Bad Games Played Badly Report – CSI Fatal Conspiracy

I have a weird relationship with adventure games. I should like them. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, I believe that video games can tell compelling stories. And, for the most part, the best (or at least best-regarded) stories in games have been told in adventure games. The Longest Journey. The Walking Dead. Grim Fandango. And so on.

There’s only one problem: many adventure games are incredibly unpleasant to actually play. Because games are supposed to have gameplay of some sort, adventure games are saddled with the idea that they have to be challenging. Instead of just allowing the player to experience the story, these games throw up tedious minigames or, worse, unintuitive puzzles.

Recently I played through the remastered version of Grim Fandango and found myself aghast at the game’s bizarre expectations. Everything else about Grim Fandango–the writing, the art, the voice acting–is fantastic. But it’s shackled to a series of incredibly arbitrary gameplay sections. I hesitate to even call them puzzles. You run around the environment, collecting items and then using those items in a specific order in specific parts of the environment. Some of these make a certain amount of sense, like luring birds with bread and then scaring them when they pop a balloon underneath. But others, like the bizarre shit with betting stubs at the cat racing track, is even more difficult to describe than it is to figure out. I played through the entire game with a guide and, while it made me feel a bit like a loser, I think I enjoyed my time with it way more than if I went in legit.

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Bad Games Played Badly Report: Star Trek

I started watching Star Trek when I was seven years old. The year was 1992. I didn’t know it at the time–or if I did, I didn’t understand the significance–but Gene Roddenberry had died just a year before. Star Trek: The Next Generation was winding down its heyday, Deep Space Nine was months away. I was immediately hooked. I devoured new episodes, re-reruns, previous films, and VHS tapes that I could rent with a couple of episodes from the original series. Back then, it was all great. I even read the licensed books. God help me, I read the licensed books.

I know exactly when I stopped caring about Star Trek. I can put a year on it–1998–because that the year Star Trek Insurrection came out Voyager fully committed to its bizarre obsession with its new character, Seven of Nine. Those were my breaking points. I kept watching Deep Space Nine through its end in 1999, but after that I was done with the franchise.

My instinct is to say that I grew out of Star Trek, but I don’t think that’s fair. That instinct is based on a positively inexplicable embarrassment I still have about being a former trekkie. It’s hard for me to admit how much I liked Star Trek, and especially that I’d probably still like it if I went back and revisited the right parts.

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Explaining My New Venture, BAD GAMES PLAYED BADLY

Everyone knows the tale of E.T. for the Atari 2600. The film took the world by storm and Atari rushed to develop a licensed game to ride the coattails of its success. Atari spent millions acquiring the rights, churning out a game in under six months, and printing out as many copies as possible. It was supposed to be a smash hit but the game was bad and poorly tested, so instead it was an expensive failure that became the figurehead of an industry-wide crash.

Mulder, it's a bomb!

Mulder, it’s a bomb!

While E.T. was a disaster, video game companies kept coming back to the same idea: strap a successful license onto a bad game and the bad game will sell tons. They were probably right, at least up to a point, because the history of video games is littered with mediocre-to-awful licensed brawlers, shooters, adventure games, and action/platformers. There are games based on The Sopranos, CSI, Prison Break, Rocky, Jaws, The Godfather, Deadliest Catch, The History Channel, and Reservoir Fucking Dogs. Among others.

And X-Files.

And X-Files.

So I’m going to be streaming them. And writing about them.

I’m doing this for a lot of reasons: to promote my own upcoming game, to learn from the mistakes made by sloppy or bad games, to make gifs to post to twitter, to indulge in masochism, and because a lot of these games are dirt cheap these days. After all, like E.T. they were probably produced well in excess of demand.

I’ve already started up with X-Files: Resist or Serve as you might guess from the gifs I’ve interspersed throughout. And I already have a few more games lined up after that. It will be mostly a mixture of PS2/PS3 titles, but I have all sorts of systems available if I stumble upon the right game. If you’re interested in following me live, my efforts can be found at twitch.tv/RedbirdMenace but there will be gifs posted on twitter after each session, and write-ups here (probably with video) as I go along.

