Keyboard Geniuses

Feature: Tattoo Assassins

Tattoo Snafu

Highlights from the week’s comment threads.

By Matt Kodner • April 12, 2013

Keyboard Geniuses is our weekly glance at a few intriguing, witty, or otherwise notable posts from the Gameological discussion threads. Comments have been excerpted and edited here for grammar, length, and/or clarity. You can follow the links to see the full threads.

Tattoo Assassins: Revelations

Ryan Smith chronicled the strange and troubled production history of Tattoo Assassins, an unreleased fighting game from 1994 in the vein of Mortal Kombat, only much grosser. A few folks who worked on the game dropped in to share some more details including Kevin Martin, who shared his experience as an engineer on the project:

There was definitely tension between myself and [project lead] Joe [Kaminkow]—but everybody now realizes that the expectations were impossible. No hard feelings. The hardware was pushed to its limits, and its limits were way short of what we needed.

When I got the first boardset for the game, it came with a compiler manual and a few faxed datasheets in Japanese. The entire game was built from scratch, in assembly language, with no existing libraries or operating system. Hundreds of thousands of lines of assembly language. And the artists busted their asses trying to get things ready and decent-looking for our limited hardware. They couldn’t go back and get new footage of anything, because we just had the actors for one shoot in California.

So overall, I don’t feel too bad about the incredible effort that was put forth.

Unexpected Dave pictured the recording sessions for the game’s actors:

I can only imagine how the filming process worked.

MARVIN: “OK, Mr. Rice, let’s see some of those Navy SEAL moves.”
RICE jumps, kicks, punches, blocks, etc.
MARVIN: “Wonderful! That’s great. Now for this next segment, I need you to bend over as if you’re farting into your opponent’s face…”

Jack Liddon, another Assassins alumnus, nodded:

I was there during the shooting and…well, this is not an inaccurate description of what went on.

Liddon went on to offer more details:

It took hours and hours to capture a few minutes of video with the Betacam SP and Truevision NuVista boards. The deck would roll, capture a frame or two, rewind and capture the next frame or two. We spent weeks going through hours and hours of tape. All that footage had to be [reduced] down to 32 colors using an OLD-ass version of Debabelizer. And that’s before we tried to “clean up” the video. Back then, we had COSA After Effects 2.0. No video playback in real-time, only one filter effect at a time, so we couldn’t even get the chroma keying to work. I cringe just thinking about it. To make things worse, we didn’t have a 2D paint program capable of flipbook-style animations, so we had to use Macromedia Director to do all the pixel pushing. Those were the days.

Dodged A Bulletin
Grim Fandango

Sam Barsanti brought us news of LucasArts’ death and more in this week’s edition of The Bulletin. Lokimotive lamented not only their well-regarded classics, but also a recent bender down experimental lane:

In 2009, [LucasArts] came out with a largely failed experiment called Lucidity. It was a bizarre platformer that was, essentially a free-runner, except you placed random objects in front of a girl to help her traverse a level. It had a rather lovely visual design and made an attempt to say something with its game design in terms of innocence and protection, but it was frustrating and ill-conceived. Still, it certainly wasn’t safe, and it showed that somewhere in its hard calcified shell of Expanded Universe Star Wars crap, there existed a fluttering light of creativity. It’s sad that with all their history, they couldn’t fan that flame anymore.

As Sam reported, The Evil Dead’s resident boomstick enthusiast, Ash≤ is slated to make an appearance in Telltale Games’ upcoming poker simulator. Commenters wondered if this was his first virtual iteration, and George Liquor fondly remembered one of the series’ PS2 games:

It’s called Evil Dead Regeneration. It’s not a particularly good game, but it has some pretty epic cutscenes.

