From the developer of Crossy Road (aka Infinite Frogger) comes Pac-Man 256, a Pac-Man game with an infinite board that gets eaten from below by the kill screen glitch from the 256th level of the original game. I love riffs on old school video games like this, and the infinite board is a particularly clever one.1 Here's what the gameplay looks like:
I'm sure everyone is used to this by now (which is sad) but be warned that Pac-Man 256 is one of those games that encourages you to watch ads to level up more quickly or to continue when you're out of credits...and then to buy more credits as an IAP when you're out of ads to watch. There's an option to buy unlimited credits for $7.99, but still. I understand the economics of the situation and why they do it this way, but it just feels so hostile to the player. I want to wholeheartedly recommend this game because the gameplay is so fun, but it feels like you're constantly wading through a little bit of raw sewage to play it. Which, apparently I don't mind doing, wading through sewage. :(
Unlike Kottke, I think the option to buy unlimited "credits" with a one-time $7.99 in-app purchase is a fair deal. Think of it as an $8 game that you can optionally play for free if you're willing to watch ads. That's a good price for a great game.
$8 is a more than fair price. But the option to buy unlimited credits is difficult to find in the game (you need to run out of credits first and then click the "Play" button anyway) and it doesn't tell you exactly what you're getting for your $8. What I want is never to see an ad ever in the game, but I don't actually think that's what it is. Paying full price for a game shouldn't involve hide n' seek.
But the bigger issue for me is how the game, and many many others in the App Store, feels: icky. Like used car salesman icky. Drug dealer icky. Depressing casino icky. The way the game presents itself, the developers seemingly want one thing: your money. Do they want me to have a good time playing the game? Eh, maybe? I don't know, it just seems really cynical to me, like a game built by a bank instead of people that love gaming or Pac-Man.
I really *really* wish the App Store had a trial period option available for apps. 20 minutes into Pac-Man 256 and I would have ponied up $8-10, no problem. I suspect App Store users would love this feature but game developers would hate it because using ads and casino tactics to upsell in your app makes a lot more money than straight sales.
Hey Nintendo, can you make an infinite version of Mario Kart? Pretty please? It would be like Mad Max: Crossy Road or something.↩
In talking about an upcoming game (more on that in a bit), Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka discuss the process they used in designing the levels for the original Super Mario Bros. Much of the design work happened on graph paper.1
Back in the day, we had to create everything by hand. To design courses, we would actually draw them one at a time on to these sheets of graph paper. We'd then hand our drawings to the programmers, who would code them into a build.
Here's the full video discussion:
Now, about that game... Super Mario Maker is an upcoming title for Wii U that lets you create your own Super Mario Bros levels with elements from a bunch of different Mario games. So cool...I might actually have to get a Wii U for this.
This is pretty much the same process I used when designing levels for Lode Runner back in the day.↩
SethBling wrote a program made of neural networks and genetic algorithms called MarI/O that taught itself how to play Super Mario World. This six-minute video is a pretty easy-to-understand explanation of the concepts involved.
But here's the thing: as impressive as it is, MarI/O actually has very little idea how to play Super Mario World at all. Each time the program is presented with a new level, it has to learn how to play all over again. Which is what it's doing right now on Twitch. (via waxy)
Chris Ware's cover for this week's issue of the New Yorker featuring a Minecraft playdate is spot on.
Clara has spent hours, days, weeks of the past two years building and making navigable block worlds fuelled from the spun-off fizz of her accreting consciousness: giant ice-cream-layered auditoriums linked to narrow fifty-foot-high hallways over glass-covered lava streams, stairs that descend to underground classrooms, frozen floating wingless airplanes, and my favorite, the tasteful redwood-and-glass "writer's retreat." (It has a small pool.) She made a meadow of beds for my wife-a high-school teacher who craves unconsciousness-and a roller coaster to take her there. Though Clara mostly "plays" Minecraft by herself, the game allows her friends to drop into these worlds, too, and I've even spent some strange virtual afternoons as a floating block-self, guided by my angelic block-hammer-wielding block-daughter, zipping around a dreamscape that feels, really, less like life and maybe more like death, but in a sweet sort of way. If architecture somehow mirrors the spaces we carve in our memories and make in our minds, then something pretty interesting is going on here.
Ollie wanted a Minecraft playdate for his birthday, basically him and three or four of his friends sitting around playing the game on various devices. We managed to talk him into some good old fashioned real-world bowling instead, but I doubt that will work next year.
He played Punch-Out, Atari Basketball, Donkey Kong, and Lunar Lander, increasingly nimble on the joystick. "It's all bringing back some foggy déjà vus," he said. Inside the Discs of Tron cabinet, the black light lit up his checked shirt. "Dude, this!" he said. He commenced making his avatar leap from platform to platform, as he sought to "de-rez" his opponent by throwing disks at him. At every level-completed chime, Black snapped his fingers and did a little dance. "He's one tough cookie -- you gotta get him with a ricochet," he said, manhandling the controls. "Taste it! Oh, God -- why? Why?" Regally, he entered "JA" atop the roll of honor.
Ok, April Fools' is still idiotic, but this is pretty cool: you can play Pac-Man in any neighborhood on Google Maps.
NYC's West Village is a fun place to play. See also Pac-Manhattan, a real-life game of Pac-Man played on the streets of Manhattan in 2004 by a group of ITP students, including Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley.
For example, it could emulate the ambience of a game day NHL arena by including the proper organ music. The problem, though, was that each team's organist played different songs. 'That's not a problem, actually,' explained Dieter Ruehle, the organist for the San Jose Sharks (and previously for the Los Angeles Kings), 'I can do that.' True to his word, Ruehle provided EA with organ music for every team; and he didn't just provide all of their songs, but also noted which music was blasted during power plays, which tunes were used to celebrate goals, and all the other inside info needed to make each arena feel like home. Ruehle was so diligent about getting it right and capturing that home crowd essence, that during a recording session at EA's sound studio he asked:
'The woman who plays the organ for the Washington Capitals has arthritis; would you like me to play the songs how they are meant to be played, or the way that she plays them because of her condition?'
