Best Games - Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis - The opening credits
The exact second that video games became a lucrative artform, someone signed a movie tie in deal. Video games became a vehicle to advertise. Movies, TV shows, toys, candy, rock bands, clothing brands, and fast food restaurants all have video game tie ins. The overwhelming majority of them are terrible.
Just like a book often doesn’t translate to film very well, most properties don’t make for great video games. It isn’t because it’s impossible to translate them, it’s usually because what makes artwork good in one medium doesn’t always carry over into another. With a deft enough hand, and a solid understanding of the medium, sometimes properties can shine on multiple fronts.
When Lucasfilm started an internal video game development studio (LucasArts) it was really only a matter of time before they started making games based on their films. Luckily for the world, the rights to create games based on Lucasfilm movies were tied up in deals with Atari. This left the game developers at LucasArts little choice but to come up with their own ideas, their own games, and their own style.
When it came time to create games based on Lucasfilm movies internally, they had already created their own game design language (figuratively and literally). When they started work on Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis the LucasArts style of storytelling adventure game was several titles in and resonated strongly with players. They knew that games weren’t movies and that the medium asked different things of the material.
The opening shot of Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis sees Indy crashing through the window into what looks like a dusty tomb full of relics and artifacts. In a voice that very obviously isn’t Harrison Ford but still feels like Indy, he asks himself how he’s going to ‘find that statue in all this junk’. The stage is set instantly. We know there is an adventure underway and that it involves finding a treasure.
Something seems a little off. This room is slightly too organized and sorted to be a tomb, but we carry on. If you hover your mouse over objects labels pop up and clicking sends Indy over to comment on the artifact you have selected. The game begins teaching you how to play it immediately and with no ‘How to Play’ preamble. Like an adventure, it just goes.
Eventually clicking on a particular statue causes Indy to fall and lay stunned a floor below. This room is even more odd. Brighter, more organized. Tidy shelves line the walls. An obvious passage leads down to an even brighter room. Introductory titles and credits continue to play across the screen letting you know that you are very much in the opening scenes.
When you direct Indy to climb down the rope to the brightly lit area, instead of a graceful action hero descent, he tips a statue over and crashes down another floor. This time he has fallen into a fairly standard looking library. Brightly lit by the sun streaming through large windows. Outside is a pleasant summer day. What you were initially meant to believe was a tomb raiding adventure seems to be nothing of the sort.
As the intro concludes, it is revealed that Indy has just broken into his own university to find something he or his colleague Marcus had misplaced. After swinging through a closed window, knocking over several priceless artifacts, smashing through the ceiling of one floor and rolling down a coal chute, he simply walks across the street to the building housing his office. Indy then immediately gets into a fist fight with a Nazi. This is the sort of game you are playing. This is the Indiana Jones of this world. He is constantly in adventure mode even when doing something mundane, and this game is self aware enough to know that the entire premise is silly.
The tone of the movies is captured without any attempt to ape the actual structure of a film. You came to play a game and a certain amount of that is suspending disbelief and reveling in the absurd. You might wander Indy around the same area for 45 minutes with no idea what to do, or struggle to solve a puzzle that is just a little to obtuse, but the game makes it clear that it isn’t because Indy is an idiot, this is just how game worlds work. The game lets you know all of this before the opening credits are over.
If you continue to play (and you will want to, this is a great game) the same tone is reinforced again and again. The characters and original ideas for this game might come from a movie, but this is a video game and the medium works differently. Interaction comes first.
Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis is one of the best games with maybe the best opening credits of any game.
progress continues over here. progress will continue at least until I have the first episode completed. My best estimates are that is about 5000 words or so away. Then I can get into some scenes I really want to write in episode 2 and 3!
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t read comics. I know there were a few early years there when I didn’t read at all, but as soon as I could sound out words, I was reading comics.
I know that there must have been comics I read before this, but the first comic I remember, story beats, lines of dialog, images emblazoned on my memory, was Fantastic Four #210.
We lived on a farm so going to the store meant driving several miles. At least 10-20 minutes of sitting in a hot Chevy Impala. For a kid who was probably 4 at the time, that might as well have been forever. I would get fidgety and squirm and complain. I probably pushed my mom to the brink on some of those trips. I always had toys and books in the car, but they must not have made an impact because I can’t recall most of them. What I do remember is the day that my mom bought me Fantastic Four #210.
On the cover was an enormous man draped in layers of blue and purple technology floating in space. Not a realistic depiction of space, the 1970s sci fi version of space. The kind of space with several multi colored planets and comets blazing past. You know, that good space. Being a kid addicted to all things space and robots and lasers, this comic was off to a great start. The first page is an image of Ben Grimm (The Thing) and Sue Storm (Invisible Woman) standing on top of a spaceship deflecting asteroids, Ben with a futuristic looking piece of metal ripped away from the ship and Sue with invisible force fields she controlled with her mind. The second page has a talking robot. I must have read that comic a thousand times.
