Greetings all - I hope you all had a great Christmas and are preparing to hoist a few to ring in the new year. And if you aren't, well that's OK, I will drink an extra one for you. It's no problem at all I assure you!
A couple of posts back I talked about the iSmell and it's wonderous but unrealized powers to bring smells to gaming. Well my brain wouldn't let go of it right away so I did a little more websearching and discovered a few interesting factoids. Since the whole point of dabbling in this blog thing was to chronicle my opium-fueled gamer visions I thought - why not share. And so, here is a jumbled collection of what I found.
I mentioned in the last post about the scratch n sniff card included with the Infocom game Leather Goddesses of Phobos.
I discovered that there was another game that used this same gag - Leisure Suit Larry 7: Love for Sail. In Love for Sail, there was a scratch n sniff (called the CyberSniff 2000) that the player was prompted to smell at various points throughout the game. I found an interview with the game creator Al Lowe on JayBot7 that provided the following delightful exchange:
Jason Surguine: And include the CyberSmell 3000 [I was close]
Al Lowe: And CyberSniff 2000!
Jason Surguine: I don’t even want to know where you got some of the smells. [The CyberSniff 2000 was a scratch-and-sniff card that came with Larry 7]
Al Lowe: You know, that was one of the most fun things about developing that game; researching and finding the company that makes Micro Encapsulated Odors. We called them up and had this hilarious phone call with this woman who, I’m sure, her normal day consists of people doing straight-business things.
And here these two wacky game designer and producer call her up and ask:
‘Yeah, have you got a good fart smell?’
I also discovered that both FIFA 2001 and Gran Turismo 2 for the Playstation came on scratch n sniff CDs. FIFA 2001 smelled like turf and GT2 smelled like burning rubber.
Hideo Kojima apparently wanted to coat the disks for his 1988 PC game Snatcher with a chemical that, when heated by being inside the computer, released the smell of blood into the air to enhance the immersion with the "stench of a murder scene." Konami nixed the idea.
And last, but not least, I found a BBC video about a company in Birmingham that is giving the iSmell another go. Some of the delightful odors featured are garbage, body odor, hosipital, and burning rubber. I'm starting to see why this never gets off the ground - nobody ever includes chocolate chip cookies or roses, they always go straight to the BO and burning rubber! That's just a poor business model. Anyway you can check out the video of that in action HERE. PEACE!
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Greetings all - I hope you all had a great Christmas and are preparing to hoist a few to ring in the new year. And if you aren't, well that's OK, I will drink an extra one for you. It's no problem at all I assure you!
Posted by MadPlanet at 12:52 PM
Monday, December 20, 2010
When I was a little kid - after my Mom and Dad got Pong for the family but before the old Atari 2600 - my little brother and I put in some serious time on an awesome little dedicated console by Coleco called the Telstar Combat!. Does anyone else remember this thing?
This beauty of a system had two separate sets of dual grip tank controls that allowed one player to pilot a white tank and one to pilot a black tank. Every time you shot your opponent you got a point. Also, on at least one of the 4 switchable options there were mines strewn about and when the opposing tank ran over one of your mines you got points for his foolhardiness. It was a predecessor to the classic Atari 2600 title Combat - which remains one of my favorites for that system .
I found a tiny little video clip of the game on YouTube below:
Well every so often I check eBay for this long lost system of my youth in hopes of snagging it but in a few years I've only seen it come up once before for a broken one. Well today I FOUND IT! And apparently I'm not the only middle-aged bastard with fond memories of this thing because with an hour left there are 11 bids and the cost is up to $410! I'm nostalgic, but not THAT nostalgic. It hurts not to bid too because it is complete with the box and manuals and everything - you can check out the auction HERE. But $410? C'mon man, my Mom said she paid like $15 for the thing way back when. Damn. Guess the search continues...
Sunday, December 19, 2010
I was perusing an old issue of the Official Dreamcast Magazine (July/August 2000) and I happened across this article about the iSmell - a product by a company called DigiScents that was going to revolutionize gaming by not only hitting your eyes and ears with sensory input but your nose as well. I thought it was interesting so I checked into it a little more.
