a stand-alone tape deck. Makes for speedy rewinding/fast-forwarding of tapes between sessions and save the motor some strain on the tape deck on the C64.

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C64 SID/chiptune music podcasts

Aside from the irregular (but entertaining) Retronauts podcast from 1up, I’ve been getting into some C64-themed podcasts over the last couple of months. The one I’ve been listening to the most would be the C64 Take-away (http://c64takeaway.com/), a great podcast hosted by the very enthusiastic Jan (and occasional host Makke). Based in Copenhagen, the boys do a brill job hosting the show, which features original and classic SID tunes as well as plenty of awesome remixes of classic SID tunes from the C64. I first got into the whole C64 remixing stuff when the first “Back in time” C64 remix soundtrack hit the internet. Gotta love the C64 love out there πŸ™‚ Funnily enough, the latest episode I think had some feedback from another fellow Aussie, which was really cool — glad to know I’m not the only one down here following their show!

After listening to a couple of episodes, I started wandering around looking for some similar stuff, though I was leaning more towards just the SID chiptunes side of things, regardless of whether they were from games or original SID compositions. I haven’t had a stack of luck finding good podcasts (though because I’m an idiot, I didn’t bother looking around the links posted on the C64 Take-away blog, which I only looked at while I was preparing this post!), but I thought I’d share some of the nerd love I’ve found out there… all two of them πŸ˜›

I snagged a random episode off the 8bit Mayhem website (http://8bitmayhem.untergrund.net/), and I was hooked!! Ended up grabbing their entire back-catalogue of episodes πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ There’s no hosting or talking between episodes here, nothing but pure SID goodness. Unfortunately it hasn’t been updated in nearly 12 months, but the back-catalogue is extensive and worthwhile looking into. I’ve got the whole lot sitting on my PC and have really enjoyed them.

Since then, haven’t stumbled onto too much, but I found an excellent SID-related episode over at Hardread’s website (http://hdpodcast.blogspot.com/) – episode 36 was a C64 SID-only special, and it is absolutely amazing (I’m listening to it as I’m typing this post up). If you’re keen to checkout that episode in particular, their page is here. The rest of their gear is chiptunes and demoscene music – if I got into the Amiga when I was younger I’d probably be all over it, but we never upgraded from the C64 until we got our first PC, a 386DX-40, so the C64 was our all-purpose PC until then πŸ™‚

I don’t know what it is about C64 music made on the SID audio chip – it’s just so awesome. It of course helps that the C64 was absolutely massive in Europe during the 80s and 90s, and Europe being the epicenter of dance music in all its various flavours, has meant it wasn’t just blips and blaps coming out of that chip, it was crazy melodies and awesome synth brilliance. My love of chiptunes, game music and dance music on the whole can probably be linked all the way back to all the brilliant music on the C64, whether it be in-game stuff or the awesome demoscene music that cropped up everywhere.

… might have to go and play the C64 after I’ve finished these posts up – I’ve got one more to go before I finish up!

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OMG – C64 SID to MP3 project!!

So I was listening to the most recent podcast from C64 Take-away on the way home from work this week, and found out about an amazing project that’s been happening for the last couple of years – Stone Oakvalley’s Authentic SID Collection (SOASC=), a project where some very talented C64 fans have converted all the songs from The High Voltage SID Collection into MP3 for easy, portable listening!!! According to the SOASC= website (http://www.6581-8580.com/), that’s 154473 files of music recorded from real C64s (encompassing the various chipset revisions 6581R2, 6581R4 & 8580R5). Every song from the HVSC has been recorded on all three of those revisions to ensure nobody misses out on the nostalgia trip…

This is crazy awesome news, as I’ve been doing some SID – MP3 conversion on and off, but only through PC emulator stuff. So the prospect of having so much awesome available for throwing into my iPod playlist is supremely awesome.

The only bummer is that it’s currently offline, though a note on their download page promises there might be an update on this at the end of the month. I can assure you I’ll be there πŸ™‚

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