Don’t Piss Me Off With Your Adventure Game

I love adventure games. Text, point ‘n’ click, whatever. A good story with good puzzles in an interesting environment will always pull me in.

There are a lot of dreadful adventure games though. Hindsight makes some of them worse, as we’re no longer seeing them through the eyes of someone who was just glad to have any games at all. I personally had an incredibly high tolerance for absolute tosh back in the 80s

Which games were good and which games were bad is pretty much entirely subjective, but here’s a list of adventure game issues that are absolutely guaranteed to make my piss boil.

Presenting the solution before the problem

A good adventure game will present you with a problem or puzzle, and then allow you time to solve it. A great adventure game will make you think you discovered the problem through your own intuition. At no point should the player be given the tools or items to solve a problem before he or she is even aware that the problem exists.

This can lead to the player simply not knowing what to do next. Walking around with an inventory full of crap looking for somewhere to use it all. There is an unspoken agreement between the player and the developer: If I have picked up this crap, there is a puzzle nearby I need to solve with it. Breaking that agreement breaks the trust and can lead to the player getting frustrated, quitting, and thinking your game is poop.

Letting the player irreparably fuck their game

“Oh, you didn’t pick up that magic ring in that room near the start of the game that you can’t backtrack to? Looks like you can’t defeat Evil McBad at the end. We’ll let you find that out when you get there!”

Games that do this need to be burnt in a brazier. It’s the most extreme form of presenting the solution before the problem. You can almost hear the developer smirking as the hapless player goes about completing the game, only to hit an unsolvable puzzle in the later stages.

Never, ever do this. It’s an insult to the player. If I invest time and, in some cases, money in your creation, you’d better not pull this dick move on me. At the very least, tell the player if they’ve ruined the game somehow. Don’t just let them continue.

(Sidenote: The ONLY game that can get away with this is Infocom’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy text adventure. That game was designed to be as obnoxious as possible for laughs.)

Pixelbitching

“Origin: Computer games, specifically point-and-click games in which you need to click a specific place–sometimes only a few pixels on the screen (hence the name)–in order to get some magic clue you need to advance in the programmed-in plot line. Coined by SteveD on RPG.net.” – Source: http://wiki.rpg.net/index.php/RPG_Lexica:PQR

Unless your target screen resolution is 4×3, there is never any excuse to do this. If you want me to find an item to solve a puzzle, I’d better be able to spot the fucking thing on the screen. If the object is tiny, like a paperclip, put it in a drawer. If it’s a button, put it on a control panel. There is literally no excuse to do this unless you’re being a cocksneeze and trying to pad out your crap game.

If I have to hit GameFAQs to get through a puzzle and I find out I couldn’t do it on my own because the item is a magic pixel on the screen, the next command I will issue will be > USE FIST ON TEETH

Speaking of which, this can also apply to text adventures to a certain extent. Needlessly hiding objects within objects in room descriptions is just annoying and unnecessary.

Cat Hair Moustaches

Otherwise known as Absolute Fucking Moon Logic. Never, ever do this. Not only is it unacceptable, but I find it insulting. Do this and I will take it as a personal assault and hunt you down accordingly.

The Cat Hair Moustache refers to the bafflingly ridiculous puzzle from Gabriel Knight 3 where Gabriel has to disguise him self as a chap called Mosely by wearing a fake moustache, even though Mosely doesn’t have one.

The convoluted puzzle to construct a fake moustache from cat hair is so ridiculous and long winded that I won’t repeat it, but you can read the full solution here: http://www.gabrielknight4campaign.com/cat_hair.php#spoil1

Going back to presenting the puzzle before the solution, it’s no good presenting a perfectly acceptable puzzle when the only solution is something that the player could never possibly think of without a walkthrough. It always stinks of the developer trying to show off how clever they are to the bewildered player. A logical puzzle should have a logical solution.

Of course, wacky solutions to puzzles are amusing if they fit in with the theme of the game’s universe, but they had better follow some kind of knowable logic. Creating a puzzle where you have to use  a trap to catch a chicken so you can use its beak to scratch off a scratch card to win £10 to buy a screwdriver to open a panel to retrieve a fuse to put in a guard’s sandwich to cause him to choke to death so you can enter a building when you’re already carrying a gun isn’t big or clever.

It just makes you look like a cunt.

