This week Fred and Jam begin to tackle the evolution of genres. One of the biggest and earliest influences is definitely the Platformer. In this episode they discuss the early instances, gameplay mechanics, and eventually what comes to define the genre. In what will have to be a multi-part series, this episode covers a majority of 1978-1990.
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When Grand Theft Auto III hit the Playstation 2 in 2001 it was unlike anything we had seen before. Sure, the sandbox concept had been dabbled with from time to time and by the name alone it’s clear that Grand Theft Auto had been an established franchise, car stealing and hooker beating included. It was GTA III that put everything together and re-established the concept of 3D world building and open variety of player choice. Despite all the freedom of GTA III – not to mention the fact that most of my friends have explored Liberty City and put tens of hours into the game but never played more than the first handful of missions – it’s a very linear game. Not only that, but as missions progress the game gets quite difficult and the open alive city is a drawback to completing missions. That’s where Volition and Saint’s Row step in to attempt the next step: an open world where everything you do from running around to side missions affect the main story.
Saint’s Row began life in 2003 as a PS2 game called Bling Bling. Senior producer Greg Donovan discussed the genesis of the title at GDC 2014 and the difficulty of pitching the game to THQ, which up to this point had not published anything like it. Donovan and his team envisioned a game about a free world and all the minutia that make up that open world to recreate the gangster lifestyle. The actual phrasing from the pitch video was, “Bling Bling is a third person action game about style, music, gangs, and guns. It is the video game equivalent to a rap music video.” Donovan and developer interviews since haven’t been too forthcoming with how the game eventually became a sandbox open world game, but given that both GTA III and Vice City were already out when Bling Bling began development it almost makes sense that it would take on the same style.
This week Fred gets stuck at work so Jam takes over hosting duties and teams up with 42 Level One’s Andy to discuss games that need to come back. Now they are both European, so expect a good deal of Sega titles as well as some audience participation. Actually Fred is a little worried he may no longer have a job, guess we’ll see next week.
Last week developer Volition, best known for the Saint’s Row franchise, discussed its canceled game on PSP Saint’s Row Undercover. It started out as a PSP port of the second game in the series, but expanded into something more. In addition, the company sat down with magazine Game Informer and turned a standard interview into a 4-part nearly hour long documentary on the company. In addition, Volition released a 122 page PDF that is basically a design doc and walkthrough of the title. With all of this amazing transparency, and the release of the prototype itself online, we just had to take a look.
I would love to give you a crazy video that details all of the wacky things you can do, but honestly the game lacks any true definition. Now to be fair, it shouldn’t have any definition, it was a game the developer was prototyping for potential release and then was canned. I take this moment and brief write-up to mention it only because people have asked me in the past why I haven’t covered Resident Evil 1.5 (ie: Resident Evil 2′s original version) and other unreleased demos/alphas/prototypes that have been set free on the Internet and it’s basically because not much is there. The story, design docs, interviews, and concepts of what Resident Evil 4 or Saint’s Row Undercover could have been are fantastic and interesting, but what remains that can be played are shells of a game. Anyway the links are there, have fun with it, personally I find it to be derivative of the Grand Theft Auto “Stories” games that came out on PSP, but then early on that’s all Saint’s Row was until it defined itself. It also gives me an opportunity to cover Volition and Saint’s Row all week, so stay tuned for some wacky articles.
Altered Beast was a game that lived in screenshots. Like it or not, the arcade System 16 classic was less known for the roller skating rinks, bars, and bowling alleys that it was intended to get popular on and instead became the poster child for early Genesis advertising. I say this as someone who was under 10 years old at the time it premiered, though, so perhaps it was burning up the arcades, but all I seem to remember was it coming home. I did get a chance to play the title in coin-op form at my local bowling alley, but after a handful of attempts that never got me further than the second level I gave up on replaying the game. When it came home, however, I needed it on my Genesis and I replayed it constantly. In fact, for a game that is not only easy but also quick to complete (probably about 30 minutes), I find myself replaying it more than most other games from my past. This even more odd given that, sadly, Altered Beast is not a very good game.
