JoEllen Depakakibo, Creator of Pinhole Coffee Shop in Bernal Heights “You shouldn’t get off that path or be distracted if things don’t go your way”

I just read this article about a lady I went to college with in the Chi. Great stuff!

Inspiring People in Creative Spaces

joellen-portrait

Where did the idea for Pinhole come from?

I’ve been in the industry since 2002.  At Blue Bottle, I started in 2006 and was their 8th employee bagging beans, working at the Kiosk (garage in Hayes Valley) and Farmers’ Market. I ended up managing the Kiosk for a few years and in 2012 move to NYC to help with some of their newer retail operations.

Pinhole was in my mind for the past four years, and I’ve actively been looking for spaces that long.  Other spaces opened up earlier but fell through at the last minute.  My experience in NYC gave me more of the ability to just do it; if you can be successful in New York than you can be anywhere.  It gave me a lot of business sense, so finding this space was great and the spaces that fell through were stepping stones to…

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The Simpsons Arcade Game

It’s been a rough go of it these last three-plus months since I last blogged, and save for a few posts on my photo blog and this article I did with my man Maestro over at Blister, I haven’t been blogging much at all. All apologies, I had to get back with it. Twenty-five years ago to the day, The Simpsons, one of my all time favorite shows, made its debut. In celebration of the enduring TV legacy of Springfield’s finest– Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie– we’ll be looking at the first video game based on the series, Konami’s 1991 arcade title. Now, I’ll turn it over to MC Al Gore (thanks to twister5voy) to kick off the festivities!

The origin of The Simpsons goes back to the 1980s, when producer James L. Brooks, then working on the Fox television variety series The Tracey Ullman Show, decided that the program could benefit from some animated segments. Brooks, familiar with the comic Life in Hell created by cartoonist Matt Groening, sought out Groening to do the animation. Initially, Groening planned to do the shorts based on Life in Hell, but decided against it when he discovered he’d lose the publication rights to the comic. Instead, Groening came up with the idea of a family (inspired by his own family) just before his meeting with Brooks. The characters consisted of balding patriarch Homer, tall-haired Marge, brazen brat Bart, gifted student Lisa and the ever adorable infant Maggie. Groening’s idea was accepted, and in 1987, the first batch of animated Simpsons shorts debuted on air.

In the beginning...

In the beginning… Pic comes from knowitalljoe.com

The animated shorts were well received, and two years later a Christmas special called “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” (which tells the story of the family dog, Santa’s Little Helper) became the first full-length Simpsons episodes to air on television. In January of 1990, The Simpsons officially kicked off the remainder of its first season.

In the 25 years that The Simpsons has been on the air, the show has been wildly successful, earning numerous awards and receiving critical acclaim. A staple of international popular culture, The Simpsons has been huge in merchandise, with comic books, action figures, apparel and of course, several video games.

Released in March of 1991, The Simpsons arcade game is a side-scrolling brawler developed by Japanese company Konami. The plot of the game is rather bizarre, even for a Simpsons adventure. For some reason, Waylon Smithers, the loyal employee/servant of billionaire Mr. Burns, steals a diamond for his boss. As he’s fleeing the jewelry store, he literally runs into the Simpsons and the collision causes the diamond to get stuck in Maggie’s mouth. Smthers kidnaps Maggie, causing her family to give chase.

Players can choose from up to four Simpsons characters: Homer, Marge, Bart, or Lisa. Each character has a unique form of attacking: Homer punches and kicks; Marge wields a vacuum cleaner; Bart swings his skateboard and Lisa uses her jump rope. The action is similar to Konami’s previous four-player brawler, 1989’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Players battle a host of wacky characters, ranging from suit wearing goons to a boss fight with a maniacal bowling ball, throughout 8 levels set in the Simpsons’ hometown of Springfield (although the level Dreamland is actually a dream). There are a few bonus stages in between levels, which feature tasks such as using a pump to blow up balloons or slap one’s character in the face to wake him or her up from Dreamland.