In My Opinion: Games are Becoming Dull

I’m starting to suspect that all the creativity has gone from mainstream video games. I’m not going to speculate on why that is, although I suspect it’s partially down to lack of will to take risks. It’s certainly worth thinking and/or worrying about. Video games are becoming dull, and that’s the opposite of what they’re supposed to be.

Let’s have a look at a brief synopsis of each of the top ten best selling games on the Atari 2600 and the Xbox 360. (Source: Wikipedia, so it could be wrong.)

Atari 2600

  1. Pac-Man (Little round fellow eats dots and avoids ghosts.)
  2. Pitfall! (Man goes on jungle adventure to collect gold. Must avoid traps.)
  3. Asteroids (Spaceship must survive in an asteroid field.)
  4. Missile Command (Protect cities from incoming missiles.)
  5. Space Invaders (Shoot waves of incoming aliens from a ground based turret.)
  6. Demon Attack (Same as above but better, goddamnit.)
  7. Adventure (Action adventure quest game.)
  8. Atlantis (Defend Atlantis from incoming waves of spaceships.)
  9. Cosmic Ark (Survive meteor showers and collect life specimens from other planets.)
  10. Kaboom! (Catch bombs with a bucket.)

 

Xbox 360

  1. Kinect Adventures (Sports game that comes with the Kinect sensor.)
  2. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (Soldiers shoot enemies.)
  3. Call of Duty: Black Ops (Soldiers shoot enemies.)
  4. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Soldiers shoot enemies.)
  5. Halo 3 (Soldiers shoot enemies.)
  6. Grand Theft Auto IV (A guy shoots enemies and innocent bystanders. Steals cars for larks.)
  7. Halo: Reach (Soldiers shoot enemies.)
  8. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (Soldiers shoot enemies.)
  9. Call of Duty: World at War (Soldiers shoot enemies.)
  10. Gears of War 2 (Soldiers shoot enemies.)

 

Now, I’m not here to pass judgement. Individually, many of those games are fun, and it’s easy to see why they sell well, but do we really need 100 versions of the same fucking game?

It worries me. Maybe “worry” isn’t even the correct word. It perhaps makes me sad. I’m someone who actively plays games, and I’m not seeing anything new coming out of the big publishers that interests me. Even Nintendo’s latest offerings aren’t grabbing my attention. So much creative potential going to waste.

Is this the fault of the mainstream developers/publishers, or the fault of those who willingly buy the same games over and over again? Independent developers certainly don’t seem to be effected by this trend. Could it be an effect of the fact that a hell of a lot more people are buying mainstream video games now than back in the 80′s? Who knows? Who cares? Why am I even crapping on about this?

I play games to experience new concepts, explore new worlds, and engage with characters. Most things coming out of the big publishers feature the same concepts, the same environments, and the same god-awful character types. Snooze.

How about this: An anthropomorphic sausage collects cakes and has to avoid evil bananas and apples. You can call it Food Hassle. Have that one for free. I made it up while I was typing it.

See? It’s not that hard!

You can even call it Call of Duty: Food Hassle if you like. (Sausage shoots enemies.)

6 Second Reviews

If you head over to Vine, you’ll find me doing some 6 Second Reviews!

Here’s the first one. Head Over Heels: http://vine.co/v/bJ6W5Yqau0a

A Quick Look at the Chameleon 64: Part 2

In this part, we’ll have a look at the Amiga core on the Chameleon 64!

A Quick Look at the Chameleon 64: Part 1

I’ve only gone and set up a YouTube channel, haven’t I!

Super Trolley: As Seen on BBC TV’s ‘Jim’ll Fix It’

Now then, now then. As the increasingly horrible allegations come to light regarding the “activities” of Sir Jimmle Fixit, my mind turns to the inevitable.

Super Trolley

Run away!

Available for the Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, and MSX, Super Trolley was a game designed by a young chap named Andrew Collett who wrote in to Jim’ll Fix It asking Jim to Fix It for him to design a computer game. Sir Jimmle decided to grant Collett his wish, and so his idea was farmed out to Icon Design Ltd. who programmed it and published the result through the legendary peddlers of tat, Mastertronic.

While the cover of the game puts you in mind of some kind of wacky trolley dash, the game couldn’t be further from that idea. Super Trolley follows the adventures of an unnamed supermarket employee (who from now on I shall refer to as Reginald Bumsplat) who must complete a series of challenges from Monday to Saturday in order to gain a promotion at the end of the week and realise his dream of sacking his former boss.

