Sunday, April 24, 2005

ArmJoe and Royal Edoma Engine

| insert credit | has become my favourite videogame news site. This is partly because they're comfortable reading Japanese webpages and communicating their contents to us. Recently, they've found us two free games. The first is ArmJoe 1.3, an SNK-style fighter based on Les Miserables. The second, Royal Edoma Engine, is the most original isometric shooter I've ever seen. You go fly through what looks like many farms and you kill vegetables. The bosses are tractors and other farm equipment. It's very, very hard!

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Why Text Based Games Are Still Better

The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy movie will premiere within days. I'm seeing a flurry of coverage of the text-based computer game, based on the same book, that came out in 1982; the BBC now hosts not one but two illustrated remakes and an interview with Steve Meretzky about what it was like to “implement” (as it was called back then) the original game for Infocom. I love the part where Steve Meretzky lists some of Douglas Adams's contributions:
like having an inventory object called “no tea” having the game lie to you; having to argue with the game to get past a certain door; having an object called "the thing your aunt gave you which you don't know what it is" which keeps coming back to you even if you get rid of it; having a player input... which couldn't be understood by the game... be the words which fall through a wormhole in the universe and start an interstellar war.
Yes, all of these ideas made it into the game. Try doing them with graphics and a point-and-click Sierra interface. I remember when Activision released The Lost Treasures of Infocom collections in the early 90's, amid a flurry of hype, many were reminded that text-based adventure games were better than graphical ones. Now graphic adventure games are dead too, and such sophistication will have to be found elsewhere.

Friday, April 22, 2005

FFXI Servers Under Political Attack

Right now, Final Fantasy XI's servers are under relentless DDOS attack. PlayOnline's official press release tells us that the attacks are deliberate, and a post on an Allakhazam forum thread points out that they started on the same day that cataclysmic anti-Japanese riots started in China.

At least two blogs mentioning this (Terra Nova's Hit where it hurts and Ludonauts' Cross Straits relations in Vana'diel) conclude that Final Fantasy XI is being punished for being Japanese.

Twenty years ago, the hacker called The Mentor wrote that the networks could fight discrimination—
We exist without skin color, without nationality, without religious bias... My crime is that of judging people by what they say and think, not what they look like.

The Conscience of a Hacker

—and I'm ashamed for how far we've degenerated since then. The Internet, promising to break down social barriers (like skin color and nationality), has instead widened the divide and become a weapon for bigots. There's no evil worse than prejudice, and when when people vandalize a videogaming network because they feel it represents one country, then I wonder where we're going.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Three Love Songs

The videogame scene is full of jaded people who have lost interest in their hobby. These people have made some of the funniest animations of newgrounds and they are also the troll who clutter up videogame newsgroups. Some, however, maintain a genuine interest even as they become experts in other things. The last crowd has bought us three moving tributes.

Hey Hey 16K is a memorial for the first generation of home computers. It covers so much: how the purported reasons for buying them inevitably gave way to games, the programming aspects, how these days you can't even fit a word processing document into the amount of RAM these systems came with.

After those computers came consoles. The system that started it, the NES, was considered a risky investment after Atari crashed so hard, and yet it defined a generation. Sega Fantasy VI takes us from the time of the NES to time of the PSP. It's ingenius; its creators took recordings of Final Fantasy VI's gameplay, painted out the characters and replaced them with game consoles. Some of the jokes here are very sophisticated, and it will also remind you of what a great game Final Fantasy VI still is.

Finally, obsoleet is the demo that won first place at Assembly 2004. It tells the story of a girl who becomes a programmer, starting from the time she codes her first starfield in BASIC. The 3D models and textures change to show the passage of ten years, and the design of the demo is a testament to how far graphics algorithms have come.

Saturday, April 09, 2005


This is absolutely too cool.

Challenge: To what extent do you think it was photoshopped?

Friday, April 01, 2005


Books and films based on videogames always suck. There have been no exceptions except, perhaps, for some obscure game based anime that have never been released in the West. Like, maybe, Kanon and To Heart.

What about vice versa? Amazingly, some designers have indeed met the challenge of going from a linear storytelling medium to a non-linear one. My circa-1990 Compute magazine collection gushes over the Dune games, Gateway, and Betrayal at Krondor, all of which are based on novels. More recently, X-Men Legends and the Xbox version of The Chronicles of Riddick has gotten very good reviews. And Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is better than any of the movies.

On early effort, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, adapted by the author himself, is still strong after twenty years. In fact, you can play a brand new illustrated version online. Or play the original at the author's website.

What makes them work? They borrow a milieu rather than a plot. They set themselves in the worlds created by their source material but their storylines are their own.