Retrogaming 1982

1982 is the last year before the crash that brings the console market to its knees, the last year the Atari VCS isn’t called the Atari 2600, and the year the Apple II finally gets a strong contender in the home computer market.

1982 Arcade Games

We definitely see some strong entries in arcades as the golden age continues, notably one of my favorites in Donkey Kong Junior, where we see Mario as the game’s villain. Robotron 2084 gives us our first twin stick shooter, and Joust defeats the competition as the first successful co-op game. Other big releases this year are Popeye, Burgertime, Bump n’ Jump, Moon Patrol, and Pengo.

1982 Atari VCS games

Atari seems some highs – Pitfall – and lows – E.T, the game that perhaps epitomizes the terrible licensed rushed-into-production game that brings the video game giant down. Atlantis is another release popular with video game tournaments, and the console gets competent ports of the arcade hits Wizards of Wor and Venture. Games for the console, with a few exceptions, continue to offer increased gameplay as the programmers learn new tricks to get around the system’s limitations.

1982 Apple II Games

In 1982 the aging Apple II has to compete with some younger competitors with superior technology, but its audience base is still enough of an edge that most developers will target it as their primary platform. Many of the games released this year are largely forgotten, like the adventure games Blade of Blackpool, Apventure to Atlantis, and Caverns of Freitag, but others like Miner 2049er and Choplifter will eventually see ports to more advanced systems.

1982 TRS-80 Games

The TRS-80 has been a trooper, clinging to relevance as a machine largely designed for business applications, forever inferior to the technological specs of the Apple II, competing as a budget alternative. However, as more challengers enter the field – some of them both more affordable and more advanced – its time comes to an end and we’re forced to bid it farewell.

Goodnight, sweet prince, you were too pure for this world of 8-bit sin.

1982 Commodore 64 Games

The C64 would eventually grow to dominate the home computer market through a combination of advanced technology and savvy marketing, but its launch library is lackluster compared to what’s been available for the Apple II. An arcade port of the Midway title Kick is a highlight, along with the surprisingly accurate Night Mission Pinball.

1982 ZX Sinclair Games

Iiiit’s the Speccy! The UK’s answer to the Commodore 64, filling a similar market niche with, perhaps, tighter graphical restrictions and a stronger launch-year library.

The Hobbit is pretty good, at any rate, a text adventure game incorporating real-time elements. What I’ve always loved about the Speccy is the very distinct color pallet.

1982 Dos Games

If you had to guess which of the last three microcomputer systems would have the most longevity based on their launch-year titles alone, PC MS-Dos probably wouldn’t be the safest bet. These games are… well, they’re just awful.

Chicago Steampunk Expo decompression

This weekend was my first convention table-vending experience at the Chicago Steampunk Exposition. As a special guest presenter I was given a prime spot right near the entrance to the vendor exhibition area, brought five copies of each of my steampunk, cyberpunk, and roleplaying game books to sell, along with hundreds of business cards, bookmarks, flyers, and assorted swag to give away.

I was afraid nobody was going to buy any of my books, and hoped I’d sell out so wouldn’t need to slog any of them home, and found the truth to be somewhere between those two points. Overall I was satisfied with how hand-selling went.

Far more valuable, though, were the interactions and introductions with people – both the other vendors, far more experienced at this game than I – with the audiences in my panels, and with people at the convention in general. It’s exhausting, but I genuinely do enjoy meeting new people.

Set-up for the convention took up most of my last month, both in preparing materially and getting the presentations I was to give straight in my head. Getting all the books, banner, and booth materials printed up was neither cheap nor quick, and the raw income from sales didn’t quite meet what we spent, but my hopes weren’t pinned on selling a lot of books.

No, what I want is to see a lot of residual sales. I’ll be watching the on-line sales of my books over the next month or so, seeing if there’s a noticeable spike from people who weren’t budgeted to buy a book at the time, but took one of my cards or bookmarks with them. Seeing if anyone who bought book 1 in a series goes on to pick up more.

Of course I won’t have the data to match up the people I met at the con with specific sales, but the numbers themselves should tell me something. And if nothing else, I have leftover stock and materials for the next event I’m invited to.

Now I sit here writing this, feeling the con crud inflame my throat and send the first chills through my skin, and there’s no question whether or not this was worth it.

It absolutely was.

