Archive for retro

My Gaming History ‘Part 11’

Posted in My Gaming History with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 25, 2013 by Mortal Mikey

It has to be said that the late 90s was pretty epic all round for a guy at my age. I was soon to be leaving school, I was also soon to become a legal adult…which meant nothing really apart from the fact that everything I had been doing illegally was soon to be legal and therefore ok in the eyes of the law. We hadn’t had much more controversy over video games since the 16bit era, people had come to realise that video games were now emulating real and fantasy world violence but it was to be Grand Theft Auto that stood apart from the rest of the crowd with a big blood stained knife in one hand and a sign in the other that said “Look at me!!”. Looking back at the first installment of GTA makes you really question what all the fuss was about (No offense guys!). It really goes to show how little the media scum and civilian do-gooders have going on in their lives, when a small, pixelated world of top down criminal activity can become a focal point of a society.

 

Which pixel caused controversy?

Which pixel caused controversy?

Ultimately what you take from a game like GTA is the most important part. Was it that you took someone’s life during a robbery and then were abruptly run over by over zealous local authority? Or do you now think that yes, selling cocaine on the streets, although lucrative, is in fact living your life on a knife edge between becoming Scarface or a shit stabber behind bars.

The minority who complained about the game were often the ones who have never played it and it was the fine upstanding role model, Max Clifford who got the controversy ball rolling. Your background and circumstances obviously play a big part in your early development, not some crooked graphical representation of a city from the view of a pigeon. Before shoddy looking violent video games, the previous generation had been subjected to beautifully composed and well animated cartoons. Young people witnessed a man with a passion for spinach, solve all of his day to day tribulations with simple brutality. Punching and kicking anything that stood in his way, often all for the love of a gawky looking woman. I don’t remember the public outcry to ban Popeye, core values and morals in life are something you may or may not follow depending on your wiring and upbringing. If you are influenced enough by video games to commit heinous acts, the games aren’t the problem. Boredom is a scary thing, never let humans, adults or children, become bored, it leads to awful things…I believe computer games combat this. 

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I remember entering Curry’s in 1998, which for those of you who do not reside in the UK, it is in fact an electrical store, not a food outlet. GTA had just hit the shelves and I went in to shoplift…I mean purchase the game. I had read the reviews, scanned the screenshots and so, I was looking forward to playing the game as it sounded like a riot. For whatever reason though this game received an 18 rating and because of this, the young man behind the counter couldn’t serve me. Saddened by my inability to crack on and sell virtual crack, I politely asked my Dad if he would go in and buy it for me. My Dad had spent many an hour sat with me, hand drawing the maps of DOOM for me as we ran around level after level mercilessly gunning down anything sprite that moved…he knows it’s just a game and he doesn’t give a flying fuck what you do in a game as long as you’re not stupid enough to carry out ‘missions’ in real life. You join to army to kill legally, and carry out missions all in the name of drugs and or resources. I’m far too lazy for that kind of thing and that’s why I play video games.

 

"With this drone it'll be like in a video game, you can bomb natives and keep your little beret on!"

“With this drone it’ll be like in a video game, you can bomb natives and keep your little beret on!”

If Wipeout and Gran Turismo raised the bar for technical and content excellence in a racing game. GTA took RPG/Action/shooter/driver, to a whole new level. Real stereo audio tracks boomed over sounds of a bustling city, as you joy ride to victory doing favours for local drug dealers and pimps. Originally penciled to be a simple cops vs robbers chase game, the small team of programmers and enthusiasts pooled ideas from their favourite films and TV shows to come up with a totally original idea. The big cheeses funding the operation didn’t want it, at times the programmers couldn’t meet the concepts, It was almost canned at every corner but for some reason, it was destined to be brought to life and beamed into our brains to turn us into violent drug pushing thugs.

The PS1 was now on fire (not literally due to becoming violent) with so much great content, Sony were an unstoppable force at this point. GTA along with other great titles secured PS1’s place as top dog.

After well over fifty hours playtime I can’t say I was any closer to stealing my neighbours car and going on a knife rampage, I had a teenage temperament already, which meant I was naturally either hot, cold or horny or all of the above. Drugs had come long before GTA ever did to. I remember it like yesterday (going against any so called ‘reports’ of cannabis leading to memory loss) my friend and I stood under his porch in the back garden, listening to the heavy rain on the plastic corrugated roof, hunched over trying to ignore the cold. He produced from his coat pocket what I saw him roll earlier and said “Try it, it’s like cigarettes only different’.

