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The man who made 'the worst video game in history' (bbc.com)
436 points by otoolep on Feb 22, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 209 comments



Talk about screwed up priorities. Atari spent $21 million on ET video game rights, $5 million on an advertising campaign and gave 1 programmer, 5 weeks to deliver something that would justify that cost. No wonder they went bankrupt!


And the fact that he even delivered, to me, is a testament to his superhuman programming abilities. Especially considering that this was all in assembly langauge. And the Atari 2600 is notoriously difficult to develop for, even as assembly language development goes...


I wonder how much they paid the 1 programmer for the 5 weeks of development time. I'm sure nowhere near the $5m they spent on advertising or $21m on game rights.

Also, if they did indeed sell 1.5m copies at $40 per copy, that's $60m. Even allowing for large amounts of unsold stock that surely can't have been too far off covering costs, and can't have been the only reason for their subsequent $310m loss.

EDIT: Fair points about distributors margins, retailers margins, manufacturing costs etc. But even if they only saw $10m-$20m of the $60m in retails sales, that is still a reasonable amount, and mean their losses on that one game would only be in the millions or low 10s of millions, so there must have been additional reasons for the company's $310m loss.


It is not the loss for 1 game that is important here, but the decision making and approach that Atari took for this game and probably elsewhere as well. If Atari were making strange decisions here, they were likely doing it elsewhere, ultimately leading to their downfall.


Wikipedia says the programmer was offered $200K + a Hawaiian vacation. It doesn't say what he actually negotiated or received.


Just for scale: $200k 1982-dollars is $491k in 2016-dollars.

So he was probably quite motivated to get it done.


Someone could offer me $200k in today's dollars for a five week project and I would gladly take it.


Someone could offer me a vacation in Hawaii for five week project and I would gladly take it


Someone could offer me an unpaid summer internship and I'd probably take it.


I know it's a joke, but don't take unpaid internships - you're devaluing your own (and everyone else's) job.


$40 would be the retail price, no? After retailer's margin and distributor's margin, maybe Atari got max $15 per cartridge. Making the whole debacle a money-losing affair.


Don't forget licensing, as well. There was likely a percentage cut on top of the rights.


E.T. was basically the "straw on the camel's back" moment for consumers. It wasn't just that the game itself was an overhyped blunder, but that by the time it came out, the market was already flooded with truly awful third-party games for the system. Seeing the manufacturer themselves turn out such an underdeveloped hunk of garbage (and E.T. is truly bad, even for a system with such terrible games) basically torpedoed what was left of consumer confidence.

At the same time, home computers were starting to nip at the game consoles' heels. Computers weren't just "toys," you could sell them on their practical applications as well. It was easier for little Timmy to get his parents to buy him a computer "for school" and then sneak games on it anyway, than just plonking down for a piece of hardware that only played inferior crap like E.T.

E.T. was the flashpoint, but the crash of 1984 had a lot of causes.


That's $60 mil retail, not what Atari took, I'd be surprised if they hit breakeven since you need you factor in manufacturing costs and they likely took maybe a third of the retail price.


I was asked to do a similar thing; hired in October, marketing wanted the game I'd just started designing on the shelves by Christmas. It was already too late. They didn't understand the business they were in; they didn't know anything about engineering, or game design, or what customers wanted. Atari did not hire very carefully.


In fairness, what else could they have done, given the time constraints? They even hired support staff to make sure he got fed! They surely didn't have source control or other systems to make it safe/easy for multiple programmers to work on it together. I imagine the code is some monolithic thing full of complicated Atari hacks that's best managed by being all together in one person'd mind.

Perhaps they could have made two games in parallel so if one failed, they'd still have a spare.


Atari didn't have source control. AFAIK, it just didn't exist. The VAX or DG mini that most people used for cross-development was probably being backed up at least weekly, but if you accidentally wiped out something important, like all of your source code, you were likely hosed.

On a project like this, adding people to it will make it later. The 2600 is a different beast from something that you can divide-and-conquer using APIs and so forth. A typical commercial 2600 game is a holistic, byte-shaved monster piece of spaghetti code, full of tricky timing and other traps. Hard to imagine that any collaboration would have resulted in a better game.


I used a VAX in college, and the DEC operating system had built-in support for file versions. E.g., something like: when you write to a file, that creates FILENAME.EXT.5 where before there were FILENAME.EXT.1 through 4. Compared to Unix it was harder to accidentally wipe your data. (It's been so long, and I didn't use it so much, that I won't opine on how much harder. But the Unix Haters Handbook ragged on Unix quite a bit for this sort of thing.)


File versioning was nice, but it cluttered stuff up. People still lost files. I know that I did. Fortunately, since I was an admin, I had arranged for daily incrementals, and didn't lose anything. :-)


It does not make any kind of business sense to spend that much money and rely on 1 programmer and such a short project time. What happened if the programmer fell down some stairs or got hit by a bus? Normal project time for a game was 6 to 8 months, they gave this guy 5 weeks and no team. Obviously the programmer should never have agreed to the time frame, but he was 24 and at that age nothing seems impossible. This was not his fault, but shows a shocking lack of planning and communication within Atari at that time.


Atari's contempt and disregard for its programmers at the time has become pretty legendary. Ray Kassar[0] (president and CEO) famously rebuked a group of programmers complaining about work conditions as being no more important than the assembly line workers who put the cartridges together - which then led to the formation of Activision. Atari also refused to credit programmers for their work (leading to the first easter egg in Adventure[1].)

Given that atmosphere, Atari would have probably just given the job to someone else (on the same deadline, of course.)

[0]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ray_Kassar

[1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adventure_%281979_video_game%2...


This was clearly a project driven by externals. Christmas is a fixed time, and ET was going to hit the cinemas at a fixed time. If the deal is in place with 5 weeks to go to get things into stores for Christmas, then 5 weeks is what you have.

And adding more than one programmer to a 5 week project for a platform like that would slow things down, not speed it up.

There's lots of things they probably could have done better, such as having testers on standby, but the project timeline and putting one programmer on it doesn't seem like something they realistically could have done differently.

Taking the risks they did on it in terms of volume and marketing costs, is a different matter. The poor planning that led to those timelines, likewise.

> This was not his fault, but shows a shocking lack of planning and communication within Atari at that time.

Here we are in total agreement.


They could have had the vision to lock down the rights earlier. Raiders of the Lost Ark was already a hit. It wouldn't take much to conjecture an alien movie by the same director would hit.


