Retronauts Pocket Episode 10: Recorded Long, Long Ago in a Studio Far, Far Away

Retronauts Pocket 10 cover

Something I’ve noticed (as has Bob, and I assume Ray as well) about the feedback we’ve received for Retronauts is that it has a tendency to praise one host or hosting style in a way that tends to diminish the other contributors to the show — perhaps not intentionally, but that’s what subtext is all about, baby. And so it goes. People like different kind of productions, and they’re drawn to different personalities. The best thing about the current format for Retronauts (besides its existence, for which thanks again, everyone) is that the three of us all take different approaches to producing our episodes. Bob’s super meticulous and organized, and Ray comes in with punchy zingers and well-timed sound drops.

As for me… I’ve long since discovered that the more carefully I plan a show, the worse it turns out. Which is why you have episodes like this one, where the three of us went into the studio with IGN’s retro arcade gaming fanatic Sam Claiborn with no real structure or plan in mind besides “talking about Star Wars’ influence on video games.” And, as you can see from the results, sometimes this approach leads to an abject failure in terms of meeting the stated objective — we actually struggled pretty hard to come up with good examples, and honestly I don’t think we succeeded. But on the other hand, the conversation itself is fun to listen to, and isn’t that what it’s all about? (Please say yes.)

And hey, if you hate it… Ray and Bob are up next.

In the meantime, let’s go for some audience participation. What obvious Star Wars influence on games did we somehow overlook? Chastise us in the comments!

Direct download (MP3, 27.8 MB, 40:01) | SoundCloud | Our fancy iTunes presence

Description: IGN’s Sam Claiborn joins Jeremy, Bob, and Ray to explore more of the roots of classic games by discussing the influence of Star Wars (if any!) on the medium.

40 thoughts on “Retronauts Pocket Episode 10: Recorded Long, Long Ago in a Studio Far, Far Away

  1. “is that the three of us all take different approaches to producing our episodes. ”

    ^ and that is why the new retronauts is so good. don’t listen to the whiners.

    • No one’s really whining. It’s more a matter of reading between the lines when one episode/host is held up as so good compared to the rest. I feel like there’s room for all the different approaches!

  2. While I love the Ray and Bob schools of Retronauts as a huge fan of Bob’s Retronauts Live tenure and Ray’s work on NoMoWo, for me Retronauts is a bunch of guys in a cramped room talking over each other with little to no organization, rhyme or reason as Jeremy sardonically bemoans the entire endeavor.

    Super excited to hit play on this one in 3… 2… 1…

    (PS: any thoughts on Season 2?)

    • I’m so ashamed of all the complainers. Retronauts is a wonderful gift that only happened because three people cared enough to make it for us. Sure we might have given money to the Kickstarter, but that too was a gift. Please keep doing what you’re doing. Selfish feedback be damned.

    • The one issue I have with Bob and Ray as hosts is that sometimes they get a little bit too organized for my taste. Which isn’t to say they do a bad job, because that’s not the case and I enjoy their episodes a great deal.

      However, the way you – Jeremy – handle the podcast (or possibly the way the podcast ends up being with you at the helm) is why I’ve been listening to Retronauts for all these years. It’s less about going down a list and more of a natural discussion that somehow gets navigated so that it hits every point it needs to. It is fiendishly difficult to achieve what you’re doing the way you’re doing it, and the podcast is all the better for it.

    • I don’t quite agree that the Wing Commander series seem to have been directly inspired by Star Wars, I see more connections to Battlestar Galactica (itself heavily Star Wars derivative though) and Star Trek. The overall plot of the first few games is pretty much a mashup of the two, with the Federation and the very Klingon-like Kilrathi at war (and who just like the klingons in Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country have invented a new cloaking technology that lets them attack while cloaked, and the protagonist not being believed when reporting that to his superiors), while the games are all set in Battlestar Galactica style carrier ships with the occasional civilian fleet. The ship designs themself look much more BSG than Star Wars – the Kilrathi ships you meet in the first few missions look exactly like the Cylon ships in BSG, a user at Wing Commander CIC posted a series of comparison shots a few years ago:

  3. Without even listening I can safely say: podcast icon of the year. You’re knocking it out of the park with these graphics.

