While I love talking and reading about small games that handle a certain event or theme in a new and interesting way, I’m always excited when I can learn new things about video games that defined my gaming ‘career’ and the game industry in general. The giants like Half-Life, Tetris, and Super Mario that defined gaming forever after, that millions of people played, that I can talk about with just about anyone I meet. I want to know more about these games: what lead to their creation, what was the inspiration, why did the developers decide to do X or Y? Books like Masters of Doom and Console Wars are just as important as the biggest historiographical books to me.
But then I look at those small games that enable me to commandeer pirate ships, build an outpost in a postapocalyptic world, or travel through the damaged psyche of a female Pict warrior, and I become so grateful that they too exist.
Now if you read Issue 32 of Field Reports, I’ll play through Quake again.
When I was a wee lad, around the age of 10, I often went to a friend’s house to play video games on his brother’s SNES. His brother was a fair bit older, and he owned games that weren’t… meant for children. (Yes, yes “Oh, this explains so much about you, Bram”, har har, very funny). One of the games we played the most was Mortal Kombat. Known for its ‘realistic’ looking characters and hardcore violence (so, many, spines, ripped out), the game quickly became highly controversial and it was one of the reasons why America developed the Age Rating system ESRB. While not as fluid or mechanically good as its great rival Street Fighter II, the violence and comedy drew a huge crowd. So, during the summer vacation, we played the crap out of its sequel Mortal Kombat II. Our little characters were frozen, shot, punched off a bridge into spikes, electrified, and generally punched. To top off the summer, I accidentally pulled off Reptile’s fatality and screamed with glee while he transformed into a dragon and ate my friend’s character from the waist up. Purely by button mashing. Infinite monkeys with infinite typewriters, and all that.
… And then I learned how to dive across the screen as Raiden. Because I could spam that move, my friend that couldn’t deal with the relentless assault of a guy with a pointy hat flying across the screen while yelling (and I’m paraphrasing) “WOBOLULUBLUALAAAAAYYYYYYYY”, and that quickly destroyed any fun he had in the game. So we moved on to other fun games, like Total Carnage (guess if that’s suitable for kids!) and Killer Instinct.
Mortal Kombat is 25 years old, and Polygon wrote about the game’s legacy.
Is Realism All That?
Although a lot of players criticise video games for not being realistic (enough), game developers often have to decide if realism is the way to go. Who hasn’t cursed their characters inability to climb over simple obstacles, or open certain doors? (I’m looking at you, Fallout 4 – there’s hardly a door left, I could literally stick my arm through the hole and unlock it from the inside. A small toddler would be able to kick down that door without much effort. AND I’M CARRYING A NUCLEAR ROCKET LAUNCHER! Yeah sorry, that one always bothered me).
Gamasutra reprinted an article from 2010 in which a developer discusses the problems surrounding realism in games, and the decisions developers need to make in order to overcome these problems. Most players have a pretty good idea what a pistol sounds like, right? But these sounds are based on movies: if a (non sim) video game would use actual gunsounds, most players would think the guns sound fake. And video games are by definition unrealistic, so trying to create realism could lead to very unrealistic situations. So what’s more important? Realism, or consistency and/or fun?
Read the article here!
Quake – One of the Greatest Games of All Time.
Quake is not just one of the best shooters ever made, but also one of the greatest games in general. Groundbreaking technology, superb gameplay, clever level design, and legendary multiplayer confirmed that id Software was the master of FPS games. I play Quake at least once a month, just running and gunning my way through waves of eldritch enemies and angry troopers. It alone launched online gaming. Sure, there were games before it that allowed you to connect to a player on the other side of the planet, but Quakeworld (a tool to connect to servers) paved the way for every single multiplayer shooter up till today.
It revolutionised the FPS genre and showed the world what ingenious design and code could create.
There’s not enough room or time to praise Quake enough and discuss its development.
But luckily, David A. Craddock just wrote a 130.000 long ‘article’ (book?) on Quake, its development, and the impact it had on the world for Shacknews. He talked to developers George Romero and John Carmack (legends in the industry, if you aren’t aware) and other members of the team to get the full picture. This is literally historiography on video games, people!
You can read the first two chapters for free on Shacknews, with the rest behind a $5-per-month subscription (which also gives you an epub version). This is by far the most complete and informative story of Quake.
Head on over to Shacknews to read the first two chapters!
Dirty Coding Tricks – How Improvisation Saved Games.
Video games are immensely complex things that require a lot of effort, planning, sacrifices, and quite often a lot of ingenious tricks. Often driven by the merciless pressure of time, developers resulted to the weirdest solutions to fix their problems.
Invisible squirrels, important FPS-meters, and borrowed lines of code: all is fair in coding!
