The Butter Principle

“I theorized that these potential customers saw complexized rules in games as the main barrier to play”

Famous Crap Games Throughout History

In the early 1990s, with 16-bit games consoles firmly established as the dominant force in game entertainment, several companies hopped on board the money train with their supposedly better products, only to find said train derailed worse than Potters Bar. Atari released their fake 64-bit Jaguar, Samsung brought out the poorly named Samsung Hardware Interactive Technology Box, which used unusual architecture based around a 19-bit RISC CPU, and Trip Hawkins (grandfather of Justin and Dan Hawkins from UK rock band The Darkness) from Electronic Arts set up the 3DO Company to release their 32-bit monstrosity: the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer device.

Hawkins (grandfather of Justin and Dan Hawkins from UK rock band The Darkness) was looking for strong lineup of launch titles for his new console. Coming from EA, he convinced them to port some of their successful Megadrive and Super NES titles to the 3DO in enhanced form, adding more features, better graphics, and full motion video. These titles, and others from the likes of Capcom and Bullfrog were to be part of a three-pronged attack on 16-bit consoles:

  1. to deliver the same titles as competitors, but higher quality (e.g. Street Fighter II and FIFA Soccer)
  2. to deliver new titles that would not be possible on older hardware, using new 3D and FMV hardware (e.g. Twisted: The Game Show and Need For Speed)
  3. to deliver new titles that were possible on older hardware, but exclusive to the 3DO

One of those games developed in-house at 3DO was The Butter Principle. Hawkins (grandfather of Justin and Dan Hawkins from UK rock band The Darkness) was directly involved in its creation, even coding much of the game and drawing the toast graphics himself.

In his autobiography, “I Was The Most Important Man In Gaming”, Hawkins (grandfather of Justin and Dan Hawkins from UK rock band The Darkness) recounts how he came up with the idea:

“Long before we had ‘casual gamers’, I realized there was a completely untapped market of people who didn’t play video games. I theorized that these potential customers saw complexized rules in games as the main barrier to play, so sought to developize titles not unlike those single moms find so addictivizing on their mobile tablet phones today. One of my best ideas was a simple game where you had to predictivize which way up slices of digitalized buttered toast would land.”

This idea became The Butter Principle, and it was released alongside the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer at launch to dismal reviews. “It was ahead of its time, “ explains Hawkins (grandfather of Justin and Dan Hawkins from UK rock band The Darkness) “and the public weren’t yet ready. I don’t think reviewers understized it properly. It was never meant to be the next Sonic the Hedgehog or Madden NFL.”.

In reality, its failure was more down to the very nature of the real life Butter Principle. In the game, just as in real life, the toast would always land butter side down, making every single outcome exactly the same. That and the fact it cost $100.

“The failure of The Butter Principle at retail is the overriderzing reason why my 3DO did not perform as well, saleswize, as expected. Ultimately, I place the blame of my downfall entirely on Edge magazine, and their review of The Butter Principle. They awardized it just 4/10, and my career never recoverized. One day I will have my vengence.”.


This article was originally published as part of the CSSCGC 2015 celebrations.

(Featured image attributionBy Evan-Amos – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Fire Equals Pain

No sooner had the round started, it was noted that the bunsens were set to a blue flame.

Famous Crap Games Throughout History

Many, many school games can fall into the category of “crap”, like marbles, football and Hang Mr Frobisher, but few are both crap and stupid in the way Fire Equals Pain is. Or rather, was, as it is banned from every school across the whole of the UK, and has been since a well publicised incident in 1984. Up until then it was a common winter sport in Physical Education lessons, and even had inter-school competitions, with a national Fire Equals Pain league set up in 1956, initially for boys only but girls were allowed to take part after 1966.

It’s unknown who originally came up with the idea for Fire Equals Pain, and informally it was known by many names in different parts of the country. In Cornwall, it was called simply “Burn”, in parts of Wales it was known as “Fireboys” (as in “Choirboys Play Fireboys”), and in Newcastle school children referred to it as “Aye, That’ll Hurt”.

