Tuesday, July 19, 2011

John Marston of Mars

Ninety-nine years ago a man named Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote a story entitled Under the Moons of Mars. In the prologue Mr. Burroughs states that the contents of the novel are derived from the diary of his deceased uncle, John Carter. The contents of Mr. Carter's notes were fantastical to say the least. In his life tale he claimed to have made a journey, by undisclosed methods, to Mars where he encountered two tusked, four armed 10 foot tall martians with a unique biology and culture described in surprising detail. He also claims to have run into a race of red martians who were more human in nature, though their technology was much different. The flora and fauna were also elaborated on. On Mars he claimed there were no clothes, no diseases and no death from old age. Yet the red planet was dying and the martians had at one point mastered their environment, but had since slipped in to decline followed by decadence and barbarism.

To say the story is influential would be an understatement. Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, Superman, He-man, Star Wars and most recently Avatar all draw a great deal of inspiration from Under the Moons of Mars, along with it's sequels which are derived from more manuscripts published later by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Know collectively as the Barsoom Series (Barsoom being the name of Mars given to it by the martians), the books also gave birth the the science fiction sub-genre of Planetary Romance.

So what does this have to do with video games, you might ask? Nothing...yet. However, for the one-hundredth anniversary a movie simply called John Carter is scheduled to be released by Disney and Pixar. It's also a mix of live action and CGI rather than relying purely on animation. As I'm sure you know whenever a major movie comes out a lackluster game is usually trailing on its heels. Well, I have an idea...maybe a brilliant idea or possibly an insanely stupid one, but regardless here it is:

Base the next Red Dead Redemption on the Barsoom Series!

I'm serious. Think about it for a minute. Jack Marston transports to Mars finds himself a stranger in a strange land complete with an amazing open world to explore, martians to meet, Women to woo (particularly the beautiful red martian princess Dejah Thoris), wars to fight, airship piracy, daring rescues, political intrigue, gladiatorial combat and creatures to hunt. Oh yes...all manner of exotic beasts; Thoats, Banths, Calots, White Apes and the massive Zitidar! I could go on but why spoil it? Given Rockstar Games' fetish for nudity and excessive intellectualism I think this is a match made in heaven...or should I say under the moons of Mars?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Vehicular Sims

Flight simulators, tank simulators, even ant colony simulators have been made in the form of video games. For a while they were all the rage, but the number of such titles has dwindled until now we see very few. In fact this generation of gaming consoles has almost no simulation titles outside of driving. Either that or they've been relegated to a supporting role in the form of special sequences or levels designed to break up the action, such seems to be the case with Battlefield 3:

But take a look. Notice the attention to detail, the plausibility of the entire scenario. There's something to be said for games that capture the essence of verisimilitude. It gives them a value, a gravitas that so many games lack these days. In part this is because so many titles released this generation of consoles are influenced by other video games rather than reality. Hence, you end up with a copy of a copy of a copy (and so on). Until the original flavor is lost and the player is nothing more than a play toy at the mercy of the game creators whims. So bring back the simulation genre in a big way I say!

It need not be solely taken from that which we live and breath right here and now though. The space sim genre could easily be revitalized (something we got the tiniest of glimpses of in Halo: Reach). Especially on this generation of hardware the possibilities are quite expansive. Even something as simple as jet dogfighting in a fictional conflict set in the near future has never looked this good:

I remember the first game I purchased for PC was a title called Mechwarrior, and while a number of squeals have come out over the years I yearn for one this generation that could make me feel like I am truly piloting a 50 foot tall war machine - shaking the earth with every step, sending people fleeing in terror from my crushing stride, dealing forth destructive volleys capable of leveling cities while leaving only death in my wake. Will Armored Core 5 (or Mechwarrior 5 come to think of it) be that game? Possibly, but even if it isn't such a game could be made, and it would be glorious.