The GAG Quartet: le Internet Medley

The GAG Quartet - le Internet Medley

This is totally awesome, they play over 40 internet tunes in one song.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mghhLqu31cQ[/youtube]

DOWNLOAD THE TRACK SO WE COULD MAKE MORE SONGS! (iTunes)
http://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/the-gag-quartet/id481418983

Gilad Chehover – Drums | Guy Bernfeld – Bass | Or Paz – Guitar
http://facebook.com/TheGAGQuartet

Recording, mixing, pianoing and feminine singing by Eyal Amir (http://www.youtube.com/eyalamirmusic )
Drums recorded by Martial Bouhassira

le Photography – Dafna Sasson
le Second Unit- Tamari Goddard
le Editing & After Effects – Or Paz
le Animation – Tom Trager

Pirated Childhood

Very few people here in the States experienced the wonderful yet intriguing world of piracy and that’s due to the fact that companies were on top of each other for copyrights of certain games and what not. Well, where I’m from (Peru) there was no such thing and piracy was as abundant as there could be anywhere in the world. I found myself introduced to the Famicom which over there had various names such as Max Play or Micro Genius. These consoles would come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Most of the mimicking the toaster NES console or the Famicom. I personally loved the Famiclones which would bring lots of mysterious games built in or even with a board inside of them. Sadly, I never bought any of them until recent years, I was one of the lucky ones that had the original NES console while everyone else had their awesome looking Famiclones and NESclones.

Why me?? It wasn’t that bad I guess since there were a lot of kick ass games for the original console like the Mario Brothers and Ninja Turtles (Yes, I like the first ones as well and beat that game when I was six years old!). Furthermore, I was one of the lucky ones to be introduced to the most obscure titles during the NES era.

See, there were these game lobbies where you would pay around $0.30 cents to play video games on any console you wanted for an hour. How great was that huh? But wait, it gets better! The games themselves were mostly pirated and the popular originals. Some pirate titles I came across that were engraved in my brain for years to come. One of these wonderful titles was the pirated version of TMNT 2: The Arcade Game. This game’s label art was so wacky I couldn’t ignore it. Below is a photo of what I’m talking about!

tmnt 2 pirated game
tmnt 2 pirated game

Now isn’t this something? I will never forget these turtles, that’s for sure! Not only do they all wear shades but one of them has a shield! It’s funny though, once I found them on eBay to purchase I would keep getting flashbacks of all the memories I had with this game. I bought not one nor two nor three but four copies of this game! The good thing about pirates is that they release this game with different colored pirates (gotta collect them all!). Playing the game with my Famicom sure brings back a lot of memories and joyful occasions. I even remember one time I was playing this game at the lobby and my mom came to pick me up, she wouldn’t let me finish the game and dragged me away from it and all I could hear was Donatello getting the beating of his circuit life while the ice level soundtrack was playing in the background… That memory still comes back to me every time I play that ice level (This “new” level sure made the game longer unlike the original arcade version).

There is another game that marked my childhood with cherished memories. Many of you never heard of it until the rom was available online and hopefully it’ll get well known for being one of the most strangest but correctly made Mario hacks ever! Behold, Mario 8!

Super Bros 8 for famicom
Super Bros 8 for famicom

This game was the entire reason why I went to the lobby every time I could. This game took me out my seat and brought me to a gaming world I have never experienced, and back. The so called Super Bros 8 is actually a hack of Don Doko Don 2 released by Taito. The whole game fits well for it to be a potential Mario title (if you ignore the storyline that is). You play as Mario holding a hammer and stomping evil looking mushrooms (sounds Mario-like?), as well as other creatures along your way including pigs! I think with some hacking by Nintendo, this could have been the better Mario 2 option rather than stealing Doki Doki Panic. I had to find this game when I had the chance and I did. I currently own two copies of it as well as a copy that’s unhacked for some reason. Once I got my hands on this game two years ago, I couldn’t stop playing it. I even had a Mario 8 marathon once where I beat the game five times in a row. I believe I have beaten this game over fifty times now and it never bores me.

I hope this was an enjoyable article for many of you interested in the obscureness of retro gaming… really you can’t get any more obscure than this! As a matter of fact, there are still many titles I can mention but it’ll have to be some other time. Until next time!

Urine-controlled video games

Urine-controlled video games installed in London bar

Urine-controlled video games

Originally shared by GameCasa, after watching this I just had to share it with you all. I personally never understood a television in the bathroom. Even if you take a long shower do you really pay attention to the T.V.? On the other hand standing around playing the Wii (see what I did there?) could lead to some strange encounters.

Ever go to a bar and take a leak and a guy is standing there reading the USA today they put up there? Now imagine a guy playing video games for way to long with his junk out. I guess we in the U.S. do not need to worry about this for a while since this is in London.

[youtube width=”600″ height=”480″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OlCe0VIL0Eg[/youtube]

Speaking of this Obsolete Gamer, Glen should have some insight on this.

Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters

Ecstasy of Order

Following in the unexpected success of The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, a small army of video game documentaries have come out in recent years.

The latest, Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters debuted Friday night, October 7 as the Austin Film Festival.

Before starting my review, I’d like to disclose that I personally know a number of people in this film.  While part of the Twin Galaxies staff from 2008 until early this year I personally verified and entered many of the scores of the Tetris players who appear in this film.  I also competed in the Nintendo World Championships 1990, an event that is important over the course of this film.  Overall, I will have a unique point of view on this film that others won’t, and may see this film differently than most.

Ecstasy of Order centers around the 2010 Classic Tetris World Championships, an event set up in Los Angeles by NWC  1990 runner-up Robin Mihara.  While Tetris had long been one of the most iconic video games in history, there was no one person considered THE Tetris champion, so Mihara rounds up the top ranked players in the Twin Galaxies database and some others, including NWC 1990 Thor Aackerlund, to come to California and compete on the classic Nintendo Entertainment System version of Tetris.

[youtube width=”600″ height=”480″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTK6MnPa8Zo[/youtube]

The film spends a great deal of time on the back stories of the various men and women invited to Los Angeles to compete along with some deep looks into the deeper strategies of the top Tetris players.   Viewers will get to see some reunions and some first-time meetings as the champs converge on Southern California, with the film wrapping up with the big Classic Tetris World Championship event and some surprise moments.

First of all, I’m thrilled to see a film that features this group of gamers.  Those who’ve watched King of Kong, Chasing Ghosts, High ScoreDoctor Kong and the rest might think that Twin Galaxies is only about arcade video games and the same general group of players.  Far from it.  Every gaming platform is tracked by Twin Galaxies and the Nintendo Entertainment System crowd is often more competitive than the arcade side of things, from top players such as Tom Votava and Andrew Furrer to the many players included in this film.  Something that features them in this manner is long overdue.

It is also very nice to see vintage footage and mention of 1990s gaming contests such as the NWC 1990 and Sega’s Rock the Rock from 1995.  These were very large scale events with very big prizes that somehow fell by the wayside in gaming history, despite being bigger than most of the events before them and since.

Tetris-Competitors

The comparisons to King of Kong will no doubt come up in most reviews, so they might as well be touched on here.  Ecstasy of Order does not have an underdog good guy, a blow-dried bad guy, a conspiracy theory, talk of gummy substances or a guy in a Halloween costume complaining about cherry pit spitters on Jay Leno.  If that is what you want to see you won’t find it here.

What you will find, however, is a video game that is at least as iconic as Donkey Kong, a great number of charismatic players showing respect to one another and the thrill of live head-to-head competition.  You will get a true view of the camaraderie that exists in many gaming communities as you meet players from all walks of life.

Ecstasy of Order may fire up players to chase down 999,999 scores on the NES Tetris much like competition on Donkey Kong fired up into full swing after The King of Kong.  Tetris max-outs and Level 29 could become the “Donkey Kong kill screens” for the NES generation to chase down.   I know it made me want to fire up Tetris again, and unlike original Donkey Kong arcade games anyone can obtain a chance at becoming the next Harry Hong or Jonas Neubauer with a quick trip to eBay or Amazon to purchase the classic NES stuff needed to become the next Tetris master.

Ecstasy of Order - Movie image

Overall, Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters is a fun trip with an all-time classic video game where the viewer gets to meet some fun new gamers along the way.  A relaxing and fun 92 minutes that should appeal to both the hardcore Nintendo Entertainment System fans and the casual viewer who might want to see what exists within Twin Galaxies and classic high score chases away from the arcade scene.

You can learn more about Ecstasy of Order, including upcoming screenings, at www.EcstasyOfOrder.com.

 

Tie Fighter

Serve the Emperor! Join the Imperial Navy and save the Galaxy!

The back cover blurb of one of 1994’s best PC games began with these words, and what an amazing game it was.  Star Wars TIE Fighter was the sequel to the amazing Star Wars: X-Wing Space Combat Simulator, and it gave players the chance to play for the other team:  The Empire.

1994's Star Wars TIE Fighter

1994’s Star Wars TIE Fighter

I loved the setup to this game: the Rebellion are called “terrorists” and a threat to peace and order in the galaxy.  But the game isn’t just about taking on the Rebellion; your rookie Imperial Pilot is tasked with wiping out pirates, ferreting out corruption in the Imperial Navy, and disposing of other criminal elements.  In all, there are around 50 missions you get to embark on.

Not only could you play fly various missions for your commanding officer, you could also choose to enter into a secret service for the Emperor.  A shadowy member of the Emperor’s Inner Circle gives the player further objectives to fulfill.  These optional briefings add more information to what’s going on in the game as they reveal more and more of the plot.  You don’t need to complete them to finish the game, but they’re fun!

While John Williams’ original soundtrack plays in the background, the player gets to fly a variety of space craft, which include: TIE fighters, TIE bombers, TIE Interceptors, TIE Advanced, TIE Defender (awesome!), and assault gunboats.  Personages you interact with include Emperor Palpatine, Grand Admiral Thrawn, Grand Admiral Zaarin, and, of course, Darth Vader.  If you complete the game and save the Emperor you can expect a closing ceremony reminiscent of the one at the end of the original Star Wars movie, except this time it’s all in the Imperial motif.

Tie Fighter - 1994 - Gameplay Screenshot - Lord Vader

 

Lord Vader expresses his displeasure.

There was an expansion disk pack released for TIE Fighter called Defender of the Empire, which added a few more missions, but didn’t do much in advancing the storyline.  A second expansion pack called Enemies of the Empire was originally planned for an independent release, but ended up as an added bonus to the CD-ROM release of TIE Fighter, called – appropriately enough – Star Wars TIE Fighter Collector’s CD-ROM.  The CD version includes Defender of the Empire, and offers around 100 missions to fly.  This is retro gaming at its finest, so if you never played TIE Fighter, it’s time to suit up and restore order to the galaxy – your Emperor commands it!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffh65UsBQvM[/youtube]

 

Exploring the Commodore 64: Part 2

Having now had my first taste of the much-loved Commodore 64 , I figured it was time to revisit it and try a few more games. Like the first post, the games featured here were all available elsewhere but were probably most famous as C64 games, especially a certain few, but unlike last time I’m somewhat more familiar with these games, having played them or similar games elsewhere, which should actually prove better for familiarising me with the C64’s abilities. One thing to note is that, as you may have noticed, all the games selected are arcade-style games. I thought this would be okay since I’m just seeing what the C64 is like as a system and I don’t really have time to learn the intricacies of some of the great strategy and adventure games the system offers such as The Sentinel, Forbidden Forest, Citadel, etc, but I certainly intend to play them eventually, at which time I’m sure you’ll hear about it here! For now though, here’s my first impressions of these games:

International Karate (1986)

International-Karate-commodore-64
I’ve long been a fan of the supreme IK+ on the Amiga but I must admit I’ve never played this prequel before. As far as 8-bit micro’s are concerned I was always an ‘Exploding Fist’ fan but if the time I’ve now spent on this is anything to go by, I’ve been missing out! IK+ is great fun but is pretty fast-paced, even manic at times, with its three simultaneous combatants. IK is a little more sedate. Since it’s just one-on-one contests, you’re afforded more time to try to out-fox your opponent and score a knockdown. I greatly enjoyed this one with its finely-honed gameplay, good selection of moves, and nice, varied backgrounds, and it will definitely see more play!

Wizball (1987)

Wizball-commodore-64
It was at R3Play when I was reminded of this game, while watching the great Jon Hare doing his presentation. He asked who had played Wizball (his first big hit) so I enthusiastically raised my hand! Then he asked who had played the ‘proper’ version on the C64. I had to sheepishly lower my hand, but I vowed that I would play it, and soon! I used to own the Speccy version and I didn’t really have a blinking clue what I was doing, but I also later bought it for the Amiga and enjoyed it much more there, actually making a little progress (just a little though!). Having now played this original version, I’m… a little disappointed to be honest! I’ve been hearing C64 fans raving about this game for so many years, I was expecting to be bowled over. I was expecting all my indifference towards the game to disappear as it became instantly clear why the game was so revered. But that never happened. The graphics are quite nice and I found it very addictive, but I also found it tough and frustrating too, and the sound is awful. I did quite enjoy playing it, and it’s a game that it’s satisfying to do well at so I’ll keep trying, but not this version I’m afraid. I’ll go back to the Amiga version I think, sorry C64 fans!

