Keyboard Geniuses

Xbox 360

Let’s Get Compatible

Highlights from the week’s comment threads.

By Matt Kodner • May 31, 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.

Of Princes And Blobs
Susan O'Connor

Steve Heisler interviewed noted game writer Susan O’Connor, who voiced her frustrations with the industry. After O’Connor expressed appreciation for Katamari Damacy, The Misanthrope gave us the lowdown on how its story and design work in tandem:

Yeah, the story of Katamari Damacy is pretty simple, but it is also a perfect example of how close the story and design of a game needs to be. A game designer should be able to think like a game writer, and vice versa. The few shreds of story elements in Katamari—the prince is very small and put-upon, the King is very big and condescending, everything is just another piece to be rolled up—are well-served in every detail of the game. Imagine if the hapless people that you roll up were super-realistic rather than blocky and weird, or if the camera kept the prince in frame always at the same size, or any number of other hypotheticals. One element askew could make all the difference. Of course, bigger games often come with bigger stories. Unfortunately, they often forget the need to keep the design and writing on the same page.

O’Connor called for a qualitative change in games similar to what happened when movies moved from the silent era into the talkies. NikLeary23 expressed admiration for O’Connor’s remarks on the whole but disagreed with her on one point:

The idea that movies finally came into their status as an entertainment or art form with the advent of talkies is absolutely ridiculous. The visual element of movies, arguably the most important aspect of the medium, was extremely advanced and evolving before the advent and popularity of sound changed how movies worked. For quite a few years following the introduction of sound, the sophistication of movies actually decreased as the industry concentrated on making sound a viable option. The visual competence of movies fell sharply, leading to an era that lacked the spark and vivacity of the late silent period.

Just some examples of pre-sound movies that are examples of cinema at its peak: The General, City Lights, Metropolis, Sunrise, The Passion Of Joan Of Arc, Earth, Sherlock Jr., The Kid, The Thief Of Bagdad, Man With A Movie Camera, Un Chien Andalou, The Man Who Laughs, The Birth Of A Nation, A Trip To The Moon, A Story Of Floating Weeds, The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari, and Pandora’s Box.

Our editor also had something to say about the silent-movie comparison after the PlayStation 4 event in February. And Naked Man Holding A Fudgesicle responded to O’Connor’s joke of an idea for an ape-based Call Of Duty follow up with this handy, strangely familiar jingle:

I hate every FPS I see,
From Counter-Strike to Halo 3!
No you’ll never make a monkey out of me!
Oh my god, I was wrong!
It was Call Of Duty all along!
You finally made a monkey…
(Yes, we finally made a monkey)
…Yes, you finally made a monkey out of me!

You’ve Got It All Backward
PlayStation 3

Joe Keiser argued in an op-ed that console makers’ failure to support their old games is a denigration of the art form they claim to advance. Enkidum explored this complex problem further:

In general, I agree with the notion that backwards compatibility is a good thing. But the idea that it’s a feasible business model—I really doubt it, honestly. True hardware compatibility is incredibly expensive, and software emulation requires custom-tweaking each game. I’m against The Man as much as everyone else, but I really don’t think that Sony’s PSN emulations of PS2 classics are a scam to get you to pay money. Or at least they’re not only a scam to get you to pay money. The issue is that each one of those games has to be very painstakingly and carefully ported.

We think of the 360 as being backwards compatible, but it’s not a simple hardware tweak; it also requires porting the games, essentially emulating them. This is why not all Xbox games can be played on the 360.

Think of how hard it has been to get 20-year-old arcade games working on modern computers, which in terms of sheer processing power and storage space ought to be able to simulate thousands of them at the same time. Some games have never been ported properly.

Going Batty
Xbox One Highlight Reel

In this week’s Bulletin, Sam Barsanti took particular note of the breakout star from the Xbox One release event, the Call Of Duty war dog. While the dog in the game is no Beppo—Superbaby’s favorite pet supermonkey—Merve wondered about motion-capturing the brave pooches. Olde Fortran 77 had the lowdown on a similar project:

For the wargs in The Hobbit, they covered Alsatian dogs in lycra and mo-capped them. That must have been a lot of fun for everyone involved.

In another silly thread on animals, Bakkenhood brought us some sobering news about a World War II offensive measure that involved bats:

Bat with flamethrower…oh, right, they’re not doing World War II anymore.

Before moving on, let’s do a quick recap of the Wikipedia page for the actual real weapons called Bat Bombs. 1. They were created by a dentist, from Pennsylvania, already one of the most unsettling places in America. 2. The weapons are bombshells that house bats. Live bats. The bats fall out of the casing, and fly around with a bomb strapped to their persons. 3. To reiterate, bats were given bombs. That is all.

