Tagged: computer games

Game Show a Go Go: TRL Trivia.

Game Show a Go Go is a series where I look into game show video games, and games that are game show-like. Today, we travel back to the year 2001 as we remember the days when MTV still played music videos at a reasonable hour, and quiz ourselves on the pop culture that we know from the late ’90s to early 2000s. Hope you know your Blink-182 trivia.

Let’s talk about MTV. Go ahead, make the “Remember when they used to play music videos?” jokes, get it out of your system. That said, MTV was a cultural revolution back in the day. Seeing lots of quirky music videos, then it slowly started expanding to general purpose music programming, such as Beavis and Butt-head and game shows like Remote Control. Eventually MTV’s various TV shows eventually got video games of their own in varying levels of quality, most of them bad.

Remote Control the game show is awesome. Remote Control the video game, however, is not.

Remote Control the game show is awesome. Remote Control the video game, however, is not.

Alas, as we entered the internet age, music videos became infrequent, and we were subject to various shows like Celebrity Deathmatch, punk’d, Jackass and webRIOT. These shows went further and further past the original “Music Television” concept and ended up being more about general pop culture. Nowadays we’re subjected to reality shows involving teen moms and people from the Jersey shore, with maybe some music videos in the middle of the night. But let’s forget about today and travel back to the year 2001, when times were much simpler, and it was more about the music.

Total Request Live, or trl for short, was a show that was part music videos, part talk show, and part “random teenagers screaming over the music video telling us how this Christina Aguilera song is their favorite song of all time.” It lasted several years on MTV before finally ending in 2008, which is surprising considering the state of the network at that point. TRL was where Carson Daly got his start, and he now hosts a podunk late night talk show on NBC that no one watches unless they fell asleep after The Tonight Show and forgot to turn the TV off.

In 2001, Take Two Interactive decided to cut a deal with MTV and make a game based on trl for the PC audience. Enter TRL Trivia. (or as it’s stylized on the box: MTV trl trivia.) I’ll give you three guesses which game this is meant to be like.

If you guessed this game would be a You Don't Know Jack clone, congratulations, you win this old HitClips thing I found in my bedroom. Enjoy the terrible sounds of *NSYNC's It's Gonna Be Me.

If you guessed this game would be a You Don’t Know Jack clone, congratulations, you win this old HitClips thing I found. Enjoy the terrible sounds of *NSYNC’s “It’s Gonna Be Me” through a tinny speaker!

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Game Show a Go Go: Outburst

I mentioned this in the past, but there’s two things I have an unhealthy infatuation with: video games (natch) and game shows. Naturally since I like both of them, I’ve amassed a bunch of game show video games over the years. So I thought, “let’s talk about game show video games.” Because what better thing there is to write about than the 20 different versions of Jeopardy! that I own.

Though, this won’t exclusively cover video game adaptions of game shows, no sir. Naturally there are video games that try to simulate the feel and entertainment of a game show, and I’ll cover those as well. Such as our inaugural entry….

I always wondered what those circles meant…

Let’s jump back to 1995. Hasbro, wanting to get in on the burgeoning video game market, formed Hasbro Interactive that year. Most of their output was games based on their various properties, including Monopoly and Scrabble. Oh, and taking over the Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! games when GameTek went bankrupt. The company basically stayed on this path until Hasbro Interactive was bought by Infogrames in 2000, though Hasbro would eventually buy back the rights to make video games based on their various franchises.

Fun Fact: This version of Monopoly was made by Westwood Studios. Yes, Command & Conquer Westwood Studios.

Fun Fact: This version of Monopoly was made by Westwood Studios. Yes, Command & Conquer Westwood Studios.

Cut to 1998. This was around the time when Jellyvision’s (now Jackbox Games) You Don’t Know Jack was immensely popular, and naturally any Tom, Dick and Harry game publisher wanted to cash in by making You Don’t Know Jack-likes for the PC market. Either they tried to make a trivia game styled like Jack, such as TRL Trivia and Austin Powers in Operation Trivia, or they tried to copy the goofy “adult humor” and make their own game show-like game. Enter Outburst.

Remember Outburst? It’s that one board game where you shout out as many answers to a category as you can. It’s not a classic, but it’s one of those party games that gets thrown in along with Taboo and Catchphrase. Hasbro enlisted the development of Outburst by a small games company known as CyberDice. Not to be confused with the company that pumps out Battlefield games every two years, CyberDice was a development studio that only made a handful of party games. From the brief research I did, they worked on this game and Super Scattergories. I’m going to hazard a guess the developer folded shortly after the dot-com bubble burst.

outburst-sampleround

A sample round of play. Clearly I wasn’t thinking like the writers of this game were.

