Read Me: The best retro gaming reads (October 2019)

Read Me is a regular column where we collate the best recent reads on retro gaming.

The Sumerian Game: The Most Important Video Game You’ve Never Heard Of

Kate Willaert of A Critical Hit has researched early computer games and tells us about the first game with a narrative, The Sumerian Game.

The Sumerian Game was the first narrative video game. And the first video game writer was a woman named Mabel Addis.

The student sits down at an IBM 1050 terminal connected to a time-shared IBM 7090 mainframe computer and a slide projector. But before the game starts, they player is introduced to the world of Sumer via a slideshow synchronized to a cassette tape.

This is the first cutscene! The first unskippable cutscene!

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NULLED: The Typing of the Dead (Arcade, 1999)

You know House of the Dead? The classic light gun arcade game by Sega? We learned this month that there was a spin off typing game, and it ain’t no Mavis Beacon! David C James of Pixel Hunted finds one in the wild…

So what the hell is The Typing of the Dead? It’s essentially a zombie-themed typing tutorial game adapted from The House of the Dead 2. You play two AMS Agents fighting to save a zombie-infested city, but rather than handguns they have chunky Dreamcast consoles strapped to their backs and QWERTY keyboards slung around their necks.

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The mysterious origins of an uncrackable video game

John Aycock and Tara Copplestone are ‘video game archaeologists’ who are studying 500 Atari 2600 games to see how they were made. Chris Baraniuk of BBC Future digs deeper…

He too remembered being confused by the table at the time. “I couldn’t unscramble it,” he told the researchers. And he claimed it had been the work of a programmer who developed it while not entirely sober: “He told me it came upon him when he was drunk and whacked out of his brain.” Aycock tried to contact the programmer in question but got no response.

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We Stand on the Shoulders of Giants

Author of SNES emulator, bsnes, on the process of building on other’s work and allowing yours to be built on.

My hope is that the broader community can see emulation as team effort, and not as a competition. It isn’t about who did it first, or who did it best. It’s about making sure the works of video game studios can live on, and that our great-grandchildren can, if they so choose, look back and see how video gaming began.

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Soulfire: The MC Hammer Game We Couldn’t Touch

DillyDylan of Gaming Alexandria gets the lowdown on the cancelled Sega CD game, Hammer vs. Evil D. in Soulfire.

The premise of the game was that the player (as M.C Hammer) would’ve been seen fighting zombie creatures known as “soul suckers”, converting their lost souls into posse members. An average level would be a street scene, similar in vein to something like Double Dragon. Hammer would introduce the level, the music would start, and Hammer would start dancing in sync.

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Knight Orc (Level 9) … yes, it actually exists!

Arcadian on the BBC / Acorn Stardot forums gives us news that the previously thought missing BBC Micro game, Knight Orc, has been found.

In what may well be the find of the year (from a games perspective at least!), the BBC Micro/Master version of Level 9 Software’s Knight Orc – which was alleged to have been in the possession of the Centre from Computing History – was successfully archived thanks to a collective effort from Stardot members at this weekend’s ABug meetup in Cambridge.

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Atari Gotcha: The Boob Game

Tony Temple of Arcade Blogger on Atari’s controversial arcade game, Gotcha, where you control your character using essential a breast.

As Atari’s Product Designer, George Faraco was tasked with producing the cabinet design for the game. As you’d expect, the machine was fairly traditional looking – upright wooden cabinet, a monitor, plastic monitor shroud and of course the two joysticks required for the players to control their on screen sprites. There are many theories as to why, but perhaps as a reflection of the sexually liberated times of the 70s, or a deliberate attempt to stir up controversy, or indeed just simple humour (because they ‘could’), Faraco surrounded the joystick mechanism with a bright pink dome – the intention being that each player cups the mound and moves it around to control the on-screen action:

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The Secret afterlife of the Amiga CD32

After Commodore went belly-up, the CD32 was used by an Italian firm to make arcade games. Were they any good? Paul Rose of Digitiser finds out..

The Amiga CD32 was a last rattle of the tin for Commodore; a half-buttocked, ill-considered, attempt to get a palsied finger-hold in the burgeoning CD console market.

Though technically it was the first 32-bit CD games console, that’s a bit like praising the first moon landing attempt by a four year-old in his homemade, diarrhoea-powered, cardboard space rocket.

Oddly, in 1995 – the year following the official end of both the console, and all things Amiga – the CD32 gained a sort of vague half-life as an arcade system, courtesy of Milanese company CD Express, the result of a licensing deal struck prior to Commodore’s dismal termination.

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