What is with the price of retro Japanese software?

So I was lucky enough to get to Beep before it close, and I picked out a couple of FM Towns titles (and a junker!), and I thought ‘Return to Zork’ would be a good title, something to compare the MacOS & MS-DOS versions against.

Although slightly faded, it does come in this nice box, which reminds me of the NEOGEO… which is probably an apt comparison.

The artwork has faded, although the CD-ROM inside was still sealed, never before opened. I picked this up for an eye watering ¥3,480 but flipping the box over revealed the launch price of an astonishing ¥12,800! I’m not sure what the exchange rate from 1994 was, but even at a generous 100:1 JPY to USD that’s half the price of the old multimedia kits which included the drive, sound card and so many came bundled with Return to Zork.

Another random title I grabbed was even more insane!

¥ 14,800 for Silent Möbius: Case: Titanic!

I need to get a RGB monitor & keyboard to see if this thing even works, meanwhile I fought with UNZ to get it running, and the mouse tracking is totally broken unless you change the DPI scaling, credit to this post in the UNZ ‘BBS’.

One thing is sure, the voice acting in the Japanese version is so terrible.

As people complain about ‘AAA’ games, and paying $60, just look at this! $134 USD for some cartoon boat game thing.. Although I’ve never heard of Silent Möbius or played it, I just saw it was available for the x68000 and PC-98. So I guess it’s one of those Lowest Common Denominator games.

One interesting thing about the FM TOWNS is that they have that ROM DOS with CD-ROM drivers, and their apparently blanket licensing for PharLap 386. Although while I was wasting time looking at cartoon rabbits, someone else scooped but the 386 BASIC kit. Darn.

But in the Return to Zork world, the ‘made.exe’ is in fact a Pharlap 386 EXP, meaning that it runs in 386 protected mode, so you don’t have to struggle with emm386, himem.sys and trying to get a ludercus 580-600kb of conventional memory. Seriously it was such a chore to get this running the manual has a big section on setting up a boot disk. It’s a shame they didn’t license a DOS extender for the US PC platform, although I can see why they chose that route on the FM Towns (and I believe PC98), as there is a RTZ9821 directory there which includes an EXP. Shame it was never relased state side as a patch, as it would have been a GREAT user change. Well that or a Win32 executable.

Curse of the Azure Bonds

A while ago I’d mentioned that as part of a large MS-DOS gaming upload to archive.org the old SSI ‘gold box’ games were online, including CotAB. What is more interesting is that while digging around for Forgotten Realms Unlimited Adventures, I found Simeon Pilgrim’s work on decompiling the old MS-DOS EXE, and converting it to run in .NET!

Yes, that’s right it’s all in C# You can find the project & downloads over on github.

This is nothing short of amazing!

The engine suffers many limitations from supporting 8bit machines, although they did uplift the graphics, music and sound although they didn’t increase the overall sizes. And the engine on the PC side was written in PASCAL of all things. I mean it was the hip language of the era, and well C is just too portable and reliable. The later SSI games were C++ apparently.

That said, for MS-DOS purists and those wanting to be legit, the old SSI AD&D games are on sale over on GOG, broken up into a few collections.

With collection 2 being the gold box editions, featuring:

  • POOL OF RADIANCE
  • CURSE OF THE AZURE BONDS
  • HILLSFAR
  • SECRET OF THE SILVER BLADES
  • POOLS OF DARKNESS
  • GATEWAY TO THE SAVAGE FRONTIER
  • TREASURES OF THE SAVAGE FRONTIER
  • FORGOTTEN REALMS UNLIMITED ADVENTURES

Which is a bargain at $3.39 USD!

I don’t know why I’m finding so much fun things on GOG, but here we are. In other news I got a new $99 USD dual Xeon board, although it seems to have some weird mystery issues including a ’99’ power issue, and when it does boot even the install media for Windows 10 bluescreens. Sad.

