U is for Ultima

U

 

The aim of my Blogging From A to Z Challenge is to find the origins of online games, some relatively modern and some with ancient roots. Gaming might well be a modern take on an art that is almost timeless – storytelling. A perfect excuse for a writer to delve a little deeper.

[Visit here for links to other A to Z participants.]

Game: Ultima Online (UO) is an MMORPG set in the Ultima universe. A spin-off of the main series, it has become an unexpected hit, making it one of the earliest and longest-running successful MMORPGs of all time.

Ultima Online is the product of Richard Garriott‘s idea for a fantasy game involving several thousand people who can all play in a shared fantasy world. Prior games allowed hundreds of people to play at the same time, including Habitat (beta-tested in 1986), The Realm OnlineNeverwinter Nights (the AOL version) and Meridian 59; however, Ultima Online significantly outdid these games, both graphically and in-game mechanics.

Release Date: September 24, 1997

Developer: Origin Systems

Genre/gameplay mechanics: continued the tradition of previous Ultima games in many ways, but due to advancing technology and the simple fact that it was Origin’s first persistent online game, many new game mechanics appeared. Partially designed as a social and economic experiment, the game had to account for widespread player interaction as well as deal with the tradition of players feeling as if they were the centre of attention, as had been the case in single-player games. It is also known for its extensive PvP combat system.

Setting: Ultima Online began with a single world, with specific expansion packs adding additional territory and new worlds. Felucca, the original world, evolved to include dead trees and tombstones to distinguish. It has a harsher rule set where player killing is more common. The third world of Trammel did not allow player killing and was geared towards fighting monsters. Felucca adopted a darker, more foreboding look and kept its player vs player roots. The worlds were called Felucca and Trammel, after the two moons in Ultima’s Britannia world.

Storytelling: Its lore retconned the ending of Ultima I, stating that when the Stranger shattered the Gem of Immortality, he discovered that it was tied to the world itself, therefore its shards each contained a miniature version of Britannia. The player characters in Ultima Online exist on these “shards”.  From that moment of shattering, their histories diverged and each ‘shard’ became home to their own unique people, places, and traditions. There are different guilds and different player organizations on each.

Releases + Expansions:

Since its release, Ultima Online has added eight expansion packs, a booster pack and dozens of free content updates. The release of Ultima Online: Kingdom Reborn in 2007 brought a new game engine with upgraded visuals.

Formats: Microsoft Windows, Linux

Origins (Chronological):

  1. June 1981 – the release of Ultima, later known as Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness or simply Ultima I, was created by Richard Garriott and first published in the United States by California Pacific Computer Company Since its release, the game has been completely re-coded and ported to many different platforms. The 1986 re-code of Ultima is the most commonly known and available version of the game.
  2. 1979 – Akalabeth is considered the first published Computer Role Playing Game. In the fall, Garriott entered the University of Texas at Austin, and later joined the Society for Creative Anachronism. He created Ultima I while at the university. It was published by California Pacific Computers and sold in Ziploc plastic bags, as was common in those days. While not explicitly stated, Akalabethis seen as the first game of the Ultima series, and was, therefore, included as part of the 1998 Ultima Collection where it officially picked up the nickname Ultima 0.
  3. In creating Akalabeth, Garriott was primarily inspired by Dungeons & Dragons, for which he held weekly sessions in his parents’ house while in high school; and the works of J R. R. Tolkien, which he received from an in-law of his brother.
  4. The name derives from Tolkien’s Akallabêth, part of The Silmarillion; though the game is not based on Tolkien’s story. In the original game, the last monster on the need-to-kill list is called “Balrog”, like the demonic monsters from The Lord of the Rings, and unlike the later name for the monster in the Ultima games, Balron.

Ultima

Adaptations set in the ‘Ultima’ universe – beyond the extensive video game series:

  1. NOVELS – Several novels were released under the Ultima name, including: The Forge of Virtue (1991) by Lynn Abbey; The Temper of Wisdom (1992); Ultima: The Technocrat War by Austen Andrews; Machinations (2001); Masquerade (2002); Maelstrom (2002)
  2. JAPAN – Three manga comics, an Ultimasoundtrack CD, two kinds of wrist watches, a tape dispenser, a pencil holder, a board game, a jacket, and a beach towel were released. There was also an Ultima anime cartoon.

