Tag Archives: kickstarter

Retronauts hits Episode 100 again, but this time it’s not the end

Well, we finally did it. We survived long enough to reach episode 100.

Well, OK; the original run of Retronauts hit episode 100, too. But I always think of that series as having only made it to 99, because 99 was where I decided to call it quits. The show never recovered from the 1UPocalypse at the beginning of 2009, the day that Hearst Publishing and UGO decided to acquire 1UP and the Ziff-Davis games magazine group and promptly lay off 2/3s of the people who made those properties worth reading and listening to. Since Retronauts was built on a foundation of having free access to several dozen veteran games journalists whom I could easily pull into the studio for an hour to jaw about their favorite classic games, the layoffs meant 2/3s of our resources were taken from us on that bitter January day. Several other people tried their hand at hosting in the wake of those cuts, but they also found the show too difficult to pull together for long as well.

And so, the original Retronauts episode 100 existed only as a final footnote to the show — less a proper episode and more of a chance for the regulars to get together and reminisce for a bit. And it didn’t even go the way it was supposed to, because several of the intended participants weren’t able to make the session! All in all, a fitting and honestly somewhat bleak end to the original run, after which it was relaunched into a call-in show (bad idea) and eventually resuscitated by Bob (good idea).

This episode 100, on the other hand, is not an ending, and it doesn’t represent a final statement before a cataclysmic format change borne of desperation. No, this episode only ties a bow on one thing, and that is an outstanding obligation from our Kickstarter campaign. We finally managed to get together with our final “cohost an episode” level backer to record the episode he paid for. (And the remainder of our lingering Kickstarter incentive obligations will be wrapped up just as soon as I’m done with my current BitSummit/recording weekend trip. Expect an update next week!) Getting together with Daniel seemed a fitting capper for the first 100 episodes of the crowd-funded and independent era of Retronauts, but in this case the “capper” is simply a number, nothing literal. Bob’s already uploaded episode 101 to Patreon, and by the end of this weekend’s recording session we’ll have more than a dozen episodes in the can for future release. Ain’t no gettin’ offa this train we’re on, friends.

MP3, 27.9 MB | 51:23
Direct download
Retronauts on iTunes
Retronauts at PodcastOne

Oh, and there is one other thing: The cover art this week is a taste of our new site design and branding artwork, which will be making its full debut very soon.

So no, episode 100 is not the end this time around. It’s almost, I dunno, a new beginning. So thank you for your support these past 100 episodes, and we hope you’ll stick with us for the next 100. (And beyond that, really, but we don’t want to come off as greedy.)

Episode description: For our 100th full episode since our crowdfunded relaunch, we complete a long-overdue Kickstarter obligation by inviting backer Daniel Hawks to join us in a discussion of the early days and notable landmarks of CD-ROM gaming.

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The ZX Spectrum Next meddles with the primal forces of nature and cooks an egg

No.

 

This isn’t right.

 

Not at all.

 

You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Olifiers. And you will atone.

What we have here is the ZX Spectrum Next (which has been talked about previously at Retronauts towers) showing off the benefits of its new, larger FPGA — which it reached thanks to achieving its first stretch goal. Because of this, they’ve been able to add some more functionality to the system…part of that being the ability to play with (or emulate accurately) a SID music chip. The SID is, of course, the chip that was used in the Commodore 64 to make some of the best game music of the decade — created by Robert Yannes, it was a technical marvel that still baffles people somewhat today, considering that most other computers at the time (including the Spectrum 48k) possessed little more than a single-channel beeper in terms of sound. The Spectrum 128k upgraded its sound to an AY chip — the same sort of thing you get in a Game Boy — but still, the SID was the undisputed champion in the world of ’80s computer sound.