The premise is simple, and stupid, and you’ve probably played it or a variant yourself at some point: hold your hand over a lit candle, match, or lighter for as long as possible. Whoever can do it longest, wins. There’s a doubles version, where both players on one team hold each other’s hands over the flame. Unsurprisingly, a lot of people got burnt.

However, the Fire Equals Pain League Association (FEPLA) put an end to playing the game in any form after an important league match ran into overtime. Usually, when it’s a draw, the players play again, only hold their hands half an inch closer to the flame. A normal Scarborough Rules match starts with hands at four inches, but when tied, another round at three and a half inches is played. If the players are still tied, this is moved to three, then two and a half, then two inches. In this match between Paul Tripping of Dagenham and previous champion Rhys Anpeace from Aberystwyth, the pair were exactly level after all these additional tie break rounds.

The crowd were tiring, the referee wanted an end to the match. He consulted the FEPLA officials and it was decided to swap out the regulation candles for bunsen burners for one final round. It was a tragic decision.

No sooner had the round started, it was noted that the bunsens were set to a blue flame. The match recorder wrote in her witness statement that both Tripping and Anpeace alerted the referee to this mistake, but the referee insisted they play on at a deadly one inch elevation. The crowd gasped, and the whistle blew. Within seconds both Tripping and Anpeace’s hands were alight. Both struggled hard to maintain their stance, and quickly both were completely ablaze. Members of the crowd shouted for them to stop the game, but the referee insisted play continued. A man on the front row, John Johnsonson, grabbed a fire extinguisher but before he could use it the referee wrestled him to the ground, knocking him out. What happened next is unclear, as the flames had spread from the two players to the surrounding area, and everyone except the players and referee fled the scene, just in time to survive a massive explosion that fire investigators later attributed to Paul’s superheated bladder swelling like a hot air balloon, then rupturing.

The game was never officially played again.


This article was originally published as part of the CSSCGC 2015 celebrations.

Alan Whicker’s World of Wicker

Whicker wicker wah wah

Famous Crap Games Throughout History

As the end of the 8-bit era drew near, very few companies remained committed to developing games for the Spectrum and Commodore 64. Sometimes an easy port of a 16-bit or arcade title would appear, along with a few games rehashed as sequels and several versions of Fun School, but as potential buyers dwindled so did the number of releases.

One way of maximising sales in a small market was to buy cheap licences for known media, such as Charlie Chalk and Rentaghost. Well known enough to pique interest, but not well known or popular enough (at the time, at least) to demand large licensing fees. One such bargain basement buy were the rights to Alan Whicker, snapped up by IJK Software.

Not his TV show “Whicker’s World”, though. That was still out of the price range of such small time game producers. To get around this, IJK decided to carefully choose a game name that contained the words “Whicker’s World”, but not actually be “Whicker’s World”. They decided upon “Alan Whicker’s World of Cane Furniture”. This quickly caused problems, as the low resolution of the Spectrum’s screen meant that the title would not fit on a single line, so it was changed to something that would – “Alan Whicker’s World of Wicker”, which manages it with just two characters to spare.

IJK brought in long-time associate Harry S. Price to create the game for them. Well known for being able to quickly create original ideas, cheaply, Price was ideal. You could say The Price was Right.

No, I suppose you couldn’t.

Price set to work turning the name into a playable game. As he’d done before, he borrowed a game engine from another title to save some time, and redrew some of the graphics. Within a week he’d created a totally original game, where you as Benhouse Barry have to visit locations around the world, collecting wicker furniture while avoiding Alan and his Angry Red Ostriches. IJK Software were pleased with Harry’s work, and paid him £150, equal to the Alan Whicker rights.

Your Sinclair, the only Spectrum magazine left at the time, reviewed it but it scored poorly. Their main complaint was that it reminded them too much of an earlier Spectrum game, although they couldn’t quite remember which. They also mentioned that each level, although named after a famous city, bore no resemblance to it, unlike, for example, Pang, or Short’s Fuse. Finally, they slated the way Alan’s comical head bounced around after Benhouse Barry in a completely unrealistic manner. “A total waste of a good licence”, they concluded.