  4. A point about Star Fox.

    The ending of Star Fox 64 is a pretty blatant rip off of Episode 6. (I’m not sure if the SNES ending is the same, I’ve never beaten that one) After defeating Andross at the core of the planet, you have to escape by piloting out of a cramped corridor as an explosion chases you.

    The ending of episode 6 has Lando in the Falcon destroying the core of the Death Star and then escaping through a cramped corridor as an explosion chases you.

    Getting to the surface in both scenes is pretty identical as well. They both fly out of their respective sphere’s as a plume of explosion blossoms behind them and they rocket out into safety.

  5. Buck Rogers and the Planet of Zoom! I think you are the only other person on Earth who has played this game, Jeremy!

  6. You guys talked a bit about there not being a good lightsaber game, but I love how it’s handled in Jedi Knight 2: Jedi Outcast. If you haven’t played it and you want great lightsaber combat, you should definitely check this out on Steam.

    As to the different hosting styles, while I definitely have my preferences, it can see the value in each of the different styles. Ray is like a tornado of facts about accessories, and Jeremy tends to do just enough to steer the ship and no more. Bob’s style is probably my favorite because he seems most comfortable switching between giving us background and structure and sitting back to let the magic happen.

  7. Let’s all be honest, the problem with the Parish episodes is that he doesn’t have Kohler/Sharkey/Mielke to keep things interesting. Jeremy is a great Retronaut contributor, but he isn’t a great host. Bob Mackey keeps the episodes moving along an extremely metered pace and packs them full of content and insight. Ray runs a similar styled show but has brought in really unique topics that actually pertain to gaming, not vague influences on the early stages of the medium. All in all, I don’t want to sound like a hater because I love the Volume I episodes, the Parish-sodes in V3 just haven’t measured up.

  8. Err. Um. I guess I don’t get around to that many places but I don’t really hear the subtext all that much. Well I heard Bob mention something about it on twitter. But isn’t that the kind of thing that should largely be ignored. To me these have been some of the best episodes ever regardless of who was hosting. And as far as researching the episodes, I do think that having a familiarity with the subject matter helps a lot. Nobody expects you to go put and play games you never played for research. But some basic research is always good. Between the 3 of you there is a lot of Videogame experience and history and I think that really shows. But the subtext of judging by hosts is not really fair as mostly all three of you are talking together, and no one show is a product of just one man. I think more of a factor is the subject material on how good the the show is rather than the host.

    As a side note to the comment above, I tend to listen to talk radio in the car or podcasts driving to work more than music these days. And as I have a brain I don’t listen to right wing dominated clear channel pundits. But NPR. I always thought of Jeremy’s hosting as the NPR of game podcasts. Intelligent, calm and engaging. And always leading discussions in interesting directions. A far cry from 5 years ago when you would get the irritated, impatient Jeremy that would sometimes go on a rant. And I like it. Anyway I still have to listen to this episode, but I’m sure it’s not horrible. (But again a little research or an outline or show notes always helps.) Keep up the great work guys!

  9. Honestly, I don’t care who hosts – I hardly even notice! Every episode has been great so far. Especially when enjoyed with a tasty Whopper Jr. , available daily for the low, low cost of only $1.29 thanks to our delicious BK value menu.

  10. Well… You guys touched on it briefly but I think the influence of Star Wars on video games and in pop culture in general is just so pervasive that it has become invisible at this point and hard to discuss. Its just part of the language of games, sci-fi and fantasy. Just like you’re always in the shadow of Shakespeare when you write drama as a westerner. (Clunky comparison, but still.)