The cutscenes in question:

Dead Space Cadet
Dead Space: Extraction

Drawing comparisons to The X-Files, Samantha Nelson delved into what made Dead Space: Extraction’s prelude work so well in an On The Level column. While unfamiliar with the games themselves, His Space Holiness has spent ample time in the expanded universe:

I’ve never played a Dead Space game, but I’ve watched two Dead Space animated movies and read a comic book prequel. It sounds weird, but I’m just more interested in the premise than I am in the game mechanics. Plus, they were on Netflix, so what the hell. Anyway, the interesting thing about most ancillary Dead Space stories is that they’re exactly the same: They start with a framing device of one character leaving a recorded message. In flashback, a group of people get involved with a Marker. They go crazy and see runes everywhere, and then some Necromorphs tear shit up. One by one, the characters die while trying to fight their way out, and in the end, the last character alive finds a way to kill all the Necromorphs, sacrificing him- or herself in the process and leaving behind the opening message. The end. Actually, one of the two movies was more of a Rashomon kind of thing, so points for creativity there. Still ended with everyone dying, though.

Mind Over Swatter
Lie Swatter

Did you know John Teti didn’t really start Gameological? It was me, all me! Ha ha, you guys, don’t worry. That was just a little white lie to pass the time. If you were able to figure out I was joshing you, then Lie Swatter the game for you! John reviewed the lie detecting trivia game for Sawbuck Gamer, and Arnie Niekamp, a writer on Lie Swatter and You Don’t Know Jack, chimed in to voice an all-important question:

Thanks for the review. When I mentioned it here at Jellyvision Games, the first question was, “But what does John Teti’s mom think?”

We’ll find out soon!

Best Year Ever
Sonic The Hedgehog

In this week’s Q&A, staffers and readers made their arguments for particularly awesome years in the history of games. Recalling the birth of the first-person shooter genre (among others), Mr. Glitch made his call:

Hmm, tough one. I think I’m gonna go with 1992, as it was the heyday for both 16-bit consoles and VGA graphics. Spectacular sequels, like Sonic The Hedgehog 2, Star Control 2, Metroid 2: Return Of Samus and Zelda: A Link To The Past were all released that year.

Wolfenstein 3D and Dune II almost singlehandedly created the first-person shooter and real-time strategy genres, respectively, in 1992. Yes, Herzog Zwei beat Dune II to the punch, but Dune II still had a much more lasting impact on modern real-time strategy games. We also got the first Mario Kart game in ’92, as well as the best portable Mario game to date, Super Mario Land 2. Finally, Indiana Jones And The Fate Of Atlantis was released in 1992, which in my opinion finally wrested the crown of best adventure game developer from Sierra On-Line for LucasArts.

The Guilty Party gave an amusingly unconventional answer that speaks to the endless treadmill of game marketing:

The best year is always next year, because that’s when that new awesome game that you’ve been waiting for is coming out. Unable to actually play it and realize its inevitable limitations, it will delight and enthrall you more than reality ever could.

Aurora Boreanaz chose ’89:

For me, the biggest year for gaming was probably 1989. It was the year I finally started finishing games instead of leaving them incomplete.

It was a big year personally as well. For part of the year I was stuck in a step-family I didn’t get along with, with my mother and father both out of state, so I spent a lot of time retreating to video games.

I finally beat Below the Root, a Windham Classics adventure game for the Commodore 64 which I’d had for four years. I managed to beat The Legend Of Zelda before my stepbrothers. When I got the killing blow on Ganon, I paused the game, ran two or three blocks to find them, and ran back with them to watch the ending.

In the summer, my father and I moved to California. I discovered The Simpsons Arcade Game along the way, and played it wherever I saw it, managing to beat it solo at a hotel arcade somewhere between Sacramento and Reno. In California, I also beat Alice In Wonderland for the C64, one of the other great Windham Classics games. And in either 1989 or 1990, I beat both Altered Beast and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game while visiting my mother in Alaska.

Bomberman Squad

Adam Volk reviewed Bombermine, a massive unofficial adaptation of Bomberman that’s played with hundreds of little Bombermen at a time. ItsTheShadsy enjoyed what it has to offer and found an interesting way to play:

I agree, it’s a little frantic. Part of what makes Bomberman work is that you’re on a closed course, and at least initially, the violence is strategic. But with the maze constantly reforming and people randomly spawning next to you, transforming, setting off nukes, etc., it’s too random to be enduringly fun.

