Too Much Free Time

Discussion and reviews of games for NES, Intellivision, DOS, and others.

Archive for March, 2014

A Parent’s Guide to Computer Games

Posted by Tracy Poff on March 21, 2014

In my quest to save marginal game-related information from the depths of obscurity, I came across this book, A Parent’s Guide to Computer Games by Craig Wessel.


Its back cover is very ominous:

Your kids know what “RPG” means. Do you?

Surprisingly, it’s a fairly decent book, given its focus. The first half is given to discussing generalities: the game platforms of the day (Windows, Macintosh, N64, Game Boy, PS1, PS2, Dreamcast); game platforms to come (Xbox, Gamecube, Game Boy Advance, even Linux is given a few paragraphs); surprisingly, a brief mention of emulation, specifically Bleem and Bleemcast; discussion of the various types and genres of games; a few pages devoted to online games, including specifically EverQuest and Ultima Online; finally, an explanation of the ESRB’s rating system.

The second half, of course, is devoted to the games, including one to three page reviews of each featured game.

I’ve uploaded the table of contents for the review section, above. It includes many notable games, including Age of Empires 2, Deux Ex, Diablo 2, Half-Life, Civilization 2, Roller Coaster Tycoon, Sim City 3000, The Sims, StarCraft, and Unreal Tournament in its “Hot Titles” section, and a fair mix of others (from Icewind Dale to Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?) in the other sections.

This book was published in 2000, so it’s only about 14 years old, today. That said, I think it’s worth looking back to see just how things were perceived even as recently as that. The book predicts that Sony wouldn’t be able to do much about Bleem, and notes, of Linux, that “game developers have embraced the operating system”, though it’s cautious about Linux’s future prospects.

I’m looking at some other examples of this type of book, as well. Secondary materials won’t be forgotten, if I have anything to say about it!

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Toshiba T-3100

Posted by Tracy Poff on March 4, 2014

I meant to publish some of my pending game reviews, but I’m taking rather too long with editing those, so have something completely different: the Toshiba T-3100 laptop PC.

While doing some work on MobyGames, I learned about the existence of this laptop. It was released in 1986, and,  according to the IPSJ Computer Museum, it was “the world’s first 16-bit laptop PC with a built-in hard disk”, and the Japanese version (called the J-3100, apparently on the theory that Japanese people have some patriotic attraction to the letter J) was Japan’s first PC-compatible laptop. I’m a little unclear on the exact timeline here–it seems like the Japanese version might not have been released until 1989

The T-3100 may have a name like a robot assassin, but it’s a reasonably standard computer for the era, featuring 640K of RAM, an 8MHz 286 CPU, a floppy drive, and a 10MB hard drive, plus one interesting quirk: its display, normally CGA compatible, could be switched into a high-resolution 640×400 monochrome (horrifyingly orange) mode.

In Japan, Imagineer published special J-3100 editions of Lemmings, Sim City, and Sim Earth (although this one’s labelled as ‘DynaBook edition’, so it’s probably intended for the 386-based laptop released in 1990, instead). One wonders what was different about these versions, since the J3100 was PC-compatible. Given the release dates, perhaps it was DOS/V support.

If you’re interested in more information on early Japanese PCs, there’s a relevant article in the April 1997 issue of Computing Japan, “From Chaos to Competition: Japan’s PC industry in transformation” by John Boyd, which mentions the J-3100.

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