> In fairness, what else could they have done, given the time constraints?

In this case "the best move is to not play"


I'm genuinely curious about this, since I wasn't around in those days.

For a game being implemented (and probably having design changes on the fly as problems crop up since there was no time for a design phase) in assembly, with instruction- and register-level hacks to save the 128 bytes of memory, with no source control aside from sneaker net, how many developers can reasonably work on it at the same time? 1? 2? I mean at that level don't you need to hold the whole code and memory map in your head? Each change can have huge repercussions.


> with instruction- and register-level hacks to save the 128 bytes of memory, with no source control aside from sneaker net, how many developers can reasonably work on it at the same time? 1? 2?

I don't know from first-hand experience, but my impression has always been that the main game loop would be virtually impossible to develop as a team effort.

To give a bit of back story for those that are unaware, the 2600 did not have a frame buffer for storing the current contents of the screen. To save memory, what it did instead is use a line buffer. This was a small amount of memory on the graphics controller chip (Stella) that it used (in combination with some minimal sprite logic) to render the current scan line on the screen. To display anything other than vertical stripes on the screen, the CPU had to update the line buffer and sprite registers for every change. (This is why you see vertical stripes when the 2600 crashes... the CPU isn't updating Stella, so it just keeps rendering one scan line for the whole screen.)

The other consequence of this line-buffer design is that to execute, the CPU had to run in lock step with the display update process. Developers had to know how many CPU cycles it took to render a line and frame of the screen, and write code that executed in just that many cycles. Otherwise, the CPU's display update would happen out of phase with the refresh process and you'd wind up with garbage on the screen. It is hard for me to imagine how a team of two developers could collaborate on such a small and sensitive section of code.

Another way to look at this is that developers that programmed the 2600 were almost working as hardware designers more than software designers. The 2600 CPU was essentially a super-complicated state machine sitting aside the graphics update logic. (Later Atari PC's offloaded display update to a separate chip called Antic that could pull data from a frame buffer, etc.)


Suddenly "Fantastic Voyage" [0] makes more sense: when I was a kid I thought it would work better as a side-scroller rather than an "up-scroller", because there was wasted space on the sides, and you'd have more time to react / could see farther ahead.

It of course never occurred to me that by having so many scan lines being the same, they could save a lot of work.

[0] http://atariage.com/forums/uploads/monthly_03_2012/post-2618...


If you want to be amazed, check out Star Castle:

http://starcastle2600.blogspot.com/p/star-castle-2600-story....

This is a recent (2011) Atari game that renders several concentric rotating circles, each with a gap. It's the game that Howard Scott Warshaw (the E.T. guy) decided couldn't be done on the 2600. Knowing what I know about the 2600 graphics subsystem, I can see why he came to that conclusion.

Of course, Warshaw then Star Castle as inspiration for Yar's Revenge. This game was widely considered to be excellent... leading to Warshaw having the credibility to be asked to do E.T.


Hm, yes maybe two. This type of project actually sounds like a pretty good fit for pair programming.

The assembly code is too small and tightly knotted to be able to usefully work on different parts simultaneously, but coding as a pair (given that it's an intelligent person you can stand for 5 weeks of intense) seems to me it would have mostly benefits?

Maybe I'm overlooking something obvious, but isn't the main disadvantage of pair-programming that it's not quite as good as two programmers working in parallel (and thus wasteful of workforce)?


Why wouldn't they have just re-branded an existing game in development with E.T.?


Instead of force feeding the genius, how about giving him a competent team of 10 average programmers, and 15 testers / players ? This way, the genius if free to imagine great games, not fiddle with screenbuffer bits and lose all contact with reality.


Well, adding people to a project that's already impossibly late will make it even later.

Atari had plenty of people imagining great games; they didn't ship much content that was compelling, and were generally held in contempt by the "real" game programmers (e.g., the folks in the coin-op division).

Also, the 2600 has no screen buffer. It's all real-time raster generation with the CPU in cycle-by-cycle lockstep with the beam. Game design on the 2600 is very tightly bound to what the hardware is capable of. For instance, you can't just say "I want this game to have a spinning blue cube that defends against enemy fire," you have to see if you can make one. If you're a Real Programmer, maybe you can (and you might ship a killer game).

If you're a poser in marketing or management who's wondering what all the fuss about this programming stuff is about and why the hell people are complaining about those blue cubes you demanded, you run the company into the ground doing design that way.


One fine day someone in the Home Computer marketing division decided that "Games involving shooting things are bad, we're going to stop making them."

Six months later there were massive purges in marketing.

Not soon enough, IMHO. I might respect a moral position, but mayyyybe you should have a business plan to back up your moral stance (if that plan is "We're going to go out of business because our resolve is strong" then, okay, I'll respect that too -- but say it so we can at least have a discussion about your continued employment). The games that resulted from that decision were horrible and never even paid for their development.


I don't think there even existed a concept of a multi-programmer gamedev team back then. When your whole application must fit into eight kilobytes of assembly with zero room for separation of concerns, it's very much a Mythical Man-Month situation. Like Brooks noted, nine women can't make a baby in one month.


10 programmers and no source control sounds like a recipe to make this even worse than it had been.


1 programmer and 1 manager to see if he is being fed. Not even a tester? A billion dollar companies with zero quality control. No surprise the went bankrupt.


There were lots of terrible Atari games, they just put this one up on a pedestal where everyone could see that they didn't care about their products or understand their customers.


Hahaha, yeah, when you put it that way, it's pretty ridiculous.


Overproduction was insane. I believe that they produced 5 million ET games. They thought it would sell more console units and at a sell rate of ET at 100%.


Watch the documentary. There was a reason for this, and it had to do with the "golden age" of gaming coming to an end...


Anyone who is in to Atari 2600 knows that ET is verrrrrry far from the worst game available on that system! And it's so sad making it a great game would have take so few tweaks! http://www.neocomputer.org/projects/et/


Howard is a brilliant programmer. In Yar's Revenge, that fuzzy barrier on the left side of the screen is the graphics code from the program literally reading the game's own code as graphical data, thus creating the crazy static pattern of chaotic colors. Talk about a cool and space saving hack! https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/8/85/A2600_Yars_Re...


I accidentally produced a similar effect while working on my voxel game engine: https://twitter.com/jmhobrien/status/624133887036424193

Basically, just deferenced a pointer to OpenGL memory that I shouldn't have...