Pricing Up

Achievement Unlocked: Pricing Tins

Each day starts with the adrenaline pumping task of pricing up a bunch of tins with a price tag gun. Once you’ve completed this chore, you then get to experience the main challenge of spending the day making sure the supermarket’s shelves are stocked while avoiding old ladies who get in the way. Occasionally, there will be an extra challenge, such as the stack of beans being knocked over, or a dog getting in to the store, but that there is pretty much the entire existence of poor old Reginald Bumsplat.

Super Trolley

I used to think of Reg as a failed actor trying to scrape a living together. Now I like to think of him as a disgraced PE teacher.

As sad as this game sounds, it’s oddly compelling. It’s slow. It’s dull. It’s impossible to find your way around the supermarket without making a map. But, there’s something comforting about it. Something beautifully, crappily British.

I’m really trying not to say that Super Trolley is a bad game. It isn’t. It’s dullness is comforting. Like a Sunday afternoon watching repeats of Bullseye. It’s slow, but deliberate. It’s a game that could only have come out of Britain. Or possibly Japan. It’s all part of that wonderfully peculiar software library of machines like the ZX Spectrum, which made it perfectly reasonable to spend an hour stocking shelves with bread and cleaning up dog piss in between sessions of Elite and R-Type.

Should you play it now? Maybe. Probably not. I suspect my enjoyment of this game is heavily steeped in a certain longing I have  for simpler times in video gaming. It is a solidly made game though, and it does shine compared to a lot of the cack Mastertronic released over the years.

I’m almost embarrassed to say that I love this game. Not in spite of its dreary crapiness, but because of it.

Anyway, I’d better go. Some knob has knocked over the fucking beans again and Reg’ll get the boot if he doesn’t stack them up ASAP.

Super Trolley Ending

I literally just noticed that the title has a typo in the game over screen.

Tekkit Science with ProfessorLotte

The delightful ProfessorLotte who I play Minecraft online with has made a series of videos showing off the insane stuff she’s built on our Tekkit server.

I’ll try not to sound bitter, but the stuff she’s built has betamaxed everything I’ve ever done in Minecraft.

Watch her videos on YouTube HERE.

6 Official and Homebrew Ports of Games to Unlikely Platforms

One of the things I love about collecting old computers and consoles is the fact that there are still people out there that try and push these crufty old machines to their limits. The Amiga and C64 demo scenes never cease to amaze me with what people can do with a bit of trickery and a god-like understanding of assembly on those platforms.

One of the things that fascinates me is how intrepid developers have tried to port certain games to platforms that really shouldn’t be able to run them. Let’s have a look at a few! How about…

1) A Decent Port of R-Type… On the Amstrad CPC

I had an Amstrad CPC. Fuck off, they were awesome. They were like a ZX Spectrum with better graphics capabilities. OK, they didn’t have the gaming power of the C64, but they were pretty decent, and had a really good BASIC interpreter. A damn fine all rounder, but tainted with the stigma of being bought by bespectacled nerds who couldn’t afford a BBC Micro.

One thing with the CPC is that, due to its similar hardware to the much more popular ZX Spectrum, a lot of the games were ports of the Spectrum versions with no graphical enhancements. This was especially true of the CPCs utterly shit port of R-Type, which managed to be slower and worse looking than the Speccy version. (NOTE: I’m not saying the Speccy version was bad. It’s an awesome version of R-Type and probably the version I’ve played the most.)

The original version of R-Type for the CPC can be seen here. The audio sounds like a robot with explosive diarrhoea.

Cut forward to this very year, and developers Easter Egg have released a brand new port of R-Type for the CPC. The quality of the port is absolutely staggering. Especially when compared to the original. Have a look at this bad boy running here.

That would have sold CPCs if it had been released instead of the first crappy effort. I told you the CPC was boss.

2) Mortal Kombat… On the ZX Spectrum

In 1996, a couple of Spectrum hackers from Ukraine decided what their Spectrum needed the most was a port of Mortal Kombat. Of course, this clearly isn’t possible.

Bollocks, they thought. And they bloody well did it.

OK, the game isn’t arcade perfect, but it runs, it’s playable, and it’s complete. (Which is more than can be said for some games.) What surprises me most about this port is that it doesn’t require any of the advanced hardware from those badass Eastern European Spectrum clones. It’ll run on your common as muck 128K Spectrum.