Turrican (1989)

Turrican-commodore-64
This is another one I’ve played elsewhere (kind of), specifically Mega Turrican for the MegaDrive, but it is again a game best known on, and originally developed for the C64, and I must say… it’s impressive stuff! Turrican was perhaps initially noticed for its admittedly superb aesthetics but, as I soon discovered, even this first version of the first game is far from a one-trick-pony – the superb graphics and music merely complement the top-notch game design rather than cover its flaws. Although seemingly influenced by Metroid on the NES, Turrican is much more focused on action, specifically shooting, but of course even I knew that much already! There’s a lot of blasting to do here though, with several weapon power-ups available to increase the range and power of hand-held gun (or ‘arm-cannon’), and with a large number of varied enemies to mow down as you clamber around the large, multi-tiered stages, there’s certainly a lot to hold your attention. I’ve played a good few ‘run n gunners’ over the years, and I greatly enjoyed the MD version of Turrican, so I’m pleased to find that this original version is just as much fun to play. Now to have a look at the sequel!

Dropzone (1984)

Dropzone-commodore-64
Considering I’m supposedly an Archer MacLean fan, it’s rather embarrassing to confess here that I have never previously played this game! I am a big fan of Datastorm on the Amiga though, and finally playing Dropzone reveals the Amiga game to be far more like Archer’s classic than Defender, of which it is supposedly a clone. So, not only was it quickly familiar to me but I also soon saw why it’s so loved (unlike my time with Wizball!). It took me a few moments to work out where I was supposed to be dropping off the pods but I was soon blasting away fairly convincingly. Having said that, Datastorm is no walk in the park and this game is even harder! The pods are seemingly abducted by the Landers (sorry, they’re called ‘Planters’ here) every few seconds so the priority is to rescue them very quickly it seems. After that it’s a manic shooting gallery as you attempt to take out all the evil alien ships. This really is a superb shmup, probably the best I’ve played on any 8-bit micro, and has some great little touches, especially those fantastic firework-like explosions. A superb title I would’ve undoubtedly spent a lot of time on if I had a C64.

Pitstop (1983)

Pitstop-commodore-64
Now I don’t like to be unkind to a system which I’m pretty much just using as a guest at this point, but whoever suggested I give this one a try must’ve surely been taking the piss! I’m firmly of the opinion that into-the-screen racing games are a genre that the earlier systems couldn’t really do justice to, and this is a very early example, but c’mon! This Epyx release reminded me one of those handheld LCD games where you move the car at the bottom of the display left or right across three lanes to avoid the infinite slower cars that also occupy them. Those devices are okay for what they are but I would expect a lot more from a C64 (or indeed a Speccy) F1-style game! The graphics and sound here are dire and the gameplay gets annoyingly repetitive after just a few minutes of play. Maybe the sequel is better but I can only assume I’ve been the victim of a joke with this game!

The Verdict:
Well, it took me more than 20 years but I’ve now finally played some games on this iconic system, and it’s a little tough to summarise my experience. To use a football analogy, it’s like supporting Liverpool for all these years, then trying to see what it would’ve been like to be a Manchester United fan the whole time (the CPC would be like Scunthorpe or something of course – hee hee!). Sure I could enjoy watching the United team play but would my heart really be in it?

I certainly can’t deny that the C64 is a competent machine though, with some outstanding games, and is almost certainly more technically gifted than the Speccy – despite having far blockier graphics, the extra colours do make a difference and the famed SID sound chip makes a huge difference – the Speccy’s audio ‘abilities’ are hard to defend, even as a Speccy fan! I’m a big fan of videogame music so I imagine listening to old SID music must be an enormously nostalgic experience for gamers who grew up with a C64 and that’s something I certainly missed out on.

The experience of being a C64 owner must’ve been pretty similar to that of being a Speccy owner – the machines are fundamentally very similar of course – but I reckon I would’ve had a great time as the former. Perhaps they are suited to different types of games befitting their particular specialities but I’ve greatly enjoyed discovering these great C64 games regardless. That said, I’ll always have more affection for the Speccy, that will never change (it is best, after all!), but I am no longer a stranger to the ways of the C64!

There is no magic in making games

Game Design

A game starts with an idea. You want to communicate something, you want to make a person an experience, you want a person to feel something, or maybe you just want to create something fun or interesting. Fill in the blanks, throw in some game mechanics and art, mix it all with months of work, and you have yourself a game. There is really no magic there. It’s just a lot of patience, a lot of trial and error, and a lot of passion.

Of course, the description I gave is an oversimplification, and the most interesting part lies in the details, in the specifics of each game, and in the characters of the people who are making the game. Personally, I’ve been making games since I was 13 years old. It started as an innocent hobby: drawing lines and circles in QBasic. You add some animation, some interactivity, and you’ve got yourself a game. Again, no magic. Since then I’ve been slowly improving my skills. I’ve made many games, all of them incomplete; all of them abandoned half-way. Anytime I felt like I learned enough, or I wanted to move on to something more fun, I would drop the current project and start anew.

It takes 10,000 hours to become really good at anything. If you only spend one hour a day on something, it will take you approximately 27 years to become really good at it. It’s a lot of repetition, and a lot of trying to achieve higher and more interesting goals. You keep starting over and over with a clean slate, hoping to nail it down perfectly this time around, but each time it’s like making an ice sculpture in a desert. Everything starts to melt, you lose details and focus, and eventually you decide to scrap it and start anew. There is really no getting around it, everyone has to go through it. But one day…

One day you wake up, and you say, “This is it! I’m going to make a good game, and I’m going to stick with it until I finish it. I’m not abandoning this one.” And you try your absolute best to finish it, and then you fail. You fail because your statue has completely melted, you are sweating, and meanwhile you keep thinking about this other awesome idea that you have, that would make a totally great game. So you move on. And on. And on. And every so often you try to commit, but you don’t. Until one day…

One day you do. And you finish your game, and by anyone’s judgment this could be called a finished game. A Real Game. And on that day you feel like a true game programmer, a true game designer, a true artist. You’ve seen a project from inception to finish. You’ve seen all the stages. You’ve verified that there is no magic.

Now, if you’ve started this process early, you have probably done most of these games yourself. Towards the end, where you meet other people who are close to your level (most likely in college), you start to cooperate with them. Yet, you look at the AAA games, and you think, “Why are our games nowhere as good? The graphics aren’t close, the art isn’t as good, the game isn’t as polished. Everything is just off. Surely the big companies have a secret that they guard well, that allows them to make the kind of games they do.” So you get an internship at such a company, and you look at what they do, and you notice…

You notice they are not doing anything differently! Nothing at all! They just have more experienced people: people who can anticipate problems, people who know how to correct certain problems, people who’ve done this kind of stuff for years. But, fundamentally, what they are doing is completely normal. No magic! So you learn from them, and you learn on your own, and you continue to do what you’ve always done: make games. Slowly you start making games that people like, that people think are polished, that people genuinely enjoy, and then one day…

One day you make it big. Everybody plays your game, and everyone learns your name. People think you just magically appeared out of nowhere with this magical talent. And most people will never see those other half-finished games you’ve made, which is probably for the best. Most people will assume you have some special talent that allows you to make games. They’ll ask, “How did you do it? What’s the secret?” And you…

You can look at them and smile.

Ten Questions: Matt Barton

Matt Barton is one of the smartest and most interesting people you can find online discussing, loving and showing off old & new games. Now, although you should preferably get to know him via his work on Matt Chat, the Amrchair Arcade and some rather impressive books, reading the following interview should be both enlightening and considered as an appetizer.
dungeons and desktops dragon-1
1. Matt, care to introduce yourself to the merry retro loving lot that are the Gnomeslair.com & Obsolete Gamer readers?

I’m Matt Barton, host of Matt Chat, a weekly YouTube show dedicated to classic games. I’m also co-founder of Armchair Arcade and author of Dungeons & Desktops and Vintage Games (co-authored with my friend and colleague Bill Loguidice). I’m also an assistant (soon to be associate) professor of English at St. Cloud State University, where I teach classes in writing, rhetoric, and new media.

2. And what would you say some of your favourite games are? Any particular love for a genre or a gaming machine?

My favorite genres are adventure games, role-playing games, and strategy games. Some of my favorites include Baldur’s Gate, Pool of Radiance, World of Warcraft, Civilization, and the Nancy Drew series of adventure games. I have many consoles, but my favorite gaming device is the PC. Going further back, I will always be an Amiga and Commodore fan at heart.

3. So, Armchair Arcade, how would you describe the site and what’s the story behind it?

We were friends on a forum dedicated to Shane R. Monroe’s Retrogaming Radio show. We talked about putting together an online magazine, and eventually set it up. For awhile we focused on “issues” and tried to make it look like a retromag. We were amazed by how much attention it got, frequently mentioned on Slashdot and many other sites (even Slate and the Discovery Channel). Eventually, though, we morphed into a blog format and started selling our features to other sites (especially Gamasutra). Now we use AA as our home base for communicating to fans and fellow retrogamers, talking about our latest projects, and so on.

4. Same question on the incredibly well produced Matt Chat episodes… How did you decide to start a video show on retro games, and what would you say is this little something that makes Matt Chat unique (for, believe me, it is unique)? By the way, love that gaming wall you got in the background.

Matt Chat has come a long, long way in a short time. When I first started, it was just me and a webcam trying to hawk my books. The production quality was terrible! But I wanted to learn more about videos because Bill and I are producing a feature documentary for Lux Digital Pictures (Gameplay: The Story of the Videogame Revolution). I figured I needed more experience with videos to really handle a project like that, so I kept learning and experimenting, trying to refine my techniques. If you notice, I usually try to put in one more technique or one more refinement per episode, so I’m always learning something new.

I don’t think Matt Chat is unique. There are many, many other YouTubers out there doing similar shows. For instance, ianwilson1978 does great work on the Sega Genesis and Marlin Lee covers a variety of games. I guess one thing that makes my show special is that I feature games from all platforms, especially covering PC and computer titles that the others miss. Most other shows are dedicated to consoles, especially Nintendo classics. I figure those games already get enough love, so I try to cover ground that is not covered by the other shows–such as Dungeons of Daggorath for the Tandy CoCo, Tunnels of Doom for the TI-99/4A, or even the PLATO platform. I also feature interviews with classic developers, such as John Romero and Al Lowe. I’ll soon release my interview with Chris Avellone.

5. Really, is it tough producing something of this quality on a weekly basis?

It can be. Sometimes my editing program (Sony Vegas Platinum) crashes so much during rendering that I’m tempted to just give up. I would really love a better setup! The other big problem is capturing footage from games, especially old Windows games. Even with fraps, virtualdub, and the rest, it can be a nightmare sometimes capturing decent footage.

Other than these purely technical problems, though, it’s not hard at all. I can easily come up with things to say, and I like researching the games anyway. I also enjoy inserting inside jokes and humor, and interacting with the fans is a real joy.

6. How about your books? They are two on games and one on Wikis, correct? Do you feel gamers actually bother reading?

I think most gamers are highly intelligent; at least the ones I talk to. I know plenty of professors and graduate students who are serious gamers. But, of course, there are many who never pick up a book. That is sad, of course, since I couldn’t imagine living life without good books to read. It’s really important to read good books, not just newspapers and such. You can always tell when you’re talking to an avid reader, because he or she will be more knowledgeable on a broader range of topics–plus, I think it makes you more articulate and, frankly, intelligent. I had a friend who read War and Peace just for fun, but he told me later he felt more intelligent after reading it. Some people laugh at comics and graphic novels, but they are actually much more sophisticated now than they used to be. You could certainly learn a thing or two from Moore‘s work.

There’s really no excuse for being ignorant. So read!

7. Now, let’s focus a bit on the rather epic Dungeons and Desktops. Why CRPGs? Could you briefly describe the book? Has it sold to your expectations? Did you enjoy writing it?

It’s pretty much what it says; the history of computer role-playing games. I tried to talk about every important or even remotely influential game in the book, describing what makes them fun and how they fit into the grand history of the genre. I tried to show connections across eras and styles, so you could get a sense of the diversity. Someone may have heard of Baldur’s Gate, for instance, but be unaware of Planescape: Torment, Pool of Radiance, or Eye of the Beholder. I meet people who may know all about Zelda and Final Fantasy, but have never heard of Ultima or Lord British. That bothered me, so I thought it was time to write a book on the topic.