I think all lower-level programmers have done similar mistakes at one time or other. I managed to do it several times while learning assembler on the Atari ST/STE/Falcon :-)


Most BBC Micro games loaded like this: game data would spill into memory mapped video and then dealt with after.


The BBC Micro also allows you to change the address of the video framebuffer. A particularly neat trick was to remap it to 0x0000, so you get to see the OS workspace, stacks, program storage etc. You can watch the bits twiddle in realtime as you do things.

There's another neat hack which would cause the machine to run in slow motion. I don't know how it worked; I can't find any references now. Possibly it overloads the system with interrupts. But under its influence, clearing the screen would take several seconds. These two hacks combined beautifully, letting you see all the details of, e.g., Basic's heap management.


The slow motion thing can be found in BEEBUG, Volume 2 No. 6, p31: http://8bs.com/beebugmags.htm

It does overload the system with interrupts, by making the (normally 100Hz) timer interrupt that the OS uses occur a lot more frequently.


I've done it countless times, and not by accident. Sometimes this is the only way to debug things.


Nice looking game! I hope you saved that code for later levels ..


The Atari: Game Over movie is on Netflix. It'll give people more insight. The guy was an exceptional programmer and good game designer who was dealt a death march with a hard deadline.


Similar trick was used a couple of years later in Revs on the BBC Micro: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revs_(video_game)


Psychotherapy must be up his alley, he seems to have come to terms with it quite well and taken it with a sense of humor.

An initial run of 4 million copies is a lot of pressure on a single developer, the sort that can make you a legend or a catastrophe. I wonder if release management was considered to allow for bug fixes in subsequent production runs or phased production runs with hedged risk.

Probably adding to the pressure is the frustration that immediately following the production run you find a one-liner bug fix but you are 4 million copies too late.

Interestingly, Pac-Man also had millions of unsold cartridges left over. This candid Q&A talks more about the failure of ET, the frustrations and challenges:

http://www.denofgeek.com/games/howard-scott-warshaw/33708/ho...


He sounds like a cool guy. He did an interview on Soundcast /r/retrogaming Podcast Episode 05: Howard Scott Warshaw Talks Programming And Psychology https://soundcloud.com/retrogamingreddit/rretrogaming-podcas...

There was a precursor to the BBC story in Playboy last September: The Guy Who Made the ‘Worst Game Ever’ Has Nothing to Apologize For http://www.playboy.com/articles/the-guy-who-made-the-worst-g...


With this guy clearly being such a talented programmer, it's too bad he hasn't taken up some FOSS game programming as a hobby, just to "scratch the itch". It'd be great to have a really great old-school side-scroller; I wonder what he could come up with using more modern tools if he really wanted to make a new game. And this time, he could take as much time as he needs.


This. I played the hell out of that game when it came out. I mean, who in their right mind would rank "Skiing" or "Combat" higher that this game?


Combat is, frankly, one of the greatest videogames ever made. Easily in the top ten. If you don't understand why, you've missed out on a great deal of history.

The Atari 2600 was designed, almost exclusively, to play Combat. It has the ability to animate only 3 sprites: player 1, player 2 and "ball". There are many hacks to get around this, but we're talking about the pre-release period of the Atari Video Computer System, AKA VCS, the Atari 2600.

The only other game in mind for the system was Pong, which actually come out for the system in the form of Video Olympics, and it was created by one of the 2600's TIA chip designers, Joe Decuir. That chip literally synced up the processor with the television's refresh rate, and had each scan line drawn out of processing exactly when the electron beam was moving over the proper position on screen. The 2600 has no frame buffer. Essentially, when it's in the CPU, it's drawn on the screen. The machine only had 1024 bits, not bytes, of RAM.

But that's neither here nor there. For more info on the fascinating hardware that was the Atari 2600, read Racing the Beam by Ian Bogost and Nick Montefort. https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/racing-beam

Video Olympics could be considered to be the 100-in-1 of Pong games, with dozens of variants on the Pong theme. Combat takes the same sort of approach, with lots of game modes, but the actual gameplay was based on another arcade game. Rather than just recreating the arcade game, however, Combat expands on the theme, as Video Olympics did.

Combat is, to my mind, the only game on the 2600 that really holds up to this day. It's still fun, despite it's graphical limitations. For its day, it was the Super Mario Brothers of the Atari: that cart you could always turn to for fun.

It's elegant in its simplicity, extremely deep in its variations on a theme, and even offers a few asymmetrical playing options: one player can be given a different set of planes from the other.

Combat is the Go of computer games. Oh, and all the graphics are drawn in 1's and 0's. Same for the numbers on screen: big binary sprite maps. Here, look! http://benfry.com/distellamap/150dpi/combat-illus-150dpi.png


I played combat ... With my mother. The day we got our 2600. It was accessible, simple, and as a child, made me see my mom in a whole new light. I'm 40 now, but feel like a little boy realizing that his mom is fun whenever I see that game come up.

Thanks for the memory :)


>> I played combat ... With my mother.

80's kid here. My mom could always kick my butt in a small set of video games. Galaga, Ms. Pacman, Tetris. But she can't beat the first couple levels in Super Mario Brothers to save her lift.


For my money, in terms of accessibility and fun while having a steep but manageable difficulty curve - the 2600 game that stands up the best today is Kaboom. It can induce an almost zen-like state that is very hard to capture in gaming.


Fully agree. I would love to see a modern version (complete with control wheel) in HD with smooth frame rates. Still have found memories of sitting in front of an RCA XL-100 console tv with my eyes burning trying to catch all those bombs. Wish I would have sent in my score back in the day to get the Patch from Activision.


River Raid was similar, but Kaboom was nice because it used the knobs.


I remember playing combat at Sears in the mall when I was kid. The most recent game like this was Guitar Hero.


4 player Warlords was a favorite in the dorm during college. Many a night was spent on that game.


We played 4 player Warlords in our dorm at Ga Tech years after its era. There was a trick move for each castle and we abused the hell out of 'em. :-)


Ha! I played 4 player Warlords in the dorms at Ga Tech during its era. Lots of fond memories of Techwood/McDaniel hall. Glad to know that the tradition continued!


Combat was my favorite game on Atari.


I would definitely rank Combat higher.

I was quite young when ET came out. I loved ET, but the game was basically impossible for me to play because I couldn't get out of the pits very well; which was exacerbated by falling into them when I shouldn't have.

In contrast, Combat was easy to figure out and play and I could play it with loved ones.