Recommendation: According to an Origin employee, Electronic Arts initially expected a maximum of 15,000 subscribers for Ultima Online. Between Ultima Online‘s launch on September 25 and November 13, the game sold 65,000 units. In Japan, its initial shipment of 5,000 units had sold out within 15 minutes. Origin announced that it was the company’s fastest-selling title ever, and the fastest-selling online-only computer game of all time. Ultima Online reached 150,000 simultaneously subscribers by February 2000.

Alternative ‘U’ thoughts:

U is also for the 1995 movie Usual Suspects

 

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T is for Tomb Raider

T

 

The aim of my Blogging From A to Z Challenge is to find the origins of online games, some relatively modern and some with ancient roots. Gaming might well be a modern take on an art that is almost timeless – storytelling. A perfect excuse for a writer to delve a little deeper.

[Visit here for links to other A to Z participants.]

Game: Rise of the Tomb Raider is an engrossing action-adventure video game that promises and delivers. It is the sequel to the 2013 video game Tomb Raider, a reboot of the franchise of the same name.

Release Date: Xbox 360, Xbox One – November 2015; Microsoft Windows – 28 January 2016; PlayStation 4 – 11 October 2016; macOS – 12 April 2018; Linux – 2018.

Developer: Crystal Dynamics

Publisher: Square Enix

Genre/gameplay mechanics: 3rd-person controlling Lara Croft through various environments, battling enemies, and completing puzzle platforming sections, while using improvised weapons and gadgets to progress; semi-open world; open hub zones with resources and side missions; crafting system allows player to create items like different arrow types; combat options including stealth and sneak attacks; quick time events and dodging to avoid deadly traps.

Setting: Siberia – via a snow-bound Soviet-era mining installation as a base of operations to the lost city of Kitezh under a glacier. Realistic and atmospheric.

Storytelling: Builds on 2013 Tomb Raider storyline so strong storyline. Lara Croft turns to her late father’s research into the lost city of Kitezh and the promise of immortality. Lara organises an expedition to Syria, hoping to uncover the tomb of the Prophet of Constantinople, a key figure in the legend of Kitezh. Although successful, the tomb is empty, and Lara is interrupted by Trinity—an ancient order of knights that now exists as a paramilitary organization investigating the supernatural—and their leader Konstantin. Discoveries prompt Lara to go to Siberia, where events unfold.

Releases + Expansions:

  1. The Baba Yaga: The Temple of the Witch DLC sees Lara investigating a disturbance within the Soviet mining facility.
  2. The Cold Darkness Awakened DLC sees Lara enter a decommissioned Soviet weapons bunker that has been breached by a Trinity patrol.

Sequels: On 15 March 2018, the third game in the rebooted series, Shadow of the Tomb Raider was officially confirmed by Square Enix. It will serve as the third and final game in the rebooted origin story. It is currently set to be fully revealed on 27 April 2018 and released worldwide on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Microsoft Windows on 14 September 2018.

Formats: Xbox 360, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, macOS, Linux

Origins (Chronological):

  1. 2013 – Tomb Raider is the tenth title in the Tomb Raider franchise. Rather than a sequel, the team decided to completely reboot the series, re-establishing the origins of Lara Croft for the second time, following Tomb Raider: LegendTomb Raider is set on Yamatai, an island from which Lara, who is untested and not yet the battle-hardened explorer she is in other titles in the series, must save her friends and escape while being hunted down by a malevolent cult.
  2. 1993 – Core Design, began to develop Lara Croft as the lead protagonist for its 1996 video game Tomb Raider. Lead graphic artist Toby Gard went through about five designs before arriving at the character’s final appearance with inspiration that included pop artist Neneh Cherry, comic book character Tank Girl, the film Hard Boiled and an Æon Flux He settled on a tough South American woman with a braid named Laura Cruz. Eidos management preferred a more “UK friendly” name and selected Lara Croft from similar-sounding British names found in an English telephone directory.
  3. 1981 – Raiders of the Lost Ark: although developers wanted to avoid being derivative, Lara Croft must share some of her origins with those explored in my Indiana Jones
  4. However, there were many notable female explorers and archaeologists in the 20th century and earlier. This Pinterest board on Women Explorers in History illustrates the breadth, as does this post on Biographies, which includes:
  5. 1831-1892 – Amelia B. Edwards was an English novelist, journalist, traveller and Egyptologist. Her most successful literary works included the Egyptian travelogue A Thousand Miles up the Nile (1877), which described her 1873–1874 voyage. In 1882, she co-founded the Egypt Exploration Fund (now the Egypt Exploration Society).
  6. 1776-1839 – Lady Hester Stanhope was a British socialite, adventurer and traveller. Her archaeological expedition to Ashkelon in 1815 is considered the first modern excavation in the history of Holy Land archaeology. Her use of a medieval Italian document is described as “one of the earliest uses of textual sources by field archaeologists”.