The iSmell was developed in 2001 and used a cartridge (like an inkjet printer) that contained a number of different chemicals that could be mixed in various combinations and amounts to produce a wide variety of scents. The company had reportedly indexed the required recipes for thousands of common odors. The formula for the mixture would be embedded within a game (or other application) and sent to the iSmell via a USB connection. The chemicals would then be mixed in a chamber and dispersed into the immediate area with a small fan.
Here is what the device looked like - a shark fin on a disk. I couldn't find any reference of the product ever actually hitting production so I assume this was a prototype.
There were a number of promising demonstrations, but apparently the product never got of the ground and now the only references to it I found on the internet were mocking it as a horrible product. But I don't know, I think it would have been kinda cool. They say that scents trigger memories and emotional responses more than any other sensory input - so wouldn't it help thrust the player even deeper into the virtual world of the game? Wouldn't it be more immersive if you could smell the smoke of the burning building that Nathan Drake is trying to escape from in the upcoming Uncharted 3? The smell of the flowers that you were crawling around in during the fight with Boss in Metal Gear Solid 3? The faint whiff of an unseen monster in Resident Evil or Dead Space that got stronger as he approached? The dank underground smell of a cavern in Zork?
In 1986, the Leather Goddesses of Phobos came with a scratch and sniff card and at several parts of the game it would tell you to scratch and sniff scent #1, #2, etc. I rather enjoyed that little novelty, and if modern tech could expand it and make it a passive inclusion rather than an active one that required you to stop playing to experience it that would make it even better.
So, assuming the product functioned properly and software developers supported it in their games, I think may have actually bought this product that never actually saw the light of day.
Monday, December 13, 2010
I got a little sidetracked with work and Christmas parties, but it's time to finish off this list. Recall that my #3 janitor game was the text adventure Planetfall, my #2 was the point-and-click adventure Space Quest IV, and so now without further ado - ok perhaps just a bit more ado - my #1 favorite janitor game of all time - MDK.
MDK is a 3rd person shooter that was developed by Shiny Entertainment and released in 1997 for PC, Macintosh, and Playstation. I can't speak for the Mac version, but I've played the PC version and the Playstation version and I prefer the PC version for the superior graphics and controls.
In MDK you play as laboratory janitor Kurt Hectic working for Dr. Fluke Hawkins aboard the Space Station the Jim Dandy. The earth is invaded by alien marauders who are stripping the planet of its mineral resources with gigantic rolling alien cities called "minecrawlers". Dr. Hawkins fits you with his newest invention, the "coil suit", which provides you with armor, a built-in parachute, an arm-mounted chain gun, and a head-mounted sniper rifle and you head planetside to take out the alien trash! Not exactly an original idea for a story, but the oddball characters and details make it seem fresh.
There has been a lot of debate over what MDK stands for and I won't go into it all those details - but after reading an interview and viewing a promotional video for the game it seems clear that most MDK fans at the time were correct - it stood for Murder Death Kill. But Shiny apparently didn't want to scare off any commercial sponsors (apparently they had a toy deal in the works) so they stuck with the abbreviation and then played up the hooplah when everyone kept asking what it really stood for. You can check out the concept proposal video that the developers put together to try and sell the game and Murder Death Kill is clearly shown in it.
This is the first game (I believe) that allowed you use a zoomable sniper rifle - so you could focus in on an enemy far away that had no idea you were looking at him and then pop him right between the eyes. Of course these days pretty much every shooter out there offers that feature, but back in those days it was truly unique and I thought it was really cool at the time.
Most of the game is played in the style of a run-and-gun/platformer, but it incorporates several other gameplay elements as well. At the beginning of each minecrawler level Kurt plummets to earth and must avoid the enemy radar and missiles (think of God of War III when Kratos is plummetting downward by that chain), you sometimes remote-pilot a bomber which gives you a top-down sky-view and lets you bomb your enemies (I've seen this mechanic used in a couple of Modern Warfare games), there is a snowboarding-esque sequence where you shoot you enemies while you sliding, Kurt sometimes does a little luging where he has to grab powerups on the track, and there are the sniper parts I already mentioned, I'm probably forgetting some others but the point is that it has a variety of mini-games in it that breaks up the run-and-gun gameplay to keep things from getting stale.
