49 episodes

An award-nominated documentary and narrative audio series about video games and the video game industry — as they were in the past, and how they came to be the way they are today. History doesn't just vanish into the distance behind us; it casts a very long shadow that affects everything that comes after it, and so with The Life and Times of Video Games journalist and historian Richard Moss draws those through lines to tell fascinating stories about the past that link right back to the present. 

The Life & Times of Video Games The HP Video Game Podcast Network

    • Video Games
    • 4.8 • 6 Ratings

An award-nominated documentary and narrative audio series about video games and the video game industry — as they were in the past, and how they came to be the way they are today. History doesn't just vanish into the distance behind us; it casts a very long shadow that affects everything that comes after it, and so with The Life and Times of Video Games journalist and historian Richard Moss draws those through lines to tell fascinating stories about the past that link right back to the present. 

    Utopia, and the teacher who made a game of its impossibility

    Utopia, and the teacher who made a game of its impossibility

    When Don Daglow pitched management at Mattel on an Intellivision game about trying to build a perfect society, he thought he was just creating a "line filler" in their product calendar. Instead he made one of the most important games of all time.

    Don wrote a book in 2018 about the business and design insights he's gained from his long career making video games (nearly 50 years if you include his mainframe games!). If you buy it on Amazon via my affiliate link, I get a small percentage of the sale price.

    It's also worth noting, for anyone up for some further reading, that I've done in-depth genre histories for Ars Technica on two of the genres that Utopia influenced — city-building games and real-time strategy.

    I'll also have more content from my two (so far!) interviews with Don in the coming weeks and months — probably a "soundbite" in mid-November and a full episode in 2021, plus maybe more of each of those.

    Utopia is one of several Intellivision games slated for re-release on the upcoming Intellivision Amico console. In the meantime, you can grab a fan-made remake on Itch.io (Mac or Windows), track down a copy of the Intellivision Lives! collection from some years back, boot it up in an emulator, or just watch some videos of it on YouTube.

    All music in this episode was my own, except selected clips from Santa Paravia, Astrosmash, Fascinating Fruit, and Utopia, and the IBM mainframe playing a song.

    Thanks to my sponsor for this episode, Richard Bannister. You can find out more about his Retro Games for Mac collection at his website or by listening to my Indie Spotlight interview with him.


    To support my work, so that I can uncover more untold stories from video game history, you can make a donation via paypal.me/mossrc or subscribe to my Patreon. (I also accept commissions and the like over email, if you're after something specific.)   

    • 39 min
    Indie Spotlight: Richard Bannister (Retro Games for Mac Collection)

    Indie Spotlight: Richard Bannister (Retro Games for Mac Collection)

    This is a sponsored post, but don't let that turn you off. I made a point of doing the interview as I would any other — and Richard Bannister has some fun stories to tell.
    Richard Bannister is best-known for his Mac-native emulator ports of BSNES, Nestopia, Genesis Plus, and Boycott Advance, plus some two-dozen others, which he built and maintained through the 2000s and returned to relatively recently after a long hiatus. But he also has a fantastic game music player called Audio Overload (with Mac and Windows versions) that supports more than 30 console/handheld/computer file formats.
    And this year, during a period of unemployment, he decided to flex his creative muscles and make some games. He's up to 20 in all, each inspired by a classic arcade game or early home computer puzzle game — and very often by multiple variants of a particular game — and he's selling them on the Mac App Store. He's got his own version of Mr Do — via Amstrad CPC clone Fruity Frank — called Fascinating Fruit, and a Snake/Pac-Man hybrid called Wacky Snake, plus a Crystal Quest reimagining called Space Diamonds and a JezzBall/Barrack clone called Little Green Balls that I can personally attest feels just like the original. And many others, available individually or in two discounted bundles.
    In this interview we discuss his Retro Games for Mac collection — its inspirations, design, development, cheat codes(!), and future plans — as well as his 90s shareware games and his contributions to the emulator scene.
    Interview notes:

    His Breakout-style game is called Shaded Bricks


    It's inspired by Commodore 64 game Crillion


    1992 Mac game Diamonds



    Fascinating Fruit is based on the arcade game Mr Do

    But also on Amstrad CPC game Fruity Frank


    cheat codes include "drfauci" to give your character a mask and "fiveaday" to swap fruits and vegetables out for junk food (see below for how they change the appearance)

    I covered the rise and fall of Ambrosia Software in a PAX talk that you can read/listen to here

    Ambrosia Software's Pengo clone Bubble Trouble is no longer available, except via abandonware sites

    Ice Squishing

    His shareware games included Smashing Windows and Star Chaos


    Pang aka Buster Brothers arcade game


    Crystal Quest is available on modern systems (Mac, Windows, Xbox 360) thanks to the company co-founded by its creator Patrick Buckland

    There was indeed a Game Boy port, though the game was never going to work well with d-pad controls

    Richard Bannister's original shareware clone was called Space Debris

    His new version is Space Diamonds


    Richard Bannister's emulators

    Audio Overload

    You can find some of the games and emulators John Stiles made at the Macintosh Garden



    Frodo C64 emulator (and Richard Bannister's Mac port)

    French-territory-only computer, the Thomson MO5


    RB's emulators of them: Thom, TEO, MO5


    Cities Skylines


    Wacky Snake - Pac-Man/Snake hybrid

    You can send RB feedback via the form at bannister.org/email or from inside any of his games