Even though I myself belong more to the Spectrum crowd than the C64 crowd, hearing a ZX Spectrum playing SID tunes so effectively is almost wrong, as if the streams have just been crossed. Of course, it is just a cool little bit of functionality and emulation — the Spectrum Next folk are not busy cannibalising old C64’s and cutting out their SID chips in order to stick them into the Spectrum Next (something that actually can happen to C64’s that you buy on Ebay due to the chip’s value as a synthesizer), but the feeling this brings is strange, as if someone managed to get a Mega Drive cartridge to run on a Super Nintendo. We truly are in an odd dimension.

In other Speccy Next-related news, the system has already managed to secure itself a big name character — one that may be familiar to anyone who grew up in the era. Dizzy is an egg with hands and feet, and the ability to roll around all over the place collecting objects, solving puzzles and saving his kinfolk from evil wizards — he was one of the most popular characters around back in the UK computer days with several big games under his belt, although there’s a chance that Americans may know him from Fantastic Dizzy, which did come out for both the NES and the Mega Drive/Genesis. It has been announced by the creators of the series, Philip and Andrew Oliver (better known as The Oliver Twins), that a brand new Dizzy game directed by themselves and made by a team that remade Crystal Kingdom Dizzy — one of the more maligned entries in the Dizzy canon — will be released onto the ZX Spectrum Next, not for two pounds nor for three pounds, but for free as a way of commemorating the success of the project. After several false starts and failed Kickstarters, said new game will be the first official Dizzy title in 25 years, ending a pretty long wait.  Speaking of the project, there are four days left to run on the Next’s Kickstarter, and it stands at over half a million pounds — if you fancy sticking your two’pennorth in, then don’t hesitate to do so.

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The ZX Spectrum Next Stretches out to 400K on Kickstarter

The ZX Spectrum Next. Pretty little thing, innit?

Following 10 days of campaigning, the ZX Spectrum Next has proven to be something of a big deal on Kickstarter, earning its £250,000 goal in just 24 hours and now standing at over £400,000 with just under 3 weeks still to run on the campaign. It now seems that the project — an FPGA-based attempt to recreate the classic British computer — could well end up creating a much stronger computer than its original inspiration. The project has already breezed through one stretch goal to upgrade the FPGA chip inside the system, and is on course to reach a goal that guarantees the possibility of memory expansion. Other stretch goals are still to be announced.

Reviving the ZX Spectrum is something that a fair few people have either tried to do, or have projects on the go for — there’s a pretty high demand for it in the UK, and as worldwide awareness of the classic games available on the system has grown more people outside of the UK have expressed their desire to get into the system… however, the system can be something of a pain to play for people outside of PAL regions (later, I’ll write a post letting American folks know of the best way to play Speccy games). Most efforts so far have been largely ARM-based system on a chip affairs that concentrate on emulation, but the Spectrum Next is different — because it’s FPGA-based, no emulation is involved at all. That could make the experience that little bit more authentic for some people.

Midnight Resistance is pretty awesome on Speccy, and Jim Bagley programmed it.

The Spectrum Next, a project led by Brazilian-based retro hackers Victor Trucco and Fabio Belavenuto, original ZX Spectrum designer Rick Dickinson, Jim Bagley — developer of classic ZX Spectrum titles such as the Ocean Software ports of Midnight Resistance and Cabal — and Bossa Studios co-founder Henrique Olifiers, is not something that has just appeared overnight. Public comment on the project dates back to the start of last year, when the system was announced with full specifications and Dickinson’s sleek modern-yet retro design already in place; crowdfunding was always set to be part of the project, and after a year or so of quiet hype, the team’s labours are paying off.

What exactly are the Spectrum Next’s intentions, then? It is aimed to be compatible with most classic pieces of Speccy hardware, so there’s no need to throw away any old Kempston Joysticks, SpecDrums and Currah Microspeeches you have lying around — and it does have the all-important HDMI-out feature, with the help of a Raspberry Pi Zero, so it’ll look reet nice on your modern telly. If you wish to have something shiny and snazzy looking to bust out yer 3D Death Chases and Manic Miners on, the new system can do that comfortably with SD Card storage — and if the thought of not waiting at least 3 minutes for a game to load is as troubling to you as it is to me, don’t fret; you can still dust off your old external cassette deck, hook it up to the Next, and load up games the old fashioned way. The board has even been designed so that it’ll fit neatly inside an old ZX Spectrum 48k case.