The book has sold well. Of course, something like this won’t be a bestseller. But I wrote this book for people like us, not the mainstream. By “us,” of course, I’m talking about people who love games like Wizardry and Fallout and enjoy nothing more than talking and thinking about them.

8. Should we expect more books from you? Maybe even a new project or collaboration?

Almost certainly, though it’s very hard to find publishers interested in game books. I have been dying to write a book on adventure games similar to D&D, but no takers so far. Bill and I have been talking about a book on the Atari 2600, and I’ve got one on virtual worlds that needs development. We will probably also write a book based on our documentary.

9. And now for something that interests me quite a bit on a personal level. How did you really manage to -effortlessly, it seems- combine an academic career with all this quality work on computer and video games?

In a sense gaming is my job. A professor is expected to research as well as teach, and game studies is an important part of new media. I’m presenting on aspects of gaming at two national conferences later this year (Computers and Writing, Rhetoric Society of America). People tend to think of “English” strictly as literature and grammar, but it’s far more than that! There are many of us studying games as well as other technologies like wikis and social networking. All of these things involve communication and rhetoric.

10. Finally, have you thought about actually creating a game yourself?

I have, though I’m not satisfied with the results! But a few years ago I taught myself C++ out of some books and made a simple adventure game, which I entered into the Interactive Fiction contest. I was shocked that it was 28th in the 12th annual interactive fiction competition. At any rate, it was fun learning C++, and I’d love to try something more ambitious one day.

Alien Syndrome

alien_syndrome.cover.front-nes

Alien Syndrome

There will always be a few common themes for video game titles. Medieval fantasy role-playing games, secret agent first-person shooters, cartoony platformers are among the most popular. Another brand of home console fun is the kill all the aliens action game. Many titles for the Nintendo Entertainment System tried to capitalize on this key idea, including Star Tropics and Contra. Another contestant in this field was Alien Syndrome, a top-down gunner for one or two players.

In Alien Syndrome, space marines must travel through expansive levels as they seek different guns and checkpoints. They have a limited amount of time before the ship explodes, and every area also has a big, scary-lookin’ boss. Each foreboding arena features a different color scheme, music, general appearance, alien species, and layout.

alien-syndrome-nes-gameplay-screenshot

Graphics

For the most part, this was a pretty slick-looking game for the ol’ NES. With vibrantly designed aliens, convincing sci-fi settings, and bosses reminiscent of Blaster Master-type baddies, Alien Syndrome was certainly no slouch. One weakness, though, was its overly ambitious sprite usage; consider some bosses used multiple offspring or projectile attacks, the experience did suffer from occasional blinking and frame-rate problems.

alien-syndrome-nes-gameplay-screenshot

Sound

The music was atmospheric and effective, albeit a tad minimalist as well. The weaponry was perhaps the best use of sound, especially the pitiful pop noise of your first gun. The bosses had standard fare in their attacks, and overall, the tracks were average.

Innovation

Playing like a Gauntlet dungeon writ large in a science-fiction setting, Alien Syndrome was not a truly original idea, but definitely worked as an innovator to make it an alien-blasting good time. Although the weapons were typical and predictable (laser, flamethrower, anyone?), the bosses were imaginative and gruesome.

alien-syndrome-nes-gameplay-screenshot

Replay Value

Alien Syndrome is a quirky title that most gamers would hate but a few would love. Its time-limit feature seemed forced and unnecessary, serving only to heighten anxiety. Perhaps that served to intentionally heighten the tension, but considering that the aliens themselves were difficult enough to deal with, one can only wonder how much more fulfilling of an experience would this have been without the timer. Especially with later levels, the time constraint forced an emphasis on lay-out memorization and other unintuitive tactics, removing the improvisational, seat-of-your-pants element of an otherwise bug-blasting good time. For that glaring error in concept development, and the lack of any truly noteworthy features, Alien Syndrome earns two stars out of five, case closed.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6porckR305Q[/youtube]

Eric Bailey is a retro gamer on a crazy quest to write a quality review for every single American-released NES video game over at NintendoLegend.com.

Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider - Playstation - Box

I can’t imagine there’s a human being out there reading this that hasn’t played this game, or at least knows everything about it. Before all the sequels (good and bad), all the comics (good and bad), and all the movies (good and bad), there was the original game that set everything up.

Soon after I purchased my PSOne, my cousin stopped by my apartment. I didn’t realize he was a big video game guy until I talked to him that day. He didn’t live too far from me and we talked about getting together. My brother was already over and I told him we were playing the Playstation. He told me he had one as well, and was going to bring over some games. I don’t remember any of the others he brought, because I don’t think we ever got past Tomb Raider.
“It’s an Indiana Jones chick who jumps around and shoots stuff.”

Tomb Raider is a 3rd-person action-adventure game which really plays like a classic platformer in 3D. Your hero, Lara Croft, is a rich girl who grew up in archeology, but her parents died when she was younger, leaving her with money and boredom. You’ll learn a lot more of her backstory in future games.

Tomb Raider - Playstation - Gameplay Screenshot

In this particular game, she’s hired to search the world for objects which have ties to the Lost City of Atlantis. She will battle animals, creatures, and humans, as well as the occasional mythical figure. Always armed with two guns and unlimited ammo, this will be her signature.

Tomb Raider is more about puzzle-solving than shooting, although there is enough of that. Throughout the levels, which will take her around the world, she will collect items and treasures, pull levers, push blocks, climb walls, jump to ledges, all while avoiding breaking her neck or falling into a death-pit. All in a normal day for an adventurer. Not only can she walk, but run, flip, and swim in water.

A true magical adventure, this game had me hooked. Looking back at it now, the graphics are pretty blocky, but the game play was/is something special.

Tomb Raider - Playstation - Gameplay Screenshot

I can’t finish this review without mentioning one of my favorite moments in video game history……the first time Lara’s walking around and the gigantic T-Rex comes seemingly out of nowhere, and I had nothing but the dual-pistols. Literally a crap-your-pants moment.

Obviously, this marked a special moment in gaming. I can’t stress enough how this was literally a game-changer. Combining great graphics and level design, wonderful music, engaging gameplay…..it almost seemed like you were in a movie, and a must-own for any gamer.

Only two negatives about the game, and they’re not minor; First, you can’t save where/whenever you’d like (they would change that in the sequels), but you have to find the save points. Secondly, the camera angles can be brutal, and sometimes get stuck. Can be very difficult to make a crazy jump when the camera is not cooperating. This will be a problem throughout the series.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uL1cwhNDWkw[/youtube]

The great Tommy Shaw once said, “Don’t go messing with a girl with guns.” The man was right-on, she’s totally badass.

Stephanie – Irresistible

There’s many lost 80s music but this particular track was sang by royalty from Monaco, Princess Stéphanie of Monaco. You can read about here here in this wiki.

This is the english version of Ouragan which has a really odd music video.

Now not to troll but some people say she does look like a man. What’s weird is that at the end of this video she was after he male version, which is rather odd. That was a marketing fail. She should have had the PR of Lady Gaga.

I don’t care what she looks like myself. All I know is that the music is brilliant and I’m sure if she looked like Madonna or Joan Jett and had better marketing back in the 80s this could have been a very mainstream super 80s classic!

Here are the lyrics to Stephanie – Irresistible:

He’s so secure
He’s so sure
He’s so vain.
He’s a maker of fashion
He’s a faker of passion

I see right through all his jive ballyhoo.
But he’s into my system though I try to resist him –
I can’t fight anymore.

Irresistible
Irreversible
I can’t fight the temptation.
Call it physical
It’s illogical
Still I love the sensation.
Irresistible
Irresponsible
Irregardless of reason
Love’s swept over me
I’m too blind to see – I can’t fight off the feeling.

I know he’s wrong but his arms feel so right.
He’s a magical potion
Tearing up my emotions.
Why if I see what this boy does to me
Can’t I simply forget him
’cause I know I’ll regret him? –
I can’t fight anymore.

Irresistible
Irreversible
I can’t fight the temptation. . . .
Call it physical
It’s illogical
Still I love the sensation.
Irresistible
Irresponsible
Irregardless of reason
Love’s swept over me
I’m too blind to see – I can’t fight off the feeling.

Irresistible
Irresponsible
Irregardless of reason
Love’s swept over me
I’m too blind to see – I can’t fight off the feeling.

Like a magnet attracting steel
Just a look from his eyes I feel
That I’m losing my self control
He takes over my soul what for?
But I keep coming back for more.

Chronicles of an Indie Game Developer

cologames

From our, in their own words series John Newton from Cologames talks about his life as an indie game devekoper.

I’m a Flash developer releasing my games on my website ColoGames alongside a selection of other games. I make the best games ever and the worst, the hardest and the easiest. I’m a great developer and a bad one. My games are loved and hated. Life as an indie game developer can be brutal. Whenever I release a new game I watch with excitement as people rate and comment on my creation and I realise it’s impossible to please everyone. The comments can be nice and horrible, no one ever agrees. But the fact that I made the whole game myself, all art, design, and code makes the comments personal.

I’m not making a game as part of a big team. I can make whatever I want; it doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad. It’s the freedom to do what I want that makes being an indie developer special. Of course I don’t do this fulltime, otherwise I would have to rely on the income from the games, be forced to develop certain genres and be sure they were perfect before release.

I’ve always wanted to make video games but never thought I could. I didn’t know how to make them and I didn’t know anyone who could help me. This was long before the internet began. After high school I studied physics at university and learned to program in C/C++ at the same time the internet became accessible. I suddenly realised I had the math skills and programming knowledge to make games!

cologameslogo

I spent months learning more about game development and improving my programming knowledge before applying for a couple of jobs at local game developers. For my first interview I was told to download a GameBoy emulator, learn Z80 assembly language and produce a simple demo for the GameBoy in a weekend! I was so enthusiastic that I spent all weekend making the best demo I could. I got offered the job but amazingly I also had a job offer from the other company to work on a top selling PlayStation game, which I accepted immediately.

And so my career as a game developer began. I spent over 11 years working for several top game companies and have worked inCanada,Swedenand theUK. I estimate I’ve been credited on games selling about 30-40 million copies. So why do I now spend time making Flash games?

I still work for a major game company as a game programmer and often work 50-70 hours a week but I have little say over game design and I could never make any game art. I decided to make Flash games whenever I have spare time because they can be quick to make and release. I’ve also made two iPhone games but I had to spend much longer making them of a higher quality and it’s not fun submitting a game through Apple and then trying to promote the game so people see it. It’s much easier for people to see a Flash game and because my spare time is so limited it’s really my only option. It’s fun designing games and making the artwork without having the pressure to make it perfect. Most of the games I’ve released have been made in a short time. I have a few unreleased games that require weeks or months of work to finish so I haven’t released them.

bow battle

My latest game ‘Bow Battle’ is probably my best attempt at game art and it’s given me the confidence to try a bigger game with more art. Programming the games is never a problem, as long as I have the time to do it, but I like to spend time improving my art skills and hope to do some 3D modelling and animation at some point.

I’m about to start a new project which will probably take a while to make. But it’ll be nice to actually make a high quality Flash game that has some depth and is popular. No matter how good or popular my game is there will be negative comments but it’ll be my creation, a whole game created by me and hopefully loved by many.

ColoGames

If you’d like to submit an article please click on the contact button below. 

Motivational Monday: Awkward Moment II

Awkward Moment

I think sometimes you need to be told you are not special or pretty or important. Sure, everyone loves a pity party, but you can”t always warn the cold cruel world with false statements and wishful thinking. Take that boot to the face, it might make you stronger if nothing else, it won”t make you uglier.

~An excerpt from J.A. motivational book titled: STFU and Jump.

A good wifeAvatarGo aheadKeep Hating Bitchaustralian casinos online width=”582″ height=”533″ />MarijuanaReincarnationScoreSet TrapTwilight BladeZombie Apocalypse

Happy 10th Birthday GameCube: My Favorite Games

Gamecube Cake

Ah where has the time gone? I remember reading about the GameCube and thinking, really, tiny discs like that? Now you are 10 years old and as Obsolete as the rest of us. Yes, the GameCube is now known for the titles you can purchase for the Wii more than a game system, but it did have some good games that I enjoyed. Here they are in no particular order.

Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door

papermario2_gamecube-box

I loved the original Super Mario RPG on the SNES and when I discovered Paper Mario was to be its successor I had to give it a shot. Paper Mario is a beginners RPG whereas it is very easy to play, at least this version. However, the ease did not make the game bad, on the contrary, it was very fun and the animation was unique and fit well with the storyline.

SoulCalibur 2

Soul-Calibur-2-gamecube-box

Fans of Soul Blade and the first SoulCalibur got a real treat on the GameCube version. Not only was the game put together well, but fans got to play as the exclusive character, Link and who could resist that. The music and graphics were well done and overall was a great year for the franchise.