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Pic comes from yakuzagames.com.

Following its debut in the arcades, The Simpsons was ported onto some of the gaming platforms of its time, specifically DOS computers and the Commodore 64. In 2009, Electronic Arts Mobile published a truncated version of the title (which only featured Homer as a playable character) was released for iPhone. In 2012, the game was re-released on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 via Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, again published by EA. Versions of the game have also appeared on BlackBerry and Windows Mobile phone.

The first time I played The Simpsons to remember it was most likely in a Chuck E. Cheese somewhere, maybe the one in Melrose Park, Illinois. I was a kid, maybe about nine or so and was completely blown away to see a Simpsons game which let me play out a wacky adventure in a digital Springfield. Everything about the game, from its art style to its sound design (which features voice work from the show’s cast), captures the spirit of the series, making it a joy to play. Mostly.

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Family time! Pic comes from twistedjunk.com.

Despite all of the fun to be had with The Simpsons, it was no easy experience for me. I think the farthest I ever got in the game on my own was the second level, and I didn’t make much progress upon getting there. I rarely played the game in group too often, but the one time I did I think we made it to… the second level. Like any challenging arcade game, completing The Simpsons definitely required some serious token commitment.

Actually now that I think of it, The Simpsons was one of the first arcade games I actually saw someone complete in person. I don’t remember where this was (it may have been at Chuck E.C.), but I do remember a group of teen-aged guys pulled their wits and resources together to beat the game. I remember they blew quite a bit of money on tokens, at least around 15 bucks. It was worth watching it though, because I got to see the ending of the game without spending that amount of money.

Fortunately, today’s world features beercades, wonderful establishments that combine the arcades of old with the now grown-up kids and alcohol of today. Some of these beercades have the game set to free play, which allows people to play them without the use of money. Should I find a Simpsons arcade game at one of these places, I’m going for the win. Yeah, playing the game on free play is probably close to cheating for you sticklers out there, but that was the only way I beat Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Here’s to 25 years of animation’s favorite nuclear family! And due to the glory of syndication, I’m sure The Simpsons will be around for 25 more and then some time. Until next time.

D’oh!

 

9/9/99

I basically lost out on all of today, but I’m still going to put up this post until I publish something more substantial. Fifteen years ago to the day, the Dreamcast, Sega’s final video game console, entered the North American market. Cue the prune juice; I’m getting old.

Dreamcast

Happy Fifteenth! Pic comes from segaretro.org.

My personal experience with the Dreamcast is rather limited, as I’ve never owned one.and never played it much until my second year of college. One of my roommates owned a Dreamcast and quite a few games, so sometimes we’d pop in a few titles and have at it. I really enjoyed it, and Virtua Tennis got me more hyped than ever thought it could. However, it was Capcom’s fighting title Project Justice which really sold me. People, if you haven’t played that one by all means find a way to do so. I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

What I remember most about the Dreamcast are some of the wacky commercials that Sega had to advertise it. In the video seen below (thanks to peppardb for the upload), there are a series of the initial commercials Sega used to promote the DC. These ads featured a number of Sega’s characters, as well as professional athletes. My favorite of the commercials has a digital version of former Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon.

The Dreamcast was not a big hit over its run, finishing a distant fourth in sales to its fellow sixth generation consoles– the Sony PlayStation 2, Microsoft Xbox, and Nintendo Gamecube respectively–  with only 10 million units sold. After the system was discontinued in 2001, it did continue to receive software consistent software support in North America and Europe until the following year, while Japan had Dreamcast games regularly on its store shelves until 2004, with two more releases in 2007 and 2008.

The Dreamcast was ahead of its time, with its usage of Windows operating system, built-in modem for online play, and the Visual Memory Unit (VMU) which stored game information. VMUs were impressive tech for its time and even now, as some of those units had mini games that could be played on the unit itself.