'Definitely the way she plays it!' Brook answered, after a laugh.
I think I might have to bust out the Genesis this week. Anyone wanna come over?
Alto's Adventure just came out this morning and is definitely my go-to iOS game for the foreseeable future. The game is a cross between something like Monument Valley (the audio and visuals are beautiful) and Ski Safari, which is still one of my all-time favorites.
In the time it's taken George RR Martin to complete zero books in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, a group of dedicated fans has created much of the kingdom of Westeros in Minecraft. Here's a quick video tour:
The Wall is the most visually impressive element:
According to the FAQ, the in-game map is currently the size of Los Angeles, about 500 square miles. (via devour)
Unreal Engine 4 is the latest edition of Epic Games' acclaimed gaming engine for creating realistic gaming worlds. UE4 and its predecessors power all sorts of games, from Gears of War to BioShock Infinite to iOS games. But level designer Dereau Benoit recently used UE4 to model a contemporary Parisian apartment and damn if it doesn't look 100% real. Take a look at this walkthrough:
My older cousins from Minneapolis had an Intellivision. And cable. And MTV. And scrambled The Movie Channel which you could kind of make out every few seconds. Which to a country bumpkin like me was certainly sufficiently advanced technology. Anyway, I loved playing Tron: Deadly Discs, Pitfall!, and Kool-Aid Man on the Intellivision whenever I was over. ↩
The imaginary map is loosely based on an area of Tokyo, a city that was home to some of the all time classic arcade games of the late 1970's and early 1980's that paved the way for the modern day gaming industry. The map features districts dedicated to survival horror (Silent Hill, Resident Evil, Sweet Home), beat 'em ups (Street fighter, Streets of Rage, Double Dragon) and Nintendo classics (Super Mario Kart, Donkey Kong Land, Luigi's Mansion) as well as many geeky 'in' references to entertain the most hardcore (or the oldest) of gamers.
From 11 bit Studios comes a game called This War of Mine which offers an unflinching view of war focusing on injury, suffering, and survival of the civilian population of a city besieged by civil war. Wired's Matt Peckham has a good review.
This War of Mine imagines an endless civil war. Civilians are trapped in a besieged Stalingrad-like city, suffering from hunger and disease and shelling. Snipers roam the city, as apt to pick off civilians as they are insurgents. The phones don't work. There isn't enough food or medication. Your group operates out of a single structure, viewed from the side like a dollhouse, with apparatuses you can fiddle or upgrade to produce helpful goods or improve existing ones. Each survivor has a hierarchy of physical and mental needs equipoised against variably treacherous means of fulfilling them.
Your goal is simple: Survive. I'm not sure for how long, or if there's even a "win" state, because the best I've managed so far is 25 days, and that felt interminable.
Last year, Greenheart Games released a game called Game Dev Tycoon in which you run a company that makes video games. As an experiment, they secretly released a cracked version of the game for pirates to download...with one small difference: players in the cracked version would always go bankrupt because of piracy issues.
The cracked version is nearly identical to the real thing except for one detail... Initially we thought about telling them their copy is an illegal copy, but instead we didn't want to pass up the unique opportunity of holding a mirror in front of them and showing them what piracy can do to game developers. [...] Slowly their in-game funds dwindle, and new games they create have a high chance to be pirated until their virtual game development company goes bankrupt.
Did the pirates learn anything or feel bad? Not really:
0h h1 is a super simple Sudoku-type game where you need to keep the number of blue and red tiles in each row and column the same. I don't know how people keep coming up with such simple games that are still challenging...you'd think they'd all have been invented by now. (via waxy)
Mojang's popular game Minecraft has sold over 54 million copies. But that, and the $2.5 billion that Microsoft just paid to acquire the company, dramatically understates the impact that this game has had on [Dave Pell's] third grader and his friends. They all wear Minecraft gear and watch Minecraft videos on YouTube. And several of them completed a week of Minecraft Camp over the summer. The way I see it, $2.5 billion just became the most anyone has ever spent on a babysitter.
Red Bull is sponsoring a six-part series on the history of Japanese video game music. The first installment covers the music of Space Invaders through the Game Boy. Highlight: composer Junko Ozawa showing off her hand-drawn waveform library she used in composing scores for Namco. Bonus: Space Invader-only arcades in Japan were called "Invader houses" while arcades in New Zealand were known as "spacies parlours".
Update:Beep is a feature-length documentary film that will attempt to cover the history of video game sounds from Victorian mechanical arcades on up to the present day games. They are currently raising funds on Kickstarter.
ИOM ИOM ИOM. You can get these tots from a company called US Foods; they call them Puzzle Potatoes. Their sell sheet for the product is a wonder of corporate wishful thinking masquerading as marketing.
Here's a menu item that will encourage kids to play with their food.
Yes! This is exactly what all parents want. Huge parental issue in America right now is that kids don't play with their food enough.
When baked, these innovative Puzzle Potatoes are a fun and healthier alternative to regular fries...
Tater tots are not a health food. That's the whole point. Also, aren't regular fries also healthier when baked?
Puzzle potatoes are new innovative and interactive potatoes for kids.
Imagine the meeting. "Bob, what can we do about these smartphone? Kids just aren't spending enough time with their potatoes anymore. Instead they're Facebooking and Flappy Birding. Wait, I know... interactive potatoes!" [Cut to Bob being paraded around the office on his coworkers' shoulders]
Our proprietary puzzle-piece shapes...
