The Mysterious Atari VCS


Beautiful isn’t it? Conceptually this is about as slick a promo pic will ever look and the hype video wasn’t bad either, unfortunately digging any deeper is an exercise in insanity.

The PR for Atari’s latest venture is just an ouroboros of generic groomed statements and metaphorical comparisons to other industry staples. It’s hard to even wrap your head around all of it considering how much of it is wishy-washy nonsense. Before we get started talking about the message itself lets set the stage for what they are stepping into.

First off I want to talk very briefly about a collection of games that came out many years ago on Steam called Atari! 80 Classic Games in One. The second I saw that sandwiched between DEFCON and some neon Tron looking tank game that for the life of me I can’t remember the name of. I bought without hesitation and enjoyed the hell out of that fresh influx of nostalgia. Back then I probably had barely double digit games in my Steam library, now ~500 games down the road and I haven’t looked at that Atari collection again. That isn’t to say those games aren’t worth playing or mean any less to me than what they did back when I bought the collection but it’s by way of saying that the gaming industry is a constantly raging run of rapids that hasn’t slowed in decades. In fact it’s only picked up speed to the point that things change weekly if not daily in a lot of areas. Hardware in PCs changes so quickly it’s nearly impossible to stay up to date unless you dedicate a good portion of your free time to staying informed.

I think it’s important for context that this is the game industry that Atari is re-entering with it’s newest hardware offering. They haven’t been entirely out of it as they’ve stuck around as a fairly large publisher and developer but the hardware game left them behind long ago. Hell, even the major hardware platforms we have in this current generation were running behind on the day of their release, not far but enough that the rest of the hardware industry zoomed right by in no time. The first stop on our tour of the available information on this started back up at the top of this article with the hype video for the system. If you take a moment to check around you’ll notice that in 9 months that is literally the only video on that channel with the description pointing you to their website. Not that it means much but it strikes me as suspect that for Atari’s grand return to the hardware scene that the channel isn’t stuffed full of videos for people to gorge themselves on. Every company has their own style of building interest in their gear, I respect that, but it bears noticing I think.

So, when you hop over to their website you see a cheeky 80’s retro styled advertisement for the VCS or Video Computer System which is a name that sounds like it’s straight out of the early game industry.  Apparently you should also “Hurry” because pre-orders are coming soon. Below that we see an advertisement with a few nicely coiffed photos and this statement,

Game. Stream. Connect. Like Never Before.

Killer Atari Classic Games. Hot New Indie Titles. Open Linux OS.

Join the Revolution

Nice, quippy and to the point but just beneath that there is a second identical place to enter your email so you can join the waitlist for this system. To say that after a 9 month lead up for a system that has been “Years in the making” that this website is thin on information would be generous. Below the place where I can add my second email address so I’m really sure I don’t miss out on this mystery box with a logo I recognize there are some testimonials that I feel are… well, odd to be honest.

“Sharp and Modern”

“This design is so sharp and modern! I am super excited about the release. Thank you Atari for completely revisiting my childhood.

Monty E.

So generic so as to be meaningless. Their hype video for this system garnered almost 1.76 million views and this is one of the best pull quotes you could find? Who is Monty E? Is he a critic of some kind? Is an intern at the office? The barista at your local Starbucks? I’m not saying you have to be somebody to have your quote pasted on a product page, look at me I’m a nobody and I talk about all sorts of things. For a system like this with the history of Atari I have to think this could be far more substantial.


5 years from today people are going to say come over my house so I can show them this new Atari game… this console is going to be amazing.

Markus S.

Alright, listen, I really am a reasonable person and like I said above there is no reason you have to be a name in order to have a say but what is this? Either the mistakes make it seem more genuine or it comes off like whoever wrote it didn’t care, nor did the people who asked for it. Also, what exactly is this quote based off of? What evidence does this person have to support this quote? Everything I have seen thus far suggests to me that in 5 years this system will be a small paragraph on their Wikipedia page. I desperately hope that I am wrong but again, all evidence points otherwise.

“Retro Revival”

I think that this is definitely what the market needs – something new and fresh with a slice of retro.

Jonathan R.