There are two scenes that I still remember vividly from that comic. Johnny Storm (the Human Torch) attempts to save his friend Ben but botches it and ends up hurling himself into the vacuum of space. Instead Ben ends up saving Johnny by hauling him back inside the ship and performing artificial respiration. The other is when the entire Fantastic Four attempt to get Galactus’s attention by hitting him, burning him, and trashing his ship only to have him ignore them and undo all of their damage with a wave of his hand. Reed Richards decides that force won’t work on Galactus and they will have to try to outsmart him. By the end of the issue it certainly looks like they have failed at that too.
I had seen and read superhero stories before then. I had watched many episodes of the old animated Spider-man show. I might have even read a Marvel comic before then. What I hadn’t been introduced to was watching these magnificently powerful characters fail, and fail in very dumb human ways. I had no idea who Galactus was before that comic, but I knew from the buildup that trying to hit that huge purple guy was never going to accomplish anything. The Fantastic Four knew it too, but they tried to hit him anyway. They tried everything and failed. The last page isn’t even really a cliffhanger. The Fantastic Four simply get sent off by Galactus on their next adventure. The entire story is just about that team of people, that family, pushing forward stumbling over obstacles but never ever giving up. The heroism wasn’t about winning, it was about never allowing losing to stop them. It was about holding each other together through insurmountable adversity.
This story was something different than I was used to. It wasn’t about the adventure. It was about those characters dealing with the adventure. It was about a family suffering and still carrying on together.
Stan Lee didn’t write this story, the great writer Marv Wolfman did, but it follows the template that Stan Lee had laid out. Stories are about characters and characters are people. People do human things, good things, bad things, dumb things, heroic things, and they often do all of them at the same time. Stories aren’t about the plot, stories are about people reacting to all the plot happening around them.
Thrilling adventure stories with superheroes certainly, but at their core, every Marvel comic was filled with stories about people. Often they were stories about marginalized people and folks on the edges of society. For the most part, Marvel characters aren’t dashing heroes and infallible paragons. They are bookish teens and kids hiding from persecution. People forced to deal with abilities they didn’t want or ask for. There are an awful lot of Marvel stories about being broke. Spider-man doesn’t have kryptonite, he has student loans.
I can honestly say that the only reason you are reading this right now, the only reason I have ever written anything is because of great writers like like Marv Wolfman and Stan Lee. I learned to draw because of comics and I write because of comics. I write because of the love I had for those stories.
Once, many years ago, I wrote the only fan letter I have ever written. I sent it to Stan Lee, or at least the address on his web site. It was only one sentence long. I wrote
“Thanks for everything.”
He probably never saw it, but that’s fine. I didn’t really write it for him. I wrote it for that kid sitting in the back of a hot car reading an issue of Fantastic Four or Xmen or Spider-man for the thousandth time. To him those stories were everything.
Best Games - Doom
Doom is probably in the top ten on lists of the most popular video games of all time. You don’t have to check, I already did and it is. That means that if you are reading this you have almost certainly heard of Doom. There is a fair to good chance you have played Doom. Quite a few of you have played a lot of Doom and you might have played it on a lot of different hardware using a variety of input devices. You might have played a modded version of Doom with new graphics and sounds stolen directly from your favourite franchises. You may have played Doom clones that felt so similar but so very different.
What I’m getting at is, Doom needs no introduction. Also, Doom doesn’t need me to tell people how good it is. Doom is doing just fine.
None of this series has ever been about promoting games that people already like. It has always been about advocating for good things in general, and in the specific case of video games, exploring what it was that made them good in the first place.
Almost every review, promotion, and reverie about Doom will talk about its fast pace and enjoyable action. They will talk about the power fantasy and the cartoonishly horrific themes. The heavy metal album cover feel of the world. The satisfying impacts and throaty sound design. All of these are true, but none of them are why Doom is so fondly remembered.
Doom is a different place. There had been 3D games before Doom and games that were played from a first person perspective. Flight simulators were very popular at the time. Some of them were fun and a lot of them did right by the first person perspective. Doom was the first game that felt like it took place in a different world than our own. It’s the difference between watching a recording or representation of another place on a screen or looking at that other place through a window.
Starting with Doom, the illusion was complete. An entirely different world sat on the other side of that window. More importantly, you could position that window anywhere you wanted. You could move it through that world. You could recognize the places in that world, not as mazes to be solved but as real and solid and distinct. Places with specific architecture and residents. Places with secrets hidden just around the corner.
I will stop short of saying that you felt like you were there, in the hell world of doom, but you felt like you could be. It was real in a way that games had not been.
If you were able to connect to other people playing on other computers in this one shared world, Doom went from impressive to absolutely transportational magic.
The developers of Doom had created a world that fit onto a floppy disk. You could carry it in your pocket. Any computer could suddenly become a window into that world. Doom didn’t have to be an action game to be successful. In fact, it almost wasn’t. I doubt that would have mattered. What Doom promised and delivered was another place.
That is why Doom is one of the best games.