I'd suppose most kids learned quickly that you could float mid fall and bypass the energy penalty. Even if you fell by accident, it cost practically nothing.


One of the reasons ET flopped was because the game was confusing. Combat, meanwhile, is literally just player 1 and player 2 trying to shoot each other. In terms of accessibility, engagement and gameplay Combat is objectively better.


Combat rocked. That was one of the best games.


"A few tweaks" is easier said than done when you've compressed a normal several month development cycle to 5 weeks.

I'm amazed that he shipped anything.


Was going to post this, then got caught up reading it and you beat me too it.

Good read, interesting fixes.


Graphically it was so-so. But the game play itself was just not fun. The worst part of it was the time limit was basically the number of "steps" the character moved, and you had to collect these "communicator" parts that were buried randomly in pits and then use some kind of crappy "levitation" move to get out. And that took up extra energy as well so it cut into your time limit to find the next communicator piece.

Never beat it. Got extremely annoyed/bored with it after a short time. There were games with much worse graphics and sound that had a much better gameplay overall.


Everyone forgets about Pac-Man, that was another huge contributor to the crash. The 2600 couldn't handle 5 sprites, so they used one sprite for all the ghosts and showed one per frame. The flickering ghosts against the bright blue background was physically painful to watch.

They estimated 10 million consoles were actively being played, so they made 12 million copies. They sold 7 million, and that's before returns. 7 million people who would think twice before buying another Atari game.


Wasn't it the Atari version of Pac Man with "wafers"?

Nothing beats game programming in the 80s. IMO, the golden age of programming.


Are you talking about the bonus 'fruit'?

That was he one thing I complained most about with the Atari PacMan. I don't think I ever noticed the flickering ghosts specifically, or even how different the bird layout was vs the arcade version.

But instead of a cherry/orange/pretzel that moved around the screen, the bonus fruit was a dark-brown square inside another slightly-larger light-brown square. It didn't move, it didn't look good, and as a kid I felt like this was the classic example of either the game designers cutting corners or limitations of the system.

I used to joke about this specific example as one of the key reasons to move on to better consoles when they came around.


My family and I love et. Once you rtfm, its pretty simple yet engaging. I can think of dozens of games that are worse.


It's a cool story. I'm actually really amazed he managed to make a game that sold 1.5 million copies (@ $40 per unit that'd be $60mil) in _5 weeks_. As the sole programmer. In an era when programming was far more tricky and low level.

It isn't his fault the managers were being unreasonable in the timeline, and the company grossly over-manufactured the cartridges.

If I made something in just 5 weeks that sold 1.5 million units, I'd be proud of myself! hehe, and as others have pointed out, it isn't actually the worst game.


> It isn't his fault the managers were being unreasonable in the timeline, and the company grossly over-manufactured the cartridges.

Yes, the real problem is that they expected something comparable in quality to his previous games with less time to develop it. He did agree to it, though. Watch "Atari: Game Over" and you'll be able to tell from interviews with him that he held a lot of guilt about it- for years.

The fact is that he was one of the best game developers in history that accepted a job that he couldn't do without making sacrifices that killed the game. He shouldn't take credit for killing Atari though. They ended up being split focused on computers (that did fairly well but were competing against giants) and consoles. And they messed up by releasing both the 5200, which was a bomb partially due to its controllers, and the 7800, which came too late. Even if Atari had done everything right, it would have been really difficult to compete with Nintendo.

I still love Atari, though. The NES was great, but the 2600, for its time, was the best thing that ever happened in the home gaming industry. It was the first proof that a home gaming console could be a staple to a first-world kid's life.


The NES set an awful precedent that we're still dealing with today.


What precedent was that?


My best guess is how the NES was marketed, to boys. Here's a link to an Adam ruins everything video about it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i08CVkBxvBM

Did I guess correctly?

Sidenote, somehow googling "youtube video nintendo marketing video game crash analysis boys" had the video I was thinking of at the very top.


I suspect he may have meant the 'requiring all games to be licensed' thing, since a lot of older systems and home computers let pretty much anyone make games if they figured out how to get them working.

Or maybe the centralised content censorship thing. Nintendo waa pretty infamous for that in the olden days, and it may have been the inspiration for sometimes rather insane guidelines for modern day app stores and the likes.


> As the sole programmer. In an era when programming was far more tricky and low level.

In the same era, early 80s, kids across the UK were single-handedly writing games packed into 1-16k, some of which (Manic Miner being a prime example) sold in their hundreds of thousands in the UK market alone.

There was some pretty amazing programming skill going on back then.


In some ways it was probably easier to write a game solo than it is now, because expectations were lower and there were such tight limits on what was technically possible. These days people expect high-quality graphics, music and sound effects as well as good gameplay, and they expect much bigger games too. I'm not sure anyone's managed to develop a commercially-successful game solo, and even developing most of one solo requires years of work and a wide set of skills.


> I'm not sure anyone's managed to develop a commercially-successful game solo

Minecraft?


Flappy Bird?


Banished is an interesting case study for modern solo development.


Undertale was essentially solo.


That sounds pretty interesting. Do you know if anyone has written on that history yet? It sounds like it'd make a great article in one of the tech magazines.


Lots and lots. There are and have been any number of Kickstarters for whole books covering various older game developers.. Also another source that springs to mind is the Llamasoft blog [1] - Jeff Minter behind Llamasoft fits the profile above perfectly.

There's also a number of magazines devoted entirely to retro gaming, such as retroGAMER [2] that regularly have articles and interviews with the people involved.

[1] http://minotaurproject.co.uk/

[2] http://www.retrogamer.net/


If you're interested in that era, I recommend watching "From Bedrooms To Billions" http://www.frombedroomstobillions.com/

I grew up in this era, first programming on an Aquarius. It was quite the hobby in the UK.


It's behind you - the making of a computer game: http://bizzley.imbahost.com/ is great

There is also diaries for Making of Prince of Persia and Karatek. http://www.jordanmechner.com/backstage/journals/

Both highly recommended, I reread it three times already.


Countless books have been written on this subject:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_books_about_video_game...

:)


Sorry I thought I had replied to this. I'm not aware of any article or book going through the history of that era, unfortunately, but I wasn't aware of Bedrooms to Billions, so there could well be. It's just kind of 'known' that it happened, I think.

IIRC when the Raspberry Pi was first announced, it was suggested it might inspire kids to program in the same way that computers did in the 80s, since teaching at UK schools apparently centres around how to use Microsoft applications.