Resident Evil

resident-evil-gamecube-box

Sure, it was a remake, but when it is done right giving people the chance to experience an updated version of the game they loved it deserves praise. This game was visually stunning and brought back all the fear you had from the original. The audio was redone as well and sounded fantastic, if you owned a GameCube and liked RE then you had to have this game.

F Zero GX

F-Zero-GX-gamecube-box

Fans of the futuristic racer could rejoice in this title that expanded on the original with new visuals and more ways to customize your vehicle than time would allow. This had everything fans wanted, the speed, the visuals, even the music and kept you interested in playing for a long time.

Resident Evil 4

resident-evil-4-gamecube-box

One of the best RE’s period and a must have on the GameCube. Everything about this game was well done from the storyline to the immersive factor to the music and graphics it was a staple for the series and alongside Codename Veronica, one of my all-time favorite survival horror games.

[youtube width=”600″ height=”480″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lRuNDkhU0is[/youtube]

The others

Now this is a short list. There were other fantastic games like Metroid Prime, Super Smash Bros. Melee and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, but I leave it up to you to tell us your favorite GameCube Games.

PONPONPON

ponponpon

You’re mission here is to describe what this video is about without using a translator.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzC4hFK5P3g[/youtube]

“PONPONPON” performed by Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, produced by Yasutaka Nakata (capsule).
Debut mini album “Moshi Moshi Harajuku” (means “Hello Harajuku”) 17th Aug. In Stores.

Gamers Health: The Journey

gamers health

It may seem strange that a fat guy like me is giving advice on being a healthy gamer, but considering I used to be twice the size I am now I believe I can help some of my fellow gamers nonetheless. Regardless of stereotype, recent data has shown that many gamers are overweight, out of shape and have a bad diet, but one does not have to give up gaming to get in better health.

One thing I learned is never try to do something you do not think you can keep up forever. What this means is if you start running 7 days a week and get fit that’s great, but if you cannot kept it up chances are you may give it up totally and revert back to the way you were.

A constant improvement is better than a roller-coaster and in the end even if you do not end up with a hard body you will be in better health which means you will live longer for more game time, win, win.

Now everyone is different and you should always talk with your doctor and if you are young, your parents as well, but these are some small steps you can take to be a bit more healthy.

Game Food

gamer food

I could tell you to always stop gaming when you eat, but that is not realistic for some. Again, the key is trying to fit health into what you know you will do anyway. There is no need to crash so low and hit rock bottom and then need to give up gaming altogether. Small steps can mean a lot and in many cases once you start you will want to continue and expand.

If you play games with people you will at one time or another need to eat and the first thing I would recommend is to eat smaller portions during gaming and reserve your bigger meal for when you are not gaming.

For example, when playing a game eat something small and quick like almonds or a breakfast bar instead of a value meal or pizza. Often when gaming you will just keep grabbing food until you are full which can lead to overeating where as it is a little less likely if you are actually concentrating on your meal. Portion control is key.

Second, replace the foods you eat when gaming. Sure, I could say give up the burger and fries or the pizza or the hot pocket, but honestly if you are not ready to say goodbye to the fast-food it’s not going to happen. However, you can train yourself to eat healthy while gaming and then if you must, have the greasy stuff when out or with friends.

Fresh fruits and veggies

One of the main reasons we don’t eat healthy is because it is forced on us or it’s completely not available. To remedy this discover healthy foods you do like and then surround yourself with them. For instance if you have a sweet tooth while gaming sample different fruits and then pick an assortment of those and  try eating them while gaming.

What happens is your mind will accept the new foods because you are still focused on the game. If you thought to yourself “I’m eating an apple instead of skittles” then you might stop, but if you are playing and into the game and just naturally grab some grapes your mind will get used to it and you won’t even think about needing to grab candy anymore.

The same goes for what you drink. You might hate diet soda, juice and water, but when gaming and if you are thirsty you will accept almost anything. I began by switching to diet cola and then seltzer water and went from drinking 6 litters a day of soda to drinking water 90 percent of the time.

It’s all about setting the mood. If you know you are sitting down for that World of Warcraft raid, surround yourself with fruits and veggies and water and when it’s time to grab something that will be what you grab. After a few weeks it will become second nature and believe me once you start eating the good stuff you will want less of the bad stuff.

The younger you are the harder this may be to do since you may not notice yet what a bad diet can do to you, but over time small changes can add up to a lot leading to a better you.

Next time we will talk about adding exercise to your gaming life. Until then, if you have healthy foods that you eat during gaming we’d love to hear about them.

The Interview: Dave Gilbert: Wadjet Eye Games

Dave Gilbert, a master of all things AGS, is the man behind indie adventure game publisher/developer Wadjet Eye Games and the designer responsible for such point-and-click gems as The Blackwell Legacy and The Shivah. What follows is -quite apparently- an interview with him.
wadjet eye games

 

1. Most know you as a designer, programmer and even publisher of indie adventure games, so, beside that, what are your gaming and non-gaming interests?

Gaming? Hm! I’m a big RPG nut. I’ve recently replayed Arcanum and I’ve just started the latest Final Fantasy, which should probably keep me busy for awhile. I have yet to finish any installment in that series, so let’s see if this is the exception.

As for non-gaming, I’m pretty low key. I love to travel, read, and wander aimlessly around NYC looking for places to go.

2. And how exactly did you first decide that playing via a keyboard and some chips was a good idea?

It’s all my mother’s fault. I was 11 years old and she bought me a copy of Infocom’s Wishbringer. After that, my fate was forevermore sealed.

the shivah

3. From enjoying to creating; how and when did you decide to start coming up with your very own digital bits of interactive entertainment?

It all started during a time in my life when I was looking for some distractions. The year was 2001 and it was September and I live in New York, so you can imagine what I needed distracting from. I searched the web for freeware adventure games and I ended up discovering the Reality on the Norm project. The idea behind it was basically a shared universe. All the assets – characters, backgrounds, even the world itself – were shared by the community, and anyone could come along and make a game in that world and add to its story. The idea appealed to me. After playing a couple of them I decided to make one, so I took a week or two and made a little game called “The Repossesser.” People seemed to like it, so I kept making more.

4. What about Wadjet Eye Games? A bold step.

Maybe! At the time I was between jobs, having just come home after spending a year abroad teaching English in Asia. My apartment was being rented out so I was staying with my parents. They were both retired, and it was a bit embarrassing to be hanging around their apartment all day when I didn’t have a job either, so I took my laptop to a nearby café. For a month, I tinkered around with making a game for 7-8 hours a day and I told myself I was working. Completely self-defeating, but The Shivah was the end result. I had so much fun making it that I realized I didn’t want to do anything else. I had about nine months worth of savings in my bank account, so I figured it was “now or never” and just dived right in. So it wasn’t a “bold step” so much as putting off getting a real job. You could say that I’m kind of still doing that.

blackwell

5. And you’ve already been around for almost 5 years. Quite a feat that. How did you manage?

If I do anything on purpose it’s that I make a point of keeping my games a bit on the short and manageable side. It’s a lot easier to recover from a commercial failure if the time and money you put into it is minimal. There’s always that temptation to throw more and more money and time at a project to make it super awesome, but there’s always the fear that the game will bomb and you’ll lose it all. I’ve learned to treat every dollar I put into a game as a potential loss, and I’ve become very careful. While it does occasionally force me to cut some corners, it does force me to be very creative in how I do things. If I screw up, I can bounce back much faster.

6. What are your ambitions for Wadjet Eye? To create an absolute classic? Turn into the next EA?

Future plans, eh? Yeesh. I don’t even know if I’ll have matching socks tomorrow! Well, my wife and I have eventual plans to take a break from adventure games and work on a cRPG in the vein of Fallout. Unlike with adventure games, there is no middleware available for that kind of thing so we are making the engine ourselves. Or rather, my wife is, since she’s an actual programmer. It will take a long time to make, so in the meantime I am content working on point and clicks like Blackwell. Honestly, our only ambition is to keep things the way they are. I love that we can live this way. As long as we can still make games and enough people are still willing to buy them, I will have no complaints.

7. So, what does the (more or less) immediate future hold?

Right now I’m working on the fourth game in the Blackwell series, called “Blackwell Deception.” It’s fully designed and I’m in the midst of getting art and writing the dialog.

8. If it isn’t too much to ask of you, could you suggest a couple titles (and describe them a bit) that would help our readers understand what’s unique about your point-and-clickers?

I suppose if you have to start somewhere, you can’t go wrong with the Blackwell series. They games star a medium named Rosa Blackwell and her sardonic spirit guide Joey Malone, who are tasked to seek out lost and confused spirits and help them move on. Usually this is done by looking into the spirit’s past and using that knowledge to help them confront their death. So the games are one part mystery, one part detective story, and one part character study. They are also designed, written and programmed completely from within various cafes in the east village of Manhattan. So by supporting Blackwell you are also supporting the New York coffee industry.

puzzlebots

9. You really seem to enjoy life in NYC. Care to tell us how you incorporate it in your -decidedly urban- games?

You look at a magnificent skyscraper, and it’s hard to imagine that it was something made by people. And a whole city of those things? It’s kind of overwhelming. As cities grow over the centuries (or millennia, in some cases) they develop a personality and history of their own. But New York is kind of special. It’s so prevalent in media – you see New York in movies, television and books all the time – that it’s touched everyone in the world in some way or another. You could live all your life in some isolated little town, but step into New York and it’s like you’ve been there before. I like being in the center of all of that. It’s a kind of energy that inspires me, and that’s obviously reflected in the games I make.

10. Ever thought of being creative in the cafes of other major cities? Berlin and Paris do sound different enough I’d say.

Not a bad idea! Although I don’t think I meet the minimum requirement of intellectual pretentiousness. Plus I look stupid in a beret.

11. Care to briefly describe the (usual/average) way to a Wadjet Eye game release?

It varies! Typically I get a notebook and scribble down ideas until something forms. Then I take those notes and compile a working design document so anyone else involved will know what to work on. For myself, I often try to make a schedule, with a day-to-day list of tasks that I intend to complete by a certain time. But then Things Happen and there are delays or I get inspired to work on something other than what I am scheduled to do that day, and it becomes a free for all. There is really no rhyme or reason to the way I work, but I’ve still managed to get six games out the door in four years so I figure I must be doing something right.

12. After publishing Puzzle Bots, do you think you might care to try something similar again? Oh, and how was working with Erin as an experience?

Puzzle Bots was an interesting experience! I had never worked on a game quite like it before, and we really stretched the limits of what AGS could do. At the time I had lofty goals of becoming a publisher for other indie adventure titles, but I soon discovered that publishing someone else’s game requires just as much time and attention as publishing your own. Over the course of making Puzzle Bots, I was also involved in several other projects (Emerald City Confidential, Blackwell Convergence, and another game for PlayFirst) which forced us to delay Puzzle Bots much longer than any of us would have liked. It turns out that I’m not one of nature’s best multi-taskers! Would I do it again? Yes. Sort of. I’m in the midst of publishing another game designed by somebody else, but rather than funding and developing it from scratch, the game has come to me 95% complete and I’m helping to push it the rest of the way. You’ll hear more about that in a month or so. It’s a project I’m really excited about.

Crash Bandicoot

Crash-Bandicoot-PS1-Box

Crash Bandicoot was sought out to be the mascot of Sony just like Mario was the mascot of Nintendo. It worked for a while, until the games went down hill. The best part is that you don’t have to hear about the crappy Crash games, I’ll talk about the good ones here yay! Crash Bandicoot is what a platformer can be if done correctly. This game involves Crash who is trying to defeat this scientist yada yada yada doesn’t matter, it’s the gameplay that counts most of the time, then again some games need to give you a reason to keep playing them, err RPGs anyone?

crash_bandicoot_ps1-gameplay-screenshot

Crash Bandicoot gameplay is very simple. There is the jump button and the spinning attack button and well I think that’s pretty much it. Of course you move with your D-pad! From my experience, this game is a lot of fun and also full of secrets. This was a big hit for Sony back in the day and good thing it was, the game and franchise helped them get an image to compete against Sega and Nintendo. Too bad it was fucked up years later on the PS2…..but lets not change the subject again, Crash 1 for the PS1 is full of nostalgia. The game is what you will expect from a platformer, it has interesting levels, secrets, and crazy bosses. There are things here and there that you might not find appealing but good thing there is a sequel.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3Bn4L-FCr4[/youtube]

 

So that should be it for now, the game contains high marks on music, control, graphics, and gameplay. You can’t lose with this one! Pick it up as it’s mad cheap on eBay. Look for it at your local flea markets and thrift stores as well. Until next time!

Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

General

Naughty Dog has come back with the third installment of the acclaimed Uncharted series and each game that has come out has been better than the last. As amazing as Uncharted 2: Among Thieves(2009) was, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception takes it to a new level yet again with utilizing the capabilites of the PS3 graphics engine and now having only a slight amount of noticeable glitches. There is no question why this is my choice for the 2011 game of the year even with Assassin’s Creed Revelations and Batman: Arkham City in the running.

Nathan Drake
The graphics are some of the best I’ve seen…ever.

Naughty Dog and the History of the Uncharted Series:

Naughty Dog is known for their older, not-as-serious series of Crash Bandicoot and Jak. Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune(2007) took me by surprise with how impressive it was and reminded me Naughty Dog actually existed. It had the God of War properties of real time actions but still somehow ran fluidly like a movie with its unexpected twists, climbs and drops in drama, and action scenes. It had me on the edge of my seat like the other two that had yet to come. Uncharted 2 was the same concept but improved with better graphics and an even more engaging story. Now I need to mention something about the word “same” in the world of gaming. The word “same” is usually more attached to the negative than positive. If a sequel is the “same” it can mean it’s repetitive and who wants to pay $60 for a sequel when the prequel can simply be played again? Assassin’s Creed Revelations (review coming soon, hopefully) seems to be getting the heap by those who aren’t fans of the series for this reason. It plays exactly like the two others about Ezio before it. I don’t think so but I’m also an avid fan.

Anyway, Back to the Point…

Uncharted 3, considering controls and gameplay itself is not unlike is predecessors in any way, but Naughty Dog made that work. The Story is compelling and always moving forward. The lack of side quests could help make this possible but you will know if and when you play it that isn’t the only reason why it has such an amazing narrative.

Specifics on the Story Which Are Spoiler Free, I Promise

It shouldn’t be new, especially if you enjoyed the last two games, that Nathan Drake is our modern “Indiana Jones” type except with a realistic attitude and personality. The adventure our heroes progress through can be considered such as well with its historical legends, grave digging, and treasure hunting. “Nate” is only human which makes the story that much more agreeable. Naughty Dog has mastered the way of taking something no one has done research on or never seen and coming up with their own background with backup which is created or not.

Sounds Amazing. Why a 9 and Not 10?

The satisfaction the last two games brought you may not be there this time around. The game seemed rushed and too short, and the final boss seems to be the easiest part of the game. Otherwise, it’s a wonderful experience.

Could be played by:
New players to the series with a few things to be considered:
-All story with no sidequests
-Glitches though they are few and far between
-Difficulty randomly spikes
-These are hardly problems

Fans of the series:
-Go get it.

[youtube width=”600″ height=”480″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJuyv_ckh98[/youtube]

Notes:
I didn’t mention the multiplayer because I haven’t played it and I can’t considering my copy is rented from Gamefly.

It is rumored Naughty Dog is working on a third person shooting game for 2013.

The soundtrack is impressive but that isn’t a surprise.

Nolan North is the voice actor for Nathan Drake and interestingly enough, Desmond Miles in the Assassin’s Creed series.

 

Giuseppe Grassi: Aureus Interactive

AUREUS_LOGO

Name: Giuseppe Grassi

Company: Aureus Interactive

Title: Game Designer

Favorite Classic Game: Monkey Island

Quote on why it is your favorite:
Pirate: Guybrush Threepwood? That’s the most ridiculous name I’ve ever heard!
Guybrush: Well, what’s your name?
Pirate: [matter-of-factly] My name is Mancomb Seepgood.

Youtube Link:
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5DUXhk_Fj4M&feature=related[/youtube]

Top Five Amiga Shmups

It’s generally accepted that, outside of the arcades at least, shoot ’em ups have always been the province of consoles. There were a few good examples on the Spectrum, Amstrad, Commodore 64, Atari 400 & 800, etc, and the arrival of the more powerful 16-bit machines should’ve heralded even more, but they never really came, despite the genre’s enduring popularity. Few could argue with either the quantity or quality of offerings on the likes of the NES, PC Engine, or MegaDrive, and I myself, in my days as a die-hard Sega fanboy, used to champion the latter console as Lord of Shmups. Of all the computers, however, it was arguably the Commodore Amiga that fared the best with its shmups with not only some decent arcade conversions but also a good few original games too. In fact, I believe all the games in this Top Five were Amiga exclusives! Here they are:

Games-Related Top Fives Disclaimer: Unlike my usual Games-Related Top Five Disclaimers, which cover my arse by mentioning that the list was compiled only from games that I already know and love, and that any great games not featured may well not yet have been played by me, this one is different, mainly because I never was a big Amiga gamer and probably hadn’t even played five shmups on it! Therefore I had to research this list thoroughly by playing each game via emulation. However, to finally get to the actual ‘disclaimer’ part, there was a few supposedly great games that I wasn’t able to play (because they didn’t work). Therefore, assuming I ever am able to play them, I’ll make a revised list accordingly. Phew!

5. Agony (1992)

Agony - Amiga

Regarded as something of a tart by many Amiga owners, it’s easy to see where Agony gets this reputation – the presentation and graphics really are something else and leave the gameplay with a lot to live up to. It’s certainly a pretty original concept, with you in control of an owl which uses echo-location to take down the masses of evil creatures spread across the six worlds that lie between it and the ‘Cosmic Power’ that it seeks. The intro/loading screens feature beautiful artwork and music, and in-game action is similarly gorgeous. This certainly isn’t the most playable shmup I’ve played, even just on the Amiga, but at the same time its reputation seems a little unfair. Besides its stunning aesthetics Agony is a unique and enjoyable horizontal-scroller which would’ve blown my socks off if I’d discovered it when it originally came out!

4. Project-X (1992)

 

Project-X - Amiga

Released to much fanfare by Team 17 during their superb run on the Amiga, this is another one with amazing aesthetics. It’s far less original and moody than Agony, being a somewhat generic game set in space and across all the usual landscapes, but it nonetheless comes closer than any other Amiga shmup to duplicating the arcade/console style of shooter. The hi-res graphics are beautifully drawn and feature some amazing effects, and the sound is equally impressive with some great music, effects, and speech that MegaDrive owners (myself included) would’ve killed for. In fact, the only thing stopping this from taking top-spot is its insane difficulty level! Even at the peak of my skills I couldn’t get anywhere near the end of this otherwise ultra-playable game. Responding to pleas from gamers, Team 17 did release a Special Edition of the game which toned down the difficulty though, and if I get around to buying that version perhaps it will feature higher in the list next time.

3. Scorpio (1989)

Scorpio - Amiga

This is one I had absolutely no knowledge of prior to looking into this Top Five but I’m very glad I found it, for it’s one of the most addictive little blasters I’ve played! Initially seeming to be a very basic and fairly uninspiring game, it soon reveals itself to be a tough but rewarding, not to mention highly enjoyable shooter. Its creators had clearly been sniffing around the back-catalogue of Irem though, as this is basically a vertically-scrolling take on R-Type! Your little ship can be equipped with a Force-style attachment, the weapons are a copy of those from Irem’s classic, the power-up capsules themselves look the same, and there’s even a circle of guns! Some of the the ‘homages’ are far from subtle, but it’s hard to complain when it’s as well done as this.

2. Datastorm (1989)

Datastorm - Amiga

Here’s another one that takes its inspiration from elsewhere, this time from both Defender and Dropzone, the latter of which is itself a Defender clone! The object is to rescue at least one of the eight pods drifting along the floor of each stage and drop them at a portal while pesky Landers try to steal them. Millions of other enemies also swarm each stage and all must be eliminated. Datastorm is a tough, fast-paced game that rewards practise and is a fantastic score-attack game! This is one of the few Amiga games I really have spent a lot of time playing, first on my friend’s Amiga, then on my own when I finally got one, and now again via emulation, and it’s never gotten boring. Fantastic music and sound effects too.

1. Apidya (1992)

Apidya - Amiga

For some reason I never knew about this one when it came out but I’ve heard about it repeatedly over the intervening years and know how highly regarded it is amongst the Amiga fraternity. Having finally played it for this feature, I can see why! Much like Agony, it’s a unusual premise for a shoot ’em up. Here, you take control of a magical honeybee (although it looks more like a wasp to me) and must battle against other insects, garden beasties, and all manner of others monstrous adversaries across five stages. The game has nicely detailed, colourful stages and great music, but it’s the finely-honed gameplay that is most responsible for Apidya’s grand reputation. The stages and weapons are nicely designed and it’s a real pleasure playing through this interesting and unique shooter.

Star Wars: Dark Forces

With the release of DOOM in 1993, the gaming industry went into overdrive in coming up with similar games using the first-person perspective.  Some games, such a as Heretic and Hexen, simply licensed id Software’s game engine.  Others choose to build their own 3-D first-person shooters from the ground up.  LucasArts Entertainment was one of the latter companies, and Star Wars: Dark Forces was their first stab at the genre.

Star Wars - Dark Forces - Box

Box cover for the 1995 game Star Wars: Dark Forces

Released in 1995, Dark Forces was the first Jedi Knight game, though the original release did not use the “Jedi Knight: Dark Forces” tagline.  Later re-releases would, however. The story revolves around a mercenary called Kyle Katarn, an ex-soldier of the Empire who now works freelance for the Rebel Alliance.  After a minor interlude wherein Kyle steals the plans for some obscure new Imperial weapon called the “Death Star”, our hero is tasked with investigating General Rom Mohc and his plans for creating a new weapon for the Empire: the Dark Troopers.

 

Star Wars - Dark Forces - Gameplay Screenshot

The game plays out over 14 levels in which Kyle takes on a variety of low-level enemies, such as stormtroopers, Imperial Officers, Gamorrean guards.  Kyle visits famous locales from the Star Wars universe, such as the Imperial capital, Corsucant, the “Smuggler’s Moon”, Nar Shaddaa, and the Imperial Super Star DestroyerExecutor, and interacts with classic characters such as Jabba the Hutt and Mon Mothma.  There are the obligatory cameos by Darth Vader and Boba Fett, but there’s no interaction between Kyle and them.  (Which is probably a good idea, as any of the heavy-hitters of the Star Wars universe would be able to use him as a mop at this point in his fictional career).

 

Star Wars - Dark Forces - Gameplay Screenshot

The action is in the first-person perspective, and unlike DOOM, you can look up and down for your enemies, all the better to locate and eliminate them.  Although later in the game series Kyle hears the call of the Jedi, there’s no lightsaber action in this game.  However, there are plenty of other weapons to keep you interested, including the Bryar pistol, the standard stormtrooper E-11 blaster rifle, thermal detonators, the absolutely awesome Stouker concussion rifle, and the Dark Trooper assault cannon (the best way to take those bad boys out).

 

Star Wars - Dark Forces - Gameplay Screenshot

Dark Forces was released on three platforms, all CD-based.  Its initial release came in MS-DOS format (PC), followed quickly by a Macintosh version, and finally a Sony PlayStation (PS1) version a year later.  Both the MS-DOS and Macintosh versions are similar to each other, and play well, but the PS1 version suffers from the translation, and is an inferior game.

 

Star Wars - Dark Forces - Gameplay Screenshot - Playstation

The game was a tremendous hit for LucasArts, generating close to a million units sold, and ranking one of the top-selling games of the 1990s.  The critical reviews were also very favourable, with many comparing Dark Forces to id Software’s masterpiece, DOOM.  Of course, with both critical and financial success came the sequel parade, and LucasArts knew a good property when they saw one.  Dark Forces spawned Jedi Knight, which was an even better game than its predecessor (and which begat its own sequel and an expansion pack!).

Star Wars - Dark Forces - Gameplay Screenshot - Mac

Box front for the Macintosh version of Dark Forces

All in all, Dark Forces is a very good game and should be on any retro gamer’s resume. If you haven’t played it before, consider giving it a little time in your retrogaming play list and help Kyle Katarn stop the threat of the Dark Trooper program once and for all!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RR1qrAi3gL0[/youtube]

BABYMETAL (さくら学院 重音部)「ド・キ・ド・キ☆モーニング」

BABYMETAL

This weeks music video is brought to you by the letter M for Metal.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4QbAXXXOJF8[/youtube]

BABYMETAL【SU-METAL(Vocal,Dance)age 13

MOAMETAL(Scream,Dance)age 12
YUIMETAL(Scream,Dance)age 12】

In 2010, BABYMETAL was formed as “the mix of Japanese schoolgirl J-POP and Heavy Metal”,not standard Heavy Metal but new type of music. In October 2010, they performed “Doki Doki Morning” at the first live, and the song was included in the album “Sakura Gakuin 2010 ~message~”. Their new song “Ijime, Dame, Zettai” showed off at the event of Sakura Gakuin in July, and TOKYO IDOL FESTIVAL in August. It became a buzz because of the sound of melodic speed metal, its sensational lyric of theme about “Ijime” and their performance incorporating the Wall of Death. BABYMETAL’s heavy sound and performance drove a lot of audience to make mosh at the floor of live house, and get mad. The floor became chaos finally in spite of the show was an IDOL EVENT (Tower Records Shinjuku 13th Birthday Event ~NO MUSIC, NO IDOL?~ at Shinjuku LOFT in October 2011). BABYMETAL pursues the only one unit in the world under the flag of “the mix of Japanese schoolgirl J-POP and Heavy Metal”.

