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Latest Q&A update on the Cyberganked Greenlight page is here: https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/updates/438139803/1433221764. I answered some questions that Moop asked.
I’m putting the character role-playing game I’m making onto Steam Greenlight, in the hopes that it gets on Steam proper. This is not the first time I’ve tried to put something on Steam. Long before the Greenlight program, I submitted Cryptozookeeper into their old system and got a rejection letter. I’ll give the old process this: they were quick. Before I had even finished filling out the form on the old system they e-mailed me a picture of someone in Bellevue making the “cut him off” gesture.
You can experience the Greenlight page for Cyberganked by clicking here. There’s a trailer on the page that I haven’t posted to Jolt Country, along with some screenshots.
Cyberganked is an RPG made with the Hugo programming language, which is what I’ve used for the last few games. I’m calling it a text adventure / RPG hybrid to keep all my options open. I guess the difference is that you won’t have to think of new verbs like you would in a normal text adventure. You’ll have all the commands you need in Cyberganked from the beginning.
Robb’s works are not for everyone, but they’re for the intelligent, good people. So the problem kind of works itself out. I interviewed him for a documentary on interactive fiction a number of years back, and his works before and since have been hilarious buffets of viciousness, intelligence and humor. I can’t recommend his way of doing things enough, and his consistency in working on these projects is admirable. Support this guy! — Jason Scott
I wanted to thank everyone that has commented and retweeted links and encouraged me through the process. I anticipated lots of Greenlight comments saying how much the game sucked and by extension how much I suck. Instead, I’ve already been getting great feedback. I’ll be putting updates here and there as I don’t think there’s a whole lot of overlap between this blog and the Greenlight page.
Cyberganked is a ways away from being finished, but I wanted to get it approved for Steam early. If you have a chance to vote that’d be awesome. (Greenlight Downvoter is in the game as a level six enemy, so if you ever wanted to be represented in a video game that’s your big chance. I’d still appreciate the yes vote, though.)
Unlike communism, your votes truly matter. I’m psyched as I can be to make this the best game I’ve ever worked on. I don’t care if the thing makes money — it’d be nice to break even. Steam allows me to have my games seen by more people, and that’s its value to me. It will get into the hands of people who would otherwise never experience them.
pfff — Sigurd
Pfff indeed, friends.
My friend Jason recently tweeted that Mike Berlyn is fighting cancer and just had a stroke. He encouraged us to say thanks. I’d like to say thanks.
Read the rest of this entry »
Douglas E. Smith has died. This news was broken by people at Tozai Games, who handle the mobile platform ports of his game. The news was picked up by the copy and paste video game sites … and they added nothing to it. Kotaku, Gamasutra and Polygon could run massively moronic screeds about how much they’d awkwardly like to turn the word “gamer” into an epithet, but not a single one of them could even produce as much as a fucking photo of Smith for their articles. You can’t Cntl-V up a head shot, it seems.
All of the people behind those sites just sort of felt that the death of the creator of Lode Runner still fell into their domain, though, which is hilarious. Lode Runner has nothing to do with modern game journalism. Trying to pretend they give a shit that its creator is deceased is their laughably transparent attempt at showing cred. More, they couldn’t do the barest minimum of research on the shit they do add. The fact that these garbage urls believe that Lode Runner and what they do are in any way related is disgusting. Take what Polgyon added to the “news”:
Released in 1983 for the Apple ][ and Commodore 64, Lode Runner was a […]
Oh! The Apple “][” and the Commodore 64 got the first releases in 1983? That was it, huh. I mean, it was ported to a million different machines, but just the Apple and C64 got the ports in 1983, only those, because they specifically mentioned them and certainly not the Atari 800, as shown in this screenshot from AtariMania, and —
You lazy fucking assholes.
