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About zhorton

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    Pittsburgh, PA
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    My name is Zach Horton. I'm a professor of English and Media Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. I research and teach media history, including early video games. At Pitt I direct the Vibrant Media Lab, an interdisciplinary media research lab. One of our ongoing projects is OdysseyNow, which has focused on making the experience of the first video game console, the Odyssey, available to players today.

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  1. Thanks @Mikebloke! I'll be sure to add these.
  2. I am counting University of the Solar System as its own game, though it came bundled with Interplanetary Voyage. Good point: I'll make sure to clarify that when we update. Thanks!
  3. I know many of you have seen this in the Odyssey Facebook group, but our website has finally launched! This first version covers all of the original games released by Magnavox, including lots of images, a gameplay video for each, an explanation of the rules, and fully scanned files of all components. It also includes all homebrews released for the Odyssey except for OdysseyNow games (those will arrive in a future update). And as a bonus, I've included (as a free download), a never-before-released homebrew called Cops and Robbers. It was made a couple of years ago by a team of my students, but isn't an official OdysseyNow game. Please contact me with any typos or other errors you discover on the site, as well as suggestions for future content. This is meant to be the master archive of all Odyssey materials that this console has lacked for so long. (In the future we'll include in depth hardware information, electronic information, including how to repair common issues, all OdysseyNow games, and all OdysseyNow peripherals and hardware experiments.) I hope you enjoy everything we have up so far, and the site's retro aesthetics! www.odysseynow.org
  4. OdysseyNow Game Pack 5 is now available to purchase! This Pack includes Bathysphere, Earth, and Immunity. It also includes our custom Game Card 15 and our Transparency Hanger system. We have 3 copies left of our 15-copy run. No more will ever be made. We also have one set of English Controllers. These are required to play Bathysphere, and were included in Game Pack 2. If you don't own Pack 2 and want this one, you can nab that extra set. Both items are available to purchase directly on this page.
  5. Introducing Bathysphere, an OdysseyNow game. This game makes use of our newly designed game card, #15, and a beautiful collection of creature cards. It is based upon the pioneering dives of the original bathysphere in the early 1930s, which became famous for the sea creatures it discovered in the depths of the ocean. The famous illustrations of those (based upon the descriptions of the divers) were made by Else Bostelmann and disseminated to the public. So fantastic were these never-before-seen-by-humans creatures that many didn’t believe they actually existed. This game is a tribute to Else Bostelmann, ecologist William Beebe, and engineer Otis Barton. One player uses our custom English Controllers to control the depth of the bathysphere, a second player attempts to visually "capture" sea creatures as they appear, and any number of other players alternate controlling sea creatures, whose identities, dispositions and movements are dictated by a series of cards laid out in advance. Some creatures will try to avoid the bathysphere, some will be curious about it, and some will try to attack it! The bathysphere players must quickly size up the situation and react accordingly. This is our gameplay video: Here are a few of the creature cards included in the game:
  6. Thank you! Here's another new game: Earth utilizes a photograph of the earth taken in 1972, the year the Odyssey was released, combined with an opaque overlay layer that conceals the player spots when they aren't actually on the planet. This game also utilizes our Transparency Hanger to add pollution overlays over the Earth, visually altering it and making it more difficult for players to achieve their on-screen objectives. It's a cooperative game for 2, where you alternate between screen rounds and tabletop rounds. The game has a full gameboard (actually a nice neoprene playmat) in which players scramble against time to find ways to reduce pollution. This game really leans into the optical effects possible with Odyssey overlays, as well as the screen + tabletop (video game + board game) format.
  7. Thanks, folks! This will be included in OdysseyNow Game Pack 5. As usual, it will be announced on the OdysseyNow Facebook group when it is available. I'll also post a link here. I love hearing your feedback on games, but no need to sign up for anything. As with our past releases, the announcement will be accompanied by a direct purchase link (which will expire after the 15 copies have all been sold).