Retrogaming 1981

Continuing our retrogaming adventure on into 1981 with the birth of new series and the first appearance of one of video gaming’s most iconic characters.

1981 Arcade Games

Mario, I’m talking about Mario. The Italian plumber’s first appearance is in Nintendo’s landmark platformer Donkey Kong, though in this game I believe he’s some sort of carpenter.

1981 turns out to be a power year for gaming franchise births as we see the first Frogger, Defender, and Centipede games as well – all classics, alongside Ms. Pac-Man – arguably more popular than her predecessor and the first game with cut-scenes, and Vanguard, slightly less well known but with a slapping musical score.

1981 Atari VCS games

1981 saw the release of the best game for the system, Yar’s Revenge, and their port of Pac-Man, one of the worst. Other notable Atari ports this year are Asteroids, Defender, and Missile Command. We also see the release of Kaboom, a remake of the game Avalanche, and Haunted House, a VCS original.

1981 Apple ][ Games

The big debut in 1981 is Richard Gariott’s Ultima, first in a series that eventually spans over a dozen games, spinoffs, and even an MMO. We also see Castle Wolfenstein, itself largely notable as a footnote as predecessor of one of the first FPS games. Other 1981 Apple II releases include Olympic Decathalon, the racing game Autobahn, graphical adventure Cranston Manor, and the movie monster game Crush, Crumble, and Chomp.

1981 TRS-80 Games

Tandy’s TRS-80 continues bravely struggling along with a port of Zork II, the graphical adventure games Institute and Asylum, text adventure Dragons of Hong Kong, and the scrolling shooter Sky Warrior. The system has really started to show it’s age, however, and next year will see the final nail in the TRS-80’s coffin – a competitor so fierce that it quakes the entire microcomputer industry to its knees.

Galvanic Century as Steampunk

There are a few characteristics that set my mystery series Galvanic Century apart from what might otherwise be considered “generic” steampunk.

Edwardian vs Victorian

The series, thus far, runs from 1912 to 1914, right up into the Great War, making it an Edwardian rather than Victorian series. The fact that Queen Victoria is as yet alive and has recently celebrated her platinum jubilee has not changed the social differences between the eras. The inhabitants of my fiction still consider themselves Victorians.

1900 World's Fair in Paris

In truth the dividing line between Edwardian and Victorian culture is a messy one because cultural transitions weren’t sudden and shocking; for our purposes the Victorian mindset ended in the mid 1890s when the Queen’s public appearances grew less prominent and she exerted less of a magnetic personal presence. This is reflected well enough in Galvanic Century – nobody sees her much anymore, and while the label doesn’t exist, the English of the series are very much Edwardian in nature.

It’s still very much a time of transition between two worlds… morals are more lax, and it’s a time of great technological innovation, though in the Galvanic Century the shift is the last great gasp of steampunk before the diesel and atomic ages.

A largely secular world

A man studies a jar as he contemplates Vitalism.

It’s important to remember that genre is itself more a marketing tool than an academic taxonomy. There are rigorous definitions, and there are useful ones. I market Galvanic Century as historical science fiction, a “what if” technology had taken a different path, “what if” scientific laws had worked the ways the Victorians believed them to.

There’s no magic in the Galvanic Century, but there is pseudoscience. Electricity, magnetism, the fundamental forces of the universe behave as the Victorians believed they did. It’s a different science that has made possible a faster general advancement.

Historical Accuracy in a World that Never Was

It’s entirely an artifact of my love for research, but despite the above changes, history progresses much as it does in the real world. The same historical figures exist and serve much the same function. I do extrapolate the effects of more efficient and faster-developing technology when it comes to things like social change. Women are finding an equal footing earlier as the innovations in transportation, communication, and labor-saving make it all more possible.

At the same time, of course, industry and empire are finding the exploitation of colony and workforce more effective and efficient, leading to stronger resistance, leading to even faster social change.

Stories are Still Stories

Galvanic Century is not an exercise in worldbuilding. It’s a setting for stories. It’s a context. Not for plot, but for character growth and evolution. It’s about two detectives, Jame Wainwright and Alton Bartleby, learning through playing at being detectives that the way they interface with the world is harmful. It’s about noblewoman Aldora Fiske coming to a place of peace with the fire in her soul and the demands of her station.

What started out as simple detective stories has grown and evolved as I’ve grown and evolved and learned to see the potential in my own fiction, in storytelling as a whole.

