WWF Raw SNES Longplay

As played by Ajax Pain, a longplay of WWF Raw (SNES version):

I didn’t know the SNES WWF games were referred to as a “trilogy” but I guess it makes sense. Acclaim (on its LJN brand) published three similar WWF games in the early 90s. Super Wrestlemania, Royal Rumble, and Raw.  I still own (and on rare occasions boot up the ROMs) of these games. I preferred Royal Rumble to Raw, which tried to bolt on fighting game-like special moves. These weren’t great games by any means. But for their time, these were simple games that were fun to play. Not a lot of strategic thinking required in the “tug of war” grappling system.

There’s scanty development information available about the teams that put these games together. I suppose as licensed properties for pro wrestling, not many care about the gritty details of how they were produced. But if you do know some of the history, let me know. I’d be interested in hearing about it.

Thirty Under 30 in Games

Forbes released its 30 under 30 List for Games (2017), featuring the people “leading a technological and artistic revolution.” Here are the revolutionary twenty-somethings and teens:

  • Lishan AZ
  • Eric Barone
  • Zaquerl Black
  • Joe Brammer
  • Kitty Calis
  • Fablano Caruana
  • James Earl Cox III
  • Juan DeBledma
  • Andy Dinh
  • Natalie Gravier
  • Lisy Kane
  • Gennadly Korol
  • Jasmine Lawrence
  • Auguste Massonnat
  • Daniel Mullins
  • Jenny Qlan
  • Rachel Quirico
  • Khaled Abdel Rahman
  • Matt Salsamendl
  • Alex Schwartz
  • Tomber Su
  • Yuting Su
  • Max Temkin
  • Gabriel Toledo
  • Josh Watson
  • Noah Whinston
  • Zach Wigal
  • Liam Wong
  • Andrey Yanyuk
  • Olga Zinoveva

There were more Esports people than I had imagined. Including a chess grandmaster also seems like an inspired choice. Of the games listed I think Cards Against Humanity and Stardew Valley are probably the best known (from the perspective of its developer appearing on this list). And of course, League Of Legends, Pokémon GO, etc.

I’m not sure that community organizers deserve a spot on such a list, but hey, I’m not a Forbes journo, so.

Congrats to all these people and their innovative work. And hopefully they continue innovating in the future.

The Importance of Storytelling in Games

Michal Klekowicki doesn’t appreciate the storytelling in Dust: An Elysian Tale:

Well, because 5 hours in I didn’t have any emotional investment in the game, nor I had any curiosity towards the story’s development. What I had, was a lot of time to fixate on every negative aspect I could find. In the end, I had literally no reason to play it, and backtracking side quests combined with a redundant crafting system were only making the matter worse. The story destroyed the experience.

I’ll never forget the reviews in EGM when Metal Gear Solid 2 went head to head with the debuting Halo. One of the reviewers, perhaps Dan “Shoe” Hsu, wrote something to the effect that he simply liked the Halo’s story better than MGS2’s. Fair enough, but I never agreed with the idea that the review score should have been dinged for that (weren’t we just talking about this the other day?). Anyway, back to the piece at hand: it’s a strange dichotomy. If you like everything about a game, but are turned off by its art direction and its story, does that affect your enjoyment of the game?

It seems like an obvious question with an obvious answer. But perhaps not. I think that games – as a medium capable of telling a story – should be judged on how well it delivers that story. Note that this is not the same as not “liking the story.” If you read the linked article, clearly Klekowicki was turned off by the art style and the story. Or at least, one gets the impression that the gamer writers were very incompetent. But does that alone drive you to the point of disliking the entire game?

Something to think about as I ponder the game review question.

What about Game Reviews

Over at Gamasutra, Jeff Vogel posted a tongue-in-cheek article concerning video game reviews. From his blog:

One Last, Horrifying Truth About Game Reviews

I’m ancient, and even I don’t use them anymore. There’s no review that can tell me anything I can’t get by watching the game on Twitch.tv for ten seconds and checking the Steam reviews to make sure it’s not too buggy.

I’ve been in this category myself for about a decade, though I wouldn’t call myself “ancient” just yet. Practically speaking, I’ve been playing games for 30 years now. There’s very little a typical game review can tell me about a game. And with so much content out there for free, there’s no need to consult with the Sushi-X’s of the world anymore to find out if a game is worth my while.

But what if we want something more from our critics? Yes, Mr. Vogel’s sage advice to “read only what you want to read” and “everybody is entitled to their opinions” is useful. If you want to, say, create a personal echo chamber or avoid confrontation. Again, what if we want to, oh, I don’t know. Learn something useful from a critic?

We may be flat out of luck there when it comes to reading commercial game reviews. And by that I mean, reviews that appear in magazines or IGN’s of the world. We know from the GamerGate controversy that the widely-read critics tend to be ideologically incestuous, and their politics skew left. Nothing wrong with the latter, as far as it goes. But the first observation renders a large majority of their critical content useless in the scheme of things.

