This book sits firmly at the intersection of gaming nerdiness and typographical geekery. It’s a deep-dive into the heavily constrained but creative world of the typefaces of 70s, 80s, and 90s arcade games.
Toshi Omagari’s book is a combination of glossy coffee table experience and reference manual, with both full-colour screenshots and the fonts themselves, laid out in their raw 8×8 gridded glory.
There are plenty of screenshots of the fonts being used in-situ in classic games, as well as more esoteric ones like Yu Suzuki’s lesser known work Dynamite Dux. There are also some interesting historic tidbits about the development of the fonts – including the lineage; how fonts were “borrowed” and adapted by various arcade machine manufacturers rather than being created from scratch.
The book is organised around font styles rather than decades or genres, so all the serif typefaces are in their own section, for example. Other groups include decorative, slanted and horizontally accented fonts. However if you do want to find a particular game, you can use the index to locate it. There are around 250 by my reckoning, picked from the around 4,500 that Omagari included in his research.
It’s great to see a book like this delve so deeply into one specific aspect of video game design. It uses a set of constraints to restrict the subject matter (8×8, monospaced, pixel-based, arcade games only), but then revels in exploring all the ways in which artists and developers found to squeeze value from those 64 precious pixels. It’s geeky and fascinating.
Arcade Game Typography: The Art of Pixel Type, by Toshi Omagari, published by Thames and Hudson (associate link, or do what I did and buy from here and support your local bookshop).
Star Wars has been very much in my thoughts lately. Like pretty much everyone in the world, probably, given the huge marketing push behind The Force Awakens. So I couldn’t help but stop and stare when, in the window of a sleepy toy shop in a quiet corner of the UK where my Dad lives, I saw a large, impressive-looking Lego Millennium Falcon. I peered closer, then recoiled in horror at the price tag: £189.99! Whoa.
So like any sensible person, I turned to the internet to see if this beauty was available anywhere else at a more reasonable price. And that’s when I fell into the rabbit hole of Lego Millennium Falcons: rare ultimate collector editions, custom-builds, retired models, 10179s, BrickLinks and MOCs. Oh my. Continue reading Lego Millennium Falcon – Buy or Build?→
I have recently entered a new, strange and exciting phase of my gaming life: Dad Gaming.
To put this in context, I’ve been playing games for a long time. I Mutant Camel’d through primary school, Sonic’d through the student days, PaRappa’d through my early career and Mario’d into marriage.
But at all of those points I was playing with peers. Consenting adults, fully aware of gaming tropes and vernacular, able to hold down several buttons and a trigger simultaneously while loosing off a round of sniper fire.
Nowadays, my gaming partners are 2 girls under 10 and my outlook and attitude to gaming has completely changed. Vast swathes of the electronic landscape are off limits, and to be honest, I’m enjoying the change of scenery.
The other day while I was looking through some of my ancient copies of Computer and Video Games magazine (“the first fun computer magazine!”) I discovered some coverage of the 1982 Consumer Electronics Show. It’s such a contrast to today’s shiny, immaculately produced, PR-fest that I couldn’t help but scan it in for everyone to see. Continue reading 30 years ago at CES…→
I’ve had two very different iPhone gaming experiences over the last few weeks: Peggle and Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars. It’s safe to say I got completely addicted to Peggle, but when it arrived I couldn’t resist the temptation of having the GTA universe in my pocket too. After shelling out the almighty sum of £5.99 on the sandbox triad-’em-up, I discovered that there were many aspects of playing/using Peggle that make it a better fit on the iPhone than GTA. Let’s break down how these very different experiences manage the transition to a hand-held, “casual” gaming platform. What exactly does “usability” mean in this context? Continue reading Why the Peggle mobile experience beats GTA→
Well, I’ve done it: I’ve got my first game live on the AppStore. It’s been an interesting journey. I’m terribly bad at getting my hands on devkits and SDKs, having a play with them and then not doing anything constructive. This dates way back to things like the Playstation NetYaroze, which was pretty expensive, and with which I failed to produce anything concrete. So this time around all the pieces were in place: shiny new “gaming” kit, interesting SDK, low cost of entry. I was determined to create!
I’ll be making a series of posts on the process and details of creating it, in the interest of sharing the fun. In the meantime, you can find out more about the game here.
I’ve just finished playing Fahrenheit, an intriguing game.
It caught my attention because it sets out to be different from many games of today. For a start, it’s not a sequel or subtitle (”Game: the second”), it’s new IP, and more importantly it recognises that games can be all about storytelling and direction. In fact, the game sets out to blur the line between participant/player and storyteller.
I was a bit disappointed by the visuals, partly I think from being spoilt by Half Life 2. The lip syncing and face rendering in general is nowhere near that level of fidelity. The character animation is also a little weak, there are obvious switches between motion capture sequences (walk to run etc). But when playing the game you really don’t notice these things. It is so immersive and engaging that your suspension of disbelief easily carries you past these aspects.
There are a combination of elements to the game. “Traditional” walking around, exploring a scene, looking for interesting aspects to investigate (which reminded me of Resident Evil in many ways; looking for that glistening item in the dark room) and the interactive actions, driving conversations and performing physical actions. This is a similar to the QTE mechanism in Shenmue (or at least the Dreamcast version that I played), although it’s more widely and better used. It consists of using the controls (the keyboard and mouse in my case) to ape the actions of the character on screen, to perform Track and field style button bashing for effort, or to follow Simon-says style colour sequences. They work well as a means to link you physically to the character in the game world, for example, using the controls to breath in a slow and measured way to keep the character calm. My main complaint about this is that I found myself focusing on the control overlays on screen, rather than the action that my character was performing behind them! Given some of the fantastic sequences the game contains, this is a shame.
The game is a little on the short side; it left me wanting more, but in many ways I prefer this to being forced to perform mundane/frustrating tasks that serve to artificially lengthen playing time. So often nowadays I never get to see the end of a game, despite investing hours of time. I did however, feel that the story had a slightly rushed feel towards the end, given the lesiurely pace at the start of the game. If this was a deliberate attempt to reach some sort of crescendo, it didn’t quite work.
Reading this back, it all sounds a bit negative: it isn’t meant to be! Despite it’s quirks this was a thoroughly enjoyable and interesting game to play. If you’re into different gaming experiences I’d definitely give it a try.