I really ruddy love the X-Files

I promised my superfriendo Cathy I’d write up a list of the best X-Files episodes for her, and this is them. At least, some of them.

snog

  • THESE EPISODES ARE AMAZEBALLS

X-Cops
X-Files meets Cops. Too awesome for words.
Link here!

Triangles
This episode is mental. Srsly. Jesus christ.
Link here!

The Post-Modern Prometheus
See above.
Link here!

Bad Blood
Sometimes, you can tell that Vince Gilligan used to write the X-Files. This is like one of the more ridiculous episodes of Breaking Bad that make you laugh at stuff that’s actually quite awful. In this one, Mulder kills a vampire. Only it wasn’t a vampire. Comedy/tragedy ensues.
Link here!

Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose
This one is about failed psychics and bananas.
Link here!

Dreamland 1 & 2
A two parter about body swapping. Actually a bit hilarious. Has got that guy from Spinal Tap in it. 11/10, obviously.
Part 1 here! / Part 2 here!

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  • HISTORY AND CONSPIRACIES

Some good episodes and a starter guide, I pulled out some of that stuff that was a bit boring, so you should go back and check up on that sometime tbh

Pilot
A bit heavy, but super important for kicking things off.
Link here!

Deep Throat
Introducing Mulder’s first informant, Deep Throat. He’s super boss.
Link here!

Anasazi
End of season 2. Start of a 3 parter. The conspiracies really start bleeding out.
Link here!

The Blessing Way
Follow up to Anasazi. Skully has to find her feet really quickly, because she has to take over for Mulder pretty much immediately. Some unsettling stuff happens for Mulder. It’s a bit sad times.
Link here!

Paperclip
Mulder and Skully have to deal with all the stuff that’s happened in the last two episodes – including that uncomfortable bit where Mulder was a bit dead – and work everything
out, even though it spells bad shit for everyone.
Link here!

Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man
The CSM is amazing, and this is a super great background for him.
Link here!

Zero Sum
Tacking this onto the end, because this is the episode where Skinner kicks off against CSM and things get DIRTY. PROPER FILTHY LIKE.
Link here!

 

  • A BIT SCARED AND THAT

These episodes are super scary and you will need a spare change of underpants or sth idk

Squeeze
The best bad guy they ever did dun.
Link here!

Tooms
The best bad guy they ever did dun came back.
Link here!

Die Hand Die Verletzt
Super sinister evil things and maybe the Devil? Wat?
Link here!

Darkness Falls
Cabin in the Woods with Mulder and Skully.
Link here!

Home
Hills have eyes style horribleness. When the Guardian wrote about it, last year, they wrote “Yeah. This one. I can’t.” and that should tell you all you need to know about it.
Link here!

  bae

  • ALIENS, SKULLY.

Episodes where Mulder is like ‘Holy shit Skully this is definitely Aliens.’

E.B.E.
Seriously heavy, but action packed conspiracy stuff. Mulder’s first chance to see an alien. Omg.
Link here!

Duane Barry
Mulder doing psychology and trying to deal with a guy who is super cray. Actually super great.
Link here!

Ascension
Sequel to Duane Barry. Also introduces Alex Krycek. He might be a massive prick.
Link here!

Colony / End Game
Is that Mulder’s sister?! It might be! Holy shit!
Part 1 here! / Part 2 here!

Tempus Fugit
Planes and Aliens.
Link here!

Max
Aliens and Planes. Skully makes some great observations about UFO geeks at the end of it, specifically Mulder.
Link here!

 

  • SCIENCE, MULDER!

Episodes where Skully has to deal with the shit that she wouldn’t have to worry about if she was’t working on the X-Files

Beyond the Sea
They introduce Skully’s family here. And then sort of punch you in the gut right away. The people who make this show are horrible.
Link here!

One Breath
Sequel to Ascension. This episode is about death, faith, and makes me feel a bit like crying.
Link here!

Memento Mori
Skully has to deal with the aftermath of her abduction. It’s difficult and super moving.
Link here!

Christmas Carol
This might be super emotional? It’s predominantly about Skully and her family, but also has some more stuff to do with the aftermath of Skully’s abduction. Less to do with her health this time though.
Link here!

Emily
This one is definitely super emotional. Skully finds out that she might be a mom.
Link here!

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I think this should be enough for now. I might do some more amazing episodes, and a list of the best of the Lone Gunmen at some point. The Lone Gunmen are boss.

Please Do Not Eat the Bananas (or, Making Standoff)

Okay… a game controlled entirely using an electric kazoo. I think it might be doable.

Ideas are weird and wonderful things. Since I started this blog, I’ve been torn this way and that way wondering what the best place to start is, mostly because my mind just doesn’t know where to stop.

I’m going to make a game that takes the rigmarole out of learning music.

No wait.

I’m going to make a game about home invasion.