Again, it’s nice to be optimistic but realistically is this actually true? Every system has embraced in some fashion downloadable indie games, every system has a slice of retro that plays like new. Nintendo nailed their retro offerings with the NES and SNES Classic systems and the Switch Nindies are booming. So far I can’t see an unblocked or unoccupied avenue for the VCS to drive in on.

Also, just to top this section off if you scroll just a tiny bit below the three testimonials you will see a third place to enter your email for the waitlist. I don’t sign up for a lot of these so maybe this is S.O.P. of the stench of desperation is a bit overwhelming. Now moving away from this website let’s check on some of their latest press and see what has been revealed.

We’ll start real quickly with the guts of this new set-top box and Atari originally told us that it would be housing some custom AMD tech which was very cool given this has been a very strong couple of years for the folks in red and black. Nintendo scored huge partnering with the green giant nVidia on the hardware for their Switch, an endeavor that was touted to have taken “500 man years of development time”. Plus the modern consoles also use AMD hardware so it’s not a bad place for Atari to start. However a bit worryingly it’s an APU and not a particularly powerful one either which makes their claims of it also being able to handle more modern games a statement in desperate need of specifics. It carries a Linux OS which is great, it’s modifiable and open source with a lot of potential for industrious go-getters in the modding community plus a lot of room for developers to work in as long as they want to.

Actually… this entire setup is starting to feel a little familiar, almost like a Steam powered machine from our past. The reality is that for every aspect of this system that seems unique or interesting has generally been done better elsewhere or at the very least the concept exists after a fashion. That isn’t necessarily a reason to not try something new but it definitely means that a profit seeking enterprise should think twice before moving ahead in a crowded marketplace. On the subject of the Steam Machine comparison Atari Connect COO Michael Arzt had this to say, “I don’t think it’s as ambitious as a Steam Machine.” You can’t help but appreciate the honesty but again it raises the question, what is it? He also helpfully described it as, “A good laptop without a keyboard.” which is looking to be priced somewhere between $250-300. It may seem snobbish of me to say but I’m not sure a laptop in that price range can really be considered “good” for things like gaming above a certain basic tier. Artz also commented that, “It’s a much more casual device.” which again is great but Atari’s description about wanting moms to be able to turn on the VCS to easily get into their Netflix or other entertainment services isn’t as complicated on modern devices as Atari seems to think.

Back at the beginning of this I talked a little bit about how the industry isn’t in the 70s anymore and is in fact moving away from its roots at lightspeed. Everything I’ve read about this new venture makes me think this device and the company making it are about a decade late to the show. The optimistic side of me says that they can’t possibly be that out of touch in the industry which they help birth but it still leaves me scratching my head. What do they have up their sleeve that sets them apart from the pack? Not to mention there are a variety of other questions like what sort of third-party support is possible for this system? Are they planning to carry it solely on the strength of their own catalog and licenses?  Whats the lifespan of this console they have branded a PC? What app support can we expect beyond Netflix and Hulu?

9 months at least since the teaser. Vague promises, fuzzy details and broad descriptions on this devices future and it’s purpose. I want so badly to be excited for this, for a new player in the market to light a spark under the incumbents and get them really pushing to innovate again. It was one of the biggest tragedies when Sega exited after the Dreamcast because for all the things that system did wrong it did a lot of things right and did them before anyone else. If Atari can turn this bizarro experiment into a true contender I’ll be ecstatic but I can’t help but feel like they’re coming unprepared to a new and much changed game.

Thanks for listening to me ramble a bit about this while I try to figure out exactly what it is that Atari is up to. I’ll be back later this weekend with another post and hopefully some gameplay videos up on YouTube for MTG: Arena and Ni No Kuni: Revenant Kingdom which I’m looking forward to playing some of tonight.

Have a great one, folks!

