In 2007, I was in a bar in Soho. I was waiting to order a drink. Two guys in their early twenties were standing next to me. They were gamers. One was talking loudly about an old guy he had befriended. “He bought a Commodore 64 the day it came out” he said, with clear wonder and delight, “I have a friend… from back in time.” Hi. I’m Kieron Gillen. Today, I will be your friend from back in time. I’m old. I reviewed Thief when I was 23. You can do math. You play PC games. You’re likely good at math, unless you’re John Walker, who is bad at math AND healing. When Graham asked me to write this, he asked “is there anything else you have to say about Thief?” The implied story is that, over the years, I’ve said a lot about Thief and games of a similar aesthetic and made them central to my journey as a player of games and critic. I reviewed them all. I previewed them all. I interviewed the developers. I got a developer to … [Read more...] about Thief: The Dark Project is 20 years old, and that makes me feel the following emotions
Oral history project
It’s perhaps fitting that a game with the tagline “nothing is true; everything is permitted” emerged from creative director Patrice Désilets bending the rules. Assassin’s Creed began life as a Prince of Persia game, expanded and reimagined for a new generation of consoles. You might say it even ended up feeling like one, though Désilets’ creative interpretation of Ubisoft’s mandate layered on many additional challenges for the team at Ubisoft Montreal. Today, Assassin’s is one of the biggest entertainment franchises in the world, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, but back then Assassin’s Creed was something new. Its labyrinthine fiction twisted the modern day with the past, offering a science fiction tale of genetic memory and end-of-the-world conspiracies intertwined with another story of a master assassin coming to realize his own ignorance. Its world was made for unprecedented freedom — your character being able to … [Read more...] about Assassin’s Creed: An oral history
It was Team Andromeda — an internal R&D team at Sega of Japan — that first revealed the potential of the Sega Saturn. Its debut game was the on-rails shooter Panzer Dragoon. Part Space Harrier, part Dune, part Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Panzer Dragoon filled Sega Saturns around the globe with evocative 3D shooting action featuring a blue dragon and its rider. Over the course of three initial games — Panzer Dragoon (1995), Panzer Dragoon 2 Zwei (1996) and Panzer Dragoon Saga (1998) — Team Andromeda continued to mine this simple yet compelling premise: that of a rider and his dragon facing off against a mysterious empire. While 2002’s Panzer Dragoon Orta (developed by ex-Team Andromeda members who later joined another studio, Smilebit) kept the series going later, it was the role-playing game Panzer Dragoon Saga that ended up becoming the standout. Taken at face value, Panzer Dragoon and its much-improved successor, Panzer Dragoon 2 Zwei, … [Read more...] about Panzer Dragoon Saga: An oral history
A digital-only game based on licensed content is doomed to die right from the outset. At some point, months or years from now, that licensing agreement will expire - at which point the publisher can no longer sell the game. It will be summarily pulled from digital storefronts - sometimes with little or no warning - and is unlikely to ever resurface, unless the publisher is willing to negotiate those licensing deals all over again. Last December, a slew of Transformers games were suddenly removed from Steam and PSN (and later from the Xbox Marketplace) with no warning from publisher Activision. Among them was Transformers: Devastation by renowned developer PlatinumGames, which had only been released two years previously. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Marvel titles published by Activision have suffered a similar fate. Players who have previously bought and downloaded such games can still download them again. But even this exception may not apply forever. The fact is that you do not … [Read more...] about Where do downloadable games go when they die?
The first time Taylor Kurosaki and Bob Rafei saw a running PlayStation, they were in a Las Vegas hotel room. It was the 1995 Consumer Electronics Show. They, along with the company they worked for, Naughty Dog, were being given a behind-closed-doors look at Sony's first foray into the game console industry. When they describe the event now, they use words like "inspiring" and "enthralled" and phrases like "blown away." They didn't know it at the time, but the members of Naughty Dog in that room — Kurosaki, Rafei and co-founders Jason Rubin and Andy Gavin — were looking at the system that would host the team's next game: Crash Bandicoot. They were seeing the console their company would eventually create the unofficial mascot for — the console they would develop Naughty Dog's first smash hit for. It was Kurosaki and Rafei's second day with the company. Naughty Dog released Crash Bandicoot for Sony's original PlayStation in September 1996. In it, the team took an old … [Read more...] about Crash Bandicoot: An oral history