Author Topic: On Retro Gamer, By Bobinator  (Read 2765 times)

Offline Bobinator

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On Retro Gamer, By Bobinator
« on: April 04, 2014, 18:24:57 PM »
I figured this would be the best place to put it, considering the topic, but if anybody wants to move it, feel free.

I've been reading the magazine for a while now. I just finished reading #127. A while back, I've discovered sort of a... pattern. A routine that might just have been ALWAYS been there, and maybe I hadn't noticed until... let's say, issue 100? But for my current example, we'll use the newest issue, so you can look at what I'm talking about and see for yourself.

Simply put, Retro Gamer is supposed to be a magazine about gaming. That much is obvious by the title, of course. However, I feel that the magazine loses focus on the games themselves, and while the information given, such as the game's development, the people behind it, and so on is interesting, it takes too much of a focus.

Let me put it like this. In this issue, the magazine covered the making of Fairlight, Jack the Nipper, and Commander Keen. Do you remember when I spoke about the idea of spreading knowledge about different games and informing people? Here's where it all ties in.

For example: I love Commander Keen. I think it's great, and I could easily go into what makes it great. The way the magazine phrases it, it wants you to think it's a good game, as well. It talks about the history of the game, its development, the history of PC gaming and what Keen offered for it, and its influence. Now, these are all important things to talk about, as they are admittedly interesting for the sort of people who like their gaming trivia and that includes me.

Now let's move over to Fairlight and Jack the Nipper. The articles here do mostly the same thing as what Commander Keen's article did. It explains the development of the games, ancedotes about its creation, and its general history. And, just as there's many people who enjoy the Commander Keen games, I imagine there's a lot of people who liked Fairlight or Jack.

Now, here's my point: At no point do any of these articles speak about the games themselves. Not the mechanics, or how they play. It doesn't speak of what makes them good, or bad, or what makes them worth trying out if you haven't already. For either game.

AND THERE'S YOUR FRICKIN' PROBLEM.

See, like I said. I like Commander Keen. I know pretty much everything they spoke of in the article already. I know they're good games, even if the magazine refuses to tell me why. Meanwhile, I imagine most of you were staring at the pages thinking "What the hell is Commander Keen? Why should I care? It looks just like any [insert genre of game here] I've seen. Why is this so important?" And you know what? That's what I was thinking when I was looking at the thing for Fairlight. You want to know what makes Commander Keen so good. The magazine won't tell you. I want to know what makes all the Spectrum games they post slather screenshots and sprites all over the pages like World of Spectrum just exploded. The magazine won't tell me. It's clear there's a deep apprecation for the system, but it's like everybody who didn't grow up with it doesn't matter. If we're supposed to love the thing so much, can we at least ask why?

It's two sides of the same coin, so to speak, that lead to nothing being accomplished or learned. If there's a game in there you know, the magazine will just reaffirm your belief that it's good like an echo chamber. If you don't know it, you're just left confused and annoyed, most likely. For so many of these articles, you could just print a screenshot, the trivia, and a sentence that says "This game is good because we say so. Just believe us, OK?"

I'll accept things like the arcade feature and the Minority report, as their focus is far too broad to really go into detail on one specific thing. That's fine, I can understand that in that case. I still wish that when they do mention specific game, they didn't come in a cramped little box. But at least then, they make an effort to tell you about the game.

Actually, I'd like to talk about something I think was done very well. Page 52, Import Only. It's done perfectly! Exactly what I was asking for! It explains what the game is about, what it does, and what makes it interesting or unique! That's what I ask from the magazine, but it's restricted to this one tiny little section. If the entire magazine were as good or as informative as those two pages, this thread wouldn't exist.

The other segments are... all right, I don't have as many complaints about them. The top 25 for the Playstation was a little vague, and I think it needed more information about the games.

Again, I understand that maybe what I'm asking is impossible. Maybe a decent look at all the games discussed in each issue AND the random trivia they love so much would take too long, or there wouldn't be enough pages to do so. And I'd complain just as much, if anybody asks, if we lived an alternate universe where the magazine was American and all Spectrum content was replaced with Playstation content. No matter what system it is, telling people about the games they already know about isn't informative or entertaining.

I suppose that's it, then. Before I go, I'd like to show you all something. This is Hardcore Gaming 101's article on the Wally Week series for the Spectrum. Retro Gamer covered this series, as well, and I think this is the perfect comparison between how I'd like to see RG write, and how it writes in reality. I hope if you take anything from this, is that good, informative writing is what makes retro gaming live on, not just a bunch of screenshots and empty praise.

We need to know why we do what we do.

Thank you.

...Also, they did that thing where they called a fighting game a beat-em-up. only now they're calling beat-em-ups 'scrolling fighters'. This is getting ridiculous, people. What, are we going to start calling Call of Duty games "Doom clones" again, now? :P

Offline zapiy

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Re: On Retro Gamer, By Bobinator
« Reply #1 on: April 04, 2014, 18:46:44 PM »
Nice thread and a fantastic read.. For me its nice to have other peoples opinions on something like gaming magazines. I don't agree entirely with you however, i find the mag very informative for the most part. Some sections in each issue i don't much care for but thats about the worst of it for me.