You seem to be unaware of Ludum dare and similar challenges where (literally) thousands of games are created over the weekend that could easily compete with games made in the 80's.

Skill is still here, it is just muted by the modern media. Back then a any game release was huge news, today such games are made all the time every day and don't even get noticed.


I really don't know why you take what was an entirely positive comment, in praise of programming and programmers in the early 80s, and try to turn it into a negative, pointless, opinion-based pissing contest about which era was 'better'.


If the early 80's was good, then something else must be bad. Perhaps you meant it was good compared to what happened before, or compared to what it would have been if people didn't make games. But a reasonable guess is good compared to today, which is an implicitly negative comment about today's programmers. I think the reply was quite reasonable - it doesn't make sense to glorify the past when the present has massively more of what was good about the past.


you have a zero-sum model of things that does not reflect reality well.


> If the early 80's was good, then something else must be bad.

If programming from one era was good, why do you think that means programming from another era "must be bad"? Why can't good programming exist in both eras?

> But a reasonable guess is good compared to today

If you insist on guessing there's more to my final sentence, why isn't a reasonable guess, "as well as non-amazing programming back then" or "just as there is amazing programming today"?


First, most hackathon games are terrible. They don't even rise to the level of coherence of those former games, because they're mostly thrown together into the first vaguely "game-like" thing that compiles, with half the gameplay in orders of magnitude more space.

Second, those games are only possible due to the existence of frameworks, high-level languages and the proliferation of programming knowledge over the internet. Almost no one doing a weekend hackathon is cranking out a playable game in raw assembly.

Now to be fair, most games in the 80s were terrible as well - that's part of what led to the crash, and it's just Sturgeon's Law in effect. But what's being praised here isn't really design skill so much as a level of programming skill which simply isn't strictly necessary in the modern day to create a game.


To be fair the sales were just due to marketing, right?


If you want to learn much more about this, watch the movie, "Atari: Game Over": http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3715406/


Let me save you some time. Atari: Game Over on Netflix ~> http://www.netflix.com/title/80042198


If we're going to rate Atari games adjusted by the level of effort and time put into them, I'd say this is one of its better games. This is one developer coding non-stop for five weeks straight, and he had the temerity to push back on Spielberg's ideas. I wouldn't say he caused Atari's demise, but rather he almost saved the company.


Yes, I'm not blaming someone with a limited time and very limited hardware for not putting up an all-star game

Of course, not all of the time was coding, there was a lot of hand-drawing stuff, converting it to numbers, paper calculations, testing, etc


A couple of comments based off of the first ET poster/ad in the article:

* Atari games like this cost $40? That seems expensive!

* Why did Pennsylvania residents have to call a different number?

* Funny that a point of advertising was getting the game before everyone else. It reminds you that these were real games people wanted and not just nostalgic blasts, how I view them now.

(Link to poster: http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/news/624/cpsprodpb/1972/production/_...)


Yup. My grandmother bought me it for christmas, no doubt full retail. It was inordinately expensive. It would be inordinately expensive today with a retail cost of $100 inflation adjusted dollars.

Best 2600 title screen ever though. No one ever mentions that about the game though.


It sometimes blows my mind that this would be $100 in today's dollars, or $12.50 per kilobyte.


Games with a "season pass" or a bunch of DLC/expansion packs are up around $100 now. Still crazy to think about though.


$100 is a normal (Xbox One/PS4) game price in Australia.


100 AUD is 71 USD.


I don't believe the exchange rate alone is the explanation. Here the Canadian dollar is very low versus the USD right now, yet on Steam I rarely ever see $100 games.

With the DLC and "Season passes" and other nickel and dime schemes they have, sure, but usually it's around $70-80 for AAA titles. I have an Aussie friend who I'd often gift games, then she'd pay me back on a 3rd party service what I paid, and end up saving money.

Australia really does just get screwed for whatever reason.


Wow. That's really expensive.

Is it a 95% fun tax?


It's a 95% Australia tax. We pay more for almost everything just because. It was originally justified by our exchange rates (which got down into the AUD$1 = USD$0.5x) but persisted at the same dollar values even when the rate went to AUD$1 = USD$1.2.

Basically, we get screwed because there's precident establishing that we can. And it permiates almost anything that is produced overseas including phones and laptops but also all kinds of software, not just games.

Here's an article from when it was a hot topic in the news: http://www.smh.com.au/technology/technology-news/adobe-chief...

At the time it was literally cheaper to fly from Sydney to LA, buy the software in LA and fly home.


Where did you get 95% from? The normal new game price on Amazon seems to be $60. The Division and Far Cry Primal are both $60 for both systems.

It's an 18% "fun tax".


It was just an observation that Ozzies seem to get screwed by both corporations and their own government these days.

95% I plucked out of my head, as an extreme percentual screwing value! :-)


> Why did Pennsylvania residents have to call a different number?

I remember seeing this sort of thing a lot back then. Probably a sales tax thing - maybe the fulfillment center was in PA.


Back in the day, AT&T had technological issues that meant that there were separate "in-state" and "out-of-state" 800 numbers, so every national advertisement always mentioned a main 800 number, plus a different one for the one particular state where they actually had their call center. Single-state institutions sometimes only had in-state 800 numbers, so, for instance, you literally couldn't call California's Franchise Tax Board (the state's IRS-like tax authority) from outside of California (as I learned from bitter experience). Look up "InWATS" in Wikipedia for more details. Now, get off my lawn.


My mom worked at GTE and when I went to college in 1997 she got us a WATS line so I could dial 1-800 to call home.

One of her jobs in the early 80s was to calculate the bills for WATS lines. There was a room full of mechanical counters, like odometers, that would increment while people were talking on their line. Every day she'd write down the new counts, subtract the previous day's counts, and they'd bill the difference.


Long distance calls? Remember those? :) It was probably short distance in PA.


What, not "Desert Bus"?[1][2] (Now available for IoS and Android.)

[1] http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/desert-bus-the-very-w... [2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBr7EhL6Jpg


Played that game for a good hour and a half at least. Fun for the whole family.

Also, Desert Bus for Hope raises money for charity: https://desertbus.org/

At time of writing, they've raised $3,112,329.72.

More info here: https://desertbus.org/about/


Probably because it's satirically bad, not actually. Expectations are different from the outset.


Desert Bus doesn't count - it was purposefully bad.

Big Rigs Over the Road Racing, meanwhile, was for all intents and purposes an alpha build sold as an actual game, in a box and everything.