Castlevania: Spectral Interlude is one of the best examples of the games that are still being made for the Spectrum right now.

However, the Spectrum Next is designed with more than just the old classics in mind; it is a continuation of a trend that’s seen hardware hackers and demosceners do things with the old Spectrum that’d make Whistlin’ Rick Wilson’s trousers fall down. The Speccy has always had a popular homebrew scene, one that’s occasionally turned heads with the likes of Castlevania: Spectral Interlude, an excellent fan-made take on the series with a unique Spectrum touch — but away from variations on popular games, a great deal of new Spectrum titles are still being made for the 35 year old computer. The Next is made so that these projects can go even further, with the team openly wondering on their Kickstarter page about what hackers could do with it and thinking that we might see an OpenGL Spectrum in the future… it’ll be a while before the power of this system is truly unleashed, but the Next may well be a good buy if you’re looking for new games with an old computer twist.

At this stage, it seems as though the Spectrum Next is now the clear frontrunner out there when it comes to projects that bring the old system back to life, particularly as the more game-focused Vega+ handheld — a project backed by Sir Clive Sinclair himself — has continued to struggle with delays, controversy, in-house bickering and angry backers demanding news on when the beleaguered system will actually be done.  It helps that Henrique, Jim and company are actually able to show off the board itself, immediately dispelling any notion that the Next would be just another emulator-based system. Backers have the option of pledging for just the board at the cost of £99, while the finished computer is available at the £175 pledge level, with delivery estimated for January 2018. The case design and the board are already there then, and the Next as a computer exists — what remains to be seen now is how the vagaries and difficulties of creating molds, mass production and shipping will affect the product.  But the team have a plan to make the ZX Spectrum relevant well beyond its 35th year, and there’s a definite chance that they will succeed.

You can even play Doom!

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By request, we explore the Chrongaming mini-craze

So, I feel that it’s really important to preface this post with the disclaimer that this episode is a Kickstarter backer request (one of the last in the slushpile). I mention this because otherwise this episode will seem almost offensive self-indulgent and navel-gazing. While many Kickstarter backers requested we tackle one of a variety of episode topics, Sean Clements had but one demands: Talk about chrongaming.

Chrongaming, of course, would be the practice of exploring a console’s entire library in chronological order; the best-known venture out there is Dr. Sparkle‘s Chrontendo, which catalogs the history of Nintendo’s NES/Famicom in exhaustive detail. So of course we asked the good doctor to join us again, following on from his appearance in our very first Kickstarted episode. (Although as we learn here, Dr. Sparkle calls it “chronogaming,” not “chrongaming.” Live and learn, Sean!) Less famous, but rather closer to home, is my very own Game Boy World project, which aims to do the same thing as Chrontendo, except for the Game Boy platform, which is much less popular as a retrogaming topic than the NES. Even Dr. Sparkle wanted nothing to do with it!

So, needless to say, it’s the two of us and Bob jabbering about our own work for 80 minutes. Or airing out our sick personal obsessions, if you prefer. My apologies to all, but the people demanded it. Or at least one person. The tyranny of crowdfunding, eh?

Can a podcast be self-indulgent if the topic was provided by someone else? The famous Dr. Sparkle joins us to fulfill Sean Clements’ Kickstarter topic request: Chrongaming. Join us as we psychoanalyze our own obsessive-compulsive behavior!

Listen or download here:

Libsyn (1:52:00 | MP3 Download) | SoundCloud | Subscribe on iTunes | RSS | Support the show on Patreon

Music in the episode comes from NES “brototype” game Shatterhand, which I’ve never really played… but damn does that soundtrack rock.