Despite its poor overall sale performance relative to its competition, gamers and critics have since praised the Dreamcast as being one of the best consoles ever made. Even now, the Dreamcast still has a dedicated fanbase, seen on numerous gaming forums and fansites. In 2009, the Dreamcast placed  8th on IGN’s list of top 25 consoles and the following year, placed first on PC Magazine’s top ten console list.

Happy fifteenth, Dreamcast! Hopefully Sega makes another video game console soon. Until next time.

“It’s thinking”

Edit: Added some info about the publications that praised the Dreamcast and its dedicated fanbase.

The Need for Speed Turns 20

I almost forgot to do this post, but here it is anyway, even if it’s a bit tardy. Yesterday, Electronic Arts’s Need for Speed franchise turned twenty years old. There are 20 games in the NFS series (23 if you count the Region 1 V-Rally titles and Nitro X) which have seen release across several video game consoles and home computers. With combined sales of over 150 million copies, NFS is not only the best-selling racing video game series of all, but one of the best-selling video game franchises ever.

Happy 2-0! Pic comes from wikipedia.com

Throughout its run, the NFS  series has had a variety of themes for its games, ranging from racing exotic supercars cars on civilian roadways to facing off against underground street racers. In this post, we’ll focus on the first game in the series, Road & Track Presents: The Need for Speed.

The first. Pic comes from wikipedia.com

Originally released on Panasonic’s 3DO video game system (with later releases on DOS, Sega Saturn, and Sony PlayStation),  Road & Track Presents: The Need for Speed was developed by EA Canada (formerly Distinctive Software, Inc.) and Pioneer Productions with help from the folks at Road & Track magazine. The game features several exotic race cars of its time– among them the Dodge Viper and Mazda RX-7– for players to race on the roads of several fictional locales. People from Road & Track magazine came in to help EA accurately portray the game’s cars so they would perform like their real life inspirations. The game has a full motion video (FMV) intro, as well as FMVs for the selectable cars. If you’re interested, the game’s intro is embedded below  (respect to EA Latinoamerica for the upload).

Gameplay is for one or two players. Player cars are driven using either an in-car view ( with a unique cockpit for each car) or a third-person behind-the-car view. Races come in the form of circuit tracks and point-to-point races, the former which are long race divided into three stages. Police cars and pedestrian traffic hinder players on the point-to-point races, and if caught enough times, the player can get arrested, ending his or her game. Players have the option to save completed races and view them later with the game’s replay system.

In terms of its premise, Need for Speed was not unique for its time. Test Drive, a similar exotic car racer made by the now defunct Accolade, was first released in 1987. What made Need for Speed successful was its gameplay.The game provides a good sense of speed, making it seem as though the player is piloting an actual dream machine. For a look at some gameplay footage, check out the upload from DVD Gaming below.

My experience with the Need for Speed series is a little limited because I’ve only played the first game a few times at best. I do own one game in the series, Need for Speed II SE for Windows which I received in the late 1990s. Later, I got the demo for Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit and played that for a while, but the family computer wasn’t quite up to spec for it. That didn’t prevent me from enjoying the game, though. Low-res textures for the victory!

In college, I played Need for Speed: Most Wanted (the 2005 version) on the Xbox 360, and enjoyed it immensely. Since I haven’t played any of the later NFS releases. The cops versus racers dynamic in that game was great fun, and I imagine I’d still enjoy it today.

Like many successful video game franchises, NFS made its way to the silver screen. Earlier this year, Need for Speed, an action thriller starring Aaron Paul and the excellent Michael Keaton, hit the theaters. I like both Paul and Keaton, and they were the reasons why I went to see the film. My interest for the film peaked after watching the trailers, and even convinced a buddy of mine to go see it with me, and he had to make the quite the trip to do so.

To this day I still apologize to him.

It wasn’t Paul’s nor Keaton’s fault that the film was mediocre though there were (as there should have been) some good race scenes. It’s just… some games are better left on the consoles. If you’re at least somewhat curious about the movie, here’s the official trailer for it.

Happy 20th Need for Speed! It’s been a great ride indeed. EA released a special video commemorating the series earlier this year, is embedded below if you’re interested. Until next time.

