Tag Archives: Black and White

Before life was, I was

Yup, there is the ego, floating over your head, look to the right, no, your other right, look about 43.8 degree higher (if you are outside) take the second star to the right, yup, there I am. So as you might have guessed, it is time to talk about god-games and whatever I consider here, is free to use in any Sony exclusive game.

To see this, we need to go back to the foundation of god-games. My introduction to this type was in the 80’s when Little Computer People came to the CBM64. We all see the age of Peter Molyneux as the stage of the ‘true’ god games, but it is out in the open to accept or reject that notion. And in all this, most of us might remember the game Black and White. It was a more god game than most god games and even the guy upstairs agrees, right Hades? 

Yet what if we create a game where it is merely part of the game, not the game itself. For example, if we set to an example most of us remember ‘Assassins Creed Brotherhood’, consider that the game remains the control of Ezio Auditore, yet the god side of it is that we can to some degree control the actions of NPC’s. An example, Ezio is running through town, and that is fine, but in the god side we unleash rain on the area and as a result all the courtesans hide inside their houses. Ezio loses an ability to his side. This is a crude version. 

So if we use the divine powers in Black and White, it is a direct option, what if it becomes indirect? Like drawing a line in the sand, the ants will find another path, but that is as clear an option as it comes. So what happens when the game is about indirect channelling and it becomes about indirect guidance. Not as a setting in the game, but as a setting towards the game? So like Batman fights his opponents in Arkham knight, we influence the brutality of those around him, we set the premise of depression of the victims around him, it changes the game, it changes his focus, whilst the gamer does not see a change in the player, the stage we see in detective mode of Batman and we see the criminals are at some point terrified, Batman instilled this, but what happens when we set a secondary stage that affects the persons in the area, but Batman cannot directly influence that. That stage is influenced by the the NPC’s, not like the stupid wave like behaviour we saw in AC Unity again and again, but a sort of herd like behaviour in NPC’s, it changes the entire setting of the playable area and we forgot about that, thee gamer (and the developer was so focussed on Ezio Auditore, Batman, Edward Kenway, they forgot to set the influence stage on the population when Batman, Poison Ivy, or Vaas comes into the level. Yes, there was some attempt (AC Unity) the the fear was where we see street run away in front of you was a failed attempt at this. A stage where we can only influence a second tier (up to a point), is something we have never faced. In this I grab back to the Black and White part. Until we set the premise where an evangelist is created by their own choice, the influence is limited. So we can directly interfere in the game (buildings, infrastructure), yet the NPC influence is only limited. Games like Spore, Black and White set the action as direct. I want to change that, give a much larger challenge where the person having the finger needs to think where he draws the line for the ants.

It is a speculative setting, but that is all that I can offer in a conceptual setting. It is conceptual, because it has never been done before and evolution of games happens in a stage where things are new and never done before, there was always the first one. And that is what we are aiming for, something never done in gaming before, upgrading the level of gameplay down the line, and that was all that gamers want, a new level of play, we all want that, because sooner rather than later more of the same becomes tiring. And for the most, the sandbox games has left the NPC part of their game to too much of a limiting factor. So we need to change that side of things if only to make sandbox games more realistic and more believable.

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I see dead people

There is a stage we all see and we all think we seem to know, I am very set on the ‘seem to’ part. I stumbled upon a 5 years old article by TechCrunch, it is about Peter Molyneux, a person I personally know, so I was curious. It was the beginning that got to me. With “the British game development hero that spearheaded famous studios Bullfrog and Lionhead, but who also always had a reputation of being fluid with the truth. Molyneux was the guy who made Populous and led the studios that created Theme Park, Dungeon Keeper, Syndicate, The Movies, Fable, Black and White, Magic Carpet and many others. But Molyneux was also a teller of tall tales, a maker of wild promises in interviews that had little chance of being realised” the game is on, you see it is about the games, and Bullfrog let by Peter delivered again and again on CBM64, Atari ST, Amiga and PC. I still miss some of these games. They opened the mind, the made us creative and it pushed us to think different. So when we get to ‘a teller of tall tales, a maker of wild promises in interviews that had little chance of being realised’, we are b being misled on two fronts. The first is that (as far as I know) Peter has always been in the business of pushing gaming boundaries. It is hard to prove this, but I have an example, in those days I had a mouthwatering PC, it had all the bells and whistles and it would make coffee for me if it had hands, so here I am with a high end graphics card that can do anything with was, so even as Black and White is fun and amazing, it was that merely fun and amazing, about three months after the game releases there is a new graphics card and I install it, I had nothing real to do and I restart Black and White, so when the temple is built and I walk inside my mouth drops, it blew me away. Black and White was the first game that was ready for the nextgen graphics, it was the first time this would happen to me. Even now I still hope for a remaster of Magic Carpet on the new consoles, a rerelease of dungeon keeper, and only team bullfrog can deliver on that.