I do not remember this episode

I do not remember this episode

I don’t have a microphone yet, so for the moment the streams won’t have commentary. But I’m looking to maybe expand into doing commentary as well, and for now it’s all the easier to hear the bad voice acting. Generally, I will be playing blind but, in full disclosure, I will not stop myself from using in-game cheats to complete games with restrictive save points if they’re available. No one wants to watch me beat my head against a wall forever, and I’m more interested in seeing all the terrible content rather than the challenge. I’ll

Games up ahead will (probably) include The Sopranos: Road to Respect, Star Trek (starring Zachary Quinto), 24, and others! If you have any requests, feel free to let me know.

And God help me.

One Weird Trick to Writing Too Many Words About Duke Nukem 3d

Duke Nukem 3d was released for the Playstation 3 and Vita last week–free for PS+ members–and it caught me totally off guard. I’d forgotten that anyone really cared about Duke Nukem anymore.  I certainly didn’t think that, in the wake of the abysmal Duke Nukem Forever, there would be enough fond memories of the franchise to port even the best-regarded installment to the goddamned Vita.

I don’t have a ton of great memories from Duke Nukem 3d.  I’ve always been more of a console gamer, which means that I missed the Duke zeitgeist.  It also means that I first played the game on the N64. Feel free to write off all my opinions for this reason. I don’t really care; I played the PC version a year later and nothing of value was really lost in the port.

Less important than the platform was the timing. Since my first experience with Duke Nukem 3d was the N64 port, I came to the game a year and a half after it was released. And that was a year too late. Duke Nukem 3d was a product of a very specific time in pop culture and video game development and there was really no going back.

Duke Nukem 3d was released in January of 1996.  At the time, it was the zenith of FPS development. It was the natural progression from Wolfenstein 3d to Doom to Hexen and all sorts of other similarly-designed titles. Duke specifically used the Build Engine, which improved upon Doom Engine/id tech 1 to allow for better “faking” of three dimensional space.  The Build Engine was a hell of an achievement for its day.  The only problem? Quake released five months later.

Quake, unlike Duke Nukem and other Build Engine games, featured actual 3d rendering and processing. I can’t overstate how much of an effect Quake had on everything that came afterwards. If you want to know how important the Quake Engine was, just look at this chart.

In a lot of ways, Duke Nukem was made obsolete less than six months after it was released.  Sure, more Build Engine games were released (Blood, Shadow Warrior) but the 2.5d shooter was dying.  If you didn’t catch Duke before you tried Quake, you were in for a bit of a disappointment.

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A Top 10 List of 2014 Games, Because The World Totally Needs Another One of Those

I already know what my 2015 Game of the Year will be, because I put it in the title. But what about 2014? I feel silly doing a top 10 list, because the idea is so overplayed and the internet is so full of lists that I might as well be throwing a stone into a giant pile of similarly-sized and otherwise unremarkable stones.  However, now that I’m trying to make a game and half-heartedly market it, I thought it might be a good idea to give everyone an idea of what I like.  And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that my top 10 list would be scattershot enough that I doubt there is another exactly like it.

For a lot of folks, 2014 was a disappointing year.  Some games were delayed. Others should have been.  Buggy and underwhelming releases abound.  I’ve seen several people comment that it was hard to even come up with 10 games to put on a top 10 list.  I didn’t have that problem, but I guess I’m not picky.  Or maybe I’m just weird.  Sure, AC Unity had a shitty framerate.  Driveclub and Master Chief Collection were broken.  Watch_Dogs fell so short of the hype that I almost forgot it existed while I was coming up with this list. But for the most part, those weren’t games I cared about that much anyway.  But in the end, I thought 2014 wasn’t too bad.  So here are my top 10 games of the year.

Disclaimers:

There are a lot of games I simply didn’t play this year that might have made it onto the list, based on what I know about them.  I haven’t even touched Tropico 5, The Evil Within, Alien Isolation, Civilization: Beyond Earth, Titanfall, Sunset Overdrive, Divinity: Original Sin, and D4 because either I didn’t have time or didn’t have the proper platform (a better PC or Xbox One).

Of special note here is Far Cry 4, which I am now a few hours into.    The opening missions were fun and I’ve heard it’s mostly just more Far Cry 3, which sounds great me. If you disagree with any of my picks, just replace it with Far Cry 4.

Beware, large gifs ahead.

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