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Time for a few updates! July has been an exciting month, and while I was working on all the posts, I’ve also been going back and revising a few older articles that I wasn’t totally happy with. It’s weird to have nine years of your writing (!!!) existing all in the same place, and it’s fun to see how my writing’s grown over the years.
I made two major additions to previous posts that I want to highlight here:
- One of the big lingering questions from the infamous Secret Writer’s Society back in March was whether the game was really a target of sabotage. I reached out to RTMark co-founder Igor Vamos, and he confirmed that the story about sabotage was a hoax intended to give the bug more publicity. Seems like it worked! It’s great to have that story finally settled.
- A former Electronic Arts employee close to the development of Majestic, EA’s experimental alternate reality game, reached out with more information about why the game closed. It was a practical decision too. EA was ramping up production of their Lord of the Rings games and reassigned the producer of Majestic to a new title, which basically guaranteed that was the end. Thanks to the former employee for sharing this information!
I’m not quite sure where we’ll be going next, which is exciting! It’ll probably be weird. Thanks for continuing to read!
The void is quiet. Silent, in fact. A giant star nicknamed Sunny rests in the center of the void, orbited by hundreds of tiny, glistening planets. Within the empty, lonely world of Crystal Pixels, those distant points of light – the crystal pixels of the title – are like little beacons. They lure you out to the deep with the hope that you’ll find somewhere to visit in all the darkness.
The game was the work of a single person, who created it for themselves as a personal retreat. For anyone else, it can be maddening to play. It demands your willingness to go far, far out into nothing, struggle to reach a destination, and decide your own reason to head there. » Read more about Crystal Pixels
In Wolf, you are a wolf. » Read more about Wolf
A CD-ROM copy of Windows 95. Note the part that says “Do Not Make Illegal Copies Of This Disc”
Once in a while, I update this blog’s Resources section, where I’ve collected links and information about how to find, get, and play old games. Hopefully it’s a great collection! There’s one particular site that I’ve held off including for a while, WinWorld, that enters legally uncertain territory. I want to talk about it a bit, because it raises important questions about how we deal with abandoned software. » Read more about What happens with old software copyright when nobody cares?
Alternate title screen from the demo for Noir: A Shadowy Thriller
Private eye Jack Slayton kept a file on Charles Winthrop, a philanthropist with something to hide. Winthrop’s prize horse Pegasus died, and Slayton suspected an insurance scam. In his notes, he mused, “I’ve had a few horses die on me too, usually in the stretch.” He has the voice of a stock hardboiled detective, cracking a stereotypical case of corrupt wealth, working on a nondescript street in Los Angeles.
As far as Noir: A Shadowy Thriller is concerned, that’s perfect.
Like the name implies, the game is a tribute to the noir genre, the idealized version that pop culture remembers – stories about a gumshoe drifting through decadent clubs and dim alleyways, swept up in the city’s rotten underbelly. For a CD-ROM game especially, it’s a feat of tone and setting. » Read more about Noir: A Shadowy Thriller
Lexi-Cross puts cyborgs and aliens on a 1970s game show. Without the futuristic touches, it might as well be an adaptation of The $10,000 Pyramid.
The game begins in an audition interview with a television producer. When the game show starts, it opens on a shot from the studio audience, an “ON AIR” light blinking as the cameras move into place. The vaguely Bert Convy-looking host, with a perm and a half-metal face, stands in front of an angular, beige set while the program’s brassy theme music plays. The game manual looks like a fake TV Guide, complete with ads for pay-per-view boxing and Chinese takeout. Lexi-Cross fully commits to the features of both the format and the era, transplanted into a future when there’s still broadcast television and primetime game shows.
It also copies the rules of 1970s game shows, and it inherits their pacing, for good and bad. » Read more about Lexi-Cross
Control Monger was free, and then it was gone.
The game was a team-based multiplayer first-person shooter, one of many from the early-to-mid 2000s. Developed at accelerated speed by a group of volunteers, it was released for free in 2005. A few years later, the official website went silent, and the game and its community gradually disappeared.
It has a few clever ideas, incorporating territory control and base defense into the usual first-person shooter template. But to find out what this game was actually like, I had to play it with other people.
Last week, I invited a group of friends and readers to play two hours of Control Monger to get a feel for how it works with a big crowd. (The game can support up to 255 players, which would be a disaster, so we stuck with the default size of 16.) Since it’s unlikely that another large group will get together to play this game, I want to go into detail discussing our thoughts on the game’s strengths, weaknesses, and balance. And to learn more about its development, I contacted Clyde Bielss, one of Control Monger‘s producers. » Read more about Control Monger