They couldn’t add the slightest bit to the news without fucking it up. DO YOUR FUCKING JOBS. It would have been better if they had said NOTHING rather than add rotten detritus to the over easy shit-scramble of knowledge that multi-platform software releases have become. You can’t trust Wikipedia, because Wikipedia is wholly constructed by dipshits like this. You need original sources. You need to not add to the confusion. There’s some manuals that might have the proper copyrights (I had the physical PC/PCjr manual to Lode Runner within arm’s distance when I began to write this article, but even I’ll admit that expecting that sort of thing from the cretinous bile that make up #GAMESJOURNOS might be a bit much) but not all of them have been digitized.
What we do not need, what nobody needs, is the same press looking down their noses at regular people that play games trying to be helpful and getting it wrong. Getting it all wrong, wrong, wrong. Making it worse by polluting the future evidence like the amateurs they are.
So with that in mind.
None of them had anything to say about what life was like when Lode Runner dropped. There isn’t a Digital Antiquarian article about Lode Runner, the go-to source on this sort of thing, so I’ll give it a shot. I never met the man, Doug Smith, that invented the game. I have nothing for you there. I can tell you about what it was like when the game was released, because maybe that will matter to someone playing the game years from now. It really is that good. Doug, if you’re in a better place (but one that can still get the feed of this blog): this gem you created really did capture the attention of the western world, sir.
In 1983, it was generally accepted that all the real action games were at the arcade. We’d get a sucka port for home computers… maybe. (The PCjr, which my family had, needed to have the PC port authorized, which wasn’t often and then we had to hope that the boot loader didn’t do anything that the PCjr couldn’t comprehend.) The consoles usually got a port, but almost everyone had an Atari 2600, and those ports were awful. I’m generalizing – the, hooooooah, Zaxxon port for ColecoVision, to pick a game at random – was probably alright, sure. But you had to go to a place to see the best new action games in the world. Until Lode Runner.
I cannot think of a better home computer action game that was released before Lode Runner. I’ve been struggling all night – Lode Runner was the one that blew everything else away, wasn’t it? It rocked my neighborhood’s world. Within days of getting the PCjr for Christmas in 1985, I was subscribing to every mail order PC games catalog I could find. If I couldn’t get the games, I could at least memorize their SKUs. My memory isn’t great, but I am pretty sure the first PCjr game our family purchased from those catalogs was Lode Runner. It was in all the magazines. Every review was solid. There was something iconic, even in the mid-80s, about the Lode Runner Dude on the Lode Runner Box blowing away robots with a jolly knapsack of gold at his hip, climbing ladders, wearing a Cheshire smile.
It arrived and I played it and nothing else for weeks. The keyboard was perfect for it, unlike a lot of PC ports. The use of two separate keys for “dig left” and “dig right” made it superior to the home computer versions that used a single joystick button and forced you to be pointed in the right direction. And then there was the matter of the speed…
You could change the speed on Lode Runner. Doing so sped everything up or down — this wasn’t an early cheat code, letting the player character run faster or slower than the enemies of the Bungeling Empire. I got used to the default one for the PCjr, and that speed felt truly crafted to give the best experience. I’d put the speed up and see everyone comically run around like spazzes, but keep going back to default. It’s so good. If Zork was the first game to occupy my imagination, Lode Runner was the first game to directly interface with my nervous system. It had cyan and magenta and black and white, but that’s all you needed to depict the world and the rules and the gold. The primitive graphics that didn’t let you necessarily see when an enemy grabbed a gold bar even worked to offer up intrigue. Lode Runner, as a concept, understood platform limitations and simply elevated itself past them. There are so many ports to modern systems, but the speed is never juuuuust right, and the backgrounds are always so desperately over-complicated. It doesn’t need to be anything more than this:
… because that is all you need to be perfect. We kept that disk for every IBM PC compatible computer we had. I still have it. It might be the only game with a universal approval rating. Some people have seizures because of Tetris. Civilization II is in a genre where I’m sure some Sasquatch of a war gamer go PFFFFT at playability versus realism. Ocarina of Time might be the one if something happened to kill off the world’s grown-ups. But I don’t know anybody that dislikes Lode Runner. I think it’s the only game out there that everybody loves. It was one of the best games in the world and it included a map editor on release for chrissake.