Well, someone else's proprietary puzzle piece shapes, but why quibble with details?
Features & Benefits... 2D or 3D
I don't. I can't. What does that even mean? The sell sheet for these should be super simple: a photo of the tots and this caption in all-caps 120-point type: THEY'RE TATER TOTS SHAPED LIKE TETRIS PIECES! BUY THEM, YOU FOOL! (thx, kathryn)
Idleplex starts you off playing sheep pong and when you earn enough money from that, you can buy other mini-games which you can level up enough to play themselves, and then you become a manager of sorts of the games. The game's creator, John Cooney, attempts to explain:
I approached this game wanting to return to simple game mechanics. In fact, I considered how simple game mechanics could go, with simple shapes and single-button mechanics controlling everything. After defining these simple mechanics, I wanted to let the games play themselves, and let the players focus on cultivating a mosaic of these moving pieces.
I don't quite know how it happened, but I'm presently addicted to DaisyPop on my iPhone. The gameplay is pretty simple: various flowers and bugs float around the screen and you tap on things to pop them. Popping many things at once increases your score. Taps are limited but you get more the better you play. Unlike many other iOS games where frenetic tapping is rewarded, DaisyPop is a game of patience...waiting for several items to float close enough for the big scores can sometimes take a minute or two.
If you've played Monument Valley, a game so purty it won an Apple Design Award, you know the music is one of the best features of the game. Well, the original soundtrack for the game is now available for streaming on Rdio and Spotify.
(Oh, and while we're at it, let's take a moment to witness how nutty app pricing is. Monument Valley costs $3.99. The soundtrack, which is a just a part of the overall game, costs $8.99 at Amazon. And that makes sense how?)
Meg Jayanth was asked to adapt Around the World in Eighty Days into a steampunk-y iOS adventure game. The only problem? She hated the book's character Aouda, the English-imperialist-fantasy of an Indian princess who falls in love with Phineas Fogg. But what if "the damsel-in-distress is actually a sabre-wielding revolutionary leader, where she is not only not in need of rescuing, but in fact, sees herself as rescuer?"
This begs a larger question: is it possible to write a game in which your protagonist isn't the hero? Or maybe, less provocatively: can you write a game in which your protagonist isn't the only hero? ...
["80 Days" is] a world where the protagonist's story of racing around the world isn't necessarily the most important, or the most interesting one available to the player.
Occasionally I'll go to my page of addictive Flash games to revisit some old favorites. I mostly play games on my phone now, but some of these are still pretty good. One of my absolute faves is a game called Cyclomaniacs, which I've played all the way through several times over the years. Last night I discovered there's a Cyclomaniacs 2. So good.
You only get a single move in One-Tap Quest, so you had better make it a good one. This game has no right to be fun, but somehow it is. My top score so far is 15,800...the best score I've seen is 21,400. (via @mrgan)
In racing video games, a ghost is a car representing your best score that races with you around the track. This story of a son discovering and racing against his deceased father's ghost car in an Xbox racing game will hit you right in the feels.
And just like that, the North American videogame industry ground to a halt. Hardware companies (like Atari) went bankrupt, software companies (like Sega) were sold for pennies on the dollar, and retailers (like Sears) vowed never to go into the business again. Meanwhile, Nintendo quietly glided through the bloody waters on a gorilla-shaped raft. The continuing cash flow from Donkey Kong enabled Arakawa, Stone, Judy, and Lincoln to dream of a new world order, one where NOA miraculously resurrected the industry and Nintendo reigned supreme. Not now, perhaps, but one day soon.
Harris is also working on a documentary based on the book. And Sony is making a "feature-film" adaptation of the book as well. Cool!
Karltorp has found that music from games he used to play as a kid, such as StarCraft, Street Fighter, and Final Fantasy, work best. Because the music is designed to foster achievement and help players get to the next level, it activates a similar "in it to win it" mentality while working, argues Karltorp. At the same time, it's not too disruptive to your concentration. "It's there in the background," said Karltorp. "It doesn't get too intrusive, it keeps you going, and usually stays on a positive tone, too, which I found is important."
Super Planet Crash is half game, half planetary simulator in which you try to cram as much orbital mass into your solar system without making any of your planets zing off beyond the Kuiper belt. You get bonus points for crowding planets together and locating planets in the star's habitability zone. Warning: I got lost in this for at least an hour the other day.
Think about it. As with an RPG, you roll a virtual character, manage your inventory and resources, and try to achieve a goal. Weight Watchers' points function precisely like hit points; each bite of food does damage until you've used up your daily amount, so you sleep and start all over again. Play well and you level up -- by losing weight! And the more you play it, the more you discover interesting combinations of the rules that aren't apparent at first. Hey, if I eat a fruit-granola breakfast and an egg-and-romaine lunch, I'll have enough points to survive a greasy hamburger dinner for a treat!
Even the Weight Watchers web tool is amazingly gamelike. It has the poke-around-and-see-what-happens elegance you see in really good RPG game screens. Accidentally snack on a candy bar and ruin your meal plan for the day? No worries: Just go into the database and see what spells -- whoops, I mean foods -- you can still use with your remaining points.
And those 35 extra points you get every week? They're like a special buff or potion -- a last-ditch save when you're on the ropes.
It's funny how quaint this seems now...the quantified self and gamification of diet & health is everywhere now. (via @arainert)
Over the two days of work, I built the game from the map forward. What I mean is that my first goal was to get individual map pages rendering on screen. From there I moved on to the game manager component, building out the startup logic and render loop. This lead to the entity system, which in turn lead to the player entity. Once I had the player moving around I built code to check for collisions with obstacles in the map and changing the view when the player hits the edges of the screen. At this point you could explore the whole world map! It was pretty boring though.