Exactly

Exactly

Different indeed, I don’t think we stopped laughing for three hours, laughed at the rain, laughed at each other and  laughed some more. We went back upstairs and stuck on the Playstation and a beautiful friendship came to being. I didn’t realise at the time that this was illegal, I guess people can only have fun as long as there is a limit to it, enforced by government.

I was no stranger to physical violence either with over seven years of traditional Karate behind me, long before GTA being released. Karate is an age old Japanese method of practicing how to effectively use ones foot to make an opponent’s eyes pop out of their ears. You enter a room full of strangers and quite often you’ll find yourself punching and kicking each other, occasionally being whipped by a teachers belt if and when you made mistakes. Had I used these techniques in anger? Not really, but I had been able to defend myself once or twice, usually resulting with me trying to put someone’s foot up their own ass.

I’ve seen monks from Asia smash pots on their heads and take kicks to the groin from a man twice their size…those bald fella’s haven’t even got a TV so whatever influences them to practice the arts of inflicting pain is anyone’s guess. I’d say boredom.

Level 10 boredom

Level 10 boredom

 

Smoking plants and playing video games was now what happened between school and eating. It could not have come at a better time as titles that have earned their place in the video game hall of fame, were released within two years of each other. Who can forget the four player split screen romp that was 007 Golden Eye on the N64, running around as Nick Nac while your friend fruitlessly attempts to karate chop you to death with Jaws had me in tears of laughter, not to mention the hilarious animation. Resident Evil 2 stoned was another level of frightening too, with curtains drawn, walking around as a cop who can only move like a cheap educational robot, HI-FI turned up to 11 and the lights off, it certainly tested your nerves.

For me this was a highlight in my gaming history so far. The days when I’d sit with a mate in my school uniform for hours until it was time for me to go, I could take the game home if they let me borrow it and the disc contained the full game.

I still had my Megadrive, I don’t recall when I sold the old girl but I do remember on the odd occasion, slamming in a cartridge for one final blast on California Games, Streets of Rage or James Pond. The sounds, the gameplay and the pad brought on feelings on nostalgia even at such a young age. When I play these games now on emulators, it’s never the same, similar to the thoughts of child hood, it reminds me of how easy going things were back then when compared to the ever maddening, shameless, money grabbing, product placing, non supportive, underhanded, identity stealing, slutty industry it is today.

There are just too many games to mention here, the step into the 3D polygon world of Sony’s powerhouse was only the beginning, but for a lot of us, we were playing reinvented titles of the originals. The Strike games continued with Soviet and Nuclear Strike. We had Micromachines V3 which surprised many as it was just as additive and frustrating as the original. Mortal Kombat was given more content and fighters with the Trilogy, with strong competition in the genre from 3D titles like Tekken and Soul Blade, there were no complaints. The PlayStation, was the first video game console to ship 100 million units, 9 years and 6 months after its initial launch. Gaming was becoming seen as a worthwhile past time and not just the hobby of spotty kids with high scores and corduroy trousers.

In the year 2000, we were going to see what would become the bestselling home console of all time, the aptly named, Playstation 2. It was also the year I left home, had my first house mate and so, the battles continued.

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My Gaming History ‘Part 10’

Posted in My Gaming History with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 1, 2013 by Mortal Mikey

This post is taking a bit of a detour from my gaming history as I’d like to mention something we, as gamers have had to face throughout the days spent tackling these virtual marvels. They are, glitches. I think they deserve a mention during this retrospective journey, as without them, games would never have the character or quirks we remember so fondly.

Whether it was the new uncharted polygon worlds of Sony or the copious amounts of cannabis consumed during the evolution of the Playstation but my new found skill in gaming was the ability to glitch any given title into oblivion. More often than not, I’d pop over to a friend’s house and pick up a controller to play their latest purchase. In the first five minutes I’d made the character or vehicle bend time and space and appear in a geographic location unknown to the game itself, ruining the apparent game environment, whilst making a noise like a dog trapped in a burning bin.

BIN

Just in the past month my friend, who writes for a an online technology magazine, handed me a brand new powerful smartphone from Motorola. As I flicked through the phone, he explained to me that the phone has a Pentium chip, has incredible RAM specs and so on. He fired up the new Batman game on the android system, quickly briefed me on the controls and off I went, to attempt to save Gotham City. I was impressed by the frame rate and the controls, perhaps now we’ve achieved a ‘oneness’ with this software programming stuff, this just looks too slick to fuck up.