Outburst the computer game is stylized much like a TV game show. You can play by your lonesome or with other players, online or off. The game has multiple rounds of play, all based on the general theme of giving as many answers as they can within the time limit. After some rounds, you can earn bonus points by having the randomizer hit an answer you gave (Shown above). The team with the most points wins after seven rounds wins.

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A dedication to Red Book CD audio.

Ah, the Red Book CD audio standard. Introduced in 1980, it set the standard for audio for the next three and a half decades. But this time, we’re looking at a small portion of that audio standard.

When it comes to video games, CDs were a god damn revelation back in the day. Before then, people were working on cartridges that barely held a few megabytes. CDs held up to 700MB, and developers found out they could use that extra size for things they couldn’t have before on cartridges. Unfortunately, this led to a lot of crappy full motion video games around the mid-’90s, but they also brought us something amazing: CD quality audio.

No longer were developers constrained by the YM2612 and SPC700 sound chips, musicians could now make the music as it was intended to be heard: with live instrumentation (or a close approximation). A fair share of CD-based systems like the Sega CD, the Turbografx-CD, the PlayStation, and Sega Saturn had CD audio support. While playing these games, the rich CD audio played through your television, giving you music that you’d never heard before in video games. Okay, that might be a bit of a stretch these days, but it was a god damn revelation if you were around back then.

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Experiencing PC gaming with integrated graphics.

Back in December, I decided to trade in my hunk of junk six year old HP Pavilion PC for a new custom built PC. Running on an Intel i5-4570, 8GB of RAM and a 1TB HDD with Windows 7, I was in PC gaming heaven. I couldn’t quite afford a new video card, so my 3 year old Radeon HD5770 was put into the PC as a stop gap until I could afford a new video card. It worked out great, pushing most of the PC games I had to high settings.

But then, tragedy struck. I saw graphical artifacts while playing Crysis, but thought nothing of it at the time. Several days later, my video card started spinning its fans loudly while I was idling on my PC, temperatures rising by the second. Even with a quick dusting, the card still got loud and didn’t show a picture. It happened to me again: a video card died on me. I got the HD5770 as an emergency replacement for my dead GeForce 8800GT back in 2010, and now I had another dead video card. I was amazed the Radeon lasted that long, maybe pushing all those polygons in those two months was a bit hard on the old gal.

So, for the past month I’ve been playing other games, such as binging on Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit from 2010 and playing through Call of Duty: Black Ops II on my 360. After being annoyed that I couldn’t play much on the PC, I decided to test something. All CPUs these days come with a integrated graphics chip. PC gamers won’t use this, opting to buy a video card to do all the heavy lifting for their gaming needs. I thought I’d give my i5 processor’s integrated graphics chip a shot in the meantime. After installing the newest drivers, I tried a bunch of games on Intel’s own integrated graphics, the HD4600 and saw the results. Boy, I was surprised.

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True Crime: Streets of LA Uncovered.

Remember True Crime: Streets of LA? It was a decent Grand Theft Auto clone developed by Luxoflux (RIP) and published by Activision in 2003. While it didn’t reinvent the wheel, it was a decent shooter, driving game and beat-em up. While I was doing my Game Fuel hunt a few weeks back, I had stumbled upon this mysterious gem in the DVD section at a Goodwill.

This is True Crime: Streets of LA Uncovered. A promo DVD for the game, presumably given to GameStop employees or people who pre-ordered the game. For $3, I couldn’t pass this up.

This promo DVD is chock full of interesting videos that highlight the game’s mechanics, a few behind the scenes features, even a video advertising the (now-defunct) truecrimela.com. There’s even a trailer for the original Xbox version of the game, which looked somewhat better than the other versions of True Crime.

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Mods and Maps: They Hunger for Half-Life.

Half-Life is my most favorite game of all time. How I got to experience it for the first time is a story for another time, but one thing that really caught my eye was the mod scene for Half-Life. Much like Quake and Doom before it, people were messing around in WorldCraft making maps for the internet masses. Some were interesting, others were bizarre, then there’s the classics. The mods that did really interesting stuff for Half-Life, and end up being the must-play mods for the game. Such as today’s entry. Since Halloween is around the corner, let’s look at the zombified single player mod They Hunger.

They Hunger was originally released in 1999 as a PC Gamer demo disc freebie, followed by two additional episodes in 2000 and 2001. Neil Manke, who had made the Half-Life mod USS Darkstar for PC Gamer earlier in 1999, was already familiar with game modding for promotional purposes such as Coconut Monkey Adventures for Quake II and Soldier of Fortune for Quake. (Not to be confused with Soldier of Fortune by Raven Software, this SOF was based off a TV show.) Naturally, They Hunger looked to do something most Half-Life mods didn’t do at the time, and it definitely succeeded.