  • Non-Washable




MTG Arena: UX Redesigned and Fancy Free

MTGO or Magic: The Gathering Online is a game that charitably looks like something designed and released in the late ‘90s resembling a souped up two player MS Solitaire game. In actuality it was a game designed and launched in ‘02 which still resembled a souped up multiplayer solitaire with cards that had significantly better art. So what was the appeal? It brought a from the ground up re-creation of the most popular CCG in the world, a title it holds even to this day with over 20 million players worldwide. The company who pitched the idea was Leaping Lizards Software who produced a basic demo that would convince WoTC to hire them for the project, one which they had been mulling over doing themselves anyway. There was a period of beta and load testing prior to the games release in ‘02 but once it was out they were solidly on their way to bringing a paper CCG to the digital space. It went well although at this time you have to remember that we weren’t quite at the point where we were comfortable paying the same price for “fake” online stuff as we were the real, physical thing we could hold in our hands. How things change, huh? In spite of the stir things proceeded well and the game was for all intents and purposes a hit with fans. Ultimately regardless of the criticisms of the game itself it’s 16 year lifespan speaks volumes about the singular popularity of the game itself, many people owning massive physical and digital collections in spite of their equivalent costs. The myriad free knockoffs of MTGO didn’t ever really manage to put a dent in it’s momentum either, even though it wasn’t cheaper it was still the best way to play MTG from the comfort of your own home. Unfortunately in mid-2003 a Version 2 update rolled out with rather catastrophic results that made the game so unstable and unplayable that they were forced to actually shut it down for nearly two months to fix it. From its inception the game was from time to time an unwieldy monster that never seemed to go more than a couple years without some disaster befalling it, usually around major version updates or that time Brian Kibler go so angry after being dropped while being 7-0 in a major event that he decided to drag the entire game into the alley and put two into its head. And honestly, who can blame him?

Kibler Tweet

There’s no need to go through the entire history of MTGO so I won’t and if I’m honest it was never really my thing. I loved feel of the paper magic home games we’d played for years, lunchroom and after school groups in addition to the occasional meetups at our local game stores. Over the years I had tried to get into MTGO especially after a lot of our group lost interest or time and I found myself still wanting to play but not really looking forward to working my way back into a new group at my game store. 10-12 years after the original launch of the platform the look of it just didn’t appeal to me which was something I thought I could get over, I’m not that shallow of a gamer, am I? If I’m still willing to play with actual cardboard a game that looks like virtual cardboard shouldn’t be a huge leap. Unfortunately I didn’t stick with and instead saw some potential in the ‘09-10 release of Stainless Games’  Duels of the Planeswalkers series of games that featured a slick animated interface that looked like what we all wished MTGO would get overhauled to. They were solid games but unfortunately like MTGO before it the DoTP games were designed in such a way as to not in any way upset the economies of their two already established money making projects. Instead DoTP was marketed as a way for non-fans or non-hardcore fans of the game to still enjoy it in a more relaxed and streamlined format. By all means not a bad goal as WoTC was smartly on the lookout for any way they could continue expanding their already impressive player-base in a market which was now crowded with other popular CCGs. This approach also meant that players like me who owned large physical collections but didn’t find much time to actually play with them and didn’t want to invest additional money into the aging platform that looked older than it really was were left with only a training wheels version of the game to enjoy. MTGO delivered the incredible mechanical depth of the physical game and DoTP delivered the visual potential of its world renown story art.

A middle ground would still be nearly a decade away.

At least it almost was until Magic Duels arrived on the scene, a faint glimmer of hope that ended up being a slightly more robust version of DoTP. Plus, planeswalker cards! It was flashier, it had a much more fun story mode to play through which rewarded you with a significant amount of cards to be able to build a good collection but it suffered from all the same mechanical shortfalls that it’s predecessors did. The shocking part of the life of Magic Duels was that two short years after it’s release it was announced that support for the game would be ending with Amonkhet. Understandably the community who had invested their time into that game was frustrated and confused, especially those who had invested money into it as well. While that was another in a long line of unpopular decisions by WoTC it seemed obvious to everyone there was something big coming. Overshadowed by the question of why they released Duels at all if a new platform was coming to be the digital platform for MTG going forward.


It wouldn’t be too long before we got our answer.