Oh wait, Jason Rohrer already did that.
And he’s way better at this than I am.

I’m going to make a game about being a conscientious objector.

Oh God, that sounds terrible.

So then an idea started to develop, one that actually sounded interesting, fun, and almost feasible.

“A multiplayer rpg with an element of subterfuge – you have companion characters, ala Dragon Age, Baldurs Gate, Planescape etc – but secret button pushes, conversations and manipulations will covertly add subtle subtext (to interactions) and result in a tug of war between the player characters to gain the favour of the (non player) companion characters. In these styles of games, you generally have your relationship with an npc given as a numerical plus or minus value, but in this, it should be purposefully obfuscated, and subtle nuances may or may not be read into what you talk to them about.”

Thanks brain! I like it! This sounds different and fun, but can you scale it down a bit? I’ve been thinking about doing something small, twee, and inspired by the already written word.

“One room AGS games distilling the best bit of a work of literature into a single room puzzle.”

The fact that I’d had The Good, The Bad and The Ugly on my mind led me to coming up with this idea where, combining the two.

“Game idea: Mexican standoff simulator.
You play one character in a six person standoff and have to talk the other five people into shooting each other and not you so you can walk off with Bill McGuffin’s treasure.”

I think I like it! It’s do-able, and can pretty easily be drawn together in something like Adventure Game Studio as a one-room game.

Mechanics: if we’re making a gun game which is predominantly about NOT shooting people and simultaneously, not getting shot – it’s going to have to focus on social manipulation and a web of character intrigue. So a bit less Good/Bad/Ugly and a little bit more Reservoir Dogs.

Let’s call it… Standoff.

It’s worth at this point mentioning that this whole creative endeavor was inspired, at least initially, by visiting the ‘GameCityNights‘ tour when it visited the MAC (Midlands Art Center). What a wonderful evening that was –  full of discussion, debate, games, ideas, lovely people and some genuinely brilliant commentary and stand-up style malarkey (mostly about death and the perpetuation of the Fifa series) from important GameCity bods Iain and James.

There was a returning event called ‘Modern Playing‘, which was sort of a continuation of the original ‘Nights’ but in a more ‘game’ focused evening – I decided, that it’d be most proper to bring something along with me, and seeing as the Mexican Standoff Simulator idea was on my mind, and I thought that between a friend and myself, we’d be able to prototype it in the space of a weekend.

It’s only AGS! I’ve made rubbish prototypes in AGS before! What could go wrong?!

EVERYTHING.

Everything could go wrong.

Starting making the thing on the 14th of September with the intention to show it off on the 18th, it quickly became apparent that my collaborative partner, Holly, was pretty unwell and unable to really contribute. I soldiered on, making the graphics, putting bits and pieces together, designing the social puzzle elements, etc.

We DID however, manage to collaborate together a little bit about the character relationships and interactions. It worked as thus:

  1. One character is an undercover cop, and secretly is in a relationship with another character.
  2. That other character is vitriolic, and if he could, would shoot everybody.
  3. The remaining character has information about the first character’s secret identity. However, thrust headfirst into the standoff situation, you don’t know ANY of that, and it only becomes obvious through conversation with the other characters.

The aim of the game would be that in the brief social interactions you’re allowed with the other characters (you can talk to each one only once – against the grain of most adventure games, it was decided that in a Mexican standoff situation, no-one would really like to talk about the same stuff more than once), you have to hit certain triggers that would encourage the npcs to shoot each other, but not you.

We though it may be interesting – should the very limited prototype actually receive any significant attention – to evolve the idea outwards, and create a system where character relationships are procedurally generated.

On the Wednesday of Modern Playing, with a prototype video game without any actual content in it, I briefly despaired, before deciding, ad-hoc, to create a rough “analogue” version of the game as an improvised multiplayer social game. Characters would be briefly sketched out on cue cards with an rough idea of their thoughts towards other characters (the characters were very reminiscent of those from the original game, only with a few modifications to accommodate a lack of a distinct player character). The “content” absent from the single player game would be generated by the players themselves. Also, guns would be replaced by bananas, for colour/flavour/potassium.

Once each player had a cue card and a banana,
they’d be given 60 seconds to convince the other players not to shoot them.

After the 60 seconds, the shooting starts – they’re asked to complete a private ballot, and then told who shoots who, the remaining one/two players are deemed winners and given a pat on the head (I should have bought sweets).

It worked! A lot of people were genuinely interested why instead of a computer with fancy shiny graphics and the like, I’d bought half a dozen bananas and some cue cards.

Also of interest were my credentials for boasting having an 100% organic game.

The small group who played were pretty eager and excited, and there was significant level of enthusiasm for the game, despite it’s evidently ad-lib feel – including some brilliantly half arsed death acting. I was asked by one guy if I’d like to bring it along to a local monthly board games meet, and told that it was very reminiscent of Werewolf or The Resistance (I’ve heard good things about The Resistance, but I’ve not played either, woe) – albeit with a few interesting mechanics.