Instead, I’ve been trying to reach the edge of the game world. I have not yet succeeded. It’s a fun metagame because you have to avoid your way past hundreds of exploding, insane random Internet People who don’t know that you’re just on the run.

And finally, Cloks gave us a truly erudite and moving second opinion:

I played this for a little while a few weeks ago and as such, feel eminently qualified to voice my opinion. Webster’s Dictionary defines “Bomberman” as “The word you’ve entered isn’t in the dictionary. Click on a spelling suggestion below or try again using the search bar above,” and I feel that this encapsulates the spirit of the original game more than this homage does. Bomberman, for me at least, was always about “click on a spelling suggestion below” at the wee hours, watching as my player avatar would “try again using the search bar below” much to the frustrations of my friends. In conclusion, the cotton gin helped the South produce cotton faster and took up less need for slaves. I hope this will be helpful.

Thank you, Cloks! Very helpful, indeed. Well folks, that’s it! Thanks for reading and commenting, and we’ll see you next week.

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72 Responses to “Tattoo Snafu”

  1. Aurora Boreanaz says:

    Thanks for the mention!  I always wonder if I’m being boring recounting stories from my youth, but those seem to get picked here more often than when I try to be funny or witty.  Maybe I should take the hint!  ;)

    • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

      Taking hints is for those who lack confidence.  You just keep going out there and do what you do!

  2. Mr. Glitch says:

    Hi everybody, Mr. Glitch here. Wahoo, I got cat-commented! Head on out to the Lunatic Fringe and celebrate with me!

    • caspiancomic says:

       Good to have you back, Glitch.

    • Aurora Boreanaz says:

      Ooh, the only screen saver I ever spent more time on than some games!  My friend’s parents had a Mac with a single-speed CD-ROM drive.  Yes, SINGLE SPEED.  We tried to play Myst on it, but it took something like 10 minutes to load every damn screen, so we gave up and played Prince of Persia, Loom or Lunatic Fringe instead.

    • Enkidum says:

      Oh yeah, Lunatic Fringe! I spent hours playing that thing. Hmmm… wasn’t that by the same dev as Solarian? Or was it Crystal Quest? Either way, I was WAY better at both of those games than was healthy. Never got nearly as good at Lunatic Fringe, for some reason.

  3. Girard says:

    Hey, so guys, a couple of times we’ve talked about the archiving and future preservation of the medium, the challenges faced by that, and how institutional efforts to archive new media popular artforms relate to those illicit or semi-licit efforts that seem more comprehensive.

    On that subject, apparently is now hosting pretty much every non-Nintendo ROM ever through a partnership with TOSEC. I guess it’s official, though I’ve no idea how legal it is. But if you ever wanted to have every Turbo Grafx, Genesis, or TI-83 calculator game ever, uh, knock yourselves out.

    • duwease says:

       Oh, wow.  I do hope it is legit.. I know some of the music stuff hosted by is dubiously legal, due to the fact that any performance is copyrighted, even if it’s a cover of a public domain song.

    • ItsTheShadsy says:

      It looks like there’s Nintendo stuff too, much further down.

      I am INCREDIBLY SKEPTICAL about the copyright/fair use grounds for this, but I’m already salivating the inevitable legal battle.

      • Girard says:

        Weird, ctrl+F for Nintendo didn’t work, as they judiciously omitted that from the name. Though all I can see is Super Famicom. Weird they’d omit the Famicom and Game Boy (Advance).

    • aklab says:

      I’m a librarian. This excites me.

      • Girard says:

        You may also be excited by more overtly legit institutional/library efforts to preserve this stuff, like MoMA’s collection, or the Library of Congress.

        • aklab says:

          Yep, reaching a pretty high level of excitement here. I knew about the MoMA collection (from an article on this site, I think) but not the LoC collection.

          I need to do more to bring gaming into our public library. At my last place we had some success with Wii programs — although moreso with seniors than with teens or young adults. I’m currently in a very economically depressed, rural area, and exposure to gaming beyond whatever’s at Wal-mart this week could open whole new worlds to people here. 

