Gaming History 101

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Feature: Max Payne – A New Perspective

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Growing up, I played Max Payne for the excitement I got out of the gameplay, that slow motion diving and shooting mechanic. It felt perfect when I was in my teens playing these games for the first time. It was over-the-top action fun. I wasn’t looking for realism or a great story, I just wanted to shoot things. The Max Payne games were a perfect fit with their smooth and methodical gunplay.

I’ve played through Max Payne 1 and 2 about four times each, always playing the second title just after the first. It isn’t hard to do. Each game is only about 5 to 6 hours long. If I wasn’t completing one of the games in less than 6 hours it sure as hell felt like I was.

Other things that kept me coming back were the locales. They’re iconic and memorable – a frozen New York City, a grimy subway station, a sleazy hotel, an old church turned gothic nightclub, just to name a few.

“Life knows two miseries: getting what you don’t want and not getting what you want.”

Even though the locales were iconic, the gameplay superb, and the playtimes short, the story of Max Payne was something I had never paid attention to. I haven’t played the first two games in years, but I recently went back and finished them again before playing Max Payne 3.

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Written by Fred Rojas

November 17, 2012 at 1:22 pm

Review: Sherlock Homes Consulting Detective (Sega CD)

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Console: Sega-CD/Mega-CD
Released: 1992
Developer: ICOM Simulations
Publisher: Sega (Sega/Mega-CD)
Instruction Manual: Not necessary
Difficulty: Moderate
Played it as a child? Yes
Value: $5.99 (used) $11.99 (new) (pricecharting.com) – Price for Sega CD version only
Price: $5.00-$10.00 (used) N/A on US Version (new) on eBay
Other Releases: FM Towns (original release, Japan only), DOS/MAC, Commodore CDTV, Turbografx-16 CD
Digital Release? Yes – an updated version with better video quality released on PC, Mac OS X, and iPad in late Sept. 2012

Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective is a bit of an anomaly in the realm of video games.  Much like Myst, the game premiered on CD-based consoles and computers to show off the benefits of the new technology, but was much less of a game than it was an interactive form of media.  A basic interface allowed the player to navigate various options and view content (mostly video) in order to solve one of the popular cases that originally appeared in the novel by the same name.  To show off all of the fancy marvels of a multimedia CD-ROM title there was complete focus on showing off content rather than optimizing any aspect of the game for quick playing, resulting in a few simple actions taking ridiculous amounts of time to accomplish.  I was recording gameplay videos for this article last night and it took more than 30 mins just to capture the “tutorial” that includes many icons, each with its own slow loading audio (no subtitles) background, and a video from Sherlock Holmes himself.  It was so slow-paced and boring to capture, I made the executive decision that it would be even more boring to watch and scrapped the video.  Don’t let this discourage you, especially with the re-releases likely having no load times, Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective is a thought-provoking hybrid between the adventure genre and the full motion video (FMV) game.

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Now & Then: American McGee’s Alice

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Now & Then is a series where we dissect the culture of a specific series or genre or compare an influential game from the past and how it holds up today.

Then

It’s a bit wierd that American McGee (yes, that’s his real name as far as I know) was given an opportunity to be a Creative Director on this ambitious project, even moreso as an early project with EA.  He began his career at idworking mostly in level design for many of the first person shooter series that I grew up playing: Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Quake.  He was fired from id for reasons not known and eventually ended up at Electronic Arts, where after a few sound design and writing projects he was given a large budget and the role of Creative Director for Alice.  Why EA back then agreed to put his name as part of the title or allowed him to create such a vivid project (in the Quake III engine, for irony’s sake) is beyond me, but it was a solid and pivotal decision.  American McGee’s Alice is one of the darkest, most twisted games I’ve ever played and takes the story begun by Lewis Carroll more than a century prior and turns it on its head.  To be fair, Wonderland has never been a “normal” place, begot mostly of fantasy concepts and mind-altered states, but I never felt that violence, murder, and insanity were heavy themes.  While the gameplay wasn’t spectacular even at the time, the imagery and graphics impressed gamers enough to sell more than 1.5 million copies.

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Written by Fred Rojas

June 26, 2012 at 2:15 pm

Posted in Now & Then, PC/Mac, Reviews

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Review: Abobo’s Big Adventure (PC/Mac/Flash)

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There have been a lot of games, especially in the indie scene, that harken back to the days of 8-bit and 16-bit systems.  Some do an incredible job of capturing that retro feel, developer Way Forward should be commended for work on titles like Contra 4, and other efforts like Capcom’s Dark Void Zero attempt to take modern game design and give it that retro flair.  Those are major companies, though, the small team indie developers are much more miss than hit, so you go into a title like Abobo’s Big Adventure with the overused term “cautiously optimistic”.  Fortunately the teams of I-Mockery (design/sound/story), Pestoforce (programming) and Pox Box (art/animation) have created exactly what was advertised: the ultimate tribute to the NES.

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Written by Fred Rojas

February 24, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Posted in PC/Mac, Reviews

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Day 12

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On the twelfth day of Christmas my memories gave to me…

A Twelve Floppy Disk Game!

In 1994 my father decided that it was high time to replace that old Commodore 64 (which wasn’t even considered a PC anymore) with a brand new Pentium 90 mhz PC.  I remember coming downstairs on Christmas morning and there it was, a beautiful boxy white machine with a VGA monitor, printer, and took up all the space our wide oak desk could spare.  CD-ROM was brand new and this bad boy came equipped with it and a few initial CDs, including Myst and an Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia.  At that time, however, not every game came in the CD version and many PC gamers were selling off their floppy disc versions of games to upgrade.  It was at this time that I became enamoured with PC gaming and began stopping by the used PC game shop near my part-time job and blowing my money on classics.