I actually played a little of MDK before writing this and I still liked it. Today, the graphics are somewhat dated of course and maybe a little more polygonal than I recall, but they still look great. There is a bizzare futuristic look to the graphical style with transparent surfaces and dark areas with glowing neon beam of light - hard to describe really but it has a unique look to it that is instantly recognizeable to anyone that has played the game.
Another thing I remember very fondly is the sound. The gameplay sound effects themselves - the shooting of the chain gun, the jibber jabber of the aliens, etc. were fine but nothing special. Where the game shined was in the mood music. The music was superb and really added to the mood of the game throughout. The game songs were even released as a soundtrack CD.
Overall the game was just kind of bizarre - a bit trippy. And it had an offbeat comedic tone that I quite enjoyed (big Monty Python fan here). That unique flavor is what made it stand out in my mind versus a lot of other run and gun games of the time. When you beat the game a music video plays that stays true to that trippy nature - check it out:
They did make a sequel, which I also own, but like a lot of my games, I have yet to make my way around to playing it. I've read that some people like MDK 2 more than MDK and I've also read that a lot of people like the first one better. One of these days I'll check that one out. But for now, if you haven't played the original MDK then you really should.
You can find the game on Amazon and eBay, you can probably find it on some abandonware sites too, but you are probably best off just downloading it legit from Good Old Games where it is only $5.99 which also includes the manual, wallpaper, and the original soundtrack I mentioned that by itself would cost you $9 on Amazon. So it seems like a great deal. Heck I might even re-buy it myself.
[UPDATED 4/17/2011] - I stumbled across a video of the French song that Ulala chick sang at the end of the game and this one thankfully included English subtitles. So now, a mere 14 years after I first beat the game and saw the video, I finally know what that chick was saying. The song is Non Non Rien N'a Changé (No No Nothing Changed) and is apparently an anti-war statement. This version is by Les Poppys. Enjoy.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
I didn't catch the VGA show last night, but one of the high points for me would have been the release of the full trailer for the upcoming game Uncharted 3. Along with Arkham City, Uncharted 3 is one of my most anticipated titles. I loved the first two games and I'm sure I will love the third one too. Uncharted 3 is scheduled to be released November 1, 2011. Here's the trailer.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Ah French video games. Where the flyer for even a simple Tetris-type puzzle game shows a buxom blonde with her nips taking a peek at the world. Vive la France!
As you may know, I'm a sucker for old arcade game flyers and I saw that The Arcade Flyer Archive just added 45 new flyers to their online collection. And of course if you are running MAME with a frontend that has a flyer viewer (like moi) then you MUST download them post-haste. Possiby even pre-haste. Well, presumably they will be added in to the next batch of flyerpacks when version 0.141 of MAME rolls out - so you might not need to download them but you can at least give them a peek.
By the way, in a previous post I included a link to TAFA for the new MAME flyer packs (through the current MAME version 0.140), but TAFA immediately started having bandwidth issues with everyone downloading these huge files so they now reside at progetto-SNAPS - a great Italian site that is an awesome resource for all sorts of supplemental MAME files like flyers, snapshots, cabinet pics, control panel pics, etc. Viva Italia!
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
In yesterday's post I talked a bit about the Infocom classic Planetfall, the 3rd best game of all time in one of the most underappreciated genres of gaming - the janitor game. For today's entry I'd like to mention the first "point and click" adventure game I ever played (I think) - the 1991 hit Space Quest IV - Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers.
In SQIV you play, not surprisingly given the title, as Roger Wilco, who is 50% bumbling janitor and 50% heroic adventurer. At the beginning of the game Roger is relaxing at the local space bar when he is accosted by the evil Sequel Police who deliver the message that your enemy Sludge Vohaul (apparently from previous SQ games that I never played) has some nefarious plans to take over the universe and he wants you good and dead first, but before the Sequel Police can administer the coup de grace you manage to break free. Then a couple of mystery guys open up a time rip that you jump through to escape. The time rip deposits you in the far-flung future of Space Quest XII (noted on the status bar at the top of the screen) and that's where you take control and begin your quest to figure out how to survive in this world and how to get back to Vohaul and defeat him before it's too late!
