Any fan of PC gaming history knows who Roberta Williams is. As one of the co-founders of Sierra On-Line, she and her husband Ken revolutionized the industry with their innovative (and frustratingly obtuse) adventure titles. Now she’s picking up another award for her contributions, the GDC Pioneer Award.
Game Developers Conference
Microsoft’s schedule for the 2019 Game Developer’s Conference has been revealed, and it hints at something surprising for the future of XBox Live. When it was first posted, one of the panels was called “Xbox Live: Growing & Engaging Your Gaming Community Across iOS, Android, Switch, Xbox, and PC.” Wait, Switch?
Yesterday during GDC, two men who worked on the original Sonic the Hedgehog game — character designer Naoto Oshima and game designer Hirokazu Yasuhara — took to the stage to show off some previously unseen proto-Sonic sketches and explain the thinking behind one of the most iconic game characters ever. Some of what they revealed, we knew already. We knew Sonic is blue because the Sega logo is blue. We knew Sega toyed around with various animals like a rabbit and a dog before settling on a hedgehog. What we didn’t know is that all those drawings were made at once and shown off during a meeting between high-ups at Sega of Japan and America. Then they took a trip to Central Park and asked random citizens which drawing they liked best. The hedgehog won the vote. The second most popular choice? An egg-shaped man with a huge mustache. Sega decided to keep him and make him the villain. Now here’s where things get weird. Oshima revealed at one point, nothing about Sonic or his world was supposed to be real….because in the context of the backstory, it was all from a children’s book. Also, World War II was involved. There was an American fighter pilot nicknamed “Hedgehog” because he flew so fast that his hair stood up on end. His teammates marked his plane with nose art resembling a blue hedgehog. Later when the man left the service and got married, his wife became inspired by the hedgehog art to create the Sonic story. This was the original framing device for Sonic 1. Obviously they didn’t go with it. Nor did they go with the idea to make Sonic dance. We have no clue how it would have worked in the context of gameplay, but Sonic was supposed to be an excellent dancer. They scrapped the idea due to a lack of available animation frames on the Genesis. More from the conference can be learned here. By the way, Oshima said nothing about Sonic having a human girlfriend named Madonna, but that was originally in there too.
This week during the Game Developers Conference, Frank Cifaldi, head of restoration at developer Digital Eclipse, hosted an hour-long talk on game preservation. Frank’s company is frequently hired to get older games working on modern systems; one of Digital Eclipse’s most recent projects was transferring the original 8-bit Mega Man game into a format that would play on today’s consoles and phones. Polygon was there and wrote down the most interesting points. What got Frank interested in game preservation was what happened to films when there was no preservation effort for media of any kind. “According to the Film Foundation, over half the films made before 1950 are gone,” Cifaldi said. “I don’t mean that you can’t buy these on DVD. I mean they’re gone. They don’t exist anymore.” Cifaldi went on to say the figure prior to 1920 is even worse at an 80 percent loss. “That terrified me. I wasn’t particularly a film buff, but the idea of these works just disappearing forever and never being recoverable scared the crap out of me. So I started wondering is anyone doing this for games. Is anyone making sure that video games aren’t doing the same stupid **** that film did to make their heritage disappear? And yeah, there were people doing this. We didn’t call them archivists. We didn’t call them digital archeologists or anything. We called them software pirates.” Frank mentioned Nintendo specifically as being most strict about this. In Nintendo’s case, however, it’s rather moot since the odds of the Mario library disappearing from history are extremely low. They’ve been rather good at keeping their history available, purchasable and playable. But as games have become more sophisticated, complicated and dependent on servers, they’ve become harder to preserve, and Frank could be correct — we could be facing a loss of game history as wide as the 80% that movies created in the 1920’s experienced. Unlike film, today’s digital games can’t be simply found in a basement or a junkyard years later. Once they’re gone, they’re gone. They’re literally deleted out of existence. Cifaldi makes a good point and I wish his speech was available online (if it turns up, we’ll update the page). Right now it might be a legal gray area, but in 35,000 years, no one will care who owned what. They’ll care about how much of it is still accessible.
Star Crusade: War For The Expanse, developed by ZiMAD Games, has gotten a new trailer, as well as some new screenshots at this years Game Developers Conference (GDC). You can watch the new trailer for the game below. Currently in beta onSteam, the game will put players in control of one of six mighty factions vying for power in a faraway sector of outer space. Star Crusade: War for the Expanse will offer a deep and highly customizable card battle experience with more than 400 playable cards set in a rich sci-fi universe with multiple play modes, including single-player matches, ranked matches and random draft “raid” battles. The game also emphasizes strategic deck construction by letting players vary the size of their decks from 25 to 40 cards; smaller decks start the game first and develop more quickly, but larger decks have more survivability. Speaking about the game, ZiMAD producer Alex Rechevskiy said: “There are few truly dominant players in the digital CCG scene, but we intend to change that. We feel so strongly about the strategic deck construction, Modules, and multiple play modes in Star Crusade – which we know will add tons of variety to the genre – that we’re ready to take on all comers. Come play the game at GDC and see for yourself.” The game has a number of key features including: Massive Strategy: Experience endless variety with a massive pool of more than 400 playable cards – complement the strengths of your faction with an array of neutral mercenary cards to build the next killer tournament deck.