Enter MTG: Arena


The announcement of MTG: Arena was a familiar sensation as visually it looked like it promised everything its predecessors didn’t and at least as far as the announcement stated it was mechanically identical to the paper game. It was what I could only assume was something too good to be true, so what was the catch? There was only one way to find out, as soon as the closed beta signups were open I put my name down and waited patiently for my number to be called. While I waited I eagerly prowled the internet for more concrete information on what the game would eventually become, more than just the initial groomed press release. About a month and a half ago I finally got the email that let me into the closed beta and I was desperate to see what it was all about. First thing I noticed was the UI very closely resembled the DoTP style of games immediately making me hesitant about what I was going to find within in spite of the claims made by the developers. Being a beta they kindly started you off with a pile of packs from the Ixalan and Rivals of Ixalan sets, 10 packs of each, so you had a variety of cards to build your starting decks with. As I opened packs I was greeted by these odd looking cards with colors representing the various rarities. These are a new mechanic being introduced in Arena called Wildcards. These wildcards immediately addressed one of the largest question marks I’d had about how WoTC would handle the free to play architecture of this game. Inherently free-to-play games end up being frustrating because of your inability to acquire those last few pieces of a given collection. The random nature of pack opening is supposed to keep you spending money until you get those erstwhile one-offs. If you aren’t coming at the game with a wallet suffering from too-much-money-itis that can be a soul crushing situation to be in.

The wildcards here solve that problem in an extremely customer first sort of way by being blank in all but their given rarity. These cards can be redeemed for any card from the various sets of an equivalent rarity. They can even be used to acquire cards that you have failed to find at all! I didn’t know the last point until a couple weeks in and still, before that I was utterly blown away at how consumer focused this move was to address one of if not the biggest complaint in any collectible free-to-play game, the ability to target a select few draws to get cards that have eluded you due to nothing but random chance. The cards can be drawn from packs randomly or from the vault which yet another mechanic WoTC added to ensure that any duplicates you get beyond the maximum of 4 are not just wasted draws. Once you have a set of four of any given card additional draws of that card with count for a certain percentage towards a vault opening. Once you earn a vault you can crack it for a stack of these wildcards ranging all the way up towards Mythic rarity. The chest shown below keeps track of your vault progress. The various rarity of cards gives you a different percentage from the commons up to mythics.


There is a real money store in this game in order to purchase gold coins you can use to purchase an open packs which is something we all knew was coming given the games free-to-play nature but I was honestly floored at how flexible WoTC was being right from the outset with rewarding player engagement. On top of these features there are daily quests and rewards you can get to build your gold bank without using real money and thus far I have to say it’s a generous system that I can find little fault with. The packs are 1,000gp per and it seems like the daily quests range anywhere from 200-600gp in rewards which I think is fair and gives players a fairly regular influx of packs. There are also daily win goals that award single cards as well as gold and weekly win thresholds that award a free pack. All in all this has instantly looked to be one of the fairest implementations of free-to-play mechanics I have seen to date, easily up there with the work Digital Extreme is doing with Warframe. Naturally the real money store isn’t open so I can’t say much about what the exchange rates are for real money to gold but I wouldn’t imagine they’d be too far out of line with the standard. Although with how conscientious they’ve been about their implementation thus far perhaps they’ll scale the prices down a bit so as to make a profit but not break the banks of their players who want to spend at lower volumes. Either way, at this point I am more than willing to see where it is they go with Arena, first impressions are crucial and for me they knocked it out of the freaking park.


I’ll finish out here with a few shots of the UI and the game board itself as well as a few mechanical things but if I’m perfectly honest it’s beautiful and pretty much what you would expect, it is digital MTG finally brought to the modern age. Alright, let’s do this… then I gotta run… Magic to play!


Once you log in this is the home screen you’ll be greeted to which has quick glimpses at your daily and weekly quests on the bottom and their requirements. In the upper right you’ll see your balance of gold, gems and your progress towards your next vault. The card icon next to the gold if you hover over it will show you how many wildcards of various rarities you have just waiting to be used. In the upper left you have tabs for Decks, Packs and the Store.


The deck screen comes loaded with a selection of pre-constructed decks that you are free to tweak and change at your leisure but it gives newbies a basis to just jump into the game and get playing. On the bottom you’ll see an edit deck button followed by Import, Export, Clone and, Delete. Full control over how you handle organizing your decks and a Collection button in the bottom right if you just want to peruse the cards you own or the ones you don’t to see what you’re still searching for.