That's the gist of it anyway. If I recall, I found this game to be somewhat difficult and although I quite enjoyed it I don't remember actually finishing it. I think I got stuck somewhere and eventually just moved on to something else. Hey don't judge me! Back in those days you couldn't just hop on the internet and Google up a walkthrough to get past a tough spot you know! Sierra On-Line sold hint books, but I never bought any of those (I did buy an Invisiclues one time for Zork II to see what they were all about - but that's another story). So actually I think I will be buying this game myself and giving it a good honest try to play it through to completion for the first time.
If you've never played a point and click adventure game it is all driven by the mouse and drop-down menus. You move Roger around in the world and interact with various items and characters by simply pointing and clicking. Sierra went to great lengths to provide a huge amount of detail so you can examine and interact with almost anything and with multiple senses too - sight, smell, taste, touch - a different kind of open world game.
Here is a little vid of the gameplay from the beginning of the game (they stripped out the opening movie part). This is the updated version released in 1992 on CD which featured full speech - I played the old silent floppy version.
One of the reasons I liked the game so much is the same reason that I liked Hitchhiker - the humorous tone throughout the game. The game is always making jokes and although it can get a little tiresome from time to time, overall it is pretty amusing and a refreshing change from the mood of most games. But the thing I really remember is how gorgeous the graphics were at the time - especially on the cut scenes which were essentially like watching a cartoon. It took full advantage of the 256-color VGA cards that were the leading edge of video cards at the time. Also, I read that it was one of the first games to utilize motion capture technology.
Another unique feature I had never seen before - in the game when you go back in time and are playing within the world of Space Quest I, the graphics and sound revert to the more primitive style of that 1986 game. There is even a scene during this part where some monochrome alien baddies give Roger a hard time for his superior graphic stature - "Well lookee here - if it ain't mister look-at-me-I'm-in-VGA". (Apparently their response changed based on whatever type of video card was actually being used). I don't know if Sierra actually invented this gag, but Metal Gear Solid IV for the PS3 recycled it years later when Snake was dreaming and you got to play a little of the original PS1 Metal Gear Solid in the properly reduced resolution. So I'm thinking maybe Snake owes a slight tip of the hat to Roger for that.
I've also heard lately about the arcade minigames hidden in the new Call of Duty Black Ops, to which I've seen a few GTA fans respond with "ho-hum hidden arcade minigames - Rockstar already did that", to which older Dreamcast fans similarly respond "punks - you ever heard of Shenmue?" Well, almost a decade before that you could mosey on up to an arcade game in SQIV, drop in a quarter, and play a game of Ms. Astro Chicken. So SQIV (and actually SQIII before that, I discovered) get some props for that bit of "open-world" immersion that so many these days attribute to Rockstar.
I stumbled across this commercial for SQIV that apparently aired around Christmas in 1991. The quality looks like it was filmed through a soapy fishbowl, but I've always enjoyed watching old game commercials and trailers so I'm stickin it in here in case someone else feels the same.
So I felt like was rambling a bit there - but the bottom line is that this a cool janitor game and considered somewhat of a classic in PC gaming circles, so if you haven't played it you might consider checking it out.
Where do you buy? As I was writing this I checked out eBay and I see that someone is selling the original 3.5" floppy PC version complete with box, manual, and disk with a current bid of only $0.99 ($4 shipping). Note that if you do decide to purchase this item it is possible we might engage in a bidding war.You can also buy the collection of all the Space Quest games (1-6) - on eBay for $7.84 (shipping included) - click HERE for that one. And they also offer it (bundled with 5 and 6) at Good Old Games for $9.99.
Tomorrow - the stunning and controversial janitorial finale that everyone is sure to be talking about. Stay tuned!
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
The noble janitor. Custodian, if you prefer. He has played the starring role in some of my favorite games. Rather than spend days at my keyboard writing about the hundreds of examples I can think of off the top of my head, I will confine my comments to only the top 3 titles. These are all classics, so if you have never tried them you should a) be quite ashamed, and b) play them as soon as possible to abate said shame.