Peace & Pixels

Edit: This post needed a bit of work. Pictures got added in (the original game’s box art), moved around (the franchise logo), and some of the general info was changed for accuracy’s sake.

Tuesday Treasures: The King of Fighters ’94 Turns 20

We’ve got a good one for you today, folks. As some of you may know, yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of SNK’s classic arcade fighting game, The King of Fighters ’94!

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Happy Birthday! Pic comes from giantbomb.com.

Released in Japanese arcades for SNK’s Neo-Geo MVS hardware on August 25, 1994, The King of Fighters ’94 is the first game in SNK’s long running King of Fighters series. Unique for its time, KOF ’94 features eight teams consisting of three fighters from around the globe. Matches consist of battles between two teams of three fighters, instead of the more common two rounds between two fighters matchup. Matches are over when one team has all of its fighters knocked out first.

The game’s plot centers on Rugal Bernstein, a notorious criminal who holds the “King of Fighters” tournament in order to seek out the world’s best warriors. Of course, he does this to have a good ‘ol evil time, but is opposed by heroes such as Kyo Kusanagi and the Japan team, as well as brothers Terry and Andy Bogard (of Fatal Fury fame) from the Italy team.

KOF ’94 features characters from a number of SNK’s franchises such as Psycho SoldierArt of Fighting, and Metal Slug. This was an innovative practice at the time, and Sega and Nintendo both would later follow suit with Fighters Megamix and Super Smash Bros. respectively. However, some characters, specifically series hero Kusanagi and villain Bernstein, were created especially the game. If you’re interested, you can see some of these characters in the intro to KOF ’94 (respect to Ferdaus Ahmad Zaki for the upload), which is embedded below.

KOF ’94 was a hit upon its release, leading to the start of an enduring franchise of video games that had a new title released each year for several years. The series has been successful in merchandise (including comic books and action figures), and has even been adapted into to an animated series and live action movie.

I remember the first time I saw KOF ’94. It was in an Aladdin’s Castle arcade room at Harlem & Irving Plaza here in Illinois. Upon first glance, I wasn’t exactly sure what the game was. Although it was a 2D fighting game, it didn’t look like Street Fighter (KOF’s sprites were much bigger) and it didn’t look like any of the Mortal Kombat games either. However, from the moment I saw Kyo’s hand burn his invitation to the KOF tournament in the game’s intro, I became intrigued. It may not have been clear exactly what I was witnessing, but it was something serious. After some hesitation, I finally decided to give the game a try.

I hated it.

Perhaps it was my familiarity with Street Fighter that prevented me from initially enjoying KOF ’94 , but most likely it was due to my lack of fighting game skill. Still, Street Fighter provided the foundation for what I knew about fighting games, mostly because I had not played SNK’s previous fighting games often (I may have played an Art of Fighting game once at the most).

Some of the things I learned from Street Fighter– namely the quarter-circle forward punch command for that game’s “Hadoken” special move– actually worked in KOF ’94, but only with certain characters. Since I was unfamiliar with the game’s mechanics, I spent much of the match just jumping up and down while kicking. If you hadn’t guessed, the game’s A.I. whooped me.

Despite the rough beginning, there were things about the game that I did appreciate, first of which were its graphics. Like many SNK games, KOF ’94 had colorful, large, detailed 2D character sprites, really some of the best of its time. Furthermore, the game had great sound effects, especially evident in the hits characters delivered. Every blow sounded like it came out of a martial-arts film, providing a great sensation of damage.

It wasn’t until my adult years that I learned to really appreciate KOF for what is, though ironically enough, that appreciation came through a Capcom fighting game, 2001’s Capcom vs. SNK 2.

Cvs2

Pic comes from snk.wikia.com

This game was a collaborative effort between Capcom and SNK, and included characters from both companies’ games. CVS2 features a tutorial I used to take time and actually learn many of SNK’s characters, an effort that served me well in playing the later games in the KOF series.