Classic Videogame Politicians

Are you bad enough to have a burger with Reagan after you save his life? ~J.A. Laraque

Classic Videogame Politicians

Mass_Endorsement

So we are in a presidential race season, this means you will be hearing about who you should vote for and why and most likely it will make television watching a pain. Seeing all these people looking to becoming your representative’s made me think about some politicians from classic video games. Maybe you would vote for one of these guys or gals if you could.

Princess “Peach” Toadstool

Princess Peach

While Princess Peach is the princess of the Mushroom Kingdom she really does not do much as far as us gamers can see. It seems as if she is more like the head of a board of directors and the real power comes from her mushroom retainers that are always with her. Perhaps it is a good thing since she is always being kidnapped. By the way, she is estimated to be worth over 1 billion dollars. Perhaps that’s the true reasons she was always being kidnapped. She is the one present.

Master-D: Bionic Commando

Master-D

I don’t think there are many people who would vote for Master-D since he really seems like a copy of Hitler, but you never know, with the right platform he could be a third party candidate or spoiler.  In the original version of the game Nazi imagery and references were everywhere, but were removed by the ever censoring hand of Nintendo. Master-D is currently working on having his civil war era flag restored and we hear he has 70% of the vote in Mississippi.

Mayor Mike Haggar: Final Fight

mike_haggar

Mike ran on a platform of cleaning up the streets of Metro City and he meant to do it in the blood of his enemies. I guess when you can body slam all your opponents into the concrete and kick an arrow shooting wheelchair bound man out of a high rise you are bound to win the popular vote. Jesse Ventura said Mike was his “Regan” and followed in his footsteps. Currently there has been some scandal as Mike has been seen hiking the appellation trail and caught at other fighting tournaments instead of governing. Mike tried to appease his constituents by giving them the WWE channel for free, but in the end he had to quit after only two years as governor due to “distractions.”

President Reagan: Bad Dudes

Ronald Reagan Bad Dudes

Are you bad enough to have a burger with Reagan after you save his life? I really think this was an inside joke because his name is Ronald and you know, burgers, get it? Either way like Reagan’s trickle down economics being offered a grilled meat sandwich after fighting an army of bad guys to save him leaves you with not much of worth. Did you know the bad guys offered 10 million for the Bad Dudes to walk away? If only there was a working time machine.

So who would you vote for, who could lead us to the promise land?

10 Yard Fight

10-yard_fight.cover.front

The 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) home video game console was known for, among many other things, some of its quality sports titles. From the quirky violence of Super Dodge Ball to the Bo Jacksonian heroics in Tecmo Bowl, many titles offered fans a playable rendition of their favorite sport. Such high-quality legacy was not always the case, though; in 1985, as one of the 18 original launch titles for the machine’s North American release, included was an early American football simulator named 10 Yard Fight.

Gameplay 

10 Yard Fight - Title Screen

There is a two-player mode, though the second player seems to retain the A.I. cheats. Otherwise, this is a football game (American football, specifically, and not a soccer cartridge) that seeks to emulate the classic pigskin pastime. Two teams of nine players each play two 20-minute halves, with the seconds accelerated in classic console style, in one of five difficulty levels, ranging from High School to Super Bowl.

On defense, the player selects one of the defensive players designated A or B by using the corresponding button. Then the ball is snapped, and the player will try to tackle the eventual receiver or ball carrier, either entangling him directly or diving toward with the A button. On offense, the player has two backs on either side of the quarterback, who is in shotgun position, and a man in motion. This motion player serves as the primary receiver once the ball is snapped, with the A button going to him; otherwise, the ball can be pitched with the B button to one of the flanking backs, who can then either run with the ball or pass to the primary with A. Once a receiver has the ball, the player will try to weave diagonally up the open field to evade would-be tacklers, even shimmying back and forth to possibly shake any playing holding onto the carrier.

That, really, is most of the game. There are very few actual rules intact: Out of bounds applies, as does the four-downs for ten yards system, and crude extra points are “kicked” by pointing toward the goal posts and hitting A after the snap. There are even interceptions, which can potentially occur very frequently, since there does not seem to be any sort of height dimension; if the defender is in line-of-sight of the flight path of the ball, they might just intercept it. Beyond the excitement of such interceptions, play just continues as expected, the winner being whoever has the most points when time expires.

Graphics 

This is definitely, obviously a very early NES title, with its hyper-pixelation dominating simplistic visuals. The field looks bland, the players are pixel people, the text is basic computerized font work, and the overall presentation is not spectacular at all.

Sound 

10 yard fight - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

There is no background music, the sound effects are minimal, and the only flourishes are the quick little melodies when something happens like a first down or interception. When these quick micro-songs do happen, they occur with only a few notes, no depth to speak of, and without sophistication.

Originality 

In a historical context, 10 Yard Fight does have a place: This cartridge was certainly ahead of prior Atari attempts at a console football game, but still looks terrible in comparison to the Tecmo Bowl series, or even other almost-decent titles such as John Elway’s Quarterback. The entire gameplay feels like the programmers were stuck with the assignment of creating an American football game yet knowing that they could not quite pull it off, but had to meet a deadline.

Three examples of the flaws that results: First, the interceptions does not happen as they do in actual football, where the defender can run afterward, but instead stop play and simply revert to the other team having possession at a specified point every time; secondly, the vertical scrolling is off, as the field seems to roll underneath the players running in place, rather than actually simulating movement down field; and, lastly, the NES console would later gain some notoriety for its slowdown and flickering problems when too many sprites were on-screen, yet here are well over a dozen on every play, with the inevitable constant sprite-flickering as a result. Was this a trailblazer for later, better football video games? Sure, but it still deserves a one-star rating out of five.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlNqtY76ho0[/youtube]

Overall Rating: 1/5 Stars

Eric Bailey is a retro gamer on a crazy quest to write  a quality review for every single American-released NES video game over at NintendoLegend.com.

Are video games finally being accepted by the mainstream?

Jimmy Fallon - Batman Arkham City

Any longtime gamer knows of that gut wrenching feeling that comes along when a mainstream media or entertainment source does a video game story.  From news stories that claim violent video games are kid’s toys to Jay Leno jokes that paint gamers as basement dwellers and virgins, it often seems that the industry stats aren’t known by much of what passes as news and entertainment these days.

The facts are hard to deny, however.  The Entertainment Software Association statistics show the average age of a video gamer in 2010 was 37 years of age with 72 percent of American households accepting gaming as a regular form of entertainment.  All said, the US spent $25.1 billion on video gaming last year alone, nearly two-and-a-half times more than they spent at the movies over the same time period.

While there have still been plenty of head shakers in the mainstream this year, overall 2011 has shown many signs that video gaming is finally gaining acceptance as the mainstream form of entertainment it is.

 The release of Batman: Arkham City made the monologue on Conan last week with a parody clip similar to what is typically done with major new films and political figures.

[youtube width=”600″ height=”480″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fj9BN3WLHLg[/youtube]

 A lengthy television commercial for Google features gamer Brian Kingrey, the winner of the $1 Million contest onMLB2K11.  The clip shows how Kingrey studied and prepared for the contest by doing research on the search engine and speaks to several of his friends.  He also appears briefly in a shorter Google commercial.  Both ads debuted during NFL football games on Sunday.

 NBC’s Late Night With Jimmy Fallon regularly features previews of hot new gaming releases and guests from within the industry.  Shortly after the 2011 E3 Expo the show even featured an entire week dedicated to gaming, complete with special opening credits.

 Former Donkey Kong champion Steve Wiebe makes a short cameo as a security guard in hit film Horrible Bosses.  Reportedly, Colin Farrell’s character of Bobby Pellitt was inspired by another former Donkey Kong champ in Billy Mitchell.

 Members of the US Congress and reps from the video gaming industry formed the Caucus for Competitiveness in Entertainment Technology (E-Tech Caucus) to help continue to foster growth in the video game industry due to its impact on the economy and job market.

 The characters from Angry Birds appear in an ad for Wonderful Pistachios alongside numerous celebrities and pop culture icons.  Costumes from the game are among the most popular Halloween costumes this year as well.

Some 40 years after the release of the video game to mainstream consumers and revenue that trumps the previous kings of the entertainment industry, it appears that gaming is finally taking a seat alongside television, film and music as an accepted form of mainstream entertainment.

 

80s Action Heroes: Return of the Sequel?

Some 80s action heroes seem to go on forever. Almost 20 years after Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull brought Indy back to the big screen in 2008. Live Free or Die Hard in 2007 brought John McClane out of semi-retirement after a gap of more than 10 years since 1995’s Die Hard With a Vengeance. Rocky and Rambo are returning for another belated visit and we’re still waiting for the Terminator to live up to his ‘I’ll be back’ promise once again, not knowing which side he will be on next time. But can we expect more from other 1980s action heroes? And just how many sequels could there be to some of the most enduring action franchises?

Dirty Harry and More

 

 

Clint Eastwood

Dirty Harry Callaghan gave us a stream of great movies between 1971 and 1986. Is there still time for Clint Eastwood to come back one more time? You can just imagine him in his eighties asking the bad guy to go ahead and make his day.

Two ‘Escape from’ movies in 1981 and 1986 (New York & LA) gave us Kurt Russell playing Snake Plissken, a one eyed patch wearing criminal. He could go back to assisting the Special Forces and choose from a long list of unused cities – Philly; Detroit; Miami – okay you get the picture. Could John Carpenter be tempted just one more time?

Action with comedy is a great combination. Who doesn’t want to see Axel Foley assisting the Beverly Hills police to clean up their zone again? After all, Eddie Murphy is still only 50, so he might have time for another whole trilogy. His character was just too likeable for the LA police to really want him out of their town. His (almost) one man army and unusual methods kept audiences captivated. We’d have him back any day even if he moved to another city!

Mel Gibson’s Choices

 

mel_gibson

Mel Gibson is still a few years away from his 60th birthday, so the return of Martin Riggs would be welcome, if only to get the disaster that was Lethal Weapon 4 out of our minds. The first movies were almost serious crime fighting while the last turned into a comedy farce of the worst kind. LW5 would give the characters the badly needed chance to redeem themselves.

Talking of Mel Gibson, he gave us the Mad Max movies between 1987 and 1998, so another is due soon. After his recent poor press (although, if you didn’t see it, The Beaver with Jodie Foster was quite brilliant) he might need the few million he would get from resurrecting Max. The rest of us might finally get the chance to understand what the movies were all about, although Anna Mae Bullock (Tina Turner) would probably refuse to bring back Aunty Entity. Maybe Angela Bassett would stand in?

Not Really An Update, But…

In the original GI Joe, Sylvester Stallone wreaked havoc as though he were still in the Rambo franchise. GI Joe, the Rise of Cobra revived memories of the 1986 Cobra movie, except this time you saw Sienna Miller sauntering around in tight black leathers for two hours while trying to forget that Christopher Eccleston is not Dr Who. One plus, though: the sophistications of movie magic brought the action sequences into the 21st century in the updated version.

James Bond

Daniel Craig

After wondering if there would be another James Bond excursion, Skyfall has been announced for late 2012, proving that 007 is still popular.

 

Daniel Craig gets to play Bond again, so here’s hoping for a return to his natural character and not the dark knight he played in the 2008 movie, Quantum of Solace. With Sam Mendes directing, Ralph Fiennes and Albert Finney head the top line cast list which also brings back ‘M’ – Judi Dench. The new Bond girls look the part so the four year gap might not feel so bad, after all.

Let’s hope that the Bond team don’t keep us waiting another four years, as Beverley Hills Cops 8 and Mad Max 12 might appear on the screens in the meanwhile.

—-

Izzy Woods is a freelance writer and avid cinema buff. She writes for a number of movie sites and publications, as well as for a sectional sofas retailer (who also specialize in home theatre seating).

Top Five MegaDrive Platform Games

megadrive2

Though popular since the 70’s, it was the late 80’s and early 90’s when gaming, particularly on consoles, really hit its stride, and like today there were a few genres that dominated release schedules. Among the most popular were shoot ’em ups but even more popular than these were of course platform games, and few if any consoles saw more examples of this genre than the MegaDrive. Most of them were average, some were horrifyingly bad, but there were still plenty of top-quality ones, and they took up a significant portion of my MegaDrive game-time.

