Carmageddon. A video game known by people even if they never played it, thanks to its scandalous reputation. However, this game is far from solely being the "nasty racing game where you have to crush pedestrians" that many media and politicians wanted to ban. Carmageddon is first and foremost an excellent game, featuring many technological and gameplay innovations that deeply influenced the racing game genre.
We interviewed Neil Barnden, co-founder of Stainless Software game studio, who told us in great details the birth of this unique video game. Influenced by their passion for "Banger Racing", the studio designed a game where the main goal isn't to finish the race, but to crush the opponent cars. An attempt from their editor to get the rights from the movie "Death Race 2000" lead the studio to add pedestrians that can be run over into the game, and they will stay even after the movie adaption cancellation. The young studio then pursues the creation of the game following a philosophy of "if it sounds like fun, let's try and do it." Therefore, they will, among others ideas, ask one of their friends to film him while being hit by a car to "get some reference material", hire a genius programmer who don't have a driver license to program vehicle physics, or get "inspired" by some famous celebrities to create the wild game characters. We have even found the first game created by the studio, BRoom, a 3D shoot'em up inspired by Descent (1994), that shows how much Stainless Software is passionate about cars.
All these stories, and much more (how did Carmageddon manage to fight censorship after release?), can be found in an 18-pages long article published inside the 26th issue of Pix'n Love magazine, a French magazine dedicated to the history of videogames.
"Data mining" is the science dedicated to the creation of knowledge through the analysis of large quantities of data, such as establishing customers habits by tracking how they use their loyalty cards. A few time ago, we were contacted by a computer science student, Axel RB, who desired to perform such analysis over video games, using the data about 38.000 video games collected on our website GameClassification. Thus, we gave him a dataset, and he just published his first findings on his website (in french):
For now, his main finding is the fact that browser-based games tend to be analyzed way more often than the other kind of games on our website, with a striking example coming from the Cooking Mama series. We are now eager to read about his other findings using this method! :)
Ludoscience is a non profit organization aimed at studying game and its uses. In the context of research and conservation of heritage videogame work, we collect edutainment titles, edugames and other educational games from all eras and all supports.
As the title implies, The Untold History of Japanese Game Developers is a documentary about Japanese game developers. Originally, John Szczepaniak, a video game journalist, went to Japan in order to write a book about this topic (still in the works). During this trip he also filmed his interviews and encounters, which gave birth to a 4 hours long video documentary now available on DVD:
This documentary follows John Szczepaniak's journey, with video segments featuring different materials such as: interviews with video game creators, visits to collectors and historian, a trip to the Tokyo Game Show and in front of the old offices of Konami and Hudson Soft, alongside with a shopping session at Akihabara and Nakano Broadway. The interviews of Japanese game developers features both famous (Streets of Rage, Alex Kidd, Strider, Pac-Land, Solomon's Key) and unknown titles: many RPGs never released outside of Japan, images from lost DECO Cassette games like Flash Boy, amateur video games created by Yuzo Koshiro, and unreleased games created by students during their internship at Hudson Soft. The journalist have also met with game enthusiasts holding impressive games, books and magazines collections, who showed him rare pieces like a "choose your own adventure" book about Metal Gear Solid or the prototype of a MSX computer. Last but not least, the interviews with games creators highlights many game design related documents, such as preliminary artworks, game design bibles, or even in-house tools, such as a graphic design tool pictured below, created by Toru Hidaka and used by Enix to create their RPGs:
While the production of this documentary is a bit amateurish (many passages are filmed with a shaky camera, sound is sometimes hard to hear, and the DVD is lacking subtitles for non-english speakers), this film remains a passionating and deeply entertaining journey inside the Japanese video game industry of the 80-90's. Featuring catchy music by Yuzo Koshiro (Streets of Rage), this DVD allows us to discover unique information about titles we grew up with, and it also finally let us put a face on the name of the people who created those great games. Despite a high price (40£, so about 67$), this movie is highly recommended to any video game history enthusiast, as its rich contents will undoubtedly trigger a lot of positive emotion inside the heart of any game collector or oktaku. This movie is only available to buy on Internet, directly through his official website.
Almost unknown, BOA is a nice little game for MS-DOS created in 1989 by Dean Ballard for Microsoft. It's an arcade game similar to Snake, besides the fact that you are playing a rat trying to avoid being eaten by the snake!
The oddest thing about this game lies in its distribution model: it was solely available through the driver disk of a mouse created by Microsoft, the "Contour Mouse", also known as "Dove Bar." Due to the technological limitations of the era, Dean Ballard chose to use ASCII characters as graphics for the game, which creates a nice kind of retro feeling today. Moreover, as Microsoft wasn't really in the videogame business at the time, Dean was actually hired as an outside consultant, and got about 500$ for the job. But to be fair, he actually created the game as a request from his friend Steve Shaiman, who was supervising the mouse project, and was looking for a demonstration program. And what better advertising for a mouse that can allow you to move faster than the other models than a quick mouse-based dexterity game?
A few months ago, our own in-house game designer created a remake of this game, called Moreia, that helped us to get in touch with the creator of BOA. We seized this opportunity to interview him about the story of this game, and wrote an article explaining it that was published in the #25 issue of Pix'N Love magazine, a French magazine dedicated to the history of videogames.