You can pick any color you want, as long as it’s red.

See the problem here?

I’ve avoided writing game reviews on this website, partly because I don’t desire to engage in affirmation-seeking types of readers, but mostly because I don’t have the time to write a proper review. Yeah I know. How convenient of me. And what’s a “proper” game review, anyhow?

I’ll answer that question when I’ve had time to think about it.

 

Game Design and 20 Atari Games

I finally got around to going through this 2008 article by John Harris, in which he discusses 20 Atari games and their impact on game design. Many of these are classics you’ve probably heard of before (Asteroids, Gauntlet, Marble Madness, etc.) whereas some are relatively obscure (Quantum, Qwak, Skull & Crossbones). The article is a treasure trove for budding game designers who may not be familiar with these older games, though Mr. Harris’ discussions about them can wander. Clicking through 23 pages is annoying, but I appreciate his logical divisions of the subject matter. The first three pages are his introduction and a bit of Atari history. The remainder covers one game per page, which are divided “pre Crash” and “post Crash,” meaning before and after the great 1983 game crash.

Atari’s History

As he mentioned in his intro, this piece is about Atari Games’ arcade efforts. If you’re at all familiar with the company brand, then you know it has a Byzantine history, with several ownership changes over several decades. So you won’t find any information about Atari’s many console or computer games here. (I wrote a brief post about the Atari 2600 if you’re interested in the home console. And of course, you can relieve those glory years with a Flashback console.)

Here is the list of games Harris discusses, linked to the appropriate page in the article:

“Pre Crash Games”

“Post Crash Games”

Commentary on the Article

Mr. Harris style is an unusual mixture of early games journalism (“I find this to be unspeakably awesome!”), hagiography (“And at its best, Atari Games seemed almost embarrassingly creative”), and nostalgia (“Times certainly have changed”). At the end of the article, there are some comments which are worth reading through. In particular, I was dubious about his claims regarding Asteroids, as was another reader, so Harris clarified what he meant. But these are minor complaints; the gameplay descriptions are worth reading unless you have access to these cabinets to try yourself.

There are various links in the article, in particular, check out the Atari history page. It contains pdfs of game design documents and other historical information about the company. There’s a broken link to David Theur’s interview on the Tempest page, so here it is retrieved via the Wayback Machine. And I took the liberty of finding as many gameplay videos on YouTube and embedding them here.

Sprint 

Asteroids (Game review)

Centipede (Cabinet Overview and Gameplay)

Tempest (Cabinet Overview and Gameplay)

Quantum 

Major Havoc

Qwak

I, Robot

Marble Madness

720 Degrees

Tetris

Klax

S.T.U.N. Runner

Paperboy

Vindicators

Skull & Crossbones

Gauntlet

Batman

Rampart

Gauntlet Legends

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Square Enix to Announce Major Release in 2018

Square Enix hints that it will announce some major titles at some point between April and E3 2018. Dualshockers speculates:

Square Enix is often known for keeping the release dates of its biggest games under wraps for a long time, often defying expectations of fans that wait for those announcements at this or that event or trade show. Yet, some are coming in the next few months according to President and CEO Yosuke Matsuda.

The long promised Kingdom Hearts 3 is a likely candidate, as is the Final Fantasy VII remake. Square Enix also signaled support for Nintendo Switch. Still, with about five months to go before the window opens for these announcements, I’m crossing my fingers we’ll get some news before then.

Kojima’s CIA

Over a MuckRock, there’s an amusing post about some startling similarities between Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear Solid opus and the CIA’s Cold War archives. From the piece:

At MuckRock, we run into a lot of weirdness poking around in the Central Intelligence Agency archives. So much weirdness, in fact, that we’ve coined what’s known as Best’s Law (named after its strongest proponent, Emma Best) that states “With sufficient research, history becomes indistinguishable from a Hideo Kojima game.”

The post goes on to list five instances that should be familiar to fans of the series: everything from super soldiers to super weapons and shadow networks. And maybe even AI…

It’s worth a read if you’re into the real world inspirations behind some of the more fantastic aspects of Metal Gear’s lore.

Longplay: Rez (Dreamcast)

Rez on the Dreamcast, as played by RickyC. Rez is a stylish rails shooter that I remember getting coverage back in the Dreamcast years. But I never played it. The video is about an hour and ten minutes long.

Note the peculiar style of the game, particularly the sound effects. Rez is a sort of musical game in a way. This post at Gamasutra explains more:

What Rez does next with the audio is where it becomes interesting. There aren’t any specific sound effects in the game, at least not in the traditional sense. Rather, the sounds meld into the music itself, with synthesized sounds playing as you shoot that fit the surrounding music and feel like a part of the track.

The player, as a result, feels as if he is affecting the music along with the gameplay, rather than the music being ancillary. This draws the player further into the game, and makes the sound and gameplay feel as one cohesive, intertwined unit, instead of separate entities

Interesting. If it’s still available on Xbox Live, I might add it to the Back Catalog.