Next I started making monsters and items for the player to interact with. Since I had common code to check for collisions, get lists of entities occupying particular squares, etc, the monsters weren't terribly difficult to implement. The most time consuming part was getting the combat mechanics to a good place where it was challenging but not frustrating.
Mini Metro is an upcoming game in the style of Sim City, except you're only building subway lines.
Mini Metro is an upcoming minimalistic subway layout game. Your small city starts with only three unconnected stations. Your task is to draw routes between the stations to connect them with subway lines. Everything but the line layout is handled automatically; trains run along the lines as quickly as they can, and the commuters decide which trains to board and where to make transfers.
However the city is constantly growing, along with the transport needs of its population. How long can you keep the subway system running before it grinds to a halt?
Oh man, this is great fun for transportation nerds. Site says it'll be out in "early 2014" for PC, Mac, Linux, iPad, and Android. You can play an early version on the site or d/l an alpha version for OS X, Windows, or Linux.
We have discovered the most realistic thing about Mini Metro: If you want to win, think of these "trains" as buses.
In real rail transit systems, you cannot simply abandon a rail line and build a new one -- certainly not just to handle an overcrowding problem. But to do well in Mini Metro you must revise the network repeatedly, and the last phase of the game you'll deploy lots of one-time-only temporary lines In fact, for best results, make sure you also have a spare tunnel, so that if you have to get a train quickly to a station on an island, you can build a temporary line to a destination across the water, deleting it after use.
To a rail engineer, all this is ridiculous, but to a transit network designer, it's the game's most realistic feature.
Build a subway line to run one train once, then tear it out? No, this is not how rail transit works, but it's very much how buses work, and it's good thing, too. That's why buses provide a much better sandbox for network design thinking. When you build powerful networks with buses, mistakes cost thousands rather than billions, so they're more likely to be repaired. Real-life transit networks do need to evolve, usually from radial beginnings to more gridlike structures.
The sheng is a free-reed wind instrument dating back to 1100 BCE in China. Using a modern sheng, Li-Jin Lee makes the ancient instrument sound remarkably like Super Mario Bros., including coin and power-up sounds.
And I know the Olympics are over and good riddance and all that, but this Mario Kart speedskating bit is great. Baby Park was one of my favorite tracks on Double Dash.
If you play carefully by not stomping enemies, not collecting coins, not eating mushrooms or flowers, and hopping on the flagpole at the very last second, you can rescue the princess in Super Mario Bros with only 500 points.
One bit is surprisingly tricky:
How tough is that jump in 8-1? Well, the timing of the liftoff, the duration of holding the jump button, and the timing of the wall jump are all frame perfect. NES games run at 60 frames per second, which means all the necessary inputs need to be timed within 1/60 of a second. In addition, the starting position before running I used not only has to be on the right pixel, but also the x sub-pixel has to fall within a certain range (technical stuff blah blah blah). In short, it's a pretty annoying jump.
When I was a kid, I left my NES on for three straight days to flip the score in SMB, using the 1UP trick and another spot in the game to get many lives and points. Scoring lower would have been a lot quicker.
Your addiction to various things digital might be wasting a lot of your time. But it's paying off in a big way for companies like King Digital Entertainment, the folks behind the wildly popular Candy Crush Saga. King just announced plans for an IPO. Can a company with one very big hit really go public? On one hand, consider this: "Of the 5000 companies in NASDAQ, only 6 have as much revenue ($1.88b) and fat profit margins (30%) as King." On the other hand, it's tough to stay on top in the hit-driven game industry. Want to invest in this IPO? First, you need to consider how long King will wear the crown.
Would love to see a realtime graph of the distribution of scores for the last 1000 players or so. (My current high: 3 4! [Also, the second I put this post up, the server went down. :( ] I'm the guy repeatedly dying at the first pipe.)
100 years ago, Charlie Chaplin put on some floppy shoes, oversized trousers, a bowler, a mustache and became The Tramp. Within a year or two, he was internationally famous and in two years, he was making $670,000/year, an unprecedented figure in those days.
"It was amazingly fast," says David Robinson, a film critic who has written a definitive biography of Chaplin (His Life and Art) and is giving an already sold-out talk titled "100 Years of the Tramp" at the festival. "By mid-1914 he was already popular. By 1915 he was international. The speed with which it happened, without the modern media, is astonishing."
Consider the following: At the end of 1963, virtually no one in America had heard of the Beatles. Yet on Feb. 9, 1964, they drew the largest TV audience in history -- 73 million viewers -- when they appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show." How could such a conquest have occurred so quickly? I once asked my friend Lenny Kaye that question, and he answered: "Everybody was ready for the '60s to begin." There's some truth to that, but of course there's much more to the story. The explosion of the Beatles in America was the result of combined forces -- artistic, social and technological -- as well as persistence, showbiz rivalries and more than a bit of luck. So how did it happen that the Beatles came out of nowhere to become the biggest cultural sensation ever, in six weeks?
On February 1st, reviews exploded to 800 in a single hour. 6,500 iTunes App Store reviews in a single day. February 1st is the day Dong Nguyen woke up, stretched, checked email, checked Twitter, checked iTunes, and witnessed millions of downloads happening.
You can only imagine what that must have felt like.
This is the same app no one cared about for more than half a year. Just one month prior, it was a great day if Flappy Bird got 20 total reviews on the App Store. Up until January 9th, there had never been an hour in which Flappy Bird received even 10 reviews (most of the time it was under 5).
Jon Bois attempted to create the most lopsided game ever in Madden NFL on his Xbox. He beefed up the players on one team (7'0", 440 lbs, good at everything) and put a bunch of scrubs on the other team (5'0", 160 lbs, bad at everything). He started playing and was on pace to score more than 1500 points when...
