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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.

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 5’

Posted in My Gaming History with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 19, 2012 by Mortal Mikey

It was bank holiday Monday last week and so that meant wind and rain here, in the UK. A good friend of mine insisted we go to the local Racecourse (a place where small people smack horses and race them around a track) to see a stunt show.

The poster was defiantly eye catching, anyone from my generation knows how cool a Monster truck is from when we first caught a glimpse of American motor sport on SKY television back in the 80’s.

Well, they weren’t going to call it ‘Tree planter’

Obviously I was keen to see a real monster truck again, in a nation full of people obsessed with football and running…a fire breathing, 1000+ horse power, car crushing truck is hard to come by and even then you’re promptly disappointed due to our health and safety regulations requiring a noise reduction, no jumps that are too high and the crowd must be half a mile away wearing fire proof suits and ear plugs.

Quoted as ‘The greatest show on wheels’ I stuck on my all weather gear and met my friend at the show. The gravelly, uneven tarmac car park was the ‘arena’, surrounded by metal temporary fencing and the stunt crews caravans and trucks. The wind was blustery and unpredictable, the cold, biting, and the rain was the familiar British drizzle which is much like being stroked by a wet piece of ham. The commentator did his best throughout the show to rally some enthusiasm but trying to bring British spectators to clap and cheer in these conditions is like trying to teach a dog Spanish, whilst wearing a bacon jacket.

Before the big finale involving the monster truck trundling around the car park, crushing three already mangled vehicles, you were witness to the ‘greatest show on wheels’…a Ford Mondeo estate was one of the first highlights to perform a stunt. It was more of a crash really, with a set of ramps positioned in front of a smashed car that stood vertically. The exhausted Ford reached the ramps at about 30mph and pretty much fell into the target car, all topped off with some pyro effect which I suspect was a shotgun shell rigged onto a make-shift fuse. Watch a clip of the specticale here…

Why am I telling you all of this? Well, simply because without standing outside in the cold and rain, watching people hurl themselves at burning wood strapped the front of a clapped out Ford…you can experience all sorts of dangerous looking activities from the comfort of your own warm, dry home. 

After the plethora of 2D fighting games and the new breed of racing dynamics, came the next generation of shooters.

Now for anyone unfamiliar with what is now the biggest selling gaming genre right now, it’s quite simple to explain. FPS games or ‘First person shooters’ involve you looking through the eyes of the character, pointing a weapon at things. Boys and girls the world over had enjoyed playing bubble popping, coin collecting, secret finding, spinning jumping, colourfully musical delights but the games we enjoy more than anything else involves running around virtual worlds, brandishing anything that can wound, maim or kill.

Don't mock Mario's plumbing abilties

My first experience of this new age of shooter was sat with an older friend of mine, who had acquired a copy of Wolfenstien on the PC. Looking through the first person perspective literally gave me Goosebumps, I didn’t even know what a Nazi was at the time. When I finally witnessed the showdown between my friend and an 8ft Hitler in a robotic suit with mini guns as arms, I was terrified and also quite surprised when later I came to know him in school as the evil German guy who wanted anyone who wore a star badge to die in an oven. 

I had to get myself some of this terrifying action, thankfully at the time my old man required a PC for his personal use. With a little bit of my input we had a gaming rig for doing his word processing…handy for when you need to play Doom.

In the Playstation version you could shoot with one hand and cheer yourself on with the other

Doom was similar to Wolfenstien in many ways. The controls were simple, you could not look up or down, there was no jump, you simply looked at what you wanted to kill, select the appropriate weapon and shoot it until it stops moving. Doom was an instant classic, it is another game where references have been used in film, music and books since its creation.

Both Wolfenstien and Doom were created by ID software who had no problem in letting people share the games freely and this has resulted in the franchise having a long and prosperous life. There have been changes made to both games over the years, such as gore content, obvious references to shooting Germans in the face and having maps shaped like Swastikas.

In late 1995, Doom was estimated to be installed on more computers worldwide than Microsoft’s new operating system Windows 95, the ‘Doom style’ clones since the release have been relentless and a truck load of these games were complete pap.

It set the standard for the genre by including great game play, crazy satanic art work, totally immersive sound and hard hitting weapons. There is little more satisfying than the boom, click, click, of the pump action shotgun as a monster gargled it’s last breath.