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The first two bad guys in this sandbox environment met their doom by means of the bat belt, I think I used the “Bat’arang” on the one guy and simply punched the other henchman to death, Bruce Wayne style.

So I decided it was time for a little exploring. Using the cape for the first time I launched Bat Wayne from a tall building, swooping down to meet two unsuspecting thugs on the street below. Unfortunately the Bat met an untimely fate when I strayed off course slightly and panicked, only to witness the caped crusader disappear through the bricks of a roof top Gotham city outbuilding, which was about 10x10ft square. I tried and tried to recreate the same graphic anomaly but failed miserably. It was quite depressing really, watching batman running and jumping wildly inside this small brick tomb, bumping into the four walls…thinking about it, there isn’t much batman could do in this instance. I used every conceivable means to escape and used every gadget the game provided, but in the end, Bruce man is just a lonely bloke in a gimp suit with ears and can’t kick or punch his way out of bricks and mortar.

Bat-fucked

Bat-fucked

Glitches have come a long way since the early days of polygon technology, now with simulated earth, wind, fire and water elements at developers disposal, all manner of madness can happen to your character or vehicle that previously had never been dreamed of. I believe with someone like me at the front line of games testing a lot of these issues could have been resolved a long time ago.

Helpful glitches have also appeared throughout games history, whether It be a crafty glitch that allows you to kill an end level boss without being killed, or an inventory glitch that gives you endless money or ammo. My most recent glitch discovery would have been whilst attempting to play the clumsy, unsatisfying Dark Souls, in which you, the victim, fumble around a grimy old ruin with a broken knife, frequently being destroyed by an array of crazed enemies. You often end up looking like a pensioner being kicked to death by chavs on PCP.

Upon meeting the first boss, which happens to be an over-sized, over animated ‘Asylum troll’, I quickly discovered a weakness using my experience of these kinds of situations and positioned myself at the rear of the monster, trying to learn it’s repetitive movements, with a large kitchen knife in hand. After regularly meeting an untimely fate previously to booby traps and awkward controls, I laughed manically as I repeatedly stabbed the fat troll in the arse until I killed it to death.

Stab the arse to win

Stab the arse to win

Flashback was a much loved title for me on the Sega Megadrive. It solidifies my argument that my generation have had it hard when faced with other big responsibilities in life, like washing or school. My parents were forever arguing the toss about how I should do my homework because back in their day, the cain was used as punishment for not putting in the hard labour. As well as physical punishment for not learning your sixty four times table, they’d recall games they used to play. Games like, roll the wheel with a stick, throw rocks at trains and hop scotch.

How is there any expectation for children to learn a government based education today? When I was a kid, of course I had homework, but I also had a powerful games console in my bedroom which could throw me into a situation in seconds whereby I play the role of a slick, agile motherfucker in a tan brown leather jacket, pale blue jeans, in a pair of Nikes, wielding a large handgun…IN SPACE. Choosing to spend time playing Flashback or writing an essay on how long it takes for water to erode rocks. I chose Nikes, handguns and space aliens, every. fucking. time.

flashbackflashback-megadrive-031

Delphine software, who are sadly no longer with us, released Flashback in 1992 and the following was huge. In a nutshell, you play Conrad B. Hart, who wakes up on a distant alien jungle planet ‘Titan’. You wake up with no memory of what happened but soon discover it wasn’t the result of a good night out but instead, you erased your own memory. Conrad previously recorded his memory on a Holocube because you work for the Galaxia Bureau of Investigation, and during one of Conrad’s investigations he discovered a plot to destroy the earth by shape shifting aliens that have disguised themselves as government officials.

After the first three hours or so on the game, I became unbelievably stuck and had to read through many magazines before stumbling upon a way to progress. By running away from a door, then quickly turning to run the other way holding down A, Conrad magically runs through the door into the next scene. This was pretty uncommon for a glitch to actually help you out, if you ever found a door or wall you could pass into in a game, you should expect the worst.

Look out for my top five gaming intro’s of all time, coming soon. I’ll explain more about one of my favourite games ‘Flashback’ and discuss how a masterpiece is made.

If you aren’t familiar with the term ‘glitch’ or not sure of the effects caused by glitches, take a look at this short video.

