Name That Game 100 – Haiku II!

Yeah, I figured I’d go ahead and do this. I was going to make it this fantastic and incredibly complex but it turned into this huge thing that I was working on along with everything else…so that can sit on the shelf for a while.

In the meantime, I decided to do more gaming haiku!

all of history
is at your beck and call
screw Montezuma

villain tropes give way
to a gentle tale about
improving oneself

your enemies die
in horrifying fashion
as you pump them up

dry wit and light hands
a steampunk world with magic
silent in the dark

your maid will insist
that you do her job for her
before you can sleep

your phone can find them
but be careful that you don’t
get hit by a car

choose your noble house
betrayed by the emperor
the essence of war

Good luck!

Get Ready for Name That Game 100!

Once upon a time, a long time ago, there was a magazine called Games Magazine.

(Okay, technically it still exists in an online-only format, but I fear it is but a shadow of what once was.)

GM did everything. They’d review board games, video games, card games, RPGs, you name it. Some issues came with complete boardgames inside, usually ones designed to use existing gaming pieces. Every issue came with “The World’s Most Ornery Crossword Puzzle”, a staggering full-page grid with several pages of clues. They also always included logic puzzles, word games, trivia – you name it. If it amused, you could find it in GM.

And sometimes they’d get really deceitful. Some issues would include puzzles that weren’t even identified in the table of contents. If you were clever and scanned every page, you might be able to find a hidden message that, when decoded, described yet another puzzle. Sometimes they would even make a contest out of this, giving prizes to the first people to figure out there even was a contest.

I loved Games Magazine and I miss it a lot.

So I’m going to pull out all the stops for NTG 100. Be prepared. There will be puzzles within puzzles. There will be hidden clues. There will be red herrings. Many games will be involved but there will only be one right answer.

And yes, just like with NTG 50, there will be a prize.

Needless to say, this will be more fun the more contestants we get. So spread the word far and wide – think you got gaming trivia chops? We’ll see. We’ll see.

Name That Game! 99: In the Original Klingon

A lot of times games get retitled for foreign markets. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. And sometimes it’s hilarious.

Here are seven games created in Japan and very popular in English-speaking markets. I’ve given you the literal translation of their Japanese names; can you tell me what the English name is? (Just to be clear, these are all console games and several of them are NES games.)

1. It’s a Wonderful World

2. Turnabout Trials

3. Devil’s Castle Dracula

4. ZERO

5. Downtown Hot-Blooded Story

6. Myth of Light: Mirror of Palutena

7. Beast King Chronicles

Good luck! If you win, I’ll give you a free copy of my game, Deeds Of Minor People As They Battle Against Gods.

Name That Game 98: I Have a Name, If Nothing Else!

Continuing the theme of the last Name That Game, we’re now delving into the realm of (potentially) memorable characters with fairly generic names. Why?

Well, there are lots of games out there that allow you to customize your character, sometimes even going so far as to allow you to be male or female. But then these games have a problem – if you don’t know what gender the main character is supposed to be, how do other characters in the world address him/her/they/it?

Most games get around this problem by either referring to your character by their last name or by some sort of title. As the player, you should get used to this because you’ll be hearing it a lot.

Below are ten names that games use to refer to genderless (or gender-selectable) player characters. Can you name the games they are from?

1. Shepard

2. Boss

3. Hawke

4. Alex D.

5. Hacker/Employee 2-4601

6. Alpha 1

7. Avatar

8. Viridian

9. The Nerevarine

10. The Courier

Good luck and have fun!

Name That Game 97: Remembering the Unrememberable

Video game characters are often shallow, 2D, cardboard cutouts. And sometimes they have names to match. Video games somehow get away with giving their characters names that would be laughed out of the literary or cinema realms. Probably because video games don’t have editors.

The worst part is when a character endures and is finally given a decent backstory and gets a fan base…because now you’ve got a cool character attached to a cruddy name (I’m looking straight at you, Solid Snake).

So here are eight of the worst video game chracter names I’ve ever seen. They’re either generic, unassuming, rote, trite, hackneyed, overly macho or just completely inappropriate. Can you name the games they are from? And remember – when you cheat, you only cheat yourself.

1. Blake Stone

2. Cutter Slade

3. Edge Maverick

4. B.J. Blazkowicz

5. Sol Badguy

6. John Dalton

7. Lo Wang

8. Royd Clive

Bonus: Chet Awesomelaser

Good luck! If you win, I’ll put you in my game and I promise I won’t use the Random Character Name Generator to name you!