Hop on over to Gamasutra and see the crazy solutions developers came up with!
Ganking and Roleplaying in Azeroth.
World of Warcraft is one huge playground with quests, dungeons, battlegrounds, and raids to keep people occupied and engrossed in the story. But there’s people who try to make their own story. Some decide to roleplay, creating their own narrative in the wider WoW storyline. But others become a story.
In an article on Polygon, a veteran roleplayer explains how roleplaying in WoW works and how she ended up a roleplayer. Because sometimes, player made content and narratives are more appealing than what Blizzard cooks up.
You can read the article on roleplaying here.
Other players are the subject of stories and legends not because of their participation in storytelling, but because of their actions.
One of the most infamous (at least, among Vanilla players) is the Terror of Menethil, the Assassin of Alliance players, the “Oh no, not again. Stop, Please. I just want to get to Iron Forge. Please?” guy. Angwe, the Orc Rogue that terrorized the surroundings of Menethil Harbour. No one was safe. People pleaded to him, tried to bribe him, gathered in convoys, hunted him. All to no avail. Angwe was lurking in the shadows, and he was going to gank you, no matter who you were. And then he disappeared. People speculate he just got bored and left. But I know better. He’s still there, watching and waiting…
Read about the legendary Angwe!
Game Awards 2017 – The Results Are In.
Aaaaand it’s not going to surprise you: the big winner is Breath of the Wild. But Cuphead and Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice also won multiple awards! The Game Awards is organised by a lot of big players in the game industry, and each year a number of developers and gamers decide what games deserve recognition.
You can find all nominees and winners on the Game Awards website.
Cheering For Your City – Watching Overwatch in a Bar.
eSports ain’t nothin’ new, but Blizzard might’ve taken the next step in evolving the eSports platform. Cities from all over the world were asked to create their own teams (like soccer and rugby) in order to participate in the Overwatch League. And surprisingly, most people feel a stronger connection with their city than a collection of gamer organised in a team.
Kotaku went to a bar to watch the first match live, and you can read their findings here.
The Biggest Non-Nuclear Explosion – Multimedia Experience.
The biggest explosion that wasn’t caused by the splitting of atoms, was the Halifax explosion on December 6th 1917. Two ships carrying explosions collided in the harbour of Halifax, Canada, triggering a massive explosion that destroyed the entire city and killed around 2000 people. Exactly one hundred years later, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation launched the “A City Destroyed” multimedia experience. A 360 simulation shows the explosion and its effect, maps detail the destruction, and photos and text talk about the survivors.
Experience this impressive and haunting retelling of a huge tragedy here.
Heavy Seas Delaying Release of Abandon Ship.
I’m a huge fan of everything 17th century maritime (it’s my field of expertise, after all) and I’ve put more hours into games like Sid Meier’s Pirates! than I am willing to admit. So you’ll understand that I am really looking forward to the game Abandon Ship. However, the game’s developer Fireblade decided to delay the game in order to improve the game even more. An admirable choice, but I really want to play it! Look at the video, it has cannons, ships, sea monsters!
PCGamer interviewed the developer, and you can find a Let’s Play there too.
The Fastest Secret Agent Ever.
Speedrunning is a great and interesting beast: people spending thousands of hours trying to shave off time in their favourite games in order to reach a world record. Sometimes these games can take hours.
But not if you’re running the 1st level of the Nintendo64 classic Goldeneye. For 15 years, the record for Dam was stuck at 53 seconds (127 runners held that record!), which shows just how hard it was to save any amount of time in such a short level.
And then Karl Jobst finally broke the record by clearing the level in 52 seconds. How in earth anyone is supposed to break that record is a mystery to me!
Watch the speedrun (and the runner’s euphoria) in the linked video!
Raji: An Ancient Epic – Kickstarter.
Not many games take place in Ancient India, so it’s refreshing to see the Kickstarter for Raji: An Ancient Epic. Based on Indian and Balinese myths and legends, the game sees a young girl fighting off a demonic invasion with powers granted to her by the gods. The artstyle is amazing, and every bit of scenery is hand painted. They’ve got a playable demo for you to download to try out the game. I personally can’t wait to see how they utilize the rich and diverse history and culture of India in the full game.
Check out the Kickstarter page here, it ends soon!
Dutch Game Garden Academy Opens Its Virtual Doors.
The Dutch Game Garden is a business center for Dutch game developers that aims to help developers get their feet on the ground in the gaming industry. In order to reach a broader audience of developers, it has now launched the Dutch Game Garden Academy, a collection of online video courses for starting developers and students in which successful and experienced developers share their stories and give lessons on entrepreneurship, marketing, development, and all aspects of game development.
You can find more information about the Academy here.
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