Adaptations set in the ‘Tomb Raider’ universe numerous from the video games to the 2018 film – include:          

  1. VIDEO GAMES – there have been eleven main title games to date, and the twelfth, Shadow of the Tomb Raider is due out on 14 September 2018.
  2. FILMS – there have been three including the 2018 movie which received mixed reviews, but Matt Zoller Seitz said, “Although it borrows from the game (and, partially, its sequel) for structure and most of its key action sequences, “Tomb Raider” never feels like a pointless companion piece to a work that was created for a different medium.” And his final words intrigue me, “and a female hero who’s as elegant as she is deadly: an ass-kicking Audrey Hepburn.”
  3. COMICS – The original series of comics, which were released between 1999 and 2005, was published by Top Cow and were primarily based on the games released by Core Design. In 2014, following the reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise, the series was revived and is currently being published by Dark Horse Comics. The new timeline of events is based on the rebooted iteration of Lara Croft and her adventures.
  4. NOVELS – Four official novels have been written. The first three, set within the original timeline, were published between 2003 and 2005 – The Amulet of Power, The Lost Cult and The Man of Bronze. Another novel set within the 2013 reboot timeline, Tomb Raider: The Ten Thousand Immortals, was published in 2014 as a continuation of the original story. A fifth book, titled Lara Croft and the Blade of Gwynnever was published in late 2016 and is a stand-alone adventure

tomb1

Recommendation: Rise of the Tomb Raider was critically acclaimed. GameSpot’s Mike Mahardy lauded the believability of the game’s characters, as well as the addition of more tombs and the variety of options in combat. He concluded that “Crystal Dynamics has found equilibrium in almost every way.” Lucy O’Brien of IGN praised the depiction of Lara and the world design. She claimed that the game is “the most fun I’ve had with a Lara Croft game since 1996” and stated that it “takes its predecessor’s winning formula and improves on it in every way”. Metacritic gave it an average score of 86/100 on Xbox and PC. In August 2016, Rise of the Tomb Raider placed 18th on Time’s The 50 Best Video Games of All Time list.

4.8 Stars: I never played Tomb Raider until very recently, daunted by the puzzles, death-defying jumps and elements that I believed put it beyond my gaming abilities. Attempting an Assassin’s Creed game, my failings were confirmed. But Rise of the Tomb Raider has reversed my thoughts – and my rating reflects that. Not only have the settings felt realistic and immersive, the storyline kept me engrossed and the game kept me entertained, but also the gameplay has been straightforward – once I had discovered the basic tricks. Just forget about my ability to kill dangerous wildlife IF Lara gets cornered.

  1. Setting: 4.75*
  2. Storyline: 4.75*
  3. Gameplay: 5*
  4. Entertainment: 4.75*
  5. Genesis: 4.75*

Alternative ‘T’ thoughts:

T is also for another favourite movie The Truman Show (1998), but there was no video game.

+ ‘T’ Games played: Tantra

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S is for Star Wars

S

The aim of my Blogging From A to Z Challenge is to find the origins of online games, some relatively modern and some with ancient roots. Gaming might well be a modern take on an art that is almost timeless – storytelling. A perfect excuse for a writer to delve a little deeper.

[Visit here for links to other A to Z participants.]

 

Game: SWTOR or Star Wars: The Old Republic is an immersive MMORPG within a vast and detailed SF/fantasy galaxy based in the Star Wars universe.

Release Date: NA: December 20, 2011; EU: December 20, 2011; AU: March 1, 2012

Developer: BioWare

Genre/gameplay mechanics: open world; action-adventure; high production values; ten playable species – with restrictions; eight classes – four Galactic Republic & four Sith Empire; two subclasses per class; unique interactive fully-voiced storyline for each class; great companion system –  five per class with own skills and story; class-based starships; planetary exploration; optional warzones and open-world PvP. Tons of extra features like space combat/missions, crafting, strongholds (housing), etc. FTP with restrictions + sub + cash shop.

Setting: SWTOR is set 300 years after the events in Bioware’s Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and more than 3000 years before the events in the movie, Episode 1: The Phantom Menace as a time of tenuous peace seems about to vanish across numerous planets, many controlled by other species and factions than the principal combatants, the Galactic Republic and the Sith Empire.