The premise is that of a centurion of Greece brought back by Zeus to save Athena, his daughter, who has been kidnapped. Upon your resurrection, you now gain the ability to take the form of different animals in a sort of “were-” hybrid (werewolf, weredragon, werebear, etc) that can be accomplished by collecting power-ups in the level. Beyond that Altered Beast is nothing more than a walk to the right and beat up everything in your path game, often known today as a brawler, but given that it pre-dates most of the Konami licensed brawlers and Capcom’s Final Fight, it was significant for the time. Levels can vary in length, but if you know the game in the least – and what needs to be done – you’ll clear each one in 5 minutes or less. Given that there’s only 5 levels, that’s a short time span. When I refer to knowing what needs to be done, that’s the need to destroy the albino wolves in each level, which contain the power-ups needed to make your character’s strength grow and eventually trigger “beast mode.” Each level rotation has 3 albino wolves and it takes 3 power-ups to go into beast mode, so you have to do it right the first time through or go through another rotation of the level that is usually harder than the first. Beast mode refers to your character transforming into the aforementioned were-beasts from earlier and has even crept its way into pop culture as a meme. While there are new enemies in each level, they all take basically the same amount of hits to defeat and aside form some basic change in behavior, don’t differentiate very much. That’s still not to say this game didn’t have talent behind it because designer Makoto Uchida would earn some notoriety for his future work on Golden Axe and a personal favorite Dynamite Deka (Die Hard Arcade series). Co-designer Hirokazu Yasuhara is even more notable with his planning and design on the early Sonic the Hedgehog titles before moving on and being involved in the design of Jak & Daxter titles with Naughty Dog and eventually the first Uncharted.
This week on Lost Treasures of Gaming David Perry of Shiny Entertainment was on to discuss Earthworm Jim. Fred decides to show off his copy of the “Special Edition” playing on his Sega CD.
This was captured on an actual console playing an actual game, no emulation. The Lost Treasures of Gaming Podcast can be found at http://www.omgnexus.com
I was an avid Magic: The Gathering fan since the day it released. While I jumped in at the tail end of Unlimited, the first run of the game, my friends and I really jumped in at the Revised edition that combined a majority of the core Unlimited set and integrated the then two expansions Arabian Nights and Antiquities. If you are a Magic: The Gathering first release player, the most intriguing, powerful, and expensive cards exist in the pre-Revised era. This is why when Microprose released Magic: The Gathering game in April of 1997, which was based purely on the Unlimited set, my friends and I were ecstatic. Couple that with the reduced price update, Spells of the Ancients, that added Arabian Nights and Antiquities in September 1997, we all had nostalgia for a game that was only about 4 years old. I think the biggest factor is the what Magic: The Gathering is – a card-based game that lives and dies by the introduction of new sets and consistently selling cards to players – and the fact that these early power cards were super expensive and we all wanted a way to play with them, that I instantly migrated over. Furthermore, it was the first true Magic: The Gathering video game (all other attempts were other types of games with M:TG skins) that gave you everything you wanted: deck construction, online play, tournaments, and even a pseudo-RPG called Shandalar. It’s now available to play on modern systems, and free (provided you are willing to skate legalities), and I had a chance to jump back into one of my favorite high school PC games. For those not familiar with Magic: The Gathering, the next portion of this article is a brief history and explanation of the game (not how to play), but if you’re familiar, feel free to skip to the game section that follows.
One of BioWare’s largest gaming achievements would have to be Mass Effect. In the follow-up to Jade Empire, and after 3 years of development, the original premiered on Xbox 360 and established the closest example to Star Trek in gaming. An entire universe was literally developed for the series and despite some stumbles here and there, the Mass Effect series is of the most notable from last generation. Join Fred, Jam, and special guest Me10dee as they delve into the world of Commander Shepard.