Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Your game, now starring your friends!

A new trend is creeping into videogames. A trend that may well change the way we all play. But, more importantly, a trend that could really ONLY have come from videogames, being that they are essentially on the cusp of new technologies as part of their very nature.

Back in the old days, if we were really good at a game we could brag about it on a high score table. However, this was limited to the locality of the machine itself. When I topped the board on my ZX Spectrum copy of Paperboy, the only person who got to see my triumph was my sister. And she didn't care, being much more interested in her Cindy dolls. Some of the guys at school claimed they could beat me, but we never really developed this beyond the rivalry of words.

Things have changed drastically since the 1980's, of course. These days, I know exactly how poor my score in Geometry Wars is compared to those of my online friends, as well as how lacking in any kind of skill some of them also are. I can be proud that my Crazy Jump in Crazy Taxi on the XBox 360 is the 14th longest one recorded in the world, as well as be annoyed that it is no longer 2nd. Even better, because I am connected to XBox Live every time I switch my console on, I can tell if any of my friends are playing the game. Not that they do, but if they were, and tried to beat me ... I could attempt to do something about it.

It could be better. There could be a system by which I get informed when my distance gets beaten, perhaps?

There now is. The dedicated Mario Kart channel on the Wii allowed me to send a ghost recording of my best time trial performances to any of my friends, thus letting them try their luck against me. But, it depended upon me bothering to send it, them bothering to download it, and even upon us bothering to add each other in the first place thanks to Nintendo being absolutely terrified that somewhere in the world a paedophile might be using one of their consoles and therefore making the whole process so needlessly laborious. EA saw this, and thought "We could do better!", and thus set about including their idea in Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit. Autolog was born, and it was BLOODY MARVELLOUS!

In Autolog, every time you do anything it is recorded and, more importantly, reported to all your friends. If someone beat you, you found out about it, and were actively encouraged to DO SOMETHING about this affront to your dignity! This additional layer of social interaction added to what was already a great game, and Autolog was considered to be a success. So much so, that EA have since included itt evolution in the new SSX title.

Now named "Ridernet", it still does everything that Autolog did. However, it now also records ghosts of your friends performances along with the time and score information. Even better, it automatically displays them when you go down a slope, so that you can see just how far behind the leader you actually are. It is particularly handy as a teaching tool, to show you the best lines. But the real genius is in how it has the potential to completely alter how we think about multiplayer gaming.

Now, it is theoretically possible for me to race you down a mountain, but to do so without ever once being online at the same time as you. In effect, we can stagger our times, so that you race at a time convenient to you, and I do the same for me. Our ghosts are recorded, and any time I beat you YOU FIND OUT ABOUT IT. A similar thing is happening in PlayStation Vita launch title Motorstorm RC, in which I not only see the ghosts of friends who are beating me, but also that of random others who are faster than me.

Back in the 80's? I would have SO been all over this! Because, when that kid who nobody liked said he had scored a million on Space Invaders, he would have not only been able to back it up, we all would have been able to see him do it.

Don't get me wrong, I totally understand how challenge is not for everybody. Some don't care about being the best, just about finishing the game. Some are happy to play on Easy, just to finish the story. To these people, this friendly level of competition may well get them interested in pushing a little harder, doing a little more, playing a little deeper. And, if not, they can always just not sign into it.

Things get more interesting when you hear what Capcom are doing with the upcoming Dragon's Dogma. In this game, you don't actually get to play with friends. All multiplayer is actually you with 3 AI companions. Where it gets interesting is that said AI companions will consist of people on your friends list. The AI will earn experience and impart knowledge and rewards on your behalf WITHOUT YOU EVEN PLAYING! If I get to fight a monster, and learn how to beat it, my AI can let you know this should you come across the same monster whilst I am in bed or out doing other stuff. Whilst this might not be as much fun as actually playing together, it will certainly prove useful to my friends on the other side of the world to me, or to those with antisocial working hours. Plus, I play a LOT of games, so the chance for the game to do some grinding on my behalf whilst I investigate another title is most welcome.