    For me, Super Star Wars and Star Wars Arcade lit a forgotten flame and helped keep my interest alive while the franchise was sleeping. There wasn’t even any proper VHS copies floating around until 95 I believe. SW was just simmering beneath the surface and my weird little obsession, which is so hard to imagine now.
    I think thanks to the SNES games, I started collecting old issues of Marvel Star Wars, because that was really the only other thing I could find. Certainly no one talked about SW in school.
    Then a year or two after I got hold of the Thrawn trilogy books, Dark Empire and the rest of the Dark Horse comics came out and then it was just one long drumbeat getting louder and louder leading up to the 97 Special Editions. Dark Forces, X-Wing/Tie-Fighter, Rebel Assault and Jedi Knight were a super big deal for me. The live action cutscenes of Jedi Knight and Rebel Assault! Holy crap….. First live action StarWars seen in almost two decades! Cheesy or not I ate it all up.

    And I was so excited about Shadows of The Empire and how it was going to feature the new look of Mos Eisley a whole year before the anniversary theatrical release. And then we have a nightmare decade I don’t like to talk about….. : )

    Hopefully the new EA deal will lead to better quality StarWars games, and not just Battlefront FPS titles.

    I still wonder why we never got Han Solo or Boba Fett action games back in the day. Why have we never even controlled Luke with a lightsaber in 3D space? (Masters of Teras Kasi or Jedi Knight multiplayer skins doesn’t count.) And no SCUMM games as you mentioned. It’s baffling really.

    I’m sad that Spaceship games are out of vogue now that we can render X-Wings pretty much the way they look. I hope Star Citizen will bring the genre back.

  11. I’d like to mention Star Craft obviously among the rip-offs. Certainly a lot of the cutscenes of Brood War feel like lazy retellings of the final battle in ROTJ with the emperor and vader. Down to the blue lightning bolts and lightsabers.
    We can’t have Mass Effect obviously without Star Wars. Capcom’s Star Gladiator copies the look wholesale. Phantasy Star Online has the lightsabers.

    Every game that has the “father” plotline or a Death Star ultimate weapon threat going on. Would you guys agree that there is a little bit of Star Wars in Laputa perhaps? If so, then Japan and JRPGs have certainly been heavily influenced just by that link.

  12. It seems that every single first-person space game of the late seventies/early eighties has TIE fighter-looking enemies. Some examples are Cosmic Conflict for the Odyssey 2, Challenge of Nexar for the VCS, and whatever game they play in the arcade in Midnight Madness.

  13. I think Star Strike for the Intellivision was a blatant rip off the Death Star attack run.

    I think it came out somewhere where between the release of The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi.

    Still a pretty fun game and great amongst the other games out at that time.

  14. I’m pretty sure every single Ace Combat has a Death Star trench run analogue level.

    And there’s always Rogue Galaxy …

  15. Some more things I could think of:

    The sci fi part in the first Ultima are very obviously inspired by Star Wars – the Avatar goes into space and shoots down Tie Fighters!

    The Korean arcade game Spark Man from 1989 has AT-STs and Jabba the Hut as enemies.

    I think the up-front villain in Might & Magic V is kinda Darth Vader-ish, too. Although in the end he’s actually a robot.

    In FFXII it was not only the characters, the whole intro sequence had a very pronounced Star Wars vibe, with the camera work, music and everything.

    The horrible Dreamcast game Zusar Vasar rips off pod racing, although the pods are drawn by weird cyber animals.

    Also, wasn’t Knights of the Old Republic the first Bioware game that introduced the very systematic, polarizing good/evil scale that has been in so many RPGs since, by virtue of its Jedi/Sith split? (opposed to the more free-form system of D&D)

  16. I can think of one very early 80s game that was totally ripped off of Star Wars: Star Strike for the Intellivision (and I think 2600). The entire game is a trench run where you have to take out missile launchers before they get into range to blow up the Earth. Enemy fighters periodically come up from behind you to try and shoot you down, too.

    The Exidy arcade game Star Fire also comes to mind as a huge Star Wars rip. The 2600 homebrew follows suit too, with enemy ships looking like TIE fighters, the Death Star, and Slave I.

  17. I enjoyed this podcast as I have all episodes of Retronauts vol.III before. I think the three hosts are doing a fine job and I appreciate it.