Name That Game 96: Pure Poetry

Of course, as soon as I post the last entry I have an idea for a Name That Game! Behold! Hints in haiku for your perusal!

i read your passport
please face the scanner because
you don’t look female

a big, epic quest
ruined by bad RNGS
and dumb time limits

they scream “assassin”
but when I save the empress
I don’t harm a soul

my gun shoots lightning
and sets bandits on fire
ooh! a purple shield!

a robot hero
fights through a cold asteroid
to stop endless war

only turn-based game
where you’ll hear the players say
“halflings are OP”

don’t get too attached
to your soldiers; aliens
will hit even with low scores

Good luck!

Name That Game 95: Words, Words, Words

Literary influences in gaming are nothing new; a lot of game developers read something and allow it to heavily influence the game that they are currently making, without it being a licensed product.

For this list I’m limiting myself to games where the designers have explicitly said, “We were influenced by these books.” What I’m not limiting myself to are video games. That’s right, children, there are also games with physical components in this list! Can you overcome these obstacles and name them all?

1. The Black Company, by Glen Cook

2. Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson

3. The Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum and The Lord of the Rings, by JRR Tolkien

4. The Eyes of the Overworld, by Jack Vance

5. The Kzinti Series, by Larry Niven, et al.

6. The Illuminatus Trilogy, by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson

7. Alamut, by Vladimir Bartol

EDIT: Okay, these were obviously way, way, way too hard, so I’m going to post the answers here.

1. Myth: The Fallen Lords, by Bungie

2. Bioshock Infinite, by Irrational Games

3. These two books directly inspired Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar, by Origin Systems

4. Gary Gygax listed this book as a direct inspiration for the revised wargaming rules that eventually became Dungeons & Dragons.

5. The Kzinti series directly inspired the Wing Commander series of games.

6. These books inspired the boardgame (and later card game) Illuminati, by Steve Jackson Games.

7. This book was listed as a direct inspiration for Assassin’s Creed.

Hopefully I’ll do better next week.

Name That Game 94: Hiro Protagonist

Video games can have some…unusual protagonists. All media have their weird main characters, but video gaming can seem to get weirder than most.

Below are ten video game protagonists (which are directly controlled by the player) that are not ageless-faceless-gender-neutral-culturally-ambiguous-adventure-persons or physically idealized men or women. Can you name them and the games they came from? CAN YOU?!

1. A selfish young man who has been turned into a cockroach.

2. A tiny young prince.

3. A green anthropomorphized rabbit with a big gun.

4. A cute, humanoid…um thing that apparently uses telekinesis to move his hands and feet, since he has no arms and legs.

5. A wisecracking gecko.

6. A hapless Japanese office worker with a combover who just wants to get home in time for his mother’s birthday.

7. An innocent-looking cherub.

8. A black blob of…something sticky and dense, with yellow eyes.

9. An adorable, naive robot.

10. A little white guy wearing a…red hat with a yellow tassel.

Name That Game 93: Dig for Exotics!

America has a habit of creating new media and then getting completely surpassed in the use of that media by other countries.

Rock & Roll was invented in the US; the greatest Rock & Roll band of all time? The Beatles, a bunch of Brits. Oh, you don’t like the Beatles? Who would be your number one? The Rolling Stones? Black Sabbath? Led Zeppelin? Queen? The Police? Cream?

America invented animation but ghettoized it into nothing but kiddie fare; other countries like Japan took the medium and did incredible things with it.

America invented video games, and while America has produced many fine video games, other countries like have taken this ball and run like crazy with it.

And this is the subject of today’s Name That Game!

None of the following ten games were conceived of or developed in the United States. Can you name the games, and even better, their countries of origin?

1. This first-person shooter, a welcome throwback to the brainless fun of game like Wolfenstein 3D and DOOM, had you fighting hordes of enemies in exotic locals. The game is completely crazy – early in the game you fight enemies with bombs for hands.

2. This seminal third-person action-adventure game combined excellent level design and fiendish puzzles with some slightly-frustrating combat. It also had one of the first major female protagonists.

3. This action-adventure game resurrected a long-moribund series by updating it with 3D graphics and gameplay and adding an excellent feature that allowed you to manipulate time. This acted as both a wow-factor and an excellent anti-frustration feature.

