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Pleasant Surprises

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When the Nintendo came out, I was – to say the very  least – a fanatic about it, not the very least was because the arcade style games that Nintendo had chosen port over where pretty much exactly what I would see at the arcade.

Comparing this to the Atari, where the games were loose interpretations of the licensed material which were reprogrammed for the Atari systems. While entertaining, to be sincere, the interpretations were oftentimes really really bad.

Take Pac Man for instance. Here’s an arcade version:


And here’s the port of the same game to the Atari 2600 system:


HUGE difference, right?

This was what home gamers used to have to play with, was substantially poorer quality reworks of the things I would find in arcades.

But with the Nintendo – they did something else that Atari had not.

Surprised me.

I’d played a game called “Spy Hunter” in the arcades, here’s the face plate of the game:


Now the original game had appeared YEARS before, and let’s face it. While I spent many quarters on the game, it was because of frustration of the gameplay and lack of other video game options. If there was Gauntlet side by side next to Spy Hunter at a Circle K, this would be the selection.

But ANY video game was better than no video game.

In the arcade version, it features a top down perspective of the same exact car you see on the face plate. Only in really poor resolution. The terrain scrolls vertically from top to bottom at an increasing rate of speed, and the sole task I have in the game is to steer this car using the joystick and use my smoke bombs, oil slicks, and guns to avoid the same thing from the plethora of other vehicles on the road.

Here’s what it looks like:


Now being real. The game just wasn’t that good. Mildly entertaining. As a programmer I can appreciate it MUCH more now than I could then as a game player. But as entertainment, the game was just flat out not that good.

So when the Nintendo announced it was doing a port. I got excited.


With Nintendo’s memory and system specs. SURELY they were going to touch up this game and add in some more variety to actually make this a bad ass spy game, right? Surely they’d have the spy in boats, maybe on foot, maybe… who knows… in a plane?

But alas. When the game was released on the Nintendo, it was a MAJOR disappointment.

Sure, I could see the scenery turn from green to brown desert.

But besides that.

All the game did was increase in speed and difficulty at the levels I couldn’t afford at the arcade because of how frequently I would die.

I ALMOST took the game back.

But then something magical happened.

Golgo 13.

Was everything I’d imagined Spy Hunter should be and more.

Within a month of Spy Hunter’s release and dismal failure in revenue, Golgo 13 was released.

I wasn’t expecting much. Spy Hunter had disappointed me and I’d thought nothing could come close to the image I am imagining of what I want out fo a good spy game.

But as I dove in, and the first scene transitioned, I realized I had something different than I’d ever played before.

This game features a 1st person perspective graphics for some parts, changes over to flying a helicopter in other parts. There is a storyline to this game, and I’d go all around the world in this game, and for all intents and purposes, I was actually the spy Golgo 13 being sent on missions around the world where while there was SOME limited reuse of graphics, the programmers of the game entertained me magnificently.

I LOVED the game because of the unexpected variety, which inspired the hell out of me.

Now Spy Hunter though, was different. I’d purchased it for the Nintendo not expecting much other than a port of the arcade version.

But as I played it. I found out real quickly the game was substantially different.

I would make it a certain distance, and the car would come to a stop. And I’d get out and would have to hop to a boat. From there I’d have to hop to a helicopter. From there I’d be running – ever forward – in a decently rendered 3d environment.

Now last night I was playing Dark Star One, a game that’s been rather monotonous so far. The story’s got potential – where I fly a ship from system to system following the main story arc where I build my ship up which is considered somewhat organic. As I build up the vessel in gear and light drives, distant areas become more accessible. I can also take side missions off the main story arc to which I can build up reputation.

And that’s pretty much the gyst of it. or so I thought.

Last night, the primary story arc took my ship unexpectedly to the planet where I was chasing a pirate and shutting down their operations on the planet’s surface. What made it interesting wasn’t the graphical awe of the event. It was actually somewhat sub par graphically with everything the game’s shown so far. No, what made it interesting was this ‘story arc’ introduced going to a planet’s surface for the first time.

Just last week I’d played the game trying to make it to the planet’s surface and was given the warning ‘you are too close to the planet’ before my vessel destroyed.

So I got to thinking after this.

I think the game evolved. Right in front of my eyes.

In my refusal to find help and assistance on the internet for the game. This gave the game the chance to be something different. To react to my desire to visit a planet by creating a mission on the planet.

As it’s my belief that no matter what I found on the internet, invariably I would find evidence to support the assertions in the game play.

Now I don’t know how this is testable.

But IF I don’t look it up. Does this allow it to become something.. Unpredictable?

And decidedly more fun?

And when/if I decide to look on the internet, I have no doubt it will look like the game was always programmed this way….

Did Golgo 13 come out because I’d been so consistently disappointed with a story of Spy Hunter, that finally reality manifested exactly what I was hoping for – and more?

It’s Shrodinger’s cat, applied.

You really don’t know if that cat’s alive or dead until you open up the box.

But when you hope he’s one way over the other, you’re shaping reality itself and as I have found, the evidence will make this so impossibly difficult to refute that you’ll be surprised you ever thought this wasn’t true to begin with.

Another game I’m playing is Words with Friends with my mom.

A game I’m tired of.

Where words like “QI” which is chinese for ‘thank you’ it claims are in the English dictionary.

And words like “Aerobat” – which is a generic type of plane that does stunts which I flew in Charlotte, North Carolina IS NOT in the dictionary.

And other words like “Internet” and “Cyber” are not in that same dictionary…

The game’s become unfun.

When words that aren’t used in common vocabulary can be used to score points and words that are cannot.

It becomes annoying.

My point, with all this, I suppose – is that pleasant surprises in games that evolve are fun.

But when games evolve to manipulate you and your thinking.

Like Words with Friends.

It just becomes annoying.

China. This message is to you.

Fuck you.

And learn to respect our culture here before trying to impose your own.

Same thing for you, India. For different reasons that shouldn’t take a mathematician to figure out.

To all of this.

I like pleasant surprises.

Even if they scare me sometimes or grow me up real fast such as the surprise in real life in the desert 5 years ago.

And I sincerely do hope that more programmers take note and consider making more easter eggs, anomalies, hidden features and gems in their works to make not just the games I play more entertaining.

But the universe as well.

You do that. And I’ll work on the practical jokes 🙂

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