With just under two minutes left in the first quarter, I was winning 366 to zero. I realized that I was on pace to score 1,500 points in a single game. I had never conceived of such a high score. I'd never even heard anyone talk idly about such a thing. There was absolutely nothing the Broncos could do to slow down my pace. I could score just as surely as someone can point and click. It was great. I wanted to ruin Madden in a way I never had before, and I was doing it.
And then it happened. Before I tell you what happened next, I want to lay out a couple of things: first, I made no actual hacks to this game. I didn't have some special jailbroken Xbox, nor a special copy of Madden, nor anything like that. I bought my Xbox at Target and bought my copy of Madden off Amazon, and that's that. Second, I stake whatever journalistic integrity I have upon the statement that I didn't Photoshop any of this, and that it happened just as I say it did.
This is LOL funny in several places...particularly the GIFs. (via @delfuego)
Coinbox Hero and Cookie Clicker both break the idea of the video game down into the bare essentials: perform an action to get points, use points to power up, repeat. They're games that show you how games work. (See also Cow Clicker.)
In Cookie Clicker, you click to make cookies until you have enough cookies to hire a cursor to click for you and eventually you get enough points to buy cookie mines, time machines, and antimatter condensers capable of generating millions of cookies a second. There doesn't seem to be a goal per se...presumably you can keep upgrading until you're generating trillions of cookies a minute. It's like Bitcoin except with cookies.
In Coinbox Hero, you start similarly, jumping into a Super Mario-esque coinbox to get coins to buy workers to collect more coins for you. Unlike Cookie Clicker, there's a clear objective: earn 1,000,000 points to buy a device that will destroy the coinbox.
I found both of these games very satisfying to play, which suggests that a significant amount of my enjoyment of games derives not from the gameplay but from the amassing wealth and power, which, man, I guess I have something to talk to my therapist about this week. (via waxy)
The Hyperkin RetroN 5 is a retro gaming system that plays all your favorite games from NES, SNES, Super Famicom, Genesis, Mega Drive, Famicom, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and GBA cartridges. I haven't heard anything about this (is it any good?), but I've got a lot of old games I'd like to play on it, starting with NHL '94. Pre-order at Amazon for $99. (via @cabel)
PicaPic is a digitized collection of vintage handheld games made by Hipopotam studio. They're all free and playable in your browser. It's a really slick implementation. It even has the plasticy clacking sound of the buttons. (via @kump)
Ecstasy of Order is a documentary about Tetris and the quest to find the game's grandmasters.
Tetris. We've all played it, rotating the pieces ("tetrominoes") and dropping them in the perfect place, or despairing as we discover a piece won't fit. You may have even joked about "mastering" the game during a stint of unemployment, or as a child, before you could afford any other Game Boy cartridges. But what about the people who've truly mastered Tetris? Where are the Kasparovs and Fischers, the great champions who've dedicated their minds to solving its deepest puzzles?
One man made it his mission to find them. In an effort to legitimize Tetris as a pro sport, Tetris super-fan Robin Mihara summoned the greatest Tetris players from around the country to compete in Los Angeles at the 2010 Classic Tetris World Championship. Among them are the only players known to have reached the unthinkable perfect 'max-out' score on classic Nintendo Tetris: Jonas Neubauer and Harry Hong. Add in the top players for most lines, Ben Mullen and Jesse Kelkar, as well as newcomer Dana Wilcox and modern-day Tetris Grandmaster Alex Kerr, and a storm of Tetris greatness is brewing.
The film is also on Hulu (US-only) if you don't mind commercials.
When Grant Hill and Jason Kidd retired from the NBA this week, they were the last players who appeared in the NBA Jam video game from 1994. There are still three active NHL players who appeared in the classic NHL '94: Teemu Selanne, Roman Hamrlik, and Jaromir Jagr. Kotaku's Owen Good takes a look at which athletes were the last men standing from 8-bit and 16-bit sports video games.
Landeta, whose last game was in 2005, is the last man on the Tecmo Bowl roster to appear in an NFL game, beating out the Raiders' Tim Brown, the 49ers' Jerry Rice and Minnesota's Rich Gannon, all of whom retired in 2004.
Two controls, one bouncing stick, uneven terrain that eventually falls out from under you, get the stick as far to the right as you can. Harder than it sounds. I got 107.04 on, like, my 2,341st try. (Cheat code: you can get pretty far just by holding 'A' down.) Also fun: seeing how far to the left you can get...I couldn't get much past -48.
In the mystical years of the late 90s, a little game called SiSSYFiGHT 2000 was born on the web. Hundreds of thousands of players fought as bratty little girls, teasing and tattling and licking their lollipops on the playground. An amazing community sprang up around the game, in which players became fan artists and storytellers, reporters and celebrities, criminals and vigilantes.
There was something special about SiSSYFiGHT. It was one of the first multiplayer games with real-time chat in a browser. It was a social game with actual social gameplay, long before "social games" on Facebook existed. Its stylishly primitive visual look preceded the rise of big-pixel indie games by almost a decade.
Without going into too much detail, Mario generally lives and works in the Mushroom Kingdom, one of the largest geo-political structures on Mushroom World, in the Grand Finale Galaxy in, yes, the Mushroom Universe.
For the purposes of this answer I will deliberately restrict the terms to discussing Mushroom World, as a comprehensive answer on the entire Mushroom Universe would require covering 20-22 (depending on how you count) Galaxies and frankly, I doubt it would be any more fun to read than it would be to write.