By the time the sequel, Alan Whicker’s World of Wicker 2 (fully using all the available screen space), was announced, the 8-bit game market had completely collapsed and even Your Sinclair had folded – and not just down the middle where the staples were. Promises of a more open world game, with flick-screen platforming and set in the “IJK Wicker Furniture Factory” fell on deaf eyes and the title was cancelled shortly after Harry S. Price was arrested (and subsequently executed) in an unrelated plagorism case. Rumours of a 2013 Xbox One launch title reboot by Rare turned out to be unfounded.


This article was originally published as part of the CSSCGC 2015 celebrations.

The great Nintendo NX controller hoax

NX nixed.

It has been reported everywhere now, but in case somehow you only read my website and avoid the whole of the rest of the internet, here’s the story in brief:

Nintendo NX controller photos leak. Debunked as fake. Additional photos from different angles with more detail leak. Nerds rage over how it might be real and HOW VERY DARE NINTENDO make something that terrible. Those people responsible for the photos come clean to relief of everyone. Hurrah?

Nintendo NX Not
Look at it. Just LOOK at it. Wouldn’t this be great?

Maybe. I never thought it was real, and to begin with it looked awful. The main issue was the lack of physical buttons on the device, something I simply can’t cope with. It’s the main reason I don’t play games on a phone or tablet (with few exceptions), so I was horrified that if this was somehow real, I’d not be able to use it.

But then a curious thing began to happen. Over the days, I thought about it more. If I was wrong, and it was real, how bad could it be? It was Nintendo, after all, and they’ve not made a mistake before – or at least, not made one I haven’t enjoyed anyway. Some would say the Wii U was a terrible mistake, but it’s still a very competent machine with some excellent games. It didn’t sell, but I’m very happy with it. Could I be happy with this new console? Even with no buttons? I started to think… yes.

I like quirky games and consoles. I like crap games and consoles. Even if this NX controller was the worst thing Nintendo had ever made, I realised I’d still want it.

Then it was confirmed to be nonsense and I was disappointed. I don’t know what the NX will be and I don’t think I want it to be like the controller hoax suggested, but I part of me still wanted one. Or two.

Bore

Perhaps the worst thing, besides swingers, to come out of the 1970s Dinner Party movement, was the word game “Bore”.

Famous Crap Games Throughout History

Perhaps the worst thing, besides swingers, to come out of the 1970s Dinner Party movement, was the word game “Bore”.

Those who who have heard Radio 4 intellectual panel game Just A Minute will be familiar with Bore, albeit in a refined and more enjoyable form. Like Just A Minute, Bore involves the player being given a topic to talk about, but unlike Just A Minute, there are no other rules, except that everyone else must listen.

Since repetition, hesitation and deviation are not only allowed but actively encouraged, the game is relatively simple to play. The player continues to talk until all the other dinner party guests make their excuses and leave, or overdose on Babycham. In one famous case a guest actually shot themselves in the ear just to stop the lecture the player was giving about how Tarmac consistency differs throughout the United Kingdom. Bore was briefly banned in response, but this was quickly overturned when the Lord Justice David Quincepipe ruled that tedium was not a crime.


This article was originally published as part of the CSSCGC 2015 celebrations.

(Featured image is from here, is unmodified, and used under this licence)

Super Trouser

Alan Turing gave up at fourteen hours having studied the rules for over a month. He never even reached Pocket Wrestle.

Famous Crap Games Throughout History

Many companies now associated with other things once dabbled in card and board games. Nintendo used to make playing cards, General Motors invented Ludo, and Argos were originally known for their ivory domino sets.

Another such company was Moss Bros. These days, they’re the go-to place for wedding trousers and cravats, but during World War II their main business was creating pocket board games that wives and mothers sent to their men on the front to keep their morale high and their minds occupied. In the “keep them sharp” way, not the “like Poland” way. They produced many popular games, such as The Cockerel And The Farmer, It’s A Long Way To Tip O’er Mary and My Three Laces, but it was Super Trouser that was their undoing in the pocket gaming sector.