That about does it for this segment. For a nice tribute to the KOF series, do check out Game Art HQ’s site for a number of great illustrations by fans of the series. Until next time.

Peace & Pixels

See Ya, HoH

As the old saying goes, “All good things must come to an end.” Here on the Chomp of course, we realize this well after said thing has ended.

Normally around this time, I was watching “House of Horrors,” a weekly internet program broadcast by GameSpot on Twitch.tv. The show, made by GameSpot’s Australian branch, featured hosts Jessica McDonell and Zorine Te as they played through various horror games, ranging from classics such as Resident Evil 2 to more obscure titles such as The Cat Lady. For the past year and a half (even while football was on) HoH held my attention.

Unfortunately, HoH was canceled last week, and all of GameSpot’s live shows save for “The Lobby,” “Now Playing,” and the new “On The Front Line” are gone too. This is the result of a major restructuring that GameSpot’s parent company CBS is doing which has also caused it to cut several jobs. Hopefully all those who are out of work will find something soon if they haven’t yet.

Sometimes goofy and always entertaining, House of Horrors was one of the best internet shows I’ve seen. Not only did viewers get to see a wide variety of video games, they were also treated to the humor of highly likable hosts McDonell and Te. McDonell was prone to excited outbursts and copious swearing while Te was more reserved and straight-faced. It was an excellent pairing of personalities that made for a number of hilarious moments.

One of my favorite moments from the show was when the duo recorded Te playing the remake of the original Resident Evil, which is set in a mansion. Te was being chased by a zombie on one of the mansion’s upper floors, when a viewer told her she could drop down from the balcony to the floor below. It seemed to be sage advice, since players are able to this in Resident Evil 4 (although not some of the earlier titles).

Te followed the viewer’s advice, but when she went to the edge of the balcony, she found she couldn’t leap down. Of course, the zombie gained on her, causing McDonell much distress. She told the viewers not to take advantage of Te’s kindness, whereas Te herself said, “This is why we can’t have nice things.”

Occasionally McDonell and Te were joined on the show by some of their GameSpot colleagues. Ed Tran and Dan Hines from GameSpot Australia were on a few shows, and they always provided their own type of humor. Ed was somewhat similar to McDonell, providing sudden (and sometimes profane) outbursts when things got hairy while Dan was usually as deadpan as a Norm McDonald joke. Seb Ford, funnyman from GameSpot’s UK office, stopped in once to play with his mate McDonell.

If you ever want to see what the show was like, GameSpot still has some episodes of the show archived on its Twitch channel. Also, do check out Te’s personal blog, Forevergamie, which is here on WordPress.

That does it for this segment. Until next time.

Peace & Pixels

Edit: Apparently GameSpot has a new live show called “On the Front Line,” which I didn’t know about when this article was first published. That show’s been added in now.

The Sega Genesis Turns 25

Oh we’ve got a good one for you, folks. So good that no excuse about how the Chomp’s been (or hasn’t been) over the summer can keep this post from getting uploaded before midnight. Twenty-five years ago to the day, the Sega Genesis debuted in the North American market!

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The first North American Genesis design.  Photo comes from wikipedia.com

Boy, do I feel old.

Technically, this post can be considered as being almost a year late, since the Mega Drive, the first incarnation of what would be the Genesis, was first released in Japan on October 29, 1988. Since I didn’t do a post on the Mega Drive, I’ve decided to celebrate the Genesis’ 25th on the day it debuted in the North American market. Without further ado, let’s get into some history.

For much of the 1980s, Nintendo’s Famicom (released as the Nintendo Entertainment System here in North America) dominated the home video game console market in Japan and the world since its debut in 1983. Sega had previously entered the home video game market in 1983 as well with the release of the SG-1000 and the Sega Mark III (known as the Sega Master System abroad) two years later. Even with the Master System’s success in Europe, neither console was able to put much of a dent into Nintendo’s total worldwide sales.