The new iOS gaming hotness is Ridiculous Fishing. In it, you try to get your hook as deep as you can, then catch as many fish as you can on the way up, and finally shoot as many of the fish as you can with a gun. There are also chainsaws and an in-game Twitter clone called Byrdr. This game is ten times more charming than that Arnold on Green Acres and fun as hell. Highly recommended. If you need an extra nudge, here's the trailer:
Younger gamers are, in a sense, both the secret to Barcade's success and its great ongoing threat. More than players like Chien and the older pros, Barcade attracts young local patrons typical of the Brooklyn bar scene. For many of these visitors the classic arcade hits of the 1980s were released long before they were born, familiar to them primarily as cultural icons rather than living memories.
"When we opened in 2004, some of these games weren't even 20 years old," says Kermizian. "But now, eight years on, we find the ideal period of nostalgia keeps shifting on us as our customers are a little bit younger. So we've started to go with some early '90s games. You know, we've put Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in two of the three arcade locations and that's our number one most popular game now. People just go crazy playing that."
On a good night a single Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles machine will see its coin tray filled. "At the end of the night we just dump a bucket of quarters out of the machine, around 50 bucks worth."
All these years on, with prices unadjusted for inflation, the aging arcade still offers a viable business. But time continues to be the greatest menace to the arcade, even in the midst of this repackaged revival. For many, this parade of curios whose bleeps and flashes provide an atmospheric link to the past long gone is little more than a hands-on exhibit, where Space Invaders' and Pac-Man's iconography is not forgotten but made fashionable. But fashions are transient. How long can the business model sustain?
When Steil achieved his current high score of 889,131 points (and 222 lines) in October of 2012, it felt like a loss. Despite being Steil's best game to date, it represented a failure to reach the perfection of a max out. When he posted the score on Facebook for his Tetris friends to see, he wrote, "Another new high score, but what a choke job at 222 [lines]. Each new high score is a minor success as well as a monumental failure."
This attitude pervades competitive Tetris, and it highlights the perverse aspect that the best game is still a loss. Faced with this harsh reality, NES Tetris players have devised ways to compete (the Championship), milestones to achieve (max outs and high numbers of lines per game), and ways to measure performance (max outs achieved starting at higher levels are more difficult due to the game's speed). Fundamentally, however, players compete against themselves and lose every time.
Here's what getting a max score on Tetris looks like:
Full disclosure: this article exists so I can tell you all about Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas: Kirk Douglas. Just look at it! It's exquisite. The game itself is as grand as the cover. It is San Andreas, with the load screens replaced by EXTREME closeups of Kirk Douglas-and occasionally his son Michael Douglas, because hey, close enough, right? In the game, the main character appears to be a rough approximation of Kirk Douglas. Oh, and all the missions have been removed, so there's nothing to do.
I do not doubt RoboCop's commitment to Sparkle Motion.
The first full-fledged and highly publicized legal attack on pinball came on January 21st, 1942, when New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia banned pinball in the city, ordering the seizure of thousands of machines. The ban -- which would remain in effect until 1976 -- was the culmination of legal efforts which had started much earlier, and which could be found in municipal pockets all over the country. LaGuardia, however, was the first to get the job done on a large scale. A native New Yorker of half-Italian, half-Jewish ancestry, LaGuardia despised corruption in all forms, and the image of the stereotypical Italian gangster was one he resented. During his long, popular tenure as mayor of New York City, he shut down brothels, rounded up slot machines, arrested gangsters on any charge he could find, and he banned pinball. For the somewhat puritanical LaGuardia, pinball machine pushers were "slimy crews of tinhorns, well dressed and living in luxury on penny thievery" and the game was part of a broader "craze" for gambling. He ordered the city's police to make Prohibition-style pinball raids and seizures its "top priority," and was photographed with a sledgehammer, triumphantly smashing the seized machines. On the first day of the ban, the city police confiscated more than 2,000 pinball machines and issued nearly 1,500 summons. A New York Times article of January 23, 1942 informed readers that the "shiny trimmings of 2,000 machines" had been stripped and sent off to the country's munitions factories to contribute to the war effort.
Your addictive iOS game for the week: Hundreds. The concept and gameplay is super-simple...tap to expand circles until you reach a score of 100 without letting an expanding circle touch anything. And then it gets surprisingly difficult. Check out how the gameplay works:
In this video, Bo Jackson's historic quarter-long run against the Patriots is recreated on Tecmo Super Bowl almost exactly. I tried to figure out how many yards he actually ran, but I can't count that high or fast. Apparently a Tecmo quarter lasts about 1:54 when the clock is allowed to run.
On Nov. 29, 1972, a crude table-tennis arcade game in a garish orange cabinet was delivered to bars and pizza parlors around California, and a multi-billion-dollar industry was born. Here's how that happened, direct from the freaks and geeks who invented a culture and paved the way for today's tech moguls.
We are very proud to announce that MoMA has acquired a selection of 14 video games, the seedbed for an initial wish list of about 40 to be acquired in the near future, as well as for a new category of artworks in MoMA's collection that we hope will grow in the future. This initial group, which we will install for your delight in the Museum's Philip Johnson Galleries in March 2013, features...
The games include Tetris, Passage, The Sims, and Katamari Damacy. No Nintendo games on that list, probably due to ongoing negotiations with Nintendo.
The "cat cow" requires the dancer to get on hands and knees, thrust their hips and swing their head from side to side. It is but one of a handful of ridiculous moves in a dance inspired by playing cowboy and humping things, but throughout the day we will hear from almost everyone we talk to that in spite of how ridiculous it is, it has been hellish to recreate it in the game. A lot of magic has been thrown at solving the problem of the cat cow.
I only downloaded Letterpress about 10 minutes ago but I am already hopelessly hooked. The game is a combination of Boggle and Go and was made by Loren Brichter, who made Tweetie back in the day. This is the sort of app that makes me weep because it's so simple and polished yet endless. Brichter is some sort of iOS wizard and we should have him burned at the stake for his wonderfully addictive magic.
