Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Making your own Fun

Waypoint did a recent podcast wherein they discussed games that were fun, but not for the reasons that the developer(s) perhaps intended.  I'm sure we're all familiar with speedruns, but there's also challenges involving self-imposed handicaps like only using the starting cutter weapon in Dead Space or going with the thief class in Dark Souls 3.  A couple of person examples I want to share here go back a couple of decades.

If you're a long time reader of this blog then it's no secret that I'm a big fan of Joust.  I played it a bit in arcades, but mostly with friends on my Atari 2600.  We had a code of chivalry that we devised involving things like not picking up eggs unless we earned them in a tilt, as well as rules of conduct should one player's ostrich knight strike down another player's.  There was even a flashy move we came up with called the "dagger drop."  The way it worked was by holding down the button on the controller the player could lock their ostrich mount's wings in the downward position, which gave the overall silhouette the appearance of having a jagged point protruding from the belly.  The idea was to then free fall in this position down onto one of the enemy knights.  Obviously pulling this move off was a bit tricky, but we attempted it all the time anyway for bragging rights.  After all...what is chivalry without an unhealthy dose of pride?

Fast forward to the 16-bit era SNES and you'd find myself and another friend of mine spending an exorbitant amount of time playing one particular level in Super Mario World.  It was "Star World 4," if memory serves me correctly, a stage that gifted the player with a baby red Yoshi pretty much from the start.  The thing my friend and I were trying to do was use a cape-wearing Mario to run up, grab the red Yoshi right as it hatched out of its egg, then fly with it in hand up into the night sky.  From there the goal was to drop the baby Yoshi like an aircraft bomb on a group of Koopas down below.  You see...the thing is if a baby Yoshi eats five Koopas (or actually just their shells) it becomes an adult.  So my friend and I were trying over and over for days to drop the baby Yoshi just right so it could eat five Koopas in a single bombing run.  This rather silly task was aided by the fact that we could run back to the start of the level and pick up a freshly re-spawned baby should the previous one "accidentally" go off a ledge.  Pretty cruel stuff when I think back on it, but then again poor Yoshi was the victim of a lot of animal rights abuses back in the SNES days.

Stunt Race FX was, as the title indicates, one of those late SNES era FX-chip games that could render crude polygonal shapes in three-dimensional space.  In this case the shapes were a mixture of race tracks and motor vehicles.  The player had four rides to choose from; a monster truck, a coupe, a formula one race car, and a motorcycle.  One of the tracks had a section to it that was a bit like a water slide with a downward spiraling corkscrew shape to it.  I got the idea in my head that I could take a shortcut  here by flying off the track and dropping down to a lower section.  It wasn't an easy thing to do, because I needed the right speed and angel to pull it off.  After a lot of trial and error involving me going off the map entirely, I managed to land the jump only to have my motorcycle break apart on impact.  I tried the same thing with the race car and coupe only to end up with the same basic problem, neither couldn't withstand the force of impact on landing.  In a mixture of frustration and desperation I turned to the only remaining vehicle - the monster truck.  It was the toughest of the four, but also the most sluggish.  Getting it to build up enough momentum to make the jump turned out to be a major challenge, requiring a long approach followed by a sharp turn just before going off the edge.  Eventually I got it to work, although even the monster truck lost the majority of its health on touchdown.  In the end I deemed the shortcut too dangerous to take in a serious race.  All the same, I'm still glad to this day that I could ultimately pull a real stunt in Stunt Race FX

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