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Game finds 02-07/2013: So much stuff, so little space and time.

Man, when’s the last time I did a game finds video? Back in January, to be exact. Well, after several months in the making, I finally got around to making the damn video a few days ago.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hHFniAUSbSo]

Boy oh boy, there’s a lot of stuff in there. A bunch of PlayStation games, cheap magazines, games from across the ocean, and undeniably my biggest game find yet. Give it a look and see what you guys think. Expect something more substantial later this week, maybe about that soundtrack I mentioned in the video.

One more thing: I will be at PAX Prime again this year. I might do a blog entry or two after the event, since I won’t be able to bring a computer with me to liveblog anything. It’ll be more fun this year since it’ll be four days long.

(If you’re viewing this from a place where you can’t watch videos, or you like handy dandy lists instead, there’s a list of everything I got under the “Read More” link below.)
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Mods and Maps: Sonic Doom II: Bots on Mobius.

I love Doom. The fast-paced action, the creative levels, the large variety of weapons and enemies. It’s no wonder it’s held up as a classic in the first-person shooter genre. In recent times, people have made Doom last longer by way of modding – changing Doom‘s weapons, levels, even adding stuff never before seen on the Doom engine. Some of these mods, like Alien Vendetta and Doom the Way Id Did, take an existing spin on the tried-and-true formula, while others like Brutal Doom change the game drastically. Those mods are famous and well-known among the Doom community for their good quality. I wish I could say the same thing about the mod I’m featuring: Sonic Doom II: Bots on Mobius.

It’s like I’ve hopped back into 1998! and not in a good way!

Sonic Doom II was the work of one SSNTails, a Sonic the Hedgehog and Project GeeKer fan. (Don’t be surprised if you had to Google search that last one, I don’t remember that show either.) Back then, mashing existing franchises with Doom was pretty common – there was the Aliens TC for Doom, as well as Batman Doom, made by the guys who would later go on to make Zeno Clash. Naturally, SSNTails decided to mix the speed and fun of Sonic with the run and gun tactics of Doom and see if he could make something truly amazing in the Sonic fan games realm. Unfortunately, he didn’t succeed in that.

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Chaser: The Total Recall game we should’ve got.

One thing I’ve been trying to do this year is to tackle my long, burgeoning backlog. I’m limiting this to mostly current generation stuff like the 360, PS3, PC and Wii. But only because I wasn’t really up to digging out my Xbox to play Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 and or play through the gauntlet that is Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4. If I tried to finish everything I owned, I’d be left with a task that would be impossible to finish in my lifetime.

I’ve been making a slight dent at that backlog in recent months, tackling Borderlands and all its DLC, Saints Row: The Third (which is good timing considering Saints Row IV hits later this year), F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin and Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. Lots of shootybangs, basically.

BADASS SPACE MARINE COVER

So it makes sense my most recent completion was this little-known budget FPS called Chaser. A first-person shooter that was developed by Slovakian developer Cauldron and published by JoWood Productions in 2004. I had heard of the game in the past thanks to owning a PC Gamer demo disc that had a demo of the game’s multiplayer. While the demo wasn’t amazing by any stretch, it did seem like an interesting shooter that I might play someday.

Fast forward to 2012, when I see the game on a Steam daily deal for $2.50, which got reduced even further to $1.24. I have a soft spot for bargains, and when a game hits that “$2 or less” threshold, it’s an instant impulse purchase. Then it sat on my Steam backlog until very recently, when I had decided to try it shortly after beating Redneck Rampage, wanting an “old-school” FPS fix of a different kind.

Douglas Quaid John Chaser in an unusual predicament.

You play as John Chaser, an amnesiac stuck on a spaceship being hunted down, with no memories of what happened prior. You eventually make it to Earth and become acquaintances with members of “The Family,” as you try to do missions to find out who you are and what happened. Eventually you find the truth, befriend a few people along the way, and find out you were doing a mission on Mars. So you get your ass to Mars, go to the Hilton and flash the Brubaker ID at the desk.

Obligatory sewer level screenshot.

Okay, I know a Total Recall reference sounds dumb here, but Cauldron clearly was looking at the Schwarzenegger sci-fi classic for inspiration: From the amnesiac main character, to befriending people who would later be enemies, being chased through a spaceport, even having to go through murky Mars caves to find the truth. This is the closest we’ll get to a “Total Recall: The Video Game” that isn’t that terrible NES game from many years ago.

Let’s be honest here, shooting a bunch of dudes is better than punching similar-looking monsters and dodging glory holes.