Mortal Mikey

 

My Gaming History ‘Part 9’

Posted in My Gaming History with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 1, 2013 by Mortal Mikey

Firstly, for anyone who has been enjoying these entries about my gaming history, I’d like to apologise for the lack of posts since part 8. Life moves pretty fast when you get older, either that or Alzheimer’s is creeping in steadily and actually I have no idea how much I’m not doing.

If you aren’t really that old yet, i.e. you are cruising through life at around 18 years old, eating packet pasta, walking around in flip flops and scarfs, studying for a job that appeared yesterday….

HipsterFlipFlops

It might be difficult to envisage how this feels or works, using the power of the metaphor, I’ll try and explain this to you.

Imagine for a moment you have a small wicker basket, this represents your life, you can hold this basket in one hand…in said wicker basket are a number of small rubber bouncy balls, of various sizes. Each ball represents certain aspects of your life and their size is determined by the importance of each aspect. This could include, goals, aspirations, hopes, dreams, caring for your dog, browsing mortal-mikey, looking after yourself, learning a new language, remembering important birthdays, passing that exam, revision for said exam…you get the idea. What I’m trying to convey here that your small wicker basket is in no way large enough to easily contain all of these bouncy balls but you will do your best to stack them, which sometimes believe it or not, actually works. Albeit for a brief, insignificant amount of time.

Then imagine that the world around you is a gypsy fun house, you know, the funny looking, rickety old wooden ‘house’ you find at the fair, containing all manner of dangerous mechanisms and illusions that have you falling over yourself, bumping into things, whilst being bombarded with strobe lights, loud horns and blasts of compressed air.

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Life in adulthood is like trying to navigate through one of these, whilst being followed by several large doormen (or bouncers), holding on to your little wicker basket of balls as you do. The doorman all have names too, in this case we’ll call them, debt, work and time. Anytime you knock one of these bouncy balls out of the basket due to the mayhem that occurs around you, you’ll desperately scramble around on the floor, using your only free hand, as the three of them give you a little shove here and there to move you along, which invariably means you’ll lose sight of one or two of the balls, sometimes for a moment, sometimes forever. If God were to play any part in this analogy, he would be the fat bearded chap sitting in the dirty, food stained ticket booth. Granted, to enter life (or the ‘fun house’ as he’d like to call it) it doesn’t cost fuck all, but your journey through it is going to be all on show for the omnipresent spectator to cackle at.

If reincarnation does actually exist, which I believe is probably much like a character select screen, just ask if you can enter spectator mode yourself and kick back with a beer and a selection of your favourite snacks.

Spectator mode

“Who writes this shit?”

 

 

The PlayStation was the last console I mentioned in my gaming history. I must admit I had only briefly mentioned just how ground breaking everything was when it came to the PSX. The control pad was very impressive for a start. It really felt like a another leap forward in the ergonomics theory and the way that the designers now connected with gamers. Control pads of the past were built as if every child had hands shaped like Lego which required no real dexterity to play.

SegaMasterSystemControlPad3020v1_z1

The Sony PlayStation controller was built at the perfect size and shape for human hands and the button layout was perfect for present and future games. The construction was solid and each button was sat perfectly in the plastic casing, all rubber mounted to the circuit board which gave the buttons a nice consistent feel with minimal travel. This could only be found on an original Sony built controller, all third party copies creaked and cracked like pensioner with no heating at Christmas.

Coming from a long history of controllers with buttons labelled A,B,C,X,Y,Z meant that at first it was a little confusing with Sony’s new approach to button configuration. Square, X, Circle and Triangle replaced the familiar layout from the SNES and added to this were four shoulder buttons. L1, L2, R1 and R2. Developers wasted no time and threw us all in the deep end, new titles sprang up every five minutes and with that, new button configurations and patterns had to be learned, which meant at first some games were like baptising a cat.

Love handles

Love handles

Sony’s design became the preferred method of play globally, from that time, right up until the introduction of the first Xbox.

The ability to save games also became much easier on the console with the introduction of Sony’s memory cards, which from my hazy memory, had 8Mb storage, which in today’s world is about 3 digital photographs. Games data could be taken from your home to a friend’s place who could quickly and easily copy data from your card to theirs with Sony’s front end system. Being that it was also a CD Rom drive meant that users could pop in a music CD and play tunes through your setup, which could be controlled entirely by the control pad, all backed by mad 3D rendered psychedelic visuals that would have given your dad an acid flashback. The beginnings of a home console becoming a multimedia platform were taking shape and it felt good that the functionality was for there for us.

