Mario: The man, the myth, the junkie

It’s 10 a.m. on a Monday morning in the Mushroom Kingdom. Green pipes across the land are festering with piranha plants and authorities have deemed them unsafe for travel. It’s a dirty job and someone’s got to do it, but the man usually up for the job can’t bring himself to get out of bed.

At Mario Brothers Plumbing—a tiny shack in the middle of nowhere—business is slow and the stench of used fire flowers wafts down the hall from the sleeping quarters. Stalwart co-owner Luigi sits at the front desk with a look of concern on his face.

“My brother is considered a hero,” says Luigi. “I used to consider him a hero myself, but lately he’s just been putting himself before everyone else. He can’t stop getting 1ups. He can’t stop getting coins to pay for 1ups. He’s got more lives than he can count. But what about my life, Mario? My life.”

In this file photo, Mario repeatedly roughs up a local Koopa for 1ups.

In this file photo, Mario repeatedly roughs up a local Koopa for 1ups.

Read the rest of this entry »


New processor spurs Gamerscore increase, controversy

Microsoft has increased the maximum allowable Gamerscore for Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA) games to 400 Gamerscore and 30 Achievements. Xbox gamers and indie developers worldwide are rejoicing while activists are protesting the environmental and human costs of the increase.

“The impetus for the increase comes from a major technological advancement,” says Richard Leckstein, vice-president of product relations at Microsoft. “This of course being the introduction of the Titan X4 Gamerscore processor embedded in each new Xbox 360 console.”

The Titan X4 is the result of years of research and development. The Xbox 360’s current Xenon CPU can barely handle the processing required to push 200 achievement points through the system, so Microsoft’s engineers have leveraged a new mineral called achievementium to create a fast CPU solely for computing Gamerscore.

“With a 400 Gamerscore limit, we can offer more achievements than ever before and solidify our position as the leader in Gamer cred.”

Gamer cred

Projected E-peen values for 2012.

Read the rest of this entry »

Video Games as a Rock Band

You’re at a rock concert. Thousands of fans are cheering.

Who are they cheering for? The lead singer? The hot guitarist? Maybe they’re just there for the music.

Video games are a lot like a rock band. I’m not saying video games are like the game Rock Band, although there are some games like Rock Band, like Rock Band 2. I’m also not saying video game developers are like a rock band, although clearly they are in more ways than the video game itself is.

If all the components that make up a video game (graphics, audio, programming, design, production) were in a band, what roles would they play? How would they appear in the eyes of the casual observer? When they put on a concert, who stands out? Slap on your wristbands and find out.


Graphics – The Lead Singer

Their microphone is turned up the loudest. They stand front and center on stage. They are always in the spotlight.

For someone who knows nothing about music, they can at the very least comment on a song’s vocals. “That’s a nice voice”. Similarly, someone who knows nothing about video games will first comment on a game’s visuals. “It looks realistic!”

Sight is humans’ primary sense, so it is natural that graphics are the easiest video game component to respond to. Long before the first line of code is written, concept art is used to convey what the game might look like. It comprises the “video” part of the term “video game”.

Lead vocals are often the most defining aspect of a band. Without hearing any instruments, you can tell which band it is from the vocals. By the same principle you can identify a particular game from a simple screenshot. They often receive the most attention, much to the chagrin of their band mates…


Read the rest of this entry »

Yo dawg, so I heard you like simulators…

Most games can be called a simulation of some sort. Gran Turismo is touted as the “Real Driving Simulator”; Rock Band simulates being a stage musician; Noby Noby Boy simulates…something.

Then there are games that go deeper (I don’t need to post a screen from Inception because I know you are already thinking it). I’m talking about simulated activities in real life being simulated in a video game. Did I just blow your mind? Stay with me. Video games aren’t the only alternative to doing things we actually want to do but can’t because of financial and/or ethical reasons. But things start to get puzzling when a developer decides to take those activities and turn it into a video game.

Read the rest of this entry »

NBA Jam: A true underdog story

We sat down with the original members of the virtual San Antonio Spurs team that delivered one of the most memorable performances in NBA Jam history. What follows is a first-hand account of their extraordinary struggle.

On a cold wintry night in late November, the electricity of the crowd at the Palace of Auburn Hills was palpable.

The 1993 San Antonio Spurs suited up to face their arch-rivals: the unstoppable juggernaut known as the 1993 Detroit Pistons. The two teams had squared off many times in the past, but this night was different. This night—though the Spurs knew they had amassed many statistical victories—was the night the Spurs felt they would truly win.
Read the rest of this entry »

Anti-aliasing protest rages on

SAN FRANCISCO, CA—Hordes of angry protesters have gathered outside Jagged Realms headquarters in what the media is describing as the most pathetic display of activism in recent history.

“As loyal consumers, we demand that all our games feature 4x full-scene anti-aliasing, 60 frames per second, and 1080p Full HD resolution,” said Brad Symington, spokesperson for the Coalition of Unemployed Neurotic Techies. “Several of our members have suffered myocardial infarctions due to the lack of anti-aliasing in games such as Battlefield: Bad Company 2.”

The Coalition has been petitioning for 3 days straight, and they say they won’t leave until their demands are met.

Read the rest of this entry »

Communications Failure

“Bzzt…Sssshkk…Crackle…listen up, hero. Get to the frmrcomfrtre ASAP. There isn’t much time…ksssshhhh.”

Thanks, mysterious stranger! I have no idea what you just said but I don’t really care. I’ll just move towards the dot on the map that magically appeared.

Does this sound familiar? If you play big-budget shooting video games, it should.

Radio communication has been used as a plot device in video games for a long time, and in most settings, it makes sense. You’re a lone soldier/space marine or whatever in an alien environment with no one to turn to for help. But without guidance, who will teach you how to play the game? The instruction manual? Ha! That’s where Mr. or Mrs. Radio Voice comes in.

Read the rest of this entry »