• magisterrex Retro Games

    I've been gaming since the days of Pong and still own a working Atari 2600. I tend to ramble on about retro games, whether they be board games, video games or PC games. Sometimes I digress. Decades after earning it, I'm finally putting the skills I learned while completing my history degree from the University of Victoria to good use. Or so I think. If you're into classic old school gaming, this blog is for you!

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    Got a game or product you want reviewed? Send me an email! Will review board games, PC games, video games and accessories (Xbox 360 or Wii, but also new releases for classic systems - you know who you are!)
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The Best Classic Board Games – Personal Preference (1987)

There are games that rely on the roll of the dice and the luck of the draw as they are about strategy, moving tokens around a game board, drawing cards, paying money, and trying to have the most loot.  Then there are games that rely on your knowledge of people and events, which tend to be known as “party” games, perhaps because there are less little game components to lose during a drunken gaming bacchanal.  Of party games, there are two broad categories: those that test your knowledge of trivia, and can be played by any group, whether they are acquainted or not, and those that focus on players answering questions that deal with how well you know your fellow gamers, which means they are best played among friends.  Personal Preference, a classic game first published in 1987, is one of the latter.

Personal Preference Box

Game play in Personal Preference is relatively simple: during their turn players draw four cards from the category box corresponding with the game board space that their token is on.  Each card has a single item, either from the “FOOD & DRINK”, “ACTIVITIES”, “PEOPLE”, or “POTPOURRI” categories, and are placed on the game board for the other players to see.  (For example, drawing four cards from the “FOOD & DRINK” category box might net the player the following: “Beef jerky”, “Chocolate chip cookies”, “Garlic”, and “Pumpkin pie”.)  The player then ranks those cards in order of most to least favorite, using the four color-coded Preference Cards, placing the Preference Cards into a secret envelope hidden from the other players’ view.

At that point the other players attempt to guess the secret order of the Preference Cards, placing their special Preference Tokens on the game board in order of what they think the secret ranking is.  Once all players (or teams!) have committed to their preference guesses, the secret order is revealed.   Correct guesses move the corresponding player’s token further along the game board, while incorrect answers can move their tokens backwards.  The winning player or team is the one that manages to guess correctly enough times to move their token all the way to the FINISH square.

Personal Preference was originally published in 1987 by Broderbund (yes, the software company) in the United States, and Playtoy Industries in Canada, but was actually designed by Donal Carlston, Ph.D.  Dr. Carlston is currently a professor in the Psychological Sciences department at Purdue University, and his university bio explains much of the origin of Personal Preference:

“Primary research interests are in person perception, impression formation and social cognition. The current focus of this work is on the origin, organization and use of different kinds of mental representations of people and events.”

I connected with Dr. Carlston back in 2010, and he graciously consented to an email interview, but his schedule never permitted him the time to respond to my questions, which were fairly innocuous:

1. A 1988 review of your game stated that it was designed to further familial social bonds. Would this be an accurate statement, and what was your original purpose in designing the game? Was this game an example of your research or was it an academic aside? How did the idea for the game come about?,,

2. Do you have any favorite anecdotes of your time as a game designer that you could share?,,

3. You are also credited for being a designer for the board game, Lode Runner, based on the classic computer game. Did you design other games, and have you considered returning to the industry? Do you have any advice for those that may wish to pursue a career as a game designer?

However, it’s been four years since the attempt was made; even I am willing to give up on receiving an answer after this much time has passed! This blog entry has been waiting in the queue all this time…it’s time to let it free!

Personal Preference Contents

Christmas ReBlog: The 12 Days of Retro Gaming

12 Days of Retrogaming

I just read a wonderful Christmas-related retrogaming post from 2011 that I hadn’t seen before, all thanks to the magic of google! It’s called 12 Days of Retro Gaming, and it’s worth a read!

In 1994 my father decided that it was high time to replace that old Commodore 64 (which wasn’t even considered a PC anymore) with a brand new Pentium 90 mhz PC.  I remember coming downstairs on Christmas morning and there it was, a beautiful boxy white machine with a VGA monitor, printer, and took up all the space our wide oak desk could spare.  CD-ROM was brand new and this bad boy came equipped with it and a few initial CDs, including Myst and an Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia.  At that time, however, not every game came in the CD version and many PC gamers were selling off their floppy disc versions of games to upgrade.  It was at this time that I became enamoured with PC gaming and began stopping by the used PC game shop near my part-time job and blowing my money on classics.

Read more by clicking the link HERE

Merry Christmas From…Ral Partha?

Do you remember when companies would take out full-page ads in gaming magazines to wish their patrons a Merry Christmas? No, me neither. Yet that’s just what Ral Partha did in Dragon Magazine #56 (December 1981). How can you not feel more full of holiday spirit after reading that? I know, how about looking at it, too!

Merry Christmas from Ral Partha

All Good Things Come To An End…

Way back in 2001, when I was in between stints of gainful employment, I found a little online auction house called eBay, and began to stock up on some collectibles which had been on my wish list for a long time. After an orgy of collection acquisition, it occurred to me that I could sell off some of my unwanted stuff on that site, and with a little luck, make enough to buy even more of what I wanted.

A few months later, in 2002, I realized that I was making more money than I was spending, and there just might be a business model hiding in my hobby time.  I registered my trademark and began operating as a business, always known as magisterrex.com officially, although eBay’s many labyrinthine rule changes eventually required me to call myself magisterrex Retro Games if I wanted to stay selling there. For many years eBay was a good partner, and I paid my fees dutifully and happily, becoming one of their Power Sellers and staying that way until I left.

2004 is the earliest screenshot Wayback Machine has for magisterrex.com, forwarded to my eBay listings from the http://www.magisterrex.com URL.