Kuribo’s Shoehorn
Super Mario Bros. 3

Zack Handlen took a close look at one of the most unique parts of Super Mario Bros 3, Level 5-3—also known as the Kuribo’s Shoe stage—for an On The Level column. This level is strange because it’s the only instance where you get this power-up. The Shoe has never appeared again in the many main-series Mario games that have followed, and Yoder presented a fascinating theory on why that might be:

The Kuribo’s Shoe level is the first Yoshi level. Think about it. The shoe can walk/stomp on enemies that would normally kill Mario, just like Yoshi. Mario can get knocked off/out of the shoe without losing his life, just like Yoshi. The shoe is available at the beginning of the level, but also appears again halfway through the level, just like levels in Super Mario World that featured Yoshi.

The Helmaroc King reflected on what made Mario’s other, more common costumes too good for their own good:

The Tanooki Suit, the Hammer Suit, and the Frog Suit all had one fatal flaw: They were simply too awesome to use. We’re talking “awesome to 12-year-olds”, here, but gems like those were just too rare to waste on any old level, and as a consequence they just gathered dust [because players saved them for the perfect moment].

The shoe, though? You can’t keep it; you can’t take it with you; you only get one level to make anything of it, it knocks your socks off, and then it’s gone forever. That, my friend, is the kind of item you remember.

Utterly Puzzling
Nintendo Power Contest

If you missed yesterday’s post from yours truly, here’s something weird. Assistant editor Matt Gerardi and I were in the same Nintendo Power contest almost a decade before we met. The prompt for the contest was to take a game’s title and, using synonyms, make it into something that’s more confusing but still technically means the same thing. (So Mega Man: Battle Chip Challenge becomes Super Guy: Conflict Fragment Dare.) Enjoy Chalkdust, Citric, and Girard’s own stabs at the puzzle with games thankfully more recent than 2003:

  • Penumbra Of The Titan
  • Exceptional Pavement Brawler Again Quickly
  • Quiet Mound: Debarkation
  • Celestial Body Conflict: The Antiquated Commonwealth
  • Occupant Malignance: Undertaking Procyon Iotor Metropolis
  • Hitman’s Catechism
  • Assassin: Sanguine Dosh
  • The Sixth Adventure Of The Monarch: Presently A Successor, Absent Come Morning
  • Burglar: Darkness Which Will Kill You
  • The Demise And Reintroduction Of Spectacularperson
  • Triptych Of Masks: Funny Red Hat
  • God’s Former Lover: People Turning
  • Exquisite Purloined Transportation
  • Phantom Skullduggery
  • Delorean: Potentially Upset Demons
  • Shrubbery Demanding Knights Refuse Iowa Radio Station: Colorless Sorceress Experiences Anger
  • Plait
  • The Restriction Of The Son Of Abraham
  • Great Flesh Lad
  • Involuntary Forgetfulness: The Dim Plunge
  • Diurnal Course Of The Boneless Prehensile Appendage
  • Total Regulation Of The Flow Of Fluid Into The Engine
  • Ultra Dude: Instruction Undertaking
  • Sound-Related And Finger-Joints
  • Bluegrass State Avenue Null
I Wanna Be The Guide

John Teti reported on the efforts of one diligent Final Fantasy IX player who uncovered a largely unknown side quest, hidden away in a sprawling Japanese-only strategy guide/tome. NeodocT and Unexpected Dave both took note of the awful American strategy guide for Final Fantasy IX. NeodoctT started us off:

I’m guessing this wasn’t found earlier because the American Final Fantasy IX strategy guide (which I borrowed from a friend who as a strategy guide collector) was very likely the worst strategy guide ever made. It gave general hints on the main plot line, but any time a side quest came up, there was a bubble saying: “If you want more information on how to [find all the items in long sidequest/beat insanely hard boss/locate cool Easter egg] type in [random code] in our PlayOnline website!”

And Unexpected Dave continued on:

Whenever you entered a new location, you had to walk over to the desktop computer (assuming your brother wasn’t using it) and go online. Then, you had to spend 10 minutes navigating poorly designed menus with stupid Flash animation, because of course you didn’t yet have broadband in your neighborhood. Then you typed in the stupid code, and the tip came up. You could print the tip and screenshots, using roughly $1 worth of ink per printer-unfriendly page, or you could just scrawl the gist of it on looseleaf and get back to your game. Of course, by that time, your mother has assumed that you were done playing and had turned off your game.