Simon Goss of the Moss Bros Museum explains:

“Super Trouser was a miracle of miniaturisation at the time. All of Moss Bros’ pocket games were designed to be about the size of a packet of cigarettes for easy transport to our boys in the trenches, but the sheer number of parts and game complexity meant for some genius packet stuffing. Three new previously unthinkable origami folds were devised for the game board alone, and there were some two hundred tiny hand carved tokens, each unique and barely larger than a matchstick tip in every set. With no cheap overseas labour to construct them, Moss Bros had to hire London street urchins and train them up with advanced whittling techniques. It was unprecedentedly expensive and intensive work.”

This expense up front would have taken the company under, but it was made even worse by Super Trouser being too fiddly to unpack and repack, and too difficult to understand. The rules were bizarre and complicated, and the instructions needed a magnifying glass to read, as they were printed small to save space.

“It was even worse than that,” continues Goss “since even those learned few who managed to decypher the rulebook were stymied by the strange decision to not include the necessary seven sided die. It was impossible to play without it, and they weren’t exactly easy to come by in Flanders.”

“Some tried to make do with a standard six sided die, but it was ultimately futile. Some squares on the board could never be landed on without rolling a seven, meaning the endgame ‘Pocket Wrestle’ stage was never reached.”

With a die of the correct number of faces, the game was still baffling to most. The basic premise was simple to understand – three to nine players each moved a small canvas trouser counter around the board, collecting the carved token items as they progressed. These tokens were stuffed into the bulging pockets on each pair of trousers. Different tokens, when owned, changed various rules or routes on the board, and players could deploy a number of tactics to improve their own chances of winning, such as drawing a “frayed stitching” card, or making a “pocket shuffle” move where they could steal another player’s gained tokens. Once all the tokens had been collected, the game moved into “Pocket Wrestle”, where the two players with the most tokens could make a grab for the tokens owned by the other players.

“Of course,” says Goss “it was far more involved than any short description can suggest. I have documents from the original designers stating that even they got confused after the first three hours of play. Even Alan Turing gave up at fourteen hours having studied the rules for over a month. He never even reached Pocket Wrestle.”

All was not lost for Moss Bros, though. With funds almost depleted by the end of the war, they sold their pocket games division to Nestle and sought out another market. It didn’t take them long, as the elder Moss brother realised that all those returning soldiers would need new trousers, and the modern Moss Bros as we know it today was (re)born. Super Trouser was forgotten as a failed game, but the game is still remembered as an ironic note in Moss Bros history.


This article was originally published as part of the CSSCGC 2015 celebrations.

Big Boy Barry Bubbly Binge Bingo Bloodbath

One and eight, I’LL KNIFE YA!

Famous Crap Games Throughout History

In the mid 1990s Sky television in the United Kingdom broadcast a “television programme” called Games World. It was a poor relative of the obviously superior Gamesmaster, but did have the advantage of a low audience share due to being available only on the satellite channel. These rock bottom viewing figures ended the show’s run well short of Gamesmaster, although the demon bosses at Sky reran Games World so frequently in the subsequent years that 95 percent of the channel’s output for the whole of 1998 consisted of The Simpsons and Games World, with the remaining 5 percent being The Simpsons special episode of Games World.

One of the recurring sections of Games World was presented by “games expert” and “professional food eater” Big Boy Barry. His play tips and banter enthralled and entertained all six of the show’s viewers, none of whom were actually old enough to own a Sega Mega Drive so couldn’t even make use of his hints on beating Dr Doom on level seven of Sonic the Hedgehog.

Barry (real name Barrymondo) was the closest thing Sky had to a celebrity, so they decided to make use of his likeness in increasingly confused and unsuccessful ways. At first, they simply used him in print adverts in Saga Magazine and Your Stepladder Monthly, pimping their The Simpsons exclusivity. Then they moved into merchandise, with Big Boy Barry brand baked beans, lighter fluid and flypaper.