      • Aurora Boreanaz says:

        Me too.  I’m (not) a 25-year-old powerlifter.

      • ItsTheShadsy says:

        Likewise. I just came back from the Computers in Libraries conference, and there were a lot of extreme fair use issues raised there. So I’m primed for this. Can’t wait to see where this goes.

        • aklab says:

          Oo, I’d like to go to Computers in Libraries. I haven’t been to anything other than state conferences since grad school! 

    • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

      Wow, man.  That’s amazing.  Stick the hosting server in the 
      Svalbard Global Seed Vault.

  4. caspiancomic says:

    Aw man, I read Cloks’ comment about Bomberman again and now I’m guffawing like an idiot for the second time this week.

  5. Effigy_Power says:

    Ech, I have to stop having other hobbies. Another week where I did nothing even remotely Soupy-baity.

    • Merve says:

      Yeah, what’s this I hear about you having a life away from the computer? Stop that.

      • Effigy_Power says:

        I can’t help it. My adoring fans simply won’t leave me be. Even the mine-field doesn’t seem to stop them.

    • Girard says:

      (Let’s just let on that the two of us are having some kind of Mexican stand-off. First one to JUST TRY and court Soupy’s favor gets a bullet between the eyes.)

    • Enkidum says:

      I can say something really sexist to get you all ranty if you want!

      Let’s see… women are poopy! Yup, I said it, poopy.

  6. stakkalee says:

    Ha, did you really think Spring was here?  Well, here’s some shitty weather to disabuse you of that notion!
    Our most-commented article this week was the WAYPTW thread with 165 comments, narrowly edging out the Q&A thread.  And our Top 5 Most Liked (non-KG) comments:
    1) With 35 likes, this courageous stranger with cruel yet handsome eyes gives some simple praise.
    2) @TheAngryInternet:disqus gets 16 likes for lamenting what might have been.
    2) Tied for second, Bowen Kerins (@facebook-757387682:disqus) drops some knowledge on us.
    4) With 14 likes @George_Liquor:disqus means to explain Dead Space!
    5) And a 3-way tie for fifth!  At 13 likes apiece, @Spacemonkey_Mafia:disqus doesn’t act suspicious at all, @Bakken_Hood:disqus knows what he likes, and @duwease:disqus lets his 24-inch pythons run wild!
    We’re inducting 4 new members to the Plaid Jacket Society today, so everybody give it up for Kevin Martin (@facebook-590497125:disqus), Jack Liddon (@twitter-147514214:disqus), @ArnieNiekamp:disqus and @The_Guilty_Party:disqus! Welcome aboard! It’s always exciting to see creators hanging out and discussing the games they’ve created, so thanks again to Kevin, Jack and Arnie for stopping by.  Hopefully you’ll make it a habit!
    Now for our returning members.  With his second mention @Mr_Glitch:disqus gets a stud!  @His_Space_Holiness:disqus and @AuroraBoreanaz:disqus each get a second stud, @ItsTheShadsy:disqus gets a third, @Cloks:disqus is at 5, @lokimotive:disqus is at 7 and @George_Liquor:disqus gets an eighth! Well done!  And on to the assists.  We had 6 people getting assist points today – Kevin Martin gets 2, as does @duwease:disqus and @The_Helmaroc_King:disqus. Unexpected Dave (@twitter-493417375:disqus) is at 3, @AuroraBoreanaz:disqus is at 4 and Kyle O’Reilly (@twitter-88752419:disqus) moves up to the wireless mike with his fifth assist!
    Now for the linkdump.  Some artists have reimagined various video games as children’s books, so here are 3 in the style of the Little Golden Books, and here are 3 in the syle of Dr. Seuss!  And on an unrelated note, who remembers the Ghost People from the Dead Money DLC in New Vegas?  Well, check this out and prepare for nightmares. That’s it for this week!  Enjoy your gaming, and remember to keep it scintillating!