This also hints at further possibilities. There is still a massive market for singleplayer game experiences. Imagine how much better these would all be if they were tailored to your playstyle, and that of your friends? NPCs in RPGs could be based on your colleagues, acting as they would in the same situation. Instead of Lydia looking at me with contempt as she utters "I am sworn to carry your burdens.", how much better would it be for it to be my girlfriend, in armour she crafted herself, responding in character? (Admittedly, whoever got me as a companion may well tire of me teabagging dead enemies, or jumping and rolling everywhere instead of walking, but ... well, I'll never stop PLAYING while I play. You know?)

These are exiting times. Social interaction is not only a part of games any more, it is becoming a driving force for some of them. Mostly competitive at the moment, but there are clear signs that it could soon be a major component in the make-up of most games. Which is just one more weapon that our most wonderful of hobbies has, and allows it to truly claim to be the most inventive and entertaining pastime on the planet.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

An open letter to GAME.

Dear GAME,

How did that PS Vita launch go, then? Good? Did you sell as many as you hoped to? Never mind the console, though, how about the games themselves? After all, they are your true stock in trade. I hope that everyone queueing at midnight managed to get their hands on whatever they wanted. Like, for example, Lumines.

Owait. They couldn't get Lumines, could they? Why was this again? Ah, I remember. Because you weren't stocking it. Along with every other Ubisoft title, for the reason that you can no longer get credit insurance.

Now, forgive me for thinking it, but doesn't that kind of thing normally mean that you owe money already? Ubisoft are clearly worried that they won't be able to get their money back for the stock, and are therefore looking after their own interests. Which is a wise move, to be honest. And, the lack of The Last Story, on top of the lack of Tekken 3D last week ... it's not looking good, is it?

But, it doesn't have to be this way.


Who am I? Well, from your point of view I'm just a gamer. Admittedly, I don't have any business degree, or any marketing qualifications, or any of that stuff that all your executives have. Well, what good have they done for you, in all honesty? They've gotten you into a boatload of trouble.

Who else am I? This is the part that you should listen to. I am an EX-customer. There once was a time when I would go shopping and smile the second I noticed a GAME store. I would head straight to it. These days? I rarely even bother, and when I do it is just to check out if there are any bargains on the shelves.

In 2011, I spent well over £1000 pounds on videogames. I would say that no more than £50 of that was at GAME. What the hell have you done so wrong?

1.) Price. You are too expensive. By a long shot. When I can walk less than 2 minutes from your store to a nearby competitor and pay £34.99 for Mario Kart 7 that you are selling at £37.99, you are CLEARLY doing it wrong. When I can then go and get it from a non-specialist for £32.99, you are massively out of touch. And when I can order the damn thing online for £29.99, your price no longer looks uncompetitive. It just looks like you are trying to rip me off.

2.) Pre-owned. Just STOP, already! I get that you make most of your profit this way, and I totally understand that if you don't ask then you won't get. But, instead of pushing staff to remind me at every sodding opportunity that I can sell my games back to you, just allow them to use some common sense? When I walk in purely to buy a DS stylus, and that is literally all I go to the counter with, the guy who then asks me "And do you have any games to trade in today?" is doing nothing to create additional value, and is instead just pissing me off.

Further to this, the prices are RIDICULOUS. You charge too much, along with not offering enough. When I am offered £21 for three titles that are on your shelves at £62, I would have to be an idiot to accept that. And I'm not an idiot.


3.) Pre-owned. Yes, I know this looks like point 2, but this is another aspect of the obsession with pre-owned. And that is WHY THE HELL is two-thirds of the store devoted to games that I, as an obsessive gamer, will have bought already if I was even remotely interested in them? We don't need those boxes littering the store, this is 2012. Some form of electronic catalogue thingy like those wonderful ones at Argos would be more than adequate. In fact, we don't need any boxes at all showing on the shelves, if you think about it. All that space could be put to much better use, by using it to make my shopping experience enjoyable, instead of having to squeeze past people in the vague hopes of avoiding the third staff member to ask me "Can I help you today?"

4.) Stock. You never bloody have any! Sure, if I want to buy FIFA 09 I have no problems finding it. But when I wanted Dead Island? Apparently the shortage (that only affected specialist videogame retailers, by the way) meant that you felt that you could justify putting the sticker price up by £8.