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A Rare opportunity for education with Episode 35

episode 35 cover

Hi everyone, it’s Monday. And we all know Garfield hates Mondays because he hates awesome podcasts about video game history. But since you enjoy such things, you’ll be delighted to know that the latest episode of Retronauts is now live. Perhaps you’ll even be chuffed, given that today’s episode takes us to jolly old England to explore the history of one that land’s most legendary developers, Rare.

Ye olde description:

UK ex-pat Jaz Rignall joins Bob and Jeremy to discuss England’s crown jewel: Rare. From their early era as Ultimate Play the Game to their N64 glory days, we cover the full history of this enigmatic developer. By request of Kickstarter backer Michael Lee!

And the usual shenanigans:

Libsyn (1:49:23 | MP3 Download) | SoundCloud | Subscribe on iTunes | RSS | Support the show on Patreon

Incidentally, we’ve just about wrapped up all our Kickstarter episodes with this — just a handful more to go! Drop us a line if you were a backer at the episode or co-hosting level and still haven’t told us what you want, OK? And the backer-exclusive content hasn’t been forgotten about! Expect good news on that front soon…

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Retronauts on USgamer: The tale of Capcom

Hey, everyone. I’d like to chime in and thank everyone who has signed up for our podcast Patreon campaign already — a mere two days in and we’re already to the second tier of funding (biweekly episodes, mini episodes on the off weeks, and streams aplenty) and about a third of the way to the next! That’s really fantastic, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the support.

While that ticks along, Bob and I have already started to plan Retronauts content for USgamer… and by “plan” I mean “publish.” Today I’ve posted a Kickstarter backer-requested article on USG. The original plan was to put it here on the blog, but it makes more sense to put it on a site where it’ll get more eyeballs, right?

capcom-header

This particular piece comes to us at the behest of Greg Spenser, who wanted us to write about Capcom’s 8- and 16-bit eras. And that’s exactly what has happened — so please, enjoy this brief look back at the evolution of Capcom during the NES and 16-bit days. And, of course, please continue reading USG and our Twitter feed for more Retronauts-related content to fill your brain with old things as we build up toward the new season of podcasts that kicks off December 1!

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What a horrible night to have Retronauts Pocket Episode 25

Our current run of Retronauts is winding down, and this marks my last stint in the hosting chair for this season. After venturing out into the terrifying world of unfamiliar UK games from the ’80s last week, I felt compelled to scurry back to the comforting embrace of the familiar this time around. Yes, it’s a return to that most abused and tired of classic Retronauts topics, Castlevania.

Pocket 25 cover

Since all those old episodes have long since vanished into the ether, we figured, “Why not?” We’ll almost certainly be revisiting topics from the older, now-missing seasons of Retronauts in the next phase of the show. Consider this a sort of warning shot, I suppose.

Not really much to say here except that the music is from the Akumajou Dracula MIDI Collection album, and also thanks! It’s been an interesting and sometimes challenging run fielding your various topic requests, and I hope you’ve enjoyed what we’ve put together over the past year. Thank you for your support, and I’m sure you’ll hear me stambling my way through hosting duties again in the not-too-distant future.

A buffet of download options awaits you!

Direct download (MP3) | SoundCloud | RSS
Please subscribe to and review us on the iTunes Store because, eh, why not.
You can also listen right here on this very blog post if you prefer:

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Retronauts Vol. III Episode 25: (Union) Jack in for 100 minutes of ’80s games history

retronauts 25 uj cover

In the many years we’ve been doing Retronauts (the show is almost eligible to be its own topic at this point), our one big weakness has been our coverage of ’80s UK gaming. This has made many people angry and is widely considered… well, kind of inevitable, really. The British 8-bit microcomputer scene of the ’80s was very specific to Britain; outside of the Commodore 64, all the systems that defined the decade for England never really had much availability or impact beyond the English Channel. Though it would prove to be a fertile ground for major players who remain active today (Jeff Minter! Codemasters! DMA Designs aka Rockstar North! Psygnosis aka Sony Liverpool! Peter Molyneux! Rare!), the actual games that those legendary designers and studios created rarely left the UK.