  8. The latest OdysseyNow game is here: Immunity! This game debuts our Transparency Holder, which attaches to the top of TVs, adjusts to fit different screen sizes, and enables multilayered transparencies to be added and removed quickly to the standard overlay during gameplay. Immunity highlights the potential optical effects of overlay stacking on a TV screen, building on the Odyssey's pioneering use of combined reflection and refraction with its overlay system. The game mimics anatomy textbooks from the 1950s through the 1980s that often made use of transparencies to provide "slices" or layers of the human body. In that spirit, Immunity is designed to be an educational game. Its disease mechanics were meticulously researched and designed to be as accurate as possible by pre-med students. As a cooperative game, one to two players play as the human immune system against the various diseases that beset it. Players learn about infection and immune response as well as different diseases while they play this fast-paced game! This is the most difficult game we've ever designed, and took almost three years to complete! So many interactions had to be designed: between the various bodily systems, the various diseases, the complex co-op gameplay, etc. We went through quite a few prototypes of the transparency system until we got it right. The game also required a great deal of medical research, a lot of artwork, and quite a bit of playtesting. Game credits: Body and Systems Paintings: Christina Suders Concept and Transparency Hanger design: Zach Horton Medical Research and Game Design: Farah Khan, Stephanie Lachell, Collin Higgins, Ellen Kruczek, Kyle Valker, Markell Hodges, Skylar Daily, Sarah Schneider, Madelyn Sheridan
  9. Well, just in time for Halloween, I've finally announced OdysseyNow Game Pack 3 on AtariAge, even though only three copies are left... Here's the thread: I also just posted a playthrough, with properly spooky lighting, of my revised version of Haunted House, the original Odyssey game. It was included in Game Pack 3: Game Pack 3 is very Halloween themed, between this and The Haunting of '72. Playing these should make for a decent quarantined Halloween, right?
  10. This was announced during the summer in the Odyssey Facebook group, but it never got announced on AtariAge, so I'm adding it now! We actually have 3 copies of these games remaining... We have completed Game Pack 3 for the Magnavox Odyssey! This is our most elaborate set of games to date, and includes the following: The Haunting of '72 Just in time for Halloween! The first Odyssey game to include time travel, this game leads you on an inter-dimensional chase through a haunted house in two eras: 1972 and the present! It makes use of the overlay and cards from the original 1972 game Haunted House, as well as a new, matching overlay and set of cards. The gameplay involves traveling back and forth between 1972 and the present, tracking the changes to a dwelling that has seen nearly 50 years of dilapidation, but also some serious makeovers... but can they conceal the horrific events that happened at the dawn of the '70s? Find out as you engage in a mad chase that leads you to jump from one time to another by swapping overlays mid-game. The Haunting of '72 involves a rather elaborate storyline that is filled in, mad-lib style, by the players at the beginning of the game. You can watch the video for the full intro, setup, and gameplay by my students. An alternate version of the game can be played by 4 players using two side-by-side screens (but only one Odyssey console). That version is also included in the video below! Et Tu, Brute This game has been in development for almost 3 years in the Vibrant Media Lab at Pitt! It is finally complete, and I'm so proud of it. It's the first social deduction game for the Odyssey, and probably any console. It is set in ancient Rome, with the city on screen and information about public sentiment (including a brewing rebellion against Caesar) located on the tabletop. Players (4-6) take on roles including Caesar, Brutus, and others, traveling around the city to either incite rebellion or root it out. Using a physical device on top of the TV, players can attempt to assassinate each other. It's great, conspiratorial fun, and a real social-medial experiment! This game explores the Odyssey’s pioneering potential as a system that could incorporate players in an interactive environment of information exchange, including on-screen, on a tabletop, and physically within an enlarged space of play. Interplanetary Voyage (OdysseyNow Re-Creation) Introducing an OdysseyNow re-creation of one of the rarest and most