I think I’d still prefer to play the SNES version, but it looks pretty damn impressive for a Speccy game.

3) Doom… Also On the ZX Spectrum

OK, it’s clearly not going to be the full version of ID software’s classic, but some mad bastard has got a Doom-Like game running on the Spectrum. I know very little about it, other than that it runs on a real, honest to God, 128K Speccy.

Have a look.

Yes, it may make Wolfenstein 3D look like Crysis, but that’s not the point. Someone looked at the humble Speccy and decided it needed Doom. That’s as noble an endeavour as any.

Every platform needs a Doom game. Even calculators.

4) Baldur’s Gate… On the PlayStation 1

I love Baldur’s Gate. I love the series so much that it’s still my benchmark for what a good RPG should be. I also loved my Playstation. Wouldn’t it have been amazing to have a port of Baldur’s Gate for one of my favourite consoles? (Not that Dark Alliance wank either.)

It so nearly happened. A port of the game was well underway by the now dead UK based studio Runecraft, apparently 95% complete, when it was shitcanned. This makes me weep nerd tears.

It looked pretty damn good to me.

All is not lost though. A near final build of the game has made its way out into Internet Land and is playable from start to finish apparently. I’m not going to be silly enough to link to potentially legally iffy software on this site, but Googling “Baldur’s Gate PSX” will probably point you in the right direction.

You must gather your torrents before venturing forth.

5) Grand Theft Auto III… On the NES

Grand Theftendo was a very ambitious port of GTA 3 to the NES. Obviously, it wasn’t 3D or third person, but it did have the whole map and a bunch of the missions.

Have a look.

I don’t know about you, but I would’ve bought a NES for that back in the day. Well, I was about 10 years old back then, so I would have made my parents’ lives hell until they bought one for me. I would have promised not to screw any hookers in the game.

Although the project was abandoned, the spirit lives on in Retro City Rampage, which is a commercial game by the same developer.

6) Halo… On the Atari 2600

OK, fratboys and dudebros everywhere, put your willies away. Clearly this isn’t the actual Halo running on the Atari 2600, but it was written by Ed Fries, who was vice president of game publishing at Microsoft. So it’s kind of official-ish.

The game looks and sounds like… Well, it looks and sounds like an Atari 2600 game. All blocks and distorted farting noises, but that’s not the point. A suit at Microsoft sat down and wrote a bunch of machine code so that Halo could live on one of the most piss-weak consoles that ever existed.

I shall leave you with this in all its blocky beauty.

Misogyny in Gaming: A Fat Bloke Speaks Out

As a human who keeps his reproductive organs on the outside, I feel I am ill equipped to discuss this. But as it’s probably the most important issue in gaming since, well, ever, I feel it’s my duty to chime in on the subject.

The kraken of misogyny has risen out of the murky waters of online gaming in what seems, to me, to be very recent times. As a white, heterosexual male who prides himself on not acting like a complete cockshine, I wasn’t aware it existed.

A few months ago, I requested to add a fellow Twitter user to my PS3 friends list, as she enjoyed a game of Modern Warfare 3 now and then. Her response was “Only if you promise not to get abusive if you get beaten by a girl.” I thought she was joking, but I soon discovered that she wasn’t. I was shocked, disgusted, and most predominantly baffled by what I discovered as I discussed the matter with other female gamers.

Don’t take my word for it. One only has to look at Fat, Ugly, or Slutty to see what female gamers have to put up with on a daily basis. Or look at the completely uncalled for abuse directed at Anita Sarkeesian and Felicia Day. As I implied earlier, this doesn’t directly affect me, but you can be as sure as shit that it indirectly affects me.

I happen to quite like women. I have many female friends. Online, offline, and in JPEG format. My wife’s a woman. My daughter will be one eventually. I’d quite like to share the experience of multiplayer video games with these people, but these misogynist dickslaps are ruining it for me and everyone like me. When I ask a woman to play games online with me and her first response is to ask me not to abuse her, things be fucked.

So where does it come from and why does it happen? Women have been poorly represented in video games for decades, but I don’t remember any hatred towards them like we’re experiencing now. I remember that the editor of Your Sinclair was famously a woman. Danielle Bunten was a transgendered game developer, but nobody cared. She made M.U.L.E. for fuck’s sake, why would it matter?