8mb card

With more power obviously meant more exciting titles. The PlayStation will forever be remembered for bringing us a new plethora of fighting games and of course light gun games. Games from the arcades were coming to the home once again with titles like Lethal Enforcers, Time Crisis and Point Blank.

Light gun games were pretty poor on the 8-Bit systems, with few exceptions. Both Sega and Nintendo had their own light gun systems on the Megadrive and the SNES which only really served as a novelty in my opinion. The initial expense of the ‘Menacer’ on the Megadrive system was pretty steep and the games pack that came with the gun were short lived titles.

Turn off the lights, turn up the sound and sit back with your best mate with a copy of Lethal Enforcers on the PS1 and you were in for some wholesome criminal killing. So the graphics weren’t exactly show stopping but the real gun sound effects, real digitised characters on photographed backgrounds had appeal. Sure, every time you pull the trigger the screen flashed bright white, which happened several thousand times a minute and no doubt induced many seizures in bedrooms around the globe, but perhaps the danger element added to the excitement.

Complete with his and her's Colt .44 Magnum

Complete with his and hers Colt .44 Magnum

We certainly got a bang for our buck with Die Hard Trilogy. Looking back at the game now it’s hard to imagine why we were so excited, as most of the game, by todays standards, looked like it was constructed by primary school children locked in a dark room full of computers, with a basic knowledge of programming and the Die Hard films being played on big screens 24 hours a day.

The gameplay was a completely different story, there were three different game types, and if I’m honest, the gameplay and sound certainly was impressive at the time. Each Die hard had a different style of play which up until that point hadn’t really been seen before and since then hasn’t been replicated. Die Hard was set in the skyscraper and in this section of the game you ran around as John McLane in a third person perspective and gunned down anyone who stands between you and the hostages. There wasn’t much in the way of strategy in this chapter, John ran with his gun constantly at arm’s length, in his vest and simply shot things until they stopped moving. It was the little things added to the game that entertained, John would occasionally say one liners when you shot enemies or picked up health and ammo. A majority of the surrounding furniture of the game was destructible too, such as windows, table objects, roof tiles etc. The bigger the weapon, the more damage, and it isn’t long before you get into the flow and have enemies bouncing off the office walls using well placed grenades.

diehard

Scores take priority over exploding Ambulance?

Scores take priority over exploding Ambulance?

Die Hard 2 was set in the airport obviously and this is where you could use the light gun. The game controlled your character through the scenes and just allowed you to shoot. The characters in Die Hard Trilogy at first looked a little awkward, but soon it was evident that quite a lot of work had gone into them. There were some early examples of ‘ragdoll’ physics here in a 3D environment, this also meant that enemies and civilians didn’t always take exactly the same path with every play through.

Take that Hans!

Take that Hans!

Die Hard Trilogy was produced by Probe entertainment here in the UK, which could account for the crude German accents that appear throughout the game and could also account for the call to ban the game in Germany. This was one of the first times I had seen photos rendered onto polygons, if you looked closely, on some of the characters had the faces of the development team. Although the game was extremely buggy at times, the subtle comedic effect of the sounds and the mayhem that could be unleashed with the light and grenades meant that a lot of homework was never done.

Die harder

Finally Die Hard with Vengeance was again completely different in terms of game play due to the fact it was purely driving. You start out in the yellow New York taxi and acquire several missions along the way which require you to drive other vehicles. This was undoubtedly the least realistic of the three games but was often the most fun. The missions usually involved simply ramming the shit out of the target vehicle or ramming a dustbin containing a bomb, but instead of crashing and immobilising the enemy car or getting out and disarming the bomb, targets would explode like a small nuke with no regard for civilians.

diehardest

Even changing into a new vehicle for a mission required you to smash into it, creating yet another explosion as you drive off. Polygon civilians would run for their lives as you sped through the city, if you mounted the pavement GTA style, the screen would be splattered with blood making the wipers work.

_-Die-Hard-Trilogy-PlayStation-_2 _-Die-Hard-Trilogy-PlayStation-_

Thats it for this part, I promise in 2013 I’ll be keeping up a reasonable pace with this series, right up until present day.

Happy new year!

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Massive retro invaders mug

Posted in The Pit with tags , , , , on April 16, 2012 by Mortal Mikey

Someone kindly gave this to me as a gift

Should hold a fair amount of wine…