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

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43 Responses to “Let’s Get Compatible”

  1. Effigy_Power says:

    From the desk of Effigy_Power…

    “Dearest Girard.
    I hope this letter finds you in rude health and that your peacocks are as healthy as ever. My own holdings in Virginia and Belgian Congo are doing well, thank you for asking.
    It is with great hesitation that I should write you at this hour, but recent events in the Academy, and I hereby refer you to yet another election I have been jilted at, have forced my hand, so that I can no longer remain silent.
    My conduct thus far has been mostly benign, but I am pressured by other interested parties to re-double my efforts to stifle your rise to power, which I must suggest appears to have come through manipulation and subterfuge on your part.
    I had wished we could have remained fast friends, but my self-interest and the interest of my business associates has given me no choice but to initiate Plan Archimedes. No doubt your hapless spies will have given you certain illuminating snippets about my most brilliant of schemes, but I strongly move you to prepare for a tad of bad news. Those plans were a fake. There shall be no warning for you, my fine friend, and my execution of Plan Archimedes shall be swift and brutal, collateral damage be damned.

    I regret that events have led me to this, but I see no way to resolve this amicably. I recommend you watch the skies, old friend. Watch the skies.

    Deeply sorrowed and with great regard,

    Lady Commander Effigy”

    PS: Y I no get stud?! ^_^

    • PaganPoet says:

      Awww, I thought for sure I would get a mention this week. I said lots of smart thingies and it’s been quite a while. PLUS I was on vacation for the previous two weeks and thought that maybe my absence would make Soupy’s heart grow finder.

  2. Fluka says:

    Ha, I would have bet money on @NikLeary23:disqus ‘s comment being in Keyboard Geniuses this week.  I like having a videogame site where the comments include stuff like an impassioned defense of silent film.  Both articles and comments were great this week at Gameological!

    *Goes back into her Work Bunker.*

  3. stakkalee says:

    And so we come to the end of another month, summer looming over us like some sweaty, oppressive giant.  Yuck.  Our most-commented article this week was NOT the WAYPTW thread; it turns out we had more to say about the lack of backwards compatibility in the next-gen gaming consoles, racking up 231 comments in that thread.  And now our Top 5 Most Liked (non-KG) comments:
    1) @Douchetoevsky:disqus gets 49 likes for this prediction.
    2) With 28 likes, @GaryX:disqus has a mystery on his hands.
    3) @Nudeviking:disqus gets 25 likes for this bit of strategy.
    3) And tied for third @itsdancing:disqus is that jerk talking about the cloud.
    5) And with 24 likes @HighlyFunctioningTimTebow:disqus realizes it’s better to hide inside and curse the sun.
    A good mix of seriousness and levity in there, don’t you think?  We’re welcoming 2 new members of the Plaid Jacket Society today, so everyone give a big hand to @nikleary23:disqus and Yoder (@twitter-14172070:disqus)!  Welcome aboard fellows!  And as for our returning members – @OldeFortran77:disqus, @Bakken_Hood:disqus and @Chalkdust:disqus are each getting their first stud today for their second mention!  @NakedManHoldingAFudgesicle:disqus and @The_Helmaroc_King:disqus each get a second stud, Unexpected Dave (@twitter-493417375:disqus) gets a fourth stud, @The_Misanthrope:disqus and @Enkidum:disqus each get their sixth stud, @Citric:disqus gets his ninth and the powerhouse @Paraclete_Pizza:disqus unlocks the “Roadtrip!” achievement with his 25th stud!
    And now Linkdump: Controller edition!  Here is a collection of controllers repurposed as desk organizers, and here is an awesome chart of the evolution of video game controllers.  So that’s it for this week AND this month.  Enjoy your gaming, and remember to keep it scintillating!

    • The_Helmaroc_King says:

      While it may reveal me as some obsessive, I’d like to point out that my comment would’ve qualified for the top five. In my defense, I only know this because I wrote a JavaScript app to find the top comments for a given week.

      … that doesn’t make me less of an obsessive, does it?

      P.S. Have you tried the app?

      • stakkalee says:

        I have, I used it today.  But I must point out that the Top 5 comments are for comments that WEREN’T recognized by Soupy.  You got the pawprint of approval, and that should be all the praise you need!

        Thanks again for the app – I’m already tweaking and tinkering.

        • The_Helmaroc_King says:

          Ah, I had misunderstood then.

          Glad it’s of use! I always have the feeling that anything I code could break the moment it’s out of my sight, but sometimes things work out in spite of myself.

    • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

      Aw man, I prefer Soupy’s approval over the measly proletariat’s approval. 

  4. caspiancomic says:

    I am cursing myself for missing that game synonym thread.