My humble opinion is that it comes down to two simple facts: 1) Gaming has truly opened up to the mainstream now. It is no longer reserved for nerds. 2) Xbox Live, the PSN, and online PC gaming has given all the honking great fuckwits both a voice and anonymity.

Given those two enabling technologies, misogynist gamers can now yell at women what would once be muttered towards their shoes.

That doesn’t answer the why though. I have no idea why it happens. Do these people have something to fear from women playing “their” games? Are they intimidated by the presence of women? Do they just truly dislike them for no discernible reason? I have no idea.

I’d like to round this off with a helpful answer and a joke, but I don’t have an answer and it really isn’t a laughing matter. Real people who I like and respect are being threatened with death and rape on a daily basis.  Real women are being driven away from something I care about by the most obnoxious of arseholes.

The only thing we can do is confront it when we see it. Don’t let it go without comment. Report it to the gaming service provider. They generally do give a shit. Make it unacceptable.

As another female, gaming friend of mine once brilliantly said, “Politely point at the ‘No Douchebags’ sign on the wall.”

Diablo III: A Cake With Elephant Jizz on It

Unless you were born 23 minutes ago, you’re no doubt sick of hearing about Diablo III already. Maybe, like me, you’re one of the many who have forked out nearly 45 of your finest pounds for it. It’s the first Diablo game released by Blizzard for 13 years, and as such has attracted a hefty sackful of hype.

So is it worthy of the hype?

Sort of.

It’s a good, solid point & click dungeon crawler. The art and graphics are very pretty, and the audio is superb. I haven’t get far enough into the game to comment on the story, but it seems adequate. I haven’t wanted to stab the authors yet.

The controls are of the “click on the thing you want to make unhappy” variety, which is expected, but I’m finding them just a little bit imprecise. Many times I’ve tried to click on a bad guy and found myself missing and telling my hero to go for a stroll instead. That could be down to my own ham-handedness though. Nevertheless, the controls are generally fine and they get the job done.

The environments are very atmospheric and beautifully rendered, with many destructible features and plenty of containers to scavenge for loot. The NPCs dotted around the place are perhaps a bit robotic, but they serve their purpose. All fine then.

So why the “sort of”? Two words. Always Online.

Yes, everyone’s making a big fuss about the always online requirement, but it really is something worth making a big fuss about. The game requires a constant, always on, connection to the internet for you to be able to play the single player game. In fact, it’s not really a single player game. It’s an online “multiplayer” instance of the game that’s locked for your player only.

So what’s the problem? We all have permanent internet connections these days, don’t we?

The problem is that is that it doesn’t fucking work properly.

The game went live at 23:01 on the 14th of May. I didn’t manage to connect and create a character until around 21:00 the following day. That is clearly bollocks. I knew about the always online aspect of the game beforehand, but I had assumed that Blizzard of all people would know how to handle huge volumes of online gamers without the servers turning into a pile of molten slag.

Another problem is the fact that my internet access isn’t fantastic. I really don’t expect to experience lag in a single player game, but that’s what I’ve been looking at. Totally fucking unacceptable.

The game has been out for a few days now, and the servers, to be fair, seem to be settling down. I managed to squeeze in a couple of hours of gaming this evening and the quality seems to have improved a little. I’m hoping it continues along this path.

“So,” you’re thinking, “you knew about the always online stuff? It’s not a big deal. It sort of works. Why make a big fuss about it?”

Well, let me put it like this.

Imagine you’ve paid a lot of money to go on a lovely holiday. The hotel is excellent and the sun shines every day. The staff are friendly and there is a wonderful selection of bars and restaurants to choose from. Absolute perfection. But! Every morning in your hotel room as you wake up, a fat, sweaty, naked man shits all over your face. Yes, 99% of the holiday may be fantastic, but your lasting memory of the occasion would be having to scoop faeces out of your eyes and nostrils every morning before breakfast.

Diablo III is a delicious birthday cake, but it’s not until you bite into a slice that you realise the icing is made out of elephant jizz. The rest of the cake might be perfect but, you know, it’s got jizz on it.

My biggest fear is that the bean counters will see the huge sales figures for an always online single player game and think it’s an acceptable way forward. It’s our duty to moan like hell about this and make The Man know we’re not happy about it.

No one wants their face shat on every morning. Apart from the people in that video I saw.