The halftime show of the OSU vs Nebraska football game featured the OSU Marching Band's tribute to classic video games. This is a 9 minute video, and I surprised myself by watching the whole thing. Tetris at 1:25 is fantastic, and the running horse at 6:00 EXTRA fantastic.
The best part of my job is randomly stumbling across a game no one knows about, by a developer no one has heard of, and have it absolutely blow my mind. It doesn't happen often, but when it does, it results in drained batteries and dropping everything to get something on the site about it while I wait for my iPhone to charge only to return to the fray.
It just didn't look that fun. But I did try it. Once, twice, three times. And it didn't grab me. Then I picked it up last night and ended up playing for two hours straight. It's taking all my self-control right now not to play it all day. In conclusion, you should totally not download this game because it will completely disrupt your entire life.
Free idea for iOS game devs: for just about any iOS game I've played for the more than 60 minutes, I would pay dearly (like $10-15) for a God-mode option that let you play the game infinitely long without dying. The type of God mode would depend on the game. For Tiny Wings, it would be as simple as removing the sunset. For Ski Safari, ditch the avalanche. For Kingdom Rush, God mode might be something like starting any level with unlimited gold and unlimited enemies. (For KR, I would probably pay $30 for an unlimited mode.) And perhaps God mode purchase option only unlocks after a certain amount of gameplay. It wouldn't work for any game...e.g. I can't think of what God mode for Angry Birds would be like. But for a certain type of game, God mode would be a great way for experts to explore more of the games they love.
Update: Several people of Twitter mentioned The Mighty Eagle as Angry Birds' God mode, which is close. A couple of others also suggested unlimited birds of your choosing on every level...good idea!
Uh oh, this is bad news for my productivity after this Thursday...Andreas Illiger is set to release the sequel to the mega-fun Tiny Wings on July 12th. In the meantime, watch the adorable handmade trailer:
In the amount of time I have spent playing Kingdom Rush on the iPad, I could have completed a second or even third college degree. So it is with some relutance that I have been made aware of the iPhone version of Kingdom Rush, out today. It's the same game, optimized for the smaller screen on the iPhone and only 99 cents. Maybe the reason the whole "can't use the iPad/iPhone for creation" thing persists is that everyone is using the damn things to play tower defense games instead.
Alexey Pazhitnov, a computer programmer from Moscow, created Tetris in 1985 but as the Soviet Union was Communist and all, the state owned the game and any rights to it. Who procured the rights from whom on the other side of the Iron Curtain became the basis of legal wranglings and lawsuits; the Atari/Nintendo battle over Tetris wasn't settled until 1993.
Ski Safari is an iOS game that's kind of a cross between Tiny Wings and CycloManiacs...which is to say that I love love love it. Here's my high score, about which I'm very ashamed and proud at the same time:
Judging from the sheer number of you who sent in this link, it might be the kottke.orgest link in the history of the internet. In it, Sam Anderson goes long for the NY Times Magazine on casual games (like Angry Birds, Tetris, Bejeweled, etc.).
In 2009, 25 years after the invention of Tetris, a nearly bankrupt Finnish company called Rovio hit upon a similarly perfect fusion of game and device: Angry Birds. The game involves launching peevish birds at green pigs hiding inside flimsy structures. Its basic mechanism - using your index finger to pull back a slingshot, over and over and over and over and over and over and over - was the perfect use of the new technology of the touch screen: simple enough to lure a suddenly immense new market of casual gamers, satisfying enough to hook them.
Within months, Angry Birds became the most popular game on the iPhone, then spread across every other available platform. Today it has been downloaded, in its various forms, more than 700 million times. It has also inspired a disturbingly robust merchandising empire: films, T-shirts, novelty slippers, even plans for Angry Birds "activity parks" featuring play equipment for kids. For months, a sign outside my local auto-repair shop promised, "Free Angry Birds pen with service." The game's latest iteration, Angry Birds Space, appeared a couple weeks ago with a promotional push from Wal-Mart, T-Mobile, National Geographic Books, MTV and NASA. (There was an announcement on the International Space Station.) Angry Birds, it seems, is our Tetris: the string of digital prayer beads that our entire culture can twiddle in moments of rapture or anxiety - economic, political or existential.
Don't know why exactly, but I am loving the hell out of Happy Wheels. The game is pretty simple -- it's a cross between CycloManiacs, Line Rider, and Jackass -- you ride on a bike or Segway or mobility scooter through a course avoiding obstacles and trying to reach the end. Which is fun enough except that when you hit something hard, you body flies apart and blood sprays all over the place. Hilariously. Like this Skate 3 video, which is also inexplicably gut-busting. (via mlkshk)
Kinect Star Wars has a Galactic Dance Off mode where you can "dance to modern songs remixed with Star Wars lyrics". After watching 30 seconds of this, you may not be able to get "I'm Han Solo" out of your head. It features dance moves like "The Speeder", "Chewie Hug", and "Trash Compactor".
Kind of amazing, but not surprising, that the Star Wars universe has come to this. As one YouTube commenter noted:
I just felt the death of Star Wars. It was as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced.
Here are some of the lyrics:
I'm feeling like a star,
you can't stop my shine
I'm loving Cloud City,
my head's in the sky
I'm solo, I'm Han Solo,
I'm Han Solo.
I'm Han Solo. Solo.
Yeah, I'm feeling good tonight,
Finally feeling free and it feels so right, oh.
Time to do the things I like,
Gonna see a Princess, everything's all right, oh.
No Jabba to answer to,
Ain't a fixture in the palace zoo, no.
And since that carbonite's off me
I'm livin' life now that I'm free, yeah.
Told me to get myself together
Now I got myself together, yeah.