  18. I can think of many games influenced by or directly referencing Star Wars. At least from the 90s: Konamis Tiny Toons had some rather obvious ones (Duck Vader), as did Bucky O’Hare and Space Quest. Donkey Kong Country had Ewok villages and shooters like Gradius/Nemesis certainly borrowed set pieces and designs for ships (“shoot the core!”) and other vehicles (AT-ST-Walkers). Some are even pretty much Star Wars space battles without the license (Starblade Alpha).
    And players can use Laser swords in games like Lost Vikings 2, Run Sabre, Star Gladiator, among others.
    You just had to look for those references – they could appear anywhere.

    And those Dune games totally ripped off Tatooine :)

  19. For me, I think the Star Wars influence amounted to more setpieces in games. And yeah, that could also be attributed to other movies, but even those movies were probably influenced by Star Wars. Each scene in Star Wars was its own scenario, inspired by the cliffhangers of those old, campy serials. I think that led to games adopting a similar flow, having levels or areas built around unique gimmicks or situations that tie together to form a narrative.

    And just to chime in on the discussion about the hosts, when I first heard that Jeremy, Ray and Bob were going to be the regular hosts of Retronauts Vol. 3, all I could think was “dream team.” I couldn’t have picked a better trio, no less, no more. …Well, maybe more Kat Bailey. She’s pretty awesome, too!

  20. I love Retronauts. In fact, I think I might be a little borderline obsessive. I actuall went to 1up and downloaded, archived and re-labelled each and every single episode of Retronauts ever recorded. So I basically have Vol. 1, Live, Vol. 3 + all the specials at Pax East, E3, etc…+all the supplemental videos that you guys put out every once in awhile during the 1up days etc. I listen to your new ones every week as soon as they come out and then I even listen to the old ones, even though I’ve probably heard each one a dozen times…Retronauts movie month were classic. I won’t say one host is better than the other because each has his own approach and I love that about the show. I’d like to see some guests from the old 1up posse make appearances if that’s possible. I’m sure they’ve all gone their separate ways but it would be cool to get a couple of them in the studio. In particular: Jose Otero, Kat Bailey, Shane Bettenhausen (yeah, I know he was in the Japan episode recently…I loved it), Marty Sliva, or even some of the guys from Area 5 like Matt and Ryan!

    Wow, this resembles more of a column and less of a comment. My bad, homies. Love the show! Keep it up!!

    Oh and what about Star Wars Battlefront? It pre-dated other 3rd person shooters like Gears of War and was one of the first online-console games (remember the PS2 ethernet adapter, anyone??). I used to play that ALL THE TIME….2nd one was kinda dumb though. Surely, there must’ve been some influence stemming from it? No?

  21. Btw: Have you ever done/considered doing a show about Tron?
    Its realtionship with video games is unique, because it is more symbiotic in nature than normally. Not only was it practically bred by video games, but had quite an impact on games themselves in return. Sometimes that can be felt in gameplay (the Neo Geo frisbee-game Windjammers), but definitely in terms of visual design: The whole typical meta-”V.R” look (like in Metal Gear) goes back to Tron, Rez was a love letter to that movie and the the indie-scene in general seems to like a healthy dose of Tron in their creations.

  22. It was mentioned, but Rogue Galaxy is like the creator’s love letter to Star Wars. A plucky young orphan initially stuck on a desert planet occupied by the evil military, given a legendary sword by a mysterious mentor, and there’s even a badass anti-hero whose allegiances aren’t always clear. Not to mention the whole “one ecosystem per planet” thing like Jungle World, City World, Desert World etc. That game, to me at least, is like FFXII done right. Truly a hidden gem in the PS2′s library.

    Also: Republic Commando isn’t exactly retro but it came out around the same time as games like Rainbow Six and other squad-based FPSes so if it wasn’t the first game to do that it definitely did it the best with superior AI and special abilities that make your teammates unique. Come to think of it, it may have influenced Halo: Reach in that sense!

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