The second part is the one TechCrunch does not mention, in the early 90’s, the media was on gaming like nothing you ever saw, the journo’s at the ECTS were renowned, worse than paparazzi and always looking for a sound-byte, an exploit and that part is not mentioned, also the words of Molyneux have been pulled out of context more than once, he did something other gamer makers did not achieve, he surpassed the boundaries of systems. That can be seen if you compare the reboot of Syndicate with the original, the original remains vastly superior 20 years later. The reboot got a mere 66%, it is vision that get us games and Peter Molyneux had just that. Then we get a part the is hard to dispute and most likely correct “The other reason Molyneux thrived was that his team delivered. There are, and will forever remain, disputes over exactly how much he was involved with some of the titles to his name (Glenn Corpes, Sean Cooper, Demis Hassabis and a variety of others deserve their credit) but what was inarguable was that Molyneux had managed to create an environment in which great games happened”, yes Peter was not alone and we all get that, but Peter made it happen and it is undeniable, great games happened at Bullfrog and Lionhead. The titles are still revered and people still yearn for another fable, another dungeon keeper and another theme park, even now, even 20 years later, that is gaming at the edge!

Then we get a gem “He would combine those ideals to form an exciting story for what a game might be, often road testing a certain phrase or image with you before using it with the press. This, I gather, is not unlike the way Steve Jobs seems to have been”, the man was part visionary and could recognise visionaries in coders, that is part why his games were so great (the original concept is part of that), until Bullfrog, who had considered being the bad guy in Hero quest would be entertaining? And that is the foundation of great gaming, bel to turn the equation upside down and get another nugget of gold, he had this. I particularly like the end of the article “Ambitious design, big ideas and bold visions are what propel the games industry forward. When all is said and done, create-a-cash-engine mentalities are only ever temporary, but it’s the ambition that makes video games forever. I for one hope that Molyneux rises from the ashes one last time to teach us this lesson again”, it is all the parts Ubisoft forgot to be, it is all the sides the spreadsheet driven BI executives at EA and likeminded companies are dumbstruck on. I hope that he gets a few more notches on his 6 shooter with new titles on nextgen, optionally Google Stadia too. Consider the titles we saw at the beginning and consider that those who knew the games still remember them and love them 20+ years later, that is an achievement only Nintendo has been able to equal. 

So when it comes to Bullfrog, its staff and the man behind it, I tend to see dead people, it is the press behind it, not the makers of games, they have proven their grit, they did it several times. 

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The future of gaming

My life, for the most have been about gaming in one way or another. My fascination with computers started when I was just a young man (an annoying brat to be more precise). I saw the magic of computers when I saw my first Star Trek Episode, which was around 1972 or 1973 (Dutch Television). Computers were magic from that point onwards. You, the reader will not believe or imagine this, but in those days, computers were massive, there were actual career sessions on becoming a Computer Operator. I would not get my fingers on a computer until 1981, but it was more than just love at first sight. Whilst everyone around me was looking at it, if it were a dragon that needed to be carefully prodded with a stick, my journey started in earnest. I could go around the systems in mere minutes. Where sergeants were destroying their own work by not remembering the difference between the ‘write in’ and ‘write out’ buttons on their text processor (Oce), I was circumventing the Defence servers by entering specific parts of the entire logistical system giving the ‘MDETnnnn’ commands at the system prompt. Whilst some were sitting at their desk with their ‘bankgirocent’, holding on to ‘keys’ for their keyboard, so that no one could start certain programs. I was going around the entire system with the entire defence logistical system to explore. But it was not all me, often I was sitting in a corner, listening to a Colonel, who was at that point working on a project called ‘VAB3’. I was helping out, his sergeant; a rather pretty woman thought I was after her. If only (she was really good looking). No, the colonel was the first person where I ACTUALLY learned from, the man had insight and was brilliant, It took me a few days, but then I had a clear grasp of the entire Defence payment system, the codes, the settings and the individual programs, the microfiches taught me the rest.

There was no want for money, for wealth. It was simple learning and exploration. We all learn and grasp in our own ways. Do not worry; it is all still linked to gaming!