Now I made it through the weather,
Better days are gonna get better.
I'm so happy the carbonite is gone.
I'm movin' on.
I'm so happy that it's over now.
The pain is gone.
I'm putting on my shades
to cover up my eyes
I'm jumpin' in my ride,
I'm heading out tonight
I'm solo, I'm Han Solo,
I'm Han Solo.
I'm Han Solo. Solo.
I'm picking up my blaster,
put it on my side.
I'm jumpin' in my Falcon
Wookie at my side.
I'm solo, I'm Han Solo,
I'm Han Solo.
I'm Han Solo. Solo.
It's at this point that Lando comes on and gets jiggy. Amazing. (via ★ironicsans)
It's a deeply strange artifact: an A4-sized, full color glossy affair, abundantly illustrated with captioned photographs, screen shots, and lavish illustrations of exploding space ships and lunar landscapes. It boasts a perfunctory introduction by Steven Spielberg ("read this book and learn from young Martin's horrific odyssey round the world's arcades before you too become a video-junkie"), complete with full-page portrait of the Hollywood Boy Wonder leaning awkwardly against an arcade machine like some sort of geeky, high-waisted Fonz. We're not even into the text proper, and already its cup runneth over with 100-proof WTF.
The quantum levitation videos I showed you a couple months ago are pretty cool, but scientists scienticiens at the Japan Institute of Science and Technology have upped the game by using QL CGI to build a real-world Wipeout track.
Say it with me: science!! Also, do Rainbow Road next! (via ★interesting)
Update: Say it with me: advertising! Or some other such nonsense. Several people have alerted me that this video is a fake...you can see vapor trails passing through walls, etc. Boo. Boo-urns. (thx, all)
Miyamoto, who is responsible for creating or overseeing the creation of Mario Bros, Donkey Kong, The Legend of Zelda, and many other games, is stepping down from his role as manager of Nintendo's Entertainment Analysis and Development branch to work with a smaller team on smaller games with much shorter timelines.
"What I really want to do is be in the forefront of game development once again myself," Miyamoto said. "Probably working on a smaller project with even younger developers. Or I might be interested in making something that I can make myself, by myself. Something really small."
"This is absolutely not true," said a spokeswoman for Nintendo. "There seems to have been a misunderstanding. He has said all along that he wants to train the younger generation. "He has no intention of stepping down. Please do not be concerned."
A video compilation of deaths from old school video games, from Pong and Space Invaders right on up to Afterburner.
The music is a MIDI version of Mad World, originally done by Tears for Fears but probably best known in the gaming community as the music in the most poignant trailer ever done for a violent third-person shooter game.
Labels corresponding to address values have been added to every line to make the code easier to follow for beginners interested in understanding the inner workings of a Nintendo game. The labels also make the code easier to debug if it is modified. At this time, the source code is still a work in progress but it is much farther along than the original document. The title page is completely documented. The intro routine, end routine, password scheme and sound engine are described in detail. About a third of the game engine is detailed and about half of each game area page.
I spent perhaps too much time this morning pondering one of the mysteries of the internet: Sergey Brin's astronomically high scores on the Google+ version of Angry Birds. For instance, Brin's high score on the easiest level of the game is 36240. It's a legit score (here's a higher one) and he has impressive scores on several other levels. But in 15 minutes of playing this morning, I couldn't get within a thousand points of his score. (Hey, at least I beat Kevin Rose.)
So does Brin actually spend time obsessively playing Angry Birds to get those high scores (instead of, say, running Google or his other ventures) or has he written a program of some sort to produce near-optimal scores or does he have a fleet of interns playing as him for hours on end? We need to know this vital info...if you're interviewing Sergey at an upcoming conference, please ask him about this!
Glitch, the "massively multi-player game built in the spirit of the web" built by Stewart Butterfield and other ex-Flickrinos and ex-Game Neverendingarinos, is out of beta and ready for everyone to try. The Glitch blog has more.
Glitch launches today. Launch is an important milestone, but in most ways, this is just the beginning. The end of Beta means we have something stable enough and fun enough that we're happy to invite the world to play. But we want to create a game and world with the real possibility for infinite play, and that means Glitch will be continuing to grow, develop and evolve for many years to come.
Wow. Someone is making a video game featuring the original Super Mario Bros worlds but Mario is outfitted with a Portal gun. Watch the demo:
More information on the game's development is here.
Yes, this is an actual game being developed - it is not a mod of any existing one. It's coded with L"ove (info at the bottom of the left menu) and will be released for free (so we don't get stabbed by lawyers)
All the source code of the game will be available after release
The game will have mappacks, which will be downloadable from ingame. Users most likely won't be able to publish maps directly, but will be able to send them in and we'll add them for everyone to use.
The primary maps will have a story and some portaly puzzles. What kind, well, we'll figure that out as we go
Level editor will be embedded in the game so you can edit the level while you play
Original SMB levels and Lost levels will be included
Ok, if you don't want to be playing this game for the next 20 hours straight, click away now. Kingdom Rush is my latest tower defense addiction and it may be the best one yet. That the music sounds a lot like the Game of Thones theme isn't hurting it either.
Audiosurf is a racing game where the courses are determined by the music you play from your own library. There are all sorts of YouTube clips of the gameplay (which is reminiscent of Guitar Hero)...here's a representative one:
But by the fourth game I started to pick up tendencies in all the batters. Jason Bartlett swung at first-pitch changeups. Will Venable couldn't hit the palm ball. In fact, most of these free-swinging Padres couldn't hit Dock's funky palm ball. I threw it often. But by then, also, the first acid distractions entered: the TV flickered; the cracks in the wall started to move; the hand soap started to breathe -- those sorts of things. Plus I was drawn to the outdoor garden between innings. Rain was near, I sensed.