It is available on everything these days, including iOS and Android, though. The first few years I had a mobile phone, I tried rooting them, jailbreaking it and putting all manner of apps onto it. I was going to have a small tricorder that did everything. I gave that up. To play a video game requires a controller, and the tablets and phones don’t have one. There are only two I have on my phone and I will always install them. The first is the original Bard’s Tale. I’ll pay for that a hundred times on a hundred different phones, but playing it is not realistic there.
The other one is Lode Runner, and it’s the only mobile port I like. It was that good originally, and it’s that good now. In the face of the world’s most terrible gaming platforms, this game designed over 30 years ago by Douglas E. Smith still holds up. My girlfriend’s six-year old nephew tried it on a long car trip. When he asked if he could play it, I realized… well, not that I too want to have children one day, but I promised to remember how he spelled his first name. Perched high on a nanny state seat booster, he played. He ran up ladders and across the wire and dropped to the ground. He liked that you couldn’t die from falling. He ran for the lode. He loved it.
Somebody always will.
I will be continuing the top 100 list soon, but I’d like to take an opportunity to re-introduce a radio show that I’m on.
The name of the show is called The Don Rogers Show. I have been tweeting about it and I’m sorry if I have annoyed everyone. I’ll shut up about it.
I’m going to start putting the episodes on the Internet Archive, but in the meantime you can download old episodes here.
So, my deal is that I try to make a text adventure every few years and that’s where all my good stuff is. If you are tired of the wait, this is as good as anything I’ve ever done. I hope you enjoy it, and I hope you join me in this continuing audio adventure.
It is time to talk about chili. Specifically, it is time to talk about True Texas Chili, and the greatest recipe you will ever find on this site.
This has been verified by one Laurence "Radio" Trask, who recreated this in his own home and immediately proclaimed it the greatest chili that not only is, but ever could be.
Please delete all of my other chili recipes off of this site. They are disowned.
#99 – BRATACCAS (1986, Amiga, Psygnosis)
If this new list accomplishes anything, I hope that it will convince some people somewhere that Brataccas isn’t a terrible game with a terrible interface, but a great game with an interface that is "only" bad.
The premise of Brataccas is that you are a genetic engineer named Kyne. You developed a way to engineer a super breed of man. The government wants this research to create a supersoldier, but Kyne refuses. He is framed for treason, there is a reward for his capture and Kyne travels to the asteroid of Brataccas for evidence to clear his name.
You are then dropped into a self-contained world filled with characters that have their own agendas, their own cares and desires. At no point does anyone give a shit about the well-being of the player of Kyne. It’s surprising that the pages to the manual are even bound together.
Each "room" in Brataccas can have several different things going on. There are elevators, so that you can travel along the game’s y-axis. There are characters to bribe. You can start a fight with almost anyone in the game, which was waay, waaaaay ahead of its time. The cops are trying to arrest you, sure, but they don’t have omniscience. There are security cameras to disable, false leads, bartenders to get rumors from and a lone, hissing psychopath wandering around the asteroid that will try to kill you with his sword for no reason.
The room layout of Brataccas is compact and paranoid and uncomfortably put together. When you get arrested, you travel in real time behind the cop, who drops you off to the jail cell. You go through rooms that, when you start, you probably can’t get to easily, meaning that the act of getting arrested in the game is initially interesting. (Years later, the act of getting arrested in the most famous series of games, GTA, simply cuts to a black screen. Brataccas was ahead of its time.)
There is a problem with the game, however, that every review addresses. Brataccas offers gesture-based mouse controls. And they are just as terrible as you might think with systems like the Amiga, Atari ST and Macintosh that used mice with physical balls.
It’s terrible and inintuitive. This game would be famous if they didn’t screw it up! You move forward by moving the mouse to the right, but then have to stop by holding the button and moving the other way. And you have to stomp that mouse. You have to slowly press down and move it the other way. You’ll gesture to enter combat when you meant to jump. In a way, and I am admitting this is a stretch, the terrible gestures mean that you will randomly start combat with people minding their own business. Some guy that you might want to talk to might end up with a sword in the gut. It adds to the web of lunacy going on in the asteroid.