We Can Remember your electric sheep for you Wholesale, prices start at $8.99

Somehow I missed it, that GOG had managed to snag the rights right after November 2019, and released the most excellent Westwood studio’s version of Blade Runner! It’s currently on sale for $8.99!

Also included is a bunch of concept art from the film!

Naturally it’s using ScummVM to run the game, instead of the horribly broken Windows 95 specific executables from 22 years ago.

While starting up the game it dumps this:

Blade Runner

    From the dark recesses of David Leary's imagination comes a game unlike any
    other. Blade Runner immerses you in the underbelly of future Los Angeles.             
    Right from the start, the story pulls you in with graphic descriptions of a
    grandmother doing the shimmy in her underwear, child molestation, brutal
    cold-blooded slaying of innocent animals, vomiting on desks, staring at a
    woman's ass, the list goes on. And when the game starts, the real fun begins -   shoot down-on-their-luck homeless people and toss them into a dumpster. Watch
    with sadistic glee as a dog gets blown into chunky, bloody, bits by an
    explosive, and even murder a shy little girl who loves you. If you think 
    David Leary is sick, and you like sick, this is THE game for you.

    JW: Don't forget the wasting of helpless mutated cripples in the underground.
    It's such a beautiful thing!

    DL: Go ahead.  Just keep beating that snarling pit bull...ignore the foam
    around his jaws. There's room on the top shelf of my fridge for at least one
    more head... - Psychotic Dave

    MG: Is David Leary a self-respecting human or is he powered by rechargeable
    batteries?

    JM: Chrome...is that what that is?
    JM: It's hard to imagine that thing on either a car or a horse.
    MG: McCoy! What a witty chap...
    JM: He keeps me chuckling non-stop!

    JM: That McCoy--he's one funny guy! Jet-black fire truck, hehehehe...

NEAT!

Wasteland 2 Director’s Cut Digital Classic Edition: Now on giveaway

You can find this over on gog. I remember the original that I had on the commodore 64, it was super tough (well for a kid), although I do remember chasing mutant rabbits through some farm, along with all the text being in a book, because the disks were simply too small back then.

But it was the inspiration for the later Fallout. Nice to see how it’s managed to get out from under the control of a dead & collapsed studio.

You can find it here: https://www.gog.com/#giveaway

How much DooM is there in the Doom 3: BFG Edition version?

Another follow up to my ages old “Just how ‘original’ is the Ultimate Doom on steam?“, I thought I’d follow up with the DooM 3 BFG version.

I already have DooM 3, but this is apparently remastered, and includes the previous versions!?

It’s not like it really offers anything I don’t have, but it’s on sale so whatever let’s go.

And in the base/wads directory there they are!

fb35c4a5a9fd49ec29ab6e900572c524 DOOM.WAD
c3bea40570c23e511a7ed3ebcd9865f7 DOOM2.WAD

And sure enough the are the latest versions of the game files to be found according to doom.fandom.com. Great! So to further the abuse I tried them under my mutilated DooM.

Ultimate Doom seems to work just fine on it’s own I tested it briefly warping to a few levels but yeah it just works! Doom2 however bombs out that the resource TITLEPIC is missing from the wad. How disappointing!

Naturally I just took the easy way out, and basically checked for the resource, and load another if it’s missing.

@@ -477,7 +477,11 @@
  else
  pagetic = 170;
  gamestate = GS_DEMOSCREEN;
- pagename = "TITLEPIC";
+ /* the Doom 3 BFG EDITION version of Doom 2 is lacking the titlepic */
+ if(W_CheckNumForName("TITLEPIC")>0)
+ pagename = "TITLEPIC";
+ else
+ pagename = "DMENUPIC";
  if ( gamemode == commercial )
  S_StartMusic(mus_dm2ttl);
  else

It’s a shamefully basic patch. But it works.