I’ve owned and enjoyed dozens of them over the years so picking the best five is no easy task. To make it a little easier I decided to not to include any of the MD’s fantastic arcade conversions such as New Zealand Story, Rainbow Islands, etc, and the (at the time) splendid Sonic series only gets one nomination here too. Naturally, run ‘n’ gunners (Shinobi series, Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts, Gunstar Heroes, etc) aren’t included either, and nor are arcade adventures such as Flashback, Puggsy, etc. These categories are all good enough and numerous enough to receive their own Top Fives at some point. So, with all that in mind, here is my five favourite Mega Drive platformers.

Games-Related Top Fives Disclaimer: I’ve traditionally stuck to the games I know and love so far, and these game-related top fives reflect that. One of the purposes of this blog is diversify my gaming experiences, to play games I haven’t played before, so I will do new game-related top fives in a few years to see how different they are!

If I review any MD platformers in my upcoming feature that get really high scores, they don’t appear in this Top Five because I hadn’t played them before! (a.k.a covering my arse!)

5. Wiz ‘n’ Liz (1993)

 

5 - Wiz n Liz

I’m starting to wonder if I’m the only fan this poor old game has! I’m not usually a fan of fast ‘n’ frantic, against-the-clock type games, but Wiz ‘n’ Liz is so happy and cheerful (not to mention addictive), I can’t help but love it anyway! The object is simple enough – one or two players must race through each of the themed worlds rescuing the many rabbits that populate each whilst also collecting magic fruits and other items with which to create spells and prolong your game. It definitely seems to be a ‘hidden gem’ in the MD’s back catalogue but I don’t really know why. Maybe it’s the lack of violence and destruction but for me this has always been a top game – nice graphics, fantastic music, addictive gameplay, and even a few original ideas, equals a winning formula in my book.

4. Magical Flying Hat Turbo Adventure (1990)

4 - Robocod

I’ve mentioned this great game before, and I’ll do a full review at some point, but for now be assured that it’s awesome! Most Western gamers will know it by the new name and identity given to it for its European and US release (Decapattack) but I much prefer this Japanese original which is perhaps more famous for its amusing name than anything else! It will be instantly familiar to fans of Psycho Fox on the Master System as they share many qualities, but this is no sequel or tarted-up port. It’s a pretty large game with some stages featuring multiple routes through them and there are many quirky features present in its stages. Magical Hat is a real charmer which constantly entices you to explore its strange world. If you’ve never played it, or even if you’re veteran of Decapattack, do yourself a favour and give it a try.

3. James Pond 2 Codename: Robocod (1991)

3 - Magical Hat

Games don’t come much more nonsensical than this one! The original James Pond was an original and entertaining romp but this sequel cranked everything up a notch and is now a full platform game too, thanks to the special suit that allows James to remain on land. The game takes place across many themed stages populated by some very strange enemies and seemingly random collectible items but, perhaps aside from its strangeness, it doesn’t really do anything that countless other games haven’t done before – it just does it better than most games! The graphics and sound are among the MegaDrive’s best and the many stages are packed with features and secrets. This is probably the most slick and polished of all MD platformers, and certainly the craziest non-Japanese one!

2. Ristar (1995)

2 - Ristar

Good old Sonic Team. Not only did they regale us with the wonders of their Sonic games, but they also found time to sneak in this gem late in the MD’s life. It actually started out as the game that would become Sonic before being resurrected with Ristar in command, and the first stage does feature similar graphics, but the gameplay differs quite a bit. The pace is a lot slower for one thing. Ristar clambers around the gorgeous stages using his arms as much as his legs. He can climb up walls, across ceilings, and around trees and logs, and it is by experimenting with these abilities that you’ll be able to fully explore his world. The more sedate pace really suits the game and the character, as does the laid back soundtrack, and gives you the opportunity to appreciate the lush graphics! Many gamers missed this, what with the Saturn and PlayStation being unveiled, but if you were one of the ones who did notice it, you’ll not need me to tell you how good it is!

1. Sonic 2 (1992)

 

1 - Sonic 2

Sorry but it had to be really, didn’t it? No other game got MegaDrive gamers whipped up into a frenzy like this one, nevermind any other platform games. Sega’s motives for creating Sonic may not have been the best but at least they made a great game for him, so the sequel had a lot to live up to. To say it did would be one of gaming’s biggest ever understatements! Sonic 2 features bigger stages and more of them, a tougher challenge, and perhaps the nicest graphics and sound the console has ever produced. I’m sure everyone who owned an MD had this game so I don’t even need to extol its virtues really. Suffice to say, everything here is so much flashier than the first game it’s almost as if they’re running on different consoles, and the gameplay so finely-honed that, sadly, no further games in the Sonic series would ever better it.

As mentioned, the MegaDrive was swamped in platform games, so picking the best five was tough, mainly because I had to leave out some other great games. So, honourable mentions also go to: Castle of Illusion, Rolo to the Rescue, Kid Chameleon, Flicky, Quackshot, Aladdin, Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure, goodness knows how many others…

Sonic the Hedgehog

Sonic the Hedgehog - Sega Genesis - Title Screen

I’ve told the beginning of this story before, but I’m assuming nobody ever reads this stuff anyway so it’ll be new to you.

Sonic the Hedgehog

Sometime in the early ’90′s…not sure when, but it was after the launch of the Sega Genesis and after they started packaging Sonic the Hedgehog with the consoles….but sometime in the early ’90′s my brother said to me, “Hey, my buddy I work with has a Sega Genesis and he doesn’t need it because he already has one. I guess his brother stole it from a toy store, then panicked and left it in the arcade next door. So, Mike is keeping it, but would rather have $60.” Obviously, with a deal this good and no love for Johnny Law, I jumped at the deal.

So, I believe the first Genesis cart that ever entered my 16-bit beauty was the classic platformer. That’s not surprising, because a lot, or even most of you, can say the same. However, what I will say next will shock most of you….I’ve always loved the Sonic games more than the NES Marios….Hell yes, I said it. Eat it, Nintendo. Sonic was my boy. At least the first couple of games before he went 3D on me. That’s not really my style. For the record, nothing against Mario, but after an all-consuming Saturday run at SMB3 that ended after 9 hours in a power surge that completely wiped out all existence of my game…..I vowed never to play it again. A vow I have kept until this day.

Sonic the Hedgehog - Sega Genesis - Gameplay Screenshot

I can also assume that there isn’t a single person who will read this article that is unfamiliar with the Sonic games, so there’s no reason for any set-up. But, the recent 20th anniversary event that we chronicled at Thumb Culture brought back those memories. Hanging out in my old apartment, enjoying my “futuristic” 3-button controller that Sega (and Mike’s criminal brother) put into my hands. Yep, I could still hear that goofy Sonic title music. Goofy, but I love it. It’s catchy, and will stay with you throughout the entire gameplay.

I decided to fire it up in my man-cave, and within seconds I found myself at the iconic Green Hill Zone Act 1. It’s amazing that one can play a game that they haven’t seen in over a decade, but still remember when to accelerate, when to brake, and where all (well, most) of the little hidden goodies are. The backgrounds still look beautiful after all these years, and Sonic’s irritating ‘foot tap’ when you’re taking too long to move him was still a delight to see. There’s a total of 18 beautifully-designed levels to run Sonic through (6 Zones, each with 3 acts), and while they all seem a little similar, they all still have their unique qualities. Some Zones may allow Sonic to take advantage of his speed, while others force you to master his jumping ability.

Sonic the Hedgehog - Sega Genesis - Gameplay Screenshot

One thing that I always loved about this game was you could take different pathways to reach the end of the level. You can, if you choose, run at lightning speeds to reach the end in record time, or slowly collect all of the rings and power-ups. There are a number of vertical platform levels to explore…or not. It’s up to you. There’s not necessarily a set pattern to learn like other platformers. Everything is always in the same place, but the size of the levels and the ‘openness’ make replay-vale high.

The levels themselves seem to increase in difficulty, including the boss fights, which is not always the case. The Green Hill Zone seems like a practice tutorial compared to others, although the Chaos Emerald ‘special’ levels all make me dizzy. They could be exactly the same and I wouldn’t know it.

Sonic the Hedgehog - Sega Genesis - Gameplay Screenshot - Special Stage
The jingle of collected rings still puts a literal smile on my face, just as much as taking a cheap hit from a segment of a spiked worm makes me want to throw my controller….the two interlaced emotions that are necessary for a great game. It shows that you’re invested in it. That you’re putting everything you have into it. The rings aren’t exactly necessary, but holding at least one allows you to take a hit (consider it a shield), collecting over 100 gives you a free man (er…hedgehog), and having a good chunk of them at the end of the Act opens the Chaos Emerald levels. The Emeralds themselves are never mentioned in the game for why they need collecting, but they do give you more points, so why would you not? Plus, you can earn ‘continues’ during these stages. Continues that the mediocre (like me) need to be able to complete the game.

There are plenty of different badniks in Sonic, but they were created by the evil Dr Robotnik, who frankly was a pretty crappy inventor. All I had to do was jump on top of his robots a couple of times and they’d blow up. It’s not like I’m a freakin’ elephant for Christ’s sake! How much damage could a little hedgehog do?

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqOlpQ7sepE[/youtube]
Overall, the game is nearly perfect, and there’s a reason why the cute and lovable character became the Sega mascot. While not all of the dozens of Sonic games are good…or fun…or even playable, the original one should be in everyone’s Genesis collection…and probably is. From the colorful and beautiful graphics, to the legendary level design….. from the catchy music to the memorable characters….Sonic the Hedgehog is a must own.

I appreciate Thumb Culture giving me a chance to write about these experiences, and hearing similar (or not) stories from the readers. For every mention of being a poor enough Sonic player where I’ve never been able to capture all the Chaos Emeralds, someone else will tell me how they’ve done it. Every mention of Dr Robotnik, someone will tell me they always call him “Dr Eggman”. The gaming community is pretty special, and now that Thumb Culture 2.0 is back, running, and more beautiful than ever, I’m going to continue writing little retro-blurbs here and there. This has been a very quick take about a 20-year-old mammal (didn’t even have to look that up) that wears sneakers, runs at high speeds, and saves the green lands from evil animal-snatchers, and maybe I’ll do another one in another 20 years. SEGA!

VVVVVV

vvvvvv - logo

Terry Cavanagh’s VVVVVV is a wonderful and most brilliant game. Really. You have thus to buy and play it immediately or -failing that- smash your computer to tiny, sharp bits and send them over to EA. Here’s the link in case you failed to notice the previous, less obvious one. You know, just to make sure. There. Review done.
What do you mean you are not convinced yet? Here, go play the demo. That should do it.
vvvvvv - gameplay screenshot
Not enough? Very well then, you win oh imaginary reader. I’ll review the thing properly, as I admittedly wasn’t blown away by it the first time I tried to play through its demo, and if it weren’t for the glowing reviews I wouldn’t have given VVVVVV another chance. That of course, would have been a huge mistake, as after returning to said hefty demo I was impressed enough to promptly grab the full version of the game. A wise choice and a criminally belated review as it turned out.
So, on to VVVVVV: the review then. Well, VVVVVV is an indie platform game with C64 style graphics, a proper chiptune soundtrack and a rather unique lack of a traditional jump button. It also is quite brilliant. Actually make that the best platform game released since Manic Miner, meaning that I actually do consider it a way better game than any Mario offering you’d care to mention, all Sonic the Hedgehogs ever, Castlevania and, indeed, Jet Set Willy. It’s that good, it is.
vvvvvv - gameplay screenshot
Despite being incredible simple, all you can after all do is go left, right and reverse gravity (and consequently walk on ceilings apparently), VVVVVV offers a unique, varied and deep platform experience, that will test both your puzzle solving abilities and your platforming skills. Also it’s difficult, as my 1735 in-game deaths should easily prove. Then again, it is difficult in the fairest of ways and does help us average gamers by providing a ton of well placed save points. Not that trying and retrying screens isn’t enjoyable mind. Even the occasional feats of rage are fun in a decidedly old-fashioned way.
What’s even more enjoyable is that each screen in this glorious flick-screen platformer has its very own, usually silly, sometimes helpful and always appropriate name.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sf06P-_1lkU[/youtube]
Oh, and the simple graphics, besides allowing for some impressively expressive 8-bitish characters, do much more than a simple screenshot can convey. They move, change their colours and create a beautifully psychedelic visual experience, that -coupled with the huge and hugely imaginative variety of enemy sprites- makes VVVVVV one of the most interesting and visually unique indie games ever released. Did I mention it sound brilliant too? I did. Great. Let me then just add that it even comes with an incredibly simple, definitely not preposterous yet rather enjoyable game story, and a more than a few extra modes and be done with it.
Verdict: Second only to Manic Miner, though you should take the fact that I’m an overtly nostalgic gnome into consideration. Anyway, just play it!