4. This incredibly sprawling RPG was based on a series of successful books. It had an interesting combo-based combat system, systems to both craft potions and upgrade your weapons, tons of quests and sidequests to complete, and the ability to bang a whole bunch of different women.

5. This slightly more realistic take on the third-person stealth-action genre spawned a host of sequels. It combined excellent gameplay with an interesting plot and excellent voice acting. And silent takedowns. God, I love silent takedowns.

6. This action-adventure game combined Zelda-style gameplay and a few stealth sequences with a surprisingly deep plot despite its cartoony presentation.

7. This strategy-sim game series starts you with a single ship and tasks you with finding an unoccupied island rich in resources and building a thriving colony. As the game progresses you’ll have to manage multiple colonies on multiple islands, using shipping lanes to ferry needed goods from one island to the next to keep all colonies successful.

8. This first-person shooter series is famous for having incredible physics and graphics that will make even the best computers melt trying to keep up. The actual gameplay quality has also improved as the series progressed.

9. This is the most popular puzzle game in the world. Bar none.

10. This series of cerebral, historical games combines turn-based action on a larger map with real-time strategy in individual battles. It’s also notable for being pretty darn hard, thus it has a fairly rabid fanbase.

Good luck! If you win, I’ll name the next country I found after you!

Name That Game 92 – Signature Style

Just like any other sort of artist, a lot of game developers have wells that they like to revisit. Sometimes it becomes possible to know who (or what studio) made a game just by watching some of the gameplay. (Though this can get difficult if a lot of other developers start biting their style.)

But sometimes a developer simply transcends and a mechanic, theme or combination becomes a signature of a particular developer.

Below I list ten styles for you to match with their creators. How many can you name?

1. This company made a game with a signature over-the-top art style featuring all-out war between elves, dwarves, men, and orcs. They then moved on to make a very similar game set in the far future between hulking marines in power armor, inscrutable glowing aliens, and nearly-unstoppable assimiliating alien bugs. They then went on to write an MMO based on the first game series.

2. This developer loves little semi-autonomous people and puts them in practically every game he makes – and he’s been making games for many decades. While he usually designs his games around the concept, he isn’t above shoehorning them into games where they don’t strictly belong.

3. This developer, choosing to work in the oeuvre of the text adventure, created some of the most fun, wacky and memorable game situations that had been seen at the time. His games also tended to be less difficult than other text adventures (even those created by the same company), allowing players to experience more of his games. EDIT: It has been impressed upon me that there is more than one designer who fits this description; I will accept either as an appropriate answer.

4. This developer took a board wargame, programmed it into a computer, then sold it as his own. (Seriously, the designers of the original boardgame should have sued the pants off him.) Since the game dealt with science fiction man-to-man combat and was fairly technical, computerizing the game made it a lot easier to play. He has since spent his entire career updating and remaking that first game in various genres.

5. This developer got his start making games for the Commodore VIC-20 when all of his friends were working on the ZX Spectrum. He pounded out lots of little fast-action games, some of which were krep but at least one of which is considered a classic. His trademarks are synesthesia and…uh, yaks.

6. This developer got his start by taking top-down, tile-based roleplaying games like Rogue, setting them outside and using tiled graphics to represent terrain, monsters and characters instead of numbers and letters. As his skill grew, he began to focus on the world simulation of the games he was making. Each one grew more and more detailed, with NPCs that had branching dialog trees, much more detailed (though still top-down and tiled) graphics and game worlds, and, ultimately, more thought-provoking plots than competing games.

7. This developer has worked on graphic adventures, action games, adventure games and real-time strategy games. His schtick is to make whatever game he’s working on completely bizarre and usually hilarious.

8. This developer pioneered both single-screen and online multiplayer games years – perhaps decades – before their time. Also famous for being one of the first transgendered game designers in history.

9. This developer wrote the first smash hit for the ZX Spectrum, then followed it up with an even bigger hit. He then disappeared, not only from the gaming scene but from society in general. It took years to find him, and it turned out that after blowing all his money he had just wandered around Europe living in communes, planting flowers, and working at fish canning plants.

10. This company had the goal of making movie-style experiences on computers and consoles – a difficult task given how primitive the machines were at the time. Their goal required them to become pioneers of game graphics and their games usually looked better than any of their contemporaries. Gameplay usually consisted of movie-style scenes with some degree of interactivity interspersed within a larger strategy or resrouce management game.