Another interesting thing is that DooM 3 BFG also includes the gravis ultrasound bank data, so you could load them up into some other emulator and enjoy that gravis experience. I don’t know if it’s licensed or what, but it’s a nice touch.

Quake 2 for the RTX just got updated

Back when OpenGL accelerated hardware became a thing at the consumer level (and even non OpenGL, like the Rendition Verite v1000E !) games like Quake suddenly took on an entirely new life, with the amazing ‘realism’ that OpenGL could bring. And what an amazing change it was from the software renderer.

I had bought the Diamond Fire GL 1000, and it honestly kinda sucked. It did the OpenGL demo’s okayish under Windows NT, but Quake, not so much. But it was a sign of things to some, as I could run the 3D pipes screensaver without running the CPU at 100% But the Fire was meant more so for ‘adult’ or productive things, not for playing a game.

Oh how times haven’t changed all that much.

new glass!

At any rate, Quake II for the RTX, has been updated on Steam. It’s hard to believe it, but it looks even more so amazing than before. The ‘solid glass’ option looks pretty nice too.

At the moment I don’t have anything else really RTX ready so to speak. But it ssure looks pretty amazing!

It’s crazy how old computer hardware holds no value

But at the same time there is great value in old computer hardware.

In my opinion around 2006-2007 we basically hit peak computing. The biggest restrictions I see on older machines is memory sizes, and disk speeds. And for the most part these can be taken care of with ease, although many chipsets and formfactors of the time seem to have these incredibly tiny 8Gb/16Gb/32Gb limitations that just really are annoying in the distant future of 2019 when you may want to run a few things at once.

Yes, ‘Mouse’ computer is a thing

So I bought this used i640GA6-BDO, an i7 machine oem’d by mouse computer. Yes the name of the business is the same name as the 2nd most popular peripheral of all time. From the blurb:

From the “NEXTGEAR series” with high cooling and excellent maintainability, Intel® Core™ i7-4790K processor, dual channel 16GB memory, 1TB hard disk (7200rpm), DVD super multidrive, NVIDIA ® GeForce® GTX™ .970, 80PLUS® BRONZE certified700W power supply, pre-installed Windows 8.1 Update i640GA6-BDO” is 149,800 yen.

I paid just over 20,000 yen for this machine. So losing some 120,000 yen, or about 80% of it’s value over 5 years is certainly not a good investment proposition. It seemed like a good bargain.

Finding the corporate website was NOT easy, but thankfully they own mouse-jp.co.jp so one of those wild guesses turned out being right. They seem highly influenced by the ‘idol group’ thing that is popular and japan, and they have an extensive YouTube channel over at MouseComputer2010. And an extensive ad gallery.

They even have the making of videos. I could find so much about the advertising and various talent, but the machines… that was much more difficult than I could imagine.

The build quality however left a bit to be desired, when I turned it on and jumped into the BIOS the first thing that I noticed was that it ran HOT.

75c in under a minute!

So yeah 75c in under a minute is not a good thing. The water pump was making a weird noise as the bearings were clearly shot, and it’s just not circulating anywhere near fast enough.

Although I didn’t take a picture I was able to find one online, that shows that despite the bottom of the case has a big slot for the PSU fan, but the fan was pointing up into the case, not venting to the bottom.

I guess that the original owner got rid of the machine as it was overheating, and/or thermal throttling. I ended up going back out looking for a new cooling solution, and I was torn between a cheap fan thing for $10 or another all-in-one liquid cooler for $50. I decided to go with the all-in-one, as this machine was originally liquid cooled anyways.

I’m not sure why everything needs a cartoon..

The machine also had no storage, so I also picked up a M.2 drive, and a spinning rust disk. I have to say that even for this ancient machine, it’s great it had a M.2 slot, and WOW I thought SSD was fast, but this positively blows it away!

While I was out I see this former holy grail of GPU’s a Nvidia GTX 980 for ¥12,000. Now granted the machine I picked up has a GTX 970, a nice touch as I wasn’t expecting anything, but I can always use another DVI capable card back at home, so I’m probably taking that along with the i5 back to my HK office.