But I don’t think I’m done yet. 

I really like the idea of turning Standoff – in it’s improvised multiplayer variation – into something more akin to what we were thinking of doing with the single player version – by adding procedurally generated relationships.

I’m thinking at the moment of creating a rough phone/tablet app, the four players put their names in (or, if they don’t know each other that well, the colour of the top they’re wearing), and then, the app would randomly generate a series of interlinking relationships between their fictional standoff characters, and spiel off four separate character info sheets for each player (I was thinking maybe using a ‘read this, then press the screen and pass it to the next player’ function would be sensible).

Once all four players know what they feel about the others and any secret gossip they know, a timer starts, (and someone yells STANDOFF, I think that’s important), and everyone quick-draws their bananas and commences yammering at each other, trying to convince the other players not to shoot them. After 1/2 minutes have commenced, the app will make a ‘bang’ noise, and then the screen will be passed between all four players for the private ballot, then the tablet will re-iterate what happened next for the players to act out, then announce a winner/s!

That’s the plan anyway. At the next Modern Playing, I’ll hope to bring both the original single player prototype and the procedurally generated digital multiplayer variation along.

 

The Best Modern Games

So it turns out I have a hell of a lot of trouble working out what games I’ve had any significant interest in over the last decade or so.

BUT WHY? You ask. Possibly.

While I was writing up some of my favorite classic games, most of my memories came flooding back at once – perhaps it’s because all of those old games were so ruddy long, or because my younger mind was more focused on one game at a time, or because everything felt so new and exciting, or maybe it’s because of some strange, unquantifiable value I dismiss as ‘nostalgia’ – but for all the more modern games, it’s been a bit of a struggle on the old brain matter.

So without further ado…

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The Best Classic Games

You know how you can tell a lot about someone?

…besides just asking nicely. Obviously.

Ask them what they like playing!

Chances are, if they like games, you’ll sit down and have a massive chat and talk about old times, like the old 486x that your dad bought for the house when you were 10(ish), and how you bought it because it had Encarta, and the original plan was for you to do lots of homework on it, but then he bought back some floppies from work with “X-Wing Disk 1-6″ written on them and the very notion that you were ever going to do any work on it went WAY out the window.

If you’re staring blankly at the screen, wondering either:

  • what you mean by ‘What do I like playing?’
  • what point I was going to start talking about my prestige levels in Call of Duty

Then this blog isn’t for you, and we’re probably not going to have any deep and meaningful discussions.

Sorry. Maybe next year.

So first of all, I thought I’d get all introspective and look back at all the games that made me what I am now. Obviously, this is going to be a quick glimpse, more than a in depth, crazy super tl,dr style post. They’re coming later.

PS. I pretty much define a ‘Classic’ game as ‘Something I was playing before the turn of the millennium. Ish.

Anyway! In no particular order!

Continue reading

The Several Commandments

The Main Three Commandments

  • Each week, I’ll try my best to write an editorial on videogames as a whole – be it mechanics, zeitgeist, trends, or anything.
  • On top of this, each week, I’ll try and dissect a videogame which I feel has been in some way important – either personally to me, or to videogames as a whole – if possible tying into that weeks editorial.
  • Each month, I’ll try to present something I’ve learned from game development as a whole. I’ll do my best to document the methods I’ve used to learn about development and try to present this information as painlessly as possible for anyone else in my position.

Appendix: The Additional Commandments

  • Disseminate as many ideas and prototypes into the world as possible.
  • Invite some like minded people onto the blog to join me in talking about games.
  • Occasionally do some videos. Maybe. No promises.
  • Much like God, I reserve to right to add or remove commandments ad nauseum.

Ready? Set? Go(als)!

Day One.

Okay! So here’s my idea.

In order to motivate myself in achieving a lifelong dream of making a videogame (which fits neatly alongside my other lifelong dream of writing an episode of Doctor Who) – I’ve decided to start this blog.

My plan will be to talk about, analyse and disseminate what makes some of my favourite games tick – and build upon what I’ve learned to come up with a number of prototypes from which I’ll build up from.

I’ll be looking into a variety of different methods of building games, and hopefully providing a helpful resource for anyone else in my position (i.e. someone who knows bog all).

On top of analysis, nostalgia, prototyping, venn diagrams, pie charts and all the other things you’d expect from a site of this nature – you can also expect some generic blog stuff – I will definitely wax lyrical about things I like and don’t like until I’m blue in the face. I’m definitely not a journalist or critic, but I definitely am an opinionated hack.

Also when I write, it tends to be reems of conscious thought instead of neatly and beautifully presented prose.

But you’ve probably already noticed that.

Sorry.