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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. 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?
  2. 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
  3. 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).
  4. 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...
  5. 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...
  6. 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.
  7. Introducing Et Tu, Brute for the Odyssey! In terms of gameplay, this is the most elaborate game we've created. It was in development for almost 3 years in the Vibrant Media Lab. Announcement and info here. It will be available in an upcoming Game Pack.
  8. I have announced our latest Odyssey game, "The Haunting of '72" on Facebook! I think most of you are members of that group, but I mention it here for the record and for a couple of folks who don't use FB. For this release my students produced a full gameplay video, which I posted there. You can also find it on Youtube even if you don't use FB (you might want to subscribe to OdysseyNow on YouTube if you don't already). @ManCaveArcade, fantastic work on the Space War box! I'll PM you about that. @slydc, it's great that you are uploading high-res scans or these historical materials to Archive.org. Thanks! @Dastari Creel, besides this new announcement, one small request for your first post for your next edit: Trumpocalypse was released (as a bonus game for OdysseyNow Game Pack 1). It makes use of the original overlay from States and the Damocles Controller included in that game pack.
  9. I'll take one, too! We considered producing this in the past, but once you have a full set of game cards, it's a lot faster and easier to swap them out than to decipher and switch DIP switches to create the correct pattern. That's the reason that Magnavox engineers created the card system in the first place. The prototype Brown Box had all of the switches available on the console, so you could program it for a particular game. The Magnavox multiple card system was a huge advance. However, I highly recommend this to anyone who does not have a full set of cards, as it will allow you to fill in any of the missing ones (assuming that you have the other game elements), and perhaps even better, will allow you to experiment with other possibilities. Slydc's idea of adding extra headers to potentially solder on components later is a good one, and would theoretically allow someone to modify this to act as OdysseyNow Card 13. Even folks who already have the original cards might want one just for the fun of it. That includes myself!
  10. Looks great! Please put me down for one (though you know that already!).
  11. Here are the games that we have released: Tannhauser Gate Fukushima Super Cat and Mouse: Cheesy Castle Trumpocalypse Soccer (reproduction) Team Volleyball Danceoff
  12. Thank you Flojomojo! It is indeed a labor of love. A team of five people worked on this for a year to make it possible. It was so much more difficult than we imagined at the beginning... but worth it in the end to understand the Odyssey controllers as a system and be able to interface with that system to dramatically upgrade the console. A crazy project, for sure!
  13. Orders are now open! Full announcement here.
  14. We are now taking Game Pack 2 orders! Full announcement here!
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