  7. Cloks says:

    Fun fact: I ended my review by googling “In conclusion the cotton gin” and hoping that somebody had ended a paper this way.

    • Aurora Boreanaz says:

      HOLY CRAP, you got a third laugh outta me for that, having not paid attention to it before.  “…and took up less need for slaves.”  That is some weird English, there!

  8. Spacemonkey Mafia says:

    Weekend Prompt

        As frequent as death was in old NES games, it didn’t stop me from always being a jittery, furious mess after I mistimed a jump or got hit by a sensual eagle.  I would often sublimate that unfocused game-rage into an angry, vindictive bite out of a Little Debbie brownie.  The soft, gooey dough yielded perfectly under my gnashing frustrated teeth, in a way allowing me to feel I was delivering some of the same pain I felt.
       Now as an old, completely not hardcorz player, I much prefer strolling through Skyrim, watching goats with bad clipping detection lazily tumble down mountainsides while sipping a Maker’s Mark Manhattan.

       What were your favorite gaming snacks as a kid and what is today?

    • PaganPoet says:

      As a young’un, I was actually never allowed to have food in the living room where our TV and NES/SNES were, so the question is not applicable to me. However, upon reaching adolescence and such rules no longer applied to me because I knew better than my mom and dad, I used to melt cheese on top of potato chips and imbibe upon that while playing, in spite of how greasy it made my controller. Such a snack sounds absolutely disgusting to me now at 28, but at 14 that was my jam, yo.

      Now? Beer. Or whiskey. I become increasingly more talented with each one I guzzle down, especially fighting games. There’s some sort of instinctual reflex mechanic valuable for fighting games that I can only tap into whilst intoxicated (up until the point, you know, where I have to pass out).

    • Merve says:

      Being a grad student, meal times are my gaming times, so I tend to wolf down sandwiches during cutscenes. However, sometimes I like to get in a brief gaming session before bed, so I do have some go-to gaming snacks:
      – crackers
      – chocolate chip cookies
      – baby carrots
      – grapes
      – hummus
      – flatbread
      – cheese
      – strawberries
      – granola bars

      I also have some go-to gaming beverages:
      – chocolate milk
      – skim milk
      – grapefruit juice

      Sadly, no Doritos and Dew.

    • aklab says:

      As a kid I would frequently make “pizza” out of a slice of bread, some tomato sauce and whatever cheese was around — American more often than not — to fuel my all-night JRPGin’. 

      Up until a few months ago it was chips and salsa, until I spilled salsa on my laptop and after coughing up $40 for a new laptop keyboard, salsa + computer will never meet again.

      So, um, alcohol. 

    • George_Liquor says:

      A few months ago, my answer would be Doritos & beer, both to excess. However, I’ve been making a concerted effort to be less… me lately, so these days the answer is no Doritos, and much less beer.

      *sigh* I miss a few months ago.

    • Fluka says:

      As a kid?  Pretzels and root beer.

      Now?  If it’s Friday or Saturday, I usually like to have a beer or cider.  But often I’ll decide to drink some of the random classier alcohols we have sitting in our cupboard.  In the past, I’ve made myself a gin and tonic, an Aperol spritzer, hot cider with rum, or just had a small glass of after dinner sherry.  Because hey, it’s the weekend, and it’s time to play games and drink cocktails.

      Aaaand ten seconds later my character’s dead.  I have the tolerance of a feeble ant.

    • Jackbert says:

      Like Pagan, I couldn’t snack while playing when younger. Not because snacks weren’t allowed in the living room, but because I played on my DS in the closet, and snacks weren’t allowed in there.

      Now, on PS3, I go for things that can be stuffed in my mouth fast. Apple slices, popcorn, and grapes are my favorites. As for refreshments, water, or milk with maple syrup if I feel dangerous.

    • I rarely mixed snacks and gaming as a child. In fact, I hardly ever snacked at all when I was younger. I do, however, have fond memories of the smell of fresh popcorn at the store where I used to rent my games.

    • stakkalee says:

      As a kid I liked jellybeans – easy to grab, sweet, a variety of flavors, perfect for gaming.  I’m still partial to sweets while I game, but grown-up me likes to pair them with a nice scotch.