I keep my subscription going as i want to support the community and lets face it, that mag is firmly at the heart of this scene, especially here in the UK.
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Offline SnakeEyes

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Re: On Retro Gamer, By Bobinator
« Reply #2 on: April 04, 2014, 19:08:18 PM »
I love retro gamer, really love it.

I do however have to agree with you on the issus regarding the games. Most of tha articles are about the history leading up to the game and then stops.

Why not make it a real love letter to the game, more pages, artwork from the game, classic hints and tips, how the game works. go real in depth about the game it self.

Sad thing is they have done little things in the past, such as the boss features where they show all the bosses from one game and details of how o beat them. do that but for the entire game. break down the levels etc.

A good example, they always talk about megaman and how you have to pick the right weapon for the right stage to beat the boss. yeah great. well why not do a pretty extensive piece and acually break it down into exactly what weapon for each boss, and stage breakdowns etc.

stop glossing over games and really get into them.

Take for example something like Kasumi ninja on jag, it mentions characters, and hard to pull off moves etc. stop mentioning them. give a game a full 8 pages, show us a profile of the characters, backgrounds and list movesets.

Thats what I would like, I remember when older games mags used to do this and I miss it.

Offline zapiy

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Re: On Retro Gamer, By Bobinator
« Reply #3 on: April 04, 2014, 19:19:52 PM »
Yeah having re-read the thread entirely i see your points now but would that not make the mag more expensive. Surely more page space for each game will either see less overall content or a bigger mag and that will hit our pockets?
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Offline Bobinator

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Re: On Retro Gamer, By Bobinator
« Reply #4 on: April 04, 2014, 19:26:18 PM »
Quote from: "zapiy"
Yeah having re-read the thread entirely i see your points now but would that not make the mag more expensive. Surely more page space for each game will either see less overall content or a bigger mag and that will hit our pockets?

Well, like I said, I can see how the limitations of the print medium would lead to some of the decisions of overall content being made. Maybe print's just not the way to go, these days...?

Offline SnakeEyes

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Re: On Retro Gamer, By Bobinator
« Reply #5 on: April 04, 2014, 19:29:54 PM »
Quote from: "zapiy"
Yeah having re-read the thread entirely i see your points now but would that not make the mag more expensive. Surely more page space for each game will either see less overall content or a bigger mag and that will hit our pockets?

All they would have to do is focus on one or two games a month and give them the royal treatment. Thats all I ask.

When they do a game like Double dragon, Final Fight, UN squadron, Ghouls and ghosts, I want to dive into it, read about the bosses the characters. I want the pages to be full of artwork from the game to compliment the words.

Just a couple of games a month would be freat.

Offline AmigaJay

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Re: On Retro Gamer, By Bobinator
« Reply #6 on: April 04, 2014, 22:01:28 PM »
I agree bob, i no longer subscribe because i feel the mag is more of a stale look at games, kind of wikipedia, get the facts down (right or wrong sometimes) and as you say get diverted from the games themselves.
Certain sections too have become too set in their ways and they wont change them even though people have mentioned before on RG leaving feedback.
Needs a fresh start imo.
Old School Gamer Since 1982 - Creator of various gaming websites and blogs 1998-2017

Offline Greyfox

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Re: On Retro Gamer, By Bobinator
« Reply #7 on: April 04, 2014, 23:41:40 PM »
Firstly great to see you back AmigaJay :113:

I complete see your point here Bob, it can at times appear to be a cryptic breakdown of the anatomy of a game for all the wrong reasons, although informative most of the time, the lack of the nostalgia touch or perspective from the freelancer to as you put it, why the game was great or not so great is skipped or overlooked and appearing to be based on the breakdown of the game rather than what made it enjoyable and rememberal what we all though in the past when we actually played them for the first time.

I think the magazine approach is about the facts and the insight rather than been a game review covering 6-8 pages, but I do think this needs to change to some what of a breakdown (fair enough) and then a celebration of the game good or bad, page counts IMO should not prevent this or "we only have a certain amount of pages to use" firstly on most occasion the magazine consists of about 7-8 pages of advertisements and it's mainly there own rather than third parties, to argue this, Long term readers and even newcomers would of seen these adverts countless times, so of a 116 page magazine, I've counted 106-104 pages of actual content and even that has wasted pages with a screenshot covering 2 pages unnecessary page fillers, so they can expand on extyra pages getting enlightening content and regarding the expense for extra pages costing more at the printers, this also is a farce, as magazines like Total Film, Edge and many more go into the 130-140-150 page counts, more adverts yes, but more content too.

Retro Gamer magazine seems to have gotten stuck in a rut, feedback been quelled from readers, people continuing to unsubscribe, leaving their forum, is a sign that cracks are beginning to develop and can only damage this great magazine over time into possible extinction!