The fantasy element in recent years has been seen less and less and replaced with total realism of combat, it can often feel like you’re training yourself mentally for some weird military recruitment frenzy in the near future where you have to fight the entire middle east with your five best friends. Typically all of the Doom style games from the past were based around the complete iraddication of everything in the level but as time progressed, so did the programming and the (Artificial Intelligence) AI. This opened up new opportunities for games designers to improve combat but it wasn’t without it’s turkeys.

You can pick up a copy of one of the many attempts at creating a ‘next gen’ shooter with basic AI in any PC retailer in a bargain basket, the consoles have also seen their fair share. It’s the simplest things, from how an enemy is alerted to your presence or how accurate they can be with a weapon. Games are so advanced now that a programmed AI can’t detect you through some foliage or in darkend corners…young gamers today never had to endure sniping levels were an enemy could spot you half a mile away hiding behind a bush and shoot you between the eyes with a pistol. Neither have they been pinned down by a dozen enemies who can shoot a single pologon of your character as you cautiously peek around a corner in a vain attempt to ambush them. 

Not all games were as bloody and gore ridden as Doom, some games rolling out of the shops at this time were as dark as the Care Bears…the simplicity of gaming can always be sought out if need be, which is why I find the arguments against gaming / violence ridiculous.

There is something strangely satisfying and relaxing about dispatching hundreds monsters with a sawn off shotgun, if I could think of one game responsible for some anger issues as a kid, it would have been Code Masters, Micro machines.

Based on the tiny over priced toy vehicles, you raced from a top down perspective against the computer, or your friends around a race track. Friendships were pushed to their limits as your opponents were able to bump you off the track to meet certain doom, sometimes accidently, often intentionally.

Being constrained to a top down view and a single screen, did limit how much you could win or lose by, as the camera could only zoom out so much. Tracks were set in garages, gardens, kitchen tables, pool tables and bathrooms, each presenting their own dangers like moving platforms, sweets, holes in the ground and puddles. Circuits could be mastered by remembering every single object, turn and jump of the track, as it raced towards you from any direction but more often than not you are simple flying blind, knocking into things, occasionally shouting something vulgar at the TV.

Codemasters later introduced two extra controller ports on the cartridge, so three of you could pick on the kid you liked least.

The experts indeed have it all wrong. I would literally have to take myself outside and go play with some matches for awhile in the garden, all because of certain levels I was trying to complete, with curtains drawn and strict instructions to my mum that she better have a good excuse to enter my room.

In a similar vein, Disney’s Aladdin was a beautifully crafted film, with a star studded voice over cast and slick animation, it should have a place in anyone’s collection if you like that sort of thing. So in 1993 when a game was released on the Megadrive, my parents bought me the game as a birthday present as I enjoyed the film so much. The game played rather well, so well in fact it was pretty addictive and so I spent a few hours jumping around, throwing apples at beggars and slashing enemies with a scimitar. As platformers go Aladdin was good fun, with a dose of Disney’s very own humour and animation thrown in for good measure.

I was keen to complete the game as it was so good, to do this however you had to endure a level so infuriating, at one point I think I almost considered putting the cartridge in the gap between the edge of a door and the hinge to crush it into pieces. With no capacity to save the game you had to get this right and you quickly learnt that either these game developers are fucking with you, or they are just horrible people.

The flying carpet level begins with Aladdin flying through a cave slowly, you have a few seconds or less to figure out all of the controls because the carpet is speeding up and you need to avoid rocks. Behind you is a wave of lava in case you weren’t panicked enough. As a platformer your perspective was limited on a twenty something inch television, in reality, to avoid the obstacles and the tidal wave of molten lava, you had to rely on your psychic abilities or pure luck. With a finite amount of lives and a fair number of levels left to get through in the game, getting this right took patience and good memory skill. One technique used to complete this level was the use of the start, or pause button. Used continuously you could gauge how much you need to move up or down on the carpet, this required the concentration of a bomb disposal expert with Parkinson’s and a pillow to bite in case you fucked this up too.

I do apologise that every time I mention in a previous ‘Gaming history’ post, that I’m going to talk about a certain game, more often than not, I don’t. There is a lot of games to get through and hopefully I’ll get to mention the best ones.

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