Storytelling: Expansive and immersive. Players are thrust into a galaxy where the Jedi Order and the Republic are struggling to maintain control of the core worlds after yet another war while the Sith plot their downfall and the expansion of the new Empire. The conflict opens on many fronts and across many planets, where native factions are engaged in political struggles or civil war. Each of the eight classes has a three-act storyline, against a background arc, that progresses as the character levels up. Players’ choices permanently open or close storylines and affect players’ non-player character (NPC) companions. All class storylines converge in the expansions.

Releases + Expansions – six expansions with last two changing companion system:

  1. Rise of the Hutt Cartel – April 14, 2013: The expansion is centred on the planet Makeb and the rising threat of the Hutt Cartel. The campaign is fully voiced. The level cap was raised to 55, with the levelling from 50 onwards centred on Makeb
  2. Galactic Starfighter – February 4, 2014: introduced 12v12 space-based PvP combat on two maps, with 2 ‘capture-the-flag’ combat missions. Three stock starfighters were made available – a scout, a strike fighter, and a gunship.
  3. Galactic Strongholds – October 14, 2014: introduced player housing and flagships for guilds.
  4. Shadow of Revan – December 9, 2014: centred on the Order of Revan seeking to establish a new galactic order, led by the reborn Revan himself. The campaign raised the level cap to 60 and takes place on two new worlds: Rishi, a tropical pirate haven on the edge of the galaxy, and Yavin 4.
  5. Knights of the Fallen Empire – October 27, 2015: with the emergence of a new threat from another Empire, the storyline departed from the original Jedi v Sith conflict. New companions available to all classes replaced the old class-based ones, although they are slowly returning – for everyone. The level cap rose to 65.
  6. Knights of the Eternal Throne – December 2, 2016: continuing from KOTFE expansion, KOTET focuses on defeating Empress Vaylin and the Eternal Empire. The level cap rose to 70.

Formats: Microsoft Windows

Origins (Chronological):

  1. 1977 – The Star Wars franchise began in 1977 with the release of the film Star Wars (later subtitled Episode IV: A New Hope in 1981), followed by the successful sequels The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983); these three films constitute the original Star Wars A prequel trilogy was released between 1999 and 2005, which received mixed reactions from both critics and fans. A sequel trilogy began in 2015 with the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and continued in 2017 with the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
  2. 1934+1936 – Flash Gordon is a 1936 science fiction film serial. Shown in 13 chapters, it was the first screen adventure for the comic-strip character Flash Gordon that was invented by Alex Raymond only two years earlier in 1934. Originally, George Lucas wanted to adapt the Flash Gordon space adventure comics and serials into his own films, having been fascinated by them since he was young. In 1979, he said, “I especially loved the Flash Gordon serials… Of course, I realize now how crude and badly done they were … loving them that much when they were so awful, I began to wonder what would happen if they were done really well”.
  3. 1920s – 1940s – Nazi era parallels include: The stormtroopers share a name with the Nazi stormtroopers (see also Sturmabteilung). Imperial officers’ uniforms resemble some historical German uniforms of World War II and the political and security officers of the Empire resemble the black-clad SS down to the imitation silver death’s head insignia on their officer’s caps. World War II terms were used for names in Star Wars. Lucas himself has drawn parallels between Palpatine and his rise to power to historical dictators such as Adolf Hitler plus Julius Caesar, and Napoleon Bonaparte.
  4. Other historical comparisons include the plot climax of Revenge of the Sith being modelled after the fall of the democratic Roman Republic (27 BC) and the formation of the empire.

Adaptations set in the SWTOR universe, include:

  1. Chronicle Books released The Art and Making of Star Wars: The Old Republic in November 2011, which chronicles the creation of the game and includes concept artwork and interviews with the development team. The book was written by former Star Wars Insider editor Frank Parisi and BioWare writing director Daniel Erickson.
  2. Comics – An internet comic titled Threat of Peace, produced by Dark Horse and written by The Old Republic developer Rob Chestney offers backstory to the game. The story spans ten years from the signing of the Treaty of Coruscant to the events that start the game. A second internet comic titled Blood of the Empire is set 25 years before the Treaty of Coruscant and offers readers a new perspective on the events leading up to the start of The Old Republic.
  3. Novels – A 256-page novel called Deceived was released by Del Rey on March 22, 2011. This story, by Paul S. Kemp, tells of Darth Malgus, the Sith Lord responsible for the sacking of Coruscant. Another novel written by Sean Williams called Star Wars: The Old Republic: Fatal Alliance was published on July 21, 2010. Drew Karpyshyn wrote a novel titled Revan, published on November 15, 2011. It features Revan, revealing his fate after the Knights of the Old Republic Karpyshyn wrote another novel, The Old Republic: Annihilation, that was released on November 13, 2012.