Metroid Ending

metroid_ending

By now everyone know about Samus and that she is a bad as beauty, but back in the NES days people did not know that until they reached the end of Metroid. This week we celebrate the short, but revealing ending to the classic Metroid game for the Nintendo Entertainment System.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQppamJoDqc[/youtube]

Cosplay Profiles: Princess Daisy

Ah, the other princess in the Super Mario world. Daisy first showed up in Super Mario Land, but since then she has appeared in many other titles including the racing, sports and party games.

A little known fact is that Princess Daisy is considered a tomboy. On to the Cosplay.

 

 

Pumped up kicks: Dubstep

pumped-up-kicks-dubstep-

We are back with more dubstep and this one is the ultimate robot-step, check it out.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LXO-jKksQkM[/youtube]

Video info:

Dancer: Marquese Scott, Booking: http://xceltalent.com/

Song: Pumped Up Kicks – Foster The People
Remixed: “Butch Clancy”

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Nonstop-AKA-Marquese/298812310134137

DUBSTEPPIN!!! to a beast track remixed by “butch clancy”
Foster The People Pumped Up Kicks Dubstep Remix
Butch clancy is back on NZD with an amazing new remix of ‘Pumped Up Kicks’! and guess what… ANOTHER FREE DOWNLOAD! Big ups to Butch Clancy! Please check him out and grab a copy of the tune!

Butch Clancy-
http://www.youtube.com/user/ButchClancyDubstep
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Butch-Clancy/109409029103492
http://soundcloud.com/butchclancy

Parasite Eve

Parasite Eve - PSOne - Box

Parasite Eve showed that Squaresoft were more than capable of making action RPGs with brand new elements and intriguing story lines. The games cut scenes are outrageous, for instance the part where the rat turns into a freak monster just blew me away! It still did when I finally got to see it again. The gameplay and storyline does evolve as you get through the game like others which will keep you coming back for more.

Parasite Eve - Gameplay Screenshot

The sound track for this game is also very nicely done. As this is a game that takes place in more of our time than in the past(Final Fantasy 3) or the future(Final Fantasy 7) the game is just very enjoyable. The battle scenes are well made and gives you a chance to come up with your own strategy. Enemies will have hit patterns where they will hit you while you are moving but you will need to tap the pad in order to avoid these attacks. In other words, it makes you battle for your life! You also get a chance to upgrade your gun, since you being a cop and all, must have a good kick ass gun! The battle also uses a meter system where the meter has to be full in order to needs to fill up in order for you to attack.

Parasite Eve - Gameplay Screenshot

 

This game is highly suggested for those of you players looking for something different but with a familiar taste at the same time. I also recommend the sequel and well I think I also heard that part 3 is finally being worked on so that’s something good to hear, although I don’t have any next gen console, I’ll probably miss out on this one. Like usual, I won’t give much details in order to keep the spoilers to a minimum because that just spoils that fun huh? Pick it up as it’s a very affordable game on ebay and well try to visit your local pawn shops or flea markets because you might just find it there.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-tb9lpYIS-U[/youtube]

Lode Runner

Way back in time, when I was gaming the night away on my Apple II clone (a Circle II), all things Zork ruled my gaming existence.  But when I needed a respite from adventuring in the Great Underground Empire, Lode Runner was the game that took its place.

Lord Runner - Apple - Box

Lode Runner was an arcade hit published by Broderbund Software in 1983.  The game’s backstory was that a vast fortune in gold bullion was heisted by the Bungeling Empire, and it’s your job to recover it.  Some of the gold sat around waiting for you to pick it up, and some was carried by various agents of the Empire –  which required a slightly more creative approach.  Essentially the only way to get their gold was to bury them alive, and wait for the gold to pop out once they were crushed to death.  Your Lode Runner was able to blast the dirt to either side of him (and more than one square, if needed), which would eventually automatically refill.  The trick was to make certain that an Agent would fall into it, and be unable to get out in time before the hole refilled.  Blast too soon and the hole would refill long before the Agent arrived; blast too late and the Agent would either climb out of the hole and expunge your Lode Runner from virtual existence or the hole would not open at all.  Timing your blasts, and knowing when to kill your Agents off, was the point of the game.

Lode Runner - Gameplay Screenshot

Lode Runner for Apple II screen

Yes, it was simple. What 1980’s game wasn’t?  But it was fun.  And clearly many, many gamers thought so, too, as Lode Runner was released on multiple platforms, including: Apple II (1983), Atari 400/800/XL/XE (1983), Commodore 64 (1983), MSX (1983), PC Booter (1983), VIC-20 (1983), Macintosh (1984), Nintendo Famicom (1984), ZX Spectrum (1984), PC-88 (1986), Nintendo Entertainment System (1987), Amstrad CPC (1989), and the Atari ST (1989)…among others!  That’s a lot of systems, a large audience, and a reason why Lode Runner remains a classic gaming memory.

Lode Runner - Sierra - Box

Lode Runner: The Legend Returns cover.

Like any classic game, Lode Runner had its share of updates and sequels, again a sign of a game that has a classic appeal.  The list is impressive:

  • Load Runner’s Rescue (Commodore 64, 1985)
  • Hyper Lode Runner (GameBoy, 1990)
  • Battle Lode Runner (TurboGrafx, 1993)
  • Lode Runner: The Legend Returns (DOS/Macintosh/Windows, 1994)
  • Lode Runner Online: The Mad Monk Returns (Windows/Macintosh, 1995)
  • Lode Runner 2 (Windows/Macintosh, 1998)
  • Lode Runner 3-D (Nintendo 64, 1999)
  • Battle Lode Runner (Wii, 2007)
  • Lode Runner (Xbox 360, 2009)

Lode Runner has been considered a classic for some time. It made #80 on Computer Gaming World’s 150 Best Games of All Time list, and was mentioned in 2003 as one of the best games of all time by Gamespot in their The Greatest Games of All Time series.  The creator of Tetris, the classic puzzle game that all puzzle games are compared to, was quoted in a 2008 interview with Edge Magazine that he considered Lode Runner to his favorite puzzle game for many years.  There was even a 1986 Lode Runner board game created by Donal Carlston (the creator of the still-popular board game, Personal Preference)!

Lode Runner - Online - Box

Lode Runner Online: The Mad Monk Returns cover

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2jnRWMvxb7o[/youtube]

Back in 1983, a big bowl of salt ‘n’ vinegar potato chips, a jug of chocolate milk, and an afternoon of wiping out agents of the Bungeling Empire was a recipe for good times.  Now that I’m older (married with children, no less!), there’s no more chocolate milk nor salt ‘n’ vinegar potato chips, and my afternoon gaming has now been replaced with late evening gaming. But Lode Runner will always hold a special place in my gamer heart, and if you’ve never played it, find one of the updated versions and have great time!

The process of Design: Spice Road

spice road

Hi, I am Simon de Rivaz of Aartform Games and for the past year and a half I have been working on a new strategy game called Spice Road. This article shares a few highlights of the design process I have used to find a new space between existing genres. For me the process begins with happy memories of old games and the aspiration to find new areas of gameplay.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5VnNMcK9Mw4[/youtube]

THE EMOTIONAL BASIS OF GAMES

What makes a game? Beyond the graphics and gameplay mechanics of a play session I find the emotions and motivations within the player leave the most lasting memories, and the deepest feelings of satisfaction. Feelings of wonder when I first step out into a new game world, and eventual feelings of competence and mastery as I dominate the endgame.

Designing a new game I hold as inspiration the way old games made me feel. The feelings of creating a successful economy, exploration and conquest. Games like Deuteros, Utopia and Civilisation remind me of the feel of building a complex empire over a long time, and the more immediate shocks and surprises of conflict. Even though the gameplay and graphics may be completely different in my own game these provide a good idea to aim at.

What makes a strategy game fun? Without the adrenaline of action games or the Pavlovian reward based addiction of an MMO, what makes the hours of detailed attention to a complex strategy game fun? For me it is the feeling of Flow. Named by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow is the feeling of complete and energized focus in an activity, with a high level of enjoyment and fulfillment.

In practice I feel this in a game when I am constantly thinking, planning, observing, and making new actions about every six seconds. The high level of attention seems to take over my mind and I lose sense of time. I knew I had something good going in Spice Road when I launched it to test a small feature – then suddenly realized I’d just spent a hour growing and nurturing a town.

So I begin knowing how I want my game to feel – but how to recreate those feelings in a new game? The starting point is to understand old games well.

GAME ANALYSIS

spiceroad2

I find it useful to understand games in terms of different game mechanics and how long the player spends working with each mechanic. This seems to cut through the cover-story and gloss and give a clear description of the game. For some games the majority of time is spend moving or waiting, with only a small fraction on making meaningful decisions. For a strategy game the big choice I found was how much micro-management to place on the player – how much time would be spent making interesting decisions as opposed to time spend implementing or maintaining those decisions.

I tried making simple charts of games splitting different aspects of their gameplay into parts and showing which parts depended on each other. This forced me to think abstractly about different game mechanics but was not very helpful when designing new games. The main thing this taught me is that most games are quite focused on one or two most important game activities, and the rest of the gameplay is supportive to those core aspects.
Indeed when I first mapped out the gameplay in Spice Road I found I had about 12 distinct and equally balanced gameplay mechanics. After several failed prototypes I decided to focus on a single mechanic (Building) and let all the other aspects radiate from there – providing reasons to build, and rewards from building.

The most interesting way I found to analyze old games was to try and follow their design choices while writing a mini-game prototype in their style. Much like imitating the old-masters in art and literature, imitation forces you to understand how a system really works.

The difficulties start once you move from imitation to innovation and it soon becomes apparent that just picking a list of ‘features’ and writing a game design does not work. The reason for this is somewhat down to complexity and chaos.

SYSTEM DYNAMICS

spiceroadbandits

Chaos Theory shows that a small number of rules can result in wildly complex and unpredictable results over time. A game composed of many rules has a similar outcome – it is very hard to predict how well two mechanics will work together or the result of changing a single rule without either having seen that exact result before or implementing the changes and trying it out live to see what happens.

I began work with lots of paper designs and outlines of how mechanics would work. Eventually those designs got turned into playable prototype games on the computer. Usually this translation would show the design in a very new light – I would get a very different feel from really playing the design to just imagining it. The interaction of different systems – such as combat and trading, town design and diplomacy – would now become tools for the player to work with rather than ideas on paper. Very soon a lot of the paper design turns out to be a trivial starting point to the real work of prototype iteration.

Another consequence of system dynamics is that I cannot be sure how a given mechanic will work in the game – so I cannot play favorites with my ideas. It is usually safer to have several alternative plans for a feature and try out a couple in games to see what works best in context. In practice this is often the trade-off between more or less complexity, automation or micro-management, chance or certainty, and finally how much of the player’s attention and time should be spent interacting with that feature.

Just as a paper design is a poor reflection of a final game, so too are early prototypes that have not been played by fresh players.

USER FRIENDLY POLISH

spiced road3

Game designs have been described as a local maxima in ideaspace. This draws on the thought that you pick a starting point (perhaps between a couple of existing genres) the then use all your tools of game design, imagination and improvement to move from that initial point towards the best possible game you can make. Each improvement takes you to higher levels of fun until you run out of time or hit a peak from which there is no improvement without making a large leap away towards a different type of game.

Once the game is working well for me as the designer – I have to consider how a new player will see the game and get some to test it to see their needs. A large chunk of work on modern games is priming the game with tutorials, tips and guides to ease the player into the game gently before ramping up the complexity and the difficulty. This final stage can lift a good but obscure game into being accessible and perhaps even popular.

Some helpful testing tools are watching a new player for 10 minutes over the shoulder, and running open beta-tests.

My design process is labor intensive, messy, wasteful and rather risky, but I think it is a good way handle the innate complexity of design and create innovative thoughtful games.

BurgerTime World Record attempt accompanies launch of new version on Wednesday

BurgerTime World Record

In celebration of the XBox Live release of Burgertime World Tour on Wednesday, a new world record score will fall on a version of the original classic.

Groton, CT gamer Eric Cummings will be firing up his classic Nintendo Entertainment System and taking aim at the official world record score on the original BurgerTime cartridge for the system.  According to Twin Galaxies, the current BurgerTime world record on the NES version is 225,650, a score Cummings has been able to triple in practice games.

Cummings is no stranger to NES world record scores, currently holding the record scores on titles such as Contra, Shadowgate and Super Dodge Ball and appearing in theGuinness World Records Gamer’s Edition 2011 for Bonk’s Adventure.  The broadcast will abide by Twin Galaxies rules and is being recorded for official submission to the organization.

Read the rest here – http://www.examiner.com/arcade-game-in-national/burgertime-world-record-attempt-accompanies-launch-of-new-version-on-wednesday