Double clicking on a deck of your choice will open a screen where you can tweak it to your hearts content. At the beginning of your card list you’ll see your available wildcards that you can use to gain additional copies of cards you need to fill out your lists. Up top you’ll see options to customize what cards you see at a given time, this deck is Green/Red so it defaults to showing those colors as well as artifacts. The blue diamonds above the cards show how many copies of that card you own right now. The panel on the right shows the current deck list, right above which it shows a graph with your mana curve for quick reference. As you add cards to a blank decklist it will automatically populate the land you need for the deck but you can also customize that if you want.


The Packs page shows you unopened packs you have waiting, I’m planning to do a video where I’ll show opening some of these and how it works with the vault so I won’t waste a lot of time on it here besides showing it off. The account wipe that happened for this stage of the beta reset our collections so we’re back to basics, it also added Hour of Devastation and Amonkhet which should make the meta that much more interesting! I also won’t bother with the Store Page at the moment as most of it is non-functional, suffice it to say right now you can go there and exchange 1,000gp for a single pack of any of these sets when you have it. Pretty straight forward.


I’m gonna jump in and grab a screenshot of the play area for you but this is what it looks when you’re choosing what format to play. Currently we only have a Best of One Constructed format to play around in but assuming they plan for this to be the next MTGO I think we can safely assume we’ll see many of our favorite formats come into the game. Fingers crossed! For this game I’ve chosen an unmodified R/W Boros Assault deck, let’s jump in!


Opening hand, not too bad so I think I’ll forgo the mulligan this round.


Decent start, just waiting for all of my opponents shoes to drop.


Fairly even at this point but I can feel the tide turning with that Angel he just dropped which locked away the one I had on the field. Sadly from here the game went slightly down hill as he played a planeswalker that turned the slight tide into a tidal wave. Either way, fun game and I’m excited to get in there and start tweaking decks so I can win some games!

Hopefully this all has given you a little insight into what MTG: Arena may turn out to be because I have to say that right now I am extremely excited for its future and cannot wait until we hit an open beta or full release when the majority of magic players can get their hands on it! So far WoTC I think you’ve given us exactly what we’ve wanted all these years and I couldn’t be happier.


Thanks everyone who stayed with me till the end here, I’ll be sure to post updates when I get some video content put together over the weekend, till then have a great day and I’ll talk to you soon!


  • Non-Washable

Star Wars: Legion Releases!


Just a quick update since I’ve been talking about this for probably more than a week now, promises unboxing videos, painting and in general content based around this game.

Is it still happening? YES. 

But wheeeeeeen? SOON. 

For real though, it is soon. What I discovered today was that my lighting game, in the words of the youngins, was weak af. I thought I could get away with a bright light on my craft table, the ambient light in the room and maybe an additional light stand and get a decent starting quality video.

Just stop laughing for a second and let me continue, okay? I’m learning here. Like Jack Donaghy said, “There are no bad ideas in brainstorming, Lemon.”

That being said, hoooo-boy that didn’t go as I expected. 20180322_183730

Nice, right? That’s what I thought. My camera did not agree. The low lighting among some other quibbles I wasn’t ready for caused constant autofocus issues and made showing off the contents of the box difficult to say the least. This picture is also missing the boom arm for my mic as I moved it over to my computer desk for other work, I need to find better placement for that as well since the audio wasn’t quite as solid as I wanted. I may consider doing a voiceover after the fact just to clean it up but we’ll see, I have some options before I get to that point. I don’t really want to put out things that people have to work at to enjoy or get something out of. So I’m keeping the video as a learning tool and once the light kit I found arrives and I get it set up I’ll give it another go. This means I’ll be doing a couple maybe three videos in fairly quick succession, those being;

  • A quick unboxing and rundown of what you get, what they look like.
  • Pre-assembly prep, priming before gluing anything together.
  • My first foray into painting this set in addition to being the first time I’ll attempt to paint something on camera… should be easy, right?

Suffice it to say this stuff is still coming and I’m really excited to be doing it but you’ll have to be a little more patient with me as I navigate all the weird nooks and crannies of this undertaking.

I’m considering this weekend possibly trying to get a D&D centered video up as I’ve recently come across some interesting discussions that I’d really like to weigh in on but we’ll see how much spare time I have between trying to hit all of the deadlines currently cluttering my calendar.

For now, those of you who have Legion, have a blast with it as I’m not far behind! Otherwise have a great rest of your day and I’ll be seeing you soon!

  • Non-Washable