It was never released for sale, and it certainly could not be blamed for destroying an industry.


Let's not forget, the same person also created the best-selling original title for the Atari 2600: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yars'_Revenge


Sure, the article seems to acknowledge as much:

> "I actually prefer it when people do identify it as the worst game of all time because I also did Yars Revenge and that's frequently identified as one of the best of all time. So between the two, I have the greatest range of any designer in history!"

I really liked Yars' Revenge. That constant droning sound -- it was really unlike anything I'd heard at that point.


...or that his biggest failure still sold over a million copies.


We can all aspire to fail that badly!


I certainly do.


Another contender for the title of worst video game:

  Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing was critically panned. 
  The game's criticism is largely directed at its 
  "blatantly unfinished"[2] state: lack of collision 
  detection and frequent violation of the laws of 
  physics, frequent and major software bugs, poor 
  visuals, and severe lack of functionality. As a result, 
  the game is now widely regarded as one of the worst 
  video games of all time.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Rigs:_Over_the_Road_Racing


There's a long list on Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_video_games_notable_fo...

A close friend of mine worked on PaintBrawl, which made the list (#2.11). PaintBrawl is a first person shooter but used paintball guns since WalMart wouldn't carry violent video games in the 90s.


Every play Splatterball on AOL? That game was great for the time.


i loved splatterball. iirc it had an hourly charge too, well worth it ;D


Yes there's plenty of them. I thought this article was going to be about Daikatana.


Daikatana was never called the "worse game ever," but the worst game relative to the amount of investment/hype/ego.


This guy's job is what originally attracted me to software engineering... the idea you could be so good and important to a company that they just pay you to pump out something awesome and let you do it. Granted this focuses on a failure, but he had many successes and the failure is Atari's fault for pushing an impossible deadline.

Of course times have changed and this isn't a practical scenario anymore, and likely for good reason. But it still reminds me of how a simple DOS game that a man could do on his own was state of the art. Sure there's the odd app like Flappy Bird that goes viral and garners success, but that's the luck of the lottery, really. It's different from back then.

I miss that simplicity.


Custer's Revenge has to be the worst Atari 2600 game ever created. Overt racism and sexism combine with bad game play in one rape-y package.


Except that it was never really distributed per se and mainly became available via illegal ROM downloading channels. So whatcha been up to?


I actually knew someone who had this piece of garbage. In rural mid-America. It sure as hell was distributed!


Wikipedia claims 80,000 sold copies...


damn, i should have checked.

Found out there are some other games in that genre, some quite a bit more shocking. :O


There was an interesting write up in 2013 of someone who reverse engineered the game to develop a fix for the main flaws in the gameplay:

http://hackaday.com/2013/04/06/fixing-the-worst-video-game-e...

It's quite an interesting read and exposes some of the concerns that must have been present in designing games for incredibly limited memory at the time, including where to put the patched instructions.


I still don't get why this game is so maligned. It was one of my favorite 2600 games! The only game I liked better was pitfall.


Since E.T. fell in pits over and over this comment makes a lot of sense..


Pitfall was probably my favorite, along with all the arcade game adaptions (e.g. Space Invaders) but I also really loved Haunted House and Berzerk.


My wife remembers that game quite fondly. May be hip to dis it now, but a lot of people did enjoy it.


I also remember really enjoying it as a six or seven year old. I remember how excited I was when I figured out how the forest and the government linked to the various screens with the wells, and which directions would guarantee you fell into a well and which didn't. Bouncing in my chair excited.

Then again, I had weird taste in video games when I was a kid.


I played it a lot. I can't say I ever enjoyed it. It was a frustrating game with very little reward.


Personally, while I'd say ET was a disaster in a lot of ways, I've always thought the talk of being the 'worst game ever' is just ridiculously overblown.

I mean, for the time it was moderately impressive on a technical level, and as dull as it ended up being, it wasn't really all that broken as far as bugs go.

No, if you want something a bit more worthy of the title, try Big Rigs (mentioned below), Action52, Superman 64 or Sonic 2006. Something that is literally broken beyond the point you can easily repair it, and which were a lot less impressive for the time they were released in.


Burnout for DS was laughably bad.

Rise of the Robots was extensively hyped, but was a terrible game. (Winnable by mashing A.)


Of course this game did not lead to the 'videogame crash' of 83, other videogame areas like the arcades was doing just fine, and home computers as well.

The problem was that the console games of the time were incredibly poor in graphics/sound, and typically also in game play.

Consumers wanted better games than what the console hardware at the time could produce, once something came along which was a technical leap compared to the Atari, Coleco etc, it did fantastically well, this was the NES.


Here's a great piece on how E.T. can be fixed with a few relatively minor changes:

http://www.neocomputer.org/projects/et/

As much grief as Warshaw has gotten for E.T., it really is an amazing accomplishment that he put it together in five weeks. (This is particularly true, considering the extreme resource impoverishment of the 2600 platform.)


Hah! The worst? Penn & Teller's Desert Bus is the worst. By design. From the wiki page:

>The bus contains no passengers, there is little scenery aside from an occasional rock or bus stop sign, and there is no traffic. The road between Tucson and Las Vegas is completely straight. The bus veers to the right slightly, and thus requires the player's constant attention. If the bus veers off the road it will stall and be towed back to Tucson, also in real time. If the player makes it to Las Vegas, one point is scored. The player then has the option to make the return trip to Tucson for another point, a decision which must be made in a few seconds or the game ends. Players may continue to make trips and score points as long as their endurance lasts. Although the landscape never changes, an insect splats on the windshield about five hours through the first trip, and on the return trip the light fades, with differences at dusk, and later a pitch black road where the player is guided only with headlights


To be described as 'the worst' in any genre on an international site does, of course, warrant a degree of scale that separates you from those who are, really, probably no better than you.

The worst movie ever made probably doesn't have enough Rotten Tomato or IMDB reviews to be considered. I was once told I had hosted the "worst program on television"[1], but being community tv there were probably 100 people watching each week and as far as I know no extant copy has survived - we'll never appear on a "worst TV shows of all time" list.

So almost by definition on a site like BBC.com, 'the worst video game in history' means 'which also sold tens of thousands of copies [2]', which is a measure of success and recognition most genuine failures won't achieve.

[1] Someone actually called the station and left a voicemail to that effect. I took it as a compliment - it meant he'd watched the whole show, because nobody calls to complain if they just changed the channel. [2] Or, in ET's case, 1.5 million.