Now the real killer is that the card is a ASUS GTX, and looking around online it’s the STRIX-GTX980-DC2OC-4GD5 model.

I look around and find it on Amazon, and if the ad thing is to be believed the new price on this thing was ¥70,900! Looking around on that part number also shows kakaku.com with a list price of ¥73,480!

So granted the card is 5 years old now, but wow what a drop in price! It’s one more stop away from the junk piles that the other 9xx’s currently are (I’ve seen boxes of Zotac 750’s and up).

Naturally of course, like the i7, this card also had issues the moment I put it into my PC. The screen was flashing with garbage, and it’d eventually lead to a system freeze after a few minutes. What a pain, bad memory I suppose. And like the PC, I took the card apart, cleaned up the old thermal compound, and added some new generic stuff, put it together, and left it running The Outer Worlds at ultra high settings just fine. Who knows, maybe it’ll break later on, I don’t know, but I now have a ‘high end 5 year old’ gaming system for about the same or slightly more than a PS4. And I could be wrong but i’d like to think an i7/980 would crush a PS4. Although I could be wrong.

Naturally running cinebench 14, basically shows that the 970 & the 980 perform so close to each-other it makes no real difference. Although the fan setup on the 980 is far more aggressive, and it runs much more quieter. So that’s a nice bonus.

And if userbenchmark.com can be trusted, the performance difference from the 980 to the 1080, isn’t all that bad. It’s unreal that now even with 2nd generation RTX 2080’s out there, the 1080 is still an expensive GPU.

So, sometimes it may be worth looking at the junk piles. Although at the same time if you have nothing, the new/lowend stuff like the 1030’s/1050’s really aren’t so bad either. But for some reason I always seem to like yesterdays powerhouse.

The light that burns twice as bright, burns half as long…

Maybe I was just a strange kid, maybe it’s just an artifact of growing up in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area), where Citytv would put the film on immediately after Auld Lang Syne would finish. A great way to start the new year. (Incidentally in a weird way many stores in Japan will play Auld Lang Syne when they are closing)

2019 seemed such a long far off date, and yet here we are.

Since I’m tagged as a game site, back in the late 90’s there was even a Blade Runner game! You can find it over on archive.org, patched and ‘fixed’ for modern systems (I had to run the bladexp on my Fujitsu machine running Windows 10), although considering the PII 233 I had back then, and this thing clocking in at 2.9Ghz the game play is very pokey. At the time it was an amazing game, with so much CGI, interwoven animations, and all the voice acting. Set in scenes reminisce of the film, it starts down a very familiar path, then goes off the rails during the predictable plot twist, but opens up enough paths to lead to a few moral choices and thusly different outcomes.

I dare say in 1997 that it really was ground breaking technology to give the look, feel and aesthetic of Blade Runner, and they even got the rights to use hints of the Vangelis score here & there, leaning on the old and trying to go in a new direction.

But compared to modern pacing it may be awfully slow, totally on rails, and one of those point & click, and find the hidden thing in the scene, along with click the person 100x to get different answers. While not as dire as ‘I have no mouth,and I must scream’ where you are hoping for the least worst ending, Blade Runner does have that optimistic style ending that was pushed onto the film’s original ambiguous ending where Deckard holds the unicorn and hears Gaf’s message implying that even if Rachel isn’t retired, that she doesn’t have very long to live. Just as he very well might not have long to live.

The game is almost maditory for real fanatics of scifi fans of the 1980’s, but odds are if you are, you’d have played this game back when it released.

As for the kids of today… I imagine that Blade Runner would be pretty much like 2001. Slow, confusing and messy. As Harrison Ford put it, it’s a detective who doesn’t detect. Just as both films feature legendary Directors who establish amazing worlds, and atmospheres they deliberately remove the humanity from the humans, and entrust it to the machines, the real torch barres of the future. Sometimes I wonder if Riddly Scott grasped the human angle of the final confrontation, and why there was so many misfirings with Prometheus and Covenant…. But that disappointment is for another time.

