Nostalgia For Sale

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After purchasing a few games on the GOG sale last week, Steam has started up its Summer Sale to entice me into buying a few more games that I probably won’t ever play past tonight. Buying games for me is an addiction and I might need help but, for now, I think I’m just happy that I can catch up with some old favorites and catch up on some games that I have never played before.

I ended up buying Crysis and Star Wars: Dark Forces last week during the GOG sale. Dark Forces got me nostalgic for old Quake engine games so this week I ended up buying Quake 1 and Quake 2 from Steam. I was never much of a PC gamer because my dad, a photographer, always bought Macs and they weren’t meant for gaming, or at least that is what he always told me. I also picked up Abzu and Half-Life 1 during the Steam sale.

I just played about an hour of Quake 1 and it is still fun to be in those old environments. The gameplay is pretty solid and it doesn’t look terrible on my gaming rig. I tried to bump up the frame rate but it didn’t work so I started searching around the Steam forums for tips and it surprised me that people are still really into Quake. People mod that game to make it look presentable on newer PCs, some even have taken to making old mods work on new machines, and I got stuck on one topic reading about how to make the official soundtrack from Nine Inch Nails work on modern machines that don’t use CD audio.

Suffice it to say, Quake is still very much loved by people and that makes me really happy as a person who loves games. I am heartened by the fact that so many people out there are doing the work to make games like this playable for chumps like me who have no desire to put in the leg work. I wish companies would set aside funds to keep their old projects alive or, at least, allow the community to do so without fear of litigious consequences.

Abzu is gorgeous!

Even if I don’t ever play my Steam version of Quake again, I’m happy that I was transported back to junior high once more. I’m happy that I found a copy of the soundtrack and put that in for 20 minutes. I’m glad that the internet is still open enough for me to be able to recreate my past for a few minutes. It seems like with the way things are going things might not always be this easy.  

I Don’t Really Need Any More Information

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When it was announced that Masaya Matsuura, the creator of PaRappa the Rapper and Keiichi Yano who created Gitaroo Man were getting together for a new project titled Project Rap Rabbit I didn’t need to see anything more than the teaser trailer that accompanied the announcement.

After seeing this concept gameplay video that was released last week I am excited for this game to be made. I have never donated to a Kickstarter and I might just be part of the problem but I am also not someone who gets overly excited about games even though I consider myself a video game maniac. There is something about this game that just touches me in the right place.

I can remember playing the PaRappa the Rapper demo a thousand times when I first got my PlayStation because I didn’t have enough money to actually buy any games. I think NanaOn-Sha brings back those memories for me whenever I play one of their games. I really love Yano’s rapping in this video and I hope that they will stick with his voice for the finished product, or at least make it an unlockable.

Sadly it was announced on June 20th that Project Rap Rabbit did not make it’s campaign goal on Kickstarter but “I gotta believe!” that this game will get picked up in the future. I would love to see this game done right no matter on what console it calls home.

The Future of Japanese Programming

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Tokyo University had a children’s programming workshop Sunday, June 18 according to NHK. The event was meant to help encourage children’s interest in the IT field because starting in 2020 will usher in new curriculum set forth by the Education Ministry (MEXT) which includes changes that will allow students to take part in these kinds programming activities.

The event was coordinated by Tokyo University research staff and faculty. Around 100 elementary school students joined the event.

The students were tasked with programming a small robot with simple instructions like forward, back, left and right. The children had to avoid obstacles while making it to the goal. (Even though the video is in Japanese, you can easily see the course.) They worked with one another to get the robot to move in the right direction. Of course, you can see in the video that there was a lot of cheering each other on to make it to the goal.

One third grader said, “I thought about how I was going to make it move first and I was really happy that I figured it out on my own. I would really love to have this kind of class at my school.”

The Most American Console is Bringing Back the Most American Controller (read: fat)

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It has been announced that “The Duke,” one of the worst controllers ever made is making a comeback later this year. The news coincides with Microsoft’s announcement that they will be bringing original Xbox games to the Xbox One. (Fuck! Microsoft’s naming conventions are stupid.)

Hyperkin, an accessory maker, has announced a partnership with Microsoft to bring an updated version of “The Duke” to the Xbox One. The new controller will feature the required additional buttons needed for the Xbox One, a recharge cable (which means it will be wireless), and a logo display screen…I have no idea what this is. Is it just going to be like the PS4’s touch-pad but even more useless?

I never actually owned “The Duke.” I purchased my original Xbox after Microsoft started putting the smaller Controller S into their American retail boxes. I definitely used one of the bulky controllers and never really liked it even then, which makes me wonder why they are doing this. Are that many people going to buy a crappy controller based on nostalgia?