 

 

SWTORScreenshot_2018-04-17_16_21_48_409520

Recommendation: SWTOR has received generally positive reviews from critics, with a score of 85 on Metacritic and an 83.87% on GameRankings. PC Gamer gave a 93/100, praising the story, voice acting, and the amount of content available. Gamespy gave a review of 4/5, praising the storylines and companion system but criticising the “standard kill and fetch” quests. GameSpot gave the game 8.0/10, saying “[The Old Republic] isn’t the next step in online role-playing games. Instead, it’s a highly entertaining refinement of what has come before it. The game has received a 9.0/10 “Amazing” rating from IGN.com. The final verdict of MMOs.com was “Good” There is an extensive community although player numbers are falling in the face of newer games and some problems – as below.

4.47 Stars: My partner and I have played SWTOR extensively, completing all eight class stories and every expansion except the Starfighter one, as we ‘suck’ at space combat, and the latest one. The settings feel realistic from an SF angle and the story-lines were excellent with some classes more memorable than others, plus some favourite companions – like ‘the bug guy’. Gameplay was good, although there are a lot of skills and the crafting can be a slog. Great fun playing the class stories, but from there the game gets repetitive as each class begins to follow a similar line. Then, we lost our companions and when they came back – one-by-one and not all – our relationships were minimal. I have two ‘instant’ level 70 characters, but only one that started at the beginning. Will she ever get to 70?

  1. Setting: 4.75*
  2. Storyline: 4.6*
  3. Gameplay: 4.5*
  4. Entertainment: 4*
  5. Genesis: 4*

Alternative ‘S’ thoughts:

S is also for Shawshank Redemption as in the 1994 movie and also Stephen King’s 1982 novella. The movie is in my top five of all-time. No game.

+ ‘S’ Games played: Star Trek Online and Shaiya.

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R is for Resident Evil

R

 

The aim of my Blogging From A to Z Challenge is to find the origins of online games, some relatively modern and some with ancient roots. Gaming might well be a modern take on an art that is almost timeless – storytelling. A perfect excuse for a writer to delve a little deeper.

[Visit here for links to other A to Z participants.]

Game: Resident Evil: Revelations 2, known in Japan as Biohazard Revelations 2, is an episodic survival horror video game. It is the tenth major instalment in the Resident Evil franchise (22nd overall). The game is a follow up to Resident Evil: Revelations and Resident Evil 5.

Release Date: February 25, 2015 Episode 1 and then weekly

Developer/Publisher: Capcom

Genre/gameplay mechanics: Survival Horror; mystery; puzzles; Single-player, Cooperative; four-episode structure; stealth elements; ability to switch from main to ‘sidekicks’; bonus Raid mode – a comeback from the first Revelations with new changes, more missions and characters.

Setting: a facility on Sushestvovanie Island, where the “Afflicted” are in wait. It is unknown where exactly the island is located, as it is not listed on any maps. However, the island was previously affiliated with the Soviet Union, harbours many inhabitants of Russian descent, and the main language was Russian, placing it somewhere close to Russia, Latvia, Estonia or Kaliningrad Oblast.

Storytelling: The main storyline of the Resident Evil games primarily concerns a group of individuals who battle against the Umbrella Corporation as well as characters in relation to them who have developed the T-virus which, among other things, can transform humans into zombies as well as mutate other creatures into horrifying monsters. Resident Evil: Revelations 2 references previous instalments and is set between the events of Resident Evil 5 and Resident Evil 6. Developed storyline with decision-based alternative endings. Two storylines: (i)  Claire Redfield is one main protagonist and Barry Burton‘s daughter, Moira, plays her ‘sidekick’. (ii) Barry is the other playable protagonist and he is assisted by Natalia Korda, a little girl with supernatural abilities.