  5. Mr. Glitch says:

    Hi everybody, Mr. Glitch here! With the Internets all atwitter over the announcements of two new and exciting ways to watch television, I thought it would be a good time to take at a look at the very first device that let actually do a little more with TV than watch it. Read all about the world’s first video game console at mathmanmustdie.blogspot.com. It’s still a work in progress, but all the text is in place, and I will be adding a few more photos as soon as I can.

  6. High five, @neodocT:disqus !

    • neodocT says:

       *High fives @twitter-493417375:disqus, is once again too late, misses the high five, still makes it to Comment Cat*

  7. EmperorNortonI says:

    Substitute Weekend Prompt

    With Spacemonkey Mafia suffering from temporary travel-induced internet disconnectia, I figured I’d step in and try to fill the Weekend Prompt shaped hole that he has left for us.

    Sometimes, we run across a game with a really compelling setting, story, or character – but with gameplay that just doesn’t seem to fit.  What’s a game that you think would have been better served by being in a different genre, and why?

    One example that a lot of people have mentioned is the Bioshock series.  The designers presented the player with an absolutely fascinating world, but made it completely hostile and allowed the player only one way to interact with the world – by shooting things.  Yes, it worked, but many have suggested it would have worked much better as an adventure game, or an RPG.

    Any other ideas?

    • Merve says:

      I don’t know if I’m really answering the prompt, but I have a few:

      – The Assassin’s Creed games should be straight-up action-adventure/stealth titles, without any of the open-world crap (in the vein of something like Dishonored). An assassination game that basically doesn’t have stealth mechanics isn’t much of an assassination game.

      Quantum Conundrum should have been in the third person.

      – I would love to see a Monkey Island RPG. The puzzles in the series have generally been stupid, needlessly obtuse, or even buggy, but the humour has always been top-notch. Considering that the Risen series doesn’t have a great reputation as far as pirate RPGs go, I would love to see a pirate RPG set in the Monkey Island universe. It could even retain some light puzzle elements and poke fun at RPG genre conventions.

      • George_Liquor says:

        Quantum Conundrum was included with my Tomb Raider download for PS3. I’ve been meaning to give it a shot, but I can’t quite make it past that awful, Mustard Plug-y pop punk tune that plays when it gets highlighted.  

        • Merve says:

          It’s a very nifty puzzle game with some cool mechanics, and it does have a steep learning curve, if you’re up for a challenge. However, the first-person platforming is incredibly wonky. I got very frustrated when I had figured out the solution to a puzzle but couldn’t execute it because I couldn’t coordinate my fingers properly.

      • EmperorNortonI says:

        To the best of my knowledge, the hasn’t been much in the way of pirate RPGs, ever. Hrmn, this sounds like a pretty obvious idea.

      • NakedSnake says:

        MONKEY ISLAND RPG!!! I’d buy it.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

      You’re doing a bang-up job, @EmperorNortonI:disqus .  Couldn’t ask for better myself.
         This may be ridiculous, but Id like it if GTA IV was more of a sim or adventure game.  Or basically, a more passive genre.
         I enjoyed the hell out of the story and the world, but combat and mission restarts were terrible.  Can you do an open-world point and click?

      • EmperorNortonI says:

        It doesn’t sound ridiculous at all. Most criminals don’t really spend all that much time gunning people down and running over pedestrians. A more careful, conversation and plot focused criminal game would be much more true to the theme.

        • Merve says:

          I would love to see a crime RPG, or maybe an adventure game with action sequences in the style of The Walking Dead. People working for crime organizations probably spend a lot of time negotiating or working out backroom deals, both of which lend themselves well to conversation-focused games. Get on it, BioWare and/or Telltale!

        • ProfFarnsworth says:

          That does sound like a really fun idea.  Instead of having a quest like “get 5 sticks of dynamite to blow up wall into bank”, there would be more of a goal like “break into bank” and you would have to figure out your own way into the bank, from the down and out hoodlum to the sophisticated and classy thomas crown ideas.  Also, I lot of betrayals and double deals would have to be planned for…this sounds pretty awesome.

        • NakedSnake says:

           @Merve2:disqus That would be great. If they could just apply the Deus Ex template to the crime setting, they’d have an amazing game on their hands. True cyber-punk.

        • Girard says:

          I think LA Noire was a feint in that direction, though obviously not a completely successful one.

    • Effigy_Power says:

      If time wasn’t a factor, I’d love to see Crusader Kings 2 mixed with Mount&Blade. Having not only to direct, but personally control every combat on the vast Eurasican map would have been great, only that in times of war each in-game year would likely take an actual year.
      Maybe a sort of hardcore control mode, where combat can be directed in a way similar to the Total War series (at which I unequivocally suck) would do too… Just generally some more direct intervention.
      As I said however, CK2 is already plenty longwinded and slow, so adding more stuff might be insanity.

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