Play Hundreds of classic console games online, free

Thanks to the good people at the Internet Archive, classic console video games like Donkey Kong, Mario Bros., Asteroids, Dig Dug, and Pac Man are now fully playable online. The games, released as the Internet Archive Console Living Room, are also available for free downloads. They don’t have sound yet, but the archive promises to get that up and running soon. And even though the collection isn’t complete at this point, the archive promises to expand it “in the coming months.” Because the archive has versions of each game available in an browser-based emulator, you can jump right in to the game of your choice without downloading any specialized software.

ET: It hasn’t improved with age. 

Right now, the archive contains a selection of games from the Atari 2600, Atari 7800 ProSystem, ColecoVision, Magnavox Odyssey and Astrocade. The selection is particularly abundant for the Atari consoles, but as the archive notes, “there were many not-excellent cartridges produced for the Atari 2600,” meaning that some of these games aren’t really worth the time to get to know. For instance: the archive contains ET: The Extra Terrestrial, a game so bad that someone made a documentary about its failure. On the other hand, there’s always Frogger, which is still excellent.

Some of the games even come with the original manual, which if nothing else, gives a good glimpse at the conceptual imagination behind the very sparse graphics game designers had to work with at the time.

The Internet Archive’s project is aimed at preserving a widely-unavailable software phenomenon, as the consoles and cartridges needed to play these games have largely disappeared. The rise of the home console, as they note, more or less destroyed the popularity of arcades, especially once console graphics began to approach the look of arcade offerings. And as each console evolved, the previous generations also gathered dust or were tossed out.

Players will note that the controls vary widely by console: the Internet Archive does a pretty good job explaining how the games have adapted from, say, a joystick control to a standard keyboard. And even though these games are old, the Internet Archive recommends players use the most up-to-date browser possible.



Bethesda wants Elder Scrolls Online accessible without Xbox Live Gold

elder scrolls online

Bethesda is working with Microsoft to possibly get the Xbox maker to drop the Xbox Live Gold requirement for its upcoming MMO, The Elder Scrolls Online. The publisher wants Microsoft to make a special exemption for their MMO on the console, in hopes that more people will be able to play the game without having to be an Xbox Live Gold subscriber.

“We have been in talks with Microsoft about that very thing, and seeing whether or not there’s any room to change their minds about that,” Hines told OXM. “For folks who are only paying for The Elder Scrolls Online and don’t want to pay for an Xbox Live Gold Subscription, just to pay for The Elder Scrolls Online.”

It’s unclear what type of progress Bethesda has made with Microsoft about waiving the requirement. According to the recent statement, Hines doesn’t sound like Microsoft is going to bend on their long time policy. However, if successful, it could set a precedence for other subscription based or free-to-play games to arrive on the console that aren’t stuck behind a paywall.

Right now, this is one of the major differences between the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4. While both Sony and Microsoft will both offer subscription based games like TESO, and other free-to-play titles, Xbox Live Gold is required for any online play on the Xbox One. Sony’s PlayStation 4 free-to-play games are not gated behind the subscription service.

We’ll have to wait and see if Bethesda is successful in swaying Microsoft’s policy.



Free-to-play coming to every major EA franchise – Moore

Again, here is another company that wants to shove their ideas down our collective throats without giving us gamers a choice on how WE want to play. I guess there will be some company willing to take my money in exchange for a game where I can freely play offline by myself when I want. If EA moves in this direction, it surely will not be them. Read below on what Peter Moore had to say.

COO Peter Moore lays out EA’s priorities, says “We don’t deliver offline experiences anymore”

Peter Moore

Electronic Arts is banking on free-to-play in a big way. Speaking with Engadget at Gamescom over the weekend, EA COO Peter Moore said the publisher’s goal is to let players interact with their franchises no matter where they are, what they’re doing, or how much money they have in their pocket.

Moore emphasized EA’s existing free-to-play efforts with its most successful franchises, Battlefield and FIFA, but said the company is looking to expand it well beyond those two.

“The ability for you to be able to interact with those franchises on a free-to-play basis is going to be part-and-parcel with every major franchise we do now,” Moore said.

Another point of focus for the company is online functionality, as Moore has made clear in the past. The executive has championed moving the company from a seller of retail disks to a provider of “games as a service.”

“We don’t ship a game at EA that is offline,” Moore said. “It just doesn’t happen. And gamers either want to be connected so their stats and achievements reflect who they are, or you want the full multiplayer experience on top of that. We don’t deliver offline experiences anymore.”

When asked if the company would be supporting new hardware like the Nvidia Shield or Ouya, Moore took a step back to provide a peek at the company’s priorities. The top priority for EA right now is the console market with the ramp up to next-gen debuts from Sony and Microsoft, Moore said. Right below that is the mobile space with iOS and Android development, then free-to-play PC titles. Moore said offerings like Shield and Ouya “kind of sit on the periphery of that,” adding that the company has no plans to get involved right now.

As for the Oculus Rift, Moore said that the peripheral market was a challenging one, but that much like with the aforementioned alternative consoles, EA will keep an eye on them to see if it’s something consumers want. And if the demand is there, then EA will be as well.



Game industry finds a foothold in St. Louis

Asian fans of League of Legends, one of the world’s most popular online games, probably have no idea that their play is being monitored in a 10th-floor office in Clayton.