    • EmperorNortonI says:

       I’ve long been a “three meals a day” person, which makes me something of an anomalous weirdo in this day and age.  While I used to eat snacks in my youth, I never combined them with gaming in any memorable way.  Now, I’m sure that I used to eat while gaming now and again, but nothing springs to mind.  If I wanted something, I’d pause, go to the kitchen for a bit, and then return.

      However, I simply MUST have done some gaming while downing my one-time favorite snack, a glass of Coke, and two pieces of toast with peanut butter.  That crap gave me acid reflux in my teens, but damn did I love it.

    • Enkidum says:

      As a child, whatever I could stuff in my face, but my folks were pretty good about not letting me near the computer with food. As a teenager at other people’s houses, pot pot pot. And chips. As a “grownup”, eh, whatever’s lying around, plus pot if someone’s given it to me, although never in the house. The end.

    • caspiancomic says:

       As a kiddie, it was my custom to park myself in front of whichever JRPG had my attention at any given moment and gorge myself on several cans of soda, often shitty-in-a-good-way pizza, and bowls of snacks that can be eaten by the handful (M&Ms, Skittles, chocolate buttons, etc). I was a little tubby back then, but in retrospect, I’m amazed I wasn’t dangerously obese.

      These days my lifestyle is much healthier and my tastes are more refined, so when I’m settling in for a particularly extensive bout of JRPGing (that part of the festival of gluttony at least hasn’t changed) I usually bring a simple cup of milky tea, maybe with a couple of crumpets with marmite if I’m hungry, and some Jaffa Cakes or dark chocolate if I’m in the mood for something sweet. Usually, though, just tea with milk and one sugar.

    • Flying_Turtle says:

      I like to keep my controllers clean, so I usually keep it to peanuts (or almonds if we’re having a fancy week), Wheat Thins, or Cheez-Its. And Sprite Zero. Lots and lots of Sprite Zero. In younger days…well, not that much different, really.

      I kind of think I ought to add in @Merve2:disqus ‘s menu. That sounds fantastic.

    • Girard says:

      I don’t remember ever snacking much while playing, as a kid – I think I was too monomaniacal to want to have a second task for my hands when the fate of the universe rested on my agile and supple handling of the NES controller.

      As an adolescent, pretty much all of my dorky activities, from gaming to drawing to web design to anime watching were pretty much all fueled by the toxic-green, maltodextrin-laden nectar that was Surge.

      Now, like @Merve2:disqus game time happens during rare grad school downtime, and that sometimes coincides with mealtime, since eating provides an excuse to stop working for a bit. So when that happens, gaming occurs between bites of curry, or stir fry, or pasta, or whatever.

    • ItsTheShadsy says:

      Chex Mix then, Chex Mix now. It is the single constant in my timeline and, in case I am incepted, my totem.

    • Effigy_Power says:

      I used to love Onion Rings, those crunchy bastard children of chips and actual Onion Rings. Putting them on your fingers, taking tiny, tiny, crunchy bites… But now I only eat them occasionally.

      Now, as a gaming snack anyways, I like the one you edited in, but also Chocolate-covered Salt-pretzels. My local grocery store has, to my downfall, decided to stock them right at the cash, so I rarely am without. The combo of salty crunch and sweet chocolate is just unfair.

      • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

        How about yogurt pretzels? Or is it blasphemous of me to equate the two?

        • Effigy_Power says:

          That’s more my gf’s department. I never really like the yogurt coating they put around stuff. I don’t mind it, but in case of choice between chocolate and yogurt, chocolate wins.

  9. I had a feeling that changing my avatar to my cat would attract Soupy’s attention this week.

  10. Andy Tuttle says:

    In regards to Evil Dead video games, I was always more partial to the PS1 game, Hail to the King. It was a bit more like Resident Evil, puzzle solving while you walked around in a pre-rendered world. Occasionally a monster would attack you, but it was more about exploring and puzzle solving and I thought that was pretty cool.