Let's look at those three points again. GAME, you want me to pay £8 more for a title than I need to. I am highly unlikely to do that. However, I might well pay £5 more if that meant getting it NOW, and was able to walk into your shop without being molested. And, being able to talk to the staff in some meaningful way about games would also be nice. I still shudder at the memory of walking into a store many years ago, when you were actually still respectable, to try and buy the Shadows of Luclin expansion for EverQuest. The staff in there had not only no idea when it was released (which was, that very day), but they had not even heard of EverQuest itself. EVERQUEST! At the time, it was far and away the most successful MMO. Things have not improved much at all over the years. The manager at my local Gamestation is a really top bloke, he KNOWS HIS SHIT wehn it comes to games. To this day, I have NEVER had a conversation with anyone in a GAME that seems to have the first clue about anything other than whatever they are being asked to shove down our throats this week.

You have the power to save yourself in your hands. First of all, don't fear technology. Embrace it. We are people who play games, we already know everything about the internet. Telling me when I am actually in the queue for GTA IV that without the text message you sent me, which was on the phone I lost 2 days earlier, you had no other way of finding out if I had pre-ordered DESPITE this information apparently being connected to my loyalty card makes zero sense. "We can call head office in the morning." Yeah, what use is THAT to me who was only there at midnight because I would be at work when you open in the morning? Also, losing that sale by not just letting me in anyway was a stupid move, because all I did was drive off to Tesco where I paid £2 less.

It's this arrogance that we hate, GAME. We, the people who buy the games and MADE YOU THE MARKET LEADERS before you decided to shower us with such utter contempt. Why don't you match online prices in-store? What possible gain does this give you? Somebody sees a game on the website at £29.99, walks into the store and is asked to pay £39.99 will walk away with one thought in mind. "I'll not bother going in there again." Staff are being told to tell customers to not shop there. INSANITY!

Of course, you don't need to listen to me. After all, you can just keep on blindly ignoring this free advice from the people who actually spend money on this hobby. Keep on targeting those like my sister, who spent less than £100 total last year. Or, my in-laws, who were actually ready to pay £25 for a DS game pre-owned that I then found online for half that price brand-new. That £125 is, apparently, a more worthy amount than my £1300.

Look, the ball is now in your court. I know I am not the only one who has told you this stuff. Some of your shop staff do actually listen to the customers, and hate the decisions that they have been forced to carry out. Some of them don't want to put the pre-owned copies in amongst the brand-new ones. Some of them recognised that GAME was heading for this trouble a long time ago.

GAME, it's over to you.



Friday, February 17, 2012

The Friday Facebook Fing : Angry Birds

Facebook. The word itself now entirely encapsulates all that is good about social networking, as well as reminding you just what it is that you find so odious about people. You may not care in the least what that girl you vaguely recall fancying in school thinks about X-Factor, but thanks to this modern marvel of technology YOU ARE GOING TO FIND OUT!

However, it is not all about being linked to horoscopes of the dumb and pointless. For Facebook is also home to an entire legion of games. Most of them are as vapid and trite as those people who you wish you had the balls to defriend, but, just like in your friends list, there are some true gems to be found hidden amongst the dross.

The only surprising thing about today's game lies in the length of time it has taken for it to actually arrive on the platform. Since it first arrived for the iStuff at the back end of 2009, it has spread like some kind of unstoppable forest fire all around the digital world. All it is missing is a 'direct to brain' interface version so that it can be played purely by power of thought with no screen attached. The numbers that get thrown about when discussing its success are the kind that were once reserved for science-fiction, and only sound plausible after 11pm on BBC2. 500 MILLION downloads? That's insane! Angry Birds is, in fact, now so all-encompassing that it can only be a matter of time until there is an animated series and a theme park in Japan.

Such world domination is only possible if there is a solid product to carry the weight in the first place. Thankfully, the game itself has no small amount of playability. On the surface, it is a simple physics-based puzzler. Set the power and angle of a slingshot to literally fling the birds at various structures with the aim of destroying the pigs that are hidden within. Destruction means points, and points mean star rankings, so there is a reason to play levels multiple times.