Hey, free books!

Want to see how it all began? Leading up to my guest appearance at the Chicago Steampunk Expo I’m giving away the first two ebooks – Bartleby and James and A Gentlewoman’s Chronicles free to everyone who signs up for my author mailing list. They’re a far cry from what the series has turned into by the time you get to Iron Horses Can’t Be Broken and Lighter than Aether, but still, I feel, worth the read.

bartleby and james steampunk cover

Retrogaming 1980

Continuing this series with our first real entry into the golden age of video games, a glorious time that lasts until Atari goes and screws it all up. We see a lot of important “firsts” this year.

Arcade Games of 1980

It truly is the Golden Age of arcades as we see the launching of some of the most popular franchises in Pac-Man, Berzerk, Battlezone, and Rally X. Add to the mix milestone titles like Phoenix – the first game with a ‘Boss’ – and Space Panic – the first platformer – and you can see why this was a banner year.

Atari VCS Games of 1980

Atari sees its own industry firsts with the formation of the first third party company – Activision – made up of former Atari employees who quit because they weren’t getting credit for their work. They went on to produce Dragster, Fishing Derby, Boxing, and Skiing this year.

Another big first was the first developer easter egg in Atari’s Adventure release. The company also released Night Driver and Video Pinball.

1980 Apple ][ Games

Apple’s firsts include the first graphical adventure game from the company that will eventually become Sierra On-Line, Mission Asteroid. We also see the first title in the Zork series and the first release from Infocom, boasting a for-the-time advanced text parser. A third first is Temple of Apshai, the first game in the Apshai series of action RPGs.

1980 TRS-80 Game

The humble TRS-80 continues to chug along, with notable releases including His Majesty’s Ship Impetuous, an interactive fiction work with a very different sort of text parser, Tunnels of Fahad, a reskin of Sega’s arcade driving game Head-On, and Project Omega, a space-station management sim.

Taoscordian Games Logo

Game Development at Taoscordian Dot Com

I launched Taoscordian.com back in 2016 when I started publishing tabletop RPG materials. Thinking that running an extra site was too much overhead for too little benefit, I consolidated all the RPG stuff back over here last year, and turned the domain into a redirect. (If it’s still redirecting for you, clear your cache.)

Now as I intensify my digital game dev efforts with I find that people who are interested in my games aren’t necessarily interested in my books, and people who read my books aren’t necessarily interested in my games. It’s just the nature of the beast, and the problem of having a wide creative palette in a world where the best marketing advice is to go narrow.

So I’m more fully splitting the game development stuff off into its own platform, redeveloping Taoscordian.com as a site of its own, migrating the game blog stuff back over there, launching a separate game development patreon, twitter profile, and youtube channel.

I’ll be reorganizing and relaunching my mailing list as well, with different ways to select which content you’re interested in hearing about.

Now, at the moment the tabletop RPG and video game dev stuff is going to all be under Taoscordian Games. I don’t think I’ll need to segment my platform further… but you never know. We’ll see how it shakes out.

Coorlim Banner

Come see me at the Chicago Steampunk Expo

Eight years ago I was basically homeless, couch-surfing and unable to find work, with a string of low-paying minimum wage jobs running all the way back to high-school. At the end of the month I’ll be a special guest presenter at the first Chicago Steampunk Exposition with eight novels in two award-nominated series to my name.

If you’re in or around the Chicago area September 28th or 29th, feel free to stop by for either of the presentations I’m giving, and maybe stop by my table in the exhibitor hall and I’ll sign something for you.

The Steam Powered Pen

The Steam Powered Pen

Steampunk began as a literary genre, and the explosive growth of self-publishing has only created new opportunities to expand the market. Do you enjoy writing, and want to approach your work from a professional angle? Independent author Michael Coorlim covers the basics of the craft and business of self-publishing steampunk fiction, content marketing, patreon, and building your platform.

On Saturday the 29th at 1pm I’ll be in room Lakeshore A, giving a talk about the creative professional lifestyle, my personal journey as an independent author, and sharing tips and tricks when it comes to both the art and the craft I’ve been practicing for the last eight years.

