Today, I am going to majorly geek out about a subject I usually don't cover, but have addressed in a pair of posts which actually garnered a fair amount of hits... that subject being computer games. I don't engage in much "gaming" these days, with the one major exception being the free, beautiful Battle for Wesnoth (warning- major time sink!). Today, though, I am inspired by this post by Cerberus at the mother ship and a post (which I cannot find) excoriating Frank Miller and another comic book guy who wrote this about The Onion:
The Onion lost all credibility for me a while back when they did a “story” on the Hudson River cleanup GE was forced to do. As some of you may recall, one of my neighbors is a GE veep, and he was directly in charge of this, so from him I found out all kinds of details the press did not bother to pass along to the public. Since The Onion apparently gets its info from other papers, the story was full of inaccuracies.
What are they, Michael Moore?
Anyway, I stopped reading The Onion from then on.
At any rate, the post which I cannot find (I'll have plenty of time to hunt down a link when I work the midnight to eight shift on Saturday) compared Frank Miller and John Byrne to the eponymous antagonists in the classic computer game Myth: The Fallen Lords, former heroes who have been corrupted, and now fight to destroy the civilization that they once defended.
The Myth series of games involved simulation of squad-based tactical combat in a pseudo-medieval setting, a mash-up of world legends and Glen Cook's Sword & Sorcery novels. Medieval soldiers rubbed elbows with extras from Braveheart, fallen-samurai-turned-penitent-Mayan-curanderos, and Molotov-cocktail tossing dwarfs. It was a glorious mess, but it all played out swimmingly because the production values were so high. The soundtrack, by the talented Marty O'Donnell, and the narration were equal to anything that the film industry has produced recently. The action was fierce- the player had to fight a series of seemingly hopeless battles against multitudes of implacable foes, against a backdrop of a war for the very survival of humanity. The very fate of a shitload of code was at stake!
The game began with an animated introduction, as a lone Braveheart extra fights his way out of a ruined city with a mystical MacGuffin (WARNING: content may be offensive to members of the Undead-American community):
The game in earnest begins with an introductory episode, as a small squad of soldiers defends a small village against a bunch of not-so-fresh antagonists:
It's the narration, and the dedication to plot which really knocked the game out of the park, the gameplay and the vaunted physics engine notwithstanding. To cap it off, the haunting soundtrack lends a melancholy air to the proceedings, with the piece introducing the third episode, The Siege of Madrigal being particularly beautiful:
The Siege of Madrigal piece has appeared in Bungie studio's subsequent games, typically as an Easter egg for obsessive-compulsive fans to find. The song has appeared in all of the games in the Halo franchise.
Some enterprising (or totally obsessed) individual has posted videos of the entire game to Youtube- if you were fans of Peter Jackson's films loosely based on The Lord of the Rings (I'm not really a fan of Mr Jackson), these videos may be of some small interest to you. There's some amazing imagery there- a jolt as a monstrous trow advances on a small huddle of unsuspecting soldiers, a frisson of horror as a lost regiment comes upon a vast platform built out of skulls by a long-dead nightmare people. Of course, locating a copy of the game would be a better idea- just make sure your "dorf" doesn't blow up his comrades with a poorly-lobbed Molotov.
One feature of the game which lent quite a bit of pathos to it was that each of the units in your squad was named. If you screwed up, Cruniac or Balin would be killed, and you'd feel bad about his non-existent orphans, the bits and bytes that made up his grieving mother. It's just a pity that our politicians don't feel the same way about the real kids they consign to the meat grinder that I did about the named sprites I was responsible for.
The sequel Myth 2: Soulblighter, was another triumph of plot and gameplay, another desparate series of skirmishes as humanity seeks to defeat the remnants of the evil forces which it had fended off in the first game. The sequel has a couple of surprising plot twists in it- the players were assumed to have some familiarity with the background of the setting. The game was most noted for it's "modding" community- the source code was available online, and many variations of the game were created by fans. There is still a web presence for the community.
Yeah, forgive my supergeekery, people... now I have to see if I can run the games on my current machine. If there are no new posts for a month, you'll know the reason!