But there is more to it than just the gameplay, which is fairly basic stuff. What Angry Birds has in spades is charm. The looks, and especially the sounds, do a great deal to endear the title to the player. Further, like all puzzle games that live and die on the depth of the puzzles, some of the levels herein are downright devious. Attempts to get maximum score and 3 stars from every level sit just on the right side of frustration. If you are not careful 'One more try' will become the mantra that keeps you engrossed long past your bedtime.

Even worse than the 3-star factor, and new to the Facebook version, is the online leaderboards. Along the right side of the screen, you can compare your current level score to that of your entire friends list. And, by constantly rubbing your nose in the fact that even though you have a 3-star ranking, you are A PATHETIC LITTLE WORM compared to that dude who constantly posts all those "Copy and paste if you ..." status updates.

That showed him!

This makes you even more determined to beat him, which is where the nasty side of the game sneaks in to play.

Because the Facebook version of Angry Birds is absolute digital crack, there is no escaping this. The temptation to beat your mates is so strong that eventually you may try the powerups. Yes, also new to this version are bonus items that swing the advantage even further to you.

The first change you see, too.

You might change your puny red bird into the big fat one, thus literally smashing your way through a level that you were struggling with. You might cause an earthquake, moving those hard-to-get pigs into more advantageous positions. Or you might use the Mighty Eagle, which is a screen-destroying ultimate badass nuke, and that also rewards you with a feather based on damage. Seemingly, these are the only way to get the feathers, and it also seems like the only way to get a Mighty Eagle into play is to buy it. Ergo, the game ushers you gently in the direction of microtransactions, which will be more than enough to have some vocalising extreme hatred upon Rovio and all involved with them.

Resist the temptation to buy into this optional extra, though, and you will find there is easily enough game tucked away to last you until next Friday, when I show you something else to play. Or even longer, if I am absolutely honest. Entertaining gameplay that is particularly delicious in snack size form, but also compelling enough to push you to unhealthy extremes of not bloody sleeping tonight, and with the ability to share your lack of any real social life by means of clicking the "Brag" or "Share" buttons, it is everything that it needed to be, and could even be said to be the game that Facebook needed to be taken seriously as a viable platform. An improvement on the original version, of that there is no doubt, even if you take the skirting close to the dark side of social gaming into account.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The best thing Sony have done for the PS3.

If ever there was a time to forgive Sony for all the errors they made with the PS3, and there are indeed many, it is now. Please, don't mistake my disdain for mere fanboy baiting. That the PS3 has any level of success at all is seemingly despite Sony's most determined efforts to make the console a failure of Costnerian proportions. From the initial TERRIFYING price point, through the constant battles against system and game updates which make anyone who has had to endure more than one of them wake up in the middle of the night screaming, to the somewhat baffling choices of downloadable PS1 games (Disney stuff, Disney stuff, and ... um ... Disney stuff), right through to the removal of PS2 backwards compatibility, some of Sony's decisions have not so much baffled as they have defied anything approaching conventional logic and rationale in any way whatsoever. There are a lot of people out there who adore the PS3, but they are either people who only own a PS3 or are otherwise some kind of fucking idiot. That it gets so much of what it means to be a modern games console wrong is bordering on the offensive.

However, every so often, and this may just be serendipity on the part of Sony, or perhaps even an act of wanton sabotage by employees who have left the confines of their own country in the last 10 years and have seen how the rest of the world does things, they hit a happy button and do something right. Like they have done with their decision to start throwing emulated PS2 games onto the PSN. (Which they have rather stupidly renamed SEN, for Sony Entertainment Network. Not that there is anything wrong with the name, except that it points quite clearly to games being a smaller focus of the PlayStation than you have been led to believe they would be up to this point.)

Now, they could just have picked out any random million-selling games to launch with. Perhaps one of the Final Fantasy games, maybe? Or how about the massively over-valued RIIIIIDGE RACER, which they STILL seem to think anyone gives a shit about? Strangely, neither of these were chosen. Instead, they went with a couple of cult favourite titles that were slightly more obscure.

The Maximo titles from Capcom are all well and good, being solid if unspectacular hack-n-slashy affairs that did reasonably well upon original release. Although, why the hero is some guy called Maximo instead of just using Arthur from Ghouls and Ghosts has always escaped me. BUT, I digress! As I said, these are not the usual type of thing one would expect to see gracing the first release window of a new venture. And if these two are unusual choices, the third one is from so far out of the blue that it is in fact ultraviolet.

