Eric-Jon RÃ¶ssel Waugh of Next Generation has another excellent feature out, this time about five legendary game companies that bit the dust--or, as Waugh puts it, a tribute to "five fallen icons of the videogame industry." In case you're wondering, the icons in question are Atari, Origin, Sierra On-Line, Black Isle Studios, and Looking Glass Studios. All of these companies made outstanding games, and I'm sure you'll enjoy reading about their rise and fall--and contemplating how things would look now if these companies were still with us. He ends the piece on a powerful and insightful note:
I've got two tangentially related items for your reading queue today. First, Lore SjÃ¶berg of Wired News has posted some funny ideas for new game controllers. While some are ridiculous (a brick?), others are more intriguiging, even if meant only as a joke. For some reason, his idea for a game controller based on an action figure seems on-the-money, though I'm not sure how it could be implemented. I'm sure that most of us here grew up playing with action figures, whether they were those crappy Star Wars figurines or those GI Joes that went weak-in-the-knees after a few hours of play. Still, we all had a great time with them, and no doubt part of the thrill was the tactile aspect of it. I think this is one reason why so many grown men and women indulge in games like WarHammer, which feature little miniatures in lieu of the more abstract creatures and heroes in the typical D&D table session. I think Lore's tongue-in-cheek suggestion might actually lead towards some really innovative games and control schemes.
In honor of the newly released movie, 1up has a very colorful feature up called Gamer's Kryptonite: Superman's 10 Worst Games. The article starts with Superman for the Atari 2600 and covers titles from many computers, consoles, and arcade machines. It's really curious how easy it is to take a big budget and really make a cringe-worthy game based on a mega-popular franchise. I mean, how hard can it be to get a Superman game right? I distinctly remember playing Superman: Man of Steel on my Amiga and thinking how lousy it was. Then again, Superman's powers don't necessarily lend themselves very well to a videogame--he's simply too powerful. It's hard to translate his powers into compelling gameplay. About the only challenge left would be strategic ones--assuming Superman can only be in one place at the same time (an assertion challenged in the movies). Should you save a bus from going over a bridge or Lois Lane from an earthquake?
I realize I'm very late to this game, but I finally got the chance to play through Bungie's famous first-person shooter, Halo, often-called "The Greatest FPS Ever Made." Since I don't have an Xbox, and not sure how I'd adapt to playing an FPS with a controller if I did, I played the Windows version on my PC. I assume everyone here is familiar with the game, so I'll skip the background and technical stuff and just discuss some aspects of the game I found intriguing. And, no, I don't consider it to be the greatest FPS (I'd give that to Half-Life 2), but I did enjoy it.
I've got some fun stuff to put on your queue this morning. First, read this story about a mangled high-pressure sales tactic at a Louisiana GameStop (did you know I was from Louisiana?). Sadly, I've encountered "porcine" salesmen like this at plenty of other software stores, including Best Buy and Circuit City ("No, I do NOT want a mega-extended super warranty or a free subscription to Better Homes and Gardens.") Come to think of it, Radio Shack is pretty bad about the high-pressure stuff, too. They need my mailing address why? When's the last time you had a "helpful associate" try to load you up with overpriced junk? Worse yet, how many times have you let your excitement over a purchase swing you into actually complying with his or her evil wishes?
GamaSutra has an interview up with Rand Miller, co-architect of the famous Myst series. The interview seems to be an effort to grab some free publicity for Cyan's new project--resurrecting Myst Uru for live play via GameTap. I'm not sure what to expect, but judging from the project's homepage, Cyan has big plans...And I hope things work out well for them.
Every now and then I find a true gem on the net--more than just some tidbit about a new piece of hardware or some developer ranting about the lack of innovation in modern gaming. When I find something like Culture: Games and Metaphor, I like to slow down and really see what the author is trying to get across. Waugh's point in this essay is to get us to think about metaphors--specifically, metaphors in games and how they relate to the real world as well as the game world. He also talks about how the videogame industry has essentially been inbreeding for a few decades, rehashing and making questionable "progress" as it attempted to "revolutionize" the previous generations' hardware and games: Ever since Super Mario Bros. came out, basically all we've done is build on it. Waugh would like to see a revolution in game metaphors--rather than merely point back to earlier games, it's time to start thinking sensisbly about a new kind of metaphor, one that functions like great metaphors in books and films. Waugh uses a number of great examples to illustrate his points, including several from classics like Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy.
Looking for a cool summer project for yourself and/or your kids? Got a fancy new soldering iron collecting dust? Well, head over to ThinkGeek and pick up a Pong DIY kit. The kit comes with a pre-printed circuit board and lots of techie components like "diodes," not to be confused with another bit of gadgetry. You can hook the finished product up to your TV and enjoy 1 or 2 player Pong sessions at four different difficulty levels. W00T! It's too bad I'm a clutz with solder or I'd order mine today. And, no, I'm not buying a wussy "cold heat" soldering iron and no non-toxic solder, because without the thrill of danger, where's the fun?
IGN has a nice feature up about the worst coin-op conversions, and I bet we've all probably suffered through most of them. Yes, the VCS Pac-Man is on the list, as is Donkey Kong and Dragon's Lair for the SNES. I doubt any kid who received the SNES version of Mortal Kombat was happy on Christmas...One surprising entry is Midway's Greatest Arcade Hits for the GBA.