That said, when I played it on my real Amiga, I saw that the game lets you use keyboard controls. Great! I thought I would try that. And that’s when the final mystery of Brataccas revealed itself to me: the gesture-based controls that everyone savages are actually better than the keyboard controls.
Brataccas is just a game that requires time to learn its controls. It’s like Defender in that respect, it’s just that with Defender you feel like a spaceship captain and every NES game in the world mastered moving people with a gamepad. Because of the gesturing it’s a game of skill with the most wide-open sci-fi world of its time. The speech bubbles are all in caps, with bizarre punctuation. The graphics mode for the Amiga has you at 640×200, which is a very silly resolution to try to do anything in.
Brataccas is the best example that I can think of of an attempt at a simulated, uncaring world. And while I appreciate the quest arrow on Fallout 3 and BioShock, those games will always be a little less than they could be because they care about you in a way that Brataccas never will. It feels just as cold as life on an asteroid probably would be.
I guess I can also put it this way: when it comes to each game I’ve made myself, they always started in the design document phase as open-ended simulations where the player is dropped in and meant to learn and survive, just like (and even thanks to*) Brataccas. None of them have ended up that way because I haven’t been able to achieve what this extremely goofy, yet charming, little asteroid-sim did manage to successfully accomplish. A world.
(*Specifically, the fact that you can start a fight with anyone in Fallacy of Dawn, and the one "CopBot" were inspired from Brataccas, along with the fact that I set Pantomime on a moon essentially the size of an asteroid.)
Sure, when you hear "New Mexican cuisine", you think of green chile. But did you know that New Mexico is also famous for a chile of a different color? Namely "red"? Well they are! In fact, at any NM restaurant, you’re likely to be asked the timeless question, "red or green?" after ordering your entree! You can have either one, but you’re damn sure gonna pick one, or they’ll throw your fat black ass outta there!
I live in Washington state now, which apparently has STRICT GOVERNMENTAL ORDERS to not sell any NM green chiles anywhere within state borders, which as far as I’m concerned, makes Washington state the lowest, most worthless of all the… what are there, like sixty at this point? Whatever, however many states there are, this is the worst, for this very reason.
I also had a fuckball of a time finding red chile, too, but lucked into the one grocery store in the entire Pacific Northwest that actually carried little bags of New Mexican ground red chile. And on the back of the bags was a recipe! A recipe which I followed almost exactly, except with a couple of very small modifications, resulting in:
Ben’s Famous New Mexican Pork Red Chile, Or "Red Chile With Chunks Of Pork Simmered Therein"
Are you ready? Let’s begin!
– 1/2 cup ground NM red chile. Please do not fuck around here. Make sure it’s not "chili powder" or some other nondescript "ground chile" you’re talking about here. Make sure it’s directly from NM, because NM red chiles have an extremely distinct, smoky, earthy flavor which cannot be replicated or substituted for by other ground chile products. Seriously. Do not fuck around. Or I will cut you.
– 1 lb pork shoulder, or other pork… product, cut into 1/2-inch or perhaps slightly larger, cubes.
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– 1 tablespoon flour
– 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
– 2+ cups water
– Some salt
Heat up oil in a big saucepan!
Put pork chunks and flour in the oil, and brown it!
Put garlic, red chile, and salt to taste in there, and stir well for a minute!
Add 2 cups water, or a little more, to cover all the porks!
Simmer, uncovered, for an hour and a half to two hours or so until the sauce has thickened to a delightful consistency, and the whole dish takes on this deep, silky, vibrant red color that you didn’t know was even possible!
Now it is done! Now you can do stuff with it. What I did with it was: Heated up a flour tortilla, put some of the pork red chile in there, topped with some grated cheese, and then ATE THAT SHIT, and let me tell you, that’s some otherworldly fantastic shit there. NM food is the greatest.
Anyway, there you go. I’MA CUT YO
#100 – PORTAL (2007, PC, Valve)
My Internet comedy partner, Pinback, and I have had long discussions about all manner of media. Video games, for sure. But also movies and television shows. One of the concepts I have floated towards Pinback is that of the "minimum we should expect."
