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All posts by Josh Wirtanen

Dota 2

How Valve Tricked Dota 2 Players into Better Behavior

Anyone who’s into online gaming knows how tough it can be to find a good team they can mesh with. This is largely because people tend to act their absolute worst whenever the Internet veils their identity. So how can a game like Dota 2, which is entirely dependent upon cooperative online play, run smoothly without the community collapsing in on itself? Well, that’s where psychology comes in. I had a chance to hear Dr. Mike Ambinder, Experimental Psychologist at Valve, explain a little bit about how Valve tries to coerce Dota 2 players into behaving well. And it’s kind of fascinating. At the end of a Dota match you have a survey that comes up. It used to just be one question, like “Rate the quality of the match, one to five stars.”…
Star Wars 1313

Star Wars 1313 Could Have Been Awful, but We’ll Never Know

I decided to clean up the house a little bit the other day, and I stumbled upon this: It’s a USB memory card that I was given at E3 2012. See, publishers at E3 tend to give out all sorts of USB sticks filled with press images, and this is how those images end up on sites like Retrovolve. This is also how E3 attendees seem to have never-ending supplies of USB memory sticks and thumb drives. Out of curiosity, I decided to see what was on it. It wasn’t much, just a logo and a high-res version of the art that’s stamped on the front of the card. However, there was also a press site URL printed on the card, so I thought I’d see if anything still lived there.…
K K Slider Lovin

Animal Crossing’s K.K. Slider Lands on a Sexy, Sexy Mix Tape

A friend of mine recently shared her appreciation for the mix tape section of the Tiny Mix Tapes website with me. Here, users can submit a theme and have other users make virtual mix tapes for them. Pretty cool concept, right? Well, I was scrolling through the page the other day and I found a sexy little playlist called “I can’t be any more clear. I only want to have sex with you.” This features tunes such as “I’m Fuckin’ You Tonight” by Heat Wave and “The Anal Staircase” by Coil. Classy stuff, right? They could make you want to enact on fantasies you gained from watching adult sites, for example and more. However, whilst I was wondering if any of the videos I may have seen recently, both on porn7 xxx and on other, more safe for work sites, had been using these songs, one track in particular caught my eye: “K.K.…
720 Degrees

Why Is the Guy from the Classic 720 Degrees Arcade Game Not Wearing Any Pants?

Reddit user Jakobud once made an interesting observation concerning the arcade classic 720 Degrees. In the game’s title screen, the skateboarder character doesn’t seem to be wearing any pants. Now, maybe I’m just being overly concerned about his safety here, but that seems to me like a really bad strategy for a skateboarder. I mean, the dude knows to wear elbow and knee pads, and possibly a helmet (though that could just be an amazing 80s hairdo), so he clearly takes the safety of his elbows and knees very seriously. But apparently he has an “everything goes” policy when it comes to his genitalia. Oof. Of course, one commenter pointed out that he’s probably just wearing orange shorts, which is probably what they were going for, but the color is so close to his skin color that you can’t really tell.…
Jurassic Park Stripes

One of My Proudest Video Game Moments Happened in the Jurassic Park Game for Sega Genesis

The original Jurassic Park game for the Sega Genesis wasn’t necessarily the worst of the Jurassic Park-themed video games (it’s definitely better than Rampage Edition, also for Genesis, or the sub-par PSOne game), but it wasn’t the best either (I would argue that the Myst-like Sega CD version was the superior JP game). Still, I always loved the Genesis version. Between the dark and almost Flashback-esque visual aesthetic and some very memorable (though not particularly good) 16-bit music, it was a pretty great time for us young, Genesis-owning Jurassic Park fans. In it, you play as Alan Grant, a famed archaeologist (who suspiciously happens to be the male character with the least amount of onscreen chemistry with Ellie Sattler in the entire film, even though the two are supposedly an item).…
Sonic CD

Sonic CD Is a Fantastic Game, Even on the OUYA

On August 2, 2013, OUYA early backers were awarded $13.37 in store credit as an apology for the many consoles that shipped later than promised. The following day, the recipients of that payout were given something worth spending $3.99 of that on. Sonic CD is now on OUYA. I’m playing it right now. While typing this. No, I’m serious. I’m just going to be real here for a second. If you don’t think Sonic CD is the best Sonic game ever made, then you have horrible taste in Sonic games. And if the following video doesn’t remind you of your childhood, then I feel sorry for your childhood.…

Anamanaguchi Performs on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon in 2013