Upon initial release, God Hand was one of those titles that absolutely divided the critics. There were those that got it, that understood the mechanics, that gave it the chance, and that loved it unconditionally. And then there were those who don't have a fucking clue and shouldn't be allowed to play videogames at all, let alone review the bastard things for a living. Because God Hand is that most rare, most special, and most divine of things in the gaming industry; a game aimed squarely at the "hardcore" crowd, one not afraid to be almost sickeningly difficult, right up to the point of blatantly unfair. If there were any focus groups utilised during production, they were probably made up entirely of drunken psychopaths.

Playing God Hand is like being beaten to within an inch of your life with a glove puppet that squeaks out swear words in pain every time it hits you. You will feel pain, you will be frustrated, but you will also not be able to stop laughing. It is as if the anime classic Fist of the North Star was directed by Benny Hill, and you are being asked to play it on fast-forward. Little of it makes sense, and yet it is all perfectly consistent within its own game world. When an enemy dies and then suddenly gets resurrected as a FUCKING DEMON, there is no explanation offered. It is just one of those little ways that the game wants to KICK YOUR ASS and revel in its superiority over you. If you dare to get good at the game, it just cranks up the difficulty. When the in-game level meter puts itself on a difficulty level that is not numbered but is instead called "DIE", this is a game telling you something and making sure that you get the point.

It is graphically average. The music would, out of context, be awful. The controls are quite clunky and overbearing at first. Even the camera seems to be working against you. But, there comes a tipping point, a moment where it all just falls into place and you are suddenly able to not only hold your own in a fight, but even able to plan what you are doing next in order to get higher scores. On top of this is the single most beautiful and perfect combat system ever devised, where you are free to personalise to the most unimaginable degree exactly what moves you will use to beat the virtual snot out of the various lowlifes and weirdos you will come up against. Fit it to your own playstyle; pile on powerful attacks, moves that juggle for additional style points, or just concentrate on roundhouse kicking people into outer space. The choice really is yours, in a way that has criminally never been copied since.

And now, this masterpiece is available to buy new, instead of having to track down a copy from some nutter on eBay. Yes, I know this means having to deal with the pain in the posterior that is the PlayStation store, a store so resolutely inflexible that one has to leave it to enter credit card details in order to actually buy something. And, this also inevitably incurs a download, which given the PSN servers propensity for overload may well mean you don't get to play it until next month sometime. But, even with all this weight added on, even taking this frustration into account ... it's worth it. Oh my GOD, it's worth it:

Do yourself a favour, reader. If this one managed to pass you by, and it is quite likely that it did, then you owe it to yourself to lay out the relatively TINY £7.99 to play it. There are no space marines, no guns, and no shadowy terrorist plots. Instead, there are gorillas, midgets dressed as Power Rangers, and gay wrestlers all just waiting for you to kick them 35 times in 5 seconds. There is a boss called, and I shit you for not one second, Fat Elvis. FAT ELVIS! How can you not instantly fall in love with the idea of a game that does something as joyously stupid as that?

Clover Studios are no longer with us, but their legacy will live forever. Whilst Okami was the epitome of long-winded and pretentiousness, despite its undeniable beauty, and probably deserved most of the critical plaudits and love it received, its polar opposite also deserves a similar level of recognition. Sometimes, games can JUST be about being entertaining. God Hand is that, in a way that nothing else has ever quite managed to match, and most likely never will. If you don't buy this, then you may doom us all to a grey and brown future where games just have all the FUN taken out of them, and instead just keep on piling on ever bigger explosions in real-world locations, because apparently this is what you kids want these days. Don't let this happen!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

STILL with this crap, media?

"Bill Oddie has been patched into top-tier, cos he PWNED that panel, but Anthony Horowitz needs a nerf to his attitude. whereas Matthew Wright should be hit with the BANHAMMER for his snarking. Seriously, Wright, STFU."

If you are reading this blog, you are probably into videogames, and there is an exceptionally high chance that you know what I said above. And if, by some miracle this post "goes viral" or gets "out there", picked up in some way and thus read by non-gamers, you don't? Well, welcome to a world that you just don't understand. A world that your closed and small-mindedness will never ALLOW you to understand.