One thing that really established the aesthetic of Cyberpunk was Sir Run Run Shaw’s involvement in producing the film, as the Hong Kong Ladie’s Market, Shum Shai Po, and Mong Kong give that impression for the November 2019 that isn’t quite reality. Just as that ancient novel Neuromancer, established forever the vibe of Chiba having the sky that felt like a TV set to a dead channel (I’m currently across the bay in Tokyo, and it’s a nice blue.. How future prophetic), where that feeling of old tube televisions displaying the noise of the electromagnetic storm of the stars & the solar wind, would give us the old gray snow. Now forever replaced with the clear blue skies.

Despite the Orwellian nature of the wonderful internet, the brave new world feeling of the ‘licensed’ clinics of Shenzhen in many ways the future is brighter today, than it would have been in the 1980’s version of today.

On the road to the Outer Worlds, aka thanks for the ‘soft’ regions

I fired up Fallout 76, after all the $100 subscription nonsense to poke around, and yeah it’s still boring and empty. So It’s the 25th in Asia so I figured this was a great time to catch the launch and play the latest Obsidian opus, The Outer Worlds. Since I’m still in Hong Kong it’s restricted to the PS4 only? I mean sure, I have one, but I want to play it on the PC. Well at least I can select another region, say USA, and boom I can now choose between Game Stop (Are they still around, I thought they went bust?), Epic (LOL) or Microsoft’s game store (I thought they gave up after Games for Windows Live?). Anyways I’ll take the Microsoft one, shame it’s not on steam, I guess it’s one of those Epic things.

So clicking on the Windows Store, it’ll instantly let me choose where I want to be (Wasn’t that an old slogan, where do you want to go today?), and thankfully I can just choose. They have 香港 (Hong Kong) & 澳门 (Macau), 繁體中文 (Traditional Chinese) or American English!

So nice of them to let me just choose! I go for the English as few things recognize the 2nd official language of Hong Kong (English), but I don’t care about censorship, mainland sensibilities, or anything to that effect. Great. Now time to pay, let me get out my credit card and…

Denied! Turns out they finally fixed the ‘feature’ that you could put in any random valid American address, and use any international credit card, and it’d just work! So you now need a valid mailing address. Or option 2, the more fun one is to buy a gift card on some shady place like E-bay, and try to get a gift card that’ll just email you the code after the auction, and hope that they are legit, as it’s all too easy money for them.

$100 USD card for about $65 USD! What could go wrong? Everything!

I went for some card that was closer to par value, and bought it expecting basically nothing, instead within 5 minutes of the auction ending as I’m paying they are sending me an email begging me to pay… Great so probably money wasted. I don’t hear anything back for the next hour, and just give it up as a bad choice, but at least it’s not a lot of money.

I wake up the next day, and behold I get the code, and much to my amazement, it activates! A few hours later and it’s installed!

I see Microsoft has some game pass thing, which sounds interesting but I need a ‘guarantor’ or something as a funding backup, my credit and out of country paypal /credit card is no good. Ugh what a PITA.

I’ve played the game for a few minutes, and my first impression is that the colour palette is just so wide, and the worlds feel so lush, it makes Fallout 76’s brown worlds just fell so lifeless unlike the vibrancy from the Outer Worlds. NPC’s are back, and what a difference that makes. Simply looking up and seeing the red rings of the first planet is just amazing, granted Fallout is doomed to being on earth, but it just doesn’t feel anywhere as magical. That said, TOW definitely feels more Jules Verne / 1860’s steam punk to Fallout’s 1950’s nuclear family, nuclear fallout.

I’d give it a recommendation in the brief few minutes I’ve played, it’s worth the hoops to jump through.