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Ripper: Story of the Egregiously Bad Videogame (wired.com)
24 points by headalgorithm 7 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 15 comments

That was a dreadful time to be a fan of video games. It really felt like the industry was swinging irrevocably in the direction of turning out nothing but these lame attempts at "interactive movies."

News outlets like Wired breathlessly covered these things and lots of folks from outside the game industry were pouring money into them.

These full-motion abominations were the absolute antithesis of everything I loved about video games: smart and tightly crafted design, fast and responsive action, and the fact that games in general were an alternative to the low-IQ crap turned out by (what felt like) the big bloated corpse of Hollywood and the rest of the mainstream entertainment world.

In hindsight, we know that most of those games were huge critical and fiscal failures. And that was somewhat evident to me at the time. Still, I worried: were the powers-that-be going to pour sooooooo much money into these things that they might achieve some level of respectability and actually become the new norm? There are countless examples of this happening in the entertainment world, such as the music industry's longstanding preference for marketing bland one-size-fits-all music. etc.

Games like Ripper may have been comically bad, but perhaps they were like early Hollywood movies... "quaint" efforts that paved the way for a new and emerging dominant art form that displaced some of its predecessors?

Of course, in retrospect, those fears were laughable.

Turned out those FMV games were a true evolutionary dead end, and in the long run they were probably responsible for the game industry recalibrating itself and embracing the things it actually does well.

So instead we get remakes and sequels to sequels.

At least sometimes a reasonably new game happens by accident and it's successful.

Wow, I think history (and public, and critical opinion) disagree with you.

I don't think sequels are a bad thing in the gaming world, since games are software and software is iterative!

A lot of times the 2nd and 3rd iterations surpass the originals... the first title in a series is where all the design and technical challenges are worked out, and then the sequel is where they're able to finetune and really hone things.

Check out the top-rated (both by users and critics) games of all time. Nearly all sequels.


(Note that one of the top-rated games, SoulCalibur, is indeed a sequel as well... Perfect Dark is also, while not a sequel, certainly a "follow up" to Goldeneye in a technical sense)

Any thoughts?

Oh man, I remember watching a Let's Play of both this game and Phantasmagoria 2. Awful games but great for a laugh

In retrospect, it's hard to imagine how anybody thought this kind of game would be fun or enjoyable.

Everybody in the game industry got so caught up in the fact that they could produce video-heavy titles that they never stopped to consider the fact that... almost literally nobody enjoyed playing these things.

All I can think is that...

1. Myst's massive success showed that there was a market for this kind of, uh, cinematic non-real-time puzzle game?

2. There was a notion that this sort of game would appeal to "regular folks", who outnumbered "hardcore gamers" by roughly a zillion to one.

3. Perhaps everybody involved knew that these games weren't very fun, but there was a sense that they had a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get in on the ground floor of what might have been "the next big thing," akin to getting in on the ground floor of Hollywood in the 1920s or somesuch. In other words, that these primitive early titles were a necessary stepping stone to producing something better.

One very minor thing I'll say in defense of these FMV games is that they were generally played on small (think: 13-17") CRTs. The small screen size masked some of the terrible video qualities, relative to viewing them today on our giant 1080p/4K screens. But they still looked pretty bad back in the day. It was quite obvious that most/all of these titles were shot by amateurs in front of a green screen.

I was 13 in 1996. Friends of my parents' asked me if & which computer game would I want as a birthday present.

I said yes, and that I wanted Command & Conquer. We went through a couple iterations where they brought some FMV point & click adventure game and asked if I would like that one or if they should go to the shop to replace it with another game.

After a few tries (every time I said "no, I want a game called Command & Conquer") I despaired and accepted their latest attempt.

That game was Ripper.

Ah yes by Spoony, that was my first thought when I read the title. Another tragic tale of an Internet celebrity.

> Martin moved to Pittsburgh, where he ran a tattoo parlor. In 2008, he started teaching online classes in game art and design and is also an instructional designer at Seton Hill University, a small liberal arts college about 30 miles east of Pittsburgh. “I think about the work I did, and it’s just bits. There’s nothing tangible.” Now a father of seven, Martin tells me he doesn’t play videogames anymore. “They’re too much of a time suck. I can see the schematics right away, the illusion of choice, and honestly the games all look alike now.”

> For the last seven years Martin has spent his free time in the impressive barnlike workshop he built behind his house where he has found his passion in smithing metal. He wanted to craft something with his hands, something that lasts. “Now,” he says, “I make knives.”

This is such a common refrain.

A common refrain from people who can afford it. For the vast majority that don't have a barnlike workshop, video games are the only real escape from the existential nightmare of modern life.

> the Take Two team was just getting started on the almost Sisyphusian task of post-production.

Did anyone else get tripped up by that monstrosity of a word? Even google responds with:

> Did you mean: Sisyphean

It's how a non-English-native speaker would build the adjective to Sisyphus. After all, that is his name.

My native tongue is German, and if I hadn't heard the word Sisyphean before, I would have tried to find it in the same manner. In German, tasks would be described as "Sisyphus labors", not via the adjective.

Thus, it would be reasonable for a German speaker to know the person's name more than the metaphorical word for "laborious + futile".

It's like a weird attempt at a portmanteau of Malthusian and Sisyphean.

"The belief that population tries to increase exponentially, but is inevitably dragged down by disease, famine, or war. Widespread poverty and frustration inevitably result."

An article of egregiously bad video games from the 90's and not a single mention of Superman64?

The point is, these weren't bad games by execution, but because of idea.

Adventure games were never really meant to be big budget, because games rely on volume to bring profit - and competition kills it. And gameplay possible in pure adventure games is very limited. Even pure puzzle games fare better.

Yet here was an attempt to make them expensive while not bringing compelling gameplay with it.

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