Releases + Expansions – 11 major instalments – 24 releases overall:

First release     Resident Evil                          March 22, 1996

Latest release   Resident Evil 7: Biohazard    January 24, 2017

Formats: PS3, PS4, Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch

Origins (Chronological):

  1. 1989 – The development of first Resident Evil, originally titled Biohazard, and the first game dubbed ‘survival horror’, began in 1993 when Tokuro Fujiwaraconceived it as a remake of his earlier 1989 Capcom horror game Sweet Home, borrowing gameplay mechanics and the mansion setting. Based on the 1989 Japanese horror film of the same name, and supervised by the film’s director, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, the Sweet Home game used the same setting, storyline and scariness.
  2. The German novelist and story writer, Franz Kafka (3 July 1883 – 3 June 1924), was a major inspiration behind the Revelations 2 game story, and the idea came from the scenario writer, Dai Satō. Since the first Revelations used passages from Dante Alighieri, the team felt that would be a common element from the Revelations series. Also, that would give a deep meaning for the quotes and themes approach, like “The Transformation” to the story of the game. Scattered notes and books quote or echo Kafka. His work typically features isolated protagonists faced by bizarre or surrealistic predicaments and incomprehensible social-bureaucratic powers.
  3. The title of the four episodes of the game are allusions to his work,
    1. Episode 1, called Penal Colony, is based on a short story by the name: In the Penal Colony, (October 1914), set on an island with an elaborate torture and execution device.
    2. Episode 2, named Contemplation – Contemplation (short story collection), (1904-1912). Some of these stories echo with events in the game.
    3. Episode 3, called Judgement – The Judgment(1912) – in which some read complex views concerning the notion of judgement itself.
    4. Episode 4, called Metamorphosis – The Metamorphosis, (1915) in which the main character find himself transformed into a giant insect, much as some game characters are transformed into something else.

Adaptations set in the Resident Evil universe:

  1. FILMS – The six Resident Evil films follow Alice(Milla Jovovich), a character created for the films, who battles the Umbrella Corporation, whose bioweapons have triggered a zombie apocalypse. Characters from the games also appear, including Jill ValentineCarlos OliveraClaire RedfieldAlbert WeskerChris Redfield, and  Barry Burton. These have been the most successful movie adaptations of any video-games.
  2. ANIMATED FILMS – there have been four made.
  3. NOVELS – seven written by D. Perry; five novelizations of live-action films; three other novels, two in Japanese.
  4. COMICS – four comics and two manga.

Revelationsimage_326100_full

Recommendation: On release, the reviews were mixed to positive, there was praise about the setting, story, characters and the co-op gameplay, but the graphics and some technical issues were largely criticized. For example, IGN writer, Lucy O’Brien, said the game “kept me hooked right up until its finale”. She felt the game’s “horror does not frighten” and criticized the graphics details and overused enemies. Her review praised the elements of action-adventure, the co-op gameplay, the implement of some traditional puzzles and spoke well about the bonus Raid mode.

As at the end of December 2017, the title reached a combined 2.3 million units sold, surpassing its predecessor and becoming the 24th best seller of the company.

3.75 Stars: I admit that I have only played Resident Evil: Revelations 2 – and then only Episode One – so starring the game fairly is impossible. The setting was scary but not in the nightmarish sense that Hellblade was. It’s clear that ‘survival horror’ is not my genre – even if there are challenges that spark my determination. I’m best with a sword, which may be why Moira with a crowbar survived so well. Fun but not immersive.

  1. Setting: 4*
  2. Storyline: 4*
  3. Gameplay: 3.75*
  4. Entertainment: 3.5*
  5. Genesis: 3.5*

Alternative ‘R’ thoughts:

R is also for Ready Player One, both  Ernest Cline’s 2011 book and the 2018 Spielberg film based on it. A worldwide virtual reality game that can’t be ignored and yet I must – I’ve yet to read the book, or see the movie, plus the game is probably…still in development. I do love all the cultural references in the movie trailers and in the book’s outlines, so I suspect the origins might be fascinating and I will succumb.

+ ‘R’ Games played: the enjoyable MMORPG Rift, plus Revelation, Runes of Magic, and Raiderz [shutdown August 2015].

Enter this portal to reach other Worlds in my A2ZMMORPG

Hela da

 

 

Q is for Quake

Q

 

The aim of my Blogging From A to Z Challenge is to find the origins of online games, some relatively modern and some with ancient roots. Gaming might well be a modern take on an art that is almost timeless – storytelling. A perfect excuse for a writer to delve a little deeper.

[Visit here for links to other A to Z participants.]

Game: Quake is a first-person shooter video game and the first game in the successful Quake series.

Release Date: June 22, 1996

Developer: id Software

Genre/gameplay mechanics: single-player and multi-player. Single-player mode – players explore and navigate to the exit of each Gothic and dark level, facing monsters and finding secret areas along the way; reaching the exit takes the player to the next level; three pathways with easy, medium, hard and Nightmare skill levels. Multi-player mode – either the single-player campaign together in co-op mode, or play against each other, popularly in deathmatches.

