Thursday, July 16, 2009

With killer karate katana

This is a good week for LucasArts nostalgia. I've had time to look at some of their old games, a new game, and a new version of an old one.

Tales of Monkey Island, episode 1 (Telltale Games, 2009): Telltale really is the new LucasArts, and not only because it was founded by former LucasArts employees. The puzzles are interesting, and involve thinking more than random combination of everything in sight. The jokes are funny. Loved it.

LOOM (LucasArts, 1990): Games have come a long way from a time when it was okay for the game interface itself to be a puzzle. You interact with objects by playing tunes on an instrument, so before you can actually do anything you must figure out the tunes. Might be interesting, but I'm not going to play further.

The Dig (LucasArts, 1995): Takes itself quite seriously, not in a melodramatic way, but in a responsible adult kind of way. No nonsense, just serious people doing their very serious job. Ie. boring.

The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition (LucasArts, 1990/2009): The updated visuals and sound bring out the classic hidden underneath almost 20 years of dust. It's easier than I remember, either because I've gotten smarter or because I half-remember all the solutions, but it's just as good. Now I want special editions of the sequel, the Indiana Jones games, Sam & Max Hit the Road, and Day of the Tentacle. (And if whoever owns the corpse of Origin is listening: Ultima 7, Ultima Underworld, ..)


Sunday, July 12, 2009

The cautious return of LucasArts

In the early 90's, LucasArts owned the PC adventure game market. Each new title they released broke new ground. First they perfected the straight-forward point-and-click combine-the-what-with-the-what-now??! adventure game with Monkey Island 1 and 2, and Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. Then they really began to innovate, with games like Day of the Tentacle and Sam & Max Hit the Road.

As the 90's ended, LucasArts gave up on adventure games to focus on their Yet Another Bloody Star Wars Game strategy. Other major gaming companies did likewise, leading some people to think that the adventure game today is dead. Not so: the mantle has been picked up by smaller companies such as Telltale Games, who are doing well with LucasArts's old Sam & Max franchise.

Someone at LucasArts must have recently asked themselves: Hey, people used to love us back in '92, whatever happened with that?! So this summer they're re-releasing Monkey Island 1 with modern graphics, they're allowing Telltale Games to make new episodic Monkey Island games, (the first was released this week), and they're releasing their own classics on Steam, the iTunes of PC gaming.

That's fantastic. I'm going to look at some games I didn't play in the 90's, such as LOOM and The Dig. Am I still able to play such old games? At least I'll finally be able to .. uhm, pay for Fate of Atlantis. And the first new game from Telltale looks good, (it's actually funny.) Will be back with more.


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Possibilities for being entertained

About nine years ago I played in a Team Fortress Classic team. TFC was a PC game with a large community of competitive leagues. Our team would meet online to practice and plan tactics, and then compete with other teams in our league. The only difference from a sport was that we weren't getting any excersise out of it. But it was hard, fun, and social.

While I was playing TFC, Jim Rossignol was coaching players in Quake 3, another first-person shooter. He did it so obsessively that it cost him his job, which got him started on a career in gaming journalism. Today he's an editor of the excellent PC gaming blog Rock, Paper, Shotgun, and has written a smart book about online gaming culture.

This Gaming Life is about the social aspect of computer games. Rossignol believes that games are a waste of time, and that's a good thing. They prevent boredom, one of the major challenges of a leisure-based culture, and they give rise to interesting new forms of social interaction.

Rossignol writes about nationally televised Starcraft championships in South Korea, where gaming is part of the mainstream youth culture. We hear about corporate backstabbing in EVE Online, a space adventure MMORPG with its own functional economy, and about the mod community, where fans create their own variations of commercial games.

Unusually for a non-fiction book about a hypable cultural trend, Rossignol's tone is that of a calm and reasoned essay, providing genuine insights into gaming culture. More of that!

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The end of the world, as we know it

The world just ended again. Twice. First with the new mini-series Dead Set, where the survivors of the zombie apocalypse are participants in Big Brother, unaware throughout the first episode that zombies are eating their audience. Nice spin.

Second with Fallout 3, a post-apocalyptic RPG. I'm an impatient gamer. If a game doesn't constantly reward me with points, happy sounds and shiny colors, I lose interest, and go back to something more exciting, like reading a book. But for now I'm having fun exploring the nuclear wasteland of the D.C. area. Based on the game engine from Oblivion, Fallout 3's lush and detailed graphics cover the full range of colors from brown to gray. Broken buildings and roads litter the landscape. Mutants and hopeless people roam about, waiting for you to save, exploit and/or eat them.

I always play the hero in these type of games, even when they give you a choice. "Why, of course I'll save your village from the mutant army without asking anything in return, even though I'm sick, starving, and short on ammo. Don't mention it!" I don't want to explore my inner sociopath. I just don't. Well, maybe I should try it just once. Just for a little while. To see what it's like. Surely that won't make me a .. BAD PERSON?!!

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Sunday, October 5, 2008

Death from overwork

Jesse Venbrux makes strange little computer games and gives them away for free. Go have fun:
  • Karoshi - Where the object on each level is to find a way to kill yourself.
  • Mubbly Tower - Where you construct a tower and must keep it standing while defending against shiny happy enemies with your own shiny happy defenders.
  • Execution - Where you execute a prisoner. Yes.
  • Paperblast - A shooter where you don't control the shooting.
And much more.