Aside from the first-person shooters that my mother hated, think Doom and Duke Nukem 3D, I was very interested in any game that had a fantasy setting.  While console games at the time had plenty of variety, true Dungeons & Dragons-style games seemed more fun to me in a point-and-click world.  I first got my hands on Warcraft, which was fun online and all, but real-time strategy (RTS) games just weren’t my style.  Then one of my friends introduced me to a little game called King’s Quest, one of the longest running Sierra point-and-click adventure games.  It looked so cool and seemed to add a depth I had never seen before.  I dropped by the used computer store and the newest game, King’s Quest VII, was available on CD for $40.  That was way too high for my liking, so I looked to see if there were any games used.  To my surprise there was King’s Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow on floppy for like $10, which intrigued me not only in price but with the clever pun.  I bought it and brought it home.

Floppy games that released near the CD age were always huge, many of them taking 9+ floppy discs to install under MS-DOS, an alternative mode to Windows 3.1 on early 586/Pentium PCs.  King’s Quest VI was an enormous 12 floppy discs and took more than 20 minutes to install.  The wait was worth it, though, because the game opened with a fully animated cutscene, complete with voice acting, and the entire game looked to me like Dragon’s Lair in a playable form.  I would also later discover that the writer of the game, the amazing Roberta Williams, also had some horror games including Phantasmagoria, a massive 7 CD title in its own right.  King’s Quest VI wasn’t the only game this large, either, many titles from the early days of PCs were purchased or traded in floppy disk form.  You would always want to back up your disks, twice, because the damn things had a tendency to go bad and that was usually on disk 11 of 12, when you had already wasted so much time.

<- Go back to the eleventh day                                                                 Home

Written by Fred Rojas

December 25, 2011 at 11:16 am

Now & Then: Resident Evil 3 Nemesis

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Now & Then is different from both a retrospective and a review.  It tackles games you probably already know and is a place for gamers to discuss these games.  Below is an overview of a game’s presence in the market then and now.  Authors of these articles share their personal experience, so we encourage all of you to do the same in the comments.

Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (RE3) gets the worst treatment within the series because it was released on the tail end of the Playstation cycle and as the third release in as many years (most people remember RE‘s re-release, the Director’s Cut, more than the initial release), there really wasn’t that much new brought to the table.  Having said that, it was the most polished title on the Playstation and finally made the concept attempted in RE2 a reality.  With a few slight tweaks, like the ability to flip a quick 180 and a much more agile Jill Valentine, RE3 felt a lot more like games of the time.  Unfortunately with the diluting of the franchise via frequent releases and the fact that the game looked identical to the first two on the box, it just didn’t hold players’ interest.

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Written by Fred Rojas

October 26, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Now & Then: Resident Evil 2

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Now & Then is different from both a retrospective and a review.  It tackles games you probably already know and is a place for gamers to discuss these games.  Below is an overview of a game’s presence in the market then and now.  Authors of these articles share their personal experience, so we encourage all of you to do the same in the comments.

Resident Evil 2 (RE2) hit the market with a steep price; like other series favorite RE4, this title was scrapped and redone after it was more than 60 percent complete.  In order to keep hype and demand strong for the series after the extremely popular original, the sequel began production one month after the release of Resident Evil.  This first version, dubbed Resident Evil 1.5 by Capcom when production stills and videos released, featured a similar plot without crisscrossing paths.  Leon was still the male protagonist and Elza, a motorcyclist college student, as an early version of what would eventually become Claire Redfield.  Graphically the game was much uglier, looking the same (or worse) than the original, but only so that more zombies could appear on-screen.  In 1.5 Umbrella had already closed down, the outbreak still occurred, and the police station looked a lot more modern.  Players could equip different clothing, which changed their appearance (as did combat damage).  There were also many more survivors for players to encounter along the way, some of which played new roles in the final version of RE2.  Producer Shinji Mikami scrapped the project when it was near beta (60-80 percent completion) because he found gameplay and locations to be “dull and boring”¹.  Originally the series was supposed to end with the sequel, but supervisor Yoshiki Okamoto wanted a more open-ended series.  As a result Elza became Claire Redfield to connect to the first game and the plot was made more big budget movie style to get Capcom to the 2 million copy sales goal.  Graphics were updated, adding more polygons to each character, and items were made much more scarce to increase tension and fear.  Since it would miss the planned early 1997 release date, the Resident Evil: Director’s Cut and Complete Edition were released instead and included a demo of RE2.

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Written by Fred Rojas

October 25, 2011 at 10:12 am

Now & Then: Resident Evil

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Now & Then is different from both a retrospective and a review.  It tackles games you probably already know and is a place for gamers to discuss these games.  Below is an overview of a game’s presence in the market then and now.  Authors of these articles share their personal experience, so we encourage all of you to do the same in the comments.

“You have once again entered the world of survival horror…”

Those famous words set up a genre that has undergone more definitions than probably any other in video games.  Depending on your personal taste in titles, survival horror can mean different things but it was used first and defined by Resident Evil¹.  This game was basically a haunted house brought to life and has spawned a series that many gamers, myself included, follow endlessly.  Despite the direction of the series not holding well with fans of the originals and a slew of poorly made films, Resident Evil lingers on, if only in our nostalgic minds.

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Written by Fred Rojas

October 24, 2011 at 11:14 am