Translated, the opening paragraph reads "Bill Oddie went up in my estimation, by making the rest of the panel look uneducated. Anthony Horowitz's attitude needs adjusting to something less damaging. And Matthew Wright needs to keep quiet."

The reason for my anger is today's episode of The Wright Stuff on Channel 5. I have seen in the past just how Matthew Wright is completely dismissive of my hobby of choice, so I should not have been surprised when he did it again, but this time I thought he would at least attempt to play Devil's Advocate. But, of course, that was too big a stretch for him and he reduced it all to the level of "Let's just laugh at the stupid kids" when caller Ashley tried to make a reasonable point about Mass Effect, and the "Who gets killed?" decision at the end. Ashley offered this as proof that games can emotionally involve the player, citing how he agonised for at least 10 minutes about who to send to their death, but Wright and Anthony Horowitz both sniggered about the fact that the choice consisted of "Who do you kill?", as if this somehow invalidated any investment the player had made up to this point.

And why were they even discussing video games at all? Because, renowned playwright Lucy Prebble had, in an article she wrote for The Observer, suggested that videogames are a valid art-form to rank alongside others. A point that I completely agree with, as any who have seen my online presence can testify. Although, to be completely honest, Channel 5 chose not to take this entire article on it's own merits, and instead selected the tiny part of it that suggested that "Gaming is more creative than writing" as their discussion point, which I suppose makes sense when one of the guests is a novelist. Owait, not really. Objectivity? This IS the mainstream media we are talking about, don't expect any. Even down to giving far more airtime to the caller who stated that her daughter who reads has a bigger vocabulary than her son who plays games, which is nothing at all to do with creativity anyway, this was nothing but the same tired old "Videogames are evil and destroying our youth!" agenda that has been peddled ad nauseum since Space Invaders.

This nonsense has to stop. We need a voice, someone we can wheel out whenever this ugly prejudice raises its head, who can say "You clearly have no idea what you are talking about." Time and time again we see it, these seemingly intelligent people belittling what can no longer be classified as a fad and must be seen as a genuine culture by now. Evidence of this is my opening paragraph; written in a language that outsiders would struggle to get to grips with, but instantly recognisable to those of us who play games and love what they do for us. We need a spokesperson, we need a body, we need ... we need something. I suggest Lucy, mainly because she is smart, and looks like this

A bit of alright, yeah?

whereas the obvious other main candidate is Charlie Brooker, who ... let's face it ...



Games are no longer just mindless amusement devices, designed purely to let teenagers kill aliens. They have evolved, and now include some of the most intriguing storytelling mechanics in existence. Games such as Dear Esther or The Path, which are almost stories that you have to tell yourself, demand so much more from the player than any book could hope to. And, mainstream, please note that I have at no point said they are better than books. They are different, but deserve to be treated with exactly the same level of respect as ALL other forms of entertainment media. Which is pretty much exactly what Lucy Prebble said in the piece that you almost certainly never bothered to read in full.

I leave with a direct quote from Ms. Prebble's article, that validates the stance in its entirety on its own.

"I think it's linked to writing. Like writing, gaming is essentially private and individual (although it really doesn't have to be). It is creative, in comparison to the passivity of watching a film or reading a book. You are making choices and, often, are even designing the world yourself. And, perhaps most crucially, it is controlling.

The writer has a bizarre and ridiculous response to struggling with their environment. Even the actor, faced with their place in the order of things, has the relatively sane response of becoming adept at changing themselves better to suit the world. The writer, thwarted and disappointed by their existence, storms upstairs, slams the door and seethes: "If that's what the world's like, I'm going to create my own…" What closer analogy is there to the powerless teen who retires into SimCity or Civilization to build and rule over some other, smaller characters for a while?

So, there you have it, Mr. Wright. On the very slim chance that you read this, I hope you at least acknowledge that your research has very much let you down in this instance. And that, as usual, you stuck your oar where it wasn't wanted, because you truly don't know what you are talking about when it comes to videogames.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Old game is still good! - DOOM

 Ahead, you see a blue key. Since you have already cleared the room of all enemies, you just walk forwards to pick it up, This is natural, this what you just DO whenever you see a key. If they weren't wanting you to pick it up, why would they have just left it lying around?