Setting: players must find their way through various maze-like, medieval environments while battling a variety of monsters using a wide array of weapons.

Storytelling: in the single-player game, the player takes the role of the protagonist known as Ranger, who was sent into a portal to stop an enemy code-named “Quake”. The government had been experimenting with teleportation technology and developed a working prototype called a “Slipgate” The mysterious Quake compromised the Slipgate by connecting it with its own teleportation system, using it to send death squads to the “Human” dimension to test the martial capabilities of humanity. The sole surviving protagonist in “Operation Counterstrike” is Ranger, whose main objective is to collect four magic runes from four dimensions of Quake; to stop the enemy and end the invasion of Earth.

Releases + Expansions – various for Quake and for the sequel; includes:

  1. There were two official expansion packs released for Quake. The expansion packs pick up where the first game left off, include all the same weapons, power-ups, monsters, and gothic atmosphere/architecture, and continue/finish the story of the first game and its protagonist.
  2. An unofficial third expansion pack, Abyss of Pandemonium, was developed by the Impel Development Team, published by Perfect Publishing, and released on April 14, 1998; an updated version, titled Abyss of Pandemonium – The Final Mission was released as freeware.
  3. An authorized expansion pack, Q!ZONEwas developed and published by WizardWorks, and released in 1996.
  4. In honour of Quake’s 20th anniversary, MachineGames, an internal development studio of ZeniMax Media, who are the current owners of the Quake IP, released online a new expansion pack for free, called Episode 5: Dimension of the Past.

Sequels:

Quake II, released in December 1997, made the design more technological and futuristic, rather than maintaining the focus on Lovecraftian-Cthulhu-ish fantasy.

Quake 4 followed the design themes of Quake II, whereas Quake III Arena mixed these styles.

Formats: MS-DOS, AmigaOS, Classic Mac OS, Sega Saturn, Nintendo 64, Linux, Microsoft Windows

Origins (Chronological – The various realms consist of several gothic, medieval, and lava-filled caves and dungeons, with a recurring theme of hellish and satanic imagery. Inspiration includes:

  1. Several dark fantasy influences, most notably that of  P. Lovecraft – (August 20, 1890 – March 15, 1937) an American writer who achieved posthumous fame through his influential works of horror fiction. He was virtually unknown and published only in pulp magazines before he died in poverty, but he is now regarded as one of the most significant 20th-century authors in his genre. Among his most celebrated tales are The Rats in the WallsThe Call of CthulhuAt the Mountains of MadnessThe Shadow over Innsmouth, and The Shadow Out of Time, all canonical to the Cthulhu Mythos. The Cthulhu Mythos is a term coined by August Derleth, a contemporary correspondent and protégé of Lovecraft, to identify the settings, tropes, and lore that were employed by Lovecraft and his literary successors.
  2. Lovecraft cited Algernon Blackwood(14 March 1869 – 10 December 1951) as an influence, quoting The Centaur in the head paragraph of “The Call of Cthulhu“. He declared Blackwood’s story “The Willows” to be the single best piece of weird fiction ever written.
  3. Lovecraft’s most significant literary influence was Edgar Allan Poe (January 19, 1809 – October 7, 1849). Like Lovecraft, Poe’s work was out of step with the prevailing literary trends of his era. Both authors created distinctive, singular worlds of fantasy and employed archaisms in their writings. Poe’s best-known fiction works are Gothic, a genre that he followed to appease the public taste. His most recurring themes deal with questions of death, including its physical signs, the effects of decomposition, concerns of premature burial, the reanimation of the dead, and mourning.

Quake-first-episode-boss

Recommendation: Quake was critically acclaimed on the PC. Aggregating review websites GameRankings and Metacritic gave the original PC version 93.22% and 94/100, the Nintendo 64 port 76.14% and 74/100, and the Sega Saturn version 64.50%. A Next Generation critic lauded the game’s realistic 3D physics and genuinely unnerving sound effects. Major Mike of GamePro said Quake had been over-hyped but is excellent nonetheless, particularly its usage of its advanced 3D engine. He also praised the sound effects, atmospheric music, and graphics, though he criticized that the polygons used to construct the enemies are too obvious at close range. Next Generation listed Quake as number 9 on their “Top 100 Games of All Time”.

 

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P is for Perfect World

P

 

The aim of my Blogging From A to Z Challenge is to find the origins of online games, some relatively modern and some with ancient roots. Gaming might well be a modern take on an art that is almost timeless – storytelling. A perfect excuse for a writer to delve a little deeper.

[Visit here for links to other A to Z participants.]