There are other magazines that may have a small fan base like "Return" etc.. but I doubt they are losing their subscribers like this. Which is a great shame, as the older Retro Gamer magazine before the 100 mark was exceptional and you couldn't wait till next months to see what they would cover. I personally hope they can take on board the advice been given freely I might add to help make this product one I wish to continue purchasing every month, these days I'm not half as excited to rush out and grab it like I once was.

Offline Bobinator

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Re: On Retro Gamer, By Bobinator
« Reply #8 on: April 05, 2014, 00:19:58 AM »
Personally, this is why I was so happy to hear about Retro Magazine, as it sounds like the best competition they've had since... well, ever. They need something to shake them up, make them try something new. The more prominent choices for retro gaming magazines for people to pick from, the more they're going to have to improve if they want to stay afloat.

Offline jdanddiet

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Re: On Retro Gamer, By Bobinator
« Reply #9 on: April 05, 2014, 08:25:22 AM »
Greyfox, in the absence of actual subscriber numbers, (which I am assuming you do not have) I think the odd person getting in a huff and cancelling their sub on the forum is not necessarily evidence the mag is losing huge swathes of subscribers. And even if it was, the new subscribers could be outnumbering it by any other conjecture we care to think up. Just saying.

Offline zapiy

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Re: On Retro Gamer, By Bobinator
« Reply #10 on: April 05, 2014, 15:04:22 PM »
You have a point.. i doubt we will never know what the figures are but i hope your right.
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Offline Megamixer

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Re: On Retro Gamer, By Bobinator
« Reply #11 on: April 07, 2014, 16:25:16 PM »
The issue raised by Bobinator is one that I hadn't noticed but going back to my mags, I can definitely see it. Ironically it seems to be the smaller pieces rather than the big spreads that actually contain more information on what makes a game decent i.e. there is more to take in from a 2-page 'retro revival' than an 8-page piece on a game.

I tend to do further research before buying something featured in the mag anyway (unless it's maga cheap to buy) but I agree that I'd like to see at least 20% of a 'making of' speak about the gameplay as well as its development history.

Offline TL

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Re: On Retro Gamer, By Bobinator
« Reply #12 on: April 07, 2014, 16:40:55 PM »
Speaking personally, but also as an RG writer, I always try to talk about the gameplay whenever I am writing an article, especially if it's a Minority Report. I have written 6 of them now and although it can be hard to do this given the word counts I feel it's important to at least explain some of it.

Offline Carlos

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Re: On Retro Gamer, By Bobinator
« Reply #13 on: April 07, 2014, 16:53:26 PM »
Great post Bobinator, I have to say that I agree with your points.

I used to be a subscriber, from issues 20 to 118. I have a few pre ip issues too.

The earlier issues seem to be more engaging to me than the later issues, there is an assumption made in the writing of the articles that is not there in the earlier ones.

Reading how the games were made and how they worked interested me, and the human interest side was interesting too, the Chariot Race for the VIC and how that was made was great, and the fact the Author passed away earlier that year really caught me. It was nice to see a community recognise the efforts of a man who made a game many years ago.I am sure his family appreciated the recognition the Magazine gave to him. That was a high point, in fact the high water mark for my interest in the Mag.  Too many articles about the same games with the weary defence of 'different perspective' were featuring, this is where the *Why* is no longer asked in an article, because readers know why from an earlier issue, they don't want to appear to be repeating themselves.

There are great articles that I miss now (minority report  :17: 

Offline Bobinator

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Re: On Retro Gamer, By Bobinator
« Reply #14 on: April 07, 2014, 17:06:58 PM »
Quote from: "Carl"
Thats my take on it, I did not get mad, I just stopped buying it.
If I have to grab an issue for a quick 5 min visit to the smallest room, I alway take a copy pre issue 100!  :P

Then again, you can't do that with a digital format anyway, so...

But yeah, if they're so worried about reusing content, maybe it'd help if they didn't focus on a total of three different systems. As I've said, they've done a heavy focus on Spectrum games, and in my opinion, it's kind of overshadowed everything else in the magazine. I could be very wrong, of course, but I can't even remember the last time they've sat down and really analyzed a Commodore 64 game. Or an Amiga game, for that matter.

Speaking as a DOS fan, I really, truly do appreciate the fact that they did a Making Of for Commander Keen, but what we need, more than anything, is variety. No one system should get more of a focus than another, because there's so many to pick from, I'd say.

That being said, Laird, I do think you do a good job with the Minority Reports, so you deserve credit there. I'd say the Minority Reports are one of the better parts of the magazine, as they cover stuff that isn't usually covered in RG. Honestly, if the Minority Report had two or three more pages to it, I think that could do wonders for the magazine. Maybe that's it... maybe they just need to mix everything up and go off into some new direction to see what happens. I don't know what that'd do for the subscriber base, but as it is, they've been sticking to the exact same formula for so long now...