The handsome logo for Segagaga, one of my absolute favorite video game concepts: you run a fantasy RPG version of Sega, the ailing game console company, fending off rival electronics behemoth SonyDOGMA (at the time, the Sega Dreamcast was facing its untimely demise). A surrealist, sarcastic, postmodern metafiction of the Japanese game industry from the inside, satire on a shoestring budget with a bit of loving apology for what was about to happen with Sega and the business in general.
“The Japanese bubble burst in 1993 – that was the start of the recession and the economic downturn. At the very same time, the gaming industry was keeping going just as if it was the boom time. In 1999, it was becoming clear that the boom was fading fast for the industry. Coincidentally, we were making SGGG at this very turning point. Near the end of the game, the hero is fired because his company closes, and he finds refuge in a game store near Sega that actually existed! The store manager is Alex Kidd – he was also fired from Sega, when Sonic arrived. The message to the hero is that no matter how bad things look, there is no point in crying over the industry. You have to carry on – just like Alex Kidd, who is working hard.“
Early 1990’s gamers all surely remember the schlocky FMV games like Sewer Shark (sadly directed by VFX legend John Dykstra!), Night Trap (widely attacked in the U.S. Senate by Joe Lieberman!!), and Double Switch (starring Corey Haim and Debbie Harry!!!), and probably even get a cold chill whenever the name Digital Pictures comes up. Turgid, not much fun, and costing in the millions to produce, they were supposed to revolutionize the home entertainment business (anyone remember the $700 Philips CD-i?).
The side of the story that I hadn’t heard until now is that those were actually ports by the time the Sega CD and 3DO came around. Originally those games were created for a late 1980’s Nolan Bushnell-produced VHS (!!!) system called the Control-Vision, aka the NEMO (short for “Never Ever Mention Outside”, an appropriate moniker). Special circuitry in the system would allow games to be encoded onto multi-track VHS tape, jumping quickly (?) between segments as players push the control buttons.
Going up against the then-$100 NES, and with a competing video tape game system that already failed on the market (World of Wonder’s Action Max), Hasbro wisely pulled the plug on the NEMO. All of the expensive FMV footage that was shot would only make the light of day a few years later, squeezed down to a resolution of 256×224 pixels, mercilessly dithered down to 64 colors at a time.
“Touchable Holography”, a hardware demo by researchers from the University of Tokyo at this year’s SIGGRAPH conference. This mostly builds on the work they presented last year involving their “Airborne Ultrasound Tactile Display” (PDF), a device that shoots out directional ultrasound to simulate haptic pressure, like the impact rain has when it hits your skin. I don’t think this current display counts as holography exactly (the image is made with a refracting mirror, just like Sega’s 1991 arcade game Time Traveler!), but being able to reinforce the illusion with the sensation of touch is a cool idea. Hopefully they can expand it to use more than one of their ultrasound boards so they can simulate a feeling that’s more than one-dimensional. Also good to see that researchers are using the inexpensive, off-the-shelf Wiimotes for projects like this.
First localized video from the upcoming Phoenix Wright spinoff, “Miles Edgeworth: Turnabout Prosecutor”. Notable for the series is the move to adventure game-style sprites for the character interaction / investigation scenes. Watching this I realized what must be done: we need a hacked ROM of “Streets of Rage” with these sprites of Edgeworth, Gumshoe, and new “sidekick girl” character Kay replacing Alex, Adam, and Blaze! </videogame nerdery>