That's a good point about any list. Best game ever, worst game ever, hardest level/boss/game ever, you name it. The percentage of works or parts of works that ever become popular enough to get noticed is dwarfed by the (couple of hundred) times larger number that simply fall off the radar or never get any attention in the first place.

I mean, what's the hardest game ever made? Probably if you're really picky, some ultra obscure shoot em up or kaizo esque Mario ROM hack. But the average list will only name titles like Battletoads, Dark Souls and I Wanna Be the Guy, because those are the ones many people (including the authors) have actually heard of.


I would think that a "worst [item] ever" list would generally be limited in sensible ways, such as with a video game, having the requirement that it actually be commercially sold. Obviously, any amateur could make some crappy little game and give it to his friends and no one would ever know or care about it; when we think of "the worst video game in history", we're going to naturally assume that it's a commercially-sold game. So some Mario ROM hack would not qualify, IMO. Even better would be to limit it to games with some decent amount of distribution.

Same goes for movies: a "worst movies" list would probably be limited to movies that actually made theatrical release, not someone's home movie, or even a straight-to-DVD movie.


To be fair, that doesn't actually limit the number all that much:

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Horrible/VideoGameGene...

And much of:

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Horrible/VideoGamesOth...

And everything on Hardcore Gaming 101's Weekly Kusoge series here:

http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/kusoge/kusoge.htm

There's also the fact a lot of games are distributed pretty well (and sometimes even sold), legality be damned. Is there any more legitimacy to a bad (and likely illegal) app store game featuring characters from Mario or Pokemon than a game mod or fan game featuring the same thing? People sold Doom Wad collections in boxes in shops at one point, does that count?

Even assuming only legal retail games, there's an awful lot of somewhat obscure shovelware that could fill up an entire (very long) list. Like the tons of PS2 and Wii shovelware (the latter's games were often ported from the former) by companies like Data Design and Phoenix Games.

Like:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UF8QzQp57oI

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pk8qbSISQI4

A worst game ever list would be incredibly hard to make to any decent degree, simply because you have so many possible choices to include on it, especially if you go looking outside the most popular titles.


You've got a point. Maybe the worst-of list should be limited to games that achieved a certain amount of sales, to keep the obscure stuff out. Also, personally I'd be more interested in worst-of lists if they were restricted to certain years, or perhaps even certain platforms. For instance, a worst-of-NES-games list would be much more interesting than a list that comprised all video games ever, since I stopped paying attention to games after the mid-1990s. Or a list of worst-of arcade games from the 80s.


>I mean, what's the hardest game ever made? Probably if you're really picky, some ultra obscure shoot em up or kaizo esque Mario ROM hack.

Probably some bullet hell game which requires pixel perfect movement. Such as: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nscP9QpXoFM

I'm 99% sure near the end there (the last minute or so, last phase of the boss) it is literally unbeatable without buying more lives and if this wasn't an arcade game that allowed purchasing new lives, I don't think it'd be beaten by anything short of a tool-assisted run.


The narrative has always been about hubris, to some degree, but shifting the blame to E.T. was always a distraction from some of the bigger lessons.

Atari had reached a point where it thought it could print money in perpetuity regardless of what it did. And that was true for a while. But you can't screw customers over forever. Eventually they bail, and that's what the big "video game collapse" was all about. Poor quality products being pushed at absurd prices. The lesson here is for startups with lock-in or few competitors: it doesn't take much to have it all fall apart. Make the best product you can.

I mostly marvel at the fact that this was done in 5 weeks. That's absurd. And while it was, objectively, a "bad" video game, there were far worse. They just weren't as high-profile. The second lesson is for developers: always appreciate the fact that you live in a world where patches, releases, and iterative development allow you to retroactively fix the things you had to do in a hurry.


I only recently watched the episode of Code Monkeys that tells this story. I did not know this was based on a true story. (I would not have suspected that a company would only assign a single programmer to such a big title, and on such a crazy schedule. Although, now that I think of it, I guess game industry veterans can tell lots and lots of these stories...)


To be fair, people have made worst games in recent times. The fact we are hanging on to ET as The Worst of all, is a bit unjust. If someone can screw up a game with today's technology they deserve the title even more than a game created in 5 weeks on very limited tech.


There is a very nice documentary if anyone wants to hear from the actual game developer - http://m.imdb.com/title/tt3715406/

It's on Netflix as well.


I enjoyed this a lot. Especially the bits from the developer! And the comments about how technically unique the game was at the time.


I remember learning about this game on a G4 special, and seeing Warshaw's spots talking about how it was made. I wasn't alive when this game was released, but it seems to be very frustrating to play. But hey, that's what you get on the first try when you rush things (coughJavaScriptcough). I'm glad to see someone's "fixed" it just to see what it would have been like had Warshaw been able to get the time needed to really complete the project. It looked like a great idea, just a terrible execution.


Some amazing takeaways from the article:

- 5 weeks development time, one person.

- 5 mio 1980-USD marketing budget.

- 4 mio units produced

- 1.5 mio units sold

The units probably listed at 15-20 USD (corresponding to 50-60 USD at today's prices) and cost around 5-6 USD to produce.

Amazing facts if you have any idea on how the game industry work today.

In particular the little resources spent at development stands out. Showing that video game development back then probably was more akin to making a board game or a toy than the huge software development projects it is today.


It sold at 40$, according to the image in the article.


> "It's awesome to be credited with single-handedly bringing down a billion-dollar industry with eight kilobytes of code. But the truth is a little more complex."

Eight kilobytes?! How do you build anything meaningful, especially a game, with just eight kilobytes?


Get a copy of Racing the Beam to get some insight into how programmers were able to wring out every bit[1] of potential from the Atari 2600: https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/racing-beam

[1] Yes, I see what I did there.


Quite a lot, turns out. The demoscene does miracles in 4k. http://www.pouet.net/prod.php?which=52938


Might be better to show some actual Atari 2600 demos:

http://www.pouet.net/prodlist.php?platform%5B0%5D=Atari+VCS

Here's one of the higher-ranked 8k demos:

http://www.pouet.net/prod.php?which=32203 (YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WogMZn87hkk )


Have a look at .kkrieger - a beautiful 3D ego shooter from 2004 in 96 kilobytes

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.kkrieger

Screenshot: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.kkrieger#/media/File:Kkrieger...


WOW... Uh..is 96k the whole thing? Is this using some framework which provides something else, outside of standard OS stuff?