Despite the mostly lukewarm returns from its previous two efforts, Sega decided to jump back into the home console market. The company had a battle ahead of it, as Nintendo’s dominance had only strengthened. In 1987, NEC released the powerful 16-bit PC Engine (known internationally as the TurboGrafx-16)  gaming system in Japan to much acclaim. To keep pace, Sega decided that its next effort should have more horsepower, and Masami Ishikawa (who had previously worked on the SG-1000 and Master System)  was selected to lead a research and development team to create the company’s next project, a 16-bit console of its own.

Dubbed the “Mega Drive”, Sega’s new console was to be powered by the Motorola 68000 processor, and used a motherboard similar to the ones used in the company’s arcade machines. A top-loading cartridge based system, the Mega Drive was built for performance, and was capable of running home versions of Sega’s arcade offerings at the time.

Upon its release in 1988, the Mega Drive failed to get much of a foothold in the Japanese home console market, coming in third behind the PC Engine and the still top-selling Famicom. In January of the following year, Sega announced that it would be releasing the Mega Drive in North America.

In the North American market, Sega got aggressive. It upped the fire with its advertising campaign, and came out with guns blazing from the jump. Due to a trademark dispute with the American company Mega Drive Systems, Inc., Sega renamed its console the “Genesis.”  The company boldly got after its rival Nintendo, leading to the now classic (and infamous) “Genesis Does What Nintendon’t” ad campaign (video uploaded by SegaCDUniverse).

From the time the Genesis hit the North American market in 1989, its rivalry with Nintendo sizzled. Nintendo increase the heat itself with the release of the Super Famicom (AKA Super Nintendo) in Japan the next year and in North America and the UK in 1991 and 1992 respectively. For much of the early to mid 1990s, Sega versus Nintendo was the talk of the video game world.

Around the mid-1990s, Sega began to focus its efforts on its upcoming 32-bit console, the Saturn. Sega sold the Gensis until 1997, when it turned over the licensing of the console to Majesco. In 1999, Majesco ended discontinued sales of its Genesis units. While on the market, the Genesis was estimated to have sold around 40 million units worldwide, making it Sega’s top-selling console.

I remember the first time I played the Genesis was at a shopping mall (remember those?) back in the early 1990s. The original Sonic the Hedgehog was loaded up in the console, and every kid within earshot of it was captivated by the system.

When it was my turn to play, I was immediately floored. After playing the NES for a few years, the leap from its 8-bit gameplay to the 16-bit experience the Genesis offered was huge. The gameplay, graphics, sound and music (especially the music) were all mind-blowing at the time. I nearly got motion sickness playing as Sonic because he was so friggin’ quick. He moved across the screen in a fashion different from any other character seen before, and it was amazing.

The Genesis was my second video game console, the first being the NES. I received it as a gift on Christmas in 1994, and I still have it, box and all, to this day. My console is the Sonic the Hedgehog 2 bundle, which consists of that game, a controller, and the Model 2 version of the Genesis system.

Thanks, mom.

Thanks, mom. Photo comes from Amazon.com

A few years later I received a 32X, one of two add-ons for the system (the first being the Sega CD) for my birthday, and I honestly enjoyed it. I had a few games for it, namely Virtua FighterVirtua RacingT-Mek and Star Wars Arcade (which according to YouTube, is not impossible to beat). Video game history may not be entirely kind to the 32X, but it was given with love and I still love it.

It was cool to me. Photo comes come from Segaretro.org.

Some of my best memories of gaming as a kid come from playing Genesis games. It was the console that allowed me to play the first copy of a Street Fighter game I ever owned, in this case Street Fighter II: Special Champion Edition. For that alone, it’s special. Hard to believe that Sega’s out of the console business, its last one being the Dreamcast which deubted in 1999.

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Guile (L) brought the sonic but M. Bison (R) brought the boom. Pic comes from Giant Bomb.

That about does it for this segment. For more on the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, do check out the redoubtable Jeremy Parish’s article on the system from last year, and SegaRetro.org for general Sega info. Happy 25th Genesis! Until next time.

Peace & Pixels