amazing games released for the Odyssey. Interplanetary Voyage was released in 1973 as part of a 4-pack of games that would prove to be the final releases for the world's first game console. This sweeping science fiction game was amazing to behold, from its artwork to its unique gameplay. As a labor of love, the OdysseyNow team worked for a long time to re-create and update this game. The artwork for the overlay and cards were re-created from scratch by Brendan Valley, and the cardboard gameboard was recreated as a deluxe neoprene playmat. We re-worked the rules, clarifying and tweaking a number of things to make this a smoother play experience. Our most radical change was to incorporate elements of the trivia game originally included in this release ("University of the Solar System") into the main adventure game. In this video, four of my students introduce and play our updated version. Bonus Game: Deadly Haunted House The original Odyssey Game Haunted House (1972) was a masterpiece of visual design, but flawed in its gameplay. We have created a new game, in the spirit of the original, but re-written with more complex obstacles to avoid for the Detective (including secret, deadly objects), and a greatly expanded role for the Ghost. This game is designed to be played with Card 12 (included in this Game Pack). This is the proper lighting for this game: Hardware In addition to all of the physical components for the individual games, this game pack includes an OdysseyNow re-creation of Game Card 12 (the rarest of all original game cards) and the OdysseyNow Ghost Controller. The latter is a special accessory controller designed to plug into the Odyssey's ACC port. It contains two large buttons: when the red button is pressed, it renders an onscreen element (either the ball or Player 2, depending on the current game card) invisible. When the white button is pressed, it reappears. This is used to assassinate players in Et Tu, Brute, and will also be used in future OdysseyNow games. Game Pack 3 Full Contents Game Card 12 Ghost Controller Ghost Controller Instructions Et Tu, Brute Overlay Et Tu, Brute Card decks Et Tu, Brute Board Strips (2) Et Tu, Brute playing pieces and die Et Tu, Brute Instructions The Haunting of ‘72 “Happy House” Overlay The Haunting of ‘72 Cards (30) The Haunting of ‘72 Card Strips (3) The Haunting of ‘72 Instructions Interplanetary Voyage Overlay (reproduction) Interplanetary Voyage Game Mat Interplanetary Voyage cards (72) Interplanetary Voyage Space Station Coin (wood) Interplanetary Voyage Updated Instructions Interplanetary Voyage pawns (4) Bonus: Deadly Haunted House Instructions
  11. Looks like everything is working to me. Card 8 and 11 both have the same sized wall. That is adjusted on the Odyssey motherboard. The only difference with 11 is that pressing the Reset button not only serves, but also causes the ball to plunge downward (while held).
  12. Yes, absolutely--as long as you credit and link to the OdysseyNow site for the scans, feel free to mirror them on Archive. I'm glad your Pack #2 finally arrived! 6 weeks is a ridiculously long time for that to have been in the mail, especially given the short actual distance it traveled! Shows how much difference a border, a pandemic, and bureaucracy can make! I doubt that anything like that bad of a delay would happen now, but as another option, you could purchase Pack 3 now and I'd be happy to hold it for whatever ship date you prefer. I just don't want them to sell out on you, if you want one. There are only 7 left, and I haven't even announced this on AtariAge yet...
  13. Thanks for your kind words! Yes, theoretically they could be produced at any size, but practically, it's very hard to print them on the proper translucent film they were designed for at large sizes. I'm trying to find a professional service that might be able to do it, though...
  14. Thanks everyone for the positive feedback! The video captures some of the game, but since it is so much about hidden information (that the camera doesn't see) and subtle deduction, playing it in person is the only way to truly understand it. I'll just say this: this is, personally, my favorite game on the Odyssey. Overlay scans: We actually scanned every original Odyssey overlay (including the '73 games and Soccer) at 400 dpi using an overhead large format scanner. When we launch the OdysseyNow website, which is an archive of information about every game, it will include each scan, as well as a vector version for print. The website was supposed to launch this spring, but COVID-19 shut down the university and delayed those plans.
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