My weakness is that I never had any commercial inspiration; I never cared too much about money (other than paying my bills). I was always interested in the Puzzle! In my time I have designed my applications, I made them for friends, I made them as assignments, to make a little cash. I once had the option to automate cinemas, but after one afternoon I dropped it. Not because I could not do it, but because it was too easy. I had solved all parts in less than three hours but I did not write it as it had become a mere exercise. It was my only real flaw and to the smallest extent it still is.

I did actually also do other things (like actual work) with mainframes and at times, with those dinky weird contraptions called PC’s. The IBM PC was bulky, and had two boxes the size of the Google OUYA flat side forward, one slot was for the 360Kb floppy the other slot was for the 10 Mb disk drive, which was priced at $2999. Yes, I did say 10 Megabyte! On the disk was a program called Lotus Symphony version 1.1, which I used to create a program to manage the numbers and information of dangerous cargo on container ships (in those days the fines for too much IMCO 5.1, whilst entering Singapore were truly massive). It took me 3 days to work it out and after that they could find the information in minutes, which before that moment took hours and sometimes up to 2 days to check the containers of a carrier at times having a load of almost 1750 containers. So, I did achieve plenty, but it was always the puzzle that pushed me forward.

masterelite1 So, how does this relate to gaming? To get this, you have to consider the days of non-graphics, where a game like Elite was high resolution graphics (in those days).

It was the first game I actually played for some time on the BBC micro B computer (which was not mine), but I was hooked ever since. I moved from Vic-20 (second hand) to a Commodore 64 and from there on, whatever work I did, it was the console at home that satisfied my need for ‘puzzles’ and exploration.

This now comes back to the game we see getting more and more attention. The game is called ‘No man’s sky’ and the person giving it the visibility it deserves (and more) is Danny O’Dwyer (at http://www.gamespot.com/no-mans-sky/). This game takes me back to several games. First, there was Elite, where we travelled the cosmos, trading and shooting wars from Harmless to Elite. The game is at times mindless get through it, simple, but the trades, the encounters, the jumps to a new place and especially in the beginning, docking with a station, had me and many like me glued to the screen. Later on the Commodore Amiga, some German person made something that looked like a Star Trek simulator, where we could fly to planets, get into orbit and (that was it at the time, the game was not complete). After that Origin (the people behind Ultima and Wing Commander) give is a higher graphics version of Elite and they called it Privateer. Later still Peter Molyneux gave us Black and White, a god creation game. I could go into a lot more detail, but I do not want to bore the reader with my gaming life.

There is one reference that is missing. In the 80’s, there was a comic strip in a magazine called ‘Computer and Video Games (CVG)’ about a ‘god-creation simulator’. Here we have the elements of the puzzle. Here we see the elements of No Mans Sky united. The exploration of a planet, from there we can see and visit the planets in the cosmos and grow in wealth, menace and trade as we find larger and better means for travelling. This game has all the elements of gaming I always loved and this game is close to giving us the almost perfect exploration game, where we are mere travellers in all the freedoms we ever wanted. We are not limited by the confines of Tamriel or Sosaria. This game is close to promising a journey where our own imagination is slowly becoming the only remaining limit in gaming.

That would make this game the most enticing form of gaming we are ever likely to meet and see. It is quite literally Minecraft on an epic scale!

We will always want our Scribble Shooter (or its smoother brother Halo), but gaming is more than a race, a fire fight or even a quest. No Man’s Sky is trying to meet the promise some of the older gamers have waited for, for a lifetime. Will we get that experience? I truly hope so!

I have had good days, even great days in many of the games on nearly all of the platforms. Even today, as we see new games trying to fend for the ‘top’ spot of gaming, some gamers are still yearning back to the games that actually delivered a sense of wonder. Whether it was one of the Ultima games, a Metal Gear Solid, the original thief or even a game like System Shock (both one and two) delivering that sense of joy. Some will desire the days of Mass Effect and would want to walk around the Citadel beyond the few levels we saw. No Man’s land is currently implying that it will offer all of that. That makes the days of Danny O’Dwyer one of the sweetest jobs around, because he could be sitting on the hottest gaming potato of an entire generation of gaming.

Time will tell whether NoMansSkyFieldSean Murray ends up being the greatest marketeer or the greatest game developer. I am hoping for the second one. The only critical view I have (for now) is that it is good to know that it is coming, the fact that the game is still more than a year away is less interesting if we get to see too much of the game so far in advance.

 

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