I think that video games are an immature medium that seems to constantly fall backwards. The technology improves, sure — the most clever programmers are game programmers, and it’s sad that you hear about the long hours many of them work and the pay that doesn’t quite match what they could get for other companies. Video games have the most immature writing of any form of entertainment that I can think of.
Which leads to Portal.
Nerds did their best to ruin it like they did Monty Python and Douglas Adams. Hell, a buddy of mine bought me a "The Cake Is A Lie" shirt and I don’t think we ever had more than a couple Portal-based conversations together. It just dominated the end of 2007 and most of 2008. You couldn’t escape it if you were on the internet. and not trying to overthrow a government with social media.
The act of moving through portals is fun, and there are a few clever puzzles in there, but that’s not why this game is the 100th best ever made. Portal is so memorable because of the character of GlaDOS and the writing of Erik Wolpaw and Chet Faliszek.
(It wouldn’t exist at all without Kim Swift. She was the lead on one of the greatest games I have ever played. I don’t want to short change the contributions of anyone who worked on Portal. I just happened to have a special, crazed, possibly unhealthy one-way relationship with Chet and Erik. The problem is with me.)
Everyone at JC knows this, but in case this gets linked elsewhere, Chet and Erik wrote for oldmanmurray.com. Without that site (and Amiga Power 2) I wouldn’t even be on the Internet. Not like this — they proved what a website could do, how it could be unique, how anyone’s voice will rise if it is funny enough. They took shots at everyone, but saved the best ones for themselves and each other. And this madcap hilarity comes through every time GlaDOS insults the player.
Telling the player that you should feel bad because you’re probably adopted isn’t just wacky for gamer dads, it’s great for everyone.
The rest of the game really is OK. It’s fine! I think that a lot of puzzle games suffer from the fact that you can sort of "see" the solution in your mind, and then it just becomes a skill test to execute. Portal is one of those games. But God, that moment where you jump off the rails and go to a very different place….
So, the minimum. Portal is the minimum we should expect from writing, plot and dialogue in a video game. Every game should have at least one character as fleshed out as GlaDOS. Most of them don’t. Most of the games that are above Portal on this list don’t, they just happen to do other things extremely well. But Portal is the minimum of what I should be getting out of a computer game if that game is going to be considered legendary. It begins our new list
Pandora: First Contact is out, by the way. Yes, it still has the worst name possible. But after three hours of gameplay, let’s take a look at my impressions!
It is very much Civilization in space (or Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri), but feels simpler and more straightforward. Which I like! As tremendous an accomplishment as I think Civ 5 is, golly there’s a lot of crap going on.
P:FC does away with most of the extra stuff, and presents you with some pretty base-line 4X action. The factions (races) are all pre-set. There is no race customization. There are five different planet sizes and three different types of planets, and that’s it. Setting up a game is fast because there’s just not that much to choose from.
Once you’re in-game, you’re comfortable right away assuming you’ve played any of these games in the last 20 years. Which I hope you have, because get this: There is NO DOCUMENTATION, other than in-game tooltips, hover boxes and popups! So that’s it, I guess. We’ve gone from 150 page printed manuals, to 50-page PDF files, to nothing.
Impressively (and because it IS so straightforward) this isn’t really a problem. You build stuff, you research stuff, you sign deals with the other guys, and you blow stuff up. That’s it. Just like always.
The graphics range from overly cartoonish to quite beautiful (some of the undersea aliens are especially striking to behold). Not on par with Civ 5, but golly, good enough. That’s probably a good way to sum up most of the game.
Extra bonus points for a clean, sleek UI that makes sense, pretty good writing, and a remarkable lack of typos and misspellings, which is becoming ever so rare.
Right now I would have to say that this is my favorite 4X game for the moment, because it’s fun, it’s fast, it doesn’t tire you or tie you down with minutiae, and it sticks to what made 4X great in the first place.
I give Pandora: First Contact an 8 out of 10! I guess? I dunno what the two points are knocked off for, as I really didn’t have any complaints. Other than the name.