Category Archives: PC

Fail!

The Epyx Games Fail Reel

For the past two weeks TDE has presented the eight games of the illustrious Epyx Games series, from the 1984 release Summer Games, to California Games II in 1990. All to celebrate the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.  As they extinguish the Olympic flame in Russia, we present our own closing ceremonies with the Epyx Fail Reel. Falls, flubs and F-Ups from the furious competitions of the Epyx Games series.

With the thrill of victory, also comes the agony of defeat.  A lot of agony.

Here is a list of the other Epyx Games articles:

The Epyx Games: Summer Games on the C64
The Epyx Games: Summer Games II on the C64
The Epyx Games: Winter Games on the C64
The Epyx Games: World Games on the C64
The Epyx Games: California Games on the C64
The Epyx Games: California Games II on PC (DOS)
The Epyx Games – The Games: Summer Edition on Amiga
The Epyx Games – The Games: Winter Edition on Amiga

For more on the history of Epyx and the Games series, consult your local Dot Eaters entry.

Image from California Games II, a computer game by Epyx 1990

The Epyx Games: California Games II on PC (DOS)

Welcome, moondoggies, to more sun-bleached sporting hijinks in California Games II, released by Epyx for the PC in 1990 as a sequel to their popular California Games. It was programmed by Gil Colgate, Kevin Furry, Darrell Fetzer and Jesse Taylor. Art was handled by Arthur Koch, Matthew Crysdale, Paul Vernon, Collette Michaud and Joel Mariano. Chris Ebert, Bob Aron and Chris Grigg did sound design. The game was produced by Matt Householder, and additional design was done by Tom Schumacher. You can really see the personnel rosters climb as the games advance, can’t you? Initially released for DOS, California Games II also saw light on the two big 16-bit computers of the era, the Amiga and Atari ST, along with later console versions for SNES and the SEGA Master System.

This post covers the DOS version, which is a great entry in the Epyx Games series. The available events here are Hang Gliding, Snowboarding, Jet Surfing (Jet Ski), Bodyboarding, and Skateboarding. I’d have to say that personally, I enjoy snowboarding and skateboarding the most out of this title. Although what to do with the helicopter in snowboarding is initially inscrutable (protip: don’t land on the platform, hover over the snowy slope next to it and hit the fire button to jump out), the multi-stage gameplay is a blast and mighty harrowing as you careen down the mountain. The jetskiing event is by far the worst, with little to do but try and keep between the buoys with a stiffly-handling watercraft. There is also no sound effects in this event, except for the music that constantly plays. Considering that the player is prompted before the race to “rev up your engines”, it’s funny that there’s no actual engine sounds! Bodyboarding is merely blah, although the graphics in this one really give me the idea that I’m actually playing a classic graphic adventure by Sierra Online.  Maybe a sequel to Codename Iceman or something. Matching the Sierra Online adventure game ethos are some of the dire ends you can come to. Things are not as laid-back in California as they seem.

The music is a bit better here than in the previous California Games, and player control seems responsive and tight. In all, a lot of fun to play. It’s totally tubular..although take it easy approaching the tunnels in while on your skateboard, or you might leave a permanent mark. Now THAT’S bogus, dude.

Every game in the Epyx Games series will be featured in posts all during the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. Here are the links to the other articles:

The Epyx Games: Summer Games on the C64
The Epyx Games: Summer Games II on the C64
The Epyx Games: Winter Games on the C64
The Epyx Games: World Games on the C64
The Epyx Games: California Games on the C64
The Epyx Games – The Games: Summer Edition on Amiga
The Epyx Games – The Games: Winter Edition on Amiga
The Epyx Games – The Fail Reel

For more bitchin’ info on the history of Epyx, glide over to your local Dot Eaters entry, man!

Being a good Citizen

A Spiritual Successor to Wing Commander/Freelancer

Wing Commander and its many sequels deserve a place among the pantheon of the most influential games for the PC. Chris Roberts’ epic space-shooter ushered in the era of eyeball-popping graphics, married to an epic storyline that fully immersed players in an expansive universe. The first iteration of the classic series was released in 1990, and in 1993 the Privateer games were spun-off from the original as open-world (or galaxy) space simulation games set in the same universe but allowing players to forge their own path: soldier, merchant, mercenary or something in-between.

When EA shut the door on Roberts’ developer Origin, he went on to create Freelancer, a further treatise on the space shooter/exploration genre released by Microsoft Game Studios in 2003. The free-form space exploration and combat genre has since been sporadic in nature, perhaps most fully pursued by the X series, started by Egosoft in 1999.

Now, via Kickstarter crowdfunding as well as pledge packages via the RSI website, the spiritual successor to Freelancer is set to pick up the space exploration and combat mantle in a grand, AAA-title way.  Surpassing 15 million dollars in funding and counting, Star Citizen should push the genre further than any big-name publishing company would dare. Planned features include accurate physics modelling, dozens of ship designs to meet any play-style, vibrant system economies, all playable through either MMO style in a universe populated by other players, or in a campaign mode featuring drop-in/out co-op with friends.

However you choose to experience it, Star Citizen should prove to fill the vacuum of space simulation gameplay.  Roll-outs of various player experiences based on the actual graphical engine for the game will appear periodically over the next couple of years, and gamers can expect the finished game to jump into this star system in early 2015.

Deus Ex Sequel Coming Soon

The original Deus Ex, developed by Ion Storm and released by Eidos Interactive in 2000, is commonly regarded as one of the greatest PC games ever made.  It took the steadily advancing graphic capabilities of the FPS genre at the time, and paired it with an astoundingly deep level of character customization available to the player, as well as a deep and dense storyline that throws every X-Files conspiracy theory every floated onto the table.

Producer Warren Spector already had an impressive gaming resume heading into Deus Ex, having been a producer at Origin, involved in such games as Wing Commander (1990), Ultima VI: The False Prophet (1990),  Ultima Underworld games The Stygian Abyss (1992) and Labyrinth of Worlds (1993) and Crusader: No Remorse (1995), just to name a scant few. All this, but Spector also was responsible for System Shock (1994), developed at his famed Looking Glass Technologies game studio, as well as Thief: The Dark Project (2000) at same.

You would think Spector was bulletproof, but then he went and made universal ammo.  His illustrious career, which put him in the top echelon of game designers like Wil Wright and Richard Garriott, came crashing down due to one game: the release of the intensely anticipated sequel Deus Ex: Invisible War by Eidos in 2003.  It was met with wide derision among PC gamers for what was considered a massive dumbing-down of the complexities of the original, in order to curry favour (and sales) from the unwashed masses of the home console crowd.  Spector bounced back with a third game in the Thief series, Thief: Deadly Shadows (2004), but the damage had been done: he wouldn’t surface again as head of a large gaming project until Epic Mickey , released by Disney Interactive for the Wii in 2010.  From a lion of the games industry, Spector was reduced to mice.

Now, a third entry in the Deus Ex cannon is on the horizon, with the hope that it washes the bitter taste of disappointment from the palates of gamers.  Deus Ex: Human Revolution, a prequel to the original, is being developed for the PS3, Xbox 360 and PC by Eidos Montreal, and has just been given a release date: August 23, 2011.  Mark your calendars, folks.  This will either be the salvation of mankind, or its greatest folly.