Chiprock group Anamanaguchi brought some sweet vintage video game sounds to the stage of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon as a part of the show’s Video Game Week 2013. We can’t help but think it’s awesome that at least someone on late night television has an appreciation for gaming. (To be fair, though, Conan O’Brien made it out to E3 that same year.) Anamanaguchi has a special place in our hearts, since we once got to chat with them a bit after a show they performed at the Triple Rock Social Club in Minneapolis. We’re pretty sure everything they told us was a lie, but we loved talking to them nonetheless. Watch their performance of “Endless Fantasy” on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on Hulu.…
Mega Man

Former Mega Man, Dead Rising Producer Keiji Inafune Talks About Killer Bees

Keiji Inafune is known by many as “The Father of Mega Man,” though this is a title he denies himself. While he brought the Blue Bomber to life in one sense of the term, he doesn’t take credit for the initial creation. Still, the man’s been connected with Mega Man since the 1980s, so we here at Retrovolve have nothing but the utmost respect for him. So when I sat down in a small conference room with him the very same day Mega Man was announced as a playable character in Super Smash Bros. game for Wii U and 3DS (June 11, 2013), the obvious question was how he felt about that. But I didn’t ask the obvious question. (If you’re curious about that, Inafune told…

Anamanaguchi Talks Kickstarter, Space Pizza, and Missing Teeth

On Sunday, May 26, 2013, the worlds of music and video games collided at the Triple Rock Social Club in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with a performance by the chiprock group Anamanaguchi. After a fantastic set that included flashing colored lights, crazy 8-bit videos projected onto a screen behind the band, and the obligatory encore, I had a chance to talk with bassist James DeVito and drummer Luke Silas. For the record, I did offer to buy them each a drink at the bar, but they had just finished paying for theirs when I approached them, so that didn’t end up happening. Still, we had a great chat about Kickstarter, space pizza, fake missing teeth, and even the origin of the name Anamanaguchi. I began the conversation on the most logical of topics: the band’s 2013 stunt of launching a slice of pizza into space.…
GameStop Pizza

People Who Go to Midnight Launches Are Insane, but They’re Kind of Awesome Too

As a video game journalist, I don’t often attend midnight launches for video games anymore. I mean, I generally either receive a free copy of whatever game I need for my review in the mail, or I’m too busy playing whatever I’m reviewing to go out of my way to wait in line at a midnight release. Or I’m having sex. But since I’m a game journalist by trade, you’ve probably already called my bluff on that last one. But in 2012, I made a few notable exceptions. The first one was for Portal 2. I was scheduled to review it, but there was some mix-up where my review copy never showed up. So I did the only other thing I could think of: I attended the midnight launch so I could play it all night and have a review up the following day.…
Half-Life 2

My Refusal to Play Half-Life 2 Proves That I have Terrible Decision-Making Skills

I’m going to be honest: I hated the original Half-Life. In fact, my hatred for Half-Life burned so white hot that when Half-Life 2 launched, I absolutely refused to play it. Now, it’s been so long since my initial Half-Life experience that I can’t really say what it was about the game that convinced me to harbor such a passionate hatred for it. I mean, I’m pretty sure I liked the first part at least. Whatever it was, though, I remember seeing Half-Life 2 on store shelves and feeling this sense of bitterness, as if it’s mere presence were repulsive to me. I guess I was kind of an angry person back then. However, Portal eventually came out, and I really wanted to play it.…
Low-Gain AKA Logan Erickson

Low-Gain Interview, Part 5: Life After 8-bit Collective

So what is Logan Erickson up to now that he’s no longer a major player in the 8-bit community? He and I talked about his post-8bc life for a bit. He did mention that chipmusic was still a part of his life, though its role had diminished considerably since the “glory days.” I still come back to it. I still listen to chipmusic all the time. Every now and then I’ll pull out my Game Boys and noodle on tracks that I started a year ago, or two years ago. It is nice to have the break, that’s for sure, because I view music a lot differently now than I did then. Unfortunately, I’d like to think that I was more productive when I was in the chipmusic scene.…
Low-Gain AKA Logan Erickson

Low-Gain Interview, Part 4: Low-Gain’s 8-bit Collective Ban

As the online chip scene continued to grow, a few people realized they could make considerable amounts of money off of it. Some of these people, Like Logan Erickson, had mostly good intentions. Other people, though, were consumed by the business end of this, including 8-bit Collective founder Jose Torres, who was accused of stealing program code from a pair of guys from Poland. (You can read more about this in the previous segment of this interview.) All the while, Logan and Jose’s friendship was deteriorating. Somewhere, he and I had some sort of a falling out. Whether it was because I was selling my products and he was selling his, and we were viewing each other as competitors or something.…
Low-Gain AKA Logan Erickson