Riot Games expands Clayton office

They probably don’t care, either. All they want to know is that the game works and that it regularly presents them with new characters and new challenges. And that’s the job of the 40 people who work here for Riot Games, the Santa Monica, Calif., company that created League of Legends.

The St. Louis area isn’t known as a hotbed of video game development, but the industry has developed a mini-hub here.

Riot arrived in 2011. Graphite Lab, which develops children’s games for brand-name companies such as Disney and Hasbro, has been here since 2009 and now has nine employees in its Maryland Heights studio.

Other industry players range from Simutronics, a 27-year-old studio with 30 employees in Maryland Heights, to startups such as Butterscotch Shenanigans, which is just releasing its second game.

In part, the game industry here is a byproduct of the mobile-computing revolution. By creating app stores where any developer can sell — or give away — a game, Apple and Google have democratized the industry.

“The development budgets for these games also are significantly lower, which means the high cost of production is no longer a barrier to entry,” says Walt Scacchi, research director at the University of California-Irvine Center for Computer Games and Virtual Worlds.

That’s exactly what Samuel and Seth Coster, co-founders of Butterscotch Shenanigans, are figuring. They released their second game, Quadropus Rampage, for Android devices last week and say it will be available in the Apple store this week.

Samuel Coster says the brothers’ development costs are “phenomenally low. You have to eat, you have to pay rent, and literally for Seth and me those are the only expenses we have.”

Scacchi says the game industry remains highly concentrated in the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas, but he’s seeing more activity in non-traditional places such as St. Louis. “I think we’ll see that kind of growth continuing,” he said. “It’s a lot easier to grow a local game industry than to move into the South of Market area in San Francisco where you have to compete with Google and Zynga and Facebook for talent.”

Some game companies have found plenty of talent in St. Louis, while others say it’s a challenge. Scott Gelb, Riot Games’ vice president for technology, says the availability of engineers is a big reason for the firm’s rapid growth here.

Gelb works in Santa Monica, but he’s a former St. Louisan and was an advocate for expanding here. “I saw that a lot of St. Louis developers were really passionate about what they were doing, but there weren’t a lot of startup-type environments for them to work in,” he said.

Graphite Lab, which has a Play-Doh alphabet game coming out soon for Hasbro, is part of a company that also operates in Springfield, Mo., and Austin, Texas. Matt Raithel, Graphite’s studio director, says he’s found “a growing pipeline” of talent here.

Simutronics founder David Whatley, however, doesn’t think the area talent pool is deep enough. “The schools here have great programs if you want to be a doctor or a lawyer, but if you want to be a computer game developer, it’s a wasteland,” he said.

Area educators should pay attention to his words. If they turn out graduates with the creative and technical skills that games require, Whatley and others say, a growing industry is eager to hire them.



Xbox One requires online connection, no fee for used games

Share games with people who have been on your friends list for at least 30 days; each game can only be shared once

Xbox One requires online connection

Without any fanfare, Microsoft has released a website detailing how the Xbox One will handle its online connection, second-hand games, and the all-new Kinect. Microsoft calls the Xbox One a “modern, connected device,” and means every word of it: the console needs an online connection every 24 hours.

“With Xbox One you can game offline for up to 24 hours on your primary console, or one hour if you are logged on to a separate console accessing your library. Offline gaming is not possible after these prescribed times until you re-establish a connection, but you can still watch live TV and enjoy Blu-ray and DVD movies,” reads the page explaining the console’s online features.

“While a persistent connection is not required, Xbox One is designed to verify if system, application or game updates are needed and to see if you have acquired new games, or resold, traded in, or given your game to a friend. Games that are designed to take advantage of the cloud may require a connection.”

Once games are installed from either a retail disc or Xbox Live purchase, that game will be available at anytime in the cloud. Microsoft says that “discs will continue to be a great way to install your games quickly,” pointing to the retail disc as merely a delivery system for the game license and code. Xbox One lets up to ten family members log in and play a shared library of games on the console, so specific family members won’t need their own game license. The system will allow trade, trade-in, and resell Xbox One games, but only if game publishers allow it.

“We designed Xbox One so game publishers can enable you to trade in your games at participating retailers. Microsoft does not charge a platform fee to retailers, publishers, or consumers for enabling transfer of these games,” says the game license page.

“Xbox One is designed so game publishers can enable you to give your disc-based games to your friends. There are no fees charged as part of these transfers. There are two requirements: you can only give them to people who have been on your friends list for at least 30 days and each game can only be given once.”

Finally, Microsoft tackles the updated Kinect, which has led to privacy concerns in some consumers. Though some games may require Kinect functionality, the peripheral can be turned off, even in the Xbox One’s standby mode.

“If you don’t want the Kinect sensor on while playing games or enjoying your entertainment, you can pause Kinect. To turn off your Xbox One, just say ‘Xbox Off.’ When the system is off, it’s only listening for the single voice command — ‘Xbox On,’ and you can even turn that feature off too,” says the Kinect portion of the site.

“You will determine how responsive and personalized your Xbox One is to you and your family during setup. The system will navigate you through key privacy options, like automatic or manual sign in, privacy settings, and clear notifications about how data is used. When Xbox One is on and you’re simply having a conversation in your living room, your conversation is not being recorded or uploaded.”

Microsoft has answered a ton of questions for consumers and the media, but those answers may not be the ones we were hoping to hear.