Game: Perfect World, commonly abbreviated as PWI, is a 3D adventure and fantasy MMORPG with traditional Chinese settings. This is a special game as I met my wife in Perfect World at a birthday party, and my elf Archer avatar took her human Blademaster avatar flying…

This is the third of the oriental games that I am looking at – this one originating with Chinese mythology.

Release Date: CN: July 2005; EU: 2008; NA: September 2, 2008

NA Publisher: Perfect World Entertainment

Genre/gameplay mechanics: Flexible character customization with twelve classes, each with unique skills and roles; large-scale territorial PvP; free-to-play BUT shop/boutique [pay-to-win culture]; quest or grind to level and develop; exploration; unusual crafting; pets/genies plus unique pet class (Venomancer); open world bosses; WASD point-and-click and auto-navigation; flying.

Setting: set in the mythical world of Pan Gu with attractive environments and semi-anime graphics. Chinese-style buildings and costumes.

Storytelling: The lonely first god, Pan Gu creates the universe, then a world out of his own essential elements: fire, metal, wood, earth, and water. But his world is largely imperfect—wraiths and monsters infect it like a plague. And it’s up to the races that embody Pan Gu’s vision to create order from chaos. Basic story is sound and there are clear threads, but also plenty of dead-end side-quest distractions.

Releases + Expansions: From the original release with six classes, there have been six further chapters that develop the storyline and introduce more races and classes.

Formats: Windows

Origins (Chronological) – The fiction is based on Chinese myths and the quest text reflects that. Unfortunately, this rich literary tradition isn’t used imaginatively enough:

  1. Chinese mythology is a collection of cultural history, folktales, and religious tradition that has been passed down for centuries in oral or written form. There are several aspects to Chinese mythology, including creation myths and legends, and myths concerning the founding of Chinese culture and the Chinese state.
  2. 618-907 – Hei’an Zhuan (Epic of Darkness) is the only collection of legends in epic form preserved by a community of the Han ethnicity of China, the inhabitants of the Shennongjia mountain area in Hubei, and contains accounts from the birth of Pangu until the historical era.
  3. 184-194 – Pangu is the first living being and the creator of all in some versions of Chinese mythology. The first writer to record the myth of Pangu was Xu Zheng during the Three Kingdoms Recently his name was found in a tomb dated 194 AD. Various myths exist. One legend is a Chinese version not only of the Norse myth of the Giant Ymir but also of the Babylonian story of Tiamat.
  4. 4th century BC – Shan Hai Jing (Mountain and Sea Scroll) describes the myths, witchcraft, and religion of ancient China in great detail and also has a record of the geography, sea and mountains, history, medicine, customs, and ethnicities of ancient times. It has been called an early encyclopaedia of China.
  5. 12th century BCE – Historians have written evidence of Chinese mythological symbolism in the Oracle bone script. Legends were passed down for over a thousand years before being written in books.

Recommendation: Neilie Johnson’s IGN review (29 Jan, 2009) said, “Perfect World is a beautiful, well-made MMO with a few of the seemingly inevitable flaws of the genre. While it offers all the mechanics MMO players have come to expect and allows you to see and do some spectacular things, it suffers from an inconsistent, buggy and obscure UI, an imbalanced levelling system and frequent bouts of quest-induced tedium”.

Sean Sullivan’s more recent verdict for MMS.com was ‘Good’, saying, “Maybe Perfect World was great three years ago. But it has aged and fallen far from its original standing. Its reigning feature is the character creation system …but beyond that, the game is a clunky mess. It feels dated, a relic from some bygone age that should only be appreciated at a distance.”

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4.35 Stars: Back in 2009, I went to Perfect World with my ‘guildies’ from Corum OnlIne, and was immersed in the story, characters and beautiful graphics. I created a pet-taming Venomancer [a female shapeshifting class based on the Japanese kitsune], and we formed a clan. Playing with others is essential as dungeons are part of the quest-line, and we had to know our job. There were also social occasions like the party where I met my wife-to-be – we first married in a Chinese ceremony in-game. (Now we game together.) Yes, there were problems that moved us on to other games – but not all PWI.

  1. Setting: 4.25*
  2. Storyline: 4.25*
  3. Gameplay: 3.75*
  4. Entertainment: 4.5*
  5. Genesis: 5”

Alternative ‘P’ thoughts:

P is also for Poirot one of my favourite detectives, whose appearances include the brilliant The Murder of Roger Ackroyd – but no games.

P is also for Pan’s Labyrinth, one of my top twenty movies – but again, I found no games.

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