DirectX, probably, but arguably that counts as "standard OS stuff".


I tried running it back then - the textures, the music, the models, all of the content is generated "from scratch", which is why it takes forever to start, it has to create all content first



Well you also have 128 bytes of RAM to work with...


You have a little more than this:

- In 2600 coding you often don't need a stack, so you can use 'S' as a temp register. Very useful in the display kernel.

- The 2600 has a standard parallel port chip. There are configuration registers (e.g., port direction) that can be temporarily hijacked as RAM, when you don't care about input or output (which you generally only sample once a frame). That's a whole 8 more bits of RAM, not to be sneezed at.

One of my cow-orkers at Atari decided that he'd try to learn 2600 programming (he was mostly doing Atari Home Computer stuff). Over three or four months I saw him go through what I can only describe as deterioration and utter discouragement. The people who could get even an awful game out of the 2600 were pretty damned good hackers.


8K is 8192 bytes. Atari runs on MOS 6502, for which each instruction takes up between 1 and 3 bytes. This gives you about 2K instructions, give or take (you probably want to make space for some data). Given how simple most atari games are, I think you could reasonably get away with 1-1.5K instructions for code if you hand-write the assembly and optimize for size.


Actually, the Atari 2600 runs a 6507 which is a cheaper version of a 6502. Unlike the 64kbytes a 6502 can address, the 6507 is limited to 8kbytes. Worse, the cartridge design limited you to 4kbytes unless you bank switched.

But that was storages, which was huge compared to the 128 bytes of RAM. Further complications happen because you need to time things with the scan lines of the display.


Eight kilobytes is plenty of space. How about doing something meaningful in 128 bytes (yes, bytes!): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cD49RXnEGNE - it's a mouse-controlled 3d Wolfenstein-like maze. All with the code about half the size of this comment.


8KB of ROM, 128 bytes of RAM.

It doesn't even have a screen buffer, just a half a line buffer. You have to count scan lines and keep track of what's being drawn on a cycle by cycle basis, then update the line buffer live to get what you want on screen.


>> How do you build anything meaningful, especially a game, with just eight kilobytes?

Often times you don't.

Think of how many computer programmers there were back then. How many notable 2600 programmers were there? 20? 25?


Assembly?


This is a great video review of the game https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DTjLG3usQo (if you want skip the intro the actual gameplay starts at around 2:00)


The guy single-handily coded, in 5 weeks, a video game that sold 1.5 million copies! I'd like to be responsible for this kind of screw up any day :)

Granted that the sales were probably mostly due to intense marketing and ad campaign.


I was 8 years old when the game out and I actually enjoyed the game, bugs and all.


I can't imagine any sane person actually blames him for his work and not the company that decides to put one developer in charge of writing such an important game in such a short space of time.


ET from Atari had a better cover than game. (But that was actually true with most games from the era. Just double true with this "game".)


I would like to read the story of "Big Rigs"!


I didn't remember people still being that hairy in '82. I thought we were mostly cleaning up by then, unless you were in a band.


So Atari spent $21,000,000 to buy the rights and $5,000,000 on marketing but having more than 1 developer on the project was too much...


To be fair, I don't think multi-programmer gamedev teams really existed back then. You can't divide work very meaningfully when your whole application consists of eight kilobytes of assembly with zero room for abstraction or good coding practices.


Gotta say, ET was not all that bad. But my expectations were low after playing too much Big Bird's Egg Catch.


Anyone else remember the "E.T. Comes Back" text/graphic adventure for Apple II?


Well, the tale grew in the telling. Howard used to say that nobody else would take the project because the deadline was so short. He thought it was worth a try. Now the story is, he was hand-picked by Spielberg. Ok, Howard.


I used to like this game.


that is not Beat Takeshi



Here I thought I Wanna Be The Guy was the worst video game.


Of all the memes IWBTG has created, "bad game" is not one of them. (the deliberate difficulty of that game has in fact created a new genre of games, leading to things like Super Meat Boy)


No, the man who made the worst video game in history was Hideo Kojima with Metal Gear Solid 2. Hardcore fans of prior game(s) felt a combination of let down, shock, and anger at the details. Imagine my surprise when I find out it very well could've been an ingenius plot to screw with the players. As others noted, the games overall plot against the protagonist was what he was doing to the players. Start here on a nice analysis here if you're curious why MGS2 had the effects it did:

http://www.deltaheadtranslation.com/MGS2/DOTM3.htm


Ironically, after the revamp (pun...?) they gave him in MGS4, Raiden turned out to be a hit and they went on to make MGRising. There were fans who were sad you couldn't play as Raiden in MGS4 - talk about ultimate troll: replace a main character with someone who went on to be universally hated. Bash that character in the next game (MGS3) then make him awesome but unplayable in MGS4. (though they later introduced him to MGO)


Tie that into the above theory you get: destroy players perceived identity (Snake); connect player to nerd character that plays VR games (Raiden); let him win in a lame way furthering identification with him; bash him in next game; make player's new identity unplayable in MGS4. Yeah, the guy's an epic troll.


MGS2 is quite possibly the best example of a postmodern video game: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T-2YuPGYabw


I had a feeling that link would be George Weidman before I clicked on it. Was not disappointed. =) Metal Gear Solid 2 is one of the more amazing things I've ever played, and George's video about MGS2 is awesome, if a little bit overwrought. I was a big fan of Metal Gear (I'd emulated an MSX to play the originals), loved MGS, and liked MGS2 when it came out, but that might have been because it was more Metal Gear Solid. Despite being a "hardcore fan", as the OP would put it, I never felt disappointed or betrayed by MGS2. And, in retrospect, I've learned to like it more by what it tried to do. Ambitious games deserve respect for their ambition insofar as attempts to push outward and expand gaming as an art form, and MGS2 pulls off its goals better than it probably should have.

Today, I find it's one of the better popular-gaming litmus tests for whether or not somebody treats games as experiences to which critical analysis can be applied. (One doesn't have to like the game, there are lots of reasons not to even if I happen to, but does one get the thrust of it?)


Postmodern is a word I heard a lot but didn't understand. That was a pretty good explanation. You could say I do post-modern INFOSEC here and elsewhere. :) The video was really good esp with its fake ending and vindication of Hideo's predictions via social media. Today, they call those echo chambers.

Altogether very interesting stuff that kept me up longer than I wanted to be. Thanks for the link and lack of sleep. :)




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