Eventually, as the market transformed, I found eBay too restrictive and too little value for the money, and left for greener pastures. Before then, and after, I dabbled in other online venues: Bidville, Bonanzle, Dawdle, iOffer, Overstock, Amazon, eCrater, eBid, and others, with limited success. Some of these names you might not even recall anymore, as they have disappeared from the vast online retail landscape.

Looking fancier in the eBay store by 2005, but http://www.magisterrex.com is still forwarded to my eBay store.

What did work was running my own website, which permitted me much more time to devote to inventory acquisition and listing, rather the artificial emergencies of eBay. I learned how to code in HTML, which was the norm of the day, and put up what now would be an ugly, barely functional eCommerce site…but it did the job. Within a year of moving the bulk of my inventory to the website, sales matched my eBay sales, and two years later blew them out of the water, prompting me to shut down my eBay store altogether.

Here’s the earliest screenshot that the Wayback Machine has of the actual magisterrex.com website, a marvel of HTML.

A few years later my website’s stodgy look prompted me to contact a trusted website designer to bring magisterrex.com closer to the modern age. She designed my robot and overall look of the site, and delivered what, for the most part, you see today.

A new look for magisterrex.com, and a more familiar one for current visitors.

Yet the world continues to turn, and things are changing within the retrogaming community. There are fewer and fewer people who want to have the actual, original games in hand, preferring to purchase digital, virtual versions. The rise of digital delivery has meant that GOG and other sites like it can offer someone a game at a few dollars, send it to them electronically, and no one waits for the mail to arrive. Microsoft offers the same type of product through their Live service, as do Nintendo and Sony on their own networks. This, it seems, is a very attractive process to many people, though I still cannot bring myself to participate.  Unfortunately, original game resellers are soon to be a distant memory because of companies like GOG, as the bills still need to be paid, regardless if no one wants to buy a game that day.

Which brings me to my point.

I’ve had a great run, and I know I’ve mailed out a lot of happiness to a lot of people over the last decade. I’m content with that, but I do need to feed and clothe the children, and provide some measure of a lifestyle beyond the poverty level for my family. So, I have accepted an offer from a company to return to work doing what I did a decade ago. My website will stay live for some time yet, as I slowly clear out my inventory and give people the chance to buy what they want, but eventually I will shutter the windows and lock the doors.

So, a profound THANK-YOU to everyone who has purchased from my store over the past ten years. Because of your patronage, I was able to live out and pursue a dream, which is far more than many others get to do. I’ll still hang around Twitter from time-to-time, as my new schedule and responsibilities permit, and I hope to put up a blog post or two that someone might find of interest. All good things come to an end, and this…this was a great thing. Thanks for reading and remember: keep it retro!

Advertising From Yesteryear…Game Genie

Long before there was an Internet to search for clues and codes to hack your way through a stubbornly difficult game, Codemasters brought a product into the game market which permitted access to your video game’s code, thereby letting you add unearned lives, power-ups, and so forth. The Game Genie was an accessory that you could insert into your game console, and then the game would attach to the Game Genie, allowing the Game Genie to act as an intermediary between the console and the game.

Many gamers found this helpful, and different Game Genies were produced for a variety of game consoles, including the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), the Nintendo GameBoy, the Super Nintendo, the Sega Genesis, and the Sega Game Gear. Two different companies distributed the Game Genie over the years it was being manufactured: Galoob and Camerica, one of which (Galoob) was actually sued by Nintendo in an effort to prevent the Game Genie from being sold. Fortunately for many gamers, Nintendo lost their legal battle and had to pay Galoob for damages.

Time marches steadily on, however, and the Game Genie is now in the dustbin of gaming history, while Nintendo continues to be a gaming powerhouse.  All we have left of the Game Genie are the few units that can be found here and there in the retrogaming marketplace, and our memories. Speaking of which, see if the following ad brings back memories of how you salivated over the thought of finally mastering that one irksome game, if only you got a Game Genie. Click on the image below to see an enlarged version, and enjoy the trip into yesteryear!

Full page advertisement for Game Genie

ReBlog: NES Cartridge Hard Drive and Console Dock

Recently I was asked for permission to use some pictures I made and used in my guide for replacing a Nintendo Entertainment System 72-pin connector to help show some steps in creating a hard drive and docking station out of an old NES cartridge and console.  How could I say “NO” to that?  The guide is now uploaded into the instructables website, and you can read the guide and watch the video to see some fine retro-themed hacking. Check it out here: http://www.instructables.com/id/NES-Cartridge-Hard-Drive-and-Console-Dock/?ALLSTEPS

Indie Game Review: Martian Marine Lander

Here’s a little indie gaming treat for cheapass gamers like myself: Martian Marine Lander. The premise is simple: guide your Martian spacecraft full of Martian Marines down to Earth so that the invasion can begin. Of course, Earth has defense forces, and they’re keenly interested in turning your craft into space dust, so the lander needs to be protected by dexterously angling your force fields to absorb damage while floating down to the surface. It’s harder than it sounds, as inertia tends to keep your craft rolling in the wrong direction just when you need the shields to be facing elsewhere! And don’t think you can just plummet down at a breakneck pace to avoid all the weaponry altogether: making a run for it causes the Lander to explode into so many little pieces from the stress.

My meager Martian Marine Lander skills in action.

This game reminds me of classic retro games you could find on your Atari 2600 in that the game difficulty adjusts to your level, giving you new challenges to overcome, yet with modern music and graphics. In fact, I found myself sucked into the game for a considerable length of time before realizing that food and water were also an important part of my regular routine.

If this sounds like your cup of tea, check out http://www.martianmarinelander.com/ and shell out the mere $4.95 it costs to download the full game, and enjoy!