Keeping the Punk in Steampunk

Keeping the Punk in Steampunk

The Victorian and Edwardian eras were periods of tremendous social change and cultural shifts, and we can incorporate themes of class struggle and early social movements within our steampunk storytelling, whether it be prose, graphic design, or costuming. Author Michael Coorlim discusses the early labor-rights movements, suffragettes, and institutional reformations of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

On Sunday the 30th I’ll be back in Lakeshore A talking about social change in the late 19th and early 20th century, how that impacts the people who live through it and their fictional representations, and how a steampunk world might accelerate the march of history.

So please, if you’ve the means, stop by.

Dev Log: Minigame Marathon

Minigame Marathon is a challenge in which I endeavor to produce a number of small limited-scope games quickly, spending no more than a week on each. The goal is to both build up my game development portfolio a bit, and to sharpen my skills by taking on a variety of very different game projects.

Each game is centered around a specific mechanic and small in scope, little more than the minimum necessary to qualify as a game.

Airship Assault screenshot
Project 1: Airship Assault

After completing each game I’m planning on hosting it on the ich.io storefront, free to play for all comers. I’ll record a breakdown video where I discuss the game, its core mechanic, and the process of playing it. And that’s it. I move on to the next project.

Project 2: Adventurer

That’s not to say I won’t ever go back to a project and develop it into a larger scale game, especially if there’s interest in it. But for now, the plan is to keep stretching and growing with different small game projects.

Interested?

If you’re interested in following the project I’d suggest either subscribing to my YouTube channel or just following me on Patreon. You don’t have to be a Patron to read the posts on each game, though those supporters will get access to them first, and get free copies of any commercial games I release.

Either way, this is a very interesting project, and I’m excited to see what comes of it.

Cover Reveal: Lighter than Aether

At the end of September I’ll be releasing my 7th Galvanic Century book, Lighter than Aether. Here’s the cover I’ve commissioned from French artist Edouard Noisette:

There’s still quite a bit to do before publication – a final round of manuscript edits, setting up some marketing, both for the book and for my guest appearance at the Chicago Steampunk Expo. As such, and to recoup some of the production costs, I’m running a kickstarter as I have for books in the past.

Kickstarter

The rewards are pretty simple – ebook or paperback copies of either the new book or all seven Galvanic Century titles.

  • $5 – Limited Edition Backer Ebook
  • $15 – Paperback Copy
  • $25 – All the Galvanic Century eBooks
  • $25 – Signed Paperback
  • $100 – All the Paperbacks
  • $200 – All the Paperbacks, signed

More interesting, perhaps, are some of the stretch goals:

  • $800: I commission additional interior art from the cover artist.
  • $2500: I polish up Murder By Clockwork into a professional caliber interactive fiction piece.
  • $5000: Burning Brigid Media produces Lighter than Aether as a full cast audio drama, like we did with Iron Horses Can’t Be Broken. Only this time, everybody gets paid industry standard rates.

So there you have it. Want to help me finish this sucker up? Donate to the kickstarter.

June 2019

June Was Certainly a Month

Okay, here’s what I accomplished last month.

Creative Projects

  • Progress on Lighter than Aether. We’re on draft 2. Everything is still on track to have the paperback release in time for my Chicago Steampunk Expo guest appearance.
  • Commissioned Lighter than Aether cover art! Working with an amazing artist this time around. Will eventually post a cover reveal, but my Patreon supporters will get a first look before everyone else.
  • Some work on Wayfarer, but Lighter than Aether is still the focus as its deadline looms.
  • Signed up for the interactive fiction Intro Comp, but I don’t know that I’ll have time to enter anything by the end of July.
  • Really I was mostly working on finishing Lighter Than Aether.

Social Media & Marketing

  • Designing banners and other flair for my Chicago Steampunk Expo appearance.
  • Started posting Fictive Memes. Maybe these count as creative projects?
  • Did some blogging here. Trying to get back into the habit.
  • Vlogged a bit, too.

Hobbies/Free Time

  • Started an indie gaming channel on YouTube. This could probably count as marketing for my game dev stuff, but it’s mostly for funsies.
  • Started talking with some old friends about getting together to play an RPG campaign. In person. For realsies.

Looking into July

For the most part I’m going to try and get the second draft of Lighter than Aether completed and off to my beta readers, so I can spend August polishing it and get hardcopies ordered by the time the Expo rolls around. I’ll try to get some work on the IntroComp entry in there too, somehow. And I hope to get together with my friends to game once or twice.

Busy busy.