Suddenly, the light turns off. The previously ambient growls, so much part of the soundtrack that you stopped noticing them altogether, turn into fully-fledged roars, and you are aware of a new light-source. This new light-source is not welcome, though, as it consists of fireballs launched from the bunch of Imps that just stepped out of the previously hidden room.

There is a name for this feeling. It is commonly referred to as "Bricking it". Welcome to DOOM, the game that more or less single-handedly set all the rules for FPS in stone, as well as made the idea of Deathmatches palpable to the masses, even popular. The games you play today all come packed with some kind of adversarial multiplayer, even if it is just an afterthought addition. DOOM started that. They are all brown, all feature Space Marines, and all have shotguns, rocket launchers, and some kind of energy weapon. DOOM started that, too. It would be no understatement to say that id’s seminal title is the template that shooting games have built onto for the last coming up to 20 years.


Screenshots today just don't do this game justice. There was a reason that every PC in the world played it in 1993, and that was because up until then there had simply been nothing else like it. Moving large blocks of graphics around at high speed in a hitherto unmatched attempt to create a 3D world had never looked anywhere near this good. Today, it is blocky, pixellated, even ugly. But back then? It was BEAUTIFUL. It was poetry in motion. In the offices of the land, the working day would end with a quick shot on DOOM, even if this meant running it in a teeny-tiny window to make it smooth. And you didn't mind that the screen was 120 pixels square, because it still looked stunning! Such was the immersion factor that it literally gave people motion sickness after prolonged playing sessions, which was to say, after any playing session.

He doesn't like you.

Playing it today, when one is used to graphics that would have made us spontaneously explode in 1993, the sheer aesthetic impact is not so much lessened as it is flattened. There is no "WOW" factor at all, and it is hard not to snigger. Worse still, the game engine was only able to move on two axes, which meant that looking up and down was just not possible. (Little-known fact; there are NO rooms that are above or below other rooms due to this restriction.) This is a bigger adjustment, as all you want to do is to just AIM AT THE BASTARD UP THERE. Thankfully, the aforementioned "no rooms above other rooms" mechanic means that height is irrelevant, and however high above or below you an Imp is, you can still shoot it just by pointing your gun in the same direction as it.

This all pales, though, beside the sheer tension playing induces. The human mind's ability to be scared by the things it can't see works overtime, and every corridor becomes a home to beings from the darkest dimensions. Which isn't entirely against the flow of things, being as the plot is that the doorway to Hell has been discovered on Mars. Each growl is somehow amplified, and the creature that made it is something more monstrous than anything you have so far fought. Even when you see it, often at extremely short notice and right in your face in its pixellated glory, it remains terrifying. And when things get dark, as they frequently do, you can't help but slow to a crawl and let caution completely overtake you.

It is this, more than anything, that allows DOOM to still shine today. The game elicits pure emotion in a way that modern games with their photo-realism and high-polygon counts never seem to get close to emulating. Whilst Gears of War has a pretty spectacular Chainsaw, it doesn't even come close to the joy of picking one up and being told by the game itself to "FIND SOME MEAT". A command that you find yourself desperate to follow. You sprint, searching for ANYTHING to insert your vibrating tool into. Ex-marines, Imps, Demons; the cast are amongst the most iconic ever assembled. Show a DOOM player a Baron of Hell, and watch the involuntary twitches. Show them the Spider-demon and they may well try to destroy the image, such is the ingrained hatred.

Despite the engine being farmed out to nearly every other game made for the next 3 years, many of which made technical improvements to textures, resolution, speed, and all the other things that are so massively important to games today, none of them captured the sheer sense of terror that DOOM made its own. Play it today, and you will find that it can still not just hold its own, but could teach many modern titles a thing or two about pacing. The levels are designed with a tightness that escapes so many of today’s titles, and a pacing that doesn't rely on piling massive set-piece on top of massive set-piece.

DOOM changed gaming forever. It set standards that are still in place today, alongside qualities that are all too rarely matched. It deserves it place in history, and absolutely belongs in your collection. (Which should be easy, as it is available on every bloody format in existence!)