Limited Run Games is a company that has found its niche. In our modern digital world, where many games are available only as a download, the company’s limited edition boxed copies offer a way for fans to enjoy the tactile, tangible pleasure of having a game they love in physical form to have. Sometimes Limited Run gives beloved classic games the deluxe treatment, offering accompanying essays that put those games in context, much like the Criterion Collection does with movies. Today, however, the company is announcing a new venture, one that strikes me as a logical progression in serving people who want to watch games with the attention and treatment they deserve. Limited Run goes to book publishing with its own imprint Press Run, helmed by former games journalists Jeremy Parish and Jared Petty, and we have an exclusive excerpt from the label’s first book.
It’s important to note that while the company’s games do have collector’s edition books that sell out, the books themselves aren’t designed to be “limited”. As Limited Run put it in a press release: “Press Run exists to keep great books in circulation for as long as people want to read them, which means these releases won’t necessarily sell out – if there’s interest, we will release a second or even third edition.” The label’s launch includes topics such as games on the Virtual Boy, the history of publisher Sunsoft and a book about the launch and history of the original PlayStation.
Called PlayStation: A Retrospective, we have an excerpt of it below. Originally released in 2011 by Jeremy Parish and the GameSpite crew to celebrate the console’s 15th anniversary at the time, it has been remastered for this new release. I’ve had a chance to look through the entire book a bit, and my first impression is that anyone who is genuinely interested in the history and impact of Sony’s first console will love it. It combines an informed historical perspective on Sony’s business decisions that would forever change the video game landscape with first-hand memories of many PlayStation games. Not just a glossy look at the console’s greatest hits, in its pages play games like the flawed but fascinating one strider 2 get the same consideration alongside people like Final Fantasy VII
Below I present you an excerpt from the first pages of PlayStation: A Retrospectivethe introduction to the book Console launch section, in all the glory Kinja can muster. It’s a fascinating read, vividly reminding us of what Sony got into with the original PlayStation going toe-to-toe with the Sega Saturn. However, instead of reading it below, you really should Click through this link and check out this intro (as well as later pages including an article about the original resident Evil) as they actually appear in the book, because the book is beautiful and beautifully designed, full of photos, screenshots and other artwork.
You can order PlayStation: A Retrospective and the other starting titles in Press Run imprint Limited Run website.
After several years of development, Sony’s redesigned PlayStation was launched in Japan in late 1994. The three years between Nintendo’s public double-play and the system’s realization had seen many changes in the industry: Sega had smashed Nintendo’s Hammerlock in the US market; 3D graphics represented by polygons had emerged as the clear standard; FMV-based adventure games (“Siliwood”) fell into oblivion after briefly courting attention early in the CD-ROM era. The gaming industry of 1994 was a fragmented, unruly mess, with every major player (and several wannabe giants) encroaching on the post-16-bit world.
PlayStation could have been just another Jaguar, 3DO, or PC-FX – another costly, aimless failure – but Sony had a clear vision for its new console. While Sony’s approach to games was once limited to releasing software of questionable value, largely as a subordinate function of the company’s film department, PlayStation positioned them as hungry, ruthless leaders.
You don’t have to look further than PlayStation’s closest competitor to see just how far ahead of the curve Sony was. Sega launched its Saturn in Japan around the same time as Sony’s debut, and for a short time the Saturn was the more popular console. But ultimately the pendulum swung in Sony’s favor because the PlayStation’s hardware design proved forward-thinking, while Saturn was reactive. Sega had always excelled in 2D game design and built Saturn to capitalize on that strength, but it soon became apparent that the market was trending toward polygons. Sega executives and engineers reportedly panicked and added a polygon-pushing coprocessor to the system board. The result was a machine that produced glorious 2D, capable of outperforming even the powerful (and very expensive) Neo-Geo, but whose 3D was anemic and difficult to handle.
Sony, on the other hand, correctly foresaw the direction that game design will take and built the PlayStation to meet the needs of developers. The processor was powerful, capable of rendering hundreds of thousands of polygons per second, covering every surface with detailed textures, and creating stunning lighting effects. Unlike the Saturn, its Achilles heel proved to be 2D graphics handling; According to some reports, the machine didn’t even have traditional sprite-handling capabilities, meaning bitmap visuals had to be forged by pasting them onto polygons.
Whether that’s true or not, the hardware definitely lacked RAM compared to the Saturn – not a problem for pushing simple math objects, but extremely limiting for storing bitmaps. Fighting games in particular suffered from the loss of animation frames needed to squeeze all that data into the system’s cramped memory tables. Of course, Saturn’s top developers were eventually able to produce such as Burning Rangers and Panzer Dragon Sagasavvy PlayStation programming resulted in some Saturn-quality 2D games like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and Street Fighter Alpha 3.
However, these developments were still years away. For a short time, Sony’s hardware offered an arcade-quality conversion from Namco Ridge Racerstunning fighting games like Toshinden and Tekkena creative new version of the platformer in the form of Jumping Lightning! (a stunning update of an obscure X68000 game called Geographical seal) and even an old-school RPG in the form of Arc the boy. While the latter didn’t make the cut for the system’s US release – ostensibly because of a mandate from Sony CEA against 2D games, despite the presence of sprite-based titles like The Raiden Project and Rayman demoted this to the level of urban legend – the others arrived intact nine months later and helped the PlayStation launch strong in America.
The system was unlike anything anyone had ever seen at the time. Not only was its inside ridiculously powerful (and still easy to design for developers thanks to Sony’s extensive library of hardware documentation and programming APIs), but the console’s physical design also sets it apart from the rest. Sleek, sleek and densely packed, the PlayStation felt like a serious piece of consumer electronics; it had weight and strength. The case was molded of high-quality plastic than one would expect from a slot machine – neither the shiny, cheap material Sega had used for the Genesis, nor the toy-like substance (so susceptible to aging and discoloration) used in the Super NES, the PlayStation’s case felt expensive but far from fragile. At the same time, it was more interesting than the massive black panel that Sega offered in the Saturn. The shape of the case was distinctive, with a slim profile designed around slender right angles punctuated by circles that gracefully mirrored the shape of the CD media on which the games ran: an aesthetic descendant of the Discman, but clearly a separate creature.
Sony handled the US launch of the system with calculated ease. At E3 2005, Sega infamously announced an immediate debut for their console to undermine Sony; The following day, Sony’s PlayStation launch press conference consisted solely of announcing the price – $100 less than the Saturn. Most gamers were willing to endure the three-month wait until the PlayStation launch to enjoy a superior software offering for less.
Ultimately, Sony’s only real stumbling block with the PlayStation launch was its confusing advertising campaign, which strayed a little too far. UR NOT e – with the letter e printed in red, as in “ready” – the adverts proclaimed and seemed to be telling customers they weren’t worth the new machine, generally not the most endearing of tactics. But as wacky as those abstract and snooty initial ads were, their follow-up went too far toward prosaic, with Sony crafting a surrogate mascot in the form of Polygon Man, a sloppy mess of spikes whose goal apparently was to sell the system as a represent home for ugly 3D character models.
However, even these ill-considered ads could not derail the system’s prospects. Hands-on gaming was all it took people to appreciate the PlayStation’s sheer power, and five minutes of WipEout was generally enough to sell potential customers the merits of the sleek, gray 32-bit box. The PlayStation had gotten off to a strong start, and even the specter of Nintendo’s Ultra 64 lurking in the wings couldn’t dampen Sony’s style.
https://kotaku.com/sony-playstation-launch-limited-run-press-book-excerpt-1849595486 I’m in love with this book about the original Sony PlayStation