Month: June 2012

The Sega Dreamcast, "It’s Thinking" About the Future

When Sega released its final video game system, the Dreamcast, the initial promotional campaign was based on the tagline “it’s thinking.” It didn’t work.  Personally, I thought it implied there would be some sort of advanced computing in there to make the artificial intelligence of games much more dynamic.  In truth, it was just stupid advertising-ese.

In hindsight, however, the tagline takes on a new meaning.  The system (rather, its designers) was thinking … but their mindset was far ahead of where console gaming was at the time.

  • It was the first home console with built-in online functionality.  Previous game systems (notably Sega’s own Genesis with the “Sega Channel” or the Super Nintendo and Genesis with the third-party XBand modem) were capable of online gaming thanks to attachments, and contemporary (for the time) systems also required first-person attachments to access the internet.  As a result, online gaming never really took off for consoles until the the XBOX 360 launched with its focus on the XBOX Live service.
  • It had a focus on online gaming.  Because game developers could assume customers had the capability of gaming online they were able to build games with a focus on non-local multi-player gaming.  Titles such as Outrigger, Phantasy Star Online, and Alien Front Online focused on the multi-player functionality to the detriment of the single-player experience, similar to many current gaming franchises (especially first-person shooters.)
  • It had downloadable content (DLC). Again, foretelling a major component of the current generation of gaming’s business models, the Dreamcast was the first console to really feature the ability to add to games with material downloaded from the internet.  From extra quests to Phantasy Star Online to additional songs in Samba de Amigo, there were plenty of reasons to take your game online to see what was available.  Of course, this was before gaming companies realized that DLC was a goldmine, so all of this material was free.

But what got me thinking about the Dreamcast recently?  It was the recent E3, with Nintendo’s continued promotion of the Wii U and the coverage it garnered.   Some video gaming blogs talked excitedly about the possibility of playing console games on a screen that was separate from the main display, as well as the ability to play a portion of the game on the portable device and have it affect the main game.  You see, the Dreamcast already experimented with these ideas.

  • The Visual Memory Unit (VMU) attachment. The Dreamcast required a separate device to save game data.  This was common practice at the time (although the first XBOX had a built-in hard drive.)  Unlike the PS2 and Gamecube’s memory cards, however, the memory unit plugged into the controller and doubled as a separate screen (don’t get too excited, it was a single-color LCD with 48 x 32 resolution.)  There weren’t a lot of games that made use of this feature during gaming, although football games allowed players to pick their plays using the second screen so that you could keep it a secret from your competitors.  There were, however, several games that allowed you to download minigames to the VMU–which was playable outside of the controller thanks to a watch battery–and play them away from the main console.  Often, activity in the minigames would have some impact on the main game once you sycned them back together.

Poor Sega, they were pioneers in console development … unfortunately they were using strategies that were going to win the console war six years in the future.  

Portable Sound

Bose has been advertising their new SoundLink Wireless Mobile Speaker a lot lately, touting its mind-blowing innovative features like being portable and having bluetooth!  They show off how people can carry it to places and listen to music and stuff.

Wait? Carry the flippin’ thing?  Dude, that is so 2010. Jambox solved that little problem with their super awesome Jamchain, motherfuckers.

Hands- and dignity-free!

RACCOONS IN THE … Russian commercials?

Apparently a commercial for a Russian superglue-like product called Sekunda was a part of the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival. Why do I care? Because the one-minute advertisement features the misadventures of an apparently suicidal ceramic raccoon figurine which is presumably being repaired after each attempt with the featured product.  It’s good to see that the advertisers recognize that people are generally indifferent to the plight of inanimate objects unless they’re super cute, and the quickest way to make on super cute is to make it a raccoon.

Watch the commercial, a couple of the suicide attempts were rather inventive … for a figurine.

Lincoln Does Not Tolerate the Supernatural

Art by Lysol-Jones

There’s something about Abraham Lincoln that makes people want to portray him as being larger-than-life.  Personally, I think it’s because of his placement in history: long enough ago to seem like “really really far back,” yet recent enough that there are photographs of him.  He happened to make his footprint on history at a point where technology–the big distinction to modern society between then and now–was just becoming what we’re familiar with.  As a result, it seems like a good place to link the fantastical (often associated with a then, similar to how fairy tales start with “long ago”) with the mundane (some stodgy old historical figure.)  So how about those alternate Lincolns?

  1. There’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter in theaters now, based on a recent novel.
  2. And of course the knock-off movie, Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies, made by the good folks at The Asylum.
  3. In the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie we had to see the nefarious Time Lincoln.
  4. Not to be confused with Time Lincoln the comic book series published by Antarctic Press.
  5. Also in comics, it turns out that another time traveling Lincoln had to face off with werewolves.
  6. Abraham Lincoln has, of course, gone steampunk because why not?
  7. In the comic book series Invincible (a favorite of mine) there is an immortal superhero who used to be Abraham Lincoln.