This classic text adventure was released in 1983 by the king of interactive fiction - Infocom. Yeah that's right - text only. We don't need no stinking graphics! So you direct your player by typing commands such as LOOK UNDER THE TIME MACHINE or DROP THE FURRY ALIEN IN THE BASKET and watch as the story unfolds before you in pure unadulterated monochromatically glowing alphanumeric characters. The game was written by Steve Meretzky who was also known for such Infocom hits as Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Sorcerer, Leather Goddesses of Phobos, A Mind Forever Voyaging, and Stationfall - the sequel to Planetfall, but in that game you have been promoted to a paper-pushing desk jockey and therefore that game has no place in this post.
In Planetfall you are a lowly Ensign Seventh Class in the Stellar Patrol serving on board the Starship S.P.S. Feinstein and it is your job to mop the decks, but as the Patrol says in their recruitment flyers - "There's plenty of opportunity for advancement in the Patrol for those who live up to our motto, 'Boldly Going Where Angels Fear to Tread.'" The manual summarizes the story nicely:
Prepare to be teleported 120 centuries into the future and hurtled out of your Stellar Patrol space-ship mere moments before it explodes. And if the first five minutes of PLANETFALL don’t kill you, you’ll really have your work cut out for you. Because the planet on which you crash-land is plagued with floods, pestilence and mutant Wild Kingdom. And during the next couple of days or more, you’ll be confronted by the bizarre, the baffling and the inexplicable.What destroyed your vessel? Why are there buildings but no inhabitants? How does one gain entry to the secret recesses of the vast scientifc installations? And who is that little fellow who keeps following you around? (It is, in fact, Floyd, a multi-purpose robot who has the personality of an eight-year-old and whose memory banks may hold the secrets of this strange planet. In short, the ideal companion with whom to brave your new world as you explore its secrets and dare its dangers.) Laughs, thrills, tears and triumph. You’ll find it all in PLANETFALL. Have a swell trip, and don’t forget to drop us a postcard!
Before you embark on the journey you should take the Patrol's self-evaluation to make sure that you qualify for their elite squadron. Here is the 2-page questionnaire. Please complete and mail into your local Patrol recruiting station.
You can occasionally track down the original Planetfall for PC (that's the one I have) on eBay, but it will be on the 5 1/4" floppy disk - do you still have one of those drives in a bay? Probably not. It is included in the compilations the Lost Treasure of Infocom and the Masterpieces of Infocom (one of my favorite possessions) which you can occasionally find on eBay but they usually go for about $40 and up. You can give it a go online at http://www.accardi-by-the-sea.org/Infocom/Online/, but I never figured out how to save your place on their online games which makes these games an exercise in futility unless you are determined to knock it out in a single textacular sitting.
So - you might consider downloading a copy of the PC file from one of those shady abandonware websites (cough! Abandonia) and playing it in DOSBox or WinFrotz instead. Not that I'm advocating piracy. Oh wait - that's precisely what I just did. Well whatever, just play it wiseguy!
OK, my plan was to put all 3 games on here but this one ran LONG so I guess I'll split it up to one per day. Tomorrow is #2. And remember, In Space No One Can Hear You Clean.
Monday, December 6, 2010
It's fairly rare when I have a particularly kind word for the NES and its legions of fanboys, but thanks to Destructoid today I saw this full-size coffee table shaped like an NES and I thought it was pretty cool.
It has large compartments for storage - including a flip-open cartridge slot and a sliding drawer in the back, it has a working LED light that comes on when you hit the power button, and has 2 power outlets where the gamepad plugs are normally located. The guy did a really good job on it. He built 3 - one for himself, one for some art exhibit, and one that he's trying to sell to you on eBay HERE with a starting bid of $700 (no bidders as of yet). Check it out.
Friday, December 3, 2010
OK, this is my last post about the Uncharted movie - I promise. I vented previously about the ridiculous choice of Marky Mark Wahlberg for the role of Nathan Drake. Yesterday, Destructoid pointed me to an article in the L.A. Times where director David O. Russell talked about his "vision" for the movie. I can already tell I'm not going to like it from the very first paragraph:
Fans of the video game Uncharted: Drake's Fortune have been intrigued since the moment David O. Russell committed to direct the film -- if nothing else, it's a chance for a quirky auteur and surehanded filmmaker to shake up the beleaguered videogame-to-movie genre.