The game is not perfect, though. Being made by a game studio where English is not their primary language, there’s that weird case of “eurojank” to Chaser‘s design. Voice acting is a very mixed bag, leading to awkward line deliveries and unusual word usage. Subtitles don’t always match what’s spoken. Jumping physics seemed a bit off, where I was more likely to miss a platform than land on it. There are many points where it wasn’t clear where I needed to go next, which lead me to walking around a lot and frequently backtracking, among other problems that are common to unpolished shooters.

Cauldron’s CloakNT Engine makes for large, expansive levels. Impressive for a game released in 2004, however it makes later stages like the last few levels drag on considerably.

Chaser is not just a rough unpolished game, it’s also very difficult. On Normal difficulty, it didn’t take much for the bad guys to whittle my full health and armor down to zero pretty quick. Enemies occasionally drop medkits and armor, but I ended up losing that as quickly as I got it. This even applies to fall damage — later stages have you dropping down on pipes, taking off small bits of your health as you descend, making it pretty easy to miss a jump and easily crater, forcing you to quick save repeatedly.

This is cruel irony.

Lately I’ve been trying to avoid playing games on harder difficulties, but Chaser was incredibly difficult to play on Normal, leaving me to go through the remaining 2/3s of the game on Easy just to get through it. Even on Easy difficulty, some of the later stages still kicked my ass, with enemies having grenade launchers that one shot me even with near-full health and armor. The quick save key became my best friend.

Even the game’s ending is especially bleak. I won’t spoil it, but I was honestly expecting a much different outcome, and playing a shooter with a downer ending, especially the long journey it took me to get there, is disappointing. I would preferred a choice, like in Singularity, another game I played fairly recently.

That isn’t to say this game is bad per se, it’s just difficult because it was clearly made in a different mindset than most first-person shooters today. Chaser hearkens back to the late ’90s-early 2000s era of first-person shooter design: reflexes, speed, exploration, backtracking, rationing items, and quick saving often to make progress. The average player today would likely have a very difficult time playing through Chaser if they’re used to the Call of Duty style of game play.

Despite that challenge, I enjoyed the varied level design — from space stations, to cities, to the Russian tundra, even the redness of Mars looked pretty neat. The soundtrack was good, reminding of MOD tracker music that was popular in Unreal Tournament and Deus Ex. There’s a bit of charm to Chaser that I had a soft spot for, despite it’s ridiculous length and punishing difficulty.

It’s on Steam at an affordable price of $5, though it does go on sale occasionally. It’s worth checking out if you want some early 2000s eurojank in your life. Just remember that it’s gonna kick your ass, but stick with it. Despite that eurojank, it’s not a bad shooter. I’ve played worse shooters out there. Much worse.

Some screenshots taken from the Steam store page and Mobygames.

(Update 8/20/2019: Updated the post with a few changes here and there.)

Mods and Maps: Plunder & Pillage.

I have a very stream-of-conscious sort of thinking. I’ll be in the middle of something — watching a video, listening to music, playing a game — and suddenly think about something related to what I’m doing right now, like information on a movie or song. It happens to me very often, leading to me going on weird tangents about silly stuff.

For example, last week I was watching a video of someone playing a game called Quest for Bush. In it, you play a soldier where to infiltrate a terrorist base with the ultimate goal to kill George W. Bush, while various Arabic music played. In reality, it’s a hack made by the Global Islamic Media Front and actually went under the name Quest for Saddam, where the goal was to kill Saddam Hussein in Iraq, complete with bad jokes and bringing down the statue of Hussein. Quest for Bush aka Night of Bush Capturing was released in 2006, three years after Quest for Saddam‘s original release.

Once I finished watching the video, my stream-of-consciousness went into effect, and I started looking into the game chronology of Jesse Petrilla, the designer of the game. Quest for Saddam is a remake of Quest for Hussein, a Build engine total conversion where you do the same thing as Quest for Saddam: Find Saddam and kill him. Even a few levels are redesigned from Quest for Hussein. Before those games, there was Quest for Al-Qaeda, then Plunder & Pillage, both made under the Build engine.

Wait, Plunder & Pillage? That doesn’t sound like an terrorist-killing game at all. That’s because it actually was a shooter where you played as a pirate, and was Petrilla’s first foray into game development.

It’s quite an interesting mod. Quoting the description:

You are Capt. Jess Murdock, a renegade pirate who has lost everything in a shipwreck on the high seas. You wash up on the shore of an island inhabited by pirates of other gangs, you must fight your way through the island, and plunder and pillage all that you can in an attempt to regain what was lost and make a name for yourself as the most feared pirate on the high seas.

This isn't Blood caliber level design, but it's probably better than most fanmade levels.

This isn’t Blood caliber level design, but it’s probably better than most fanmade levels.

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