Posts Tagged ‘video games’

Pieces of Eight

Friday, August 8th, 2008

Well in case you haven’t noticed today is the 8th of August 2008. That’s 08/08/08! How exciting! I’m sure there are all sorts of numerological portents of doom in there but to me, it makes me realise that I can remember exactly what I was doing twenty years ago this very day.

As a precocious teenager I had used The Quill to create a text adventure for the ZX Spectrum (kids, ask your parents!). It was a four part epic that went by the hilarious title Star Wreck. Yes, if any further proof were needed that I was (and am) a massive dork I created my own Star Trek parody. My memories of it are sketchy, but i think there was a running theme about the evil of Stock, Aitken and Waterman. I can tell you, in my mind it was scathingly satirical.

The reason that I know it was twenty years ago today is that I had conquered the piss poor, sub Fergus McNeil text, and had moved onto the loading screens. In those, pre Photoshop days, it was created with an application called (I think) Art Studio, pixel by single pixel, possibly with a Kempston Quickshot 2 joystick. And I vividly remember etching the number 8/8/88 at the bottom of the screen, in one of the eight colours that was available.

Heady days indeed (and an appropriate memory considering this current, 80s inspired storyline), but I am sorry to inform you that there is no copy of this monument of game programming available for you to sample with your favourite Speccy emulator. Never fear though, I ended up recycling most of the jokes at various points for this very comic.

Share

The Fuckest Uppest

Monday, October 6th, 2008

The Force Unleashed is a video game that?s been in development for some time. It was originally described as “The Star Wars Event of 2007″, which obviously didn’t happen, in fact the game was held back for so long that some wags dubbed it “The Force Unreleased”. However, it has finally appeared, and offers the chance to play the part of a backwards lightsaber wielding badass, who generally slaughters people and smashes stuff up with the force. What more could you want from a game?

The game’s technical innovations include Digital Molecular Matter, which applies different properties for different materials, so that wood splinters, metal bends and glass shatters, the Havok physics engine, and Euphoria AI. This might sound totally awesome and groundbreaking (no pun intended), but the reality is that three different software engines rucking up against eachother can create some seriously funky effects. At one point in the game I became entombed in the gooey gums of a sarlaac, which I’m sure wasn’t meant to happen. It brought back memories of an old Nemesis The Warlock game on the ZX Spectrum, in which the player, on reaching a particular level, would invariably appear trapped in the interface under the screen with no way of getting out. Didn’t anyone playtest that thing? That game sure as hell didn’t have any real world physics simulation (but on the other hand it did allow you to spit acid).

I don’t play a ton of games these days, so the prevailing feeling I get from The Force Unleashed is nostalgia for Dark Forces and the Jedi Knight series. It even features Dark Troopers, which initially gave me cause for concern, but when you look at the timeline (a couple of years prior to Episode 4) it’s not too distant from that of Dark Forces (uh, a year after it?). Hey look buddy, that stuff matters to some of us, OK? The original reason I bought a PC back in ’95 was so I could play Dark Forces (along with the excellent flight sim TIE Fighter), and a few years later I upgraded specifically to be able to play Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight (do I need to tell you at this point that I’m a Star Wars nerd? Really? Did you not read any of the other posts?).

 

Dark Forces

Dark Forces: Nicking the Death Star plans, Part 13

 

 

In Jedi Knight, Dark Forces? central character, the mercenary Kyle Katarn found a lightsaber and gradually learned the jedi arts of pushing people off ledges and jumping three times higher than normal. This game also featured live action cutscenes, which was pretty damn impressive in 1997. The guy that played Kyle had the grizzled, hero with a past look down, but I think I saw him in one of those soft porn dramas that Channel Five used to show late at night. At least I don’t recall seeing him get down to business, because that would have been far too harrowing. Later, in Jedi Outcast, he acquired lots more polygons and an adversary who bore more than a passing resemblance to Barney the Dinosaur. In Jedi Academy you actually played a different character, but seeing as you could finally use the double bladed saber Darth Maul style, nobody was fussed about whether you were still Kyle.

 

The Force Unleashed: I have a badass feeling about this

The Force Unleashed: I have a badass feeling about this

 

 

So anyway, for all its next gen sparkle, lush graphics and compelling storyline (which I liked, although I’m not sure I quite bought the big twist, and was that droid really using the force?), simply put, The Force Unleashed is the latest iteration of the Jedi Knight games, and as I’ve always been a fan of lobbing stormtroopers about and then lightsabering the shit out of them, that most definitely gets a thumbs up from me.

 

 

Share

Wiithin You Wiithout You*

Friday, September 11th, 2009

With the release of The Beatles Rock Band, giving you the chance to play along with the seminal lovable scouse moptops’ synergistically released back catalogue (although sadly not The Inner Light), the Rock Band (and Guitar Hero) franchises are becoming a talking point among many that would never normally have in interest in video games.

Back in The CGI... nah doesn't work does it?

Ex Stone Bill Wyman and Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason have both slammed the franchise, much like Jimmy Page did a few months back, and it’s easy to see why someone who grew up in that generation (and came up through a period in which rock and pop were the most exciting countercultural forces in the world) would be dismissive and suspicious of something which purports to let you “be” your rock heroes, without you having to learn to play a note.  When Jimmy Page was a kid computers were the size of a house and had the processing power of a lamp post!

I’m not sure that playing Guitar Hero would stop someone learning an instrument. If you have the drive to do it, you’re gonna do it. When I was a teenager my greatest achievement was learning to play Misplaced Childhood all the way through on a little Yamaha home keyboard (the one with the bright blue drum pads at the bottom) but I certainly wasn’t in danger of becoming a musician. Surely if you are really into Guitar Hero you are more likely to take up playing a real guitar. And when you play the drums in those games it’s pretty much playing the drums!

Although, on the other hand, there are way too many bands out there, and most of them are shit, so we could do with a few less.

* Well, The Metro had already used “While My Guitar Hero Gently Weeps”

Share