Archive for the ‘computer game’ Tag

[50/50] Computer Game #4: “Full Metal Planet”

Sunday, October 20th, 2013

Computer Game #4: Full Metal Planet (1990)

fullmetalplanetThanks to a confluence of unfortunate events and an epic clash of personalities, Full Metal Planet has become the holy grail for many game collectors, myself included. Originally released in 1988 as an elaborate boardgame, “Full Métal Planète,” as it is known in France, quickly went out of print. Due to the cost of producing quality metal playing pieces (among other things), it also drove its publisher out of business — but not before they cut a deal with a software company to do a version of the game for the Atari, PC, and Mac. Shortly thereafter, a major falling out among the three people who created the original — and whom shared equally in the rights — ensured that the game would never be released again.

Normally this would spell the end of a title, but FMP is such a great game it developed a fervent cult following that is still, 25 years later, trying to bring it back. The original European boardgame now goes for hundreds of dollars — if you can find a copy for sale — and the computer game is a popular download on abandonware sites.

AA5I only played it once on the computer with friends, but it was such an absolute blast I spent years tracking down a copy for the Mac. The game is a perfect balance of strategy and tactics, careful planning and gambling. Turns are under a strict 3-minute timer, ensuring decisions are made quickly and under pressure. Four players are dropped on a mineral rich planet and have a limited amount of time to grab as much metal as they can, either collecting it themselves or stealing it from the others. Sudden shifts in tides can complicate the best laid plans. Playing it safe won’t win it for you, but neither will being too aggressive. Like I said, a perfect balance.

[50/50] Computer Game #9: “Starcraft”

Monday, October 7th, 2013

Computer Game #9: “Starcraft” (1998)

Blizzard didn’t invent the Real Time Strategy (RTS) game, but they perfected it with Starcraft. Set in the far future, humans and two very different alien races battled for control of the galaxy. You could run any of the three races (each with their own unique strategies) and play against up to 8 other gamers, in teams or individually, over LANs or on the Internet. Find resources, build factories, create armies and launch attacks against your opponent, while they tried to do the same to you.


With Starcraft you could build and control hundreds of units, all with different abilities, sending them in battle or ordering them to lie in wait to ambush your buddies. Like every other game, ever, it was best when played against friends, talking trash in text or in person (although the Koreans apparently took it to a whole nuther level with professional teams.)


[50/50] Video Game #12: Tetris

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

Video Game #12: Tetris (1984)

tetris1_img6080Speaking of Tetris

I once tried to convince my boss back in the ’80s to let us get Tetris for the computer at work because it was a great design training tool. He didn’t buy it. Which is a shame, because I learned as much about page layout from Tetris as I did from any class at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. I felt vindicated again when, just recently, I saw the checkout guy at the supermarket carefully stacking and packing the grocery bags in a particular order. “You’ve got a good system there,” I said. “I play a lot of Tetris,” he replied. I laughed and we ended up holding up the line as we talked. It turned out he worked for UPS during the week and that his boss actively encouraged his employees to play Tetris — it helped them pack the trucks more efficiently.

It is addictive and useful and still wildly popular — not bad for a title that’s almost 30 years old. Unlike virtually every other video game, Tetris has had an exceptionally long life with very little change in its design, across numerous platform evolutions. (And now it’s having another resurgence on smart phones worldwide.)

It is also one of the rare gems that’s become a pop culture touchstone — certainly in geek culture. Last year students at MIT programed lights in a 20-story campus building so they could play the game. On the side of the building. It frequently shows up in memes, like this so-obvious-you-can’t-believe-you-didn’t-think-of-it-yourself cartoon.


Again, not bad for a 30-year-old video game.