The importance of the scene has made it a crucial gap for the show, but the insularity of the scene has made it difficult to speak to it with any authority, what with us being outsiders and all. So, for my final episode of this backer-supported season of Retronauts — for which you can thank one Mike Wasson, by the way — I could think of no more appropriate scheme than to rectify Retronauts’ greatest failing at long last by tracking down someone who actually lived in the UK and followed the gaming scene.

Handily, this required almost zero effort on my part, given that Bob and I happen to work with an icon of the ’80s UK gaming press: USgamer editor-at-large Jaz Rignall, who covered the 8-bit micro scene as a feisty teenager back in Thatcher’s England. We did the research for this one, but he fills in the generalities and hearsay with experience and perspective. The result is, I think, one of our best episodes ever (despite so, so many technical issues), a whirlwind tour of a fascinating but (to us) alien facet of game history. I hope you also enjoy it!

Thanks to Jaz for joining in (despite our scheduling the recording session during the World Cup final, sorry!) and to Mike for prompting us to shore up this particular weakness.

Fill your earholes through the delivery system of your choosing:

Direct download (MP3) | SoundCloud | RSS
Please subscribe to and review us on the iTunes Store because I DON’T KNOW!
You can listen right here if for some reason you are so inclined:

Links, curated with love for your edification:

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Retronauts Pocket 22 and the joy of superfluous keypads

retronauts 22 pocket cover

Hi everyone, sorry this episode is a little late. I’ve had a busy week, not least of all because Bob just came aboard full time at USgamer, and I’ve been trying to whip him into shape. Dude is recalcitrance personified.

This latest Pocket episode revisits a topic that I’d actually forgotten we covered at all — the ColecoVision. But someone told me we did one of those, back in the olden times. After doing 150 of these shows, they start to blend together. In any case, I’m confident that this exploration of the ColecoVision is far more entertaining than any supposed forays into this topic that may or may not have happened once long ago.

We’ve already covered the NES and Atari 2600, and if I have my druthers this episode is simply another checkmark in our journey to jabbering about every classic 8-bit console. Stay tuned.

Retronauts Pocket 22 direct download | SoundCloudRSS feed
And this is our obligatory spot where we beg for iTunes reviews.

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Daaaarliiiing, it’s Retronauts Episode 22

Actually, despite the art and blog post title, this episode really has nothing to do with Lum or Urusei Yatsura. It’s just that we got sidetracked by a tangent about anime of the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, and lacking any particular cohesive theme for this episode I decided to use that brief distraction as an excuse to draw Lum. I believe this makes for a “deal with it” kind of situation. So sorry.

retronauts 22 cover

This episode’s theme ended up being… well, let’s just say we played fast and loose. Kickstarter backer Jonathan Anderson wanted us to talk about misplaced nostalgia or nostalgia for things we never experienced, and we did our best to fulfill this mandate. I’m not promising we succeeded, but by god we gave it a shot.

Also of note: Long-time Retronauts contributor Chris Kohler finally makes his Vol. III debut. Huzzah!

This episode’s soundtrack selections come from Final Fantasy V, which we discussed somewhat at length near the beginning of the show. And my apologies if the sound quality isn’t perfect this week; I edited and assembled this podcast on a cross-country plane flight, so I can’t tell if the incessant whining sound was the plane engines or something in the podcast itself.

Anyway, please enjoy. Especially you, Jonathan Anderson.

Listen and download, fleshy mortals:

Direct download (MP3) | SoundCloud | RSS 

Finally, please consider leaving us a nice review on iTunes Store, because it’s an easier (and less creepy) way to express your enthusiasm for Retronauts than hunting us down and hugging us.

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