    • 32 min
    Transport Tycoon (aka the great optimiser, Chris Sawyer)

    Transport Tycoon (aka the great optimiser, Chris Sawyer)

    On the rise and, um...fade out(?) of Chris Sawyer, the genius creator of bestselling, critically-acclaimed simulation games Transport Tycoon and RollerCoaster Tycoon — who made a career out of working at the cutting-edge, in bare metal assembly code that he wrote and optimised (and optimised again) on his own, until the cutting-edge left him behind.
    Chris was only a design consultant on 2004 game RollerCoaster Tycoon 3, but its remastered "Complete" edition has just come out on Nintendo Switch and the PC version is free on the Epic Games Store right now (until October 2). The original two games are also still sold via the likes of Steam and GOG.
    Transport Tycoon, meanwhile, lives on in open-source project OpenTTD and in a mobile port (Android, iOS) of the original game by Chris's company 31X. 
    Thanks as always to my supporters on Patreon — especially my $10+ backers Carey Clanton, Rob Eberhardt, Simon Moss, Vivek Mohan, Wade Tregaskis, and Seth Robinson. If you'd like to become a supporter, for as little as $1 a month, head to my Patreon page and sign up. Or for one-off donations you can use paypal.me/mossrc.
    Please remember to tell other people about the show, and to leave a review by following the links at ratethispodcast.com/ltvg.
    I'm currently writing a new book called Shareware Heroes: Independent Games at the Dawn of the Internet. You can learn more and/or pre-order your copy from Unbound.

    • 37 min
    Soundbite: Vance Cook on inventing new control mechanics for virtual golf

    Soundbite: Vance Cook on inventing new control mechanics for virtual golf

    Former Links, PGA Championship Golf, and Tiger Woods PGA Tour lead Vance Cook explains how and why his team(s) created new ways to swing a virtual golf club — beginning with the C-shaped gauge in Links and leading into "TruSwing" on Front Page Sports Golf and PGA Championship, and then ending with the motion-controller (Wiimote) swing in Tiger Woods Wii.
    Also listen for insights into the difference between sports games that aim for simulation versus those that aim for the "emotional experience".
    This soundbite uses leftover material from Episode 27 - Links, though that story's not a pre-requisite for listening.
    Thanks as always to my supporters on Patreon — especially my $10+ backers Carey Clanton, Seth Robinson, Wade Tregaskis, Simon Moss, Rob Eberhardt, and Vivek Mohan. If you'd like to become a supporter, for as little as $1 a month, head to my Patreon page and sign up. Or for one-off donations you can use paypal.me/mossrc.
    Please remember to tell other people about the show, as word-of-mouth is the main way my audience grows, and if you'd like to leave a review you can do so by following the links at ratethispodcast.com/ltvg.
    I'm currently writing a new book, Shareware Heroes: Independent Games at the Dawn of the Internet. You can learn more and/or pre-order your copy from Unbound.

    • 11 min
    Links

    Links

    In 1990, in a bid to move ahead of their rivals, Access Software reinvented virtual golf. Their game Links set the template for golf games over the next decade, with a technological tour de force, and along the way it dominated bestselling PC games charts month after month, year after year. Until suddenly it didn't.
    This is the story of Links and the huge shadow it cast over its genre.
    If you'd like to play the original Links for yourself and would like to see it the way people saw it at the time, don't forget to turn down the CPU speed in DOSBox — a 386 was still a high-end machine when it came out, and so you want to go somewhat slower than that. 


    TruGolf 

    EA got out of golf games after Rory McIlroy PGA Tour in 2015, but 2K picked up the PGA Tour licence this year and has taken over publishing duties for former EA Sports contractors HB Studios' golf series The Golf Club — now renamed PGA Tour 2K. Their first game together, PGA Tour 2K21, just came out on Switch, Xbox One, and PS4 (disclosure: those are Amazon affiliate links).


    Thanks as always to my supporters on Patreon — especially my $10+ backers Seth Robinson, Wade Tregaskis, Rob Eberhardt, Vivek Mohan, Simon Moss, and Eric Zocher. If you'd like to become a supporter, for as little as $1 a month, head to my Patreon page and sign up. Or for one-off donations you can use paypal.me/mossrc.
    Please remember to tell other people about the show, and to leave a review by following the links at ratethispodcast.com/ltvg.
    I'm currently writing a new book, Shareware Heroes: Independent Games at the Dawn of the Internet. You can learn more and/or pre-order your copy from Unbound.

    • 41 min
    The Life & Times of Video Games trailer

    The Life & Times of Video Games trailer

    An 87-second promo trailer for The Life & Times of Video Games, encapsulating the essence of its form, style, and content over three seasons and counting.
    Have you ever wondered about the stories behind your favourite video games? Like, how they were made and why they were designed a certain way?
    The Life and Times of Video Games has the answers to all of this and more, packaged in half-hour audio documentaries that take you back to the past and loop you into the present — to understand not just how games used to be, but how they shaped the medium into what it is today.
    Find out more at lifeandtimes.games.
    (And if you're a current listener, please share this with anyone you think might be interested in the show.)

    • 1 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
6 Ratings

6 Ratings

TChan Games ,

Amazing

The Realsound episode was great with high production value. Richard format was easy to understand. Digital sound in Macintosh helped paved the way forward to modern sound. It’s crazy the challenges they faced like only one sound could be played at a time, file sizes, and had to create new software. Great work Richard!

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