(Hurriedly googles auteur... OK) Apparently, this quirky auteur genius is already halfway done with the script, "it's a locomotive!" says he. The article continues:
While the video game centers on Nate Drake (a descendant of Sir Francis Drake) and his quest to find lost treasure on an island far from civilization, Russell plans on expanding the movie to include Drake's extended family -- and put them in fraught, globetrotting situations with some of the world's most influential people. "This idea really turns me on that there's a family that's a force to be reckoned with in the world of international art and antiquities ... [a family] that deals with heads of state and heads of museums and metes out justice."
I already heard that this giant of a director was putting his own stamp on the story by inventing an uncle and father for Drake, but now it's starting to sound like the pilot for a bad 80's TV series. The auteur Russell is apparently planning to remold the characters and story to be more in line with his previous movies. "We'll have the family dynamic, which we've done in a couple of movies now." That's fine Spielberg, but this doesn't really sound much like Uncharted anymore. And I've already seen National Treasure and (God help me) National Treasure 2.
Ah, but then Russell waxes poetic, "And then you take that and put it on the bigger, more muscular stage of an international action picture, but also put all the character stuff in it. That's a really cool idea to me." The musings of the immortal bard - timeless. All you film students out there, this is where you should be taking notes. In your work, please be sure to put all that really cool character stuff in it.
I'm not saying Uncharted is Gone With the Wind, but if they are going to buy the rights and stamp the name on it shoudn't they at least try to be true to the characters and mood of the game if not the story itself? It bugs me when these egomaniacal Hollywood knuckleheads cook up these "reimaginings" of established stories and characters that I care about just to put their own stamp on them. And it doesn't even sound like this particular knucklehead is even creative - just going to churn out more cliche-ridden swill. This movie has officially gone from one that I likely would have watched in the theatre to one that I probably won't even watch when it comes on cable TV a month later. And so, to close the subject forever on this blog, I leave you with an actual leaked scene from the movie:
Nathan stumbled forward into the flickering light of the torch. Still groggy from the explosion, he steadied himself against the wall of the underground cavern.
"Ha! Son, I haven't seen you walk like that since you took your first steps back on the farm."
Nathan rolled his eyes. "Dad! We don't have time for this. We've got 48 hours to get the Statue of Liberty back to the Smithsonian or we're all dead!"
"Quiet you two! Listen..."
Nathan and his father turn to face Barack Obama. "What is it President Barack Obama?" they ask in unison.
"It's quiet..." Obama responds. "A little too quiet."
Queen Elizabeth steps forward into the light. "He's right. I've got a bad feeling about this."
Then a rumble can be heard in the distance. It rapidly grows to a roar. Suddenly, a huge boulder bursts forth from the darkness, barreling toward the group.
Drake reaches down and grabs Queen Elizabeth's hand, "C'mon your majesty - we gotta go NOW!".
Queen Elizabeth jumps up and takes off in a mad dash toward the edge of the chasm. "I'm gettin too old for this shiiiiiiiiiiiiit!"
Thursday, December 2, 2010
The website Emuparadise just added the downloadable videos for Season 2 of the show Icons that used to air on G4TV from 2002-2006. Each 30-minute documentary episode focused on a different significant piece of the gaming industry - influential games, software companies, consoles, characters, TV shows, etc. After a while the show started branching off to include other miscellaneous pop culture and then was unceremoniously cancelled (as it probably deserved by that time) - but for a while there the source material was strictly video game related.
I've seen a few episodes of this show and rather enjoyed the ones I watched, so I'm going to check out some more from Season 2. A few of the 22 episodic topics from that season that piqued my curiosity include Atari, Intellivision, Xbox, Arcade, LucasArts, PC Gaming, The Crash, and Naughty Dog. They have Season 1 on there as well. So if it is something you might find interesting go check it out - you can click HERE to go directly to the shows.
[Updated 12/7/2010] Emuparadise just added season 3 of Icons to their inventory as well so there are another 20 episodes for you to check out. Some season 3 titles include Sega Dreamcast, Tetris, Apple II, Mortal Kombat, Donkey Kong, and Game Boy.