Low-Gain Interview, Part 3: The Dark Side of the Chipmusic Scene

Be sure to read the previous segment of the Low-Gain interview, which you can find here. 8-bit Collective ( was hugely influential in connecting the chipmusic scene in way that would otherwise have been very difficult due to how scattered its audience was. Under Logan Erickson’s guidance, the site continued to thrive and grow, but it wasn’t without its controversy. The larger any community grows, the more work is involved in keeping it organized. 8-bit Collective’s community had become pretty massive by this point, and it was becoming harder and harder to manage. This was only exacerbated by the noncommittal attitude of site owner Jose Torres, who had also started to dabble in some things that a lot of people in the community weren’t exactly comfortable with.…
Low-Gain AKA Logan Erickson

Low-Gain Interview, Part 2: Blip Festival and the Rise of 8-bit Collective

(Click here to read Part 1 of our Low-Gain interview.) In the mid-2000s, the chipmusic scene experienced something of a boon. No, it didn’t technically break into the mainstream, but its worldwide community finally found a place to meet up, share music and encouragement, and just thrive. As I mentioned in the first part of this interview series, this wasn’t any physical venue, but an online one. In 2006, Logan Erickson (Low-Gain) and Stefen Keen (Unicorn Dream Attack) discovered 8-bit Collective, or We both joined 8-bit Collective probably around late 2006. It was shortly after it had started up. I think it had to have had somewhere between like 250 to 500 members at the time. 8-bit Collective was cool because [8bc  founder Jose Torres]’s concept was [to] just have a place where people can upload songs and have a forum.…
Low-Gain AKA Logan Erickson

Low-Gain Interview, Part 1: A Conversation with an 8-bit Legend

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I pulled up to Logan Erickson’s home in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis. I mean, I knew the man was something of a legend in the chiptune scene, but this is a music scene that’s remained fairly subversive and has stayed below most people’s radars, meaning its history isn’t a very well-documented one. I was hoping to change that. Now, before I get too ahead of myself here, let me explain what chiptune music is for those who don’t already know. It’s a form of electronic music that’s basically programmed on retro videogame machines. (If you want to look at the earliest roots of the genre, you’ll find instances of what eventually became known as chiptune music being programmed on home computers in the late 1970s.)…
WOW tilt shift

World of Warcraft Gets Tilt-Shifted

You ever hear of tilt-shift photography? Essentially, it is a photography technique that makes real-life scenes look like miniatures. It’s a lens trick, and it’s kind of awesome. Hans Wallner, a freind of mine, decided to use Photoshop to simulate the effect on various screenshots he took in World of Warcraft, and they look pretty incredible. He’s long since quit doing this and has moved onto other projects, but he left an Imgur gallery of his work around for you to check out. We recommend viewing these beauties in full-resolution, and maybe even leave a comment encouraging Mr. Wallner to pick up the art again.…
NES guitar

The Best Guitar Is an NES Guitar

As I was casually procrastinating at work today, I came across a picture on Facebook of an electric guitar made out of an NES, reposted by my friend Tyler. Now, the photo comes courtesy of (check out their Facebook page), but it made me curious as to whether this was an actual real thing or just some clever Photoshop magic. Well, after a bit of research (thanks, Google!) I found the source of the image, Apparently, these guys had created an entire series of these NES guitars and were selling them at very reasonable prices. You could choose between a maple or rosewood neck, and between humbuckers or single-coil pickups. (Necks were all refurbished, and I’m guessing it’s safe to assume the consoles were too.)…
Battletoads 5,000

I Never Thought the Hoverbike Sequence in Battletoads Was All That Hard

There was this part in the third stage of Battletoads where you had to pilot a hoverbike through a series of jumps and obstacles, and your speed would continue to increase as the level progressed. This hoverbike challenge has gone down in history as one of the most frustratingly difficult video game segments ever made. The thing is, I never really found it that difficult. Now, it probably sounds like I’m just bragging here (and that’s probably valid), but I say it to make a point about the 8-bit and 16-bit game era: The games weren’t necessarily difficult, per se, they just rewarded repetition and memorization. Take the aforementioned hoverbikes in Battletoads. Sure, you were going to die a billion times before you got through that sequence, but once you memorized where all the obstacles were, it really wasn’t that bad.…
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