Barry tried to distance himself from Sky, stating that with the cancelling of the Games World TV show, they no longer owned neither him nor his likeness. His lawyers prepared to sue the Emperor Of Sky Television, but Sky produced a contract signed by Barry’s birth parents stating they willingly sold Barry, Barry’s likeness, Barry’s milk teeth, Barry’s soul and all of Barry’s future offspring to Sky Television for the sum of five magic beans. Sky’s Barry-fuelled media onslaught carried on unchallenged.

Some badly directed TV adverts featuring Barry in compromising sexual situations with assorted hand puppets were mistakenly broadcast during CITV’s Children’s Ward rather than after 10pm on Channel 4 before ER, and Sky decided it best to shelve Barry as an asset. His personal life suffered and he hit the bottle hard, spending his dirty Sky money on case after case of Moet.

Until 2003 when they decided to reboot Big Boy Barry as a grown-up. A new series of Games World was commissioned, and filming began on the new, more adult, video game show. Sex and violence were to feature more heavily, and Vinnie Jones was to present a strand each week showcasing real life knife fighters playing Street Fighter II and Barbie Horse Adventures. Taking their cue from Gamesmaster (again), it was decided a humourous location for the show was a good idea, and so a deal was struck with Mecca Bingo to film the studio segments in one of their swankiest bingo halls.

Then one of the producers had a brainwave: why not create an actual video game, about the All New Mecca Bingo Games World Show, to go with the series? Veteran crap game developers Titus were approached to program something that fitted in with Barry, the new adult direction the show was moving in, knife fighting, and Mecca Bingo. “Big Boy Barry Bubbly Binge Bingo Bloodbath” was born.

Released for the Nintendo Gamecube just days before the new series was due to air, the title immediately caused controversy. Barry was portrayed as a drunken oaf, swilling champagne and threatening little old ladies with shouts of “One and eight, I’LL KNIFE YA!” and “Two fat ladies GETTIN’ KNIFED!”. This was neither in keeping with Nintendo’s usual family friendly output, nor the game Sky expected from Titus. Somehow, not a single person at Sky had even seen the game in any form before it was on the shelves, and the bad publicity caused outrage amongst the armchair Daily Mail readership. Sky had no choice but to not only recall the game, but cancel the show – replacing it with more episodes of The Simpsons.

Very few copies of the game still exist in the wild, but rumour has it Titus sold the game engine and assets to Rockstar Games, who repurposed it as the more media-friendly Manhunt.


This article was originally published as part of the CSSCGC 2015 celebrations.

With apologies to the Real Real Big Boy Barry.

Bumhandler

Der Hinterngropen.

Famous Crap Games Throughout History

Archeologists are split on the original source material for this Dragon 32 game. Some academics suggest it is a video game based on the life of little known 1940s New York businessman Eric Bumhandler, who, in his later years, spent much of his time helping the homeless (“bums” in the American vernacular) find homes and jobs. His decision to do this was down to inadvisably joining a cult in 1953 where he learned that the true path to God was to “live life in his name”. Unfortunately, this was due to a broken typewriter shift key and it should have read “live life in His name”. As a result, he became a Bumhandler by trade as well as name. His fellow cultists Mario Drinkless and Mary-Ann Slaughter sadly met their end through this terrible typographic mishap. 

Alternatively, it is possible the game is a conversion of the 1981 German-only arcade machine “Der Hinterngropen”, where you play as a man in a bowler hat who waits at a bus stop and grabs the bottoms of unsuspecting passengers as they embark. 

The true origins are not provable either way.

In Bumhandler, you play as a man who wears a bowler hat and stands waiting at bus stops. As the passengers get on the bus, you have to grab their posteriors without them realising what you’re doing. Poorly laid out controls and a multitude of bugs made the game virtually unplayable, hindered even further by the instructions only existing in German.

Not surprisingly, the game never sold many copies. Also, it was on the Dragon 32 so crap by default.


This article was originally published as part of the CSSCGC 2015 celebrations.

(Featured image is from here, is unmodified, and used under this licence)