DuckTales: Doin’ It Right

Licensed games have been a bit sketchy since time immemorial. These are titles that are directly licensed from popular franchises, typically rushed to production, and (seemingly) used for no other purpose than to deprive unwary gamers (or gift-buyers) of their money. No need to bring up examples; any gamer aware of the breadth of the medium’s history understands this.

The typical licensed game takes something that is close to a fan’s heart and neuters it. Replace a fun story with bored storytelling. Take a narrative suited to its medium and cram it onto a disc. Spend more on advertising than on the game itself. It’s enough to give any fan an allergic reaction to anything near a licensed title. The bottom-line (and deadline) usually trump loving care, as they so often do even with non-licensed games, except that when a non-licensed game flops there are no uber-fans to leap to the forums, their keyboards of fury ablaze with righteous indignation.

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If it doesn’t say Micro Machines, it’s not the real thing.

I have not been much of a racing gamer for a while. I certainly respect how much the genre has evolved from its early days; both the Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport series are an ever-improving apotheosis of racing at home, giving a simulation that is, in some cases, literally good enough to train us for driving on the real-life tracks the games represent

I learned a lot more about driving from these games than it is probably safe to publicly admit. Because of simulation racers, I think about lines and acceleration and vehicular physics in a way I maybe never would have grokked on my own. They were crucial to my skilled-but-not-necessarily-legal driving style.

The funny thing is, I suck at them.

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SimCity: Creating (Artistic) Communities

SimCity came about in a rather roundabout way. Will Wright, working on a completely different title, discovered that he had much more fun developing the level editors for the game than the game itself. Believing (rightly so, as it turns out) that others might share his interest in civic management, he eventually created a game that, though puny by today’s standards, is the grandfather of all city-simulation titles.

Thus, a franchise and a genre were born. Soon, gamers would be harnessing all kinds of zones, ordinances, and utilities to create masterpieces of design. Theme parks followed, as did hospitals, ski resorts, prisons, and even schools. The classic top-down look has been little changed since then, but other forms of expression changed the flow to keep things from getting stale. Where would we be without the disaster button, filling us with the power of Old Gods to rain down our displeasure on the unwary Sims of the cyber world?

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