Microsoft have a lot going for them I am interested in their new console and they seem to be the only console maker that is making a concerted effort to collect their back-catalog in one place, which I very much support. I don’t really think putting out a controller that everyone hated 20 years ago is the best move, which might be why they are partnering with another company to do so instead of wasting their own money putting out the thing themselves.

The Power Glove was much more of a beloved controller that was ten times more useless than “The Duke” but even it has never had a reissue. We might be witnessing the downfall of western civilization before our eyes. John Wayne is probably rolling in his grave right now.

Japanese Junk Food and Trials Fusion

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I’ve been playing some Ubisoft games since they were having a free weekend. Join me as I get my last bit of free usage from Trials Fusion. Also, I’m gonna stuff my face with some ramen…if you like that sort of thing.

Watch live video from OWR_Games on www.twitch.tv

Telltale’s Engine Was a Telltale Joke and a Liability

For years, Telltale Games has been doing god’s work by making fun and engaging episodic stories for video game consoles, computers, cell phones, and any thing else that could run their proprietary engine. At times it seemed as though Telltale games were being ported to nearly as many devices as Doom. It says a lot that a proprietary engine would end up being malleable enough to make so many leaps to so many different consoles and across generations. But, that same engine has become a liability for the company as we saw recently when Telltale laid off a quarter of its workforce.

I have been playing Telltale games since the Sam & Max games were announced. Telltale Games preached to the masses that they were going to bring about the long desired model of episodic gaming and many were excited about the prospect of a video game that could be played like TV is consumed; in small compact bites. Episodic gaming is an idea that had been a glint in the eyes of the video game industry for years but had never really been done in a way that worked (see Half-Life and SiN Episodes).

Sam & Max finally made that dream come true for one developer. Telltale become the one company that you could count on to actually finish their episodic stories and, for those of us who had been burnt by other developers on our episodic dreams, it was a welcome form of storytelling.

Back to the Future was the first Telltale game that I played to completion near to its actual release. (I am not a person who plays games day-and-date.) I enjoyed the game immensely but I did see some issues with the engine during my play though on the PS3 at the time. While BttF had some issues, it didn’t stop me from seeing the good points of the episodic way of storytelling in games.

Back to the Future and Jurassic Park were two games that showed us how dated the Telltale engine had become and these games came out before Telltale’s massively popular The Walking Dead was berthed into the gaming conscience.

The Walking Dead came out at a perfect time for Telltale. The comic and the TV series had both become cultural touchstones and the game’s focus on player choice and accessibility made the game easy for almost any fan of the series to get into.

It was around this time that Telltale had become the darling of licensed video games within the industry. They obtained licenses for many beloved franchises; they were chosen as “the” studio to put out a cheap, assessable games for nearly any premier property. It’s almost as if Telltale games had taken over for the cheap licensed game…game of the late 90’s and early 2000’s. But, many reviewers and fans alike had started to see the cracks in the engine.

Patrick Klepek, for me one of the ultimate Telltale reviewers, has bemoaned the Telltale engine for quite a while now while still enjoying parts of nearly all of their games. He wrote an article on Waypoint back in April concerning the issues he saw with the engine while he was playing through Guardians of the Galaxy.

Telltale’s history of hobbled tech goes back a ways, too. A source told me that even as the company was riding the success of The Walking Dead, their engine didn’t have a physics system. (Telltale has their own proprietary technology, it doesn’t use Unity, Unreal, or something else off the shelf.) If a designer came up with a scene requiring a ball to roll across the floor, or a book to fall off a shelf, it had to done by hand, an enormous time and resource commitment.

 

It’s my understanding that little has changed since, but Telltale didn’t respond to my request for comment.

Patrick was one of the early reviewers of The Walking Dead that was excited for the series and the innovative style of storytelling that Telltale was implementing with The Walking Dead series and how it has changed the way their games tell a story.

Telltale itself announced that Batman: The Telltale Series would feature a heavily updated version of its engine but even this doesn’t seem to have solved the issues for Telltale because as the Gamasutra article that announced the layoff informed,

Additionally, the company says the restructuring will be used as a way to shift the technology it uses for its own internal projects, saying that it aims to move over “to more proven technologies that will fast-track innovation in its core products.”

It is good that the company is moving on to new and “more proven technologies” but it is always sad when so many people lose their jobs. If Telltale had implemented these changes earlier could they have saved some of these jobs? Will these changes make for better more easily produced games? Who knows.

I’m glad Telltale Games is finally moving on from their old engine which provided some pretty good licensed titles and even some interesting original content. Hopefully they can get back to putting out quality stories without the technology getting in the way.

You can watch my play through of The Walking Dead: Season One Episode Three and Four here: